#231: The Real Draft

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No, not using playing cards this time. Still playing Magic: the Gathering, just like normal. Playing Magic is a blast, but being able to draft in person is completely different from drafting elsewhere. It’s like night and day; on the one hand, drafting online is fast, easy, and you can pick up and stop whenever you want, but on the other hand, drafting in person allows you to counter each other’s strategies in a way that’s not possible online, while drafting against computers. There’s competition in drafting against each other, and although I don’t exactly have a set plan in drafting to make matters easy, I love being able to think through my picks in that way. Plus, you never know what cards people are going to play against you when you finally get to play against them. You might have a vague idea, but there’s no way to completely predict a person’s deck, given the randomness and complexity of drafting a limited set with 254 possible cards inside. It makes drafting so much more of a mental exercise.

Earlier today, while talking about something completely different, I referred to Magic: the Gathering as “mental exercise” to Alex (as a way to persuade her to let us play magic before going to the gym, which she wasn’t a fan of, unfortunately). I definitely think it’s like that; apparently, it’s one of the most complicated games ever created, and I can understand why. The sheer number of cards and mechanics and keywords and interlocking plays is maddening and frankly impossible to keep track of entirely. You have to memorize so much in order to truly call yourself a master of magic, or a judge, in other people’s cases. Being a judge would be an interesting job for someone to have, as a volunteer exercise of course.

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#192: The Episode

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Spoilers ahead, obviously, if you haven’t watched the most recent Game of Thrones episode.

In continuing the trend of discussing Game of Thrones on this blog, I’ll be talking about how it felt to watch Game of Thrones with another friend with us over the past weekend. Instead of watching on Sunday, we waited to watch on Monday with Hallie as a way of giving us something to do while we were together. We hadn’t watched Game of Thrones together in years, the last time probably being in 2014 during study abroad, but we still managed to talk about it despite not seeing each other very much. It was a wonderful experience to get to vocalize our complaints, criticisms, and thoughts to each other, like an audience that’s right there for us to interact with.

The episode featured a lot of romance, and a lot of interesting interactions and conversations between the characters. Some of the scenes felt especially fanfictiony, but mostly it was a good, quality episode with dialogue that featured conviction from the characters. One thing I will always love about Game of Thrones is the interactions between the different characters, how they respond to each other within difficult situations, their storied histories and thoughts unfurling in front of us as the story moves forward. It really rewards long-term investment and understanding of the different characters.

The episode moved at a quick pace, but also allowed for the characters to really dive into their different feelings about the previous episode, featuring the Long Night and the invasion of the white walker army (and its defeat). The final two episodes are coming, and I can’t wait to see what they do next. It’ll be interesting to follow the last two episodes, considering this has been a show I’ve been into for so long. It’s all coming to an end soon.

#191: The Friend

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On Monday, I drove up to Middlebury to pick up a friend who was visiting from out of state. Her name is Hallie, and she lives in Seattle but used to live in Boston, so as part of a week-long tour of New England, she traveled from Boston to New York and stopped in Stamford to see us. It was wonderful to get to meet someone again who you haven’t seen in person in years.

Hallie and I have been friends since 2014, when the two of us ended up in London on the same study abroad trip, but from separate colleges. Hers was Brandeis, mine was Quinnipiac. Ever since our trip to London, we’ve kept in touch off and on, making sure to keep each other in the loop on our day to day musings and general things that are going on in our lives. It’s nice to have someone to bounce rants off of, and who I can depend on when it comes time to complain about something annoying. That’s what friends are all about, right?

Hallie also is the original DM of our Dungeons & Dragons group. She took a break because of work and time constraints, and I took over to compensate. Our group has been going steadily since then, with off and on sessions that take place around once every couple months. I have time at work to sometimes plan out what we’re doing during a particular session, which helps me because I’m sure Hallie doesn’t have that kind of time available.

Friends are valuable, helpful people who you can depend on, and who you help when they need someone to depend on, too. I’m grateful for the friends I have in my life. They make a world of difference to me. Thanks to all of them.

#145: The Reunion

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Reuniting with friends is one of my absolute favorite things to look forward to. I love being surrounded by old friends, reminiscing about old times, discussing past professors and classes and coursework and drama from when we were younger and less mature, arguably. I love having brunch together, exploring the city together, shopping in unfamiliar places together. I love overwhelming and welcoming hugs that last far longer than any other hugs you had experienced recently. I love old jokes, past through time, but still fresh and crystallized in our memories once brought up again. I love walking through living history, through places and settings explored years before, where the streets and coffee shops and restaurants immediately recall what it was like to be 22, instead of 24.

Reunions bring me back. This past weekend, I had a fantastic reunion with one of my great friends, Jac. She’s still just as lively and welcoming and friendly as ever, and we had a brilliant time just reminiscing about life and the memories we weren’t able to share together in the two or so years since we last hung out. It was a reminder of what real friends are like, what real friendship resembles after spending so much time with friends who are perhaps a bit less friendly, outwardly. You sometimes lose track of what that’s supposed to be like when you’re not used to it any more. You lose track of how respectful, how kind, how familiar friendship should be, when it’s at its absolute peak.

Alex also met Jac for the first time. We mutually hung out once online while playing some D&D, but that never amounted to more than just our first session. Our schedules never worked out again after that. It was a bit of a shame at the time, but we still managed to keep in touch after that fell through.

#101: The Playlist

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On the way to my friend’s place last Wednesday, I drove up with one of my friends for about an hour after picking him up. It didn’t feel like a long drive, and thankfully we didn’t hit much traffic aside from the usual nonsense. It was just standard; nothing exceptional or outstanding on our way to and from our mutual friend’s house.

But what stood out to me, as we drove from place to place, is the presence of music in a car ride, how the perfect blend of music in a playlist fits into the background like a puzzle piece, not upsetting the balance, not overthrowing the car’s emotional tranquility or atmosphere. How music itself is necessary for a long car ride, otherwise people will feel the need to fill the air with small-talk and fruitless conversation. And as someone with anxiety, no conversation is worse than a forced conversation, even among friends! It can still lead to paranoia and confusion in the car. The mood of the car is important to maintain. One time, I tried playing through my metal playlist, filled with Mastodon and Megadeth and Metallica and other M-named bands, only to realize that it didn’t really jive with the more relaxed, calming mood we had set. Thus, I was overthrowing the steady car feeling. It’s one thing to play a song that someone doesn’t like, but it’s another to play an usurping full set of music.

So, it became important for me to make sure that the music playing as we drove to our friend’s place was worthwhile, but also not dramatically or diametrically opposed to the mood. I gathered a bunch of video game songs that were remixed into lo-fi versions, and I played them for my friend. Turns out, it went well and there was nothing to worry about!

#99: The Return of D&D

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D&D made its miraculous, fantastic return over this past weekend, and I’ve been eager to write about it since it happened. What’s more monumental and exciting than an evening full of role-playing, creative writing, and friendship born through an online medium? The friends I’ve met through D&D are known primarily through D&D, and they exist just in that realm, but when we return to it, I feel like I’m returning to talk with long-term friends again. I have friendships with these people that transcends and supersedes what normal friends are like. We are

On this past Friday, I played D&D at a sleepover with friends who care about it quite a lot. They took it a bit more seriously, choosing to have a more stern and deliberate campaign than the improv-based, comedy-focused campaign I participated in on Sunday. It was interesting to see this dichotomy develop between the two separate campaigns; on the one hand, I loved having the chance to stretch my stuff in a serious story-line with actual implications to it, but on the other hand, it felt great to be loose a bit and explore the fantastical world that takes up my mind. Being a Dungeon Master is tough, but rewarding work! I love the opportunity to develop a campaign with my friends regardless, whether as a player or as a character taking part in the story. There’s so much value in having friends that are willing to role play and have fantastical experiences with. It helps me test my writing abilities while also hearing in a live setting how those abilities are manifesting.

It also provides me with an outlet for my creative writing. I don’t think that creative writing is just something that involves line breaks and stanzas in poetry; there are so many layers to being a creative writer, and preparing a Dungeons & Dragons campaign has to fit into one of them. It just so happens to also be a friendly activity, too.

My nose is feeling a bit stuffy, so I’m going to stop writing here for now. Perhaps I will return to write more of this later.