Reflections On Our Welfare System

When I try and think of the place where I have felt least respected in my life, the strongest image that comes to my mind is on the other side of the reception desk at Centrelink, or by extension, the job network providers.

 

I get it. There are lots of angry, unpleasant clients to work with who treat staff disrespectfully. Day in and day out, I totally understand how hard it would be to keep treating people kindly, respectfully, trustingly, only to have them (sometimes literally) spit in your face.

I would become guarded too, no doubt about it. I would become calloused and inured, and assume the worst while doing my best to remain courteous on the surface.

 

But it still sucks to be on the receiving end of that barely concealed disdain. Disdain that yet another person has walked through the door in need of something, and they’ll probably ask for it none-too-politely.

It makes me feel small. It makes me feel worthless. And I don’t like it.

 

I see an gentleman in his 50’s wearing a smart business suit approach the reception. He’s a client, and he asks for someone’s email address. He tells a joke and the receptionist laughs, playfully calling out after him as he walks away. When she turns to see the next client her face falls, and she snaps at the young man with dark skin, telling him with a passive-aggressive mutter and increasing bluntness to go sit down and wait.

 

I try and distinguish myself from the other clientele. I lay it on thick, being charming and polite, using big words to give the impression of intelligence and casually mentioning my qualifications so that the staff will treat me like something closer to an equal. I see the moment when they go “Oh, but you’re more qualified than I am. You could be doing my job, or my manager’s job.” I work so hard to give the impression “I’m not like the others”.

And I’m ashamed. Because it means that I’m willing to push other human beings down in order to stand on top of the pile, and be treated slightly better than them.

 

It’s a shitty system we’re part of, that de-humanises people who are looking for work. And I know that when people treat me like I’m worthless, not only do I feel worthless, I want to act accordingly. Because it’s exhausting trying to convince them that I am nice, that I am intelligent, that I am worthy of respect. And honestly, even when I try really, really hard, it doesn’t often change the way I’m treated. I guess a few polite exchanges can’t undo years of being treated badly, and so no matter how hard I try I’m still likely to elicit a care-less response from someone who’s deep in the pits of compassion fatigue.

 

And I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m the educated, qualified, not-quite-white-but-certainly-not-black one. I’m the one with a family wealthy enough and supportive enough to have bought me a car when I needed one, so I didn’t have to ride a bike to my appointment. I’m the one with a smart phone with internet connection, so that I can find what I’m looking for instantly. I’m the one with a USB dangling off my car keys so I can take the files easily. I’m the one with a folder to keep my documents from being creased, and access to a shower so I don’t have strong body odour. I’m the one that grew up in a safe family where I was never exposed to drugs, and who found themselves in a stable and healthy relationship. I’m the one that grew up speaking English, as a male, currently in the prime of my adult years.

I have privilege coming out the wazoo.

And I still found it hard.

 

It breaks my heart to think of all the people I passed today who will not have such an easy time as I did.

And I don’t have any answers.

Replenishing

I’ve been feeling weary lately.

I’ve just moved house, and my goodness I forgot how much work it is. Quite apart from packing up all my worldly belongings and moving them from Point A to Point B (South of the River for once), I’ve done a lot of decluttering and selling on gumtree. Not only have I cleaned the new house to make it comfortably habitable, but I’ve cleaned the old house from floor to ceiling over several days. (Beth I even had to go back because we hadn’t sufficiently dusted the lights or scrubbed the insides of the window sills.) We’ve been taking bushfire safety seriously and I’ve been climbing ladders and sawing branches. I’ve cleaned and returned a car we’ve been borrowing, been cleaning the dojo more thoroughly and have been teaching three times a week (one more class than my usual two). Not to mention the psychological fatigue of learning how to survive in this new location – learning how to use the oven, to find the shopping centre, to get the nearest petrol station… It’s been an exhaustive amount of newness.

Yesterday, after teaching karate the night before and then getting up at 5:25 to teach it again, I was worn quite thin. I was snappy and impatient and peevish. Poor Beth, nothing she did could cause me to smile or feel less vexed.

So I went to bed around 10:30, a little later than planned. And I slept for eight hours, and it helped. I longed for escapism (Shadow of the Tomb Raider or Overwatch would have done nicely), but I forced myself to engage with the outside world. Getting dressed I saw my tea set, and I had a sudden desire to experience tea ceremony. I gathered my things, and as I prepared each utensil I felt as if each layer of worry was slowly being lifted off me. I performed ryakubon, tea ceremony done with a tray, and it was perfect. Not in the sense that I made no mistakes, but in the sense that every movement was intentional, every experience in the present moment. The tea was wonderfully invigorating, too.

I’ve been thinking a lot about burnout lately, partially because Beth is recovering from it after some trying work experiences, partially because I’ve been burning hard and fast lately. I’m reminded that if energy out is greater than energy in, burnout is inevitable until something changes. I cannot keep up this pace forever, and so today I will rest.

I’d like to finish with a thought that came into my mind.

It might be easy to walk a mile when you’re healthy and hale, but it’s a lot harder when you have a broken leg. Being determined not to let it slow you down and walking on it anyway will just do more harm than good, and when infection finally sets in and the pain is so great you collapse, the recovery period will be a long and slow one.

There is no shame in noticing that you are depleted, that you are beaten down, that you are hurting. It’s good to rest, if you can, so that when you’re ready you can pick up your load again and continue on the journey. Forcing it before you’re ready won’t do yourself any favours, let alone those who love or rely upon you.

Be kind to yourselves. It’s a gift to those around you, too.

PS: Thought I would share with you the new homes I’ve found for my tea utensils.

The Way of Tea

Chanoyu, or the Japanese art of Tea Ceremony, is something that’s become increasingly close to my heart over the past three years. I thought long and hard about whether to write this piece in my personal journal, or whether to write it here on my blog, accessible for all time to the wide public. I don’t want to bring discredit to my teacher or my school through my ignorance or my thoughtlessness, but at the same time I want to live in a world where I can read other people’s blogs as they walk their own path of chado – the Way of Tea. So, here I am. Suffice it to say that all mistakes are mine, and that these are my personal reflections.


I will start by saying I was recently reading Miyamoto Musashi’s “Go Rin no Sho” (The Book of Five Rings). Musashi is one of history’s most famous and most skilled swordsmen, and in the opening chapters he strongly advocates for all so-called warriors to deeply pursue the arts. Musashi himself was a master of many forms of art, and so I find it comforting to think that by studying chanoyu I add a little yin to my yang, and deepen myself as a person and a warrior.

But going through the motions has nothing to do with chado at all. It doesn’t matter if I sit perfectly in seiza for half an hour, carefully and exactly moving my body to produce perfect bowls of tea, if my heart is not in each and every moment. This is a humbling lesson that I was reminded of by the delightful Tsutomu-san of the Green Tea House in Subiaco. “The steps are easy”, he said, “but the mind is hard”.

I’ve been thinking a lot about wa, kei, sei, jaku lately – the four tenets of tea ceremony. Harmony, respect, purity and tranquility. Simple words with profound meaning that I could spend my life pursuing and still never quite live by.

The Slightly Smarter Way to Open Kegs in Gwent

I’ve been enjoying Gwent since the Beta went public. Apart from the $7.55 starter special, I haven’t spent any money on kegs, and I usually only play it once or twice a week. Yet despite my casual approach, I’ve collected the maximum amount of nearly every card. How? These hard-won lessons, which I freely share.

1. Don’t open kegs or spend ore until there’s a Premium Card Weekend

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Every couple of months CD Projekt Red has some kind of special event where for a few days only every keg will contain a Rare (uncommon bronze), Premium (animated) or Epic (silver) card. At first I found it hard to resist the temptation to open my kegs as soon as I got them (especially after a Season End), but unlike many other games, the contents of the kegs are not determined when they’re awarded to you, but when they’re opened. This weekend is the Epic Card Week, meaning every keg contains at least one silver card, and you better believe I just cashed in all my ore to open 50 kegs in a row.

2. Stop playing once you’ve won six rounds per day

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Winning six rounds every day is the most efficient way to earn those sweet, sweet glitter rocks that Shupe loves so much (read: ore to buy kegs). Curiously, CD Projekt Red doesn’t reward people for playing longer; 6 rounds nets 100 ore, but an additional 12 rounds (18 in total) rewards only 75 more. Personally I think that the rewards should exponentially increase the more you win to encourage you to keep playing, but hey, I’m not a dev. The daily rewards reset at 2am CEST (if that means anything to anyone), so unless you’re really enjoying long stretches of the game I’d say stopping at six per day is the most efficient use of your time.

3. Ever wondered what those numbers mean when you’re opening the 5th card in the keg?

To be honest, this is the real reason I’m writing this. I scoured the internet and couldn’t find an answer to this question until I figured it out tonight. Behold.

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Sorry for the blurry picture, but it will suffice for this example.

Here I was choosing between three standard (non-animated) cards.

For numbers without a fraction, that shows how many of that exact copy of the card you have. In this case, I had 3 standard copies of White Frost.
For fractions, the number on top shows how many copies of that exact card you have, and the number on the bottom shows how many copies of that card you have in total. In this example, because the card being offered is non-animated, I have 1 standard copy of Braenn, and 2 copies in total (the inference meaning that I have 1 premium copy of her as well). For Morkvarg, I have 0 standard copies of the card, and 1 in total (meaning I have 1 premium copy already).

If these cards offered were all premium, it would mean I have 3x premium copies of White Frost and x0 standard copies, 1x premium copy of Braenn and 1x standard copy, and 0x premium copies of Morkvarg and 1x standard copy.

Also note that these numbers reflect your current number of cards, and will change once you make a selection. Because I already had standard copies of White Frost and Braenn, I chose Morkvarg. This would have updated the fraction to say x1/x2. (One standard copy of the card, two copies in total.)

4. When choosing between cards, pick the animated cards first!

Unless there’s an incredibly useful standard card you don’t have yet and can’t afford to buy, pick the premium (animated) card every time. Premium cards are WAY more expensive if you’re considering purchase them with scrap. And if you choose to mill them, not only do you get the standard amount of scrap, you also get meteorite powder (which can be used to transmute cards from their standard to animated forms)!

Incidentally if you’re looking at milling premium cards, this is how much meteor powder you’ll get depending on the rarity:
20 for Common (bronze)
50 for Rare (uncommon bronze)
80 for Epic (silver)
120 for Legendary (gold)

5. Don’t mill your cards unless you need the scraps!

Much to my regret, I only just learned this one mere minutes after milling 30 Epic cards.

Unless you need the scraps to build a new deck that you want to play with right away, try not to buy cards in general. If you open enough kegs, you’ll get the cards you want, as well as a hefty pile of duplicates too. Apparently it’s useful to hang onto these, because according to this reddit post the next major update (Homecoming) will completely reset everyone’s collections and refund their full card values. This means if you’ve got three copies of White Frost like I did, hanging onto them will be worth 200 scraps each (rather than 200+50+50 like I’ll get because I just milled my duplicates like the fool of a Took I am).


And that’s it! Hopefully these tips help you make more informed decisions about what cards you want to choose. Now that you know how to open kegs like a pro, I hope you rake in those legendaries!

How to Master Lucioball

Last year I wrote out these Protips for Lucioball, which are kind of aimed at helping people get from gold to diamond. This season, I set my sights even higher and worked my way into Master rank, with my goal for next year to hit GM. Hopefully these tips are gonna help you do great!


 

General tips

-At the start of the match, establish if everyone feels confident playing as a goalkeeper. If anyone says they can’t keep, make sure they switch with someone who can.

-Communicate before you ult. Unless you’re deliberately overwhelming the opposition defence with two simultaneously ults, it’s generally better to use them one at a time.

-When ulting, shooting directly at the goals is rarely successful (especially at the start of a round). Setting up rebounds is much more likely to cause the defenders to overextend and create gaps to shoot through.

-Passing along the ground may sometimes be preferable to passing through the air; for a short distance the ball moves faster as it travels in a straight line, even if it has more resistance over a long distance. Therefore, short passes along the ground may disorient the defenders and allow you to get around them.

-When the ball comes to you and there’s no one else in striking distance, take your time. Walk the ball up the field – it’s surprisingly easy to dribble. When your opponents get impatient and try and take the ball off you, boop it over the heads or punch it into a wall and skate right on past them.

-If you and an opponent are racing towards a ball and they’re slightly ahead of you, booping it at the wall (instead of towards their goal) is not a bad way to neutralise their advantage, especially if you were further back and then you suddenly turn around and are in the lead.

-It’s possible to set up goals that are impossible to block, the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario. One time when I was striking, the ball came to me while I was at the peak of my jump besides the opposite goal and I saw the goalie waiting to block me. In that moment if the goalie had jumped I would have shot it past him to the left. If he had predicted this unlikely shot and moved left, I would have taken the easier shot to the right. These moments are rare, because you have to be far enough away that the goalie can’t take the ball of you, but close enough so that they don’t have time to respond at the last moment.

-The best goal I ever scored was from suddenly redirecting the ball without letting it lose any momentum. My teammate shot for the goals at the right jump pad and the goalie moved to block. Jumping and meeting the ball side on, I shot it into the left corner and it moved so quickly it was impossible to meet.

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Striker tips

-Once you have established good ball skills and you can place it exactly where you want it to, the game takes on another level. It’s no longer about making the best shot (the most direct line to the middle of the target) but about making a shot that is least likely to get blocked. This means anticipating whether the defender will move high or low to block you, but more often it means not shooting straight at the goals but shooting at the wall and catching it (or letting your well-placed teammate catch it).

-A simple combination of a punch (onto the wall) and boop into the goals seems to work better than boop onto the wall and then punch into the goals, but it’ll depend on your distancing and the placement of the defenders.

-Learn to rely on your teammates a lot. A single striker is less likely to score a goal than two strikers who understand each other’s intentions and help set up assists and rebounds.

-Learn to cross the ball (and if you’re striking, assume your teammate will pass it to you and position yourself to receive the cross). That is to say, pass it across the field (rather than towards the goal) to get around defenders.

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Goalie tips

-Always take note of where your teammates are, and where the opposing strikers are. Make sure to set up useful passes to your teammates, but if the opposition’s is closing in it is preferable to pass to an empty corner/space than try and pass it to your teammate.

-In a desperate situation, sometimes you can’t just shoot down the field to clear the ball because there will be two opposing strikers closing off the angle and waiting to return the shot. In these instances, passing up the wall, or even along the wall may roll it past them.

-Furthermore, if the ball is slowly rolling towards you, don’t just shoot it up the field for the sake of getting it away from your goals. If you pass it straight to the opposing goalie or defender, you’ve wasted your boop and may not have time to wait for it before another shot is coming.

-As the goalkeeper, a good option for clearing the ball while setting up for a shot is shoot the ball directly to the opposite wall on either side of the goal so that it rebounds to a waiting teammate. However, this has a higher chance of being repelled by the opposing goalkeeper.

-Another excellent place to pass the ball is to aim for the wall next to the jump pad, so that the ball will slow down and let your striker control the rebound.

-Best of all, shoot into the air above the jump pad so that a skilled striker can spike it over the waiting defenders or put it in the farthest corner.

-There may come moments when your boop is on cooldown and the split-second timing of the punch may be too perilous to use. In moments like these, blocking the ball with your body may be preferable because the ball will stop quite dead if it hits you, enabling you to set up a shot to clear it out.

-You know how last year I said if the ball’s not going to get into your goals, don’t worry about blocking it? Yeah forget that. At advanced levels, waiting until the last second to try and boop the ball out of there gets increasingly dangerous. Sometimes it’s important to leave the goal and get to the ball early so that you can clear it the hell out of there before any of the opposing strikers close in. If the strikers are very good, blocking it once won’t be enough: they’ll catch the rebound, and your boop will be on cooldown as you try and block the next shot.

-This doesn’t necessarily mean skating towards a defender and trying to jam their shot. While it’s true that the closer you get to them the narrower their angle of shooting becomes, a clever striker won’t shoot directly for the goals but will just pop it over or around you and then follow up with the rebound. Or worse, they’ll pass it back or across the field to a waiting teammate who will shoot it past you. In other words if there’s no one near the ball feel free to get it, but if someone’s coming at you try and react at the last second so you don’t overextend.

 


After several hundred games, I can summarise all of these tips thus: try and get the ball into their goal, and try and stop them from getting it into yours. At the end of the day, no amount of advice will make up for the intuition and rapid response that comes from sheer repetition. Play enough games and you’ll automatically calculate timing, distancing and positioning, and more importantly develop appropriate responses based on where you, the ball and the other players are. There’s no easy formula for that, and it’s the simplicity that makes Lucioball a work of genius.

Good luck, have fun, and don’t forget to endorse your team.

My Thoughts on Call of Duty: Black Ops III

With CoD:BO3 being free this month for PS Plus members, I thought I’d give it a shot (if you’ll excuse the pun). I’ve only ever tried to play one other CoD game, and it was Modern Warfare 2. I put it down after about two hours because I was so fed up with being bombarded with the message that America’s military is the greatest in the world, and if anyone ever says otherwise we’ll bomb them into oblivion. Even the loading screens were blueprints of weapons of mass destruction, proudly boasting how many lives could be taken if they wanted to.

I recall Good Game said CoD:III had a great single-player campaign, and after so many hours of crawling through vents in Deus Ex (both Human Revolution and Mankind Divided), I wanted to play something that was the very opposite of stealth. And CoD handled wonderfully – the control were tight, the gunfights were challenging but not unfair (at least on the harder difficulty mode I chose) and the options for different weapon loadouts allowed for a variety of playstyles.

Yet I put it down again after making my way barely halfway through the story because I found the characters disikable and the plot unrealistic. Everyone in the military seems to be an angry white dude (except for my character, who I was happy to see I could make female). More upsetting though was the idea that my player had both her arms ripped off and a leg broken, and hours later her commanders were making her replay terrorist missions in a kind of virtual reality. She hadn’t even had life-saving surgery yet when they were putting her right back into traumatically violent missions, no explanations or options. The game didn’t talk about PTSD in a particularly helpful way, stating that it’s just very vivid memories that it can be fixed with the right medication.

I can’t help but compare this to the excellent Deus Ex. In Human Revolution, Jensen suffers traumatic injuries, and in order to save his life he is given high-end augmentations. He feels conflicted about the surgery, and six months into his recovery (getting used to his new limbs and processing the trauma he went through), he is reluctantly called back to duty to stop a terrorist act. In Mankind Divided, he meets an augmented lady who has developed a second personality to protect her mind from the trauma of her reality as a persecuted aug. Jensen never questions or belittles her for doing her best to stay sane in an insane world, and I appreciated that so much. CoD by comparison… It just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Tight as the gameplay was, once I found my favourite gun and ability I used them in every mission and the lack of variety really started to wear on me. It was more fun when I branched out to multiplayer and had a teammate to fight alongside with, but 90% of the way through the mission he stopped moving (either had to go afk or was affected by some kind of bug), and I couldn’t complete the mission without him. It was a bad way to finish, and I didn’t mind uninstalling it rather than replaying the mission. I ended up googling the plot, which turned out to be surprisingly sophisticated, but I don’t think it was worth several hours of slogging through the campaign. Not a terrible game, but not a great one either. I don’t think I’ll bother with any other CoD’s.

Trying My Hand at Football

One of my favourite memories in high school is playing football during phys ed classes in Year 9. I’m not fond of those times because I was good at or enjoyed the sport – quite the contrary, I was terrible at it. I look back with a smile because of one of my classmates.

JB was the son of a prominent football star, and everyone expected him to follow in his Father’s footsteps. What’s more is that he probably would – the guy was a gun at football and had every chance of becoming an AFL star after graduation.

You might thing I’d be intimidated playing alongside an ace like him, and you’d be right. I became even clumsier in my desperation to pass the ball to him, and I unfailingly tossed him the ball rather than passed it with my fist. After a whole term of enduring this, during the final match of the year I threw the ball to JB when the coach blew the whistle for yet another foul. It would have been easy for JB to turn on me for the incompetent sportsman I was, but instead he turned to the coach and yelled “He’s trying!”

The coach went through with the foul anyway, but I never forgot that JB accepted that my best was my best, and he didn’t blame me for it. It reminds me that all of us are doing our best to be happy in life, and from where I’m standing that’s good enough for me. I hope you all have JB’s in your lives to remind you of that from time to time!