At work, I have taken it upon myself to try and spearhead various initiatives within our Customer Success team that act to push forward how we work and what we work on, as iteratively as possible, taking into account various feedback channels and measurements, and involving anyone who is interested either in reporting something that could use optimization or helping to optimize something that needs help.

We use a threaded discussion system called P2 to do most of our asynchronous communication at work, as we are a globally-distributed company. I have teammates around the world, and we need to collaborate and work with each other “overnight” (which is a relative term, as is, say “summer,” or even “Thursday”).

For each P2, we have a small sidebar image, tagline, and site icon that’s generally chosen by the person who starts that P2. Here’s what I chose for the Quality project P2:

The sidebar from the P2 in question, including a still image from the movie "Tron: Legacy," and the logo of Garlond Ironworks from Final Fantasy XIV. More details are below in the post text.

I felt like sharing why I went with these things, because I don’t ever choose anything for no reason, though I am known for occasionally doing so out of whimsy.

The sidebar header is a moment from Tron: Legacy, as the film heads into its climactic scene, and the main characters are on the run. Flynn explicitly takes a moment to stop, head to the deck of the solar sailer, close his eyes, and find calm.

As he leaves to do so, he says:

“The old man’s gonna knock on the sky; listen to the sound.”

“Knock on the sky; listen to the sound” is apparently a somewhat old Zen saying. Sometimes, calming your mind and opening it to what is around you is the way to find inspiration, insight, or guidance that might be in front of you. It’s challenging to do this when you are running from thing to thing, or very frustrated, or distracted—but that’s maybe when you need to do it the most.

The site icon is the logo of Garlond Ironworks, a group of scientists who study various ways to use machines in the world of Final Fantasy XIV. The motto of Garlond Ironworks is:

“Freedom through technology.”

They intentionally do not study or manufacture anything that can be used for tyranny’s gain. It is a gathering of intelligent people who wish to utilize and study technology for purposes of lifting up all people.

Now, I don’t remotely pretend to view the work I do on supporting customers or improving internal things as being relevant to that ethical quandary specifically, but it does serve to remind me of two things: that ingenuity can come from a variety of sources and from all sorts of people, and that we have a choice regarding whether to further technology to good or evil ends. (The former is definitely why I chose to use it in this specific context.)

The desktop wallpaper for Final Fantasy XIV patch 4.2, "Rise of a New Sun," with artwork depicting the members of Garlond Ironworks.

For too many years, I failed to be this kind of example to my children.

I didn’t deal with stress appropriately.

I didn’t deal with my emotions in an intelligent or healthy manner.

I spoke about toxicity without fully seeing it in myself.

The world needs more kindness.

For a time, I had thought that finding what I’d figured was a more correct “alignment” had finally configured things in the right places.

I was wrong for longer than I would like to admit. It caused problems to which I was blind in my ignorance. I ended up needing some help.

I fully believe people can change. You may not be able to lead them to it, and they have to want to change, and it can be a ton of hard work over a long time, but we can change.

I had to change; I’m still changing. And learning.

Maybe it never stops.

You can change, too.

❤️

I’ll have a more detailed post on the assembly of this thing once I have the final parts put together, but I’ve sourced myself the bits necessary for a ten-key-less mechanical keyboard (otherwise known as a TKL keyboard).

The keycaps showed up today:

And along with them, one hundred Cherry MX Blue switches:

I’ve been using mechanical keyboards for a while now, starting with a Model M I scrounged from the campus IT department I then used through college and grad school, then a Unicomp reproduction hard-wired to Dvorak (which was not a great idea), then most recently a Logitech Orion using their Romer-G custom switches, and a Corsair K70 mk.2 that uses MX Browns.

I have liked both the Romer-G and the MX Brown switches, but I’ve been wanted to go to something with a defined click again for a while. The K70 can be ordered with MX Blues, but there was a lot of appeal to finding myself a “standard” keyboard that can take various keycaps and be reconfigured at will.

The plate/board I’ll be using is the Drop CTRL, which I ordered without switches or keys so I could just use my own. I ended up not saving anything more than about $20 doing it this way, but in the end, I’ll have caps I wanted, the switches I wanted, and a keyboard that doesn’t require soldering work to swap out switches down the line if I want to test another brand or line.

The CTRL is the only part that hasn’t yet arrived. I’m hoping it’s here before the end of the week.

I have a day loaded with calls, and will need a break at some point this afternoon, so ask me a question and I’ll answer it below later today.

No-one asked me anything.

Year thirty-eight was pretty strange, y’all.

I went to look back at last year’s birthday post so I could address my successes and failures—and I didn’t make one. I suppose that’s basically 2018 in a nutshell. Some thoughts about the last year of my life, though:

My thirty-eighth was a year of professional growth.

I hit some personal milestones I’d set for myself in my career last year, and it feels pretty great. I’ve been working on an important and long-term project at WordPress.com VIP, and seeing that progress has been really good. I feel respected and valued, even when I’m not feeling great about myself or my abilities.

I’ve also been able to continue to build a reputation as a hard-working and dependable volunteer at fighting game events in the Midwest, and have been recognized with staff positions at Frosty Faustings and Combo Breaker, the two premier events in the Midwest.

Having teenaged kids is pretty fun.

I now have three teenagers, and I’m constantly interested in how fascinating it’s been to watch my kids grow up to be young adults. It’s challenging at times, and I feel old a lot more than I used to, but I really enjoy engaging with them and finding out what they are interested in and who they are going to become.

My health continues to be problematic.

I’ve really failed at this one, yet again. I’m still around the same weight I’ve been for several years, and what started as a fairly dedicated gym routine at the start of the year ended up being months of just not going and putting in the work. I have no-one to blame but myself on this one. I just haven’t been able to turn my diabetes around and get ahead of it.

Here are my hopes for year thirty-nine:

It’s time to learn JavaScript.

I’ve been neglecting this professionally for too long. JS is becoming more and more the language I’ll have to work with on the web, and not being at least somewhat proficient with it will eventually become a deficiency. I’m spending some of this week at work on experimenting with JavaScript and trying to learn how it and other modern front-end technologies work.

I’m using NodeCG as a bit of a starting point, because it has a lot of crossover with my hobby life, and presents interesting challenges I can attack that will teach me the concepts I need to continue to develop my technical skills.

I’d like to hit 250 pounds by Combo Breaker.

Can I lose thirty-some pounds in the next five months? I’m invested in finding out. I need to lose some weight. It holds me back in so many aspects of my life, and is a prime indicator of how well-managed my diabetic condition is. I know that weight can be just a number, but this is just a part of my life I feel I need to conquer before I’m 40.

And in the end, the only person I can be accountable to is myself. It’s going to be hard work, and I’ll have to give up things I really like—such as being lazy and a number of food items I love—but I need to get back to physical activity and pair it with controlling my carb intake properly.

I want to start streaming local events.

Last year, I came back from Frosty Faustings and my first work on stream direction alongside Will English with goals to establish myself in the St. Louis area as an event streamer. I have most of the gear I need for the job, and really enjoyed helping run the stream at Frosty. For various reasons, this never materialized.

There’s a possibility that the opportunity will present itself again this year, and if I can smartly approach it, I plan to. I’m still not going to stream anything where I’m unable to attach my name or channel to it in some way, and I hope attitudes towards that have changed here in a way that will allow for me to get more event experience. We’ll see how it goes.

I’d love to be able to engage with the FGC outside of those two specific events every year, but it’ll take some effort and luck.

I’m going to conquer learning Japanese.

Some of you know that I started down this path last year, a bit too late to take advantage of the yearly sale at WaniKani. I managed through the first two levels of learning kanji, and put my learning on hold around mid-year so I could purchase a lifetime membership to the site once the sale came back around at the end of the year.

I purchased my lifetime membership a couple of weeks ago, and I’m already back to where I was when I stopped (I reset my progress back to level one when I purchased the membership).

I’d like to be at level 20 by the end of the year, and start working towards speaking proficiency as well. I’ll be reading through some grammar within a few months, and I would like to be able to take the test for N5 proficiency in December.

So I begin year thirty-nine.

It surprises me sometimes when I think about how much stuff in my life is now significantly far away, temporally. Lots of things have been over for a while now—high school was two decades ago and change, my career change is now over a decade old, and my children are approaching the age when I went off to college. We’re officially done with the “little kids” stage of our lives, and there’s an uncomfortable inevitability to that notion.

I recently listened to a recording of a performance I was part of when I was only two years older than my oldest son. It was sobering to consider.

I’m by no means done with, though. My life didn’t really have solid direction until I was thirty, and there continue to be opportunities that will present themselves as we continue to forge along in life. I count myself amazingly fortunate to be accompanied on this journey by my wife, who supports and encourages me along the way. And we are likewise enriched by the presence of our children.

I’ll try to check in on this stuff every so often throughout the year. And I’ll be streaming live on Twitch later today, as well! It’d mean a lot to me if you’d stop by on my birthday.

Be seeing you.

This will be my fourth year attending Combo Breaker, and my third year helping staff the event. Combo Breaker is an event like no other, staffed with amazing people who go the extra mile and ensure the experience is top-tier for everyone involved.

I’m not even sure yet what I’ll be doing this year staff-wise, but I’m excited to find out. I’ve run brackets, helped with security, manned the TO desk, done A/V setup and lighting, and generally been available to help with anything needed.

Is this the year I submit a commentary reel and get behind the mic? Stream run? Run emcee for an Auction Tournament? Camera op? My quest to do literally everything I can behind the scenes at a fighting game major continues.

Think about attending and find out with me. Over 700 people have already registered, and it’s only been a few hours. Come celebrate the best of the fighting game community in the Midwest for one weekend to start the summer. I promise you’ll have a great time.

Plan to be in the west suburbs of Chicago on Memorial Day weekend. Don’t miss out.

Some of you know that I had been working on learning Japanese recently in a renewed capacity. I had started on it some time ago in a very casual way as a hobby thing, and last year at Combo Breaker, I was in a situation where having knowledge of the language would have been a huge plus, so I decided to start again.

Jon Chinnery recommended WaniKani to me for learning the language from a vocabulary and reading standpoint, and the system proved to be very helpful and successful. I ripped through the first two levels fairly well and was on my way towards finishing the third, which is where the free tier runs out.

I ran into yet another instance as a bracket runner at CEO where having more functional use of the language would have helped me a lot. I knew that I knew just enough Japanese that I should not attempt to speak it in a functional capacity.

WaniKani has a sale every year around the Christmas season, where a lifetime membership to the service is 1/3 less expensive, so I decided to pare back a bit and wait for the sale. The end result has been that I haven’t touched it in over two months, and the other day, I decided to reset my progress completely to re-start the track and prepare for purchasing the full product in preparation for the next year of learning.

So I’m back on the train of learning a language for the first time since graduate school again. Japanese has proven to be quite difficult, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’m planning on taking a fairly long time to get there, as I’m only doing one set of reviews and lessons a day, but the nice thing about WaniKani is that it lets you assign your own pace and handles the spaced repetition for you.

Let me know if you have any tips or suggestions as I learn!

I’m on my way to WordCamp US today, and I’m flying out of Terminal 2 for the first time in over ten years. I hardly recognize it; it’s been significantly built-up at some point.

I had a vague memory that I’d taken some pictures the last time I was here, and I was correct! A quick run through my stuff on Flickr gave me these images from 2007:

Compare those to these pics I snapped today. The Vino Volo location is where that blank wall in the last shot used to be.

It’s really quite impressive. The whole thing is brighter, cleaner, and significantly busier than I recall it being.