#305: The Work Study

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Bella, my youngest sister, just texted me that she got a work study job at college. She’s a freshman and having on-campus work that early is impressive and awesome for her. I’m hopeful she can keep this job for awhile, as it can be a valuable resource throughout the rest of college. When I lost my one consistent work study job, it stung, and I had to look elsewhere. Thankfully, I found a better job that helped with my degree and made me a better teacher in the process. But having that one work study job for the time I had it really allowed me to enjoy college without worries. When it was suddenly upended from me, I worried that my senior year of college wouldn’t be as enjoyable and liberating as the previous ones.

I used to work as a resident life assistant for my freshman year. My friend Sam introduced me to the job, though we never ended up working together. It was pretty demeaning, to be honest. I made coffee and copies for people and talked to supervisors who treated me like I was a child. I didn’t much enjoy my time there, and I didn’t even end up getting an RA job like I was hoping I’d be able to. I remember walking across campus to let people into their dorms; that was pretty much my job in a nutshell, along with answering phone calls. Sometimes I would get phone calls from people who needed to be let into their dorms. Sometimes those phone calls were from friends, and so we had fun memories like that. I remember once letting Sam into his dorm, and I stayed around his room to watch him play Fortune Street for awhile before heading back to my job. It was gnarly. I was a typical college student, what can I say?

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#300: The Good Boy

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I’m dedicating blog post #300 to the good boy himself, Ango. He’s been a consistently great part of my life, despite his tendency to be a bit of a butt from time to time, and I don’t write enough blog posts about him. So today, it’s Ango time. Well-deserved, little dude.

Earlier in the day, when Alex and I were about to leave for the gym, Alex had Angus’s kong in his hand with a treat inside, and Angus jumped up and put his front paws on the table, knocking over all the magazines we had stacked up there. We were in the middle of talking about how Angus had been a good boy recently as this unfolded, which was perfectly ironic.

Angus is a wonderful dog, and I’ve learned some of his sweet spots too. If you rub his ears and head and push him towards you, he loves it. He just loves being pet and having rubs all over his head. When he leans into you, and his head is almost right up next to yours, that’s also a sign that he loves it and wants more. He really takes it all to heart. I love when I pet him on a specific spot, and then seconds later he rubs himself on that spot, either with his paws or mouth. It’s like he’s asking for it again but is only able to do a half-hearted job with his own two paws. A shame, but he tries his best and that’s what matters.

If Angus had the ability to pet himself wherever he wanted, he would definitely do so. He’s the type of dog who would definitely do whatever it takes to get there. Sometimes I get the chance to see what that reality would be like when he really gets into the self-petting.

#299: The Kombucha

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I love Kevita’s Master Brew Kombucha. I could drink it pretty much every day. The flavor is fizzy and tart, sometimes bitter, but more often than not it tastes great. It depends on which brand you buy from and which flavor you buy from that brand, but I think I’ve found the jackpot with Kevita. Unfortunately, their kombuchas have added sugars, so they’re not great for when I’m dieting, but right now, I feel great drinking these.

When I used to be a full-time teacher, I would take bottles of the kombucha into work with me and sometimes leave them around my desk. Students would ask me about them and say how they love kombucha as well, though I never asked what kind they drank. I probably could’ve solicited great feedback from them if I tried to. I still have memories of drinking it during class, while students were writing their midterm exams, and enjoying the energizing feeling. I’ve been bringing it to work more frequently, too, as a way of keeping me energized during lunchtime. I need that extra kick to get my day moving, when coffee isn’t enough to do the trick on its own.

Kombucha, and all of its fizzy probiotics inside, is fantastic at helping my stomach digest food. Sometimes I have trouble digesting, for whatever reason, and I need something to fill up the acidic waste that is my stomach. Kombucha fills that void well.

Of course, kombucha is technically fermented. One of my friends and I have been really interested in this new brew called Kombrewcha. Though I’m not much of a drinker, I still love this one. It’s tangy, tasty, and all kinds of good. I might need to pick some more up this weekend to make sure we don’t run out any time soon.

#238: The Grind

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The Grind. When it comes to grinding out experience, reputation, currency, gold, whatever I need in order to push forward in World of Warcraft, I’m used to it. Back when Burning Crusade was current content, I remember the first grind I participated in was the Shattered Sun Offensive reputation grind. You had to hit exalted in order to get all the good stuff, so obviously I wanted to get there pretty badly. As a kid in middle school, I didn’t realize the predatory practices of games at the time, and I didn’t quite understand how the rep grind was designed to make me want to play the game more and more, incentivizing total commitment to the game every day in order to maximize the reputation I earned each day. That’s what life on current World of Warcraft is like, too, now that they’ve added two new reputations and two new zones to explore: Nazjatar and the Ankoan, and Mechagon and the Rustbolt Resistance. (Rustbolt almost sounds like Rustbelt, which is kind of funny.)

(Coffee beans are all I could find when searching “grind,” even though it’s unrelated to the topic. I like having unrelated pictures attached to these blog posts, though.)

In other words, the grind is a long, arduous process of completing monotonous tasks over and over again in order to achieve a result that’s gated in some way by an arbitrary restriction, such as reputation or gold or something like that. In this case, in order to get flying on all my characters in the new areas, I need to hit revered with both of the new factions and then explore each new island, too. It’s a process, but I’m used to it by this point. I’ve done it on almost all of my characters, so there’s nothing holding me back.

#237: The Fireworks

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Today is July 4th, which means today is fireworks day. Fireworks all night long, across the city skyline and heard from our apartment regardless of distance. Fireworks blaring upward into the air, exploding in an instant or in bursts, and then descending quickly back to the earth, to pollute the streets with firework residue. Imagine being on the streets of Stamford watching the fireworks at 8pm, only to then be a sanitation worker the next day, forced by the city to clean up the endless parade of messiness on the ground. I would hate to be that person, but I can relate to them very much so.

When I was younger, my father loved the fourth of July. It was probably his favorite holiday. We used to have a large house together, with a large backyard where we invited pretty much everyone we knew to come over for a large party. Hot dogs, bounce castles, outdoor pool, radio music, tents and food and more. They were a lot of fun, and I got to hang out with my friends over the summer so that made it all worth it, but perhaps the biggest waste of all was my father’s incessant need to fill up the sky with fireworks. He bought thousands of dollars worth of fireworks every year, every fourth of July, just to impress his friends with how much money he was willing to throw away into the sky for big explosions. Imagine if he had saved that for our college educations instead? What if? Hmm.

It seems self-serving, but ultimately it was for us, too. We wanted the fireworks just as much as he did. It represented something special to us, a sort of familial tradition passed through time. It doesn’t happen any more, for obvious reasons, but when it did, it was special.

#201: The Recap

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Today I’ll be outlining some small stories about Alex and I, from two years ago. Back when Alex and I first started dating, we would send each other recaps of our days. We would alternate responsibilities; one night it would be my turn to write the recap, the next night it would be her turn to do it. Over long weekends, such as weekends that we spent together or sleeping in each other’s rooms, or weekends when I would visit her up in Boston or Syracuse, the responsibility to write a recap was threefold: you had to write one for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Granted, we came up with this unjust system all on our own, and we were the ones enforcing it on each other every night to make sure it was done for the next day. But it was a blast to do, and I sometimes miss doing it. There’s so much rushing and moving around during the day, it became nice to look forward to a recap of the events afterwards. Reflection and relaxation combined here.

At times, I would forget about the recap, and Alex would remind me in the morning and I’d hurry to finish one in the shower before work. Back when I was teaching at a different school, I would dread writing recaps at night because I had so much work to do, and I felt like writing another 300-word review of the day wasn’t exactly necessary as a use of my time. But looking back, and seeing all the recaps from our first year collected together in a nice book, it was absolutely worth it, and I would do it again if I could. We only stopped because, well, we moved in together, so most of our days were spent together anyway. We would “recap” before dinner, or before bed, but not in the same formal fashion that it took before we moved in. That’s a vestige of our relationship during earlier times.

#199: The Big Sleep

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Can’t believe, after all of these blog posts in a row that I’ve written, that I haven’t talked about sleeping yet. Sleeping is so, so enjoyable, and it’s one of my favorite things in the world. I love drifting off to bed with my head’s weight laying down on the pillows, nothing else in mind except the tranquility and relaxation I’m experiencing in this moment. The softness of the pillows, the coziness of the comforters. And nothing feels better than waking up before your alarm, realizing you still have a few more hours of sleep to go, and then drifting back off to sleep another time. I’d like to crystallize that moment and keep it forever, endlessly repeating it over and over until I eventually have to go into work or school or wherever is next. If only it were possible!

Sometimes my anxiety prevents me from falling asleep on time, but I’ve had good luck recently in falling asleep exactly when I need to. I’m almost always tired and ready to go to bed, regardless of what time of the day it is, so if the opportunity presents itself for me to drift off to bed, I’ll take it immediately and with no regrets. Having a strong, sturdy bed with various pillows and a dog sleeping next to the bed definitely helps, although, like I’ve said in other blog posts, having a dog sometimes makes sleeping more difficult than it needs to be. Sometimes you want to sleep for longer during the weekend, and then it’s all wrestled away from you by a dog jumping up on the bed and bothering you until you take him outside. It’s a sensible, ethical alarm clock. Thankfully he’s gotten better at not doing that since we got him his new bed. He’s been a good boy.

#198: The Dog Weekend

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We had an eventful weekend involving Angus, that’s all I’m going to say. It was full of ups and downs, high ups and low downs. On the one hand, Angus and I had a bit of a confrontation on the bed that lead to some drama and difficult conversations afterwards. That’s all I’ll say about that, to ensure I don’t stress the topic more than I need to. It’s done and over with, and we’ve moved on, the two of us (Angus and I).

But on the other hand, Angus was taken on a long, nice walk around the park outside on Saturday that filled out hearts with joy. He always makes us happy when we get to see his tongue flying around and his head swaying from side to side. He’s like a little child sometimes, and we tend to say that a lot about him. His behavior resembles that of a little kid with an old man’s body. He walks around with the swagger of a young child, his head bobbing up and down as he pants recklessly. That’s my favorite part about taking him on walks; we get to see him absolutely lose it whenever he gets to go outside. It’s clearly one of his favorite things about living with us. If there weren’t two parks near us, I’m not sure what we would be able to do to have fun with our boy.

Speaking of fun, the weather outside was perfect these past few days, and now as I’m writing this blog post, the weather is back to its terrible, chilly, rainy messiness. Typical May showers, right? I wish it were warm again, but on the other hand, I’m glad to be able to wear sweaters from my wardrobe again. It’s like I get to dig into this whole other array of work clothes I don’t normally get to wear. They’re finally unlocked and open.

#197: The Paper

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In continuing my trend of talking about grading papers, today I’ll be discussing the process of looking at and editing these particular Research & Portfolio papers. I’m currently doing some grading, and it’s not great, but I’ve looked at these papers already so they shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. I’ve worked with these students during class and after class, helping while I can and sharing my thoughts and words with them. None of it is easy, though. I always have to grapple with helping too much, versus helping just the right amount. I also want to make sure that students appreciate the work I put in for them. It’s a constant struggle between competing needs and desires, to please or to help. If only both were possible at once.

When I first started working at this new job, I once worked with a student on his essay, only to discover that my work wasn’t what the teacher wanted. I helped him pen his thoughts onto the computer, because he wasn’t the type of student who really enjoyed typing and asked for my help. To find out that I didn’t do a good job was kind of a dagger in the heart, for a few reasons: one, because I’m really trying my best here and want to succeed as much as possible, and two, because I felt that the student I helped actually benefited from my help quite a lot. It’s one of those cases where you just have to shut up and take whatever someone else says inside you, and then put it away. You can’t expect everyone to like the work that you produce, even when it’s something you care about. Eventually someone will tear it down, and you have to persevere despite their criticisms. Everyone’s a critic these days. Everyone, it seems.

#196: The Grade

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Grading papers is fun. I like examining students’ writing, I like assigning grades to them, and I like feeling like my comments will lead to some kind of educational breakthrough for students. You have to feel like your comments are useful in order to feel motivated to write them, right? Otherwise there’s no inspiration.

One habit of mine is writing lots and lots of comments. I’m very meticulous with my commenting, making sure to fill in everywhere and every thing with ink. I like to make sure that students know exactly why they got the grade they got, and I like to know that I fully read over and understood their writing. Sometimes, though, I can’t read everything; I can try and try to pore over the pages, but my eyes get all blank and foggy. Grading marathons are tedious even though they’re fun at times. They drown out every thing else from view, and you are lost with a vision of words upon words and numbers upon numbers only.

I like to grade while working on other things, like playing a round of limited in Magic: Arena or playing some ranked ladder on Hearthstone. Using games as a crutch is probably what allows grading to be enjoyable.

The advice I’ve always gotten from other teachers is to set every thing else aside, devote some time to grading, and not to fill up the essays with comments, because the kids will usually never read all of them and you’ll feel like they’re a waste. I completely understand where they’re coming from, because I distinctly remember picking up graded papers from the ground in my classroom last year, distraught at thinking of how much time I devoted to each paper only for the kids to disregard them like they were nothing. That’s just teaching for you.