I had my annual performance review for my day job the other morning. I never worry about these things - for me, they're more of a formalized recount of what I've learned over the prior year and what I need to get to where I want to be. I've been very fortunate over the past ten years to have worked for a place that actually challenges me in a way that leads to self-growth, and been managed directly by a succession of women who have each been exactly the mentor I needed at exactly the time I needed their particular contributions. Each of them brought something very different to the table that contributed to the overall picture, so if I get to be called an operational badass now, it's in big part to the lessons and perspectives each one brought me. Today's lesson was one that's been bugging me for a while, something I've been working at diligently for some time but still feel I've been failing at miserably. Let me start by saying that I have a very analytical approach to tackling problems. When a challenge is presented, emotion takes a backseat while I focus on how to first stabilize the situation and then move forward with the plan for whatever needs to happen next. Sometimes that course is pretty clear, other times I need data to form a better picture of what's needed, but the core process is always the same: finding the paths to get from the present situation to the desired outcome, then presenting the possibilities to assess the best course of action, and then putting that plan into motion. Results are clear - was the objective met or not? But the same does not necessarily apply to management of people. It isn't always clear what, if any, tangible progress is being made. You can't ignore emotional factors when dealing with people, and the most logical way isn't always the best way of handling people issues. This has led to a number of faux pas over the years which make me very, very anxious about the reactions of others, particularly in a working environment. It wasn't that I was trying to be callous or cold (though in the past I've certainly been accused of both, and worse), but my focus was on solving what I was understanding to be the problem. When it was brought to my attention that this approach was alienating, I started second guessing ALL of my interactions - would this criticism hurt the other person's feelings? Was what I wanted really worth the argument? When I corrected people, how were they receiving the message? Did I need to be warmer and fuzzier, and if so, how does one go about that?1
Years ago, in that weird adult-but-not-really transition time of being in college, there was a fad of sending insanely long chain emails under the header All About Me. The messages consisted of a list of questions - LOTS of questions - with the idea getting to know one's friends better. Most of the questions were pretty inconsequential (Coke or Pepsi? What's your favorite color? Do you have any brothers or sisters? What's the most recent movie you've seen at a theatre?1), but some of them got pretty deep. There was one I stumbled across recently from a letter that Baron sent me shortly before we graduated. It started with the question What is your dream? (note: I didn't say goal. I want your dreams.) My answer at the time was as follows: Many of my dreams are goals in disguise, and I think the opposite works as well. But one in particular, something I'd love to do but never will for reasons that are pretty obvious, is I'd love to just run away and disappear for a while. Just get in the car early one morning and leave everything behind, run away to somewhere I've never been before, see where the road takes me. To me, that's the ultimate adventure: just go to some random place entirely different from anywhere you've been before, to strip yourself of the comfort of familiarity and really experience life. Obviously, this will have to remain a dream, just because people would go totally ballistic and panic if I actually carried through on this. I couldn't do that to the people I care about. Interesting how so much changes in a decade, and how so much doesn't. *eyeballs Iceland*
Taking Video Games Seriously: Will Academia Ever Break into Video Games like it Has in Literature and Film? When one hears the word "videogames," rarely does a thought association with "scholarly" occur soon after. Or even a long time after. Let's be real, videogames and anything to do with academia don't immediately seem to have anything to do with one another. The idea of taking games "seriously" as works of art is simply laughable to some. But not all.
So last week I talked about the death of Dream A, which meant a refiguring of where I want to go and what I want to do. This week, life has decided to keep with the curveballs, but at least in a positive way: yesterday I found out I'll get an extra six months to figure out what I want to do and prep for the Next Big Thing. This mucks with my travel plans a bit for next fall - I don't think I'll get away with my rapidly expanding trip of essentially gypsying around England and Scandinavia for a month before taking a meandering oceanliner back across the Atlantic - but overall will be a good thing (for one, having six more months of pay to afford said meandering journey). I've already come to terms with the fact I'll need a decent day job for a while yet, which is fine - I'd rather not have to worry about decent healthcare for a while, and have more time to allow RCM's revenue building angles time to strengthen and grow (we're almost ready to launch the RivalStore and I am SO EXCITED ABOUT IT!!!!). But at the same time, I'm really not worried about that part. I've had quite a few requests filter in for potential new things, but nothing so far has really grabbed my interest. I feel like I'm waiting for something specific that I can't quite put my finger on, but will know when I find it. The more important tasks, however, are the ones where I have a lot more control over their success or failure. So my priorities for RivalCast, in no particular order:
I'm not gonna lie; I'm crying as I type this. The announcement came out Friday afternoon that after fifteen years of publication, mental_floss magazine is ending its print publication with the November/December 2016 issue...which went to print Friday morning. Words can't begin to describe the sense of loss I'm feeling right now. The first issue I read was found on the end table of my then-boyfriend's parents house in 2005, and it was just an insanely well-written conglomerate of interesting topics. But nobody back home had ever heard of it, and so it wasn't until the spring of 2007 after I moved to Cleveland that a friend re-introduced me and I fell in love all over again. I was just out of college and out on my own, making barely enough money to pay my bills and keep my clunker car on the road to get to work. PB&J's and store brand macaroni and cheese were my primary food staples that first year, but every other month on the day a new issue would hit the newsstands, I'd scrape together a little bit of cash, make the trek out to the Barnes and Noble store in Westlake (the only place that carried it), and get flossin. Such was the joy it brought me that I remember in particular a phone conversation with my sister that fall, where I was lamenting having missed the new issue because I'd been sick and had to use all my extra cash on prescriptions and doctor's bills. Two days later, I got a letter in the mail with a twenty dollar bill inside and a note with my sister's unmistakable scrawl saying "just get a damned subscription already."
Colleen Mondor puts out a monthly blogletter chronicling her research and progress for her book on the 1932 Cosmic Ray climbing expedition on Mt. McKinley. In last week's missive, she details a side story she came across in her research regarding a friend of that expedition's leader by the name of Elbridge Herron, who was a fellow climber (and, creepily, looks kind of like our own SaladBooty). At the age of 30, Herron was returning from his own expedition to Nanga Parbat in the western Himalayas when he stopped in Cairo for a day trip, climbed the Second Pyramid, and was killed when he fell off. Herron was not a part of the Cosmic Ray expedition (also ill-fated; the aforementioned friend and expedition leader, Allen Carpe, had been killed during that expedition a few months before), and Mondor only learned of him by accident when looking for something else. As she laments in her missive, "I have a running list of names of fascinating people I find in all this research (thank goodness for Field Notes) and I just continue to add to it every damn time I open another old book. But how to do your resist a story like Herron's? How do you not want to know more?" I completely get where she's coming from. For the new RCM adventure story (debuted yesterday!), I had a general idea for a three-book story arc that was going to need a lot of research to do right. Without giving too much away, the team will be battling a numbers-based cult that I decided early on to build from scratch, mixing in elements of Druid beliefs, numerology, stargazing and astrology, interpretation of ancient prophesy, and more, delineating between the actions and beliefs of actual religions against the decidedly darker perversions of those beliefs taken on by my cult. What started out as a simple, and I thought would be quick, research into some historical secret societies and how to write up a proper numerology profile has morphed into what has (so far) been an eight-month odyssey into the history of magical practitioners in an insanely vast spectrum of spell casting and divination fields, secret rites, mythology, and more. I have librarians in three separate libraries helping track down materials as I need them, and also tagging books and other things they find that they think might be useful. What we've found so far has taken on my bare-bones concept of the heart of the cult and its motives and given it such a rich fullness of detail that aids and fleshes out the story I want to tell.
Last week, as I prepared materials for our campus resource room, I got into a discussion about why schools across the United States at all levels have to have activities and discussions centered around Constitution Day. It was a valid question, and I explained about how the observance came about because so many people didn't have a good understanding of what the Constitution was and the importance of the framework the document provides. "Right," my fellow conversationalist replied, "I get why it's important and people should know about it, but really, how often do they use that in their day to day lives?" The question threw me a bit, because if you're an American citizen (as we are), the answer is "all the friggin time."
Today, we learned I am the World's Greatest Detective. In Borderlands, we've been playing through the various side quests and things and having an insane amount of fun with it, even though I'm pretty certain I have to be about the most frustrating co-player ever for someone who knows what they're doing (I still fall off of things a lot). Today, the web ninja seemed very excited about a particular side quest because he knows I like mysteries and puzzles, and this was supposed to be a classic, logical whodunnit. The premise is that there was a murder in Sanctuary, and there were four identical-looking suspects. The player (in this case, me) was supposed to ask questions of the townspeople to kind of piece together what happened (what kind of shots, did he get injured, etc) and rule out suspects until only one remains. What actually happened was that the foot I had tucked up underneath me in my chair was falling asleep, and when I shifted during the instructions, I accidentally hit the button to accuse one of the suspects as being the killer (whoops). As stated, we weren't even through the instructions yet - I technically hadn't even seen the body. Poor Hax was flabbergasted, but more so after it turned out the accused was in fact the killer! Clearly, this makes me the World's Greatest Detective. I'm so good, I didn't even need the facts of the case to nab my man. The web ninja will dispute this, of course. In his view, accidentally nudging the keyboard in such a way as to make the game think you're issuing your verdict before it's even completed the instructions does not constitute detective work, even when it turns out the accidental accusation was, in fact, correct. He calls it "cheesing it." I say my skills of deduction are just so advanced I have no need of wasting time interviewing "witnesses" and gathering "evidence." I should also point out that this isn't an isolated incident, either; my playthrough of Portal contained some of the most amazing accidental bank shots that I'm fairly certain I gave Hax at least one headache trying to contemplate how I managed to keep doing it.
My sister is about five paces in front of me, her blonde pigtails waggling behind her as she runs up to launch herself into the next puddle. I frown at her, partly because I know Gram will be angry with us both (her for jumping in the puddles, me for not stopping her) and partly because pink saddle shoes are even less good for puddle jumping than her My Little Mermaid sneakers. And I really like puddle jumping. Puddle jumping would be just another tick on my list of what made up my Best Day Ever: I found a quarter on the way to school, I had an egg salad sandwich in my lunchbox, we got a new Weekly Reader, and the school librarian said if I wanted to, I could start borrowing books from the big kids section AND still get books from the little kid section to read to my baby brother. For a seven year old, this was very exciting. But the most exciting thing was we had a new girl in our class today. She arrived at the end of the day, brown eyes peeking from behind her mother's skirts while Mrs. B announced we would form new learning pods on Monday. At one point I made eye contact with the girl, but she just blushed and ducked out of the way. We manage to make it up the street to our house without my getting splashed (though lord knows my sister tried). My mother is home early, and I excitedly tell her about my Best Day Ever and my new book privileges (she seems sufficiently impressed, which pleases me). Then I tell her about the new girl joining our class, and she asks a question that gives me pause:
I, DA BARK LURD, COMMAND THE ATTENTION OF THE RIVALCAST MEDIA STAFF. It has been many months since my very public declaration to destroy RivalCast Media and those associated with it. Your offensiveness, particularly in the slanderous though somewhat accurate chronicles published by the girly one, reached levels heretofore unseen in the internet. I have been triggered so hard that I was forced to take a step back, reassess my plans for world domination, and relax for a while with the relative stress relief of reading the misinformed, highly charged political comments that appear under any news article thread posted anywhere ever. SUCH IS THE LEVEL OF HATRED AND CONTEMPT I HAVE FOR YOUR ORGANISATION.