This is two entire months late (I know, I know...), but I've never really had much time to be able to sit down for a couple of hours and just think. I've been out of touch with the Spiral while trying to settle down into five, upper-division college classes, and meet their barrage of demands made up of homework, familiarizing myself with the electronic bulletin board system, and adapting to a heavier workload. The good news is...I'm actually ahead of the schedule, this time. This is going to be an extremely long and personal blog post, but then again, it is about 11 weeks' worth of contemplation and news (the first part is just an update, the rest is not for the faint of mind):
I hope you've had a FANTASTIC New Year's, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Winter Vacation, and/or Time Off Work! I had an amazing time with the family as we headed out on a "solo run" (without extended family, which we haven't done for years) on Christmas to a casino that was hosting a LOBSTER BUFFET. That dinner certainly blew my mind, considering I've never liked lobster...but the way they cooked theirs, I loved it! No gifts this year, but that's almost a lie; that quality time with my parents and little sister was more than I could ask for. We've had some ups and downs throughout history, so it dawned on me how lucky we were just to be able to see and laugh with one another. Those Christmas movies I watched as a young'un are starting to seep into the heart and make some sense. Ah, the magic of time...
Speaking of quality time, Hexythorn also visited me, and we had a wonderful week and a half together: driving up and down the state, getting her acquainted with my family (extended and immediate), and venturing to my favorite places in Northern California. She's actually fond of the things my family and I eat (oh, how I've taken the food for granted...and still do!) and from what I last heard, is now loving Pho tremendously. She also misses rice. That's something I'll never understand, since I'm very westernized (yay burgers and pizza and lasagna and Mexican food!) Alyssa played her first casino game over here, and was very quick to understand the strategies of video poker (it greatly differs from regular Poker in the sense of probabilities and randomization). We also had the opportunity to introduce my family to their first perogies, too; my parents decided to stick with their baby octopi, while my sister, "T", Alyssa, and I helped ourselves to some extras. (Behind the scenes note: while making them, Alyssa thought the Polish dumplings would end up as an epic fail due to the unnaturally sticky texture of the dough...but, we managed!)
Throughout the visit, we've grown and bonded, and established that we indeed can continue this LDR. Realistically, connections in this nature tend to be fragile, but with trust and open communication, it's possible to hold onto with unquestioning determination. Anyway, if you're interested for whatever reason, more details can be found over at IceeHawt101 on YouTube, our collection of videos of our little conventions.
In addition to the beginning of the new year, my PVP team Perfect Catch and I ventured through the Arena, but not as much as before. My class schedule and the ladies' sleep times have conflicted to a point where the only available time to do anything is over the weekend. Sadly, such a period is only 2.5 days long. Nevertheless, we are still evolving and developing as a team, and admittedly, our obstacles have grown, since more and more YouTube viewers (and players) are becoming familiar with our playstyle. Some viewers have asked why we allow others to look at how we play from such a close proximity; the answer is that PVP at a team-scale is a difficult dance to "teach" step-by-step.
In 1v1, the mental flowchart that plays out in our heads is purely conditional upon the past 2-5 turns and anticipated 3 steps thereafter. In other words, it's almost organized in how you analyze your and your opponent's health, pips, and mobility, and is almost repetitive to a point where guides for deck building can be created for specific situations and counters. In 4v4, almost anything can happen, and it becomes a messy battle of psychology, where flowcharts will have flowcharts of their own. Not every situation repeats itself, and not everyone is comfortable with either working with each other or with their current deck build. Thus, even general guides can look extremely situational and almost "over the top" to someone in the hot seat. In that situation, duelists should be paying attention to the current stats, and analyzing what they need to do, opposed to recalling someone else's past advice. Thus, not too much is being compromised...and besides, we have fun developing new and surprising tactics now and then.
This semester is just the first of a long series that I want to take seriously. "Seriously" meaning getting at least a 95% in every class...meaning I'm doing the reading before they're even assigned, or working out math theorems before given a lecture on it. It's a huge part of advancing and developing yourself in life: going above and beyond. Never settle for "what you already have..." This is an especially important mindset, considering that we tend to think 90% or 80% or sometimes 70% of something is satisfactory.
There's more to college or higher education than just "fulfilling requirements." It's about becoming a better human being, becoming enlightened. Yes, homework is stressful and boring and mundane, but everything you acquire through life are building blocks to what you'll become one day...I promise. Yes, even that Calculus class will count. (My boss mentioned how he thought it was useless in the field he was going into, which was government administration; he admitted he was dead wrong).
Back then, I looked towards my courses as I would a job: something you "have" to do. I didn't see a point in reading the assigned pages (especially when the professors would contribute the most to the discussions and lectures), or studying with devotion (this was actually due to my characteristic of being a "sponge," as my Calc teacher put it)... I just went with the flow. Steadily, I made less effort over time.
I can't quite remember when or where it happened, but during a point of where I was gaming professionally, I realized I had strayed too far from where I needed to be. I wasn't productive or contributing anything to society, other than a little math tutoring. This was awhile before I came to Wizard101...so the Kevin you know now was completely different back then. You might have called me a pessimist, or rigid. In high school, I participated for about a month as a peer counselor. Hearing about drama and tragic life problems made me feel that we're all independent, struggling to survive at another being's expense. "Community" was just a word to me where society expects something from you, and that you're obligated to do said "something."
Over the years, as I completed my course requirements for college, I noticed that what I perceived about the word "community" was totally misinformed. During my self-development, I picked up a job with the state, and completed a surplus of college classes (from personal motivation, not through anyone else's demands or advice). I began to appreciate more and more of what I was absorbing intellectually and academically, and felt a greater need to give a little something back when I saw the intrinsic beauty of human nature that we seldom see or recognize.
The whole point of sharing this is my indirect way of testifying that education, no matter what level, is more than what we perceive or think it is. The people of older generations are helping us from repeating their mistakes, and they've become much more successful at doing so as our technology (and spread of information) grows. The awesome thing that sets humans apart from other creatures is our ability to problem solve, remember, and philosophize (asking the questions about life, trying to determine meaning for ourselves opposed to mechanically following authorities' directions). The more people that are involved in higher learning, the more useful wisdom they can pass down, especially when the preceding generation has over-analyzed and dissected their issues just like we are (and will keep doing).
"Humans are not perfect" may be the cliche saying, but what makes us awesome is not using the statement as an excuse to not become better or not improve. Growth and development is exciting, to me; I mean, consider how we have automobiles instead of riding to work on a horse, or how we can communicate with each other with a few simple clicks of the button on a smart phone, or how we can share inspiring art without requiring transportation or manual delivery. We really have it very easy, and it's only going to become easier... But, this is not true for everyone.
Older generations, as we can observe, tend to have more difficulty utilizing the tools that make our lives easier today. They either feel there's no need to do something different than what they're used to over a series of decades, or they lack the confidence and motivation to learn. Every time a co-worker of mine calls me over to teach her something on Microsoft Office, I tend to have a voice in the back of my head that wonders if I'll ever be like this some day. It's kind of scary, to be honest. And, every time she thanks me, but fails to conceptualize or want to "learn how to fish" as the saying goes, I feel a little broken inside in addition to that worry. I suppose that as I grow older and accumulate more and more knowledge, I'll end up seeing an overload of information, and perhaps succumb to the same habit of not wanting to learn anything new. (I really hope it doesn't come to that, but I remind myself it's entirely possible.) But, I digress...
Thus, learning really is about survival as a whole race, not just individually. Mistakes happen globally and universally, and while most readers out there are too young to really worry about this now, my contemporaries and elders can empathize with the importance of opening one's mind and sharing/teaching. Teachers have become the ultimate heroes of this Information Age as they debunk myths, brave the unknown, experiment with the undiscovered, and dive into the dark truths of the world. In the end, they shape their students for living better lives so these newly educated can establish even better lives for their children, and so on. If we appreciate the services we have today, like Twitter, Google, the automobile, smart phones, computers, and airplanes, then we need to take up that responsibility of loving and taking advantage of knowledge, and hope our descendants can carry out and handle the same passion.