I am kaitco

a writer's log

Assertive, but not Rude Monday, November 4, 2019

Filed under: Article — kaitco @ 4:22 pm
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This started as a response to a Reddit comment, but the more I considered the matter, the more I had to say. Rather than confine myself to a word count limit, I’ve decided to post this here so I can explain exactly what I wish to say.

Before beginning, I’ll note that I’m no psychologist, social worker, nor an authority on this matter. This is 100% my own opinion. Things that work for me obviously may not work for everyone and some of these suggestions may seem backwards, but these are the actions I’ve taken to master and control corporate conversations and avoid the bullying that often manifests in this environment.

There are a number of points to being assertive in a corporate environment while avoiding rudeness, but ultimately, everything boils down to maintaining control. It’s not something that can be mastered overnight and there are multiple layers to the act. Hopefully, my notes might provide a bit of help for those who struggle with crafting an assertive image.

 

The One

I’m going to reach back to an old high school trope: “All it takes is one.”

In nearly every high school, there’s almost always “that” table in the lunchroom, the trendy table. Whether you sat there yourself or not, but you knew this table in the lunchroom, and you knew what types of people who sat there. Some of them were nice to talk to every once in a while, and others were horrible all the time, but the people at that table typically kept within their own group and it was difficult to cross into that group if you didn’t start there in the first year of high school.

That said, all it ever took was one. If just one of the people at that table took a real liking to you, the others would miraculously see the “cool” in you and you could manage to make the crossover into that group. It’s sad to say that these folks were always a bit conformist and sheep-like. If one of their flock sees something they like, the others all fall in suit.

Why mention this high school diatribe regarding the corporate world? Because it is exactly the same. Where in high school, the trendy table was made up of people who either were well off enough to buy the trendiest and expensive styles, the corporate world is instead made up pay grades and those who feel self-important because of to whom they report or what businesses/projects fall under their leadership. Just like in high school, however, these folks are also incredibly clique-ish and will often speak down to those outside of the clique…until just one takes notice of you.

I’ll use a personal example for both. In high school, I floated between groups because I hated being the token black girl in the popular clique, but that meant that while I knew and often hung out with many of those within the popular clique, I didn’t hang with them enough for all the outer circles of that clique to know me well. I was on a number of athletic teams and I knew a couple people from one of those teams and shared a class with them. At the start of the year, the folks from that team couldn’t be bothered to even look at me twice while we were in class and would actually turn away if I tried to engage in conversation. And yet, when I’d made my rounds and these same people saw that I was not only friendly with other members of their clique, but I had known and been friends with them since the 6th grade. All of a sudden, these same people who couldn’t be bothered with me earlier, wouldn’t shut up or leave me alone in class; I was instantly treated as a dear friend. As soon as they saw that one person, or in my case 3, considered me part of the “club”, they immediately fell in line.

In a separate example, in my line of work, I’d been involved with dozens of projects interacting with those on from much higher pay grades and levels of leadership, and my boss’s boss had me join a daily conference call to provide knowledge about some ongoing business matters. When I first joined, I could hardly get anyone to even acknowledge if I’d even said anything on the call. And then, on one call, a guy who’s the peer of a boss three levels above me directly called my name and asked me a question which I answered promptly. Just like in high school, everyone else immediately fell in line. Instead of being interrupted and ignored, I was not only asked my opinion, but my direction was also followed. Just like in high school, all it took was a single person for the others to see my value.

 

The Squeaky Wheel

With all this notwithstanding, while “all it takes is one” does work, you still have to get the one and that by itself can be the greater challenge. To use yet another parable, the “squeaky wheel gets the grease.” This doesn’t mean that you have to be the loudest person around, but simply that your face and name need to be presented as much as possible to get noticed.

Pulling from school again, I played basketball, but I wasn’t a starter. I’m rather short, so there’s that, but I had enough tenacity to assist and shoot against these Amazon women that populated most basketball teams. Getting my coach to notice this was a difficult, though. In practice, there were the starters and then the rest and crossing that line was seemingly impossible. To get my coach’s notice, however, during games, I made certain to sit right beside his seat when I was on the bench. When he saw someone screw up on the court and he needed to take her out for a moment, he turned to look down the bench and first person he saw was me. Unless he specifically wanted someone else, he would say, “Kaitco, go in for Ashley.” and I would have my moment to shine. The first time it happened, it was only for a couple plays, but because I played like my life depended on it in just those two plays, when it continued to happen, I became the one he wanted first to go in and then also to stay in the game.

There’s no basketball analogy for the corporate space, but the “squeaky wheel” is still the one who gets that kind of notice. In one position in my career, I was working overnights where I found that it was difficult to showcase the work that I could do for those who were much higher up the chain. I quickly learned that my direct manager had no interest in trying to help me forward my career, so I had to put my name in front of his manager as much as possible. I put together a weekly report of my accomplishments in an email and sent them directly to my boss’s boss. For the first couple months, I got no response at all, but I still kept sending them and eventually in a meeting, my boss’s boss mentioned “Well, Kaitco sends me details about what she’s doing every week, so how could we not have seen that these numbers were slipping if she’s sending out these reports each week?” Even with that little blip, I kept sending my reports because getting a promotion didn’t happen immediately, but it kept my name directly in front of him constantly, so that when it was time for a promotion, he recognized what I could do without anyone directing me to do it.

What’s important about getting your face and/or name in front of those in positions of power is that they become your “one” because all it takes is one to get to push your career forward.

 

Confident Pride

Still, the original question was still about being assertive, so how does all of this pertain to assertiveness?

Ultimately, your ability to be assertive comes down to having full confidence in your abilities and your knowledge that you have something worthwhile to add to the conversation. It can be difficult to bring out that confidence, especially within a corporate environment, but that’s where your “one” helps. You can be confident in meetings, or even through emails, and assert yourself because you’ve got your “one” who already believes that whatever it is that you have to add is relevant and accurate (because you’ve already proven it to them) and you can gain further confidence that your “one” is going to help the others fall in line. So, when you speak up, you can speak with authority and confidence which is all being assertive is.

So, now we’ve got an understanding about the foundations of being assertive, but putting this into action can be a little more difficult, especially if you’re not naturally tenacious.

I’m going to reiterate the importance of confidence in your ability to be assertive. In some cases, despite all efforts, you may never have that “one” and you may be in a situation where you’ve got to be strong at a moment’s notice in an unfamiliar scenario or amongst unknown individuals. This where bold pride comes into play and where you must be mindful of timing and tone.

Regarding bold pride, it may sound like pride on the point of pure arrogance, but going into a situation with the idea that you are the most knowledgeable person in the room, and that you are superior to everyone else goes a long way into driving that confidence. Even if this level of pride isn’t entirely accurate, I’ll default to the old adage: “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull!” As long as you sound confident and then SOUND as if what you’re saying is accurate, others will be less inclined to interrupt or speak over you.

Also, in written communication, I’ve also found that using larger, less common words that folks generally don’t recognize will reduce the amount of people who will be combative in e-mails. Often, since they don’t recognize the words used, especially if the word isn’t easily understood by context, people don’t want to appear stupid by asking for a meaning or immediately responding in case their response indicates that they didn’t know a word, and many are too lazy or busy to look up the word you’ve used and will simply stay quiet. That silence gives you a bit of an upper hand; the last person to respond wins!

 

Interjection!

Let’s say you’ve got the bold confidence and you know you’ve got your “one” backing you in the meeting as well. The remaining piece is how to interject without being rude.

I’ve found that a simple interjection in something along the lines of “Um, sorry to interrupt, but…” and then continuing as long you’re not speaking over another person. It helps to use a smaller, milder voice in that “sorry”, but it still must be strong enough to actually stop someone. The goal is to interrupt, because some men will seriously continue talking just because they enjoy the sounds of their voices, but interrupting with the slight apology to make it at least appear that you don’t mean to interrupt.

Be sure to leave off “I’m” from the sorry. It’s not “um…I’m sorry” but “um…sorry to interrupt.” Word choice is important in the interruption and starting with “I’m sorry” gives a negative connotation to what you’re saying and also starting with “I” can make others feel as if you are bringing the attention directly to yourself instead of to the point you’ve got to make. The “um…” is your soft interjection and it must be said a bit soft so that it’s not a hard and rude interruption. It’s like a small blip into the conversation that softly introduces your voice and your intention to add something to the conversation.

Another option is to wait for an actual pause in the conversation to add “and, if I could interject…” The “and” doesn’t need to be as soft as the “um” since you’re not actually interrupting, but you still do not want a blasting tone. You should be at the same volume and tone as the rest of the participants in the conversation. I’ve also found that “um, this is Kaitco…” immediately followed by the point I’m trying to make. Not only does your face/voice get a name, but you’re drawing attention to the name for future conversations as well.

With either interruption, what’s most important is what you have to add once you’ve got the spotlight. This comes down to thoroughly knowing your audience. In a highly corporate environment, the higher up the chain someone is, the more concise and poignant you (the unknown entity) must be. When stepping into the conversation, have a single point to make, and get to it in less than 8 seconds of straight speech. It sounds like a tiny amount of time, but when hearing a complete unknown, anything more than that will cause others to start ignoring you. It should be a small interruption that adds to the conversation by directly countering or increasing what has been said and then pausing for further questions.

An additional piece to being assertive is how to manage those who speak over you or simply won’t let you get in a word. Some individuals may be more naturally tenacious (or argumentative) and can combat more easily than others. What’s important, however, is to stop the other party without reverting to shouts. I’ve found a good way to stop others in their tracks is by just saying their name. If you’ve tried to interrupt “Drew” twice, but he won’t take the hint, start by just saying his name. “Drew.” This will make him pause for just long enough for you to begin a proper interjection.

 

Fight Fire with Superior Fire

At the end of all of this, sometimes you’ve got to fight the proverbial fire with fire, but what’s important is that you never stoop to a lower level and that you maintain control of the conversation.

There’s a difference between an inflection in your voice and yelling. You should be to still enunciate your words very clearly with an inflection; yelling causes a strain that inhibits this. Keep a purposefully slow, natural pace against those who may be speaking fast; it keeps you in full control of the conversation and makes the other sound irrational and combative. No matter what profane or explicit language is thrown at you, never repeat it. Again, this is about maintaining control of the conversation and using any non-professional language weakens your position. Keep cool and if someone is on a long yelling rant, remember the exact word you want to start with when you continue; nothing keeps you in control more than continuing as if you were never interrupted in the first place after someone has been yelling for a minute straight. Anyone who’s yelling has to take a breath eventually and that’s when you calmly continue without batting an eye.

As with everything in life, practice makes perfect. That said, you may not be able to directly practice these elements of assertiveness outside of meetings, which is why having these “conversations” with just yourself in the shower or in the car when you’re alone can help you get the wording the right. Think about the last time someone made you stumble over your words and consider what you would have said if you had more time. Actually say these words and imagine the conversation again. It may sound odd to talk aloud to yourself, but the more you’re able to speak aloud without getting tongue-tied on your own, the more likely you’ll be able to do it live.

Also, never forget the power of silence and simply saying “One moment.” In saying that you need a moment to collect your thoughts, it’s key that you do not ASK for permission to pause. It’s not “could I have a moment?” You must state this as if it were a command from a queen to her servant. State “one moment”; don’t mention needing a moment “to think” and don’t add any upward inflection indicating a question. One moment. If someone seems determined to deprive you of your moment, revert to saying their name and then repeating it. “Steve. One moment.” You are in control of the conversation and if someone is asking you a question, they can wait for an answer.

 

The Last Resorts

The last piece of assertiveness causes me to revert to the types of behavior that both helped and stunted me growing up. Drawing back to that bold, arrogant pride, there is great simplicity in not caring at all what others think of you. It can come down to something as simple as entering every conversation with the mindset of “Who is he that he should speak to me like that?” and also “What’s he going to do? Fire me?!”

So, this group of people find you a bit difficult? So what? YOU’RE right and you have something valid to add! There is an inherent problem with this mindset, however, because a) this could very well get you fired and b) when used to o often, it may close more doors than open. The key to using the “Who are you to me?” mindset is using that tone and often that expression only on those who would use it on you. It’s useful to fully read individuals in a conversation and utilize this mindset when nothing else works. The very wealthy, the entitled, and many of those of bred in large cities are the ones who would react best to this bold tone. Again, I can’t help but reiterate that this should be used very sparingly because this tone runs close and parallel to the line of rudeness. It’s easy to cross that line and plain rudeness can easily backfire in the worst moments.

 

Onward and Upward Monday, October 22, 2018

Filed under: Dorienne — kaitco @ 7:34 am
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I think it behooves me to post today, given that it’s been a year and I’m not one to give up on long-standing ventures.

My mother mentioned to me about this time last year that I would likely never fully get over the passing of my pastor. A year later, I’m starting to see how she’s right, and I’ve accepted it.

It’s been a year and I miss him terribly, and likely always will. That doesn’t mean I’ve been weeping every single day for the last year. I’ve been able to laugh, and smile, and live life “more abundantly” and such, but every once in a while, that creeping pain returns to remind me that it’s just a layer or two below the surface.

I’ve arguably had a better year in 2018 than I had in 2017. Returning to my previous first-job has just catapulted my career in just the last 6 months, and I feel like I actually wield some business-transforming influence. My articles at Gaming-fans.com have been making some traction, and I’m even noted as “that person who writes for that SWGoH site” here and there on Reddit.

My fiction writing has stalled though and I often feel like my focus on religion is in a state of perpetual quagmire. It is MUCH harder to push myself to remain committed to the church and constant study than has been in the past. I think I’ve resorted to ignoring my sorrows, rather than drowning them, in video games and memes than doing more productive things. I’d like to say that today that ends and that moving forward, all will change…but, I don’t like lying to myself.

I can do better, however. With regard to every facet of my life, I can definitely strive to just do better. I can set goals and actually fulfill them, even if the only person affected is myself. I can’t return to the same fervor I had in my 20s and the first few years of my 30s, but I can make the best of what’s ahead by making those little changes. Writing here is just a first step.

And so – I mean this more than ever – onward and upward.

 

One of the hardest things thus far… Monday, October 23, 2017

Filed under: Dorienne — kaitco @ 7:39 pm
Tags: , , , ,

From blog.doriennesmith.com/:

My Pastor went home to glory last week. His homegoing service was today.

This has been one of the hardest life experiences I’ve had thus far in my life and it’s so easy to fall into a spiral thinking “there’s so much more darkness ahead as well.” but, I’m going to keep on keeping on.

I have to keep reminding myself that the reason all those around me seem to be doing so well with all of this is because they’ve already had to bury fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, grandparents, children. And, they all got to go through with their Pastor by their side. This is my first time dealing with death so close and I’ve no Pastor to talk me through this.

It’s just been so hard. The calls and texts of encouraging someone whose spiritual strength I’d often taken for granted. Overcoming my own anxieties to see him during hospital visits. Literally picking myself off the floor after collapsing at the news that he was being moved to hospice. Visiting him in hospice every day he was there and watching him slowly transition onto glory. Accepting the news that he was gone. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so hard or as much in the entirety of these 33 years I’ve walked this Earth. I’ve got my ramblings to say and these words may not make sense to many others, so perhaps this is just here for me.

Years and years ago, I was a very skeptical agnostic. I’d been baptized a Christian as a child, but had never really belonged to a church home and with very sporadic church attendance throughout my teens, very little remained of my Christian experience and understanding. In a lost moment in college, I’d attempted to find a renewed spirit within one of the churches my mother and I had visited some years earlier. I walked into that building a proverbial lost lamb, but I walked out of it no longer a Christian and certain that God, whatever form He took, was not to be found withing Christianity.

An extremely difficult period followed afterward, where I’d figuratively wandered lost within the world, but as providence would have it, God brought me to what would become my church home through the teachings of a very great man who would become my Pastor.

After so many years of absolute distrust in ministers and most Christians, my Pastor proved to be a man of the highest character. One of the things that I adored most about Pastor was that he put God first in everything that he did. Because his ministry was about Jesus and not about uplifiting himself, he wasn’t afraid to bring newer or even stronger preachers into his pulpit and he was never afraid to admit that sometimes he simply did not have all the answers. These weren’t overall concerns because he did not feel the need to put himself first, but God. He acknowledged that there was no way he would ever fully understand every single thing that the bible said, but to use a phrase he often did, “I may not know all the specifics about how electricity works, but I’m not going to sit in the dark until I do.”

He often quoted Matthew 6:3: “Seek ye FIRST the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.” and he had this deep, mighty voice that always stressed FIRST; that we were to put God first; that God was not running for any place in our lives but first; that anything that we put before God was idolatry. These teachings allowed Pastor to become the first preacher that I ever really trusted. Above all, I trusted that he would never purposefully tell me something to lead me astray or that would go against God.

Pastor focused on bible-based teachings and rarely did all the screaming and shouting “performance” that is so often found within black churches and we used to talk about that a lot. I told him often that I never liked all the “hootin’ and hollerin'” sermons because that was all show and had more to do about uplifting the preacher than the Word. I also told him that it was part of that latent skepticism that I struggled to lose. He agreed that the shouting was often part of the show, but that sometimes that’s what people needed to ignite their spirits. He also reminded that, in reference to my skepticism, that faith and doubt could not occupy the same heart, and I remind myself of this as often as possible as I continue on my journey.

We disagreed from time to time. He wanted me to be more involved in church auxillaries and often chastized me for quitting just about everything from the choir, to the usher board, to a helping auxillary, to teaching Sunday school…I’m sure there are many other things I’ve even forgotten that I’ve quit. And, he was very right; I quit a lot of activities, arguably out of fatigue. Every once in a while, I had something to throw back at him, though. Once, he demanded that all his lady ushers had to wear skirts when they served, so I sat down and quit. Eventually, it got back to him that the reason I’d quit ushering was because the Word said that men and women were to be dressed differently to be readily identifiable as such, not that men wore pants and ladies were skirts. If I’d been trying to usher in a men’s suit, then by all means call out that behaviour, but if I wanted to serve wearing a finely cut women’s pants suit, where was the harm? Later, he agreed with me and removed this rule, but this was the type of man he was. He acknowledged if he was wrong and moved forward.

One of the things I cherish most, however, was that Pastor never hesitated to teach God’s Word. When I was teaching Sunday School, he gave me (what I later learned was a very expensive) Matthew Henry Commentary Study Bible with my name engraved on it. He’d given one to my mother as well. I think I’ve learned more about scripture and also myself from reading this commentary than anything else in life. I remember asking him how much the commentary cost because my church is sometimes just barely able to keep the lights on, but he refused to say, and refused to accept any payment. I’ve several other spiritual books Pastor has given to me in this same manner and I’ll treasure all of them always.

He didn’t just preach and give out books, though. He was a 21st century pastor. Over the years, I could always depend on texts from Pastor. Admittedly, of late, they were of the variety “Daughter…you are MIA” if I’d missed more than 2 consecutive Sundays. Mostly, though, I could text Pastor any of my questions about scripture and he always had answers for me:

Many Sundays, I would approach him after service and ask further questions about his sermon. Sometimes he would even roll his eyes and laugh when he saw me coming. He’d say, “I knew you’d be coming up here after I preached that!” He always encouraged us, though. He often said, “Don’t just take my word for it. Read the bible for yourself. When you get to glory, God isn’t going to hold you accountable for what Pastor said, but for what God said.”

What I take from this most is that I will miss him so very much. But…in the same way, all those years ago, when he waved me forward as I stepped out in the aisle to join the church, he said to me in that deep voice of his, “Come on, Daughter. I’ve been waiting for you.” I know that when I get to glory too, he’ll be there waiting with a smile again saying, “Come on, Daughter. I’ve been waiting for you.”

One of his last sermons:

 

Why, Despite 250+ Steam Games, I’m Returning to Consoles Sunday, September 24, 2017

Filed under: Gaming — kaitco @ 9:40 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

As I sit typing, I’m waiting to re-download Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic. I’ve got another 11 minutes to go. You’ll notice that I’m RE-downloading KotOR from Steam.

Earlier this weekend, I finished another Mass Effect playthrough on Xbox 360 and decided that I should go back through my game library to play something else before attempting another Mass Effect run. I chose KotOR because of the acclaim and the fact that Drew Karpyshyn seemingly can do no wrong.

I’d bought KotOR for original Xbox eons ago and I, literally, dusted off the disk to see if it would even play on Xbox 360 years and years after the original backwards compatibility for the game was announced. Though the game doesn’t play in Widescreen, I began exploring Taris and was having some fun getting into the game until I died and decided to take a break.

The smaller screen was getting on my nerves, and it’s usually within that first game death that I find myself “taking breaks” in games, not to return for another five years. After research advised that there was no way to “stretch” the image on KotOR for Xbox, I recalled that I’d purchased the game on Steam during either a Steam sale or a Humble Bundle. Whichever it was, the fact that I had a physical copy of the game was not enough to combat some minimal price tag for PC (I have the game on iOS as well, but that’s for another post). I imagined that I could get the game to play in widescreen and play a lot better and also easier through Steam than through playing on Xbox. This is where troubles of epic gaming proportions began.

After 20 minutes of downloading the game through Steam, I started up the game with my Xbox for PC controller and tried to see what the game looked like. Not only did the game not appear in widescreen, it was instead a tiny box in the middle of my 1920×1200 resolution. If that was not bad enough, the game would not run. No matter what I did, none of the options would select, even though I could see the mouse moving.

I unplugged my Xbox controller, restarted my laptop, and tried again under the tried and true troubleshooting method of “turn it off and try again”. I restarted the game sans controller, and still nothing; tiny screen and nothing would click.

I think most people would have probably quit at this point and just returned to the game on the Xbox, but I refused to be daunted. Whether I spent $2 or $10 on the game through Steam, there was no way I’d have a game that I couldn’t play. Many, many, MANY searches later, I learned that the game would only run and register the mouse clicks by turning off Steam overlays and still running directly from the executable. To get the image to display at widescreen, I had to download Flawless Widescreen and then I still needed to finagle with the .ini file settings to make sure the mouse pointed correctly. I haven’t attempted to run the Xbox for PC controller yet, but that, too, requires Pinnacle Profiler, which I’d purchased years earlier for an equally irritating PC gaming adventure. About 72 hours after first sitting down with the intention to play the game, I think I’ve finally got the game moderately running the way I’d like.

With the Xbox One X coming in just a few months, I’ve been contemplating where my next steps with gaming will go. I’ve got 250 games in Steam (about 5 of those are probably games that are just Steam shortcuts), yet out of all those titles, I’ve only played 6% of those and even out of that 6%, the majority of the time in Steam has been spent in either Civilization 5 or Banished. It makes more sense for me to continue pursuing PC gaming as you can always do more with PC games than you ever could with console games (modding, textures, etc.), and I’ve also got 250 games waiting to be played. The massive library notwithstanding, the new Xbox is calling me for the simple fact that it is highly unlikely that I’ll need to go through all the above steps just to get a game to run.

With Xbox specifically offering backwards compatibility for Xbox, 360, and One games, my last major rationale for staying with PC gaming is slowly failing. With consoles, you put in the disc, download whatever is necessary, and off you go. With PC games, it’s a matter of ensuring both OS and graphics card updates haven’t disrupted the game, working all kinds of magic to make a console controller on the PC, and then using every digital gymnastics trick in the book to make the visuals what they ought to be.

I should have gone into PC gaming with a little better understanding. I’ve been playing The Sims 2 since 2004 and a fair bit of the “fun” of the game is troubleshooting why the game isn’t working. Obviously these problems are less likely to exist with newer games, but my gaming preferences keep pushing me towards consoles.

Outside of games like Civ 5 that are specifically made for PCs, I really prefer a console controller to trying to use a keyboard. WSAD is never going to connect in my mind; even my Minecraft controls are switched to FVDC instead of WSAD and that’s just not conducive to more complex gaming.

I’m also a “patient gamer” in that I like playing older games more than brand new games. Part of this is because most games these days are all about microtransactions and multiplayer, which is a completely different rant in itself, but with older games, the same problems I’ve experienced with KotOR, I’ll likely see in other older games as well. This is going to be ongoing problem as OSes and graphics cards get sporadic updates. Then…that Xbox One X starts to beckon me more and more.

I’ve got a decent 360 library that will all be playable on the One X and, though I’ve repurchased a fair amount of those games for Steam, I’m a little apprehensive about repeating my same KotOR experience.

The game has now downloaded and I’m ready to try again with KotOR for PC, but I still worry that there’s a good chance that I’ll slowly abandon all 250+ Steam games in favor of a system that just lets me sit down and play.

 

Addendum: I can’t decide on key bindings that fit my hands best. After keeping up the keyboard controls on another PC screen to reference as I play for several minutes, I’ve decided to give up and return to KotOR on Xbox…

 

Dorienne, the gamer Saturday, July 22, 2017

Filed under: Gaming,The Sims,Writing — kaitco @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , ,

From blog.doriennesmith.com/:

Something fascinating occurred over the last few months: I’ve finally decided to fully acknowledge that I’m a gamer, instead of someone who sometimes plays games.

Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes has taken up a huge part of my time lately. Not just the game itself, or my alt account, but planning for it and researching for it, interacting with my guild members, and recently, writing about it. I’m writing about it on Gaming-fans.com, which is one of the first times I’ve written for someone else. I really enjoy writing reviews and such for GoH on the whole, partly because I enjoy the game, but mainly because I love writing about the game.

My gaming is really disjointed, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying it from every aspect. I keep buying games like some people collect Lego sets. I had a somewhat sizeable Xbox 360 library, but then discovered Steam Sales and Humble Bundles and decided to switch to PC-gaming, which required re-purchasing (albeit for pennies on the dollar) a bunch of games and trying to play them in a different environment. That said, I’ve got 252 games in my Steam library and I’ve only played through 6% of them.

I usually end up restarting games half the time because I take such long breaks in-between them and tend to jump from game to game. Finishing Mass Effect for the first time really brought this home. Four years elapsed between the time I first attempted ME1 and eventually finished a complete playthrough, but once I got fully engaged in the game, I couldn’t stop until I’d finished. I loved every part of following my Shepard as she commanded the Normandy, befriended various aliens, and fell in love as she saved the galaxy and in playing Mass Effect and discovering its Reddit community, I finally realized that this is a media that I’ve long-since adored.

Regardless if I own a game and it’s just chilling in my Steam library or gathering dust beside the Xbox or I’m simply curious about it, I love reading reading reviews from professional critics and players alike and researching all the furor or glee about every release or console.

While every minute spent gaming is a minute not spent working on Flight or Damen or Anne or any of the other million projects I’ve got pending, with the way first-job has been stressing and depressing me, sometimes all I can do to keep my sanity is engage in interactive stories by playing, writing, or reading about them.

Whether it’s my 13-year-old Sims 2 game that still going and going until modders can’t get it to run on modern OSes anymore, or just discovering which of the latest games can hold my attention best, I’m a gamer. I’m involved.

Part of me wants to link this into all my other hobbies by thinking that eventually I’d like to write my own game, but I think it might be best to let gaming live on its own. Gaming can live beside writing and even occasionally intertwine, but there’s no need to force myself to start a new project like writing a game…at least not until I’ve made a dent in my Steam library.

 

My posts this year are analogous to 2016… Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Filed under: Dorienne — kaitco @ 2:18 pm
Tags: , ,

…a barren wasteland of nothingness.

I could make a post just about Carrie Fisher…in fact, let’s start there.

Carrie Fisher passed away today. She had a heart attack on Friday, spent Christmas essentially on life support, and passed today at the age of 60. I’ve spent the last hour crying.

I didn’t know this woman. I didn’t know her friends, her family, favorite cities. I didn’t even know who her mother was until earlier this year. I have no reason to be in this much pain, but I am. Someone on reddit made me feel a tiny bit better. On the whole, however, my heart aches. It started aching on Friday, my whole body was tense across the weekend, and now the lacrimal floodgates have been opened.

Outside of Star Wars, I’d only seen her in When Harry Met Sally and, while at least one of her books has been on my To-Read list for ages, I’d never got around to it. I can’t say that I was some diehard Carrie Fisher fan, but still…I first watched Star Wars on VHS when I was about 11 and it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen in my life. What I loved most about was Princess Leia; a girl with big brown eyes and tons of sass, who carried the title of Princess. A young girl could hardly ask for more!

As I got older, I never found myself half-stalking her actions and film work the way I do with say, Gillian Anderson, but I knew she was writing and she was still there. This changed last year, when I got to experience the awe and wonder of watching a set of actors take up roles some 30 years after first portraying them. Offhand I can’t think of any other set of films or TV where this has occurred and I’ve spent much of this year intrigued by this and especially by Ms. Fisher. I don’t follow many celebrities on Twitter (I’ve followed Mark Hamill since Friday though because he’s good fun), but I was amused by her tweets that somehow found their way into my social media and I was wholly engrossed by how much of an advocate she has been for tearing down the stigmas of mental illness and also how she managed to take on all of her critics who complained about her looks, as if a woman is expected to look in her late 50s the way she did at 19. This year, especially, I had grown to really respect and admire Carrie Fisher, so hear that she had suffered a heart attack and then to hear that she had passed – my newly admired celebrity, my favorite princess since age 11 – this news is heartbreaking.

I think what aches the most is not just the loss of a celebrity I was gaining a newfound love for (seriously, not a month ago, I was thinking that I needed to follow more Twitter celebs and I should probably start with Carrie Fisher), but the fact that she was 60 years old. I understand that she had struggled with drug abuse her whole adult life and most abusers don’t usually live to a ripe old age, but I still see 60 as young. Perhaps, it’s because my parents are at this same age. Both dad and step-dad are 60 and mother isn’t far behind. Ms. Fisher leaves behind a daughter not much younger than myself. Her death, unlike that of David Bowie or Alan Rickman, hits home so much harder because she’s woman I felt I’d known since childhood and now she’s gone. The loss serves as a reminder that life is short and impermanent and that every moment must be cherished because we’ll never known which is our last.

This year has seemed so awful in so many respects, so I suppose this is a fitting way to close it. On a more personal level, I’ve allowed first-job to come before so many things that I’ve drifted from my church, regained all the weight I’d lost the previous year, I’ve watched my family suffer through medical setbacks and suffered through a couple of my own, and I have wallowed in a hole of depression so deep for so much of the year I half wonder if some of today’s tears aren’t just Ms. Fisher, but for just the year as a whole.

Next year will be better, I tell myself. I will write more, I will read more (starting with any Princess Leia-focused Star Wars book in creation, both canon and non, and then I’ll write one if I can’t find anything else that I want), I’ll attend church more, I’ll pray more, I’ll call relatives more. I’ll be a better daughter, cousin, niece, faux-sister, a better person. If I keep telling myself that next year will be better, maybe…just maybe, it will be.

And, so…some of Yoda’s words to help get me through the rest of this day, “Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not.”

 

The X-Files!! (add 10 exclamations!!1!z) Saturday, January 30, 2016

Filed under: Dorienne — kaitco @ 6:08 pm
Tags: , , ,

This was originally going to be a review of the first two episodes of The X-Files’ “reboot”/Season 10/etc., but since so much press has already been given to that, I’m going to take a different approach altogether.

Considering the fact that “x-files” is an old tag on this blog and practically any other blog I’d ever created, I think I can realistically call myself a fan. To be honest, however, The X-Files has made me the person I am today, so I’d like to think that in relation to X-Files, I go far beyond “fan.”

On a Friday in 1993, at age nine, I sat in the living room flipping through the channels while my mother worked in the other room. I knew it was past my bed time, but I figured as long as I stayed quiet and didn’t make too much noise, Mother would let me stay up a bit longer. In my flipping, I came to a “grownup” show where some sort of invisible monster was running through the woods and, when it came upon other people, it would attack them with an intense light and kill them with burns. I was so intrigued by what I was watching that I couldn’t turn the channel and continued watching as these two people, a man and a woman, seemed to be searching for this monster. In the end, one of the people that they were working with, named Max, was found hovering in the middle of a room. There was a blinding light and then he was gone. The man saw the whole thing, but the woman had just missed it and, in the end, they both seemed a little miffed at one another. Overall, I was terrified by what I’d watched and vowed to never watch the Fox channel around 9pm on a Friday ever again. I didn’t know what I’d watched or what had actually gone on, but I knew I didn’t want to see anything like it again. If I’ve learned anything about life it’s that whenever I say never, I’m almost willing it to happen (obligatory: I’m never getting published. I’ll never win the lotto.)

While I can’t succinctly place how and when I became an obsessed fan within the next year, I clearly recall watching what I later learned was a Season 1, and likely first run, episode “Fallen Angel” when I was nine. I do know that I didn’t watch Scully’s Season 2 abduction first run, but I did watch “Firewalker” first run (the first new episode following the abduction series) and I was already obsessed by that point. It’s likely I caught the X-Files “bug” during a set of reruns. I don’t know which episode did it, but by the time I was ten, I was hooked forever on what I’d said I never wanted to watch again.

When I finished watching that first Season 10 episode this past Sunday night, I just sat in pure silence, revelling in the opulence of a moment I hadn’t experienced since high school. I thought about what I’d watched and how much I’d enjoyed it, and with the thought that there was another episode happening the next night, I actually cried happy tears. It’s almost like a religious experience for me. Yep…I’m a big dork, but that’s fine, because X-Files has made me the person I am.

 
X-Files is why I learned to code:
I love all things tech; from operating systems, to hardware, to programming languages, I love it all. I’ve got dual boots of Windows and Linux on my two “main” PCs and I bought a Macbook Air a few years ago mainly to learn OS X, though my “official” rationale was the need for a light-weight travel laptop. I know the ins and outs of iOS better than most iOS device owners and it’s only out of a strong desire to stop buying things I don’t need that I haven’t bought a cheap Android tablet just so I can learn the OS as well as Apple’s. I also love learning programming languages. I’ve been slowly teaching myself Java and C++, which I don’t find terribly daunting because I’d taught myself HTML and CSS long ago, and why did I teach myself how to code? Because I wanted to create an X-Files website of my own.

As with spoken languages, learning one programming language makes it considerably easier to learn others. Without knowing any programming languages, viewing any code will look like a giant wall of letters, but understanding just a single language can bring a sense to the unknown without a lot of effort. While playing Minecraft, I decided to have a go at creating my own mods and started to tweak the Java code quickly because I’d already had experience reading code. At first-job, I create and edit Excel VBA on various projects often, not because I received a degree or even a certificate in the process of being taught VBA code, but because my experience learning HTML/CSS on my own had already taught me how to generally make sense of any code. Following all of this from beginning to end, no matter how silly it sounds, my love of X-Files has actually helped my career.

 
X-Files is why I appreciate music of all genres:
The first X-Files movie came out summer of 1998; I saw it opening day and still have my ticket stub. The movie came out on VHS later that year and I made it quite clear to my mother that it didn’t matter if I received nothing else for Christmas that year, all I wanted was the X-Files movie. Of course, I got my beloved film, and still have the original VHS, but after countless watching, I found myself wanting the soundtrack. Previous to this, most of the music my 13-year-old self liked was pop or hip-hop, with a little early 90s R&B sprinkled in for nostalgia. In watching that X-Files movie for the umpteenth time, however, I started to enjoy some of the music I heard in the background. I received the soundtrack later that next year, but was originally disappointed. What I thought I had enjoyed didn’t sound all that great once I heard the full songs that were all a far cry different from the pop music I mostly enjoyed at the time and I eventually dropped the soundtrack into the pile of other music that I would just keep around to say I had a large music collection. The soundtrack still called me from time to time, though and, after repeated plays, I would find something else to like about one more song. Foo Fighters’ “Walking After You” became the most beautiful song I’d ever heard, the lyrics of Bjork’s “Hunter” were so interesting that I wanted to write a song of my own, and Noel Gallagher’s “Teotihuacan” taught me that instrumental music came in forms other than classical and jazz. It was as if a light had clicked. This single album expelled my musical myopia from the simple pop radio stations to anything that was available. I could like any kind of music, not just pop and hip-hop, not just what was at the top of TRL; all music could have value.

I spent a good part of today cleaning the whole house from top to bottom and listened to a playlist while I cleaned. The playlist starts with 90s R&B, goes into contemporary R&B, continues into Korean pop, then Korean R&B, then techno-punk, then rock music, a David Bowie cover, “edgier” rock music, then spliced rap (specifically, it was The Grey Album), and then new-age hip-hop. All these genres flow from one to another and, if I play this in the car with another person, I have to warn them, “I listen to everything” because I’m familiar with the “What the heck is this?” look received when a playlist goes from R&B to K-Pop to techno-punk. What’s best is that today’s playlist isn’t even a wide spread of the music I like, and I recognize that I’d be stuck in one set of stereotypical music for my race and my upbringing if it was not for X-Files.

 
X-Files is partly why I write:
This may be a slight stretch, but it’s still relevant. Like much of my Oregon Trail generation, I spent a good amount of the late 1990s glued to the Internet, and one of the sites where I spent most of my time was an X-Files fanfiction archive. It’s still around, though I don’t think it’s been updated in several years, but it was through X-Files fanfiction stories that I first started to appreciate characterization and learned how to craft a story.

I think it’s prudent to mention that this site wasn’t like a FanFiction.net, where it’s a huge free-for-all, with neither care nor controls for quality. All the stories had to be reviewed before being added to the archive, so everything I read was written by people who had taken the time to craft a properly written story which, in turn, gave me some insight as to how to tell a story.

Much of the reading I did as a teen came through assigned novels in English class and few of those ever intrigued me enough to think about after I’d finished them. X-Files fanfiction, however, gave me the pleasure of reading stories about characters I cherished and I loved reading how different authors tweaked Mulder and Scully just so much to take their characters into entirely different, yet still plausible directions.

I had written two novels before I went off to college, but neither of them were decent by even high school standards and, in my first few years at school, I nearly abandoned the idea of writing altogether. However, I still read X-Files fanfiction and I still yearned to create. After a good amount of practice trying to emulate what I’d been reading for years, I decided to write my own small X-Files story, and yep, I managed to get it onto the archive ten years ago. From that small story, I decided that I loved the craft too much to give up and I set forth learning how I write a novel, i.e., I started writing Flight.

I’m still unpublished and may never even get there, but I still write because I recognize that it’s part of who I am…and that I love to attribute to my love of X-Files.

 
Following that second new episode this past Monday, I was invigorated with the need to create. I spent much of the week perusing old projects I hadn’t touched in months because I was filled with the kind of happiness that only a simple television show that saw me from the tail end of my childhood, throughout adolescence, and into my early adulthood could bring. I am the way I am because of a TV show. I suppose it sounds trite or sad or pathetic or inane that I place so much onto a set of fictional stories, but as The X-Files has been my source of comfort through the fright of leaving childhood, the pain of adolescence, and the hapless wandering of my adult years, I discuss it proudly. Everyone has vices and I’m fortunate enough to have had one for the last 20 years that has made me, if not a better person, at least a more interesting one.

 

Three weeks into this new year Friday, January 22, 2016

Filed under: Dorienne,Writing — kaitco @ 4:41 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I sat staring a blank screen for a long time this afternoon before I decided to write. I say “decided” rather than “found the inspiration” because as I’ve aged, it’s become apparent that inspiration has its own timetable and it is not likely to arrive when I want, no matter how much I pout.

I read through old posts on this blog for a while, trying hard to remember why I set myself these tasks in the first place. I’ve found nothing that jumps out at me; no a-ha moments or great epiphanies. So, instead of pondering on why I write, I’ll just ramble about what I’ve written.

I’m nearly done with the first Part of Flight. I use the word “done” very liberally because when it comes to phases of novel construction, I’m far from actually done. I’m still in the noting phase, which means I’ve still got to pull together all the notes from all my scattered resources and pull them into a long file that is set to some kind of chronology. Once I’ve got that completed, I’ll still have to flesh out those notes so that they’re consistent, then build onto them, and then edit and build onto that before I reach the phase before I have what could be considered a first draft. When it comes to Flight, this process can and has taken months and will likely take many more as I go into the second and third Parts. But…I’ve nearly reached the next rung on the ladder. It may be only the third step on a ladder that reaches 40 feet into the air, but I’m nearly done.

What makes this round of Flight seem like it’s taking forever is that I’ve already gone through this drama and I know what lies ahead for me. For example, when I was 15, I had major surgery on my left ankle to correct an abnormality and also some gross damage to my ankle bones. I clearly recall my doctor telling me in the summer that I would be up and active by the time basketball season came and that afterward we would do the right foot. One can only imagine my sour disappointment when I watched the first of the open gyms leading up to try-outs that year from the sidelines while still on crutches that fall. My healing made significant progress and that December, we prepared to go through the whole process again. Only now, I knew what lay ahead of me.

Another season of missed athletics lay ahead, not to forget the schoolwork that would have to be made up, the nausea from the anesthesia and the painkillers, the inability to walk, the rehab, the frustration, the sense of overwhelming depression and despair stemming from every minor task becoming a major chore, and then the pain! The incredible pain after awaking, the pain in the hours after going home, the pain in accidental movement of the foot, the pain of moving from a soft cast to a hard one, the pain of removing primary stitches and then the secondary ones. All this recalled pain pressed upon me as I walked with my mother to the prep rooms for the second surgery and I had nothing but dread when moved onto the gurney to be wheeled into surgery. Even when I first awoke in recovery, the foreboding had not dissipated and I started to sobbing as I stared at my now bandaged right foot, eventually yelling “No! I don’t want to do this!” until the staff brought around my mother (though admittedly, I was coming out of major surgery, so some craziness was to be expected).

Though there had been time to prepare, the second surgery had gone worse, emotionally, than the first, and several years later, when my doctor had to go back in and make further corrections, all of the foreboding returned in full swing, making the third and fourth surgeries even more pleasant than the second time.

I can’t help but liken my current round with Flight to that second surgery. I’ve already written this book and now I’m attempting to re-write it. I was sick for a month after I finished it the first time and, with this round, I’m well aware of what’s coming: the sleepless nights, the days of writing and then realizing that it’s all garbage, the weeks and months keeping the entire story straight in my mind, the countless edits/re-writes/further edits/more re-writes until I’m ready to throw out the whole project, the writing until I’m physically ill and still trying to write through the sickness, the experiencing of all my characters’ emotions to the point that I struggle to recall what’s real and what isn’t…

Then, once I’ve acknowledged what occurred on the first round, I get to imagine how all of the above will affect a body that has experienced almost ten more years of life with the jobs, and the bills, and the deaths, and friends, and the family, and the godchildren, and the volunteering, and the previous books, and the current projects placed on hold, and the general stress of trying to make each year a little better than the previous one. I experience a little pain in my ankles from time to time, but I fully recognize that 31 is neither 15 nor 22 and I’m not going through all that pain again unless my only other option is amputation, and even then, I’ll ask for another opinion. Despite having the foresight to know that I’m unable to go through the mess and pain of surgery again, I press forward with trying to re-write a 450K-word novel that nearly killed me during its initial creation.

I just have to keep telling myself the same thing to avoid throwing in the proverbial towel too soon: I’m nearly done!

 

My Three Cents: On Adult Coloring Books Saturday, January 16, 2016

Filed under: Article — kaitco @ 7:11 pm
Tags: ,

From blog.doriennesmith.com:

I’ve been blogging in one place or another for the past decade, so my opinion is automatically worth more, right? Right??

Over the Christmas holiday, Amazon’s top selling “books” were adult coloring books. This distresses me because A) Amazon has a category issue; I don’t consider a coloring book to be a “book” in the same way I don’t consider a book of sudoku puzzles to be a “book”, and B) adults have turned to something so simple as a means of creative entertainment.

Before I get into the meat of this, I’ll preface by stating I’m no literary snob. While I prefer certain books over others, I think there is just as much literary value in James Joyce’s Ulysses as I do Stephenie Meyers’ Twilight. Reading material is supposed to entertain first and foremost. If it manages to teach, enlighten, and encourage conversation, that’s wonderful, but it’s first purpose is to entertain. If a book can’t do that, it fails before the reader has even picked up it.

Today’s diatribe, however, isn’t actually about what constitutes a book and what doesn’t. My gripe is that grown people are choosing coloring books over alternatives for a creative outlet.

Coloring gives people an opportunity to be creative without any of the necessary talent that goes into drawing or painting or even writing something from scratch. Coloring provides a sense of accomplishment that is normally reserved for those who have spent years honing a craft, which troubles me greatly. Rather than put forth the effort necessary to practice drawing or painting or dancing, adults turn to the coloring book because it is quick and easy.

If I’ve griped about anything throughout any of my blogs, it’s that I find most facets of adulthood to be difficult, so I fully understand the difficulty in finding the time to practice the skills needed to have a true creative outlet. I’ve had a piano in my apartment for 7 seven years, but I can hardly tinker anything familiar on it, and even after a brief stint of attempting piano lessons, I’m still no good at reading base clef. I’d love to take up painting, and after a random morning at home and watching a Bob Ross episode on PBS, I may still try again, but as many others often find themselves saying, “I just can’t find the time.”

Most adults could find countless options for a creative outlet, but the ones who don’t put everything else ahead of that need. While I can understand the stresses of work, spouses, children, cleaning the house, keeping up on laundry, maintaining the lawn, remembering to call Grandma on her birthday, and so forth, everyone can carve out time to work towards a creative outlet, but few do using many of the aforementioned excuses. What truly perplexes me is that the same people who can’t seem to find the time to practice writing poems or practice drawing, still somehow find a block of time to sit and color in an adult coloring book.

Coloring within the lines requires little creative effort. Creating the actual designs that go into coloring books, however, requires months or years of effort. In a society constantly looking for the easiest routes to success, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that people opt for the simplest path.

So, why do I complain that grown folks are opting for coloring books? I don’t look down on the exercise as a means of mental calm. I understand that it can be quite soothing, but so can many other creative outlets. I can’t get past the first few stanzas of Moonlight Sonata on the piano, but after a little tinkering with a tune found in a beginners practice book, I have a harmonious simple tune that I can play by heart when the moment warrants it. While working on any “major” writing project can bring its headaches, sitting down to create a new story from the beginning just because I can do it is more freeing than anything else I experience in life. A hectic life needs a method of calming the mind, but there’s nothing that suggests that that method has to be as simplistic as the adult coloring book.

Everyone needs a creative outlet. Whether it be writing, dancing, photography, learning, or (in the case of my mother, with whom I discussed this post in the midst of writing) applying customs law in creative ways, everyone needs a creative outlet. One doesn’t even need to be exceptionally good at said outlet either. Like I said, I can hardly read base clef, but it doesn’t stop me from playing the one song that I can play on the piano. I may never get published, but it doesn’t stop me from writing whatever I want whenever I want.

Creative outlets provide a mental calm in a hectic life and past the elementary school years, one can do far greater and better things to achieve that mental calm than pretend to be artist while filling in lines created by others. Stop taking the quickest, easiest routes towards a sense of accomplishment and put forth just a little effort. No one will hang the completed coloring book page from a 30-something on the fridge, but they may find delight in an original creation.

There’s a very real possibility that I’m missing something fundamental in the adult coloring book, but then…this is still my three cents on the issue.

 

Going for Goals Friday, January 8, 2016

Filed under: Dorienne,Writing — kaitco @ 9:59 pm
Tags: , , ,

I’ve written over 7500 words in the past week by simply opting to write just a little every day. Considering I hadn’t written anything close to that amount in the month of December, I’ll call that a minor success for the week. I’m getting more intrigued about writing Flight specifically as a self-published ebook. I still plan to throw Damen at as many agents who I think may find it worthwhile, but Flight gives me something to do in the interim.

I’m in the midst of a Daniel Fast. Between the strict diet and loads of prayer, I plan to “correct” myself; i.e., re-adjust, re-focus, and re-ignite my passions for the things that matter most.

Something I’ve not noted here is that in 2015, I managed to drop 40 lbs. I could’ve done better, but then my birthday came, and then Halloween candy, and then Thanksgiving, and so forth with the other excuses. Throughout it all, however, I managed to not gain back the weight and hovered at the same mark for the last three months. Now is the time to finish this, however. I dropped the first half and now, I must be rid of the second as well.

One of my actual resolutions for this year is to learn something daily. So far, I’ve only been indulging in French on DuoLingo to keep my streak alive, but the year is young and between other programming languages and other spoken ones, I’ve lots I hope to learn.

 

 
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