Testing Limits

Brainy Quote is like crack for people that like to think. As part of my 9-5, I have to spend several hours every week finding inspiring quotes from all manner of individuals, including Presidents, Royals, Business-people, Psychologists, and Philosophers. I’ve run across hundreds of quotes that I like and want to do more thinking on, but rarely have the chance to unpack those quotes and really explore them.

One of the ones I found was by M. Scott Peck, a Psychiatrist from New York, and it reads “one extends one’s limits only by exceeding them.”

When I first found this quote, I took pause, as I often do when I happen upon a profound statement on the interwebs. I find it profound, because it illustrates that the only boundaries we really have, are those we set for ourselves, or those set by society. Of course, many of these boundaries are extremely important; after all, the boundary we set against walking outside naked likely originated from ancient proto-civilizations not wanting to die of exposure. True, in some places like South America where uncontacted tribes live they are often found in minimal clothing, and it works there because the temperature range is never, or at the very most rarely, outside a livable range for human beings. On the other hand, the likelihood you would have found a member of the Inuit running around without serious protection from the elements is close to zero.

Others on the other hand, are less important and are either placed upon us by what our parents feel is morally correct, or what the general society around us feels is morally correct. It’s also not entirely probable that many of these boundaries are nothing more than arbitrary, set by some unspoken agreement because someone was made uncomfortable by it. For example, most salespeople will not call friends or family to make a sale, unless the friend or family member solicits the call. This is understandable to a degree; not wanting to mix business and pleasure, another “best practice” by most standards I’ve seen, prevents misunderstanding and helps you keep friends. No one likes being sold something every time they see their sibling or their best friend.

On the other hand, it also keeps the salesperson from practicing in a “safe” manner. True, the salesperson could ask to practice on their friend, but since most people aren’t willing to dish out tough love or tell a friend or family member that their script is garbage, it doesn’t amount to helping a whole lot. Instead, if a friend is in sales and asks to practice, especially if you yourself are in sales, you should offer the opportunity and provide constructive feedback, even if that feedback hurts a little. Some pain can be cathartic when combined with an honest and well-meaning critic.

It goes beyond generally accepted social limits as well; after all, we all have limits to what we like to do. Everyone has a comfort zone that they live in, and we are hard-wired to try and stay in that comfort zone even if that comfort zone is detrimental to our goals. I’m certainly not immune to this, and I’ll admit that I struggle every day to push myself out of that comfort zone. Dan Lok, Serial Entrepreneur and King of High Ticket Sales(TM) likes to say that “you have to get comfortable, being uncomfortable.” This means that to progress, to learn, to take that next step on our mission to succeed in whatever we decide we want to succeed in, we have to be willing to leave our comfort zone and take a measure of risk.

This past Saturday, I left my comfort zone and assisted at the Lodge to run the Square and Compass Club’s Bingo night. As Free and Accepted Masons, we use the profits from such operations to fund both the necessary expenses of the lodge, like keeping the lights on, and any excess from that program gets donated to various local charities at the end of the year. As an introvert, I often find such situations incredibly uncomfortable, just as I did when I put the blindfold on to become initiated (don’t worry, the blindfold isn’t a Masonic secret; you can find pictures of it on Wikipedia). Surrounded by people I don’t know, learning terminology I wasn’t familiar with, and a register that was set up in a unique manner, it was a struggle to focus from time to time. Focus can often become difficult, when you want to retreat into your shell.

So I steeled myself, aided by the cold and the fact that I was foolish enough not to bring a sweater (family was kind enough to delver those later in the evening), to learn what needed to be learned and accept any mistakes I made. Which were several. I accidentally tore Bingo Card books at the wrong place, sometimes ripping up pre-stacked “sets” of cards, punching the wrong number on their admission tickets, sometimes forgetting to charge for something. Thankfully, both the Worshipful Master and the patrons were very patient with me as I stumbled through this wholly unfamiliar territory. In most cases, when you do something for the first time, if you’re candid about the fact that you’ve never done it before, the people involved will have more patience.

Thus I successfully made it through the night, even though the entire time I felt as if I was out of my element. Although handling money and offering customer service is far from new to me, this particular type of customer service is by far much different than any I’d experienced giving in the past. Having never worked at a casino, and as there are members of my family that have gambling addictions, I don’t gamble save an occasional lottery ticket, it felt as though I was walking through a mine field. The important thing is that I succeeded in lasting the night without panicking, leaving early, or leaving work unfinished. In April when my turn to assist Square and Compass yet again comes up, I’ll be better prepared to help.

The most important thing to remember while doing anything is outright success is unimportant. You aren’t required to succeed the first time you try something you aren’t comfortable with. You are required to give it your best attempt, and if you fail, and you likely are because you’re not skilled in it yet, you try again. You continue to make yourself uncomfortable until you can successfully do the thing you set out to do. Then you continue to practice until you are comfortable doing it. That is when you’ve truly succeeded.

Now this doesn’t mean you ignore important warning signs and fears, considering fear is what keeps us from doing something that is phenomenally stupid; but not all fear is created equal. You can’t learn to skydive without jumping out of a plane. You can’t learn to rappel without hooking onto the rope and jumping off that cliff. You won’t sell without making a call. You won’t become known to a person unless you introduce yourself. These are all pushing boundaries of comfort, exceeding your limits to push them back. It is the foundation of courage, and without courage to push limits, you will do nothing but stagnate. Stagnation, is just another word for death.

The next time you’re faced with the choice of staying in your comfort zone, or doing something that will expand your abilities, help others (or an organization you’re with), or teach you something, consider taking the step and seeing where it leads you. Sometimes you’ll land on your face, and that’s okay. Sometimes, however, you’ll expand your horizons.

Entertainment Choices

Something occurred to me today: I have found that when parents do not enjoy the same entertainment choices as their children or grandchildren, the default is, when claiming hold of the television, to insult the child’s choice of entertainment. What I can’t figure out is why. Is there a reason that we need to insult our children, just because we don’t appreciate something that they do? If we aren’t even the target audience, then there’s a high likelihood we wouldn’t appreciate what they’re watching.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t bad shows, or bad games, or bad entertainment choices; like it or hate it, when a study showed that Spongebob Squarepants shortened children’s attention spans, it warrants concern. While Spongebob may (or may not be) targeted at children, even as someone that doesn’t enjoy the show, it has a certain ability to grab attention and retain it, even against our will. Either way, it doesn’t mean that the show itself doesn’t have entertainment value; it means that some comedic devices used in it may be low-brow or its storytelling method is formatted for short intervals. Soap Operas are actually formatted in a similar manner, often having three to five minute scenes.

I think the point I’m trying to get at is that we don’t need to break our children down just because we don’t appreciate what they enjoy. I don’t particularly enjoy many of the games my son asks to play; I play them because he enjoys them and they give us time together. Even the games he tries to create on the fly and aren’t well thought out (he’s 11); I reward his attempt at creativity and at times try to help channel it by helping him establish rules. I can also tell him that I’m not interested in playing a particular game, or watching a particular show. As a parent and an adult, I have prerogative over what is on the television.

So if you find yourself insulting your child’s entertainment choices, ask yourself: why is it necessary? Is the choice bad for their health and welfare (an age inappropriate show), or is it just something you don’t appreciate?

When Life Overwhelms You

So this past weekend I was contemplating, amongst the immense amount of company we had at the house, how to best organize the site and what I was planning to do with it. Between the channel, and the site, I have given myself quite the additional load to keep up with. Not a complaint mind you; I have enjoyed this adventure so far, and believe that I will continue to in the future. There is the issue of trying to keep everything organized, however, and that is something I still could use some work on.

So a few things to expect in the coming months on the site, as I increase my digital footprint and expand my “fief” in an effort to provide you, my readers and viewers, the best content I can:

First, I plan to organize pages in the site so that you can find my short stories, books, and other literary contributions easily; I will evolve the various menus as I go so that it works efficiently for the site and for both you and I. I plan to move my Entropia short stories out of the blog and into their own part of the website, so that they don’t mix in and you can easily find them if you decide to read them again. I’m hoping to have that done this week.

Second, I intend to start embedding my various YouTube series into pages here on the site as well; to start, I’ll be embedding each new Entropia Universe video as I post them, and adding an older EU video to the archive as I go. It may not seem like I’ve done a lot so far, and to be fair I haven’t when compared to more prolific YouTubers and Twitch Streamers, but everyone starts somewhere, and it still 74 videos as of today, just for Entropia Universe. That counts a few I have published to YouTube but still waiting for release.

Third, I have begun work on what I’m going to view as a production draft of my second book, Hunting the Jackal, which I also co-wrote with Rachel Morningvale. It was the only other completed manuscripts we wrote together, and it needs to be polished and finished. After that, if I decide to continue writing in the Dead World universe, they will strictly be my works.

Finally, a pledge: to always do my very best to provide the best content possible.

A New Colonist’s First Hunt

An Entropia Universe Story

Errol checked his Sollomate Rubio one more time as he walked away from Camp Icarus.  He was a new colonist, having just arrived from Earth, and nervous about what his new life was going to look like on Calypso.  After all, the ads spoke of the wonders, the possibilities and the opportunities; the recruiters spoke of possible fame and fortune, but the training at Camp Amundson made it plain that it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. The flora was beautiful, but all of the planet’s fauna was hostile.

He walked through the Nawa Field that prevented vehicles from getting too close to the Camp and into the area known as the “parking lot”.  Couldn’t imagine why, as there were roughly six Sleipnir jumpships all clustered in the area, along with several SUVs and cars. Although the CDF issued you a Valkyrie dune buggy when you landed, part of the incentive package, Errol hadn’t invested in the Premium package Omegaton offered at a discount when you move out this far from home.  As he walked out, clad in the yellow jumpsuit that marked him as a new colonist, Errol wished he had reconsidered. Still, 700 PED is a lot of money when you’re trying to start a new life.

As he cleared the congested “parking lot”, he gasped at the view.  The Icarus Plains stretched before him, the greens and reds of the grasses and trees vibrant in a Calypsian Summer.  Actually, Errol wasn’t entirely sure what season it was; from the information packet, the temperature difference between summer and winter on Calypso was only ten degrees on average.  Still, the colours were vibrant and the wind warm; and stretched out before him was a massive herd. He hit a few buttons on his Omegaton Digital Inventory System, which had been issued at Camp Amudson, and the Rubio digitized to be replaced with the Investafoe he had purchased at the camp.  He scanned the first creature one he came to, being careful not to get too close. He had no idea if the creature was aggressive or not, and the large, bony head, framed like a leptoceratops with six eyes; violet skin that was scaley from what he could tell. It calmly munched on some grass.

“Caudatergus Puny,” he read aloud off the scanner.  “Danger level is minimal. Good, don’t want to die on my first day here.”  With a few button pushes, the Investafoe digitized and was replaced with his Rubio once again.  The guide at Camp Icarus had stated that keeping the herd pruned was essential to keeping the Icarus Plain from being overpopulated; and the nature of Calypso meant that they were filtering in all the time.  It was also apparently the primary food source for colonists. “I’ll have to ask the local biologists what the breeding cycle on these things are,” he commented as he hit the charging button on his rifle.

Taking careful aim, he squeezed the trigger and a lance of energy hit the Caudatergus in the side.  The creature screamed in pain and charged at him! Backpedaling, Errol wondered if it was a mistake shooting such a large creature with a rifle that couldn’t put it down in one shot.  He continued firing at the Caud until its charge connected with Errol, the pain hitting him hard as he made an effort to keep firing. A second attack from the Caud hit him as well, and he thought he felt a rib crack under the pressure.  This isn’t going well, he thought.  The third time, he was ready, and deftly dodged an attempted bite.  As he circled and dodged, he started to pant; he wasn’t used to having to handle things like this.  When you hunted on Earth, it was either a kill, a miss, or you had to chase. This was like hunting an angry bull!

Finally, the Caud slowed down, sank to its knees, and closed its six eyes.  In a way, Errol felt guilty for killing the creature, who to its credit was a simple grazer; but the colonists had to eat, and only a fraction of the population hunted food creatures.  Most hunted the more dangerous predators that would hurt Colonists, or the local tribes of Feffoids, humanoid creatures that were roughly on par with Chimpanzees as far as anyone could tell, and were not shy about attacking human settlements.  There was a more intelligent brand of Feffoid called a Maffoid, he had read, that had a village somewhere to the North, but they were dangerous only if you invaded their territory.

Using an extractor, he pulled the shrapnel from his charge shots, and a bottle of muscle oil.  He deposited both in his ODIS. Then he hit a button on the extractor, and the carcass was digitized and teleported back to the food storage vault at Camp Icarus.  From there, at least according to the guide, it would be processed and transported to any number of locations or cities across Calypso, to feed the Colonists in their various roles on the planet.  Pulling out the Fast Aid Pack he had been issued, he quickly healed himself, feeling the rib mend and the bruises fade, the muscle aches dulling and then disappearing as the Chikara nanotech did its work.

Stretching the still-stiff muscles, he pulled his rifle back out and got back to work.

Two Short Messages

I have two short messages for today, that I want to make sure everyone that comes here, hears:

  1. Ghosts of the Past, my book written with Rachel Morningvale, is now available for free in its latest edition, as a PDF download! You can find it in the link above for Ghosts of the Past.
  2. Some motivation: no matter what happens, no matter what resistance you meet in life, keep going. You only lose when you give up. Let failure, even failure due to an impossible situation, teach you rather than diminish you. To quote Master Tora Taka, the head of the fencing school I’m a member of, “keep going! You have more in you than you even know!”

Being the Little Fish

So this is the end of February and it marks the end of my eighth month as a YouTuber. It has been an interesting ride, trying to keep up with my own schedule, what I’m trying to accomplish, and my normal schedule as a Father, an engaged boyfriend, an SCA member, a Mason, and a member of the Vermont State Guard, along with working a normal 40 hour a week job. As of this morning, I have 58 subscribers on YouTube, 7 of which are close friends or family; and I consider this a success.

Unsurprisingly, my greatest success has been around my Entropia Universe content; after all this has the largest under-served market. I’m up against some pretty big fish in that particular pond; and that’s how I like it. After all, you don’t get better by competing with people that you are better than. Much like the SCA fencing community, that competition is much friendlier than you might see in normal business; we sometimes collaborate on a video or live stream, we all watch each others videos. Needless to say, when some of my favorite YouTubers started watching my vids it made me squee a little bit.

Lately I’ve been watching a lot of motivational videos, trying to keep myself going in a time of personal strife, and it’s mostly working. I even tried making one of my own for last Saturday’s Vlog, which received some love from my subscribers, so I want to say thank you. As the little fish in this big YouTube pond, both as an EU content creator and a content creator for other games (currently still working on the two, I had no idea that “We Happy Few” would be this long!), I’m looking forward to seeing where I can swim to; and I will continue to strive to provide better content than I have in the past. After all, we’re either getting better, or we’re stagnating. I never accept stagnation.

Entropia V16

So if you haven’t watched my Entropia Release Version 16 video yet, please go watch it now. The interface has been significantly modernized, and I’m impressed by the amount of work that MindArk has put into the modernization of their interface. For a game that’s 15+ years old, Entropia continues to evolve and keep up with the needs of modern players, perhaps even better than industry monoliths like WOW and EQ.

I’d urge players to keep in mind that the game is designed, implemented, tested, and deployed by humans; no body is perfect, and as a demographic gamers tend to be a lot harder on those that produce the things we love than those in other industries. The game is going to continue evolving, and it will continue to get better. Sometimes we won’t like changes, but perhaps overall a change some of us don’t like is for the best overall, or was done to be compatible with a new operating system or engine version or update. Remember that MA uses Cry Engine, and that’s not a static program either.

A Not-So Quiet Drone Hunt

Jack materialized inside the walls of Fort Sisyphus, the desert heat blasting him immediately.  It was a base in the middle of nowhere, its walls a bulwark against both nature and the constant drone attacks that marked this as an area that was still largely in the control of the Robots; machines once built to make the colonization of Calypso possible now the greatest threat to its colonists.

A nod came his way from the CDF Sergeant-at-Arms standing by the depot building in the fort; it was normal for colonists to take duty shifts fighting the robots on a regular basis, to keep the tide of the machines back and the majority of Calypso relatively safe for its population.  Jack accessed his Omegaton Digital Inventory System, and after a few button pushes his Sollomate Onyxo materialized in his hands. Checking to make sure his crimson CDF-issue armour was secure on his body, he stepped out of the massive gates of the fort and into the open desert.

Per usual, the immediate area around the fort was clear; the fort’s auto-turret defenses kept the majority of threats around the fort at bay, although trouble happened when the dust and dirt jammed up sensors and other mechanical systems; it was not unusual for the robots to test the fort’s defenses during regular maintenance cycles.  As he crested the first dune, the robots came into view; drones armed with lasers, machine guns, and a lot of attitude. Shouldering his rifle, Jack took aim at the closest drone and opened fire.

Laser rounds started streaking toward the drone, and the drone responded in kind.  The heat from the drone’s laser splashed against his armour, and he could feel his skin heating under the barrage.  As the drone approached, his body lurched under a burst from the drone’s machine gun; two of the BLP rounds penetrated and he felt his shoulder burn from the injury.  He continued to pour fire on the drone until it dropped, flinching as a final laser blast from the drone seared his knee, the burn making him yelp.

Accessing his ODIS again, he pulled out his Fast-Aid Pack and hit its activation switch.  The FAP’s energy tendrils poured over him and he felt the bullet wounds from the BLP rounds, already reliquified, and the burn on his knee mend in the course of a few moments.  With the technology that Omegaton, and to a lesser extent Chikara and Genesis Star, brought to the Calypso system, warfare itself had reduced its gravitas and not only injuries, but even death had much less weight than it used to; after all, the activation of the Revival Terminal System meant that at death a colonist was rematerialized at the nearest terminal, alive, if injured.

Turning toward the next drone, a klaxon alerted him to a problem in his mask.  Sisyphus was undergoing a maintenance cycle, and the drones were already marching toward its gates.  As he looked up, the mass of drones before him started marching forward and he made haste back toward the fort’s gates.  As he approached the massive doors, he felt a burst of BLP rounds glance off of his shoulder armour. The gates opened for him as laser rounds streaked past him, and he saw the armoured faces of other colonists as they mustered to the CDF’s emergency beacon.

Twenty colonists had answered the call, and a barrage of laser rounds streaked out from the gate as it opened, drones dropping as he joined the line.  Bringing up his rifle again, he added his firepower to that of the colonists around him. The drones continued to push forward, and the first in the line dropped under a hail of BLP fire.  Two more quickly followed as he started to fall back with the line. The drones continued their advance as the line fell back, breaking through the gates and continuing toward the fort’s supply depot.  As he turned to check the integrity of the line, he felt a laser blast hit him in the side of the head, and he spun toward the blistering pain. A blast from his Onyxo took the drone down, but two of its companions hit him with BLP blasts that tore into his chest.  He felt blood well up in his chest and he coughed, blood spewing into his mask. His legs gave way and he collapsed onto the ground.

As his grasp on life began to fade, he felt his body dematerialize.  The pain was immense, but momentary. He rematerialized in front of the revival terminal set up in the wreck of a ship near the Fort; a fall-back position that the base used in an emergency.  He coughed heavily as his lungs, now emptied of the blood that had started pooling there, started breathing normally again. The pain from the injuries were still in place, though the injuries themselves were mended.  He pulled out his FAP and hit the activation switch. He felt the underlying injuries start to heal as he sat on the ground, taking a sip from the water-straw inside his mask. Moments later, his injuries healed, he took his rifle back out and marched back toward the battle.