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Things I Learned from Work Part 3: Professionalism, Organization and Lack Thereof

March 28, 2012 Leave a comment

When I was a kid, I thought most grownups knew what they were doing.  Sure, there were a few here and there that clearly didn’t, but for the most part, I thought that if someone did something for a living, then he or she must be good at it.  I thought companies were well-organized groups of skilled, well-trained people all working together toward a common goal in perfect harmony.

I also thought those spinning things outside Chinese barber shops were magic.

My mental image of the professional worker wore down as I got older, and by the time I was in university, it was pretty much gone.  Even then, it was somewhat surprising to watch the corporate environment grind that idea into dust and then set the dust on fire.

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Categories: Life

Things I Learned from Work Part 2: Commuting and Free Time

March 1, 2012 1 comment

I took public transit to get to my job.  It was the cheapest way – not because public transit is cheap around here, but because driving to my job was prohibitively expensive.  My commute was about 1.5 to 2 hours long each way, which added up to about 3-4 hours spent in a vehicle of some sort every day.  It was pretty bad.

Commuting by public transit means you have to deal with delays, crowds, and the odd crazy/smelly person sitting close to you.  Commuting by car lets you avoid all those problems, but you have to deal with gas prices, traffic, parking, and the mental exertion of driving instead.  One way or another, long commutes can take a lot out of you – more than you might expect.

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Categories: Life

Things I Learned from Work Part 1: Work and Fatigue

February 24, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ll be releasing this in multiple parts, because there are many main points that I want to get across.

When you’re working a full-time job, you usually sit at a desk for stretches of 5 hours or more.  This is more tiring than it sounds.

Now, I’m not saying that school isn’t stressful and tiring – it’s probably the most stressful thing I’ve dealt with up until that point in life – but the idea that work is worse is something I never believed until I started working myself.

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Categories: Life

Taking a Step Back

February 23, 2012 1 comment

After giving it a lot of thought, I’ve quit my job.  My last day was almost two weeks ago, and I think I’m starting to feel better.  It’s nice to have time to recover from the grind.  I don’t regret it one bit – I was getting much too cynical and pessimistic for my own good.

It’s just not worth grinding away my life in a place that presents  absolutely no future.  I’ve decided to take some time to step back, figure out what I want to do with my life, and brush up on a few things while I’m at it.

My title as a tech writer was a bit of a misnomer; I actually spent most of my time copying and pasting rather than writing.  As a result, I feel like my writing skill has gotten worse, and I’ve gotten worse at picking out common writing errors at a glance.  Not good.

One of the things I intend to do to recover from this is to spend more time writing.  I know blogging is not the most formal, strenuous form of writing, but the way I see it, it’s as useful as you make it.  If you treat it like a serious piece of writing and check it over just as thoroughly as you would anything you would submit as a writing sample, then it could be good practice.

Over the next few days, I’m going to post a write up about things I’ve learned from my job.  It’s the result of a lot of idle thoughts regarding the shift from student life to work life, and though a lot of it may sound like common sense, I hope it’ll be at least interesting to read.

Categories: Life

Life Rears its Ugly Head

January 14, 2012 2 comments

So… the laptop-on-bus thing didn’t work out.

Warning: this is pretty much just a rant – something I want to write just because it’s been much too long since I’ve sat down and written anything.

I’m still working the same job, but I’ve been looking for somewhere else to go.  I’ve done a lot of thinking about work and life, and the conclusion is that I absolutely have to find another job,  because I have no future if I stay where I am.

I’ll just say it now: I hate my job.  But I’m going to try to be fair and lay out how I feel about it, and hopefully this will make some sense.

I’m a tech writer at a small company.  Objectively speaking, my job is not that bad.  The hours are flexible, the dress code is relaxed, the people are nice, and there is pretty much no office drama to speak of.  The work is relatively easy, but boring.  The pay is pretty bad for a job that expects university and a post-graduate education, but it’s not exactly minimum wage, either.

My job is the perfect place for a 50- or 60-something who just wants something to ride to retirement.

It is absolutely not the kind of job for a 20-something such as myself, who is trying to start his career and figure out what he wants to do with his life.

The problem is that this job does not have any benefits for the future.  It makes iterations of the same existing products, so it rarely creates anything new.  It uses very few tools that are used in the business.  There are no senior workers at the company in my field that I can learn from.  There is no chance of going to conferences to meet up with like-minded people that I can learn from, or network with.  There is no chance of a salary increase.

This means that if I stay here, I will not learn any new skills that carry over to future jobs, will not find anyone that I can learn from, and will not be able to save up enough money for things I may do in the near future.  Namely, things such as getting my own place and starting a family.  It will not help me find any future jobs, aside from incrementing the number of years I’ve worked in the field.  In fact, it may harm my prospects of finding work because if I stay here, I’ll become someone who has years of experience on paper but barely knows how to do anything.

In the two years I have worked here, my job has worn me down more than I would have thought possible.  I think very differently compared to the way I did before, and I have become much more cynical.  However, I think I have learned a lot about life in the process.  I want to write something out about this sometime, but with my update schedule, it probably won’t happen anytime soon.

 

Categories: Life

Games and Skill Level

March 10, 2010 4 comments

Oh geez, people that carry smoke clouds with them on the bus…

I don’t consider myself a particularly competitive person when it comes to games.  I’ll strive to improve my skill level at anything I decide to play, but I don’t buy into the “play to win” mentality.  It’s a very narrow-minded view that ignores many reasons for people to play games (such as, you know, fun).  To be honest, I hate that crap because I feel it’s contributed to a trend in online gaming communities where people openly and unapologetically act self-important, arrogant and obnoxious.

A lot of people online make skill level personal, treating wins as proof that they’re better than someone and taking losses like personal insults.  While I think the way people act in a game reflects on their personality, I try to keep the way I regard someone separated from their skill level and just try to play the game.  For me, the ideal competitive situation involves people trying their absolute best to mercilessly kill each other when playing their game (whether it be a video game or a sport), and then heading out for dinner together once it’s all over.  Maybe that’s why the local Blazblue community is so appealing to me – they did exactly that.

I used to be much more competitive about things.  I have held unhealthy obsessions with certain games, which resulted in me spending far more time on them than most other people.  Naturally, the extra time spent meant that I eventually got very good at those games.  That’s not a boast – I’m not proud of that knowledge and skill because I don’t think it was worth the time spent to gain them.

Some people strive to be the best, and for some it is their only motive to work at something.  Maybe some are aware that there are many other people that are striving to do exactly the same thing, but hold this mindset regardless, thinking that he or she will simply beat them all and then all will be well.  That spirit is admirable, and it is even more admirable if you can maintain it over a long period of time, but I no longer think this is the way to go.

Let’s say that you – despite the fact that many, many people are striving for the same goal and may have more time, talent, or effort to spend than you – somehow become the best at something.  Everyone acknowledges you as the best, and you defeat every challenger to your title with almost casual ease.  What then?

Why did you spend so much time and effort on this?  To prove – whether to yourself or to others – that you are the best?  Did you enjoy all that practice or was it just a grind to you?  If you only wanted to prove something, then once you’ve proven it, was it really worth the time spent?  There are plenty of things in life to which your skill level at this one thing means nothing, and there are many people who simply won’t care.  If you enjoyed the competitive aspect of the game and thus enjoyed that climb to the top, good for you, but now that you’re the best, can you really say that there is any competition left?

Competitive games tend to be the most fun when you have someone at a similar level you can play with.  But if you’re the best, then you’ve isolated yourself.  You’re left waiting for someone to improve to your level and continue that competition.  In highly competitive fields with extremely large playerbases, that is likely to happen sooner or later.  But in smaller communities, depending on how far ahead you are, that may never happen.  At the same time, your status separates you from others that you once played with.   Less people may be willing to play you because the skill gap means that they will feel like they are bashing their head into a wall and you may simply be bored by the lack of challenge.

So after a certain point, your efforts to become the best will actually result in less play at the game you loved so much.  Your status and skill level may isolate you to the point that you are bored by everyone that you play.  In the end, you may end up dropping the game altogether because there is nothing left to do.  Is that really the result that you wanted?

It’s something to think about when you tell yourself that you want to be the best.  It’s natural to want to climb any skill ladder that you join, but you have to be careful not to go overboard on it.  Everyone knows that it sucks to be at the bottom of the ladder, but few seem to realize how lonely it must be at the top.

Categories: Games, Life

March Update

March 9, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m not dead.

First things first – I found a job and have been working for the past three months. That and the hideous commute that comes with it means much less free time, which is one of the reasons why I haven’t written much here lately. I’ve had a lot bouncing around in my head though, which is why I’ve decided to just carry the laptop with me to write during said commute.  But before I write about any of that, here’re a few short updates on games I’ve played lately:

Mass Effect 2

It’s a little odd how they’ve overhauled the entire system.  While Mass Effect  1 was more RPG than action, ME2 is more action than RPG.  So much so, in fact, that the game is now almost like a third person shooter with a lot of RPG elements.  The production values are still there though, and the presentation of the game is absolutely top-notch.  Like ME1, you can tell they really put a lot of work and attention to detail into making this game.

The cinematic touches they’ve added to the game, combined with the continuation of the story, fits fairly naturally with the same style from ME1.  I still can’t decide if the more dramatic moments feel awesome or cheesy.  It walks the line between those two.

Bioshock

This is one of those games that I meant to catch up on when I got my computer last year, but for some reason it never really clicked with me when I first played it.  But with Bioshock 2 out this quarter, I decided to give it another shot, and it felt a lot better than it had before.  I suspect it has something to do with how the work life has affected me these past few months, but I’ll get into that in another blog post.

The game does a great job of creating atmosphere.  The water effects are still beautiful despite the game’s age, and the entire city of Rapture has a sort of eerie beauty about it that shows up now and then if you look past the typical horror elements (though the focus of the game is in its atmosphere, characters and storytelling, so it doesn’t prioritize scaring you over those things).  The biggest disappointment with the game, however, is the fact that the PC version was clearly an afterthought.  There’s a bug in both Bioshock 1 and 2 where the physics are locked to 30 fps, regardless of the speed at which the rest of the game is running.  The problem is that most gaming PCs these days can run the game at 90 fps or more, so the physics always jitter and look like they’re moving in slow motion in comparison to the rest of the game.  Imagine how much this destroys the atmosphere that the rest of the game tries so hard to create until you learn to ignore the physics.

Anyway, physics crap aside, I enjoyed this game, though probably not as much as many other people because I wasn’t all that absorbed into the story or characters.  I’ve moved on to Bioshock 2 though, and I’ll probably post thoughts about it when I finish that.

Blazblue: Continuum Shift

I’ve always thought Blazblue looked pretty cool since the original version (Calamity Trigger) game out, but have lacked a console that has the game.  Cheatah aka kousaka recently told me about a nearby arcade that has a Blazblue CS machine, so I’ve been dropping by there every now and then ever since.  It’s been rough – everyone there is really good, the only fighting games I’ve really played are EFZ and IaMP, and I’m unfamiliar with arcade sticks on top of it all.  I’m willing to keep trying, though.  It turns out there’s actually a fairly active scene here, and everyone I’ve met so far have been really nice people.  I’ve only played in online fighting game communities until now (which is plagued with lag and people acting like douchebags because of the internet factor), so the prospect of playing a decent-sized community of people in real life is quite appealing to me.

I’ve been trying to pick up Lambda (the nerfed successor of Nu-13) and it’s been confusing in some ways and strangely intuitive in others.  Gameplay-wise, she’s a ranged character that lives off of zoning and lockdown but is vulnerable to rushdown, much like Mio in Long Range mode.  What surprised me though is how straightforward her tools look from watching tournament videos of her.  She has an instant overhead in her 2147D, both melee and projectile launchers, and a command dash that lets you fake the melee launch into a throw mixup.  And all of the above can be comboed if landed successfully.  It looks obvious, but usually I take forever to learn any sort of mixup or tactics for fighting game characters.  Maybe Lambda is just really straightforward in this aspect.  But having said that, just having an idea of how she works is completely different from actually incorporating the proper use of those tools into the way I play her.  That’ll take a lot of practice.

Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth

Typical Phoenix Wright-related goodness.  I like how they managed to make the same mechanics that we liked from the older games work just as well outside the courtroom.  They also managed to minimize the supernatural aspect of the Phoenix Wright world, which is good.

The references in the game continue to amaze me.  They even managed to slip in an “over 9000” joke this time around.

Left 4 Dead 2

I can’t believe I forgot to mention this game.  It’s basically exactly how a game sequel should be.  Valve kept all the good aspects of the original game and improved on the original formula by adding small (sometimes very subtle) adjustments that added to the experience.  The new infected classes throw a huge wrench into the way they are played in versus mode, the new items add interesting strategies to use as survivors, and sheer level design played a large part in rebalancing the entire game to accommodate the abovementioned changes.  Unfortunately I don’t have the time to play much these days, which has seriously screwed with my improvement in it, but this is one of the few games I’ve gladly spent over a hundred hours in.

So much for “quick updates.”  I’ll write about a few things in more detail later.

Categories: Games, Life