Friday, December 20, 2013

Fighting Boredom with Passion

People who know me well may think I sound like a bit of a hypocrite with this post, but over time I have finally started to learn something that I feel is important to share with others. There is no reason to ever be truly bored. Especially if you are reading this post, because that means you have access to internet, and electricity, and it is safe to assume you have more in your life than so many others do. But beyond that, if you have things in your life to be passionate about, you should never have a reason to be bored. I used to spend a lot of time bored out of my mind, clueless as to what to do. At this same time, someone in my life suggested I take up hobbies I used to have, and find things to do that I enjoy. I kept making excuses that I didn't have time, because I had to focus on school. To me, I feel like that's a noble thought to have, but if I had time to be bored, I clearly wasn't too busy with school. So, I've finally started to learn what that person was talking about.

All of my life, I've played video games to some extent. But I never really considered myself a gamer until just recently, and that's still kind of pushing it. But that's just a label. The point is, I've always enjoyed video games, and now I play them far more often. I play games on my Xbox and my computer, and play some sort of game on average at least five times a week. Furthermore, I have found myself deeply involved in a big project, for the past couple of months. Here's the fun part where I prove myself very, very wrong. See, for some time I used my focus on school work as an excuse for not having hobbies again. Well, with playing video games often, working on this project of mine for the past few months, keeping mostly up to date with this blog, and working up to 20 hours a week, while going to school full time, I still managed to get a 3.41 GPA this past semester. So there's a big fat "screw you" to my excuses. And I have to say, I very much enjoy being able to wake up on a day off (or a sick day like today) and have something to do, rather than sitting there twiddling my thumbs. I've never really twiddled my thumbs but you get my point.

So, my point to this random rambling... if you're bored, perhaps you don't have enough in your life that you enjoy. It would probably be best to have a few things in your life you enjoy so that if you need/want a break from one thing, you still have something else to do. I love gaming. I find it to be a great stress reliever and it has helped me to meet some very awesome people. I love this project I'm working on that I can't talk about. It's kept me very busy working on one part of it in a computer program most have never heard of, another part of it in photoshop, and yet another part of it in my sketchbook. When I want a break from WoW, I have Steam games and Xbox games if I feel like gaming. If I need a break from gaming, I have my project. If I need a break from all of that, I have my blog, I have friends, I have a future to plan for, etc. See, it's rare I find myself truly mind-numbingly bored anymore like I did before, simply because I have things in my life that I enjoy. So, yeah, get to it!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Agents of Shield 2/6

As a review of Agents of SHIELD, this is post two of what is planned to be a six part series. If you missed the first post, you can check that out here:

Episode Five: (10.22.13): Girl in the Flower Dress. Remember back in the pilot episode where we learned about Centipede? Well, we learn more in this episode because they're back! This episode opens with a street performer named Chan in Hong Kong who ends his show by throwing a fireball at the crowd. Then, the girl in the flower dress (Raina) convinces him she can help him, gains his trust, and then he is kidnapped by Centipede. The problem is, this man was supposed to be under the watchful eye of SHIELD, so the question then is how did Centipede find out about him? Well, I think by now the answer is obvious... Rising Tide. So then of course everybody blames Skye, and she leads them to a member of Rising Tide that she thinks could have done it, all the while claiming innocence. Hey plot twist! Not only does she know this guy, but she KNOWS him (yeah, he's her boyfriend... or was. Not really sure if it's 'is' or 'was'). Well, of course SHIELD figures this out, and both Skye and Miles (her man friend) are taken back in handcuffs, questioned, and it turns out Miles is a jerk who gave up information for money. Back to Hong Kong, Chan is in Centipede's lab and they are injecting him with Extremis to make his powers stronger which successfully turns him into the living embodiment of the name they gave him - Scorch. Well, as can be expected, SHIELD raids the facility, some people die, most people live, and they have to make Scorch blow up (see pilot episode for causes to the explosions) before he kills them all. Once SHIELD saves the day, Miles is let go, but not before he gets a pretty tracking bracelet so SHIELD knows where he is and what he's doing online, all the time. Skye gets an identical bracelet, and ultimately reveals to Coulson her motivation for working with Rising Tide and SHIELD all this time. She is looking for her parents who had some connection to SHIELD, and Coulson promises to help her. In the closing scene, Raina is in prison and meets up with a guy who she ultimately asks to contact the Clairvoyant for her.

Episode Six: (11.5.13): F.Z.Z.T. This was an emotional episode, to say the least. At the beginning (but after the opener), Coulson is taking a physical, and Ward is testing out a new weapon that Fitz and Simmons made, and says it is an ounce too heavy. After he leaves, they (and Skye) start making fun of him. There are a number of people who are mysteriously dying, but nobody knows why, so SHIELD is called in to investigate. It is thought at first that someone is killing these people, all of whom have deaths involving electrostatic anomalies and levitation. It turns out that the cause is actually an alien virus that was gotten from a Chitauri helmet (salvaged from the battle in New York, in the Avengers movie) which essentially turns infected individuals into electrostatic bombs. They find the helmet in a fire station, and take it for further inspection/safe keeping. It turns out that Simmons is infected by the virus. And let the feels begin. SHIELD says to sacrifice Simmons for the rest of the team and Coulson essentially says "screw you" and ignores the order. Fitz and Simmons work together to find a cure, and Simmons, thinking there is no cure (and not knowing the last attempt at a cure actually worked), knocks Fitz out with a fire extinguisher and jumps out of the plane. At this point in the episode, I may or may not have cried a little bit. And by that I mean I did. Cuz holy shit she was gonna die, and she sacrificed herself for the team! So noble. Anyway, Fitz gets up, grabs a parachute, and was going to jump after her, but Ward ran it, grabbed the chute, and jumped. In the end, all lives are saved, Coulson yells at Simmons, Ward mimics Skye, Fitz and Simmons' mocking of him, and Coulson confides in May about the physical. Turns out nobody else ordered it and he was doing it because he didn't feel the same since he died. She then refers to a personal life event (that we still don't quite know) and tells Coulson that he can't expect to feel the same after dying.

Episode Seven: (11.12.13): The Hub. In this episode, we meet SHIELD director Victoria Hand at the SHIELD Hub Base, and she gives the team (specifically Ward and Fitz) a mission.  Their mission is to go out to South Ossetia and take down a weaponized device called the Overkill. One can only guess where THAT name came from. Before they leave, Simmons gives Fitz a sandwich. Specifically, a prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella sandwich with just a hint of pesto aioli. Or, if you prefer, the most romantic sandwich ever, between two people who got some serious flirt on in this episode. While at the Hub, we discover another feature of the pretty tracking bracelet Coulson gave to Skye two episodes previous. It's magnetic and keeps her from crossing doorways into areas for which she doesn't have clearance. Because of this, she is basically forced to hang out with Simmons, and the two of them try to get more information on why Ward and Fitz are being sent on a mission together. Of course this doesn't go as planned, and it ends up in another SHIELD agent being tranquilized by Simmons, but ya know, that's just another day in the life of SHIELD. Unfortunately, this leads to them finding out that there is no extraction plan for this mission. Without an extraction plan, the agents are basically just left for dead. So while Skye is trying to convince Coulson of this (and find out if he knew or not) Ward and Fitz are running from some bad dudes with dogs. Being the typical goofy guy he is, Fitz gets hungry and pulls out his sandwich of love. Or, if you prefer, his prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella sandwich with just a hint of pesto aioli (Consumer Warning: drooling is normal. Do not be alarmed). Well, Ward's a bit more clever than Fitz. If you are being chased by dogs, you don't pull out the worlds best sandwich. They can smell that shit. (And I think I can too). But Fitz is an absolute sweetie, and even offers Ward some. Ward takes the entire sandwich and throws it in the water nearby, bringing about the best line of the episode, by Fitz: "You've destroyed the world's most dangerous sandwich. Congratulations!" While all this is going on, back at the Hub, Skye is trying to get information on her parents and comes across a file with pictures of a dead woman. Coulson directs May to investigate further. Coulson in the mean time is trying to figure out why he doesn't have clearance to his Tahiti file even though he is level 8. Well, as can be expected, through all of this, Coulson and the rest of the team fly in and save the day. Literally, they fly the plane in and save Ward and Fitz. This episode leaves a lot of questions unanswered, but there is a lot to come in the future that will hopefully answer things for us.

Episode Eight: (11.19.13): The Well. If you haven't seen Thor: The Dark World yet, and you haven't seen this episode, and you absolutely hate even the smallest hint of a spoiler (like me) stop reading. If that doesn't apply to you, please, continue. The reason I say that is because this episode follows after the Thor movie. I waited two weeks to watch this episode so I could see Thor first, and I'm glad I did. (That, paired to the craziness of college finals is the reason for this post being so delayed). At the beginning of this episode, some small clips from the Thor movie are shown, and quite frankly that in itself would have upset me if I hadn't seen Thor first (cuz I hate spoilers). Anyway, this episode was insane, and a bit emotional. The task for the team in this episode is to try to find the pieces of an Asgardian Berserker Staff that a group of individuals (specifically a Paganist hate group) are searching for/finding. See, this isn't just any old Asgardian relic. It's called a Berserker Staff for a reason. It pulls out the darkest parts of an individual from the deepest part of their soul, and turns them into a raging beast overcome with anger. When Ward gets hold of a piece of the Staff, he is forced to remember a traumatic childhood memory of his brother, and a well. As can be expected, he is more angry and also has increased strength. Basically, he just turns into a moody jerk. As the team tries to find the pieces, and the group responsible, they cross paths with a professor who has hints about the location of the staff. Well, here's a fun twist, he's no normal professor. He's a freaking Asgardian living on Earth undiscovered until now. While searching for the last piece of the staff, the team battles the hate group, and ultimately the team wins and gets the staff back into safe hands, but not before May takes hold of it and does some serious damage. Coulson convinces The Asgardian professor to relocate to Portland, with the promise that he could meet Thor the next time he's in town. At the end of the episode, Coulson has a nightmare about his time in Tahiti, making us wonder all the more about what happened to him.

There have already been two more episodes aired, but in keeping with the pattern of doing four episodes per post, those will have to wait until the end of January when the next two episodes have been aired and I have the time to sit down and write about them. Until then, best wishes fellow SHIELD lovers!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Note on Kindness

This post may not be about gaming, or anything else even remotely nerdy, but the idea of kindness can be shared and understood among all cultures. Though some details may be missing, this is the story of a homeless man named Tylil and my connection to him.

I first met Tylil about five months ago. He was sitting outside the Rite-Aid near my college campus. He said hi to me, and asked me how I was doing. He and I started talking, and I was surprised because he wanted to talk to me, and wasn't just asking for money. He shared his life story with me, including his arrest history, his medical conditions, and family situations. He didn't hide the things he did wrong. He told me about his daughter, his living conditions, where he went to church and about the positive interactions with specific Temple University police officers.  He also rapped for me, a song that he wrote, and then broke it down and explained it to me, and explained the story that inspired the song. I sat and talked with him for about half an hour, then after I picked up what I needed, I gave him some money and a bottle of water. After that, every time I saw him, I gave him something. Always a bottle of water, and when I could, I helped him with groceries and occasionally bought a little treat for his daughter. He was always appreciative and thankful, never harassing, and never asked for more when I gave him something. He even shared with me when he had job prospects, and promised me one time the next time I saw him he would be doing better. Well, the next time I saw him, he was wearing cleaner clothes, smelled better, and was so proud of himself for keeping his promise. He wanted to show me that what I was doing for him was going to a good cause. There were times when others saw me helping him and complimented me for it. I can only hope they were inspired to help someone too.

Because of all of my interactions with him, I knew I had to do something for him and his daughter for Christmas. Because of financial difficulties, I couldn't do what I wanted to do. Since before Thanksgiving, every time I walked past the Rite-Aid I hoped I would see him so that I could do something for him and his daughter. As time continued to go by and I hadn't seen him, I started to doubt that I would. Finally, today, exactly one week until Christmas, I saw him on my way to the store (which happens to be across the street from the Rite-Aid). I didn't make it known to him that I saw him, and went to the store to pick up the one thing I needed - milk. But while I was there, I spent an extra $15, the last of the money in my bank account, to get him and his daughter something for Christmas. I got a little container of chocolate covered pretzles for both of them. For his daughter, I got a little princess craft set and a little activity pad and crayons, both of which I packaged in a little gift bag with Santa on it. I went over to where he was sitting, and while waiting to cross the street, and until I got to him, I could see/hear him wishing every person who walked into the store "Happy Holidays". This in itself made me happy because he wasn't asking anybody for money. Just wishing that people enjoy the holidays. I walked up to him, and when he recognized me he said "hey, how are you?" and shook my hand. I greeted him in the same way (the same greeting we had every time we saw each other) and then gave him the grocery bag with the gifts, as well as $5. He was so incredibly appreciative and told me he would have been more than happy without the money, and that he was so glad he had something to give his daughter for Christmas because he was worried about that. I explained to him that I had been hoping to do something for him and looking for him for about a month, and told him it wasn't what I wanted to do, but I had to do something. At that point in time, he got up from where he was sitting and hugged me. He told me it didn't matter if I did nothing at all, and that the thought alone meant so much to him. He told me there was another Temple student who had done similar, which I fully believe because if you take just five minutes to talk to this man, you can't not help him. There is just something about him that is more real that I have ever seen.

The best part is this: He looked in the bag, and saw the containers of pretzels and his face lit up. He told me that chocolate pretzels are one of his daughters favorite things to eat, and she was going to be extremely happy with them and the fact that they were star shaped. He then told me every time he takes something home for him and his daughter and she asks where it came from, he says "The Angel". Today, and many days for the past couple of months, I have helped this man and his daughter, though I have never met her. Today, I took some stress off of him because at the very least he can give her something for Christmas. Today, this man who looks so small and frail from a distance, but who has such a kind heart and is always beaming with pride about his daughter made my day. When ever he takes her something I gave to them, he simply tells her that it came from the Angel, and that he tells her to tell the angel she says thank you. And he told me today that I am their Angel.

I never expected to gain anything from helping this man and his young daughter, but today he gave me one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. Without knowing it, he gave me hope. With all that I have been fighting with in my personal life recently, him looking up at me and saying "you are our angel" just made me feel so much better. Knowing I'm making a difference in his life, and in the life of a little girl I have never met, and probably never will meet, makes me feel like there is hope in this world. This man, who has a very difficult life, and who does everything for this little girl, gave me the best Christmas present ever. A hug from a stranger, and kind words when needed the most makes a much greater impact than I ever expected. He wished me a Merry Christmas many times, and as I turned away, I heard him continue to wish others walking by a Happy Holiday.

To you, reader, I hope that you can do some kind act whenever the opportunity presents itself. You may find someday, that you will be repaid in the most unexpected way possible. Everybody needs a helping hand at one point or another. And no matter what holiday you celebrate this time of year, or even if none at all, I wish you find hope and happiness somewhere in life.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Balance is Key

Stereotypes piss me off. I just need to put that out there, and now I think I'll go on a short rant before getting to my real point. For those who don't know, I'm 21 years old, female, a senior in college studying Forensic Psychology, and I work 12-20 hours a week with no pay. I live by myself, but have two guinea pigs as pets. I'm an artist. I'm a gamer. I'm a nerd. Yeah, I play computer games. Yeah, I play Xbox games. Yeah, I go to comic conventions AND enjoy cosplay, a lot. I have fears, anxieties, weaknesses, but I am working to fix them and learning to live with the stuff I can't fix. To sum up, I'm me. I am not the stereotype of a gamer or nerd. I am a unique individual with a past that I hate, and a future that I hope for. Gaming is part of my life. It is something I have come to enjoy (though my bank account doesn't like it as much as I do). But here's the thing, it's only one part of my life. If you know me, you know that my two biggest priorities in life are my family and my education. My hobbies come after that, and that's the way it will always be.

Now more to the point of this post. One one of the major stereotypes of gamers is that they spend all of their lives and all of their time gaming. Personally I hate that stereotype, but I have been the exact opposite. I only really got into gaming this past summer, and at first, I felt like I was doing an injustice by not playing every day. I felt like I was wasting my $15 a month on WoW if I wasn't playing at least a little bit every day. And then, when I got a Hearthstone beta key, I felt like I was doing something wrong by not playing, because the point of the beta was to be testing the game. Over time though, I have come to realize that it's okay if I don't play games every day. The point of it all isn't to feel an obligation to play, but to do so when I want to. It's okay to let life get in the way. It's okay to take a break for a few days to focus on other hobbies. It's okay to buy a game because it's on sale, and not be able to play it for a week or two (thank you Steam sales and Black Friday sales). At first that was something that I struggled with, but now I am finding myself to be more okay with finding that balance. I don't think I have it completely yet, but I'm getting there. I think, with all things in life, balance is key. At this point in time, I am writing before starting my last day of classes for my last Fall Semester as an undergrad (I graduate in the spring). My finals started yesterday and they won't be over until next Friday. The last time I played any video games (aside from two minutes with my dad's new PS3 this past weekend) was Thanksgiving night. My focus has turned to getting all of my papers done and studying for my finals. On top of that, I also have things I need to work on for personal projects. In this process of finding the balance, I am finding that I am enjoying gaming even more because it is on my terms, when I want to, not when I feel like I have to.

Whether you feel like it's too much, or not enough, with any hobby balance is key. Figure out your priorities and make sure those come first. Then fit the rest in where it seems to fit naturally. Even if through circumstance that balance needs to be adjusted, it will all work out.

Balance is key. It's not always easy, but you don't need easy. You just need possible.