#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.

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#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!

#207: The Solo Mode

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When it comes to playing Hearthstone, one of my favorite parts is the solo adventures mode. There are other modes, like the ranked and practice and arena offerings, but to me, the solo adventures are the icing on the cake that is Hearthstone. It’s considered PVE (which stands for Player vs. Environment, rather than Player vs. Player), so it’s against computers rather than actual human beings. That’s fine with me, as it takes a lot of the stress out of playing the game. Consequently, there’s no turn timer, so I can take as long as I want on my turns and not have to worry about it being too long. Patience is key and, especially while doing other, more productive things, I can focus on one while ignoring the other and not feel rushed around.

The solo mode typically features around 8 bosses, one faced after another, and you have to build a deck of cards by picking from 3-card offerings after each boss. You have to build your deck from a basic starting deck up to something more meaningful and powerful. You pick treasures that are absurdly powerful after every few bosses, but you soon realize that the bosses themselves have absurd powers as well that you need to counter somehow. It’s difficult to predict what bosses will come and when, but your goal at the end is to survive all the way through the run. It’s a lot of fun to try and compete this way. I have the card back for completing the original dungeon run in Kobolds & Catacombs with all 9 classes, which is something I cherish and will likely never take off. It’s one of those accomplishments that not everyone has, so you feel special for having earned it against the odds. I’m glad they’re still coming out with these modes, even though people may seem them as being stale.

#103: The Smartphone

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Continuing the trend of talking about technology in these blogs, I’ll be discussing smartphones today, and my history of having them. I saw an article on my Facebook feed about how young kids shouldn’t have smartphones until they’re 14 years old, apparently. I can see the many arguments as to why; the exposure of privacy, the complete freedom it offers and the consequences a few missteps on the Internet can result in, and more. Having access to a smartphone regularly as a kid is probably not a good idea, in my opinion, and I wouldn’t recommend giving phones to kids in the first place. But that’s besides the point of this blog, and I’m just rambling at this point!

My first cell phone was from Verizon, my old cell phone carrier, and it was an Envy 2. It was, of course, a flip phone. If I could find a picture of it on the Internet, I would put it right here for all to see and marvel at. The Envy 2 could search the internet and text friends, but that was about the extent of its power. It couldn’t really do much else, but it survived for awhile and kept me fairly social during middle school and my teenage years. I wasn’t the kind of person to text during class, as I hated drawing unnecessary or unneeded attention to myself under any circumstances in school, but as a student, the Envy 2 allowed me to be a teenager with the rest of my teenage friends for a bit.

I switched over to the iPhone brand afterwards, but that was a short-lived stint that lasted until I studied abroad in 2014, when my mom took me to T Mobile to get me a Samsung Galaxy Mini to take abroad with me. Shortly after, I switched to Android and the rest has been history! I’ve managed to try the HTC One brand, as well as the next evolution in the Samsung Galaxy. That’s actually what my current phone is.

#67: The Deadzone

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Living without a phone is to me a form of evil, personal torture. I wouldn’t subject myself to a narrative that claims I am a huge fan of my phone. I just need it.

Here, as I write this blog on my phone, I am occupied in time by this so-reviled and despised device. It’s difficult to detach the outputting machine from the habit it’s helping me build, of 300 words a day every day for 2019 on this blog site. I wouldn’t be able to achieve it without this.

Where the sun doesn’t shine, where the moon is invisible, and where the stars brighten the sky, that’s the deadzone. A place untouched by technology, wireless internet connections, phones, gaming systems, smart watches. The deadzone is when the lightbulbs burst at once, leaving the room dark and imperceptible.

I’ve been to the deadzone a few times before, most recently while in Michigan to see Alex’s hometown and family. She had to set up a Wi-Fi hotspot at night, when we returned to her house, so that I could complete my daily phone tasks and stay somewhat sane. Without having my phone available to me, I feel like I have less potential as a person. With my phone, I can scour the internet, play games, talk with friends around the world, check my email and messages, and more. It sounds cliche to say, but these are small things that we take for granted. When I entered the deadzone in Michigan, I realized how powerless I felt without access to my phone; I couldn’t collect my daily orbs or leaf tickets on Fire Emblem or Animal Crossing, respectively, and I couldn’t talk to any of my friends who live outside of an immediate range around me. These are powers, in a way, that we take for granted until they are taken away, even for a bit of time.

The deadzone reminds us of what matters to us, and whether those things take precedence over other matters. When you are without your phone, does it bother you so much that it impedes on your enjoyment of simple things? Is it hard to enjoy laying down with nothing on the mind when there’s a world out there you are missing, a world you frequently enter but now are unable to pass into?

#62: The Phone

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Let’s talk about talking. Specifically, the act of talking on the phone. Today, as I write this, I am scheduled for a phone interview sometime within the next hour or so; it is unusual for a place to not give me a definite time, but this is the hand I’ve been dealt. When I think about talking on the phone, I think of walking around, aimlessly, waiting for the conversation to be over, speaking platitudes and sharing gratitudes. I think of the many phone conversations I’ve had since leaving my teaching job, and I think of all the lost voicemail messages, translated automatically into text and sent to my phone because I do not feel comfortable picking up the phone on its own. I think of the faces I’ve never seen, the voices I’ve heard, the connections between the two.

I remember, before getting my first teaching job, being in the shower. I was washing my hair when, upon hearing my phone ring from outside of the chamber, I immediately lurched for it and looked at the number. I recognized the line in an instant, but I was stuck taking a shower, and had no way of picking up the phone in time for what seemed to be a phone call about the fate of my employment. Instead, I let it go to voicemail, and I read my fate via the translated text message I received a minute later. My heart dashed, but then the news came: the man on the other line wanted to speak to me about my interview, and wanted to offer employment. I was stunned, shocked, and immediately ended my shower, rushed into the living room, and called the number back. A part of me was afraid that I had jeopardized my opportunity by not picking up, but I knew that was an unnecessary anxiety.