DnDF17: The adventure so far

Last week, on DnDF17 (some artistic liberties have been taken)

The weary members of Bacon Ipsum wound through the streets of Moscone. They were silent, all of them thinking only of the destination and what would await them there – the best coffee in Forcelandia and payment for their efforts defeating what may or may not have been a dragon. What was definitely not a dragon. What had definitely been someone with too much time on their hands. Either way, the team would be paid through the Trailhead Expeditionary Forces.

The Apex palace loomed before them, the Master of Coffee nestled within its walls, when Kriv, the surly and aloof wizard heard his name being called. The rest of the team paused, waiting for their companion to complete his transaction, all of them on edge at the rough tones of the conversation. Brunhilde, the dwarf better known as Trailblazer, watched and waited, ready to jump in and pull the wizard out of a scuffle.

“Oh, hey, guys,” Datatello suddenly began at her side, pulling her attention away from hearing what words were being exchanged, “I just remembered! Remember those crystal shards that we found in that basement a long time ago?”

Kriv and Brunhilde remembered, of course, having been part of their first adventure. Bakaryu and Flash both nodded politely, not wanting to correct the half-orc. After all, they had all traveled long enough, it was easy to forget who was where and for what.

“I sold them!”

Kriv straightened under his robe, hearing the words sold, as he approached the group once more.

“I found a buyer at the Wizard School, and this guy bought them for 600 gold!”

“600 gold?” Kriv began.

“Yeah! I gave it to a children’s hospital,” Datatello beamed.

Kriv shriveled within his cowl, “You gave it away?”

“Not all of it,” the half-orc continued, producing pouches from his bag and handing them out, “here’s what’s was left.”

The party entered Master of Coffee, placing orders and taking their respective places at a table large enough to seat them all.

“We should check in,” Kriv muttered, waving for Bakaryu to follow. It was best that others be with him when dealing with their handler, and the noble paladin was a good choice, despite her looming presence and scaled visage.

Their handler sat in the back, clothed in all black, peering at them from behind half-moon spectacles, “Yes?”

“We’re checking in,” Kriv spat, his mood only darkening after the exchange he shared with his supplier, Quick. His problem was becoming increasingly expensive, and he just wanted to take on the next job. And the next. However many it took.

“I suppose you have evidence, then?”

Something like a growl left the wizard, as he turned and stalked back toward his dwarf companion, who was staring into the steaming mug in front of her and watching Datatello request other patrons join him in a game of darts. She had offered, but experience had proven that her height put her at somewhat of a disadvantage for the monk’s preferred play style, specifically another player throwing a dart at his face, so he could deflect it.

He was, perhaps unsurprisingly, very good at the game.

“Do we have any evidence from the last job?”

“Dragon scales,” she leveled at Kriv, taking a sip.

The words sparked the memory of their dragon born compatriot, who smiled widely – probably smiled; the teeth made it difficult to tell – and presented a bag, “Oh yes! The dragon scales.”

Satisfied, their handler nodded, “500 gold then.”

Brunhilde saw Kriv’s jaw clench, “500? Fine. Well what’s the next job?”

“There is not one.”

Apparently things were quiet. Too quiet. They would swiftly become much louder, if Kriv had nothing to occupy himself with. Trailblazer prepared to talk him from the ledge, shove something free in front of him and distract him, but the planning was unnecessary, as just at that moment, the door opened, and the loud thumping of heavy boots rang through the air.

The coffee tavern, as a whole, turned to watch a group of angry dwarves step inside. They were known to Brunhilde, the one at the fore a known rabble rouser, and to her surprise, a usually friendly Skuid vendor from the markets. Friendly or no, it was clear this group was looking for trouble.

The friendly monk approached, hoping to calm whatever had the dwarves so angry, “Hello there! Can I offer you a beverage?”

“Ale,” the leader growled at Master Coffee.

Master Coffee smiled calmly, “I’m afraid we don’t sell ale here.”

“What kind of tavern is this?”

Datatello watched the exchange, clearly uncomfortable with the tone. Kriv, too, saw the tension rising.

“Datatello, ask me for ale.”

The half-orc tilted his head, “I don’t need it. They’re-”

“Just ask me for ale. Tell me you need ale. Ask me for ale!”

Unsure what the wizard was on about, but not wishing to disappoint, he complied, “Kriv, can I get some ale?”

The wizard reached into his robe, digging around for a moment, before pulling out a smallish barrel and showing it to the dwarves, as well as the proprietor, “Here. Ale. Please open the barrel.”

Master Coffee didn’t seem pleased with the idea, but he agreed. Kriv placed the barrel on the counter and stepped away, just before an axe whizzed through the air and shattered the wooden cask.

Moving on instinct, Kriv raised his hand, fire springing from his palm to shoot directly at the dwarf who had thrown the axe. The smell of burnt dwarven beard followed, as well the angry shout of alarm and the sound of many heavy weapons being drawn from their scabbards and holsters.

It was enough for Datatello. The half-orc pulled his bo-staff free, swiping high and then low against the dwarf just in front of him before moving beyond him to stun the second armed intruder. He was caught on the calf with a blade but elected to ignore it, the cut barely registering, as he left open-handed strikes on his attacker.

There was a brief pause, as Bakaryu stood, looking down at the dwarves, “Listen, friends, let’s not be short sighted here. I understand that tempers may be short, but fighting is only a short-term solution. I’m sure there’s a way to short – oh, no, sort – this out, so that everyone gets what they want, and we can all go our separate ways shortly.”

Flash, their silent thief, ducked into the shadows, hoping to remain unseen until he could strike.

Brunhilde blinked at the calm, reassuring dragon born, wincing with each passing moment. Other dwarves, who had been ducked behind tables to avoid being caught in the fray, stood to level shocked glares at the paladin.

Before the angry, at least no longer flaming, leader could roar and charge at her companion, Brunhilde slid her longbow around and lifted it, tilted to ensure she could use it, and took aim. The arrow soared through the air and struck its intended target – the thick rope holding onto a strange contraption, unique to this establishment, with wooden blades than spun lazily through the air. The rope snapped, and the heavy instrument fell, knocking into the dwarf’s shoulder and sending him to the ground, though it did not knock him out.

That was a mistake.

The dwarf stared at her, recognition sparked, and he bellowed toward the door, “SHE’S HERE!”

The spectacle served as enough of a distraction, though. Flash leapt from the shadows, his sights on the dwarf who was still stunned by Datatello’s flurry of blows. It was all he needed, taking two swipes, enough that the dwarf staggered away.

Ignoring his companion in need, the dwarf who had just yelled sprinted, or at least lunged forward. Brunhilde watched as the attacker, and her past, rushed to greet her. He didn’t make it to her, though, instead tripping. Her relief was short-lived, as behind came another attacker, this one wielding two axes, both of which came down swiftly and lodged deep in her chest.

She grunted, unable to pull away, then staggered when the dwarf ripped the blades back out. Pain blossomed, and she at first thought the shaking of the wooden planks beneath her were her imagination until she saw the hulking form coming through the doorway.

All patrons stopped and stared at the dwarf entering the coffee tavern, if one could still call this creature a dwarf. Parts of his body had been covered in ore, as if he had been dipped in molten metal and left to cool, or something blew up and fused to his skin. He turned to Trailblazer, “Traitors die a terrible death,” he rumbled.

Never one to standby, when the shock wore off, Datatello sprung into action, launching his magical rolling board at one of the stocky attackers who had hurt his friend. It did little to deter their enemy, but it was of little concern. He swung back with his hand, feeling the distinct crunch of crushing bone under his palm, followed by the sound of someone gasping for breath.

“Someone throw me an alley-oop!” the monk shouted.

For a breath, nothing happened. Then the half-orc, Sodak, popped out from a table, tossing a dart. Datatello spun, kicking the dart furiously. It turned and sped toward the new-comer, only to ping uselessly against the metal coating on his skin.

Bakaryu rushed past the remaining combatants, ignoring the dwarf that ran into her, only to bounce off again with a grimace. She inhaled deeply, rearing back, then opened her mouth again, a purple and blue cloud of writhing electricity spitting out at the intruder. The tendrils wrapped around him, sparking to life, then fizzling out. He choked for a moment, enough time for her to hurl a nearby table. He stood and shook off the energy in time to watch the table soar overhead and crash through the window behind him.

He ignored both attackers, his focus still intent on Brunhilde, as he took floor-rattling steps toward her.

“You are a disgrace to your kind,” he spat, “First you took the dishonorable path of a role not meant for you. Then you abandoned that path for an even less honorable path.

THUMP. THUMP.

“And now you sit in a tavern that does not even serve ale!”

THUMP. THUMP.

“You have usurped your rightful place.”

THUMP. THUMP.

“You are a crime with your very existence.”

THUMP. THUMP.

As he approached, the remains of his face became clear, and Trailblazer realized who this dwarf was, why he was angry, rambling and intent on destroying her. Eric the Unready.

Maybe it was the pain or the blood loss, but all she could think to say was, “Eric, hey. How are you?”

He blinked at her, “I – what?”

It was enough time for her to take action. She kicked Datatello’s magical rolling board at him, as he took a step, hoping to trip him. His foot landed on the wooden board, and as he brought up his other foot, he lost his forward momentum, though not his balance. Brunhilde watched, as he rolled slowly back away from her, his low center of gravity keeping him upright, but the momentum of the board enough to carry him at least a few feet away.

Sodak, still peeking out from behind the table, stuck out a leg.

Eric toppled onto his back with a roar, and Trailblazer, eyes narrowed, swung out with her short sword at the closest thing still nearby, the dwarf who had nearly cleaved her. He grabbed at his throat and fell away.

Seeing his opportunity, Flash narrowed his eyes at the monstrosity on the floor. The metal and stone had him still prone, rolling in an effort to stand. Before he could, Flash moved with the speed he had been nicknamed for, trusty daggers in hand.

As the dwarf stood, Flash dropped, sliding past him on the floor to dig one biting dagger into the behemoth’s back.

Eric the Unready roared and swung back with his left arm. Flash ducked, leaning back and then lunging with his remaining blade, sliding it under the dwarf’s arm to lodge firmly in his chest. Eric stumbled back, gurgled, and then fell to the floor, unmoving.

The remaining dwarves took their cue, rushing out of the tavern.

Through the open door, they all saw it. Smoke and flames.

Moscone was burning.

It’s that time again!

Last year I did a thing to help raise money for ExtraLife, and I introduced the world to Brunhilda Battlehammer, AKA Trailblazer, AKA my dwarf ranger character for DnDF16.

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THIS dwarf ranger

I have news for you all…

SHE IS BACK WITH A VENGEANCE! And by vengeance, I simply mean that I will be reprising this role for DnDF17!

Shame on me, late to the party and such, but if you’re curious/interested/want to watch me and some of my Salesforce friends do this thing…it starts TONIGHT at 9pm EST!

Details here: https://cloudforcecollective.com/dndf17/

And, perhaps most importantly, why are we doing this? Yes, it’s fun. Yes, it’s an excuse to hang out virtually with some of my favorite people. But it’s also a really important thing we’re doing. This is part of the ExtraLife fundraising initiative, a nonprofit that allows gamers (like me) to give back to something that matters.

Here’s why we’re participating: https://cloudforcecollective.com/2017/10/16/ddf17-why/

Achievement Unlocked

So…I’m an MVP now.

I’ve stared at this blank screen for I don’t know how long trying to determine the best way to start this post. I’ve wanted to post since last week. I want to express my gratitude, my disbelief. But all I can keep thinking is “so…I’m an MVP now?” Thank you 4 years of college for a writing degree.

Of course me being me, getting the email notification that I’d been nominated and subsequently selected caused *introspection* to the nth degree.

I moved to Michigan in 2012. 5 years ago when I moved here, I was leaving TFA with no plans of continuing as a teacher. I had background as a candy maker, a 9-1-1 dispatcher, a risk and safety specialist, and a writing degree. I knew no one here. My first job was at Michael’s, making minimum wage and getting up at 4am to unload trucks.

Then came Geek Squad.

Then came Lean and learning all of the things about OTR logistics.

And then came Salesforce.

Like so many before me have experienced, it was a footnote in a job description. After 6 months, I was certified, and after a year, I was starting the West Michigan Women in Tech group.

It’s not like I consciously thought about this. It was a one-thing-led-to-another situation. I found that I enjoyed my work, and I wanted to share what I learned. I met some really great people, so I wanted to offer a place for others to do the same. I saw a vacuum, and I attempted to fill it. Objects in motion will stay in motion, and so forward it has been since then.

To know that what I’ve done has had an impact? It is humbling and rewarding.

The title is cool. I’ve never been most valuable anything, so this is all very new to me. I’ve been struggling with how best to capture all of it. It is overwhelming in the best possible way.

All I can really say is thank you. To everyone. For creating a space where I can contribute, a place that is welcoming to everyone, a career path that I don’t think many of us saw coming. What a welcome surprise Salesforce has been in my life.

I will endeavor to continue doing what I’ve done, offering what I can where I can, in the hopes that it’s helpful or at least entertaining to others out there. And in that way show my gratitude for everything that this platform and this Ohana have given me.

 

 

Ready Admin One

Or what video games have taught me as a Salesforce admin (and consultant).

I realize that this will come as a shock to almost 0% of my audience, but I like to play video games. Mostly long (100 hour plus) RPGs with rich stories, well-developed characters, or at least enough of one to mask the lack of the other.

Growing up I didn’t have a game console. It wasn’t until I was an adult, free to make my own choices and eschew responsibilities as I saw fit, that I really started getting into them. As an avid reader and someone who revels in the feeling of accomplishing a task, they’re kind of perfect. There’s a story, and there are clear steps and tasks presented that have clear success or fail requirements. You know…not at all like real life.

All the same, I’ve been able to apply a lot of things from my hobby to my job. If you’re a fellow gamer, you might recognize some these things, too.

Leveling up can be a grind

I am a trophy hunter. If there is an achievement to be unlocked in a game, I’ll probably go after it. Enter: Skyrim.

One of the last trophies I earned before getting platinum was the silver Master trophy, for reaching Level 50. I had completed the main game with two different characters. I had finished all of the side faction storylines, but I still wasn’t quite there. So I did what any other Skyrim fan has done – I started grinding through low-level abilities to get that sweet XP. I made so many daggers; I cleared so many dungeons. It was boring.

platinum700

But I got the trophy. And I got the platinum.

Twice. (Thank you, Bethesda, for re-releasing it on the PS4.)

If you think that only applies to games, you’ve obviously never gone after multiple Salesforce certifications. Reading and re-reading release notes, help articles, the study guide, blog posts, Trailhead, etc. It takes some serious heads-down time to study for some of the certifications out there, and yeah, it can be really boring. But at then end, you have a brand new certification.

Side quests

It’s Monday morning for the solo admin, and they have their week planned out. Got some Trailhead badges to earn, a new dashboard to build, and a meeting with the steering committee. They have one goal this week: deploy a new custom object and flow, to support a functional group that is adopting Salesforce.

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Except….

A user needs a password reset.

Another user deleted a record but they can’t remember which one, and they need it back.

An executive needs a report of all sales in 2012, for some reason they have deemed unimportant to share.

And on and on and on. Each random task may only take a handful of minutes, but those minutes start to add up, and soon your inbox is full of minor requests that may have a time limit attached to them. At least all experience is good experience, right?

It’s good to recruit companions

dangerousEven non-gamers know this one.

It’s not impossible to finish quests and storylines alone, of course. But misery and joy and struggle…pretty much everything loves company. So why wouldn’t you recruit companions? Especially if they can fill in gaps in your abilities or knowledge.

Most of us already know the importance of the community, so I can pretty much just…leave this here, right? Ohana, my peeps.

Once a completionist…

This is actually a thing (read about the Zeigarnik Effect here). Once a gamer (or an admin) starts on a quest, we have to finish it. Luckily many of these tasks have definitive end-games.

Slay the dragon.

Deploy the change set.

Find the pan.

Build the report.

We obsess over the things we haven’t completed. How many of us have gone to sleep, thinking about data schema, only to wake up with the answer and excitedly go about building what we imagined?

How many of us have to get all the Trailhead badges? (BTW, if you think Trailhead hasn’t taken into account some of what I’m writing about here, you aren’t paying attention.)

And it’s not just video games

Ultimately it comes down to liking the feeling of solving a puzzle. Admins are problem-solvers. We are people that like to get our hands dirty, play with something, and make it work. For me it’s like video games. For some people it’s like puzzles or building things.

We are the people who stay up into the wee hours, searching the community, building and rebuilding our flows, until it is done.

And bonus! Now I can check this particular task off my list.

Skeleton-King-Quest-Complete

Time flies etc.

I have had a few people lately approach me to ask about what it’s like being a consultant. I’m always a little surprised by that because I think “why would they ask me? I haven’t been at it very long.”

I looked at the calendar recently. It’s already almost September. 2017. What the actual…anyway, that means that I’ve been a consultant for over a year now. And being the annoyingly introspective person that I am, that led me to hours and hours of thinking about that question and my answer.

I still don’t feel like I’m the right person to ask. There are still days where I haven’t quite gotten my feet underneath me. The treadmill is still just a tad too fast sometimes, and I stumble. Being human means that I focus a lot on those stumbles and less on the increasing number of successful steps.

Here’s how I’ve been answering that question.

Becoming a consultant is like any other major change in life. Day to day, nothing changes. I get emails from clients – sometimes I know the answer off-hand, and sometimes I have to do some research. I build things in Salesforce, and then I test those things and rebuild them. I provide insight into what the platform can and cannot do, what it can do natively vs. custom, what might be better left to a third party app, etc. I encourage admins to learn, and somewhere in all of that, I manage to occasionally put on a virtual meeting for the West Michigan WIT group.

But then I look back over the past 3 months, and I realize I have learned quite a bit. Over the past 6 months, 9 months…a year. I see things that I did early on that I would do differently now. Not that I was wrong then, but I’d be better prepared for them now.

There are little things, too. I speak more confidently about some things than I used to. I recognize patterns that I hadn’t noticed before. Gradually, I’m getting faster with some things.

Even I keep waiting for something to click. Some obvious and clear sign that says “You are now a Consultant.” But that’s not going to come. My business cards and job description say that. What I do on a daily basis says that.

That’s been the biggest lesson for me. I’ve learned in every job I’ve ever had – that’s what we do. This time it just feels more intangible. I can’t say “I now know how to complete an OSHA 300 and 300A form.” It’s more things like…”I now know that I can use Talend for data transfers and transformations.” But that encompasses so many things, not just a single task or ability.

As one of the least patient people I know, this kind of slow adaptation and realization of what I’ve learned has been both the most difficult and most rewarding part of the transition for me.

I don’t know if that’s the kind of answer people are looking for when they ask. Being a consultant varies depending on where you work, on what kind of team you’re working with. Just like being an admin at one place will be different than being an admin at another. But that’s the best answer I can give.

Regardless I’ve appreciated the questions because they forced me to take that long look and give myself some credit for how far I’ve come. And it’s made me really excited for whatever will come next. What will I know 3 months from now? 6 months, 9 months, a year?

If nothing else, I can safely say that being a consultant is never dull, and that’s probably the most important advice I can offer.

 

Obligatory apology and excuses blog post

That’s right, folks, it’s that time again, where I fish for flimsy excuses about why my (now paid) blog site has lain dormant as Moria for the past…can we say weeks? I’ll feel better if I say weeks.

Right, so let’s get it over with.

I’ve been working. Really, truly, I have. Statistically speaking, it takes about 12 months for someone to become (or at least feel) proficient in a new job. I’m about halfway there! In the meantime, I still forget details, sometimes – little things like checking a box or something. And then bigger things like balancing time or wrapping my head around how long it takes me to do Things. I still don’t always know if something is going to take me an hour or six days…

I’ve been meaning to write. As I was explaining to my Professional Writer father the other day, at any given time I have at least 3 draft posts, and then there are times that I have 7 or 8, all sitting there, wondering if I’ll ever get back to them. At least one of those drafts has been around longer than my new job…so….I’m sure I’ll finish it one of these days.

To be fair, I’ve had a lot going on. After Zoe left us so suddenly, I can safely say that the very last thing I wanted to do was…anything.

The first time you skip or forget something, it’s minor, right? It’s just a hiccup. The problem is that if you then skip a second time, or a third, it starts to snowball. And it snowballs fast. I guess that’s kind of the point of that metaphor, though, right?

Eventually going back seems that much more daunting. What do you mean I have to roll this 2 ton snowball back up the hill? It was so much smaller when it started falling! I’ll just wait for it to thaw a bit.

It doesn’t thaw. Winter has officially arrived.

My point is just that after a while writing a post seemed like an insurmountable challenge. It had been too long. I put in work to provide regular content, and then I let it fall to the side, in order to take on some more pressing things, and coming back to it means facing that gaping chasm in between last post and this post.

I don’t even want to THINK about how many of these posts I’ve made. But whatever. I’m only human. I disappear sometimes. The weight of things gets just a little too heavy, and my response is to tuck myself away.

So maybe this can be my blanket post moving forward? For the next time I need to limp away to lick my wounds and can’t work up the energy to put this kind of stuff into words.

I have some ideas in the works, though…all of the “well at least I’ll think it’s hilarious” variety. But it’s something, at least.

Sweet Baby, Mama Loves You

Sweet baby, mama loves you.

zoeinbow

You came to me, unexpectedly, when I was a junior in college. Working at the pizza place, living with a fellow student who had a kitten, and you were mentioned offhandedly. Someone was moving and couldn’t bring their cat, and did I know anyone interested in a black cat?

Me. I was interested.

“She’s not a lap cat,” they said, handing you over in a metal crate that looked more like a bird or rodent cage than a cat carrier. I put you in the back of my Camry – the same one still in the garage, and I took you home.

You slept on my pillow that night.

zoeonmamabeast

You were not fond of the kitten, but that was ok.

One time you got out of the house, and I ran down the street in a panic, trying to find you. You were hiding on the covered porch, watching my antics, no doubt with amusement.

You moved into that windowless basement apartment with me, despite the dog, and then you moved into my parents’ house with me when I left that place behind.

You flew 3,000 miles to be with me in Seattle, where you met Eric, who I still maintain you love more than me. He denies it. But we both know.

zoeatchurch

You drove almost that same distance to Arkansas, when we moved again. Eric tells the story better than me – you meowed the whole way, non-stop, until the final day. When you arrived, I had a sign on the door “Welcome Home Zoe! (And Eric).”

That was a good apartment for you, with all of the light in the living room and big windows. And the ample room for your favorite pastime: hunting hair ties.

zoeskills

Then you and I drove to Michigan; it was my turn with you in the car, but you didn’t cry nearly as much. So maybe I am your favorite. We drove all the way in one day, and you spent the night learning your way around that old house in Zeeland.

When we bought our house, we had you in mind. I was disappointed that the only windows for you to sit in were in the basement, but we figured we could make it work.

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My right shoulder is sore most of the time because you insisted on perching there like a parrot. Your head – so soft and warm – pressing against my neck. I can’t really be upset about it. What’s a little soreness compared to cute, fluffy black cat on my shoulder? And there was the pawing at my side until I picked you up and put you there.

You were always so small; people thought you were a kitten, even though you had the disposition of an old woman, set in her ways and kind of demanding, but no one says anything.

You were also exceptionally sweet. Most of the time. And only to us. With others, you were standoffish. And there were the times you mangled me. But never Eric. So I guess point for him again.

ericandzoe

This morning you were even smaller, impossibly so. And I don’t know if it was worse seeing you like that or putting away your scratch post this afternoon, so I won’t see it tomorrow and be somewhere between confused and devastated.

It’s unfair, really.

I told you and the universe and anyone who would listen that you were, in fact, immortal. But then, you always got your way.

You are, though. Because here you are – small and sweet and precious and all of those things I would say or sing or whisper to you (and at you, and at Eric about you, until he would make that annoyed face, even as he agreed). The concept of immortality has changed in the digital era because pieces of us, of you, can live on forever. A series of 0’s and 1’s, words translated to digital memory.

It’s all I can give you now.

Sweet baby, mama loves you.

zoeinsun