On Mentoring

Few people, I think, have jobs they’re always happy with. Everyone has bad days (weeks, months,) and sometimes the threshold that keeps you in an organization is crossed by finding the incidental things which turn bad days into good ones. Sometimes it’s as simple as some good banter with your colleagues, or a top of the range coffee machine, or getting back at Barbara for filing your form wrong last week. Other times you’re finding ways to win over your superiors, or quietly averting disaster (again).

Many of these things are easy to understand and encourage. Some of them are good for the organization as a whole. But I think it’s hard to find really productive perks of a job. For me, the best perks seem to be the hardest to find. So today we’re going to talk a little bit about mentoring, and how I’ve come to consider it one of the hidden gems of the workplace.

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The Riddle of the Sons

I enjoy a good riddle. Riddles are great because they give you a chance to think creatively around a problem and come to your own conclusion, and then ideally compare notes with other people. The point in riddles, as I see it, it not to get a definitively right answer insomuch as to get any answer which fits strictly within the parameters defined by the riddle. Any valid answer is fair game, and the one you come up with says something about who you are and what kinds of implicit assumptions you make.

So… have a go at this one. See what you make of it, and in just a moment we’re going to talk about how adding multiple choice answers fundamentally changes the question.

Assume there is a 50:50 chance of any child being male or female.

Now assume four generations, all other things being equal.

What are the odds of a son being a son of a son of a son?

David Allen Green

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When is wrong, right?

Let’s play a little game. We’re both going to think about our jobs and distill the most essential bit into as few words as possible. Try it – see if you can explain yours in fewer words than mine. Are you ready?

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One of the things which attracts me about Magic: The Gathering is that there’s so much to learn and understand, there’s always something to discover or think about. I’ve spent a lot of time recently mulling over what different deck archetypes do and how they work simply because I find classifying and understanding these things fascinating in its own right.

That being said, there’s a great practical advantage to understanding what differentiates different deck archetypes – what makes each archetype different, how their similarities play off against each other, and so on. If you know, for example, that you’re building a tempo deck, you’ll want to aim for certain kinds of creature and certain types of spell. So, what ways of thinking are useful for describing deck archetypes?

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Conference Coincidence

I might have finally found a way to get the best out of conferences, so let’s talk about that.


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Casualcore: Cards, Computers, and Competition

Since I quit World of Warcraft years ago, I’ve often lacked a consistent source of things to say for this blog. Sometimes I have ideas, but more often than not I can’t feel strongly enough about it import to commit the N hours to writing out something coherent on the subject. I suppose I’ve lacked a hobby of the same depth, complexity, and community.

But since February I’ve got into Magic: The Gathering, a trading card game with a very large and active fanbase. I’ve built decks, played in tournaments, met great new people, and spent an embarrassing amount of money on pretty cardboard. It’s become an important part of my mental world – there’s so much to think about! And through it all there’s been this niggle. This small itch in the back of my mind which I couldn’t quite find until one day I was remembering my times raiding in World of Warcraft. There’s a similarity here, something I’ve long struggled with but only recently found the words to explain – I call it the casualcore problem.

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Let’s Take Back Democracy

As the costs of Brexit become increasingly clear to anyone paying attention, it appears obvious that when we leave we are going to pay a big economic price. But isn’t the democratic mandate of the Brexit referendum the most important thing about it? Don’t we owe it to ourselves, in order to respect democracy, to carry on with the endeavour regardless of its cost?

These were the questions a friend of mine was confronted by while his coworkers were discussing Brexit at work, and he asked the question;

I don’t really know how to respond, other than declare that I personally am not willing to stand by & let my families lives get wrecked irrespective of the outcome of a vote. If that’s undemocratic then so be it…

So, does that thinking hold water? We should really apply some critical thinking to this problem and see whether there are any effective counter argument.

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Word Explainer

One of the hardest things to master as a writer is the appropriate use of vocabulary to get ones point across effectively and engagingly to the target audience. So, as an author, what happens when your word processor pops up and says that your words are too complicated?

Well, what does a mere computation device know about words?

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Historical Entanglement

Scientists don’t pay enough attention to history, and we need to fix that.

Don’t get me wrong – scientists pay a lot of attention to historical scientists. Our collective worship of Einstein, Darwin, Curie, Hodgkin, & al is plays to the point of obsession. We care also about the history of science; how the specific details of how our disciplines were forged. These compelling stories all offer familiar anchoring points for what essentially amounts to our shared legend of creation. But that’s not enough.

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From the jaws of victory.

I am a failure.

Well, I could just leave it there I suppose. Still, I imagine you were expecting a little elaboration.

I’m a qualified failure.

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