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Google Training

September 16, 2014

Dear Reader,

Today, I got to be the recipient of “Google Training.”  Naturally, this was a complete waste of my time, as I used to be one of the  (unofficial) “Google Experts” at my old community college, a place where, if I said I knew how to do something, I was respected enough to be believed. Sadly, such is not the case, anymore.  Now, though I know just about everything there is about basic Google app functionality, I get to sit through 45 minutes of “training.”

Naturally, the first fifteen minutes was used to check if I set up my non-Google gradebook properly.  At the beginning of the year, we were sent an email describing how to set up the gradebook, which I followed to the letter, as I assume most people did, so this checking over my work was, again, a waste of time.  On top of that, that I had to sit long enough to write this correspondence instead of working on things for my students certainly indicates that there was a problem.

Forgive this general venting session, but this is precisely what I hated about being a student in school; I don’t need to sit and do boring old things simply because some of my colleagues can’t follow directions, and as an adult, I damn well don’t need to be told that my work needs to be checked after I tell someone I did it.

This is a common problem with teachers; I may have fallen into it myself if I weren’t with my wife.  She put a quick stop to any of that nonsense when I started coming home and being bossy. Teachers often don’t have an “off” switch; they begin to treat other peers the same way they treat their students.  Since some teachers treat their students pretty terribly, this means that they end up treating their peers pretty terribly, too.  For example, I got snapped at today as if I was a child because I dared to point out that I had gotten the set-up email and followed the directions instead of just silently complying with the trainer’s orders.

By the end of the training, we had covered how to sign in to a Google account, change one’s password, and use Google docs.  What revolutionary new things I’ve been exposed to in this forty-five minutes of training.  What revelations.

In gaming news, well, frankly, I haven’t played any.  My parents were visiting, so I spent almost the entire time with them.  Now they’re gone, though, so I can get back to my regular routine.

More on games next time.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and poorly trained)

AFKish

September 11, 2014

Dear Reader,

I’m currently sitting in a computer lab at my middle school while my students take yet another pre-test assessment to inform me of their capabilities.  You know, the capabilities that I’ve witnessed every day and have already informally assessed pretty well.  Lord DATA requires numbers, though, so here we are.

My parents are currently visiting, cutting further down on time i have to do things I like, such as writing our correspondences.  It’s not too much of a problem, of course, since I don’t have much time to be gaming or the like, anyway, but it’s still a bit of a bother.

For instance, I’d like to write about a guild situation that crept up this week.  I won’t go into any detail about it except that it could have been explosively bad, but thanks to the good management at both the GM and officer levels, I think everything’s basically calmed down.  There were a lot of discussions, and a lot of different opinions, but through time and conversation a lot of agreements were made that left everyone pretty much satisfied.  Not perfectly satisfied, of course; that would be impossible with virtually all forms of drama.  But satisfied enough.

It was a nice difference from what I’ve unfortunately grown accustomed to, where drama leads to more drama until it spirals out of control.  It was handled quickly and efficiently, and even though not everyone agreed, everyone worked together to bring it to a conclusion.  That was refreshing.

Of all the Humble Bundle games I’ve purchased recently, I’m still playing one on an almost-daily basis: Hand of Fate.  It’s still the jewel of the litter, and I still pretty strongly recommend it to anyone who would like a light-roguelike deck-building brawler RPG.  That’s right.  It’s all those things.

I played some Mass Effect 3 Multiplayer over the weekend with my blindish buddy and Balkoth, my GM, and except for the game crashing a few times (which has since been solved), I had a really good time, and i think my blind buddy did, too, once we put it on a lower difficulty that was more his (mine too, really) speed.  I had been feeling bad about not spending any time recently with Balk, since I can’t go on the Weds flexes anymore, so it was nice to get to do so.

At any rate, that’s me.  Time to get back to Lord DATA.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and data-driven crazy)

Embarrassed by my Gender

September 3, 2014

Dear Reader,

While I’m well aware that none of this has to do anything with me personally, the abuse that various Internet Ladies (forgive me for being raised a Southern Gentleman) have had to suffer this week has really made me embarrassed for my gender.

The thing is, I’m never really sure how to respond.  I can understand what it’s like to be bullied, threatened, harassed, and made to be afraid by people around me; I had a bad time in school with bullying, as has been discussed before.  But to suffer it on such a large scale over something as ubiquitous as gender makes me wary of acting like I know what it’s really like.  

I simply cannot understand – and never will – how people can live with themselves, can sleep at night, when they say or write such things to another person.  There’s being young, being a troublemaker, being ignorant, feeling invincible… but then there’s what we’ve seen this week.

Forgive me if this next bit seems a bit nuts, or condescending to youth, or suggests that I may not be fully in touch with reality, but when I’ve gotten pretty comfortable around someone, I have a theory I like to bring out.

Studies of the recent rise in dog attacks against humans (recent, in this case, was probably more than a decade ago now.  I’ve had this theory a long time) suggested that one cause was the lack of socialization of the dogs – meaning that neighbors weren’t bringing their dogs out any more, weren’t going to company picnics with them, weren’t taking them to the dog park as much, etc.  On top of that, dog behavior was so closely monitored that any perceived dog “fight” signals led to quick separation and isolation.  

The consequence of this dog alienation is that many dogs never learned their place in the natural “pecking order.”  They never learned that they, the individual dog, weren’t the end-all, be-all alpha of all they surveyed.  So when little Timmy grabs their tail when they’re in a bad mood, they maul his face because they’re the boss.

I wonder if there’s not some connection here with what we see in some of our more immature adults.  Having far less face-to-face socialization in their lives, be it church (which I’m not necessarily saying is “important – I never went to church) or athletics (budgets having been cut), or simply just playing outside might have this same effect.  Helicopter parenting – never letting their kids misbehave and learn the consequences (until college, where binge drinking and sexual assaults are hugely rising) might lead to similar outcomes.  Each kid thinks they’re the end-all, be-all of all they can see.

Never having had to suffer, sacrifice, or even just survive (even something as temporary as bullying) seems to have left a huge morality gap in some of my and younger generations.  It’s the same emptiness that Bret Easton Ellis captures in books like  Less Than Zero, The Rules of Attraction, and American Psycho (the final being a hyperbolic satire of precisely the kind of behavior I’m talking about in dogs) and Chuck Palahniuk lampoons with his self-centered, unlikable characters (who, unlike Ellis’s, often change by the end).   The popularity of both in recent years doesn’t seem a coincidence.  

It may be wrong to compare human behavior, which we wish to be rational, to animal behavior, which we may not believe can be rational.  That’s one reason I don’t blurt that theory to everyone I meet.  Still… I wonder.  One of my favorite quotes, one I’m sure I’ve used here before, relates to our ability to think rationally, comes from Gene Wolfe (though I read it in A General Theory of Love).

”We say ‘I will’ and ‘I will not,’ and imagine ourselves our own masters, when the truth is our true masters are sleeping.  When one wakes within us, we are ridden like beasts.”

I wonder if we’re not more like beasts than we think.  Regardless, that’s neither an excuse nor an explanation.  I’m disgusted by what I’ve seen this week, and I’m ashamed of many members of my gender.  

I haven’t a clue what I can do to support Ms. Sarkeesian beyond writing about my support of her ideas.  It’s not much, I know, but it’s something, as tear-jerkingly (at times, for me) rendered by Justin Sane in Thanks for the Letter that You Sent

We all need to do more, and do better, in whatever way we can.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and dismayed)

Sore Feet, Good Buys

September 2, 2014

Dear Reader,

I think we’re all going to have to adapt to a more erratic posting schedule, to be honest.  I hope you’ll bear with me while I work to see whether that’s going to be permanently true or only temporarily, but regardless, be aware: for now, I’ll post when I can.

I’m doing pretty well, I think, re-adapting to my old teachers’ schedule.  I’m getting up nice and early without a lot of ass-dragging, I’m working the long days with the long commutes and feeling better at the end of each day, but there’s one adaptation that’s taking longer than I’d like: my feet.  I’m not sure if it’s my age, my weight, or the infrequency of my standing for the last few years, but my feet – damn.  They’re just feeling smashed at the end of each day.  It’s not so much pain as it is just fatigue and discomfort, but damn.

Hopefully that’ll end soon.  

Speaking of ending, I should check to see if I want to give more money to Humble Bundle today.  I bought a flash bundle last week to add the my list of backlogged games, and found virtually all of them entertaining, if only for a few hours.  

In particular, another “Early Access” game caught my attention.  Cannon Brawl, a poorly-named side-scrolling RTS, has really given me a lot of hours of enjoyment.  Perhaps it’s just tuned too easy, but I’ve been really enjoying the pace and difficulty of the game, which had piqued my interest in RTS games again.  It’s been a lot of fun to balance the old Scorched-Earth style gameplay with the resource gathering and structure building elements of the old Warcrafts (and other RTS’s).  

It came with a variety of puzzle platformers, some darkly humorous (like Life Goes On), others more philosophically serious (like The Swapper), as well as Jamestown, a top-to-bottom Sh’mup with a very interesting past/future storytelling technique.  Each of these games has been a lot of fun so far, though Cannon Brawl has been the highlight.

On top of that, I’ve gotten -back- into Counterstrike.  I emphasize back because I wasn’t ever really into it, but since several of my friends are playing at the moment, I figured I’d give it a more serious try.  I’m terrible, let there be no doubt about it, but I do what I can.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (would-be sniper, if the damn game wasn’t so fast-paced)

School’s In

August 27, 2014

Dear Reader,

Things are progressing pretty much as expected at school.  It’s been cake, and I’m really enjoying it, but man oh man am I tired.

I don’t think I’ll feel this way all year; heck, I doubt I’ll even feel this way by the end of September, but my body is taking some time to readjust to the early morning rising and being on my feet most of the day.  I get home super tired with very sore feet and just want to sit around.  Yesterday, in fact, all I did was watch T.V. from when I got home until when I got to bed; that may sound like a normal night for some folks, but that’s pretty abnormal for me.

As a result, my game time has gone way, way down.  I stole a few hours of Hand of Fate in the past few days, but that’s about it.

So there’s really not much to report.  Hand of Fate ramps way up in difficulty.  It may be that I’m just not very good yet, or it may be I that it needs some rebalancing – it is an “early access” game, after all.  Regardless, even though I’m failing a lot more than I did at first, it’s still maintained my interest, so that’s a big plus.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and fatigued)

Humbling

August 25, 2014

Dear Reader,

So yeah, I’ve heard of the Humble Bundles.  I’ve seen them mentioned here and there, but I’d never actually investigated them.  Extra Credits, though, brought some games to my attention in their most recent episode with the caveat that all the games in this “Games you Might Not have Tried” installment was available as a bundle.

Well.

Suffice it to say that I bought the bundle, and will likely continue to frequent the shop with dangerous frequency.  It even convinced me to buy an “early access” game, a development tool that I generally find abhorrent.  The game, though, was stable enough for them, so I figured I’d give it a try.  Hand of Fate, the game in question, has been extremely entertaining so far.  It’s a cross between a deck-building game, a rogue-like, and an arena brawler.  So far, fantastic.

In other news, my first day with the students was quite refreshing.  I feel really good about being back in a real classroom – no offense, college professors, but it’s just not the same.  I can already tell a lot of my students are genuinely nice kids, but of course I have at least one real nut.  This kid – on the first day mind you – was like committing minor acts of physical assault on some of his classmates.  One the first day in a new school in front of a new teacher.  He’ll be fun to work with – and I mean that genuinely.  I hope I can help better him.

Many of the others are just nice kids, though.  I had one girl who couldn’t have been more than 4 foot nothing and maybe – I don’t know, I’m bad with weight, but she was small enough I could have eaten her – who was stuck carrying around a gym bag full of her books that was a little tiring for me to carry (one-handed, at any rate) because someone had erroneously put their lock on her locker.  The poor girl didn’t complain at all, so after the third or fourth time I saw her lugging it, I just took it from her and carried it to some of her various classes.  She was very grateful.

So that’s what’s up in my neck of the woods.  I hope you’re all doing well, too.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and working)

Satisfied Silence

August 22, 2014

Dear Reader, 

As you may have noticed, I haven’t been on in a few days.  There’s good news surrounding that, though: I got a job.  Hooray.

Seriously, though, I am excited; I’m back in the public schools like I wanted, teaching 6th grade English.  Sixth grade is a little young for me, admittedly, but I’ll adapt.  

The catch there is that I’ve never had a full-time, 40 hour plus a week job and written on this blog.  I’ve always been part time or had a cushy job like being a college professor.  I’m not sure what the implications are, really; I can’t promise to get things written on particular days anymore because I can’t really know what those days will look like.  I’m going to try to keep up the 3/day per week posting on M/W/F, but I just don’t know if I can.  Bear with me during this transition.

In brief gaming news, I beat Guacamelee!, which was very, very satisfying.  I didn’t like the very last boss fight, but everything else in the game was stellar.  I strongly recommend you give it a try, and, as a cherry on top, it kept my attention all the way through so that I actually finished it.  

Additionally, I beat deity level in a solo Civ game.  I had beaten it a couple times with a partner, but solo games are tougher since you’re really on your own.  It was a buzzer-beater, too.  One Civ had all but one other beaten in a culture victory, and another had all but one of the spaceship parts completed.  I won a diplomatic victory, which honestly are pretty easy victories, but on deity, I’ll take what I can get.  

So bear with me while I figure out what I still have time for, and we’ll see.

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and exhausted; I worked as much in the last 4 days as I would in 2 weeks at the college)

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