Gaming to stay in touch

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I have played games all my life – from computer games to board games. When I was a kid, we had most consoles and I can vaguely remember having a Commodore 64 before the first Nintendo. The first NHL game I played was NHL94 on a Sega. 20 years later (took me a moment to calculate that it’s actually not 10 years), NHL14 has an anniversary edition of the classic (official gameplay video), although I have to admit that I prefer the latest edition. In the spirit of nostalgy, I have to admit that I still remember the cheats to Ultimate Doom.

Being from Helsinki, Finland but living in Germany, my regular contact with my family is limited to Skype calls.  I was dumbfounded recently to see my mom join Facebook and I think it’s great that she can stalk me there. Skype calls work well with my parents but with my brothers, a game provides a great lubricant for discussions about life in general. Who has not discussed their school assignments while playing a casual deathmatch of Counter Strike?

I have been the follower in gaming by jumping to games that my brothers enjoyed. I never liked MMORPGs before I decided to try Archlord years ago after seeing how much fun my brothers were having. Since then I have tried a few other MMOs but I never played World of Warcraft. Most often, Counter Strike: Global Offensive is the game we play.

It’s not only the conversations we have while playing but in a way it feels as if we are doing stuff together. My brothers end up teaching me in almost any game we play together and we get to struggle towards common goals. And that’s what makes it a great time, in addition to all the laughs we have. The only requirement I have for gaming is that it must be fun. The moment gaming is not fun, it’s not worth the time spent.

Steam screenshot

I have to thank the Internet and great multiplayer games for making it possible to enjoy time with my brothers from halfway across Europe. One of the biggest contributors is Valve’s Steam that makes it incredibly easy to try out new games and join games with friends.

 

My favorite TED Talks

There are a lot of “if you are a [insert profession or aspiration here], you must watch these TED Talks” posts out there. Most recently I watched Mashable’s list of 15 inspiring TED Talks for college freshmen. As you can imagine, those videos inspired me to take action and write a post.

Below are my all-time favorite TED Talks that I could recommend to anyone. By the way, if you are interested in a complete list of all TED Talks, it’s provided as a comprehensive spreadsheet on TED Talks page. This list is not only for you, but acts as a nice collection of talks that I love returning to when I crave for inspiration.

Terry Moore: Why is ‘x’ the unknown?

This one I enjoyed recently through TED iPad app that let’s the user find a random talk based on how much time they have. This one takes less than five minutes, so it’s a great one to start with. Seriously, if you only watch one, make it this one.

[ted id=1469]

 

Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action

I believe Simon says it all (several times during the talk) with “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

[ted id=848]

 

Daniel Pink – The puzzle of motivation

Based on his book, Drive – Surprising truth about what motivates us, Daniel Pink delivers an interesting talk that made me buy and read the book. I find his thesis interesting and I have given a lot of thought to how mastery, autonomy and purpose will shape my career and my life.

[ted id=618]

Keepers of the inbox

I know, I understand. Your message, your email about the thing you are working on or will be launching soon is the most important thing in the world. For you. Months or years you have been waiting for this moment. You spent those late nights and kept up with the changing requirements of higher-ups.

But what is this again? A notification that an internal application that I have never heard of will be unavailable for two hours over the weekend. Thank you. Thanks especially for putting that ‘important’ tag on it. I’m diligent with my email. Inbox 0 anyone? And those big red exclamation marks, hold… the.. press.. Wait, it’s here is another email about cleaning the window blinds. I thought I already read one of these last week. What was I doing again?

One more email never hurt anyone

Wrong. I would love to have statistics to show about this and perhaps this is a topic for anyone considering doing research into internal communication practices. If the message has no applicability, it’s not only a wasted message. It’s information overload that dilutes the effectiveness of the important messages. If you are not yet in the office life, pay attention to what your Communications teacher is sharing about writing effective emails. I promise it will pay off.

Inbox anarchy

We all have our own personal experiences of inbox anarchy at the workplace. At first there is a range of emotions (from amusement to anger) when receiving these emails but over time there is only indifference, which is the worst state of affairs. It was not always like this. At minimum, people used to read the subject headers, and way back before that, some brave ones even read the whole email before judging the relevance of the message. We don’t have that luxury any more, simply because too many of our colleagues have figured out how convenient email is for mass communication.

The most clever people create a rule for incoming email where everything from a resource mailbox ends up automatically in a different folder. That’s great, it keeps things in order and allows the emails to be read on their terms. It also almost guarantees that time-critical, important information will be missed. Except that if it really is that important, I expect my boss to tell me about it.

Shouldn’t there be an internal spam filter that you can trust?

Keepers of the inbox

Most people never have to think about this, but there is a group of people, the keepers of the inbox. Their job is to say ‘no’, their job is to evaluate and prioritize important messages. They know that ‘everybody’ is not a valid list of stakeholders. Their secret is simple.

Start with zero and expand.

How to evaluate if the message is important to the audience? Begin with nobody in your target group not with everybody. That’s the only way. Otherwise you will drown in a river of questions such as “would an assistant in HR care about this”. Why would the person in a totally unrelated support function, in a different country care about this message? It’s a good measurement but these questions are endless and could be asked for each and every team in the company. Therefore, just start with zero and expand to those who really need to know and sometimes to those for who it is good to know.

If you don’t know who your stakeholders are, the solution you are looking for, is not an email to the lowest common denominator.

GTA V impressions (no spoilers)

I can easily write my first impressions without going into the plot of the game. It suffices to say that the story is very engaging and I would love to see more games with similar depth in the future.

I play the game on Xbox 360 and 40″ LCD TV. I’m not the kind of guy who would stand around and look at the scenery in a game but I recognize when my surroundings are beautifully detailed. 

Probably one of the most striking new aspects in the game is how the player needs to switch between characters during and between missions. It is brilliant. I recently finished GTA IV: The Lost and Damned where some characters appeared from the original GTA IV and Ballad of Gay Tony DLC but I was left wanting to interact more between the characters. Switching adds more perspectives to the story and the mission at hand. The ability to switch makes the gameplay more immerse when more things happen at the same time.

Some of the great things in GTA V

  • Driving small country roads up the hill or speeding in the city traffic is no longer possible without using breaks. Sounds annoying compared to previous games but the driving mechanics are actually very much improved and it’s a pleasure cruising around the state. Although, I do prefer using an airplane for longer distances.
  • The idea of switching characters is excellent and it works surprisingly well. I have not run into any trouble because of the switching. It’s been made easy enough to switch even when being shot at.
  • Mission system allows the missions to be replayed. Perhaps I will find perfecting the robberies fun after a while but first I will most likely finish the story.
  • Shooting range is actually fun even though I hate shooting with a controller.

I’ve loved the game so far and after 30% of the story finished, I can’t find anything negative to comment. I am driven by the story in the game and tend to spend most of my time advancing the story instead of doing side activities. I feel like missing a big chunk of the game by focusing on the story. The side activities are fun but there’s no bigger meaning behind them for me. I’m slightly afraid that there is only a very limited number of heists in the story and that there is no possibility of finding new heists after the story is done but that remains to be seen.

Enjoy the game by watching  streams at Twitch if you haven’t purchased a copy yet.

Individuals can opt to save on their own and open an individual retirement account (IRA) or a traditional IRA through their employer, they just need to use a roth ira calculator beforehand. People who do not qualify for the IBR or Roth IRA have three options:

Make additional contributions to an individual retirement account (IRAs). Those who have reached age 70 or are disabled can opt to make additional contributions to their IRA or contribute to a retirement plan through their employer.

Those who have reached age 70 or are disabled can opt to make additional contributions to their IRA or contribute to a retirement plan through their employer. Use a Roth IRA. If you are under age 70, you can convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA at age 59, without penalty. If you are under age 70, you can convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA at age 59, without penalty.

Roth IRA Contribution Limits and Annual Contributions

You can contribute to a Roth IRA up to the following limits each year:

Roth IRA Contribution Limits

$5,500 in 2015 (plus an additional $1,000 for filing a joint return)

$6,500 in 2016 ($6,500 for joint returns)

$6,500 in 2017 ($6,500 for joint returns)

$6,500 in 2018 ($6,500 for joint returns)

$6,500 in 2019 ($6,500 for joint returns)

$6,500 in 2020 ($6,500 for joint returns)

$6,500 in 2021 ($6,500 for joint returns) $6,500 in 2022 ($6,500 for joint returns) $6,500 in 2023 ($6,500 for joint returns) $6,500 in 2024 ($6,500 for joint returns) $6,500 in 2025 ($6,500 for joint returns) $6,500 in 2026 ($6,500 for joint returns) $6,500 in 2027 ($6,500 for joint returns)

If you reach the income limit by age 70 1/2, you may continue to be eligible for the full refund, but only until age 70 1/2. If you reach the income limit by age 65, you may continue to be eligible for the partial refund of the additional taxes you paid above the basic exemption amount.

Determining your refund You may receive a refund of any amounts you overpaid if your tax return is filed on time and you meet the basic requirements.

The following factors will determine if you qualify: The amount and tax paid.

The filing status.

Whether you filed an extension for more than 15 days.

Whether you claim an exemption for the overpayment.

Any tax-related expenses. For more information, see Pub. 535.

Refunds for children in your family If you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien, your refund will generally be paid after you have reported your nonrefundable share of the credit against your U.S. income tax for the year. To determine the amount of your refund, add the credit against your tax for the year to the refund you receive from Uncle Sam. See Pub. 535, Refund of Taxes Withheld by the Government, for information on how to figure your refund. For example, suppose you claimed the credit against your tax for the year of $20,000.