Month: March 2014

I have a dream, of dentists and complaints

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So, my partner is a dental hygienist, and as such finds it necessary to nag me about my teeth constantly.

Now, granted, I haven’t been to a dentist in over ten years so i probably should do. Anyway, she booked me an appointment to go within a month.

And here’s the dream I had last night

I’m in the dentist chair being examined, I later see the dentist giving my partner a list of complaints.

So angry am I in my dream that my patient confidentiality has been broken that I file a complaint against the dentist and my partner.

Then I wake up. I hope it’s not a vision of the future…

Life, my time with tesco and a little nostalgic trip

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So, tonight I was in my new local tesco express and asked the cashier to top up my gift card (this is an ingenious way we realised to budget our finances, we top up £50 a month to buy milk, bread and last minute essentials, that way we don’t had niggly little transactions on our bank statements and we also get double points for our shopping) but she didn’t know how.
Now, that’s not overly surprising, I know just how well trained tesco express wage budgets allow their staff to be.
Anyway, she rang the bell for help (a doorbell, it’s always a doorbell) and the girl who came to help was a more experienced colleague. I don’t mean this in an age sense, in fact the cavalry could well have been the cashiers daughter, but experienced in express work (not that the cashier was inexperienced, but she’s been working in dotcom for a few years and it’s a completely different animal from superstore to express). This girl didn’t know either, no problem here comes the team leader. This is where the problem arise, tesco team leaders in express are one of three things

A really good worker, with lots of management potential, who is on the first steps of the career ladder.
A really hard worker who gets the job done through sweat and blood, making them team leader gives them an incentive to stay (because hard workers leave far too often)
Someone who’s applied at the right time, or played the political game, or transferred in from a supermarket and hasn’t worked out the change in role just yet.

I don’t want to make assumptions about the team leader who arrived to help top up the card, as that would be unfair, but he didn’t know the answer, and didn’t have the faintest clue how to find out (phone another store, check training materials, phone customer services, read the back of the card, advise me to go online and do it), unfortunately what he had was “sorry I don’t know.”
It’s not a problem, it’s isn’t a huge deal, I can do it another time, however, it got me thinking about my time with tesco and what kind of worker I was.
So I actually started my tesco career with one stop, it was the only shop in the village and I was too old for a paper round, so I started off with a mighty £2.60 till monkey job. I’d never used a till before, but when the new boss said to me, we’re short tonight you can start at 6 (yes, 6pm on a Saturday night) I figured I’d work it out quickly enough. I was sort of right, and it set me up perfectly for the next few years of retail work. I arrived at 530 (keen to impress, it was £2.60 an hour after all) and the boss immediately handed me off to her daughter (who actually wasn’t employed there) and left. I was then plonked at the till and left alone until 930 when my till was cashed up. You’d guess from that, that I coped. And you’d be right, I did cope, but only through a massive amount of trial, error and swearing. The till wasn’t actually a till, it was a computer. Now, all tills are computers, but all the ones Iv used since at least have a till themed keyboard, not this one, it was a keyboard, your standard QWERTY keyboard. To be fair, there were one or two dirty old labels that probably once had functions written on them. But I coped, i worked it out.
At 930 the boss returned from wherever she’d been to cash up my till (yes alcohol sales were being completed by a minor, since it was that or not serve anyone), my till was perfect, the boss was surprised (not a good sign really) and I went home. Over the next few weeks I explored this ’till’ system and worked out all the systems. I then became a supervisor, because I was type 2 on my list. Strictly speaking, one stop is a whole other list, but I won’t go into that now. Anyway, at 17 I was the only supervisor in the country to need an over 18 working with me to authorise my alcohol sales. Didn’t happen, not often anyway, but I worked my way around that on the till too.
I was on the brink of leaving one stop (funnily enough the only thing keeping me there was the mega payrise I’d got as a supervisor) when tesco bought the one stop stores and earmarked ours as an express.
So I hung around, tesco changed us over and I stayed, with another payrise and a promise of team leader training. For six months I put up with more till monkeying, whilst also watching and learning every aspect of the job. If my time at one stop taught me anything it was that nobody knows everything, so make sure you do, knowledge truly is power.
At this point, I was fed up, I gave my notice and was ready to go. Good timing kicked in and a team leader was dismissed for stealing flowers (yes really, that happened) and I was begged to stay. At this point I was a solid number 2 on the list, I worked hard, i took whatever crap was given, whichever shifts were available and I knew the job inside out.
I then did the same thing I had been doing for six months, whilst also working on my politics and staff interactions, so that when a new manager came in I would be quickly earmarked as management potential. Someone came in alright, a traditional number 3 on the list who’d pushed a little higher up the chain. She happened to be sleeping with another manager and had some power over the regional (this isn’t speculation or accusation, she a year later had that managers son, and to my knowledge his wife still doesn’t know). Unfortunately she also disliked the previous manager who’d told her how good I was, and she took an instant dislike. Through random coincidence, and her social skills within a month we were advertising four new staff positions, of the applicants I saw, she picked the four worst (the tesco application process was always ridiculous, it probably still is), surprise surprise the shop suffered, sales dropped, theft increased, waste increased, till discrepancies rose. Someone had to be the scapegoat and somehow it was me, which was a really unfortunate thing, because when investigations were made it just happened that my shifts were the ones with the least impact. Nothing stuck, and a new manager came in.

By this point, I was fairly jaded and fed up, but a miracle had happened, the new manager was a former manager of this exact shop, except that she had been a manager of this exact shop when this exact shop was a one stop. I hadn’t worked for her before, but I’m convinced even today it was her that gave me my application form initially. She recognised my ‘training’ and experience and all of a sudden I was the go to guy, the getting it done guy, probably a mix of 2/3 with enough of 1 to not be seen as an upstart by the management teams. All of a sudden I was in stores all over the place doing what had to be done. Then she was moved on to open a new store in a place called lilliput (not gullivers lilliput, the real lilliput) and she wanted me to go with her. 6 weeks later, after an exhausting political game with the oncoming outgoing managers and fights over who had me when we opened the new store and I was firmly in place as a trainee duty manager.

A year later this manager was moved on again, but the timing was poor, both duty managers and the stock controller left at the same time, meaning with the manager also moving some continuity had to remain, that continuity was me. I had to remain, so I did. The new manager was ok, there was nothing to dislike about him and he was happy with the job I did, but I soon got itchy feet and made the decision that actually I didn’t want to reach his age and be doing basically the same job, so i moved from store to store for six months at the behest of the regional manager, who was keen for me to stay around, before leaving the company completely to move to Cardiff for university.

Well, strictly speaking I applied for a transfer to a Cardiff store, I was offered a three hour shift on alternating Sundays at a store 90 minutes walk away. Surprisingly enough I didn’t accept.

This blogs covered a lot of the more physical employment and reality of working for tesco, but it’s quite long already, I’ll give more depth on the personal relationships and developments in the future, as well as an interesting whodunit of the armed robbery, in the future.

Oh, and I became a one.

Being a dad, a follow up to feeling bad

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So, the guilt is still there, here is my attempt at assuaging it.

A few weeks ago a friend asked about the realities of parenthood, this is a copy of what I said

So imagine those times in Cardiff where nobodies slept in days but someone’s so energised about going out that it happens, then the next night, similar scenario, someone’s excited about something so you go out, and so on and so on. Imagine that for 18 months, pretty much starting from the terrifying point the vagina evacuates itself from the body (we were shown a childbirth video in school and I can tell you they spared us the details, it’s more like a cow pooing).
But every time the child does something new, different, dangerous, geeky, you get your second, third, fourth wind and it’s all worth it

Yes, sometimes you just want a break, but it’s perfect, it really is.

Being a dad; feeling like a bad dad when I just need a break

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So, I try my best to be a good dad. I’m of the opinion that you can’t be a perfect parent, but you should be a good parent. It’s take a lot of effort and energy but really it shouldn’t be too hard.

But sometimes I feel like a bad dad, and it’s those times when I just want to escape the kids for a few minutes and not have them in my ear. Sometimes it’s just a few minutes piece to have poo without having to also see the eldests latest ‘art’ or a bit longer to clear my head by organising something without having a snotty nose pushed into my face.

Now, I should be clear, I couldn’t be happier to have my kids, they are the two most important things to me in the world and I wouldn’t ever want them to not be there.

In fact, a little bit of history here. The eldest isn’t my daughter, she’s my partners daughter from a previous marriage (we aren’t married, not happening). She was three when we met, she’s now approaching 6 and it’s amazing the change that’s happened over the three ish years Iv been on the scene. Her real dad lives a distance away and there was always a scheduled Sunday morning skype session in place, however, he didn’t always make it. To give him the benefit of the doubt he works some sundays so maybe couldn’t always make it, but over time the frequency of these misses increased, to the point that we have now gone approaching a year with him not seeing or speaking to her. Over this time Iv gone from being named, to daddy name, to daddy indoors, to daddy around people she knows, to now, when I am daddy. I haven’t been named in months. This probably is partly down to her needing a father figure, but also the boy. He’s now 18 months and the various da’s dadda’s and daddeeeeee’s probably rub off a little bit.

In my mind, anyone can be a father, it takes a man to be a dad. It takes a tiny effort to be a good dad. When it comes to biological father or natural dad I think I win hands down.

But back on topic, it’s a really tough thing when I do want a break, because I do want their attention and I want them to want mine, but sometimes i just need an escape. Giving up work has been good, lots of stress has been lifted and I’m able to support my partner, but being exposed to the children all day everyday completely fries you. It’s the guilt it causes that’s hardest, I couldn’t imagine myself ever saying no to my partner when she asks if I’d mind looking after the kids whilst she goes out, but in reality sometimes I just want to say NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!! Because I just want to escape for a while. Just the other day, she came home from work after a day of me minding both kids, the first thing she did was go back out to go shopping. Now, I can understand after a day of work not wanting to jump straight in, but after my own day I desperately needed to get out for a bit. I don’t really get stir crazy, but when I’m locked into those moments with two children it’s a completely different matter.

Again, the guilts kicking in and I feel bad even writing this on a blog nobody will every read, and I feel obliged to reiterate that I would change NOTHING, but I do need to find a release mechanism somehow, because the summer holidays are getting closer day by day

Life, questions that start “do you want…”

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So, this ones about my partner, i realised I haven’t really talked about her, and I do keep meaning to post up about whats happened to her and how it’s affected us. But this ones I suppose a tongue in cheek criticism of her.
Now i love her, but most of what she does frustrates me. To be fair, most of what I do frustrates her, but that’s mostly intentional.

So here goes.

I can’t stand questions that start with “do you want…” Because they are either unnecessary or arent actually a question at all. “Do you want a bacon sandwich?” “Do you want lentil soup?” Are prime examples of unnecessary, clearly I do want a bacon sandwich, and clearly I don’t want lentils at all. I will however have bacon soup, thanks.
The second form, the ‘not a question at all’ format is different, it is always an order, sometimes firm, sometimes more general. “Do you want to sweep the floor?” Well no, no I don’t. What it actually translates as is “will you sweep the floor?” Or more likely not a question at all, “sweep the floor.” The less firm, comes as something like “do you want me to go put the boys dummy back in?” Which could easily translate again as “go put the boys dummy back in.” But in reality does indeed remain a question, “do you want me to go put the boys dummy back in.” With the solid implication that whilst it would be fine to say “yes please” you’ll likely suffer for it.
Again, the question doesn’t need to be asked, if you think the boy needs his dummy back them go do it, if you would like me to put the boys dummy back tell me, or preferably ask me, but don’t say “do you want to go put the boys dummy back in?” Or “do you want me to of put the boys dummy back in?”

My partner uses lots of “do you want…” Questioning in her dialogue with me, and it’s an annoyance. I respond with annoyance in kind, “do you want to wash up?” “No, I’m ok thank you.” “Fucker”

A blog for missed opportunities

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So, we all have some regrets, some missed opportunities, be it a job interview you just didn’t get, or not telling that girl you liked her just before you slipped into the friend zone, but there’s one thing in my past that highlights missed opportunities, the roaring lion head.

I lived in Cardiff for 5 years. Three of those living on the same street, another six months regularly frequenting the same street. On one of my first strolls along the street to this street, I noticed a spilt paint mark on the street. What caught my eye was that the circle where the tin had clearly been when the paint sploshed created a ‘mouth’ for the lions head shape of the splash. This looked exactly like a roaring lion, enough that if it weren’t for the position on huge street I’d have assumed it to be intentional.
My immediate thought was, that’s cool, I have to take a photo, so I remembered. Every single day when I passed it by- often multiple times- I thought ‘I must bring my camera’ (because a camera phone wouldn’t have done it justice). Towards the end of my time on the street, there were roadworks happening nearby and I remembered again about this lion head, I knew I didn’t have long before I was unlikely to be up that way again, and I had an inkling the roadworks may disrupt the image.
I was right, one day I came by and an ugly streak of black Tarmac had been laid right through the centre of my lion (I assume he’d been dug up too) leaving the hint of a mouth and a bit of flowing mane.

I was upset, it was something so insignificant, but it was also something that was a regular appearance in my time in Cardiff.
I never took the photo, and I will never see that picture again, but hopefully it’s given me an urgency to get things done when they need done.

Projects and computer games

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So, I haven’t properly talked about my future project yet, this mostly being because without internet, I can’t upload pictures, so despite finding the solution to storing posts, the lack of pictures is a pain.
However, linked to projects, but not exactly a project is the computer games I’m currently playing. Now. I don’t really play computer games, I don’t get excited about them because the time investment just isn’t an option to me, but some games I do play a bit

The best game ever is easily final fantasy 7, i regrettably never completed it, but I did progress a long way in a long game, I haven’t played it in about 15 years, but it’s amazing, truly a masterpiece in gaming, and storytelling.
Another game that I really love is Pokemon, over the years Iv had Pokemon Blue (148 Pokemon my best, I just needed electabuzz and Taurus, and it never happened), gold and silver, and some of the later ones too. I loved them, despite the grinding that needed done to complete it, it was always satisfying. My ace team was Bulbasaur (I never let him evolve), Butterfree, Alakazam, Gyarados, Cloyster and then a space for whichever Pokemon I was trying to level up, though is always make sure I had a decent Muk, Kingler and Rapidash ready for emergencies. With the later games the team would change up a little, but only to increase my selection. I lost interest when the numbers became too much, currently there are 700 ish Pokemon, it’s too many, especially as so many of them don’t make sense even in the simplified world of pocket monsters. I would, however, definitely buy a game if you were to start in Pallet Town with Bulbasaur, Squirtle or Charmander, complete the adventure then be able to access Johto and all the future lands. I’d be happy with restrictions, ie, you can only take one pokemon from kanto to Johto then you get another starter (cyndaquil, chikorita and totodile), and so on and so on. The one other requirement would be that ALL pokemon can be caught/acquired within the game. Whilst I appreciate the benefits of social gaming, getting hold of rare pokemon isn’t easy, especially the ones which only exist once in the game such as the starters, and the ones that you get to make a choice, losing out on the other.

Currently, I have no consoles, unless you count the Mega Drive sat in a box somewhere in the house, if it ever gets set up its a much closer approximation of my attention span for a computer game, you can complete Sonic in half an hour, also there’s no save function so you don’t develop that constant need to return.

My ipad gives me access to an infinite array of games, most very similar, most burning out very quickly. These are normally running games, or puzzles, or basic farming that grip me due to in game achievements but soon lose my interest. One of the games that has had me hooked is The Simpsons Tapped Out, essentially Homer blows up Springfield and you have to rebuild. It’s a good nostalgic trip back, to when the Simpsons was funny, and the regular content updates keep it interesting. However, it’s become unwieldy, there are now 80 or more characters running around that all need given tasks to complete, so it becomes a major chore. Also the increasing amount of premium items (and their increasing costs so you can’t easily store up the free doughnuts) are leaving me without too much released content, especially as it’s often a limited time availability. I suspect the game is coming to an end, though i thought that about the Simpsons show ten or more years ago.
Another game that’s getting my attention at the moment is DC heros, injustice. I don’t really like DC, the major heros I know are Superman (no real weaknesses, too many powers) and Batman (just a rich guy with daddy issues). The universe isnt one that’s ever grabbed me, but I’m enjoying it. I think it’s the ability to mix and match the minor characters i do know about to make your own tea,. Having said that, my current main team are the Flash, Wonder Woman and Solomon Grundy. I did previously have a team consisting of Catwoman, Harley Quinn and Green Arrow though, so it’s ok. And I must confess to having an unexplained crush on Harley Quinn.
The other game that’s currently interesting me is Sid Meiers Ace Patrol. It’s a world war 2 themed flying game giving you control of a small squadron. The movement mechanics are good and the flights run in a seemingly authentic way. I haven’t quite mastered pilot development yet though as I keep pumping skills into my main pilot, so when full squadron missions come up everything rests on them. But the maneuvers are strikingly similar to Xwing so it’s good practice, maybe.

That’s it, no other games are really grabbing me at the moment, I’ll keep you updated of any others that pop up

A little unpacking gem

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So, we’ve been unpacking this week, it’s going well, most of the boxes are empty and the rest will likely be done within a month or so.

One of the best things about this house is a back extension which gives us a room to utilise as a playroom for the kids. A playroom may sound indulgent, but it had several benefits

all the toys are in one place, this means no mess or clutter beyond the usual grown up things. NOTE, this doesn’t stop foot + lego incidents throughout the house.
The kids can be kindly shut in one place without being able to bother you, this allows for a quick cup of tea to recharge and catch a breath.
When you put the kids out of the way,shopping deliveries, cleaning etc, they have toys to distract them and don’t need to investigate the precise thing you need to get done without their input.
It creates a psychological barrier, this is the room to be noisy and messy in, the rest of the house is functional and for behaving NOTE still working on this one.

But today myself and the boy were unpacking the toys into the playroom (having toys means the benefits actually exist and it isn’t just a prison) and we found a box of toy cars. Old toy cars, cars that I had when I was a boy, that weren’t close to new then. Now, the boy loves cars, it’s one of his main words at the moment, but he was completely overcome by this excess of cars infront of him.

Every single car was removed from the box, the boy shouted “car” and threw them to the ground. What followed was ten minutes of “car” bang “car” bang “car” bang.

Luckily I love him (you might even say like a son) so the pounding headache and likely dents in my cars are entirely forgivable

Thoughts on moving house

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So, I’ve now moved from a creepy small town to a pleasant seeming small village. The moving process was somewhat complicated by the removal man breaking his leg, but we overcame ridiculous prices to get sorted.
It’s strange, Iv moved house a fair few times in the last five or six years, but this one feels different, probably because it’s the first move that hasn’t on the face of it been for my needs.
I moved to uni, a car load of essentials followed by easily another car load a month or so later. This was carrying essentials (sort of) for a fresh start in a big city after years of suffering small village life (yes I know, I’ll get to the differences). At the end of that year I shifted it all back ‘home’ for the summer before reshifting it again at the end of the year. Similarly at the end of the year it all came back to then return.
At this point the pointlessness became apparent so it was room changes in student halls for two years, a much easier shift. With uni over I moved in with some friends in a house, this was more complex due to the decision to hire a pulling truck thing, which, whilst easy, made us look like Romanian refugees travelling through the city.

My life changed significantly from this point after I met my current partner and she got pregnant, when my tenancy ended I moved into her flat, removing any semblance of space or comfort from her home with my seemingly endless collection of toys. The next move was again for my needs as we moved to the aforementioned weird small town for my work. She came willingly, but I doubt it was on a list of her desirable locations.

And so we come to this move, this was the first one that was not for me, I didn’t need to move,I had what I needed, but for my partner this was different, partly it’s down to the excessive driving required of her to work in her job, but mostly I think it’s that to her a ‘home’ has to be something she is invested in (not necessarily financially). Where she lived during university was home because it was close to her university and so she was invested with a purpose, in the creepy town she was there because it was the best house we could find to live in whilst I worked in the town. This ones different, not only is it near her work so she isn’t exhausting herself, but it’s near her friends, she likes the area, the move was for her more than anyone, and so the emotional investment she needs is in place the financial isn’t far behind, she’s spent a fortune on ‘necessities’ like spice racks, spare colanders, garden equipment etc. But she’s happy, and that gives me the emotional attachment to the house that I don’t necessarily have, fortunately, we’re different and I don’t need the attachment, but it’s naturally a nice boost.

As it happens the house is nice, the doorframes and beams are low, so I keep bashing, and there isn’t a single wall that’s straight, and the weird dip in the bedroom floor which coincides exactly with the weird bulge in the living room (it’s coming through one day, I’m certain) but it’s nice, there’s character, and the neighbours, whilst just genial are at least friendly, as are the parents at the school. Plus they don’t all have the same dress code (Iv seen enough skin tight leopard print leggings to last me a lifetime).

More on the house will probably come in the future

X wing first rebel squadron

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So, I’m a bit ahead of myself (I haven’t properly talked about the contents of any of the expansions yet, but I couldn’t help myself and put together a 100 point rebel squadron.
Without having played a game yet I can’t be sure it’s even remotely fly able, but I have tried to combine a few abilities and get some strong combinations together, plus Iv used a variety of ships to keep it entertaining. The big advantage of this is I can play around and look for my the best options to suit my tastes and playstyle.

To start with I knew I had to use an Xwing, it’s the most iconic ship of the game (and films- not counting the Death Star) so not using one in my initial list would seem like blasphemy. Looking at the pilots. Luke and Wedge look good, but are fairly points heavy (I discovered very quickly it’s easy to stack up the points on one big ship), so instead went with Biggs. Biggs Darklighter looks to be a fairly solid pilot for a beginner as his ability essentially allows you to sacrifice him to protect your other more strategically vital ships. Due to this ability i used him naked (I was tempted to give him a stealth device modification to make him harder to shoot, but needed the points later in the list).
Next up I knew I needed a Bwing, these are my favourite of the rebel starfighters so I had to take at least one. Handily they are also a really solid starfighter, with high shield and hull point values. The pilot i went for was Ibtisam, who gives rerolls when attacking if you are stressed (due to the lower agility of the ship being stressed seems fairly likely). As this is likely to be my big hitter it was important I get the upgrades right, first up is an ion cannon. When reading the expanded universe Star Wars books it’s always the ion cannons that interested me, no solid damage as such, but they disable the target ship, allowing for the next weapons to hit harder. I also gave Ibtisam the elite pilot upgrade swarm tactics, to give another ship a boosted pilot skill.
Third, a ship I don’t know much about, the HWK-290. When I saw this expansion i was completely stumped, I didn’t know it and it was ugly, but it’s really grown on me (the best Star Wars ships are those that don’t follow a symmetry; case in point the Millenium Falcon). The HWK, or Hawk, is more of a support ship, boosting the abilities of the ships around it, so I went with Roark Garnet, who makes a nearby ship pilot skill 12. The plan is to give the boost to Ibtisam, who can then use his Swarm Tactics upgrade to boost another ship to 12, meaning I get to shoot first; before even Han (who did, indeed, shoot first).
Finally, I’m left with 18 points to spend, so there won’t be any big names or famous ships in there, I instead went with a starfighter that has always intrigued me, the Awing. Known to be fast and maneuverable at the expense of resilience it’s potentially very good, if flown by a decent pilot. I don’t have the points for a decent pilot (though strictly speaking to fly an Awing you have to be) so I went for a Prototype Pilot. Pilot skill 1 is the worst you can get, so I suspect the Hawk and Bwing will be boosting it to 12 at every opportunity. This one has no upgrades, leaving me at 99 points. The temptation to go back and put an astromech into Biggs’ Xwing is just about beaten by the internet wisdom of gaining initiative,

Next up will be an imperial squad.

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So, there we go, my first rebel squad. It hinges on everything flying in a tight formation to get the spread of abilities, so should be a good challenge to master. A couple of games when I get the opportunity should give ample insight to iron out kinks or scrap it altogether.
I suspect the Hawk and Bwing will be key to any evolution of this list, as well as future expansions (z95 swarms) but we’ll see