Carcassonne on Steam

Playing Carcassonne on Steam with River, The Abbot and Inns and Cathedral expansions enabled
Playing Carcassonne on Steam with River, The Abbot and Inns and Cathedral expansions enabled

One of my favourite board games is the excellent Carcassonne from Z-Man. It’s a simple but fun tile-based game where you build and claim cities and roads, farms and monasteries and gardens to acquire points.

Over the last few months, I’ve been enjoying playing the latest official version of Carcassonne for Android but it wasn’t until last week that I realised the game was also available for Windows via Steam.

I wonder if any of the Tour de France cycling teams will be playing Carcassonne on the rest day in the city that inspired it this year?

I’ve moved house… again

Three houses in a terrace. The left most has a gable. Each has a door and four windows. Mind is the middle on.
My new house in sunny Crail is the middle one of these three.

After 871 days (that is 2 years, 4 months and 20 days) as warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall, University of St Andrews, I’ve hung up my gown and moved on.

I loved being warden, living and working amongst around 540 students and supporting a team of six assistant wardens. But it wasn’t great for my health, to be honest. It turns out you sometimes need sleep and time for yourself. And for many weeks I got little of either.

So I have moved back down the Fife coast to the East Neuk and am living in a wee two-bedroom mid-terrace house in Crail.

This is my third house move in as many years.

I’m much closer to my children now, and it’s an area that I used to cycle around over the years so I’m looking forward to getting out on my (newly serviced) bike over the next few months and gently improving my fitness.

From top to bottom: Isaac, Reuben and Joshua, sitting on the stairs. They are all wearing school uniforms.
From top to bottom: Isaac, Reuben and Joshua

The boys like my wee house and have been over to stay for a few weeks, and a few overnights during the week too.

I needed to buy a dining table and benches and a couple of chests of drawers (at Ikea, of course) plus a bunch of storage boxes for linen and shoes. But two weeks in and I have fully unpacked now and organised almost everything the way that I’d like it.

Here is to relaxing for a bit, regaining my fitness, losing the 2 inches or more than I put on my waist over the last 871 days, and figuring out where life will take me next. It’s exciting…

Here’s a video I found online from the developers. My house is featured about 17 seconds in.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and divorce

Maslow's hierarchy of needs five stage pyramid (image credit: Simply Psychology)
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs five stage pyramid (image credit: Simply Psychology)

A few months ago I attended a training course at work about leadership and management style. During one presentation the trainer reintroduced me to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory in psychology comprising a five-tier model of human needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid.

Maslow (1943, 1954) stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs and that some needs take precedence over others. Our most basic need is for physical survival, and this will be the first thing that motivates our behavior. Once that level is fulfilled the next level up is what motivates us, and so on.

(Source: Simply Psychology)

It struck me immediately, as I was sitting in the classroom, that this model could offer me a way of navigating a way through my divorce.

Pre-separation

Marriage can be hard, and it can be incredibly rewarding. It involves give and take, it requires commitment and at times self-sacrifice. To be honest, I felt at times that I poured myself out so much that I lost touch with who I was beneath it.

But even now, looking back at those most painful of moments, and comparing it with the hierarchy of needs pyramid, I can still see that I was at the top of the pyramid, in self-actualisation.

  • Level 1, physiological needs—I had air and water, food and shelter, sleep (though disturbed) and clothing. I lived comfortably in a house in Anstruther. We had everything we needed to live a comfortable, middle-class life.
  • Level 2, safety needs—I had personal security and employment. Sure, I had some health concerns but I felt safe and secure.
  • Level 3, love and belonging—Even in the midst of the hardest times in our marriage, I still felt a sense of belonging and commitment. I knew that I was committed to Jane because I had stood in the church before friends and family and God and I had made a vow to belong to her forever. That promise kept me going, kept me believing that we could work things out. And I had some amazing friends, not nearby, but certainly at the end of the phone or on Skype or email or text message.
  • Level 4, esteem—At work I felt I had the respect of colleagues. I had status (assistant web manager) and recognition. I had a certain degree of freedom across all areas of my life. I could choose when to take on more church work, I was free to choose when to visit friends or family.
  • Level 5, self-actualisation—And at the top of the pyramid, I was actively trying to become the best person that I could be. Standing on the foundations of a comfortable home, a secure job, a long-term relationship that had produced three beautiful children, and a job that gave me a position and place in the world that I was happy with, I was seeking to become the best person I could be. I was trying to improve my health, trying to draw closer to Jane and my children, trying to better myself through reading and side projects.

I felt privileged and although not always entirely happy, I felt confident that we could work things out and get through this.

And then… it was all over. Through a lot of heartache and tears, I finally agreed to a divorce. Leaving the children was the hardest thing I have ever done. It broke my heart.

Post-separation

When I agreed to a divorce, Jane and I discussed the next move. What happens next? I was determined to make the process as easy and create as few disruptions in the lives of my three children as possible. So I agreed to move out,

And in the real-life game of snakes and ladders that I found myself in, I took a snake from the top of the pyramid right to the bottom: from self-actualisation to physiological needs.

Where on earth am I going to live?! was the message screaming in my head. I felt utter panic at answering that question.

None of the levels above physiological seemed to matter more than the simple need to secure the absolute basics: where do I sleep, where do I eat? Thankfully I still had a job, and that job and my previous experience led me to my current position as a halls of residence warden. That gave me immediate relief of my physiological needs.

But more than that it also gave me a sense of security, a sense of belonging and connection. I had another community to belong to, and build, encourage and be encouraged by, and it gave me sense of self-esteem and recognition. Somehow, I had clawed myself back up to level four.

And now…?

When I moved out of my home and started to create a home for myself in the warden’s flat, I said to myself that I would do this for 3–5 years. I have just started my third year, and I have found myself considering what is next?

I’m enjoying the warden work—although it doesn’t leave much time for myself. I have enjoyed being a part of this ever changing and dynamic community of people learning together and learning how to live together.

I’ve been enjoying getting deeper into work as an agile project manager and business analyst—I’d certainly like to journey further down that road. I think I’m good at it—the scrum master role is one of servant leadership, and that’s very much how I think and live.

I find myself considering the future with a certain degree of uncertainty and fear but also hope and possibility. I would like to work in an agile role, I would like to create a new home where my children will feel comfortable and belong. I would like, eventually, to step confidently onto the top tier of the pyramid once again. There are a lot of questions to answer before I get there but that is certainly my goal.

As we used to say in my office: it’ll be alright in the end… and if it’s not alright, then it’s not the end. But this model, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, has been a useful tool for me to orientate myself and help chart a way forward.

Lean Agile Edinburgh meetup at Royal London, March 2018

You can watch the recording of the live stream above.

  • 14:33 Introductions
  • 18:45 Welcome from Royal London (hosts)
  • 23:50 Kathy Thomson—Explain and explore
  • 42:00 Krish Bissonauth—CIA model
  • 1:24:00 Greg Urquhart—What does Agile even mean now?

Last night I took the train down to Edinburgh for my second Lean Agile Edinburgh meetup.

Started in June 2013, Lean Agile Edinburgh is an informal and social monthly meetup to discuss and share all things agile, lean, kanban, scrum, etc. At most meetups we have talks, workshops/activities or Lean-Coffee discussion sessions.

Yesterday’s meetup was kindly hosted by Royal London at their new offices at Haymarket Yards in Edinburgh, a short hop, skip and a jump from the railway station. Last month’s was hosted at the other end of Princes Street, in the Amazon Development Centre Scotland offices at Waverley Gate.

The evening began with an opportunity to network and chat with folks over pizza and refreshments, before we took our seats for three excellent presentations.

Explain and explore

The first session was a very hands-on, get out of your seats and move about exercise lead by Kathy Thomson, a scrum master at Royal London.

We were each given a postcard and pencil and invited to answer the following question in either a word or short phrase: “What does agile transformation mean for you?”

I wrote something like, “Iterative change that is collaborated on by a team towards a shared goal”.

With our postcards completed we were invited to stand in a large open space to the near the presentation area, and turning to the person next to us explain our answers.

Next we were invited to exchange our cards with someone else, and then someone else, and so on until we had effectively shuffled the cards. I ended up on in the middle of the room. This was the ‘explore‘ part of the exercise.

And then again we were to pair up with the person next to us and explain to them the card we were holding. Which, obviously, was now not our own card. Interestingly, I felt less defensive about explaining this card. And I appreciated seeing someone else’s perspective on the same question.

Somehow, I ended up with two cards for this one! And I can’t remember either of them.

And then we were off around the room again, quickly exchanging cards, and pairing up to explain our new cards to one another. Mine simply said, “Pace”.

It was a really interesting and useful exercise, even with a room of about 60 people.

Control Influence Accept model

Returning to our seats, Krish Bissonauth, an Agile coach at Royal London, introduced us the Control Influence Accept model (or CIA model).

This is a versatile problem-solving and stress-management tool that identifies three ways to respond to challenges:

  • Control—identify the elements of the situation over which you have control.
  • Influence—identify the elements over which you have no control but which you can influence.
  • Accept—identify the elements over which you have neither control nor acceptance, which you will simply need to accept and adapt to.

I loved the Clarke Ching quote he finished with. It spoke about social comparison—why do your Facebook friends’ holidays and kids look so much better than your own? It’s simple: their lives are just like ours but they only share the good stuff. So it is with books we read and presentations we experience about Agile and DevOps: we see the good stuff and we feel bad.

His message: stop comparing yourself to the “Facebook” versions of Agile and DevOps, and start comparing yourself with how you were doing three weeks ago, three months ago, three years ago, and feel proud of the all the hard work you are doing and the progress you have made.

What does Agile even mean now?

The final talk was by former Skyscanner product delivery director, and current Agile 4-12 consultant Greg Urquhart.

There was much in Greg’s talk that resonated with me, but it was what he called his “cut the Agile bullshit-o-meter” slide that I found most helpful. He had set himself the task of limiting his definition of what agile is to just five bullet points. This is what he came up with:

  • A culture of experimentation constantly generates validated learning.
  • Teams have missions, mastery and the autonomy to act with no strings attached.
  • Software is frequently delivered to users. We learn its value through serious use.
  • Teams and resources align beautifully to strategic objectives at all times.
  • Minimum viable bureaucracy.

If you’re not doing these five things, he argued, then you’re not agile.

Towards the end of his talk he advocated for what he called scientific engineering (learning work) and argued that this more than lean and agile (knowledge work) would bring about the most effective and productive change.

This aligns with another talk I attended recently in Perth at the Scottish Programme and Project Management Group conference, where one of the speakers encouraged all the project managers and business analysts in the room to start to get familiar with big data and data analysis. It’s what the most valuable companies in the world are doing—Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook. They are using data (massive amounts of data) to design and refine their products.

I walked away from last night’s meetup feeling encouraged and more animated. It has certainly given me a lot to consider, a couple more tools under my belt, and a little more clarity about the direction I want to take my career.

Thanks Lean Agile Edinburgh.