#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.

#383: The Tutor

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Essentially, my job is about tutoring. I feel like, as a tutor, my work entails teaching small groups of kids basic, fundamental facts that they need to know about literacy, while hoping to improve their literacy skills. It’s not easy to just jump into tutoring someone without knowing them first, but I have experience tutoring kids of all types and ages. I worked with high school students who were freshman and seniors, and I worked with third and fourth graders. These experiences came before I even started teaching officially, which is why, after I decided to leave teaching, I went back into tutoring as a potential career option. This gives me the opportunity to work in a school schedule, with school hours and days and what not, without having to worry about being a full-time teacher. I do wish, at times, that I was working full-time, that way I could receive the same benefits as other people, but to me, there are worse things I could be dealing with, I guess. My job works for me as is.

But back to being a tutor. Later today, I’ll be visiting fourth grade to tutor some students. We’ll be working on vocabulary as well as developing their reading comprehension. On the one hand, I’m happy to help kids make noticeable improvements, but on the other hand, I’m not sure how much I’m actually helping, when standardized tests are what we are using to judge their improvement. It feels like standardization has taken over the world of education, leaving it impossible for students to develop naturally. I wish things were a bit less standardized and a bit more individualized, where students are given opportunities to develop themselves outside of rigid formats and outlines. But that’s just me. I know I’m not alone on that, however.

#382: The Review

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Here’s a question I’ve thought about but haven’t come to an answer yet. Should I review games more professionally? Like, as an actual game reviewer, rather than just talking about them briefly and then casting them aside in a blog post to be remembered possibly years later?

I’ve thought about this before, but it’s never really resonated the most with me. I think part of the reason for that is because of how toxic the community involving game reviews can be. It’s not like if I put out a score, everyone in the world is going to throw down and attack me, but it’s more like, scoring something naturally invites opposing viewpoints and criticism. I don’t know if I’m necessarily looking forward to that aspect of reviewing.

When I first started writing opinion articles for Quad News in college, I did so under the impression that not many people were reading them, if at all. When I finally got my first comment on a post, it was overwhelmingly negative and contested the ideas I was positing completely. I felt like I was being personally attacked by the comment, even though it wasn’t necessarily directed at me more than it was directed at what I was saying. There is, of course, a difference between all of these things. Opinion articles aren’t the same as video game reviews, but they all depend on the premise of writing about your personal experience. Your experience can’t be wrong, and it can be different from other people, but people like to argue and nitpick and contest things for the very sake of it. Diving into that kind of professional work might prove to be too much of a task for me, but I’m interested in exploring it regardless, as a way of branching out my writing even more.

#381: The Absence

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Being absent for a day can feel great and rejuvenating. I love the feeling of staying home when there’s supposed to be work, even though I know it might feel bad and unproductive as well. However, being absent on a day that might be extra stressful can fill me with joy. I love the opportunity to sit at home and do nothing, as it can be incredibly rejuvenating and helpful to my mental health. There’s nothing wrong with taking time for yourself, and I feel like there’s always room for more.

I mention all this because, as I write this, one of the co-teachers for R&P is absent today, and I have to teach his class at the end of the day. I’m fine doing that, but it’s the other side of absences; when someone is out, another person has to fill that space or spot. It’s not enough to just expect a completely calm day when you’re absent. Things on the other side are difficult for the people who require you to be there. Being absent means someone else has to fill the void, and even though you’re having fun staying home, not everyone has the same luxury afforded to them when they’re free for the day. Some people have kids and have to take care of them, or they only are able to take sick days when their kids are sick. I know a few teachers who save their personal time specifically so they can take care of their kids, for example, and I can’t imagine having to do that. Like it makes sense, of course, but on the same token, I feel like I need that time for myself, too. What would I do without it?

That’s all for absences today. Hopefully this all makes sense and doesn’t just come off as me rambling about how much I love not being at work. Sometimes it’s really a mixture of everything, and I just need to relax.

#380: The Assessment

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Being assessed on things is never fun. I don’t like it when I have to give assessments to students, as I know the stress can be unbearable and difficult to manage. I don’t like how students are forced to feel like every assessment is a matter of life and death, that they need to take every test seriously or else their entire high school or college career is at stake. It feels like we over-test people, that when we try to collect comprehensive data on students, we end up having residual effects on all their psyches. How can I effectively manage students when they’re endlessly tested on one thing or another? How can I take care of them when the system in place doesn’t take care of them or account for their own wants and desires? That’s what bugs me about the whole system of assessments we have; there’s no rationale to it, and it runs completely counter to everything else we’re trying to do with them.

I guess that’s just the way it works these days. I was inspired to write about this topic because when I got back to work on Monday, I was greeted with a reminder of the assessment in front of them. It was on the computer screen, right there, as clear as day, no mistaking it. It’s impossible to ignore when it’s right in front of you like that. Assessments are endless these days, so they all kind of blend together in my mind, but this one stood out despite that fact. I think it’s because it’s the most recent one to me, but even then, they don’t usually stand out like that. They’re all the same, ultimately, only the names have changed. The kids know that clear as day, and so do I.