Monthly Archives: August 2014

One Finger Death Punch

I’ve talked about bundles before. And as dangerous as bundles can be, they can also be pretty great. Especially when they let you try games that you wouldn’t normally pick up on their own. Case in point: One Finger Death Punch.

What is One Finger Death Punch? Well, it’s kind of a fighting game. And it’s kind of a rhythm game. Basically, it’s a two-button stick figure homage to old kung fu movies. How’s that for a synopsis? I picked it up via a Humble Bundle sponsored by Extra Credits as a “game you might not have tried:” under-the-radar titles that, while not always good, are at least interesting for one reason or another. So I decided to try it out.

Needless to say, I didn’t get much done Tuesday night.

The game is deceptively simple: using your left and right mouse buttons, fight off wave after wave of colored stick figure foes. Each button corresponds to a direction, and enemies come in from the left and right sides of the screen. Of course, the devil is in the details: most foes take one hit, but some take multiples. Some opponents even switch sides mid-engagement. You can pick up weapons that increase your range, and every once in a while you’ll perform a special attack. It’s a fast-paced, reflex-honing experience that actually punishes you for button-mashing.

I’ve found it really fun so far. There’s something visceral about combo counters ticking over as stick figures fly around the screen in various stages of disrepair, sometimes even breaking background objects on their way to oblivion. It’s a simple game, but difficulty ramps up quite nicely; the better you do, the faster enemies rush you from all sides. Timing is of course key: miss a shot and you’ll open yourself up for pain.

It scratches some itch of mine, the same one that as a kid enjoyed the precision platforming of Mario or other games. It demands perfection, but in a safe environment where you actually can achieve it (unlike real life). And while I’m not sure it will hold my interest for too long (it’s mechanically pretty simple, after all), it’s doing a good job of sucking up my free time in a fun and entertaining way.

Now if only it wasn’t doing so when I still had stuff to do…

Green Fighter Needs Food Badly

Have you ever just, you know, forgotten to eat? Maybe you get really busy and can’t take a break. Maybe you look up at the clock and it’s suddenly mid-afternoon. Or maybe hunger just sneaks up on you, and before you realize it you’re in a foul mood and can’t understand why.

I’ve had issues with low blood sugar since I was a kid. I’m not sure if it’s full-blown hypoglycemia (it’s never been diagnosed), but if I go too long without food I start to get shaky and somewhat cranky. I’ve tried to keep an eye on it, watching out for symptoms as they start to appear so I can nip them in the bud.

The problem is that recently I’ve changed jobs, and while my new job is requiring a lot less physical energy, it’s more than traded that for mental effort. Unfortunately, burning energy through that much mental activity isn’t as readily noticeable (at least not for me), so I’ve been going longer than I should without refueling. Compound that with the fact that I haven’t been very “hungry” because I’m not really exerting myself physically, and you have a recipe for a bad day.

The funny thing is, this sort of thing has happened to me before, like when I started grad school. I’ve never been a big eater, so when I started grad school I packed the same amount of food as I did for my A/V tech job. Long story short, it was woefully inadequate; I was out of food and starving long before the end of the day, just through the simple act of thinking more.

Looking back, it makes a lot of sense. Thinking takes energy, just like any activity. If that energy isn’t there, the body is going to fall back on reserves. My problem (well, one of them) is I don’t have much in the way of reserves. And work has kept me engaged enough that I don’t notice myself getting hungry until it’s far too late.

And that’s often the real problem. By the time I notice there’s an issue, I’m already in a bad mood and don’t know why. This of course makes me less likely to remember what the issue is, let alone how to solve it. Luckily my girlfriend has had similar problems in the past, so if I’m not on the ball she often is. I just feel bad having to put her (or anyone else) through my Grumpy Cat phase; it’s not fun to be grumpy, so I can’t imagine it’s fun to deal with someone who is, either.

No Post Today, Obviously

As the title says, I didn’t get anything written today.  I’ve crashed my blood sugar twice in as many days, and I just wasn’t feeling it this morning.  Plus, I’ve got Battlemoor to put off preparing for.

Work/Life Balance

I’m definitely going to have to work on this whole work/life balance thing, because the hours I’ve put in this week are not sustainable. Let’s put it this way: I could leave before noon today and still get 40 hours in for the week.

Part of that is my own doing: I’ve intentionally worked longer hours because of Battlemoor next week. And while my new employers were understanding and let me have the time off, I won’t be getting the time off paid. So I’m trying to frontload my work hours, so I won’t miss out on as much income.

I’ve also been working through lunch, mostly because I haven’t been at a good stopping point once I inevitably get hungry. It’s quite easy to just grab a sandwich and keep plodding away at AutoCAD, easier than having to switch mental gears. And if I’m not hungry, I tend to be in a better mood, more receptive to learning things and whatnot.

But the sheer amount of new information and responsibilities is finally getting to me. I barely fenced at practice last night, I was so mentally exhausted. So exhausted, in fact, it was making me physically tired as well. And as I’m sure you’ve noticed, I haven’t had much energy left for writing about anything other than my new job. So, why am I giving 110% at work when it leaves me no energy to do the hobbies I love? Oh right, because I’m the “new guy” and feel the need to prove myself lest they cast me off at the end of my probationary period in November.

It also doesn’t help that all my coworkers in our small branch office are salaried, whereas I’m paid hourly. Sure, I’m eligible for overtime, but it also means that I may not be able to use the habits of my coworkers as a proper metric of time investment. But it’s really hard to feel comfortable leaving “early” when everyone else is still working. Even if “early” just means leaving at 5pm or so after only 9 hours of work (no lunch, remember).

I’m clearly going to have to do something about that.

In other news that did make me feel a bit better about things, the project manager/head of the local office admitted that I had ended up with a doozy of a first project (I’ve been reviewing construction documents and addressing comments from various parties involved). It was the first set my friend from grad school put together when he started working here, and it’s a weird hybrid of our office’s methods and someone else’s prototype. So if something doesn’t make sense, it’s probably not just me. Which is comforting, but I’m still not sure how I was supposed to know that.

That’s the other thing: I feel like I’m floundering, but I’m worried that if I’m too blatant in admitting how much help I need (or confusion I’m facing) it’ll reflect badly on their decision to hire me. See previous comment about 90-day probationary period. So if I ask for help, I risk looking incompetent. But if I don’t ask for help, I might not perform as efficiently as I do. Hello there, Catch-22.

Oh well. I’m probably overthinking it, as per usual. But in the end, I have to do something about these long hours if I’m going to maintain any sort of sanity. We’ll see what time they kick me out this afternoon.

Don’t Make Me Go Back

I haven’t been back to Costco since I stopped working there. Not unusual, I know, but somewhat problematic. For you see, I still have a pair of glasses to pick up.

Before I left, I took advantage of one of my benefits, which gave me a stipend to spend at the optical center. Seeing as it had been far too long since I last got my eyes checked, I decided to take advantage of it. My old glasses were getting noticeably scratched, and I was guessing that my prescription had shifted slightly in the intervening years.

Long story short, one pair of glasses ended up not using all of my stipend, so I decided to get a pair for close/computer work. Not that I really needed them, but I figured I could keep them at my new desk, since my new job involves a lot more (read: most of the day) screen time. I was hoping that both pairs would be ready before my last day, but unfortunately only one of them was. Luckily it was the regular/multipurpose pair, so I could get used to those before I visited the home office. The computer pair didn’t arrive until late last week.

And yet, I can’t bring myself to go get them. I even set out to do so on Monday, going so far as to go out of my way and drive by the Costco on my way home. But I couldn’t make myself go to the store.

It’s not that I’ve got any horrible memories or PTSD associated with working at Costco. No, I think it’s more the fact that I don’t really want to interact with my former coworkers. And not because they were bad people. If anything, the fact that they were nice makes it that much more difficult.

I don’t want to go through the motions of the small social niceties that will inevitably come up. You know, the questions about the new job, how I’m enjoying it, et cetera. It may sound bad, but while I did work with some good people, I’d like to put working at Costco behind me as quickly as possible. I want to move on, not be reminded about having to get up at 4am or not being able to go to fighter practice.

I don’t know what to do. Sooner or later I’m going to have to suck it up and go back in there. Maybe I’ll have the energy to do so tomorrow. But as childish as it sounds, I don’t wanna.

Sink Or Swim

I think I’ve discovered the first major source of stress in my new job. After last week’s relatively gentle refresher, I’ve suddenly been thrown into it with both feet, and I annoyingly find myself floundering.

I think part of it is being asked to work on projects with which I’m not familiar, without a proper tutorial. So that means I’m looking at complicated drawings and often have no idea what I’m even looking at. Not only am I having to interpret often-vague comments, I’m being asked to do so on a project with which I’m not even passingly familiar. And let me tell you, trying to interpret unfamiliar plans after two years away from your chosen field of study is not the easiest.

Being mentally “on” all the time is also stressful. My coworkers, while nice, spend a lot of time talking about things and people I’m unfamiliar with. So whether I want to or not, a part of me is always trying to keep up and interpret what I’m hearing. Names, projects, jargon; I’m trying desperately to make sure it doesn’t all go over my head. Because while I could just tune it all out, that would probably just cause problems in the long run. And that’s exhausting.

Maybe this is all just part of starting a new job, and coming in at the middle of things. It also doesn’t help that I don’t want to appear too unprepared or underqualified during my post-hire probation period. And I understand that the office has been busy, but it would be nice to get a bit more explaining of what’s going on. I’d really resent having to put in time outside of work to get back up to speed on these things, but that might be what ends up being necessary. I just don’t like the feeling of not knowing something that it seems to be taken for granted I’ll know. But I also don’t like making that lack of knowledge known.

Oh well. Maybe it will get better. It already is: I wasn’t feeling nearly as overwhelmed by the end of the day as I was before lunch, although maybe that was because I was exhausted enough not to care. And maybe this is a valid way of making sure I learn what I need to. It’s still annoying, though. I don’t like not knowing, especially when I barely seem to know what I don’t know.

Holy Cow Look At The Time

One problem I did not expect to have at my new job was working too much. I don’t mean that in the “Oh man, they’re working me so hard I’m dead on my feet” sense, but rather “Wow, it’s 5h30 already? Did I remember to take a lunch today?”

Of course, this is just one part of how my new job is wildly different than working at Costco. At Costco, my time was strictly regimented. If I was working an 8-hour shift, for instance, I had to take a 30-minute lunch break before my 5-hour mark, as well as two 15-minute breaks. I also had to clock in and out at exactly the right time. Sure, there was a grace period of 3 minutes on either side, but that was often taken up by the line of other people clocking in. And when it was time to be done, you were done. Full stop, end of story (unless a manager asked you to stay longer, but that’s a different discussion).

My new job, on the other hand, is much more freeform. Most people in the office seem to trickle in around 8am, and out closer to 5h30. Other than that, we’re left to our own devices. Lunch is when we’re hungry; it can be at our desks or we can take time to go out. We’re welcome to come in earlier or stay later as needed. The only real restriction is that we end up getting paid overtime if we work more than 80 hours in a two-week pay period. This means that people often end up working short days towards the end of the week.

So as you can see, it’s about as diametrically opposed to my previous experience as it could possibly be. What I didn’t expect was the consequences of this, like being more brain-fried when I got home than I expected to be. I may also have to keep an eye on my work time for another reason: both my immediate coworkers are salaried, whereas I’m paid hourly. So as much as I may want to, I may not be able to fully model my work time habits on either of them. But of course I want to still make a good impression and seem eager to work…

I dunno. It’s an odd problem to have, and not one I expected to be facing. It may just appear much more extreme since I’m coming from something so different, but it’s definitely going to take some getting used to.

The Joy Of Changing Sleep Schedules

I’ve discovered what might end up being a challenge with writing before work: it’s early. I’m going to have to make sure I get a good night’s sleep to make sure I have enough brain power available to me in the mornings to write anything beyond “I’m tired and don’t know what to write about.”

While it’s been less true the past few years because of my work schedule, I’m naturally more of a night owl; I can function well enough in the morning, but I prefer to stay up late and sleep in. As you can imagine, this often made getting up at 4 in the morning more interesting than it might otherwise have been. Even staying up until 10pm become a sacrifice, and good luck actually getting to sleep by then if you’ve just been doing something active like fighter practice.

So that’s one thing I definitely don’t miss from working at Costco. I’m happy to have my full evenings back, where I can happily read or play video games or even just hang out with my girlfriend. Unfortunately, my body hasn’t quite gotten the memo yet. For some reason, it still thinks it’s a great idea to wake up before dawn, whether I want to or not. Even more unfortunately, once I wake up I tend to stay awake. So it doesn’t matter if I didn’t get to bed until 11pm the night before, I’m still awake at 4am, where I can’t do much else but toss and turn and wish I was asleep. Oh, and now I’m going to be tired for the day.

It’s not an ideal situation, and I’m sure it will improve with time. It’s just kind of annoying when my body chooses to defy me.

Returning On An Airliner

Well, that’s that. My week at the home office is complete, and I’m headed home. And while I know I’ve talked a lot about how stressful it’s been, it’s also been kind of fun. Fun in that “first week of new classes” sort of way. I’ve gotten a chance to meet a bunch of new people, which will hopefully keep my coworkers from being merely a voice on the phone or a signature on an email. I’ve also eaten way too much, but that’s the Midwest for you.

Yes, I’m still nervous about the new job. But I’m not nervous that I won’t be able to perform my new responsibilities; I think it’s just my general fear of change gumming things up again. Part of what dispelled that was my coworkers; they’ve all been very helpful and encouraging. Even if I don’t have everyone’s names memorized and paired to faces yet, it was nice to meet them. And luckily there’s a cheat sheet on the company website.

The biggest shock for me (besides actually using my degree and skills) has been the cultural shift from large corporate retail to small business. The office environment is much less formal than anything I’ve come across before, except maybe when I taught martial arts in high school. But even that isn’t a good comparison, since my dad was the owner. But to come from the highly-regimented retail environment at Costco, where my time was controlled down to the minute, and a more freeform “come in when you like, just make sure you get your hours in” on has been a bit jarring. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I’m sure I’ll get used to it, but right now it feels a bit like the rug is slipping under my feet in weird, non-euclidean ways.

I know I’ve said it several times over the week, but I’m excited. I’m excited to do this work; even if I see the potential for it to get monotonous, it’s still a monotony I chose rather than a monotony I fell in to. My coworkers seem nice, both professional and relaxed.

I will say that I’m glad this company has a Denver office, as I don’t know that I’d want to move into a small Midwest town in the middle of cornfields. Call me spoiled, but I miss the city (and yes, by comparison to where I’ve spent the week, Denver is still considered a city), with all my friends and activities. Even the commute out here feels longer when you have to get on the highway and drive through cornfields. It’ll be nice to be home.

But I’m excited. And hopefully, if I keep saying that, I’ll forget how nervous I am. One can hope, right?