New Hobby Time

Hi. What are we doing here today? What kinda post is this? Let’s see.

Work’s been stressful again lately and Cassidy has been having nightmares and waking us up overnight to comfort her, so I’m kind of a little bleary all the time. And recovering from quite a downward spiral in the past few weeks. When I do get time to myself in a day, usually later in the evenings, I’ve felt like all I have the capacity to do is plop down on the couch and fire up the Xbox. But I’ve also been aware that this is sort of…numbing, self-medicating activity. It isn’t really time that I’m super enjoying the spending of, but like I said, it feels like all I can do.

I’m sure this isn’t new for me, but it’s one of the first times I’ve really felt aware of what I’m doing.

Last week I had to last-minute cancel an appointment with someone I consider a mentor because of stressful work things that needed completing. I was extremely upset when I made the call to my mentor, who was gracious and understanding. At the end of the conversation he cheerfully added “Take care of yourself!” and I paused for a long time before responding, because all I could think to say was “…I don’t know how right now.” And thinking that made me sad.

So, right now I’m on the lookout for things that I enjoy doing and that ‘energize’ me as I do them. Things that aren’t just ways to pass the time, or avoid unpleasantness. I’m not sure where to start, but hopefully I can start somewhere without too much hassle and try activities until I notice one that really fills me up and makes me happy to do.

(This is not to say that I’m dropping video games as a hobby; but maybe it’d be beneficial to pick up something else to do in the meantime)

Thing I Saw: this view a few weeks ago, from the corner of our company’s yard. It’s shot in slow-motion, but no other filters or post-processing have been applied (except the Instagram crop ofc)

Thing I Learned: A surprising amount about horses from this humorous tumblr post explaining a meme. (warning, there’s a bit of naughty language)

I’m Grateful For: people who care about me as I claw my way out of yet another bout of moderate depression.

Pretty sure the new Sonic movie isn’t going to use this track and that is a terrible shame

Catching Up

The latest innovation in dental patient care at the office Lori and I visit is: TVs on the ceiling. With Netflix and Bluetooth headphones, so you can just pop on a show or movie and be whisked away while they do whatever they do in your mouth. It’s pretty great in principle, but as I expressed to Lori this morning it also led to a lot of planning and mental math as I drove to my appointment last week.

First of all, I get terrible choice paralysis when choosing something in general. On a given evening where I have free time to watch a movie on my own, I’ve often spent half an hour fretting over a few choices before getting tired of all of them and doing something else entirely. (That whole process is fodder for another couple of paragraphs; let’s just say I get hung up on trying to find the best thing for that particular moment in time, rather than just picking a ‘good’ thing and being okay with that.)

So feel like I have to start pre-thinking what I want to watch because otherwise it’ll take me half of a dental cleaning to even settle on something, which defeats the purpose of having the technology. Then there are other factors to consider like; if the thing is too funny, will my laughter interfere with the hygienist doing their job? If the thing has too much ‘adult content’, will it reflect poorly on me for choosing it in a public space? Like I said, the TV is literally on the ceiling so it’s not as though anyone working there is watching alongside you. However, people walking by can probably see what’s going on.

Language isn’t really an issue anymore, because there’s no sound coming from the TVs thanks to the headphones. They didn’t have the headphones initially, so that was another angle.

I confessed all this to Lori over breakfast this morning, with a tone of “you married a nerd and an overthinker” and because she also has an appointment today. Rather than tease me for it, she actually went right into her own decision process along the same lines. As she explained, she has a similar need to pre-decide the show to watch because when she is in the chair she feels like she can’t call to mind anything she typically enjoys and ends up watching something she isn’t interested in.

I thought she’d have a laugh, but instead she went along with me and validated my weirdness. Reader, I’m glad I married her 🙂

Oh, Epilogue: For my visit last week I settled on Terminator 2: Judgment Day. I know, it’s R-rated, but the violence early on is largely bloodless and the language is only being transmitted to my ears, so. It was that or Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but I wanted something that was more action-y in the early going and Indy winds down for a bit after the boat thing.

I never wrote about the Election! Let’s try and sum things up.

For the first few weeks I went in every evening to mainly work on something called Poll Key Exceptions. Elections Canada uses a computer system called REVISE to manage elector information, as well as store all the geographical information about individual Polling Districts in our area. Refresher: Canada is divided in 338 major Electoral Districts, and each of those EDs is divided into smaller chunks called Polling Districts based on population. The lines for these PDs are often based on roads or prominent geographical features, and shift a lot in between elections because areas grow, people move, new suburbs are built, &c. These changes have a ripple effect that creates conflicts in the rest of the system.

The REVISE system generates a report of all the Poll Key Exceptions, which lists electors whose information now seems wrong somehow, and we went through each line entry to find out why and try to diagnose the problem. Typical issues were: Somebody’s information shows them as voting in one PD, but their physical address is in a different PD. Or, somebody’s address is on a road that isn’t listed in the system, and we have to find out where it is and add it. Sleuthing these things out involved a mixture of Google Maps, Elections Canada’s internal mapping system, some awkward cold calls to electors, and emailing between colleagues in different electoral districts. Also I got to learn a lot about rural Manitoba’s Civic Addressing system, which was genuinely interesting.

(These duties were done alongside light tech support & general assistance to the other Service Agents in our office)

The Advance Polling weekend happened around Thanksgiving and dumped a lot of paperwork on our desks, with the IT people getting the weird edge cases because we have the most power of anyone in the office to make changes within REVISE. People wanting address changes to their voter information but not seeming to exist in our computer system at all. People voting at the wrong stations, or attempting to double-vote because they already voted by special ballot in our office and don’t understand the electoral process.

On Election Night I switched to the Data Entry team. I entered the early polling results as they were reported from the various stations, and had somebody next to me verifying my numbers as I entered them. While we waited, we cracked wise and ate chips. It was pretty great, and since our riding is unfortunately a lock for the Conservative Party of Canada we all got to call it a night relatively early.

The last days after the election, before the office’s closure, were once again spent dealing with the mountains of paperwork generated by an election, with our desk getting the edge cases and oddballs. By this time things were feeling tedious — the excitement of the election season had passed and it felt like progress on each discrepancy was extremely slow. We all did as much as we could before the office had to close and get packed up, and we had a lovely staff party and said goodbye. It felt a lot like doing a community theatre production — working intensely with a tight group of people until the big night, and then everybody kinda just…disperses.

Everyone was good to work with, and they were incredibly supportive and kind when word got around about our miscarriage, which I didn’t really expect. It was also a lot of shaking our heads and grappling with the way that this event, this Election that has huge ramifications on the course of our nation, is just…you know, at it’s base, it’s powered by a bunch of people doing their best and “muddling through” on a daily basis. Maybe that’s society in general, I don’t know. We laughed and got frustrated and supported each other as best as we could, and in the end, the thing happened somehow.

I’d do it again! But hopefully not very soon.

Thing I Saw: The music video for “She Says What She Means” by Sloan, twenty years after I started listening to the song, no big deal.

Thing I Learned: The video is an homage to a 1967 British film called Privilege, and Much Music didn’t want to show it at the time because the band insisted on an intro and credits sequence and MM thought viewers would be confused.

I’m Grateful For: The Navy Blues Deluxe Vinyl Boxed Set, which I got for my birthday and from which I learned all about this video and its influences. I’m still working through all the material in it, but it’s a pretty great way to explore one of my favourite albums of all time.
Sloan sometimes tours with a giant ‘4’ on stage that I’ve often wondered about. Turns out: it’s from this

Checking In

I was the emcee at another EtherLAN gaming fundraiser event, and while chatting with a friend I was asked why games matter to me so much. I opened my mouth, certain that an answer would come tumbling readily out. None did. This surprised me, and I found it difficult to come up with a good answer even while thinking about the question for a while longer.

I started to think that “passionate about video games” had been part of the story I tell about myself for so long that I had long stopped questioning why that was true. And then I worried a little that an honest interrogation of this part of myself would reveal…nothing. That games had served their purpose and weren’t really important anymore, and it was time to find something new. This wasn’t implausible, because I’ve spent time on a lot of things in my life due to inertia and not because I actually wanted to spend time on them.

I puzzled about this question for a few days, then flipped things around and decided to try a new angle. I was, of course, continuing to play at least a little bit of a video game every day; so I created a Google Doc and started asking myself “what do I like about this?” while I was engaging with something.

Here, in no particular order, are the results!

  • I like seeing how technology advances. I like seeing what kind of graphics, sound, and gameplay things that become possible with each new generation of system. I like expanding my definition of what’s possible in the medium.
  • I like seeing the visual styles of games. No Man’s Sky and Gears of War 5 have been impressing me lately.
  • Feeling competent at something feels good, and games do that for me. It’s nice to feel “in control” of a situation, to feel knowledgeable, and to be able to tackle new twists in gameplay as they arise. I don’t get that sense very often from real life!
  • Listen, it has to be said that I will sometimes use video games as a way to avoid things that are difficult or stressful. In Enneagram 9 terms (and probably elsewhere) this is known as “self-medicating”.
  • I love games that let me explore and fill out a map as I go. Metroid-style games, or Action RPGs like Diablo are wonderful for this. Hollow Knight was incredible for rewarding exploration and continuing to open up new areas long after you think you’ve seen it all.
  • I like to solve puzzles! Games have those!
  • Games are exciting, and sometimes the chaos and thrill of a battle are fun too!
  • Games can be relaxing too, sometimes!
  • Lastly, games give me experiences that impact me or engage me in ways that non-interactive media can’t. Like the way Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons so effectively uses controls to reinforce brotherly bonds, or 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors drives home its final narrative twist by having you flip your DS upside-down. (It makes sense in the context of the game and a simple action makes for an incredibly powerful narrative moment). (Sorry I can’t talk more about these things without spoiling them)

So, yes, no longer worried that games and I have run out of things to talk about 🙂

Thing I Saw: Snippets of a bunch of horror films this last month, before declaring them too intense and stopping, or getting interrupted and just…never getting back around to finishing them.

Thing I Learned: ‘msleepy

I’m Grateful For: My birthday coming up! Every year I get to hang around this weird planet is a year I’m thankful for.

Have a nap like me