#220: The Timewalk

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Timewalking is a feature in World of Warcraft that becomes available every few weeks or so, and it’s become a tradition for us to take time out of our busy schedules to complete the 5 required weekly timewalking dungeons, regardless of what expansion they come from.

Let me explain what timewalking is first. So in World of Warcraft, there have been seven expansions up to this point. The game has been out since 2004, and it’s still running strong despite everything else going wrong with the game since then. Each expansion has a set of dungeons (5-player group content) exclusive to that expansion. In Mists of Pandaria, the fourth expansion to the game, you could explore the Temple of the Jade Serpent with a group of randomized players, but in the most recent expansion, you can still complete the Temple dungeon, but not with random players in an instance queue. That is, until timewalking appears, and then you are able to experience the magic all over again. Your characters are leveled down to the current level of the expansion, and then you’re forced to take on everything that comes your way with an item level appropriate to the expansion, too. Everything is normalized to provide an authentic experience of what it would be like if that content was current. For example, all the enemies and bosses are scaled up while you are scaled down to match their power levels. Mechanics are important again, and you can’t just zerg rush through all the bosses without paying attention to some of the mechanics of the game. You have to actually pay attention and work as a team, rather than rushing and rushing along through every health bar you face.

That’s it for timewalking, for now at least. I’m sure I’ll talk about it again at some point, considering how prevalent it is in WoW.

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#219: The Traffic

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Doesn’t everyone hate traffic, to some extent? I know I do, and I experience traffic pretty frequently, to varying degrees. Traffic is definitely the worst. I hate it so much. Today I’ll be talking about a very specific type of traffic, the traffic that follows you no matter where you go. That’s what I experienced on the way home on Saturday, continuing the same misery I had because the car wouldn’t start and its battery seemed to be shot.

Here’s what happened: the highway was closed from exits 11-7, and unfortunately, I needed to get off at exit 7. I knew this in advance, but I forgot about it on the way home with all the stress going on because of the car troubles. So as soon as exit 11 hit, I needed to get off the highway and onto some backroads home. It took a while to get there, though. Unfortunately, there was traffic on the way to the exit and traffic as soon as I got off the exit, because everyone and their mother were using Google Maps just like me to figure out where to go next. So everyone was holding up backroads and everyone was flooding the streets endlessly because of the traffic and road work taking place, during the day too! The traffic followed me wherever I went, and it added an entire half hour to my commute home that day. I was worried that my car, in all its battery-draining misery, would stall out somewhere because it ran out of fuel or something. Thankfully, that never happened, because my anxieties don’t know a damn thing about how cars work and probably never will.

At the very least, they know how to jumpstart a car now. That’s something I wouldn’t be able to say earlier, but I can say now.

#218: The Board Game

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It’s time we talk about board games and how they’ve changed the way I think about gaming in general.

Board games are a blast, and I own plenty of them. My favorites that I own are probably Betrayal at House on the Hill & Kings of New York, two classics that always seem to pop up when my friends and I decide to hang out and play games together. There’s also Settlers of Catan, Clue, Taboo, Munchkin, Magic (if you count magic as a board games, it depends on your definition I guess), and more that I’m forgetting off the top of my head and I’m sure Alex will remind me of them after she reads this.

The reason why I like playing board games is because they allow a certain degree of role-playing that isn’t afforded by other games. In Betrayal, for example, people are given the chance to role-play as a person trekking through a mysterious, haunted mansion. The place is procedurally generated, thanks to the freedom that playing a board game offers, and there are tiles that you pull from to create the mansion. When you run into an Omen tile, you have to draw an Omen card, such as a Sword, Zombie, Knight, etc., and they determine what the Haunt will be. The Haunt is the moment that changes the game and flips everything on its head. Depending on what Omen is drawn, who draws it, and what room they draw it in, the game chooses a “Betrayer” who then has to fight against the rest of the party. It’s one of my favorite games because of the randomness presented by it, as well as the sheer interactions that come from playing a game that randomly pits certain people against each other. How fun is that?

I also like playing Kings of New York, but I’ve run out of words to talk about that one. Maybe next time!

#217: The Alternator

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The alternator is dead. The sequel to my most recent blog post is, of course, about what happened next. That’ll be about $400 dollars, out of pocket. Alternators are so unnecessarily expensive. I wish we didn’t also have to contend with the repair bill, too. If only alternators were easy to replace by yourself, then the manual labor would cover the repair bill.

Well, I drove home for about an hour after my friend jumped the car. I made it home safe and sound, and being the eternally exhausted person I am, I went to bed within a few hours after getting home. We didn’t test the car again on Saturday because of that. Maybe we should have, considering what we discovered afterwards, that the alternator, not the battery itself, was to blame for this whole mess. We called Alex’s dad, only to find out that it could be anything at fault with the car.

We waited in the garage for someone to arrive to jump our car. The first person to come help wasn’t able to reach our car, because of how we parked and the fact that there was another car next to us. The second person reached us, jumped us, and got us to the AutoZone in Stamford in time for us to figure out what was wrong. That’s where we discovered that the alternator was to blame. The guy who helped us took his time looking at the car while I sat in it and Alex talked with him about it.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any mechanics at AutoZone to replace the alternator for us. So, I had to contend with figuring out how to get to work the next day. Alex changed her shift from 8-4 to 7-3, to allow us to get to a mechanic in time together. Alex also bought a manual jumpstarter so I could get the car moving enough to get it to work and back. Here’s hoping that it works on the way back, because it worked enough to get me here!

#215: The Phone Call

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I hate talking over the phone. Absolutely hate it. Whenever possible, I avoid talking on the phone, unless it’s necessary, in which case I suck it up and call with my nose plugged. Not literally, but imagine me jumping into a swimming pool while afraid of swimming; my nose is probably plugged, my eyes are closed, and my fears are taking over me. That’s what I mean.

This is, of course, a symptom of my social anxiety. Not being able to read a person’s face and body language over the phone adds a layer of stress to the conversation, and it puts extra weight on auditory signals, like tone, volume, diction, and more, so that I have to pay more attention to them than I am used to. I prefer in-person conversation for that reason; there are more signals to pay attention to, but each one has its own layer of meaning to it, so it’s difficult to say one way or another what a person is feeling at a given time. There’s more complexity to an in-person conversation. It feels more natural, more free-form, looser and less restrictive. When talking in-person, I feel we are both laid bare and there’s no room for someone to make things up or hide their true intentions. You get the whole scoop from their candid reactions, rather than waiting for a jumbled answer three minutes later, if we were texting each other instead.

There are times when I have an in-person conversation, though, and I wish afterwards that it went differently, that I didn’t think through my words enough. I mumbled about something instead of addressing it directly, or I didn’t approach the conversation with the right attitude or respect for the other person’s feelings. That’s one of the reasons I prefer texting as a mode of communication, even though there are some obvious drawbacks to texting.

#214: The Fish Tale

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Lenny & Joe’s Fish Tale, especially the specific restaurant in New Haven, has a special place in my heart. It’s special for resembling a spot where my family goes to enjoy cheap seafood, but it’s also special for being a spot where my grandfather liked to go to before he passed away. The restaurant wasn’t open for long before he passed away, but we managed to go a few times before then, and every time we went, he would ask to go back. It became kind of an expected part of the day; when he had an idea to go somewhere for lunch together, it was usually Lenny & Joe’s. I would order the fish and chips or the fried clam strips, and I forget what he typically ordered but I’m sure it was good.

When I think back to those years of my life, images of the restaurant as it used to look, the tables we used to sit at, the fried calamari appetizers we ordered and ate together, I feel happy and a bit sad at the same time. Sad because it’s passed and won’t be coming back, but happy that I was able to share a few memorable moments with someone I love before he passed away. I know it feels morbid to mention death on here, but I think it’s necessary to fully understand the gravity of this emotional place for us. I know it’s a chain restaurant, with multiple copies of it across Connecticut, but it’s still recognizable to my family for this reason.

Recently, I went back to Lenny & Joe’s with my mom, grandma, sister, and girlfriend. We had a good dinner together, I ordered lobster mac n cheese and Alex ordered the lobster roll. It was a lobster-palooza. The mac n cheese wasn’t as good as it is at Chowder Pot, so that was a small disappointment, but it was still delicious and worth getting. Just didn’t compare to another restaurant’s offering of the same dish. We sat a few tables away from the table we sat at the last time we took my grandpa to this place, and my mom pointed it out for us. Instantly, I remembered sitting there, where I sat, what chair I sat in, everything. I mean, times have definitely changed in the years since then; it’s highly possible they got new chairs or tables, and rearranged everything in ways that make it completely unrecognizable from what it looked like five or six years ago, but to us, it’s still the same restaurant it was then. It’s special to us.

#213: The Field Day

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When I was in school, years and years ago, I hated field day. It was always a time for misery and disappointment, sadness and embarrassment.

As some of you probably know, I’m not renowned for my athleticism or physical fitness. This means that, when it comes time for exercise and sports-based competition, I’m usually the last person you want on your team. And for that reason I was picked less frequently than other people when it came time to choose teams in gym class. I didn’t mind, though; it meant that people understood me well enough to know I don’t want to have a weight on my shoulders as the first or second pick. That anxiety would be too much for me to handle.

I used to play little league baseball and participate in karate with my friends. During those years, you could maybe count me as someone whose athleticism matched the average of my peers. Nowadays, though, most certainly not. I sweat sometimes while going up the stairs at work, and that’s enough to tell me that I probably need some work. Field day, a time spent predominantly outside and in the blazing sun, will only make matters worse for me.

Here’s an embarrassing story to tide you over for a bit, from when I was in seventh grade. One time, while rearing up my leg in kickball, I slid on top of the ball and fell backwards on my butt in front of the whole seventh grade class. On the one hand, I deserved it for being kind of a butt to my friends beforehand, but on the other hand, I remember discussing World of Warcraft with my friends afterwards and learning from them what the game is about. So, it was a positive and a negative experience. Field day can bring about good things, I guess.

#211: The Nonfiction

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I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction lately, and so has Alex. She’s gotten super invested in some murder-related books, because those tend to be her favorites to read, and I’ve been reading┬áKitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. I’ve written on this blog before about my admiration for him, and although I do admire his work and writings, I never finished reading his book. I’m still hanging around pages 70-80, having enjoyed the first bit of the book but having not finished it because cooking, to me, is interesting but difficult to visualize in my head because of my lack of personal expertise. It’s like reading a book about hiking; I love hiking, but my experience is limited and if the book is littered with lingo that only professional hikers would know, then I’m probably not going to be as invested in the book.

Now, this isn’t to say that it’s a bad book; it’s far from it, in fact. But personally, I have a difficult time staying invested in it. I look forward to watching more of his travel TV show, because I love both TV and travel.

This blog post was originally going to be about nonfiction in general, but I’ve gotten a little off-topic and have dove into discussing a particular piece of nonfiction. I wanted to talk about CommonLit, a wonderful website and resource offered to teachers and students that gives them nonfiction texts, standard-aligned questions, and paired text ideas. It saved my butt while I was a full-time classroom teacher, and it saved my butt even more when I became a reading interventionist. Their resources are varied, interesting, and leveled by Lexile, which I remember also discussing on this blog in the past. Reading levels allow me to gauge whether a piece of reading is appropriate for my students, and the standards help me hit on all the important marking points.

#210: The Wild

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Recently, I’ve been experimenting with a new game mode on Hearthstone, called “Wild Mode.”

That’s what I’ll be discussing a little bit today. I like to play Hearthstone on my phone, because it gives me the chance to do something during my downtime. Whether it’s the adventure mode or something else, there’s always something interesting to check out in this game. I can climb the Wild ladder, for example, and explore what that world has to offer as compared to the Standard ladder.

Hearthstone has two modes of deck construction: Standard, which includes the last two years of cards that have been released, and Wild, which includes all cards from all previous expansions and other content releases, such as solo adventures. Both modes are separated on the ranked and unranked ladders, allowing for people to pit Wild decks against Wild decks and Standard decks against other Standard decks. That way, it’s fair, and people aren’t playing at a disadvantage against each other based on what cards are available to them. Having Wild cards available to you changes what’s strong and what isn’t strong.

I generally like to play on the Standard ladder, but recently, I’ve been exploring Wild because of the different deck archetypes available to this mode. The two modes have drastically different metas, with different classes superior in this mode versus what classes are superior in Standard. For example, Warrior is a strong class in Standard right now but is considered one of the weakest in Wild. Shaman is great in Wild but mostly mediocre in Standard right now. The diversity of decks is what entices me most to this mode. I’ve been running an Even Shaman deck on the ladder and have won many of my games so far. It’s pretty dominant over casual, constructed decks that aren’t as refined as it. It’s unfortunate for my opponents, but great for me!

#209: The Early Bed

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Going to bed early is seriously underrated. A good night’s sleep? Give that to me. The opportunity to wake up in the morning without feeling like a walking zombie? I’ll take that, any day of the week, including weekends sometimes. The chance to rest on my lazy back without having to sit up or walk around any more? Relaxing and divine, all at once.

When I’m at home and feeling especially tired, I like to go to bed earlier than usual, or at least lay in bed earlier than expected. It’s refreshing to be able to lie down without worrying about anything or anyone, no more chores to do, no more work to prepare, no more people to talk to except the voice inside my head that slowly drifts me to my slumber. Just me and my pillow and the blanket on top of me. Writing this right now, I feel a sudden urge to go right to bed, even though I just drank a long Contigo filled with coffee and it’s almost 1pm and I’m at work. But I can’t help but think about tonight’s sleep, and the sleep after that, and what it’ll be like to go to bed on the weekend without having to worry about what time I get up. The upcoming weekend is a three-day weekend, so it’s even better.

Alex and I both celebrate the early bed time, from time to time. While thinking of blogs to write about, I knew this topic would come up eventually. It’s a necessary part of our work week, as I can’t imagine going to bed any later than 10pm nowadays. Is that weird? Probably, if you’re my mom reading this, knowing I used to be a complete shut-in with constant late-night gaming sessions. Times have changed, I guess, and so have I.