Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Board Game 10x5 Challenge

In the board game community, there's a common yearly challenge called the "10x10." The idea is to choose 10 games that you think you don't play enough and commit to playing them each 10 times throughout the year. Well, we have plenty of games on our shelves that don't get enough love, but I don't know that I can commit to playing them 10 times. That's almost once a month, and I really enjoy variety. But 5 times? Yeah, that sounds more reasonable. So yesterday morning Jacob and I chose 10 games we don't play enough and we're going to attempt to play each of them five times throughout the year. That means we'll be playing, on average, one of these games every week. Here's what we've chosen.

1. Star Wars: Rebellion. This was Jacob's immediate first pick, which is fair. He got it for his birthday last summer and we've only played it twice since then. It's a serious time commitment, but I always mean to play it with him because I know how much he enjoys it. Maybe this will get me to play it more often.

2. Arkham Horror. It's a little ridiculous how long we've owned this without playing it even once. This is another big commitment one, but given how much I loved Eldritch Horror when we played it last year, I feel like I'll enjoy this as well. We just need to put the work into getting it up and running.

3. Zombie Fluxx. After two heavy hitters, I figured we should add something a little lighter, so we opted for this, our favorite of the Fluxxes, but we might fudge and allow any of the Fluxxes to fill the play slots here.

4. Pandemic. This was one of the first games we ever got, and we used to play it fairly frequently. Then we accidentally left it in Indiana when we moved and only got it back last spring, at which point we put it on our shelf and never touched it. Let's fix that this year.

5. Hanabi. This was a birthday gift for me last year, and we've definitely meant to play it, but somehow never got around to it. It's another light one that should be fairly easy to toss into the mix.

6. Castle of Mad King Ludwig. When searching for a game to play Sunday night, Jacob exclaimed, "I forgot we had Castles!" That keeps happening. Let's remember we have it and we like it!

7. Elysium. We bought this last fall and it always comes up as an option when we're trying to figure out what we want, but it somehow never makes the final cut. Hopefully this will inspire us to actually choose it a few times!

8. Legendary Encounters: Alien. We just got the expansion for this game, so I'm excited to try it out at least five times!

9. Colt Express. We played this at our local board game cafe so many times but never finished putting the train together to play it at home. We can fix that!

10. Sentinels of the Multiverse. A blind buy based on a friend's recommendation, and it just looks exhausting to learn. But I'm determined to learn it and (hopefully) enjoy it -- either way, I'll play it at least five times.

We'll see how the year goes, but hopefully we'll make it to all five plays on at least a few of these.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

New Year's Resolutions 2017

For anyone who followed my new year's resolution attempts last year, I was not good about taking care of myself. To the point where I just gave up on blogging entirely because I didn't want to admit how much I'd been failing. This year, one of my biggest goals is to do better. So my goals for the year are going to be, on the whole, very small and fall into mostly self-care categories (or categories where self-improvement would result in a genuinely happier me) because I got so, so bad at that. So here are the categories I'm thinking of focusing on over the next 12 months, with the hopes of building some positive habits in 2017. I'll state the overall purpose of the category along with my planned goals for January.

HEALTH

2 goals a month, typically one to do with diet and one to do with exercise. One of them can be swapped out for a specific medical need goal if necessary, such as something to do with RA or depression.

This month, my diet goal is to not drink any soda, starting now. I drank wayyyyyyyyyy too much soda over my break, and I need to cut back on that, and the best way to do that is by cutting it out entirely. I did this a while back and it was good for me, and I'd like to do it again to reset myself a bit. It's starting now because I already had a Dr. Pepper yesterday.

For exercise, I'd like to reach my pedometer app step goal at least once every week. That may not seem like very much, but it's a lot for me and means I'll actually have to get out and move around when I've gotten very used to being sedentary. I'm not very far from my step goal on most teaching days, so all I really need to do is walk to like the grocery store and back and I'd be set. It's not difficult, I just need to make it happen.

GOD

1 goal a month, almost certainly "spend quiet time with God" or the occasional "attend a church meeting because I feel very isolated from other Christians here in the Bay."

This month... Well, I need to do both, I think, but let's go for spend time with God this time around. It's something I can start now and not wait for Sunday.

FINANCIAL

Not a category I included last year, but it's something I want to put into place. This could include a lot of things -- restructuring the way I pay bills, foregoing unnecessary spending, upping freelance work, making sure I get gas at the cheap gas station instead of waiting until the last minute and then having to pay an extra $5-10 a month, that kind of thing.

For January, I want to do more captioning work on a regular basis, especially as my work schedule gets busier. I want to establish a pattern that lets me accomplish at least some work almost every day, so that I'm never left with a paycheck of zero for the week.

TIDINESS

Anyone who's lived with me knows that I have more than a few slob tendencies. I want to get better about organizing my life, whether it's reordering how I sort things at work, catching up on laundry, cleaning out the fridge/cabinet more often, or reorganizing a messy part of our room.

This month, I want to do two loads of laundry every week. That's enough to clean the week's worn laundry and then make a dent in our horrifically huge laundry pile. As I do that, I'm also going to set aside anything I don't wear anymore and can give/throw away. But that's a side project. Mostly I just want that laundry pile to shrink, even if it is Puppy's favorite place to nap.

RELATIONSHIPS

As an introvert, relationshipping takes a little extra work. My relationship goals may involve reconnecting with far-away friends, making it a priority to socialize with people I know in the area, or set aside time to spend in quality time with Jacob.

This month, I want to message at least 5 friends I haven't talked to in awhile. I was able to reconnect, even if briefly, with a few long-ago friends over the holidays, and it was amazing and I should do it more often.

ART

This one also has two goals -- input and output. My input goals could be silly goals about watching certain movies, attending plays, reading classic books. My output goals involve what I'm creating: making headway in a novel or play I'm writing, blogging more, or compiling teaching stories that could be used creatively someday.

My input goal this month is to see at least one movie a week in theaters. Let's keep using this MoviePass! I'm feeling confident about that, although we'll see how it actually pans out. My output goal this month is to post my best-of-the-year blog lists. I don't have a lot since I didn't really consume a lot this year, but my goal is to get some of those up and published.

So this is my year of self-care, in terms of health, spirituality, finances, tidiness, relationships, and art. That's six categories with eight total monthly goals. That's more individual goals than last year, but I'm hoping I can consistently keep these goals achievable. I'm also setting notes in Google Calendar to remind myself to do them. I'm hopeful that I'll have a better report on this in February than I did for almost anything I tried to do last year... but if not, my backup goal for February is don't just give up and think you can't fix anything, admit you goofed up and try again next month.

So. What are your goals for the year? What new things are you trying to do in your life? It doesn't have to be a new year's thing, either -- what projects are you working toward?

Friday, September 23, 2016

How Introverts Make Friends

(OK, more specifically, this should be "How I, as an introvert, make friends," because obviously introverts make friends different ways... disclaimer over.)

I had an interesting conversation with someone a few months ago about friendship and different culture across the U.S. We'd both moved to the West Coast from other states -- me from the Midwest and her from the South -- and we both found the culture here to be very different from the ones where we grew up: she found it less friendly and I found it more so. The more we talked, though, the more I realized I didn't think this difference in perception was a matter of northern vs. southern U.S. reacting differently to California so much as it was a matter of introverted vs. extroverted reactions.

I explained that for me, the socially obligated friendliness in the middle and southern parts of the country always seemed forced and cold (it certainly always was for me), and since nobody here seems to feel obligated to chat with strangers, when they do, it feels much more genuine. She felt that the lack of socially obligated niceties made everyday interactions feel colder to her. This led further into the introvert/extrovert discussion, where I explained that I prefer to go about my business not interacting with strangers I'll never see again, that I'd rather spend my social energy on people with whom I do or may have a connection. She asked, "But how do you know if that connection is there unless you talk to them?" And, after two paragraphs of preamble, that's where I want to go next.

I began thinking through my friendships, the ones that have lasted, the ones where I still want to keep in touch with them and go out of my way to spend time with them -- the people I choose, joyfully, to spend my social energy on. Absolutely none of them were chance encounters. They all arose naturally out of people who I was already around.

There are the New Lifers, who traveled with me 24/7 for up 10 weeks at a time (or 30, in the case of my friend Jessica).

There are the Rinkies, with whom I sat silently in a chatroom with for years, occasionally interjecting comments and playing bot games, before I considered them my friends.

There are my college friends, who did theater with me and studied for finals with me and carpooled to practicums with me.

There are friends I met on various special interest sites, such as penpal sites for preteen girls, sites for young writers, Christian teen chatrooms, sites for playing trivia games. But all of them came out of a common interest, and we were both there looking for a writing buddy or someone to talk to. This is important, because I have to be emotionally and mentally ready to socialize, and if you try to be friendly with me when I'm not prepared, I'm going to come off as weird at best or rude at worst -- not because I'm trying to be, but because I have to shift that entire section of my brain over.

I can not think of a single friendship I've formed that sprang up out of nowhere, where I just happened to meet somebody and we happened to become friends. There was always an initial jumping-off point, a reason in common that we both were where we were, and, inevitably, a slow burn of acquaintanceship before we ever got to the level of friendship.

I make friends slowly, and I can't possibly know after a single chance encounter with someone if I'd like to be friends with them. To me that concept is as implausible as the idea of love at first sight. Some people, I believe, do forge connections that quickly, but I do not, and I cannot. Until I've known someone for a long time, they are still basically a stranger to me. (This became a joke with one of my friends at college, when I brought this up and pointed out that despite doing shows with her and being in several classes with her, I probably wouldn't actually consider her my friend until our third year of knowing each other. She thought this was hilarious and proclaimed us "kind of friends" our first year, "almost friends" our second year, and "finally friends" our third year.)

So to address the title of this blog specifically, how do I make friends? Well, if I'm looking to make friends, I seek out activities where other people might be. I meet up with people for board games, I chat with locals online, I go to church (sort of... sometimes... that'll be a blog for another day). If I go around trying to struck up a friendly conversation with everyone I meet, I'll just use up all my social spoons very quickly and not be any closer to making friends than I was at the beginning of the day. It's just the way I'm wired.

For an introvert like me, this area of the country is immensely freeing. Nobody cares if I talk to them or don't while I'm checking out groceries. The only people who try to strike up conversation with me seem like they for real want to talk to me. There are plenty of activities and meet-ups where, if I want, I can try to meet people who share my interests and could maybe eventually become my friends. I am more socially comfortable here than I have been in any other town I've lived in. It may not be for everyone, but for someone who makes friends slowly and has very little use for obligatory socializing... this is pretty perfect.

Monday, September 19, 2016

How to Make Deviled Egg Salad (When You're Me)

So I recently decided I wanted to make an effort to cook more. I hate cooking and I'm not very good at it (though that's probably due to lack of practice since, ya know, I hate it and don't do it) but Jacob, who used to be the foodmaker of the house, is working much longer hours and that had been turning into me grabbing fast food every day when I came home from work, which was a bad idea for money and for health reasons.

I found an app called Eat This Much that helped me out at least a little bit -- it customizes a menu for me and even helps me order all my groceries via Instacart (my gosh, I love living in a city because I can do things like that). Tonight I attempted my first legitimate cooked meal in forever that wasn't microwaving or quickly oven warming frozen things. I chopped vegetables, folks.

And I realized I STILL REALLY HATE COOKING.

Like, a lot.

So I thought I'd walk you through the arduous process of making tonight's dinner (and lunch for tomorrow... and maybe dinner for tomorrow if I can't make myself cook again): deviled egg salad.

1. Get groceries. Think, "This is cool! It's like I'm an adult now!"

2. Start boiling eggs. Look up "how to boil eggs" just in case you're remembering it wrong. Turns out you're not. Great!

3. Since boiling eggs takes a million years, start cutting up your vegetables.

4. Realize you bought way too many vegetables because you forgot you were halvesing this recipe. Start thinking of all the ways you could use the rest of this bell pepper. Random bell pepper for breakfast? Bell pepper and yogurt? Bell pepper smoothie?

5. Finish chopping all the vegetables and the eggs still have 750,000 years left, so chop up more vegetables because, hey, celery sticks are a good snack. Now you have a bag of celery sticks!

6. Finish chopping up celery. 500,000 years left. Make your sauce... thing. Don't correctly read the instructions about half the time. When you do read them, forget that you're halvesing the recipe. By the time you've added the four liquid ingredients, you should have no earthly idea what proportion they're in.

7. Taste it. It will taste like FIRE. Add more mayo because it tastes the least like fire of anything else in there.

8. Be dubious of the quality and adequate amount of your spoonful of sauce.

9. Sit down and wait 200,000 more years.

10. EGGS WILL BE DONE. Transfer them between eighty bowls because for some reason you can't figure out where they should be.

11. Peel boiled eggs until your 45th birthday.

12. Mix everything together. The sauce will kind of cover everything. Realize you somehow used all the forks in making this one meal.

13. Put a bunch of it in Tupperware for tomorrow's lunch as a leap of faith before you actually taste it.

14. Taste it. Eh. It's OK. Everything would be better without Funky Sauce, but it doesn't taste like death or even that much fire, so it'll be all right for now. Eat it begrudgingly.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Cast Album Discoveries: Calvin Berger

I am finishing up quite a few of my first round of cast albums I've been listening to. This time I finished Calvin Berger, an entertaining and creative modern high school interpretation of Cyrano de Bergerac. If you know the story of Cyrano, you pretty much know this story, except this one ends much more happily and the characters are high school seniors.

If it's totally new to you, here's the premise: Calvin and Matt are both in love with the beautiful Rosanna. Calvin is incredibly intelligent but has a comically large nose and is insecure about his appearance. Matt is handsome but nervous, shy, and not the brightest crayon in the box. They decide to work together, with Matt wooing Rosanna publicly while Calvin writes his love notes, crafts his texts, and scripts out his conversations. The truth is ultimately discovered (without everyone dying like in the original version), and love triangles are resolved with the students figuring out how to deal with their flawed personalities.

Overall, I liked this album a lot. Music and lyrics are both by Barry Wyner, who hasn't done any other full-length musicals, though I hope he will because these perfectly capture teenage angst. Man, if I had heard this album as a high schooler, I would have been all over it. My top five songs from the show are as follows.

5. More Than Meets the Eye. Rosanna raves to Calvin about how amazing Matt is in this song and how he seems not that bright sometimes, only to send a text or say a random thought that is so much deeper than he appears to be. (Needless to say, this is a bit weird for Calvin to hear since he's the one responsible for all the great things Matt is saying.)

4. Don'tcha Think? A fun little tune at the beginning of the show where Calvin's best friend Bret helps him realize that he's in love with Rosanna. This song was actually the first song that I ever heard from this show, and it's insanely catchy.

3. We're The Man. This was the first song in the show that I really loved. Calvin and Matt have two of the best songs in the show. Matt is such a likable character who manages to be the target of many of the cast album's jokes without becoming a pathetic character because he's such a cheerful character, and the two boys have great repartee going back and forth in this song.

2. Never Know. I really enjoy unusual counterpart, and that works here wonderfully, as Calvin tries to help Matt memorize a romantic rap to share with Rosanna. The song is about a third Matt practicing, a third Calvin coaching, and a third Calvin singing to himself about how weird it is that this is all working out somehow.

1. How Can I Compete With That. Of all the (many) unrequited love songs in the show, this is the one that hits home the hardest. The whole group sings individually about their insecurities, and it's a quiet little angst-fest that has some funny but honest lyrics expressing their frustration with themselves.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

New Year's Resolution: September Check-In

Uggggh.

I didn't want to do this. August was a rough month and I don't really want to do any reflecting on it. But it's like halfway through September so I have to do this eventually. Here goes.

Blogging goal: Four posts in August. I accomplished this, and I'm incredibly proud of that. They were almost all in the first half of the month before August became especially difficult, but that just means I'm even prouder of myself for accomplishing things when I could and not procrastinating until I couldn't. 10/10 this month. WHOO. My next goal involves one of my blog projects I've been putting off: my work with the Flickchart blog. I haven't written a full blog there in ages, and I keep on promising I'll do it, and then I don't. All I want to do is write one blog for Flickchart before the month is over. That is a small, simple goal, and I can do it.

Health goal: Start taking depression meds again. Well... nope. But I am being slightly smarter in health in other ways. I'm making an effort to walk more and to eat more vegetables. But while that's all good, it ultimately doesn't matter here because that wasn't my goal. My goal was to get onto depression meds. I don't know why I have such a block here. Maybe my therapist could tell me, except that I never did that part of taking care of my depression either. Sheesh. How are you supposed to manage depression when depression makes it tough to manage anything? I'm frustrated at giving myself a 0/10 again, and I'm THIS close to saying, "Forget this goal, it'll never happen," and moving on to something else because failing again next month will be even more discouraging, but no. NOOOOOOO. That's me yelling at myself that I WILL MAKE THIS WORK, DANG IT. I will take. My. Freaking. Depressing. Meds.

Movie goal: Go see a movie every time I plan to see a movie. This actually has gone pretty well. I think I planned to go five times and actually went three, which is a little more than 50% successful, so I'm going with 6/10. I've done even better than that the last week, but that doesn't count for August stats. I feel pretty confident about my theater movie-going stats, so let's look at home movie watching. My goal is to watch five movies that are part of my movie challenge. I've already seen two halfway through the month, so hopefully I'll be able to tackle three more.

God goal: Daily Bible study and prayer. 0/10. I don't even want to talk about this. Let's try again. As I do every month.

Friends goal: Be present for the RinkUnion. And not like... attend it. I wanted to really be there, mentally and emotionally and not check out because I wanted to make sure I got the most out of IRL friend time since that doesn't happen often for me. I'm pretty happy with this. There were moments where maybe I should have focused more, but overall I stayed connected and had a really lovely time. 9/10. This month I'm feeling pretty good about connecting with people. I'm working on a couple different projects that are putting me back in touch with people in my life in various ways, and that's really cool. So what I want to do this month is pretty specific: I want to attend a local board game meetups at least once. The board game cafe Jacob and I frequent has Monday night meet-and-play events, and my Monday nights are usually free, so I'm going to try to attend at least one of those this month because I want to continue feebly attempting to make new connections and not JUST revive the old ones.

Last month I was at 25/50, which was pretty impressive. This month I made it to... 25/50 again, so at least I'm not sliding backwards. If I can make any progress at all in my health or God goals I'll be happy. I only have half a month left in which to do it, but even that is still significantly better than what I've done so far.

It's been a frustrating month, but seeing that I at least haven't sucked any worse than I did last month makes me feel better. Onward we go.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Cast Album Discoveries: The Toxic Avenger

In my first grouping of 10 cast recordings to listen to as part of this project, this was the only one that I just didn't like at all. With music and lyrics by Joe DiPietro and David Bryan, The Toxic Avenger has a really dismal cast recording, with forgettable music and obvious, lowest-common-denominator lyrics. They're clearly trying to do something like the self-aware (and very funny) Evil Dead musical, but it all falls flat here, with incredibly predictable tunes that hinge entirely on having a third-grade sense of humor. (I've just looked up the writers of this musical and it turns out they also collaborated to write Memphis, which I don't know well but which has... won Tonys and stuff for being great. So apparently they do have some talent, it's just not on display here.)

The show is based on the 1984 movie, which I have never seen, and tells the story of a nerdy scientist trying to clean up the toxic waste from his state. He ultimately gets dumped into a vat of said toxic waste and develop superpowers. He falls in love, unseats a government conspiracy, and everything worked out.

As I said, though, this cast album is bad. I was looking forward to it because I often love campy sci fi stories, but these songs were so awful I was able to speed listen through this because after just one or two listens to a song, I could practically sing it back to you because they were so unoriginal there weren't any surprises.

Because of how unlikable this cast album is, I couldn't come up with a top five, but there is one song in the show that isn't as terrible as the rest. The one piece of "that's all right" in a pile of crap is the song "You Tore My Heart Out," whose lyrics are still pretty sloppy but not distractingly bad, and the melody is actually quite pretty. As a whole, however, the cast album is a mess and not worth listening to. At all. And I'm glad I never have to listen to it again.