Tuesday, February 23, 2016

I Never Remember Until I Need It - Windshield Wipers

For a couple years, my wipers have been barely sufficient to wipe away the rain. No matter how hard I try to remind myself to buy them, the instant I step out of the car and run into the house...

Ahh... warm... nice... back to normal life.........

Next time it rains, same pattern again.

After some number of rains over 2 years, I finally thought I should blog about this.

That very night as I ponder what to blog, I finally recalling the need for new wipers.

3 hours later (doing some research if I have the correct refills then needing to find more items to go over $25 to get the Amazon add-on something-or-other), I have finally ordered them!

And that's my post today.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Corporate Bad Apples are Toxic and Cannot be Removed

There's always a bad apple wherever I have worked. I never understood the reason why they are never fired until the company has lost several of their good apples. In some rare cases, the bad apples even get promoted.

Whatever the case may be, I always stay professional and sincere. Perhaps this is the reason managers do not recognize them until it is too late, but managers need to understand the situation their direct reports will rarely say anything outright. Why? Because no one likes a tattle-tale plus we do not know what the situation is, perhaps there are other motives this person is on the team... perhaps he is related to someone higher-up. And when there are obvious violations that the manager has picked up on and no actions were enacted, we are even less likely to report other issues.

With a single bad apple, the manager now has lost a lot of respect from his direct reports. Especially if the manager enforced certain rules prior to the bad apple, then suddenly the bad apple gets called out but nothing happens. Even worse when new rules are enforced on the entire team because of the bad apple. Are we now treated like a second grade class? Besides now feeling belittled, we are even more disgruntled. Then to take it another level, manager says it is a corporate initiative but we all know none of the other groups are following it. Yet the bad apple continues to ignore the new rules yet the good apples have less flexibility because they are too afraid to go against the rules.

After a few weeks, others are now taking advantage of the lack of consequences. If he can get away from being late 30-60 minutes, we can be in late. What is the manager going to do? Fire him but not the bigger offender? He leaves early. Others start leaving early. So even if no one leaves, the team is now less motivated and less productive because a new status quo has been set.

Yet the manager continues to pretend that his direct reports are blind and deaf. How many offences can the bad apple do until something is done about it? In one case, the bad apple has never (not even once) come in on time... not even close to being on time even when working from home. Quality of work is not good. Clearly some excuses are lies. There is very little good qualities except being able to talk his way out of things. The clues could not be any more obvious to the point that it almost seems comical.

How can the manager possibly fire someone for lesser reasons? Yet good apples will slowly find new jobs or transfer to another group. The good apples will never say why except to say they have a better opportunity. Thus the average quality of the team will slowly decrease over time.

I have actually tried to say something once. After I quit (after giving them a 2 month notice) because nothing was done and more than half the team has left, the company finally decides to "force" the manager to quit. That's right... they didn't even have the nerve to fire. Then they have the nerve to ask me to do some "incomplete" work for free (they couldn't find a replacement even with a 2 month notice). By incomplete, they meant new requirements that they didn't specify while I was there. As upset as I was, I was still professional and provided a quote for the work. Didn't hear from them again. The irony of it all, they are considered one of the best places to work in the state. That just shows how rampant these issues are where companies with bad apples can still be considered for best places to work... or how rigged those awards are (did you know that companies have to pay to be considered a participant?).

The saddest part was probably that the rest of team was actually decent to work with. But as each good person left, that left more burden to those remaining making it easier and easier for others to go out the door. Until all you have left are those who cannot find another job.

A colleague that is a bad apple can be tolerable to work with at best. A manager that is a bad apple is a recipe for disaster for the group. There is no win situation for the direct reports. All paths are negative... be a tattle-tale then play a war of he-says-she-says and lose because you're lower on the totem pole or keep your mouth shut and have your career move backwards.

So the best solution is to just find another job quickly and burn no bridges. Lie how great it was to work there. Thank everyone for the wonderful experience. If managers cannot fire someone, they will unlikely be strong enough to promote you.... not matter how nice they are.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Review: Exploding Kittens (enjoyable, replayable, easy rules, new player friendly, party game)

Exploding Kitten is a strategic, social, card game.

First Impression

I played Exploding Kittens for the first time with 4 players. It was kind of interesting. The rules are simple and the pace can be fun.

Luck does play a role in the game. There are two luck factors in this game. First is when you get the exploding kitten and which cards get stolen. Second is the mind games on where the player puts the exploding kitten.

There is little that can be done with the first exploding kitten. Since everyone starts with a diffuse, there is a little buffer. But the first person to use the diffuse first have lost first in both games. I was not the first, but lost the first game because the other player was fortunate to get multiple diffuses.


Enjoyable, Replayable, Easy Rules, New Player Friendly

With the pace and duration of the game, this game is fun to play. There is enough strategy to manipulate but still enough randomness to keep less-strategic-minded players interested. The rules are simple but complex enough to make it replayable. Simple rules also make this a good party game with people who do not play a lot of games.

More maximum fun, play at most in semi-serious mode. It is just as fun to end up with exploding kitten and lose as it is to win so just enjoy hanging out with everyone. If one particular player does seem to win more often, target that person more often. In other words, don't think too much on what to play.

Cons

Once you are out, that player is out. Unlike Mafia, Werewolf, Bang!, and other similar games, the game is much shorter so it is really not that bad. The player can still taunt the other players or add to the mind games, although they should refrain from spoiling any clues to give a live player an advantage over another.

From how we played, the first person to lose their diffuse was unable to come close to winning. Majority of the time, they were the first to be completely out. If not the first, always the second. This could possibly change if we were more experienced.


Strategy - Placing Exploding Kitten

Once you get the exploding kitten card and you use the diffuse card, you get to place the exploding kitten anywhere in the deck. Obviously, you should remember where you placed the card so that you do not get it yourself. This is actually harder than I initially thought because you cannot predict how the others will change the order.

I have tried putting the exploding kitten on the bottom and top. Most of us put it near the top which caused us all to be very suspicious, so by putting it on the bottom, players were more likely to play their special cards.

I have not been the first to draw the exploding kitten card. But if I did, I think the strategy is to target the next player. You do not want the exploding kitten to end up with the player before you because that player will more than likely play the exploding kitten at the very top knowing you are now without a diffuse. This strategy should hold because if successful that player will target the player after him. If he targeted you, he may end up with the exploding kitten card if you had a way to skip your turn.

Of course, it is difficult to predict what the players would do especially when there are more players. On some occasions, the exploding kitten ended back at the original player. So this poses where in the deck you want to put it but still end up with the next person.

I think if you have more special cards than the rest of the players, then you should place it closer to the top. If you have no special cards, you should place it near the bottom if not the very bottom (that way you do not have to remember where it is). At the bottom, you continue to play as if you do not know where the next exploding kitten will be (since the remaining cards are in random locations above the bottom card). The other players will likely play their special cards to avoid the possibility that you placed it at the top because they do not know how many special cards you have while you continue (hopefully) to pick up more cards.

There was a time where a player placed the exploding kitten card near the top but ended up with another exploding kitten card that happened to be above the replaced card. Although unfortunate, this does add to the hilarity of the situation thus making this quite fun as party game.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Review: Castles of Mad King Ludwig (good)

I've played this game maybe 5-10 times now with different number and skilled players. Overall, this is a great game for both competitive and co-op-friendly players even though this game is more competitive style. Actually, it is a competitive style play but there is a factor that seems to keep some of the less competitive players interested. So it is a great game to bring to a party of unknown players or even first time players.

Although playable with less than 4 players, I agree with most of what Lyrisse (link below) said about fewer players. We actually made it a 5 player game and it seems to work out just fine too. We used a coin or some other small object for the score keeping and made another foyer.

I am not sure if there is a favorite to who goes first and winning, at least not an obvious one. Two big factors seem to be the big value rooms and bonus cards. As long as a player sticks to a game plan, I've found that the scores usually came pretty close at the end. Lucky players with good bonus cards usually do end up winning by a larger margin but does not happen often. I have also found scoring the last place person first at the end of the game keeps the lower skilled people more involved with the game so that they can at least feel like they led even if it is a short period of time.

The game is very replay-able. I still have not found a strategy that dominates another nor which rooms to keep at what cost. I found that it did not really matter that much.

At the beginning, I said that it was also somewhat fun for less competitive players because they just enjoyed building a castle and if they are adventurous a theme to their castle. Sometimes, this made it an interesting twist for the more competitive players.

Besides making it 5 players, we've even added another bonus point system at the end. If there are other non-players around, we had them vote on who had the "best" castle. You can make it a blind judge where they do not know who owns which castle, but it was a lot more entertaining having the players "sell" why their castle is better. You can use the same bonus structure as the middle bonus (8 for first, 4 for second, 2 and 1)... or really could be any system you want to use.


Reference
http://www.boardgameauthority.com/castles-mad-king-ludwig-review/

Friday, February 5, 2016

Evolution - The Wrong Point of View

I am on the side of "evolution" in the discussion of evolution versus creation. But unlike most evolutionists, I can understand where creationists can also be correct. I chose my side because it coincides with my essence to seek the truth. My problem with creationism is that there really is not much else to seek because logic can basically stop at any point where my mind cannot conceive the idea and say it was just created that way. So it really is not a matter that I "picked" a side but rather I accept both as a possibility except that there isn't much else to "study" for creationism.

Back to the topic of the point-of-view of the word "evolution," to clarify, the evolution of animals/creatures. Fundamentally, I believe the word evolution is not the proper root to use because the connotation is that evolving is a positive mutation as if there was control of the mutation. Looking back in time, it appears to be evolving because it "adjusted" to the changing environments as if the animal decided on its new features.

The better term should be that animals are mutating (although mutation does have a negative connotation... perhaps there is a better neutral term). And only those that have the mutation that can survive the current and future environments keep living. Unlike movies or tv shows that show radical mutations, mutations are usually very small changes. Most of those small mutations are not life altering. Mutations happen all the time and can easily be observed even among ourselves from generation to generation.

Let's say a hypothetical situation where people build a higher tolerance to either heat or cold. Because we are much more mobile and free to move from place to place, people with higher tolerance to heat will slowly migrate towards hotter locations while people with cold tolerance move to colder locations where they will meet other similar people. These mutations are harmless. If the pattern continues, people will likely mate with similar people due to closer proximity to similar people. Eventually, the extremes of both people can no longer tolerate the opposite extreme but life continues.

So neither side really consciously chooses which mutation to change towards, but the natural habitat plays a factor in increasing certain mutations. While a mutation to have an extra finger may not have any factor (except maybe social ones where 5-fingered and 6-fingered people fight).

Now let us say there was a catastrophic world phenomenon where the world is freezing over. The heat tolerance people start dying off because they can no longer survive. While the cold tolerance people are surviving just enough to have future generations. In another 200 years where "freezing" temperatures are not normal weather, the cold tolerance people "evolved" to the new extreme. On the other hand, the opposite scenario could happen if the world heated up.

Of course, physics is much more complicated than that where the extreme tolerance would have likely changed other physical attributes of a person. Of course, there is guided "evolution" where we artificially bias a mutation over another for example plants. Sweet fruits used to spread because their seeds were able to travel further distances by the animals that eat them. Poisonous fruits protect themselves by preventing animals eating them. Now we produce sweeter fruits by only breeding the fruits that are sweeter.

So evolution is real or at least a pattern shown by the current creation iteration. Can I really "prove" that evolution occurred over millions of years? No, because nothing can survive even remotely that long. We cannot even prove someone did something even when strong evidence shows the high likelihood that it happened only 24 hours ago. Neither can I disprove that a fossil was created yesterday but "created" in such a way to carbon date millions of years ago.

So I do hold that creationism is possible and one that I would at least be partially possible. I would imagine that a replicator (like the one in Star Trek) would have the same principle where it could just "create" a million-year-old fossil even though it was just created.

Anyways, I hope this helps clarify some basic points and also hope that there are people who are capable of accepting multiple possibilities (a confident doubt, if you will).