#393: The Passenger Seat

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Being in the passenger seat is fun. You don’t have to be the one driving, obviously, and it allows you to relax without worrying so much about where the car is going. I thought about this blog post based on a few things: one, my experience watching my friend Alex play Persona 5 the other day, and two, watching my girlfriend Alex doze off in the seat next to me while driving home a few weeks ago. She’s known to doze off in that seat, especially when we’re not listening to anything special. This past drive home, the one from Thanksgiving, featured Alex and I listening to the most recent Death Blart episode, the annual Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 podcast featuring the McElroy brothers. We are in love with the amazing tradition that is Death Blart, and we look forward to it every year without fail.

Being in the passenger seat means also feeling like you control part of the action, though. Alex is good about not directing me what to do while I’m driving, and I’m usually the one driving in these situations, but I’m the kind of person who becomes a backseat driver. It’s not that I like telling people what to do, I just get excited imagining everything going on and want to share it with others. I noticed that while watching my friend Alex play Persona 5; I was being a backseat driver. I kept telling him what strategy to employ, what baddies to beat up and how to beat them. I wasn’t trying to be obnoxious and in your face about it, but afterwards, when all was said and done, I definitely felt like I could’ve held back a bit and realized that the game is about experiencing it, including all the mistakes you make along the way.

#392: The Small Dinner, Part 2

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Shopping like that has become sort of a tradition for us, even though we dislike the holiday of Black Friday and despise how it treats workers. We just like the aesthetic of walking around really busy public spaces and picking up new things there. I like saving money, I like spending money, and I like buying new things that are useful for me.

We weren’t able to stay out for long, though, because Alex had work the next day and Angus needed food. He’d been by himself for awhile and I felt bad for him, especially on a day when I normally would be around to stay with him, considering I have it off for the holiday. Next time, we’ll consider bringing him with us to the family gathering, maybe for Christmas this time. It’s definitely something to think about, but we haven’t committed to it because bringing Angus anywhere is always an adventure. He’s a big lard, and he likes exploring everything, and he likes putting stuff in his mouth that he shouldn’t put there.

(This post has turned into an Angus post, and for that I am sorry. I wasn’t expecting it, honestly!)

But basically, Alex, Bella, and I go shopping on Black Friday and the day before as a way of releasing all that stress. It’s nice to just walk around and see everything, as we don’t usually just wander in places. It feels normal to be able to wander on Black Friday of all days, because even if you don’t plan on buying something, something will likely show up in front of you with a great sale that you just NEED to purchase. I feel that urge in my soul and of course I relent to it, because I’m the kind of person to do that.

#391: The Small Dinner, Part 1

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Not every dinner needs to be an event, but when event dinners come around, I never feel ready for them the way I should be. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I have some random issues related to eating that prevent me from getting all the food I need in my system when I need it. Sometimes that flares up when I’m sitting at the table at Thanksgiving, but it didn’t happen this year, thankfully. It’s just difficult to prepare for, even when you know it’s coming.

Having dinner can be such a relief, especially earlier in the day, when it’s taking place during the afternoon and you get to have a few different plates full of food and dessert as well. The options are endless.

This Thanksgiving, we had a fairly small dinner party. It was just six of us, and while normally that would be a bit small for our usual gathering of people, it was nice to just relax without having to listen to people shout and talk over each other and their dinner table. Having a small group meant not having to worry about that obnoxious stuff as much, and instead we got to just sit and talk with each other about work, dogs, and other things related to all of the above.

(As I write, dog hair is getting on my new laptop because Angus is a huge mess and it’s impossible to be near him without somehow absorbing some of his massive hair onto yourself. It’s just inevitable.)

Thanksgiving this year was great, and I appreciated the size we had. My youngest sister, Alex and I went Black Friday shopping shortly afterwards, and we picked up this laptop at Best Buy. I’m thankful for the ability to have a new laptop, and I’m thankful for the world itself.

#390: The Turkey

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I’ve never been a huge fan of eating turkey, even though it’s such a staple of Thanksgiving dinners. Today I’ll be writing a little bit about maybe why that is, and how that came to be.

Turkey to me is the same as other meats, like chicken, beef, pork, etc., in that I have difficulty sometimes fully eating and digesting them. It’s not a digestive problem; it’s a mental impasse between myself and the food. I can’t fully describe the feeling, but it’s like when you have to try a new food, and you’re not sure how it’s going to taste, and you can tell it’s going to taste poorly as you put the food in your mouth but you have to swallow it anyway. That’s kind of the feeling I get when eating regular old meat, even though I like the taste of it. Food, to me, is difficult to talk about because as someone who’s overweight currently, food is obviously a part of my body. It’s defined my body, just as it’s defined everyone’s to some extent. But when people look at overweight people, they usually think, wow that person’s had a lot of food and should probably chill out on it. It’s never that easy, but people will assume whatever they want rather than listen to the truth sometimes.

Turkey reminds me of what it’s like to eat food for the first time, and it reminds me of when I was young and we had Thanksgiving dinners at my dad’s family and my grandpa would turn to me and make remarks about the different foods I had on my plate, the assortment of them, and whether they were healthy or not. It was a constant feeling, that someone is always watching what I have on my plate and is judging it to some degree, and that’s what I feel when I eat turkey.

#389: The Retail

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Buying a laptop made me think about what it’s like to work on Black Friday, a terrible time for anyone who’s ever had to endure that brand of torture. Also, in the Discord server I’m in, there were people talking and sharing about their annoyances related to working these next couple of days. While I’m glad I no longer have to work as a retail worker, like in my time at Target and Rite Aid, I don’t get paid over holidays like this because I’m technically not working. The same goes for over winter break, because I’m technically a part-time employee.

Working as a part-time employee of Rite Aid sucked, and I hated retail. I’m not the kind of person who likes working with other people, and I much prefer having the option to just seclude myself and do my work separately from everyone else. Now that I have a new laptop, I feel like I can actually work from home a bit more reliably too, even though my current job doesn’t necessitate working from home. I wish it did, though, as I would love to be able to complete work here, and I would be so much more relaxed. I would wake up on time, do everything on time, and relax without worrying about having to get up from my apartment!

Unfortunately, the people who are working during Thanksgiving and Black Friday have to be there regardless of their whims. These are some of the bravest, most valiant people going today, and I believe in them. They have to deal with people at their most barbaric and voracious, hungering for sales with coupons in hand. Holidays be damned, they’re focused on those sales over everything else.

This season in general is hell for retail workers, so I sympathize with them immensely. Give them respect and please be patient with them during this season.

#388: The New Laptop

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Look at all these cool people and their laptops!

This new blog post is being written on my new laptop, for the very first time. It probably won’t be the last one I write on it, because with this new laptop, I’ll be able to write more frequently and in various new locations! It’s exciting news! I feel so much more willing to write now that I know I have a mobile writing device. My previous laptop, which was an HP, no longer works, and is running into tons of battery/performance issues. It doesn’t turn on for long, as it just turns on and then immediately shuts off. It also doesn’t run games very well, which isn’t the end of the world, but I’m looking forward to using this new laptop for games at friends’ places. When I go to friends’ places, one of the things I love doing is pulling out my laptop and playing Destiny 2, Overwatch, Hearthstone, or whatever else is on our minds. I couldn’t do that before, really.

This new laptop is a Samsung Notebook 7 Spin. It spins around, uses a touchscreen, and has a bunch of other cool features, like a backlit keyboard. It was affordable, too, and so much easier to pick up than I thought it would be. I’m so glad I grabbed it for this low price on Black Friday. I was going to buy a laptop coming up soon anyway, so the opportunity presented itself as soon as Black Friday came up. I’ve been looking forward to it for awhile.

Nothing compares to buying a new piece of brand new technology, and I know that it’s not easy for everyone to do this all the time but when it happens, it’s fantastic. With that being said, I’m going to use it some more and write another blog post!

#387: The Max

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Mad Max is one of my favorite movies of all time, and I’ve only watched it twice. It’s honestly an incredible, breathtaking experience. There’s no pointless or unnecessary dialogue, the scenes progress smoothly from one to the other, the action sequences are all real and

Here, read this article for reference. It puts it so much better than I ever could, and basically gets to the point masterfully. Basically, this is the kind of movie you have to experience for yourself first. I can’t adequately describe how enamored I am with the over-the-top action, fight scenes, and set pieces that make up this elaborate desert hellscape chase scene. The thunderous music, the feminist and anti-fascist undertones. The production is put together so carefully and it’s a miracle no one died on the set creating this film. I don’t understand how half of the stunts were actually pulled off in legitimate scenes. It’s a testament to how radical this movie is that it manages to incite these sort of emotions out of me while talking about it!

I remember seeing the movie in 2015, when it came out, with my friends in North Haven. We all packed into the theater and relaxed in the back row, and as soon as the movie started I knew it was going to be an epic experience. I had watched a few trailers beforehand, but they didn’t entirely convey the sheer madness of this movie, its pacing, the nonstop feeling of watching it unfold.

Honestly, I kind of want to watch the movie now. It’s still on my mind, just as The Act of Killing is from time to time. They’re both essential watches from this decade. I wouldn’t hesitate to call Fury Road my overall favorite, though. It’s just infinitely memorable and the pinnacle of action.

#386: The Kombat

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Mortal Kombat is a well-known fighting game series with over a dozen iterations over the years. It’s become known primarily for its gruesome, over-the-top and bloody finishers, fatalities, brutalities, and the like. It’s the type of game that’s not for the faint of heart. Some of the fatalities in this game are so gory that it’s completely beyond normalcy.

I love the game so far, though. It’s been a blast to run around and beat people up with flaming nunchucks and fireballs and icicle spears. The variety of weapons and tools of destruction in this game has been amazing. I remember showing this to Alex, my girlfriend, and assuming immediately that she would like it because of how grotesque and ridiculous the fighting looks in this game. Needless to say, she loved it from the first few videos I showed her, and she watched later that night as my friend Alex and I played more of Mortal Kombat 11.

As Alex and I played the game, it became evident that neither of us really knew how to play that well. We just started off by button mashing and using sporadic combos when they applied, but after awhile, things started to click a bit better. We spent time looking through the menus instead of blindly pressing buttons here and there. The game made sense, and all of its systems worked together finally. We ended up trading wins back and forth, and I started using Liu Kang more often. I’m becoming a fan.

Also, in case you were wondering, I titled this post “The Kombat” because in the game, almost all of the examples of the letter c are replaced with k for some reason. It’s a stylistic choice, but if you’re unfamiliar with the series and its idiosyncrasies, it might come as a bit of surprise.

#385: The Dice, Part 2

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This blog post is a continuation of the previous one, so if you’d like to understand where I’m coming from a bit better, you might want to read that one first.

Without further ado, let’s begin.

I’d like to continue talking about the Dungeons & Dragons after-school club, as I think it’s important enough right now to warrant a few extra blog posts. And also, this is something I’ve really always dreamed of. Being a teacher is nice, but being a D&D coach for middle schoolers is perfect. We get to do so much and have so much fun.

The fact that they asked to use the dice over the weekend shows me that I’m doing a good job of teaching them how to play the game. Even though they may not know the rules too well, even though our sessions are short and end up a little crazy from time to time, and even though the party members argue with each other throughout the entire session pretty much exclusively, there’s a lot to love about this group and their imaginations. I feel like their interest in the game is highly dependent on how it’s taught to them; if Ashlynn and I were ineffective teachers, it would be obvious and the students wouldn’t be having as good of a time playing with us. However, things are going well, and I can’t complain. The only thing that’s difficult is making sure the students hold onto their dice, that they aren’t getting at each other’s throats while playing, and that they’re enjoying themselves overall. I also don’t like keeping track of their characters and making new character sheets every time we have to do something new, like level up or so on. It’ll be difficult to keep track of everything all at once while finding the time to do it.

#384: The Dice, Part 1

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After a crazy adventure into the world of Dungeons & Dragons this past Wednesday, a group of the students I play with asked me if they could borrow the dice we use so that they could play D&D over the weekend with each other. While I have no idea how that’s going to happen without a DM who’s familiar with the rules (these kids didn’t know about spell slots until our last meeting), I still believe in their creativity and imagination. These are kids who absolutely love imagining worlds in their heads, and they love playing games, and they love winning. Even though D&D isn’t the type of game that you can actually win, people will still try to win by rolling really high on the dice for each roll.

Since the Dungeons & Dragons club has begun, it’s consistently been one of the highlights of my work week. I’m able to channel my creative juices into some meaningful work, and I get the chance to interact with some of the students I teach in a less formal setting, where they are free to cast ridiculous spells and do ridiculous things.

As I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog before, I’m not the kind of person who’s strict about the rules of D&D. It’s made me forget, sometimes, the appropriate thing to do when playing, but I fudge them a bit and it ends up working out fine. The real problem is when kids ask me a question about something I wish I knew but I don’t actually know too well. In those cases, I just have to give up and admit defeat. As a teacher, it’s always better to be honest than to pretend you know something, as kids see through dishonesty very easily. It’s just in their nature.