Making it official

My first tagged post about depression was from February 27, 2012 – so roughly two and a half years ago. During that time, I didn’t blog about it much here, but I did post regularly on RPGGeek. That blog, entitled The Journey, was a place I carved out for myself to talk about my mental illness. It was a safe place – and as time went on, I expanded where I discussed my struggles and my beliefs to encompass my social media presence.

As I mentioned in my last post, I (want to) see myself as an advocate for those that suffer from mental illness. Part of what I’m doing to make this a reality is to volunteer with Partners for Mental Health. I became aware of Partners earlier this year during the Bell Let’s Talk campaign. I looked into the organization, and I felt it was one that I could get behind. When I became aware of the Not Myself Today campaign, I KNEW they were.

As a Community Correspondent, I will primarily continue what I’ve been doing – promoting mental health in my online communities, but I will also be promoting the campaigns put on by Partners, identify other mental health news items for both Partners and my community to be aware of, and other items of that nature.

I’m very excited to be a part of this organization. I’m looking forward to engaging with some new people to talk about mental health. For those of you that haven’t already, I encourage you to take the pledge to support mental health – sign your name to the pledge sheet at Partners for Mental Health. Take that step with me!

Letting it go: Why Frozen continues to resonate

When I first saw Frozen, I really enjoyed it. It immediately became one of my favorite Disney features after a single viewing.

Now, several months later, countless times through the soundtrack, a few rewatches, and other reading on the movie, I’m finally starting to understand what might be sticking with me.

Elsa’s life (sort of) mirrors my own struggles with mental illness.

In her early life, Elsa is told to conceal, don’t feel – pretend something she’s not. When I finally came out with my issues, I did not have those close to me telling me these sorts of things, thankfully, but society certainly made it difficult to take the steps to get myself better.

The part that resonates with me the most right now is the “Let it Go” sequence. The song is about Elsa realizing that she doesn’t need to hide her talents and effectively, screw everyone else for not accepting her as she is. I think up until a few months ago, this is exactly how I felt about my battle with depression. I was gonna talk about it and if you didn’t like that, well, screw you. I let it go.

At the stage I’m personally at now, I’m more following Anna’s footsteps. I’m trying to use my experience to create safe places for others suffering from mental illness. We can fix this hand in hand.

Society has a long way to go towards accepting mental illness – but we can get there. Those of us that are advocating – we must work together to create places where those that are suffering in silence can feel comfortable in speaking out about their own problems.

Admittedly, it’s probably a highly simplified look at things – but for me, Frozen has provided me with some context in how I fit in my advocacy efforts and it’s goddamn magical.

Mental Health Week 2014: My Story

I don’t make it a secret that I suffer from depression. Since discovering, understanding, and learning how to manage my depression, I’ve done my best to create a dialog in my personal social circles regarding mental health.

My first bout of depression started some time during my time as an Engineering student. I wasn’t having the same success in University as I had enjoyed in High School. I feel this contributed to my my initial downfall. As I repeatedly fell short of my expectations, negative self-talk took over. Once I realized something was wrong, I brought up my feelings with my girlfriend (who is now my wife). She was very supportive and encouraged me to seek professional assistance.

I visited the University of Alberta’s Counselling & Clinical Services. I began seeing a psychologist and began taking antidepressants. It took time, but I eventually realized that ultimately, my chosen career path was NOT the one really wanted. Withdrawing from University was an incredibly difficult decision. First off, I was worried about being a disappointment to my parents. Secondly, I wasn’t sure what the hell I was going to do with my life, since for as long as I could remember, I was going to be an Engineer. That was how I had self-identified.

My parents were very supportive of my decision. I am very thankful for that. I took time away from school, spent some time in the workforce and found a new path.

Nearly two years ago was my second major depressive episode. It was also when I realized that depression was something I’d always have to be aware of. This bout was brought on by feelings that festered as I grew more and more dissatisfied with the work and environment I was in. I recognized the signs of what was going on early enough so things never got out of hand – but I was in deep enough to need to start medication again. Through the medication and counseling, I was able to identify what was causing me the stress, anxiety and other negative feelings that resulted in my depression. I worked on methods to help me cope with what I was feeling. I shared my diagnosis with my manager, in hopes that it could perhaps create a positive dialog in the office. Unfortunately, that plan backfired. Yes, I was given tools to further help me – but, the office culture did not really change, nor did a useful dialog form. It was at this point that I realized that if *I* wanted to be treated differently and if *I* wanted to be able to discuss my struggles in an open and accepting environment at work, *I* would have to take up that torch and carry it.

Today, I’ve been in a new job for half a year. I enjoy what I’m doing now – the decision to join the company I’m currently with continues to prove to be an excellent choice. In fact, when I caught wind of the Not Myself Today campaign, I took the opportunity to share the campaign with my supervisor, resource manager and the VP of HR. The VP encouraged me to write about the importance of mental health in the workplace on the company intranet and also added her voice to the importance of mental health issues in the workforce. I will be a volunteer with Partners for Mental Health, and will continue to speak about what I have experienced, what I hope people would do for others in my situation, and to encourage those who think they need help to find it.

Talking about my struggles is often hard. Especially in a more professional setting. But it is worth it if just one person seeks help, no matter the cost to me.

I suffer from depression. I always will. My mental illness is really no different than having diabetes. I have to make the right choices to prevent complications from consuming my life.

This has been my story (so far).

Malifaux Musings: Reconnoiter

Since my typical gaming group has been pretty focused on Warmachine lately, I started to branch into playing Malifaux by VASSAL. Playing by VASSAL has been enjoyable and a relatively easy way to get games in when I’m not able to get out (or have someone come over) for a game. It also exposes me to a set of players that I might not normally have. So, I joined a league, to bring a bit of structure and competitive flair to a game that I enjoy very much.

My first matchup is coming up soon. All games are going to be 50 soulstones. I’ll be facing off against an opponent playing Guild, and I’ve declared Arcanist. This round, we’ll be playing Standard Deployment, with the Strategy of Reconnoiter.

This has had me thinking pretty hard about what to bring to the party. Sure, I don’t know what the Schemes are going to be, but I think that building to be able to meet Reconnoiter and A Line in the Sand will be able to meet one of the four other schemes that are selected.

So, Reconnoiter. You need a crew that can control as much as the board as possible. Model spam could work, if the models are resilient or quick enough to be able to bob and weave between cover and avoid opposing models. We’re playing a standard deployment, so players will be able to spread forces between two of the four zones at the outset. So being quick off the start isn’t a huge requirement either.

Now, what might my opponent play? This is a tough thing for me to figure out. Because it’s VASSAL, I could see literally, ANY available crew and I don’t know Guild very well, especially in the new edition. So, I’m going to just evaluate each master as best I can.

Lady Justice – I’m not sure what to think about LJ in this situation. She’s pretty quick and can help her minions hit harder, but I’m not sure she brings the right tools for controlling the board. Sure, she’s going to keep an opponent away from a ‘bubble’ to make sure she’s not charging anyone – but I’m not sure that’s enough.

Perdita Ortega – I think Perdita crews rely quite heavily on the Family trait, and because of this, the crew size might just be too small to be effective.

Sonnia Criid – I’d consider Sonnia a reasonable master to expect – she’s got deadly range and can be challenging for a spellcaster to deal with. Witchling Stalkers are pretty low-cost, but very good minions.

Dr. McMourning – Maybe some zombie dog spam. That could be a pain. Would be an interesting matchup.

C. Hoffman – I believe Hoffman is too much about ‘one area’ control, rather than ‘wide area’. I’m not worried about seeing him.

Lucius – Lucius could be put down. Lots of Guild Guards with Dashel and a Sergeant to buff them.

Lucas McCabe – This would be another interesting crew to see. Pathfinders and Clockwork Traps to do a bit of board control – that’s very reasonable.

Who I’d Play: Sonnia Criid, Lucius, Lucas McCabe

Who Stays Home: C. Hoffman

Alright, so that analysis gives me a little information to consider. I’m probably seeing crews that have a number of lower-costed models, rather than a crew of specialists. Let’s look at what my options are.

Marcus – Marcus crews tend to be quick, but I feel they tend to have too many ‘specialists’ for this sort of strategy. I think overall, I’d be bringing some very good pieces to the fight, but I think I’d be losing in model count right away, and Marcus has limited ranged options, making this poor matchup in my eyes.

Mei Feng – Hrm. I think Mei has some pretty impressive options and can field a pretty good sized crew. Ultimately though, I feel like a Mei crew needs to stick too close together to make for a strong threat on Reconnoiter.

Ramos – Like McMourning, there’s the opportunity to spam spiders. However, I think Ramos has more utility in this area that the good Doctor and if memory serves, Ramos’ constructs are faster than undead doggies.

Rasputina – Rasputina crews can effectively create a 22″ dead zone. That’s board control. Her minions are prone to dying if shot at though. The Sub Zero upgrade mitigates the ‘melee squishiness’. I think there’s some very interesting tools that can be put into use here that make this a scheme that Rasputina can excel at.

Ironsides – I don’t know enough about Ironsides to make a good comment here – but she feels a bit like Lady Justice. Just not the right set of models in a typical crew to make this viable.

Kaeris – I think ‘mini-Rasputina’ has tools that make her able to do this scheme much like Rasputina can. While her range is much smaller than the Ice Queen’s, she has the tools to make an enemy go where you want them while piling your models where you need them.

Colette – You know, I’m really not sure about Colette. She might be good. I’m going to have to read up on her crew tonight.

Who I’d Play: Rasputina, Kaeris, Ramos

Who Stays Home: Marcus, Ironsides

What do you think? Who would you put on the table? Who would you leave at home?

City politics and what I’m looking for

I’m going to be honest. I’ve become more and more disaffected with the whole democratic process in the last decade or so. Mostly because I’ve focused my attention on federal and provincial politics, which for the most part, is party politics, a game that here in Canada, does not lead to great decision making, given that for most part, parties here do NOT seem to have any interest in collaborating and looking for compromise. On top of this, the electorate seems to be content with this arrangement, which leads to majority governments that govern ‘their way or the highway’.

I never really paid much attention to the municipal elections since moving into Edmonton proper. I didn’t think that the city government really mattered much. Now that I’ve bought a home, had kids, I am realizing how wrong I was.

Municipal elections are probably the most important and the one time that people can actually do the most for their day-to-day lives. This year, I’m engaging and dedicating a fair amount of time to finding out which candidates to vote for. In doing so, I’ve also had to think about what’s important to me and the city as a whole.

The first thing that is actually a little concerning for me is the fact that at least half of city council will be new councilors. This isn’t a bad thing, new ideas, new blood and all that is good, but that also means there’s a bunch of people that don’t really know how to get things done (or how to govern). So, to me, this means we need strong leadership from the Mayor, but in an overbearing ‘my way or the highway’ way.

As a city, I feel that the LRT expansion NEEDS to be a priority. Connecting the outskirts of the city with mass transit in my mind is CRUCIAL changing people’s attitudes about driving and living in the city’s interior. Having more LRT lines will not only reduce the road congestion, it will also help make living in established neighbourhoods more attractive and will help to make downtown more accessible as a whole.

I’m still thinking about other things that I feel are really major issues, but those are the two that are really sticking out in my head right now.

Politics and sub-optimal decision making

Yesterday, I was thinking about the upcoming municipal election and some of the issues that I personally feel are important for the City of Edmonton.

Of those issues, there are several that I deem to be long-term projects – much longer than the four years that an elected official is in office. Urban sprawl, for instance – that’s not a quick fix. Getting people to move into older neighbourhoods and higher density housing is about changing opinions, views, and lifestyles – that will take time.

Anyway, I was thinking about these different issues and the people that make these decisions. In a way, politicians are given incentives much like the management of a public company. In a public company, it is always a balancing act for the Board of Directors to properly design compensation of the management to ensure the longevity of the corporation WHILE meeting the short-term demands of the investors (stock market). Often, these compensation structures are done poorly (with an emphasis on the short-term), which leads to sub-optimal decision making by management to ensure they meet the short-term goals to maintain a healthy compensation.

Now, consider the politician. They have to make decisions for the city (or province, etc) that will not only help the short-term needs but the long-term direction of the city as well. Unfortunately, unlike the management of the a company, the electorate has no means of ensuring that these individuals make the best decisions for the long-term of the city. Sure, we have the ability to vote them out of office, but unfortunately, once some events are set in motion, its difficult to reverse the detrimental effects. So, we have to trust that these people are making the choices that will go beyond their (confirmed) time on council. Unfortunately, I don’t have much faith in this happening for MOST. Most politicians (like company management) will make the decisions that will benefit them, by pandering to the electorate on an issue that has possibly damaging long-term effects on the city.

Now, I don’t know how to change this particular problem with democracy, but I just thought it was an interesting parallel that I felt like writing about.

Panels and Colors

It’s been around two years that I’ve been reading comics (regularly), thanks to the New 52 and Brandon at Wizard’s comics. There’s been some ups, downs, and complete blindsides. But, one thing has really stood out to me – how does DC keep making such awful decisions?

I don’t want to make this post into a big ‘bash DC’ thing that people that are way more in tune with things are able to do in a much more intelligent way than I feel I can, but as a consumer, its becoming increasingly difficult to justify continuing to support the things DC does that I DO like a lot because of what has been happening to the other stuff that I like. It’s putting me in a position that I just don’t know what to do – do I continue to buy the stories that I like and supporting the titles I think have really interesting characters, or do I just walk away on principle?

I don’t know what the answer is. I guess I’ll have to talk with my trusted comic advice folk on that.

Changing gears a little – Marvel, on the other hand, has been engaging me big time lately and seem to be doing lots of things ‘right’ in the eyes of this consumer.

Last night, I read the first three issues of the current X-Men event, Battle of the Atom. HOLY HELL. It’s so good. The event isn’t like the  events I’ve read from Batman (Night of the Owls) where the other titles have tie-ins and aren’t really necessary to read. Each book is engaging the main story. Each book is necessary reading. Each book doesn’t seem ‘shoehorned’ in so that they can throw a special event banner on the cover. When I heard about the event, I was a little weary, given that I didn’t really know if I was buying into something worth my time (and money). In short – it has been so far.

(Edit: A reader asked what X-titles I was reading to get a sense of how much knowledge I have of what is going on with the mutants. I’m only reading X-men. Battle of the Atom #1 does an excellent job of summarizing the major plot points you need to know to get into this event.)

Feeling my way through the masses of books that are available (and of interest to me) has been a really eye-opening experience. I’m glad that I’ve picked up this hobby and I expect that I will keep buying comics for years to come.

Weathering the Storm

I feel it coming. I prepare myself to weather the storm. The preparations are never enough.

Never enough.

I hear the wind pick up. Debris smashes against my fortifications, tearing through as if it were only paper. This is only the beginning. The worst is still coming.

The howl of the wind dies, for a moment. Silence. I brush myself off. Maybe I will be ok.

That’s when I hear the rush of the oncoming water. My spirit sinks. I try to fill the holes, but it isn’t enough.

Never enough.

The waves rise up and the sound is deafening. I can’t hear anything else but the rumble of the oncoming water. I’m already prepared to fall. Ride the wave. Don’t drown.

The walls collapse around me. The wave carries me away from where I stood, yet…I still see my body standing there.

I ask myself what is going on, but I am too confused. My eyes sting from the salt water. My breathing comes in irregular spurts. But, I am not with my physical body.

The waves subside. As the water level sinks, so do I. I’m back with my body. Another unsuccessful attempt at repelling the onslaught. Maybe tomorrow my preparations will be enough.

Never enough.

I look to the sky. The black clouds linger.

Tomorrow will be the same.

I pick up the pieces and start again.

The Unknown

He poked it, even though everything he knew told him not to.  The thing compressed against his finger, as if he were pushing against bread dough.  He pushed his finger in to the end of his nail.

That’s when the trouble started.

He tried to pull his finger back, but it would not budge.  The dough constricted around the finger.  He was more furious in his withdrawal attempts, but it grew tighter and tighter.

It began to move up the finger, enveloping the first joint.

He screamed.

The sticky mass was at the second knuckle now, spreading to the middle finger.  It was moving fast now.  His hand became enveloped in the dough-like substance.

Next his elbow.

The mass grew as it spread across his body.  Gasping, the dough rose up his throat.

His scream was cut short as the dough spread down his esophagus.

The last thing he thought was:

“Don’t touch the unknown.”


Finally, a win

Up until this weekend, I had been winless when playing Malifaux.  According to my recorded plays on BoardGameGeek, that means I was going into Saturday at 0-11.  So, it’s been a long time coming.

Saturday, my record improved to 1-11.  I’ve got a ways to go before I’m close to even, but, its nice to have finally broken the goose egg.

So, for my win, we played a game at 35 soulstones.  I was using Rasputina of the Arcanists as my master (as I typically do) and she brought a the Essence of Power, Silent One, Gunsmith, Kaeris, Iggy and a Fire Gamin as her crew.  This left a pool of 6 soulstones.  My strategy was “Line in the Sand” and I had selected Bodyguard(Rasputina) and Hold Out as my schemes.

I was playing against Zoraida with Collodi and a whole pile of wicked dolls and marionettes and a pair of terror tots.  My opponent had “Escape and Survive” as his strategy and had selected Hold Out and Bodyguard(Zoradia) as schemes.

I spread my forces across my deployment zone (which was on the table diagonal), putting Kaeris, Iggy and the Fire Gamin together at one end, the Gunsmith on her own at the other.  Rasputina, the Essence of Power and the Silent One were in the middle.  My opponent deployed as a large group in the middle of his deployment zone.

As he had more models, his plan was to out activate me.  He did what he could to hold off on Collodi’s activation.  I did what I could to block the lanes as much as possible to prevent Collodi from moving too far (or, if you prefer – making him move where I wanted him to move).  When Collodi finally activated, he took the route I did not expect – he went after Kaeris.

Kaeris isn’t that strong defensively – she’s just pretty average.  But, when you consider Collodi’s marionettes and wicked dolls are only 2 and 3 wound models, that must fight in melee, I’ll let that mob fight her every day of the week.  Why?  Flaming Armor.  To deal melee damage on Kaeris, you take a wound (and gain a burning token).  Plus, as most everyone else in my crew deals at least 2 points of blast damage on moderate damage flips and above, that means dolls are going to die.  Add that fact that Kaeris can ignore blast damage (and heal a wound), and my opponent was in for a bad time.

After turn three, my opponent threw in the towel.  I had eliminated Collodi and all the dolls on the board, preventing him from achieving his strategy.  I felt he was a little premature in calling the game, as I only had activated one dynamite marker by turn 3 and he could have moved a unit into my deployment zone, preventing me from achieving my scheme (which, was unannounced, so only worth 1 VP).  I don’t know that I would have eliminated Zoradia, but I had the right units to ensure I could reach his deployment zone to prevent him from getting his Hold Out scheme.

It was a good game and I was happy with the outcome.  I think I had a good chance of winning even with my opponent’s error and I’m starting to be real comfortable with how I need to work my crew.  I think after a few more wins, I’ll be moving to a new faction for a change of pace, since I have Neverborn in my case (Lilith in particular) and Resurrectionists on the way (McMourning and Seamus).