So, I am on iteration “f” of my series of posts about the choices I make each day, having broken my “Seinfeld” chain on five previous occasions to go from a through b, c, d and e to get to f. And overall, I’m on 68 days of noting how I’m doing on making conscious choices.
Yet I find myself struggling to find a topic some nights. Often I had a good day, I did make choices, but in some cases it might have been the same choice I made last week that is starting to be part of my routine. Or it was all relatively simple choices, and not really worthy of a post.
A couple of those “breaks” in series were more technical in nature, where I was unable to post for a few days and so I “broke” the chain. I didn’t break the chain of choices, I just broke the chain of writing about it.
And so, I think I’m going to step back from daily blogs about the choices. It met part of its goal, to make me conscious of my decisions, and things are working well. But I think I’m going to switch the series from TIC to “This week I chose” (TWIC, I guess).
The real trick for me though is to see if only writing about it weekly means I stop keeping track so that maybe 9 days from now when I do the first TWIC post, I may not remember what I did during the week. So I’ll have to keep track in a little notebook by the computer. And then pick one of them to write about in detail for the TWIC posts.
Today I choose to change how I write about choice. What choices are you making today?
For those reading the post yesterday about my love of trivia, you already know that I am helping out with a trivia game for our Charitable Campaign at work. The exact FORMAT of that trivia game is still to be determined.
I have a few options, and a number of variables that complicate the game. First and foremost, it has to be fully bilingual. We’re a bilingual workforce, anglophone and francophone players may both want to play, and I need to have a game (*) available they both (*) can play. I put asterisks in that sentence because one of the variables is that I could simply run a game in English for anglophones and a separate game in French for francophones.
Second, since we can’t do the game in-person, I need an online option. That basically divides itself into three options:
By email like I used to do — people would get the questions by email, they could respond, and I would score them…heck I think I even still have the scoring spreadsheet that helped me format things!;
On a website — I can run it like an online quiz, people click on the link, go through the questions, it totals up their answers, and sends me the results;
Live — I can use something like Kahoot to run the game live, people get the questions while looking at a screen, tap to choose their answer, and voila, scores are counted immediately.
The first two are easy, free and totally adjustable for time. Anyone can play as long as they have a computer link AND they can do it anytime of the day. I can also make it completely bilingual, no problem.
The last one is the preferred option as I can have people chatting while we do it, all good. Much more social, great. There’s a small cost involved, sure, but not exorbitant.
The bigger challenge is the degree of bilingualism. The apps are almost all American and while I can make all the questions bilingual, the transition screens and menus are NOT. So for example, in between Q1 and Q2, when it is giving the scores, it says “Poly takes the lead!” or “Jane253 has answered 1 in a row!”. At the end, when giving results, it’s automated, and it will say “Poly got 3/10 right in 90s Music”. It’s not egregious, those prompts being all in English, but it’s not ideal either.
Free and fully bilingual but not as social vs. small cost and social but not fully bilingual. Decisions, decisions. I’ll talk to some French executives at work and see what they advise, see if it is “good enough”. I can do a separate “social” one for just francophones, preferably with a different host than ME hurting their ears, but I can’t edit the app.
I also wish it wasn’t a separate computer, but there is no way to avoid it, not really. You still need a tool to do the trivia scoring and entry and one that is hosting the video. They’re not integrated, so it is either two computers or at least two apps running at the same time.
I also started going down the rabbit hole of choosing a trivia plugin for my site before I managed to stop myself. The to-do list for my site is already long enough. I do want it SOMETIME, just not sure NOW is the right time to do that. Sure would be sweet though, given the number of people in lockdown looking for some activities to do online occasionally.
I confess, my title went for a small play on words. I also confess that I love trivia games. Ever since I was about 13 years old, and we got the original Trivial Pursuit, I have played trivia games out the wazoo. I don’t care if it is done competitively or cooperatively or even solely, I like the Q&A formats.
I liked watching Jeopardy, particularly as it has lots of questions in a row, but it is almost too fast at times. In a few cases, I’d like to think about the answer for a couple of seconds to talk myself out of some stupid random guess. Alternatively, a lot of online trivia and even the pub offerings by Buzz are the opposite problem — too much delay in between rounds and questions.
Flash forward to the late 1990s
A little over 20 years ago, I was doing a lot of stuff by email list. Movie reviews, humour, book reviews even. But I was also running a weekly trivia game. I ran it on and off for about 4 years in total, spread over 5 years, and it varied in format a bit. Sometimes it was 10 questions, all week to answer. Other times I tried 5 questions a day, different categories. And the format that worked the best for me was three questions a day. People were encouraged NOT to Google answers. Or Babelfish / Alta Vista answers since Google didn’t exist. But I was averaging about 60 players a week, most of whom I had never met.
From time to time, I would get overwhelmed with life and think, “Why am I doing this?” It was fun, but it was taking too much time. Even with a lot of workflow automation, I still had to mark scores relatively manually. And one day I got a thank you note from one of my players that I had never met.
She and her husband had low vision. And so they loved getting the trivia questions by email rather than off a website. They could use their assisted reading devices to print out the emails on a braille printer, and then they would sit down for breakfast. They would discuss the questions, estimate what they thought the answers were together, and then, after breakfast was over, they would try to confirm or refute their guesses. Using encyclopedias that were printed in Braille. She said that sometimes it would take them half a day. Going from topic to topic, getting distracted by other interesting info that would lead them somewhere else in their search. They didn’t care if they got the right answer, they just cared that they could do it together and it was FUN trying to figure it out.
I saved that email for a long time so that any time I felt like it was taking too much time to run the game (20-30 minutes some days, maybe 2 hours on weekends to wrap up the scores), I could have a reality check that here were people spending 3+ hours per day just PLAYING by game, searching and learning and having a grand old time. It was like they had a joint puzzle to solve, just like you see people working on crossword or jigsaw puzzles together.
Am I bringing back PolyWogg Trivia? Or it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Super Quiz(let)?
Eventually, life intervened. I have always wanted to get my trivia game going again on my website and have people come on the site, play questions, get scores, etc. Of course, on a website, you need to alter the format probably to multiple choice, otherwise I’m back to the same issue of having to mark stuff manually. Several times in the last 15 years, I’ve played with formats to try to get it working on my site, but never quite found my solution. Maybe it’s an app instead of a website, I’m not sure. My favorite part of the game was when I introduced a feature I called Quizlet. Five clues to name a person, place or thing, with clue one on Monday, clue two on Tuesday, etc. Each day, the value of the Quizlet dropped. It was VERY hard for anyone to Google those answers, you either had to be inspired somehow or you’d likely NEVER guess it in the first couple of days. Usually Wednesday was the tipping point. It was great and I enjoyed it WAY more than the regular trivia game. Some players HATED it because they couldn’t get perfect every week.
And with all the work I’ve done on my site in recent months, you might think this was leading to some big announcement that PolyWogg Trivia Is Back, Baby! But it’s not. I’m really just talking about the role Trivia has played in my life for a long time.
I’m still the 13-year-old kid sitting at the trailer out at the lake, reading card after card by myself because nobody wanted to play anywhere near as often as I did. Later, when we were a bit older, we bought Super Quiz. Kind of pitched at times as “trivia for regular people, not Einsteins”. The benefit of Super Quiz was that there was no board, so you got points for each right answer (not wedges just on specific spots on the board) AND you had a choice of level of question — level 1 was supposed to be undergraduate level; level 2 was supposed to be graduate level; level 3 was supposed to be Ph.D. And the harder the question, the more points you could get. You had to get at least 3 points in each of 6 categories and 35 overall to win, with no more than 10 in any one category. But there also came SQ II and SQ III, and we had all of them in one box. So when we played as a family, we could choose 6 categories out of 18 possible ones, and we didn’t have to play the same ones. For example, there was one we called “Movies – Green” because it was in a green box, and had movies from the 80s and onward, so it was good for me. “Movies – Pink” were about older movies, often pre-1970 and often 1940s and 50s, and so was good for my Mom and Dad.
We relied on the honour system that we wouldn’t choose 6 easy categories. Usually we figured that 2 had to be harder for you. My wife would have loved the format as she is good in Geography, and we had a Geography Category (from Super Quiz I), Worldwide (from Super Quiz II), and Travel and Leisure (from Super Quiz III).
One other difference from Trivial Pursuit was that some categories had built-in clues…so if you took Famous People (SQ1) or Celebrities (SQII), it would give you the first letter of the last name of the answer. So maybe you would try for a higher-level question.
We also implemented a rule we called “drop-down” to encourage ourselves to go above only Level 1 questions. If you choose any of the three levels and got it right, you got the points and could go again. However, for drop-down, if you chose a level three question, and got it WRONG, you could try for level two. If you got IT right, you would get your two points but you couldn’t go again. Sometimes we played that you could drop down again to Level 1, but sometimes we thought that was too many chances and only did one drop down level. Usually we would divvy up the various boxes amongst all the players so we all had 3-4 categories to read. If we had one of the categories we wanted to answer at some point, we would just swap boxes with someone when we got to that category.
Did I already confess that I loved trivia?
Researching trivia options for work
And so, as part of our workplace charitable campaign, it seems only natural that I am organizing a trivia game for our branch. I had only done one virtual game recently, so I went looking for others online. Andrea knows of one that a friend runs, and I’ll hopefully be able to check that out one night. In the meantime, a friend invited me to join one run by a guy in the U.S. who used to run bar trivia in a pub and now offers it online with weekly games.
I played tonight on my friend’s team, and it was a lot of fun. We were considering having the guy run a game for us, but alas, the cost is too high and we’ll have to do it ourselves, plus I’ll need the Qs to be bilingual. We’ll work on the format over the next week or so and beta test some options, but I’ll try to keep it simple.
Yet even with tonight, I’m already seeing some of the challenges. The game tonight was six rounds, and each round was about 10 questions with 8 minutes to respond to them all. The guy uses a Google doc to share the Qs and track / score the results, and while it isn’t “pretty”, it functions just fine. For me, the real challenge was the eight-minute limit. It practically invites you to Google answers. Which is not really trivia, more like puzzle-solving. Which is fun too. But it often is what turns me off in online games. Too much time between questions and/or rounds.
I also noticed that even between Canada and US, and all of it in English, there were a few cultural centricities that will only be amplified when it comes to all players being Canadian but the game needing to be bilingual. Certainly there are pop-culture questions that would work just fine for the anglophones that would leave the francophones scratching their heads, and some easy ones for francophones that anglophones would have no chance at answering without Alexa or Siri on their team.
Jacob and I played on the team for the first hour or so and then he went off to bed, and I continued for another hour. Plus lots of opportunities to just chat between rounds. Almost too much in a normal world, but in a COVID world? A great way to spend the night. Definitely outside my limited bubble of late.
Today I choose to embrace the trivial, and play virtual trivia with a friend.
There’s a classic cliché or slogan in the time-management and personal planning industries about “planning the work and working the plan”. It basically is a form of “plan and execute” or “plan and do”, but it is more than that…it takes into account that you did the work to do a proper plan, taking into account the variables you had, and you came up with something viable.
Implementation though prompts a number of reactions. First and foremost, there are the rigid thinkers who will follow the plan all the way to Hades. Doesn’t matter, they have their orders, even if they gave them to themself, and they will not deviate it from it no matter what the evidence or results are telling them. Second is the other end of the spectrum…it is the type who knows that a battle plan never survives engagement with the enemy, and because they misinterpret what that means, they jettison the plan at the first sign of ANYTHING that deviates from the plan and wing it for the rest of the implementation. Their attitude is you can’t plan for everything so why worry too much about planning for anything. Get a basic idea and GO.
But in the middle is the workman who knows that a good plan is mostly about the process of building the plan. Understanding what the variables are. Understanding the interdependencies. Understanding the resources available, the starting point, the ending point, and the flexibilities to get from one to the other. You don’t “implement a plan”, you work with it, tweaking as you go, keeping what works, adjusting what doesn’t. A good framework helps you know where you’re going; building the framework helps you know what your capacity is for getting there.
I had a pretty good day today. We have set ourselves a basic 9-5 workday, with Andrea taking a break at 11:00 to spend time with Jacob when his class breaks for first rest/recess and me taking a break at 1:00 p.m. to have lunch with him. This morning, Andrea had a dentist appointment at 8:00 so we were up and out the door by 7:30. She had her appointment, everything is on track for her dental work, I picked her back up, and off we were home. With a pit stop at the grocery store to get milk, fresh bananas, and some ground beef for tonight’s dinner (tacos).
We were back to the house by 9:00 a.m., before Jacob even started his class. Nice.
My morning schedule wasn’t too pressed, first meeting at 10:30 so I had time to get ready, with a pre-conference call just before it to agree on what a co-lead was going to cover and what I would cover. Then the meeting, went reasonably well, some good follow-up, and on to the next thing.
I had a couple of impromptu meetings in MS Teams, set up a bunch of groups so we can stay organized going forward, got some buy-in and support to lead a couple of initiatives we want to do across the branch, and it wasn’t even lunch yet. I grabbed a snack, and started writing a speech. More like speech modules, but I did it up like a big inspirational speech that I’ll have to tone down tomorrow into more digestible chunks, but I gave my creative side free rein, and it felt good to flex those muscles.
I had lunch with Jacob, then back into the digital world of working from home. I finished the speech, handled a few other things that had cropped up, tasked out a few other things, and generally kicked butt and took names most of the afternoon.
I’m not sure exactly where in my career I would say I was my “best self” as an employee, firing on all cylinders and being uber productive, but I know it isn’t “today”. Still, I’m probably firing at about 80% of my previous capacity, and feeling good about the way forward.
I even found time today to reach out to offer some online support to two communities, where newbies are struggling with stuff that is a level beyond their capacity. I reframed it and explained what they needed to do (and how to understand it, which is part of my jam), and they were off and running again with renewed optimism after hitting the frustration wall.
Dinner was simple tacos, Jacob is doing piano theory and hanging out with Andrea, and I’m figuring out a couple of small web puzzles. And then I treated myself to a small binge of episodes of Monk from Season 3.
Today I choose to work the plan and today it worked well. It won’t always be that successful, but I’ll take the victory lap for today.
I have no interest in people who want to argue that some people find everything funny, however inappropriate, or the huge social conventions that go with it. I’m a little bit closer to certain British comedians and satirists who believe you can and should find whatever humour lies within anything. Not to make fun of anything you can, but to find the natural tenets of humour that run through our lives, however dark or at least non-illuminated some of them are. However dark the current times, however bleak, there are still moments of amusement to be found, even if just in cynicism that it will only get worse.
Today I went looking for some of that, and not surprisingly, it was easy to find in various memes or mask layouts. Some started with some pop culture themes:
Social Distancing Social Club;
Buena distancia social club (i.e., a take-off on Buena Vista Social Club);
I find your lack of social distancing disturbing (i.e., with a Darth Vader image)
I will wear my mask here or there, I will social distance everywhere (i.e., like Dr. Seuss)
In Fauci, we trust. Trust science, not morons (i.e., for US politics)
Others made references to introverts (ignoring the huge number of Bigfoot images with the slogan Social Distancing Champion):
Stop! I’m not social distancing, I just don’t like you!
I’m a social vegan. I avoid meet.
I saw people through the window today. That’s enough social interaction.
Social distancing: It’s like a vacation for introverts.
I can’t people today.
When social distancing is over, let’s not tell some people.
It’s too “peopley” out there.
I was social distancing when it was rude (i.e., a bit different from the numerous ones about doing it “before it was cool / trendy / hip / required”).
Others still went for slightly quirky:
Social Distancing Mode ON
Zero hugs given #SocialDistancing
Wanna hangout with me online?
And then there were the ones whose patience has run out:
If I Can Punch You in The Face, You’re Too Close
Back off Boogaloo
Back up buttercup
Stay out of my hula hoop
Just shut up and wear your mask, Karen
If you can read this, then you’d better be wearing a mask
But out of all of them, there were four that I liked more than the rest. Three of them in particular as I think they actually work as something you could wear on a face mask or a t-shirt.
The first was simple…it was an image of a Zoom call, and it simply said “Zoom University”. All students are dealing with some form of that, from kindergarten all the way up to graduate courses at university, and it would work really well as a traditional sweatshirt, in my view. It captures a lot of the zeitgeist of freshmen who are starting university this year wondering where their degree is even coming from or what exactly they’re paying all that tuition for, if they even registered this year and didn’t opt for a gap year.
The second was a simple mantra summary of current life: “Eat, sleep, repeat. Living the #SocialDistancing life.” An alternate version said, “Eat, sleep, social distancing, repeat. Living the dream.” There is a lot packed in there, particularly for single people living alone.
The third was a small play on words for the innuendo of “doggie-style”. The picture showed two men separated by a dog on a six-foot leash. The phrase that went with it was: “Social distancing, doggie-style“. I don’t know that I would wear this, but there are some people who walk their dog who quite like the meme.
The last one is also a play on words, and it is my favorite. The picture is of a person doing yoga, in Lotus position, with the words “Namaste six feet away”. One of my favorite comics in the last year that I’ve seen had a similar pun, where one character says, “Namaste” and the other says, “Nah, I’m gonna go”. The reason this one is my favorite is that it works relatively linearly, i.e. “peace” from six feet away, or literally, “Stay six feet away”.
Are any of them uproariously funny? Nope, but the topic isn’t funny. Millions are dying around the globe. The death experience for those infected are horrible, often isolated and alone, and struggling to breathe. And yet people have found the humour that lurks in the shared experience of social distancing, however cynical.
I needed that today, and so I choose to look for some COVID humour.