Monday, October 28, 2013

Humble Bundle Virgin. . . No More

I wrote about how I got involved in Steam with Dear Esther. Well, this weekend I went full balls to the wall and finally committed to a Humble Bundle of my own with a Steam account of my own. I am totally psyched and haloed in an after-glow.

What did I Humble Bundle?


The selling point for me? Worms Reloaded! Worms Armageddon is totally something from my early years dating my husband. I had so much fun picking out the cool voices and launching holy hand grenades! It was a game that, in a way, put a new spin on how I viewed video gaming. I became so addicted to Worms that I literally drove my husband nuts wanting to play it so much. I liked the strategy and all the different things you could do. I also appreciated the skill it took to really get yourself in the right place to do the right things to take out your opponent. May I add that I was also pretty good at the game and actually won more than I lost. As someone who is always competing against the big dogs, it was awesome to be able to win at a game.


It didn't hurt that Organ Trail, Broken Sword, The Bard's Tale, and Ticket to Ride were there. The others I don't know much about, but I am really excited to play!  I already broke out Organ Trail and have been trying to make it the whole way. I've been freaking out over the inverted mouse! AHHHH!!! I also love all this because I am able to challenge my gaming boundaries.Stupid mouse.

So yeah. There it is. It's official. I purchased a Humble Bundle with Steam Keys. . . oh yeah. I am feeling so uber special right now. . . like I know a little bit more about a life that has been hidden from me for so long. Mmmmm..... games..... love it.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Dear Esther

I have these bouts of craziness where I become completely obsessed with video games. I loved playing WoW, but I had sort of entered the fray when the fad had somewhat ended, which made it hard to play as a single-player (for a non-hardcore player like me). This was mainly because to level up faster I needed to do quests or dungeon runs with people. I became frustrated with the game and turned to other games that I liked., such as The Sims, Sims 2, or Sims 3. Those games typically ended in the standard development of Sims, no matter what expansions I added and I'd fall into doing the same thing over and over and over again anyways.  Then I wonder about my web-based games like Kingdom of Loathing or. . . my high school favorite, Neopets. I play Neopets only for the little webgames that mimic other popular webgames. Some of these games now have popular versions on Facebook, but I don't have to worry about paying or ads or anything if I play them on Neopets.
So I continue to re-enter WoW now and again to try to pick up my character, but I still fall into my old rut or not being able to get far or level up in a faster way. So I pull out my old standby. . .

I started playing Kingdom of Loathing in 2007 during a time when my life was chaotic. Ray introduced me to the game and we played together. We'd share items and we joined a guild together. I still pop on to play once in a while, but they've had some changes and it makes it hard for me to log in or I feel too out of step to achieve certain things. I usually head back into the game in December when the site celebrates Crimbo, which is always a great deal of fun with special christmas-based quests and items. Sometimes they break out and do great holiday themed stuff. I try to check-in often for neat gimmicks. Like right now they're doing something for their Trick-or-Treat quest and I'm keeping an eye on it. I enjoy being a Pastamancer, but there are some pretty fun characters you can be.


I love the game so much that I have Kingdom of Loathing pint glasses and Friend Jim funded Mr. Card Game from Kickstarter as a present for me a year ago (We're hoping it arrives someday. . .haha)! I like the nerdland quality of the webgame and I love the stick figures. When I teach my kids and ask them to draw stuff and they get all self-conscious about drawing pictures. I tell them to try their best and stick figures are alright by me. I'm anxious to see the game, though, because I'm excited about how I could potentially use it in my classroom.

Sadly, there are times when these oldy-but-goody games don't feed the need I have for gaming. Sure I could pick up one of my gaming consoles and play out my games there. I am still a firm believer in the awesomeness of Wii. My daughter now loves playing with it, so that's a bonus. Our Xbox360 is always left in question for me. A certain owner of a certain system tried to fix some of the problems with it and I still haven't ascertained its current functional status. If I did, though, start a game on a console on our TV, my daughter wouldn't give me the space I needed. Plus a certain husband wants to watch his MSNBC shows. . .bllllaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh.

That leaves me with computer games. I have been lurking around Steam for a while. I learned about Humble Bundles over the summer and I found out that Friend Jim and Ray were playing games they purhcased through Humble Bundle on this site called Steam. Look at them leaving me out of everything cool. Granted, my time is incredibly limited for gaming, but sometimes you just need that release from all the anxiety and stress.

Since my husband left for the night to tabletop game (I didn't go, because we didn't have a sitter for my daughter), I wanted to play a "video game" (I also had a day off the next day). I'd been itching to play for a while. So I kept browsing Steam, but I also didn't have the money to drop on a new game. I texted Friend Jim and when he got home from work he listed off a bunch of games that Ray had on Steam, since I didn't hear back from my husband about the PC games he had and where they had been stored during the move. So I logged into my husband's Steam account (oh evil wife that I am) and started browsing the games Friend Jim recommended. Not surprising, none were what I was really looking for, but it was something different to engage with.

The game I opted to play, because upon opening the game the visuals stunned me, was Dear Esther. Dear Esther is a story-driven game from The Chinese Room, a British game development company. You walk through a landscape and have elements of the story revealed to you. Instead of it just being a clue-finding game, you have parts of the story shared as you arrive at each location. What throws me off is it being a first-person point of view. I'm used to having a more third-person perspective on a game. It feels more comfortable. That's probably why I don't play FP-shooter games.

Bottom line here is that I branched out into a new gaming platform and I am totally psyched about it. Dear Esther told an incredibly spooky story that offered great visual surprises throughout the story. You are on an island and you are listening to voice-overs of letters to a woman named Esther.  It has a very British feel to it, which I found enjoyable. Replay-ability has at least an additional play or two out of it now that I've gone through it once for the standard effect of the game. I learned that certain pieces of information are omitted and offered during certain plays depending on which letters or areas are accessed. The game in its four parts was long, but I found it to have unique gaming features and a compelling storyline that had me spooked enough to be freaked when my daughter snuck downstairs and ambushed me with claims of her face hurting (she has a mouth owie). 

I was pretty into the game. It was like watching a movie, but not. It wasn't a stressful game and I was able to finish it in one sitting, which always makes me feel a little bit more fulfilled. I mean, for example, I have so many half-done entries on this site, I have anxiety over whether or not they'll be finished! So it was one less anxiety on my plate.

Now I recommend a play of it if you're looking for something a little disturbing this time of year and you're looking for something visually stunning with a simplistic gameplay style. Just watch out for the water and the shadows!


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.

Sometimes the smell of something can just make you smile for miles.

It's getting pretty cold out here in Wisconsin. The temperature where I live was registering around 27 degrees this morning. I was incredibly cold. So I decided to grab one of those delicious apple cakes from Starbucks for my breakfast. The dilemma over what to order to drink emerged. Do I want to order a hot chocolate? I immediately had some issues with the idea. First and foremost, it didn't feel like a rich drink day. It felt like a light, soothing drink day.

Forget the hot chocolate then. You're at Starbucks, get some coffee! Well, I don't drink coffee, so that was immediately out. As I went through my registry of preferred quick-drinks, I mentally happened upon my old standby. . . the drink I always ordered when I went to Starbucks until just a little while ago. Tall Earl Grey, Splash of Half with 6 Splenda. 6 Splenda exactly. . . no more. . . no less.

Brilliant! Perfect combination for the morning. Even before I arrived at the window to pay I was proud of the order. It felt perfect. At the window, I passed them my gold Starbucks card and they handed me the apple cake. Mmmmmm.... the smell of sweet apples filled the car and a tiny smile played on my lips. Then they opened the window again to handed my card. . . and my Earl Grey.

The smell hit me immediately and I was transported to a happy place. I felt calm and peaceful and that tiny smile that had been toying on my lips was now transformed into a full blown, unstoppable grin! I even had a moment where I thought to myself, "what is wrong with me?" And as I inhaled the alluring smell of my tea again, I was just beyond content, calm, and happy.

As I pulled out of the Starbucks parking lot, I just smiled a silly grin and smiled all the way to the school parking lot. I was feeling chipper and positive and ready for whatever the day threw at me. It was a tingly happy feeling. . .and now I feel compelled to start brewing my favorite tea at home. I was a huge Earl Grey addict until about four years ago. But if this is how it makes me feel. . . well. . . I've been missing out.

What a great start to a day that would turn out to suck the very life out of me. Boy oh boy. It wasn't even anything in particular. It was just all my hard work catching up with me. And the kids. . .they don't mean to, but they do have a tendency to drain teachers.


(Note: I kept the teabag in my mug on my desk and every time I needed a happy moment today, I took a quick whiff of that sweet scent and everything seemed just a little bit better.)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What Star Trek Character Am I?

 A friend of mine posted this and I couldn't help but take the quiz. I always waffle on some answers, so I'm not sure how hardcore this response is. I also just felt the need to record what I did. So don't mind me and my need to validate myself through quizzes.


Your results:
You are Deanna Troi
Deanna Troi
85%
An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
80%
Chekov
60%
Beverly Crusher
60%
Leonard McCoy (Bones)
55%
Geordi LaForge
55%
Worf
55%
James T. Kirk (Captain)
45%
Spock
44%
Mr. Scott
40%
Uhura
40%
Data
37%
Jean-Luc Picard
35%
Will Riker
30%
Mr. Sulu
15%
You are a caring and loving individual.
You understand people's emotions and
you are able to comfort and counsel them.
Click here to take the Star Trek Personality Test

Like all good quiz-takers, I have to go BACK and take it again, fixing those answers I was waffling on and here it what happened when I did THAT!

Your results:
You are Beverly Crusher
Beverly Crusher
70%
Deanna Troi
70%
Spock
60%
An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
60%
Leonard McCoy (Bones)
55%
Chekov
55%
Worf
50%
Uhura
45%
Data
45%
Geordi LaForge
45%
James T. Kirk (Captain)
35%
Jean-Luc Picard
35%
Mr. Scott
30%
Will Riker
25%
Mr. Sulu
5%
A good physician and a caring parent.
You are devoted to your children
and to your occupation.
Click here to take the Star Trek Personality Quiz

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Dix Against Humanity

It is no mystery how much I love Cards Against Humanity and Dixit. I use Dixit constantly and I am even working on ways to incorporate it into my classroom with enhanced Common Core Standards rules! Cards Against Humanity is just offensive and hilarious and it seriously feeds that guilty pleasure of being incredibly offensive!

As I was simply sitting here enjoying my day, my husband sent me a link to the greatest thing I have EVER seen! And what makes it so sad for me is that I don't seem to have anyone to play this with! Cards Against Humanity has no place around anyone you want to offend (kids, new friends, some family). . . so how will I ever enjoy this unless Friend Jim comes to visit or my childhood friend Amy is up in the state for a while? Woah is me. . .

So while I lament having limited trusted people to play this type of game with, enjoy the majesty of this amazing game: Dix Against Humanity!


Sunday, October 6, 2013

The T-Shirt Treatise (con't.)

A while back I wrote about how I wanted to use t-shirts as a teaching tool in my classroom. Of course I was being a bit hyperbolic at times and not every shirt was a direct link to the classroom. I have now, though, had the time to start using the shirts in the classroom during certain lessons and on certain days and I wanted to share some of the results that I've collected from the use of the shirts (plus add a few shirts that were recently released by snorgtees.com).

I did wear this on International Talk Like a Pirate Day. It was awesome. I had a whole list of pirate lingo and the students had to write pirate stories using the story dice in my class and an awesome pirate name generator. And we used the shirt as a joke and the hook them to the awesomeness of the day. It was a win-win situation and it was a lot of fun. They were trying to figure out the shirt and we talked about why the pirate crossword puzzle would look like this and how hard it would be to solve. Hilarious! A definite shirt to wear again next year for International Talk Like a Pirate Day!


My students were working on plot in the narratives they are writing. My seventh graders were working on a plot for the origin stories they were writing for their super heroes. Whenever I had a student say they were done, I'd always say "Cool story bro, needs more dragons." It usually meant they were missing the action in the story. They just told me some things, but nothing ever really happened in the story. Plus, many of them needed excitement and we talked about that in one-on-ones to help them improve their writing. The students also got a kick out of the fact that my shirt said "bro." While I don't know how memorable the t-shirt will be, it was a fun way to break the tension for ushering in a need for revisions.


My students are struggling to understand what literally and figuratively mean. So when I ask them to tell me what the idiom of the week LITERALLY means, they give me the idiom definition. When, literally, it means "to hit a sack" or to "find a needle in a haystack," instead of "go to bed" or "finding something small in a big place/area." If I am figuratively speaking, I am using "coded" language to explain something. It was an interesting discussion. Does it bother me that people say "literally"? According to this shirt, no. I'll be wearing it again, especially when we're working on figurative language throughout the year in both of my grade level literacy classes. It doesn't hurt that red is our school color, either.


This shirt was a fun puzzle shirt for my kids. The students who are keeping their eye out for what I'm wearing were already trying to solve the puzzle before I ever even introduced it. I  used this t-shirt on the day we were starting spelling in the classroom. Someone said "I don't get it." I flattened the shirt and let them take a moment thinking about it. I said, "Don't words usually follow the 'I before E' pattern, except after a C where the E would come before the I? Don't you think that's wEIrd?" It was great the students won't forget weird, but I used it as a reminder that the "ie" combination doesn't always go "ie," It might follow the "ei" pattern. That is why we are learning features in spelling, so that they can be aware of the certain types of word structures that occur naturally in the English language. It is a great thinking shirts where the students have to start applying what they know to solve the problem. It also causes that kind of awareness that they need to start developing to be more participatory members of a productive community.


This is a Friday or before a break shirt. Sometimes you just need just exude an indifference to high stress situations. Sixth graders can be incredibly worrisome over things that don't necessitate worrying. I have found this has a tendency to stem from not listening to directions or guidelines. It happens. So I have to "meh away the stress." Plus the kids laugh and I have a tendency to say it alot. It helps facilitate a positive atmosphere before the weekends (especially for me).



What? A Sharknado shirt? Yes! My students were working on their narratives again and I wore this shirt as a reminder of how EPIC they needed to be! I said "we're going to need a bigger classroom with all these amazing ideas!" It worked for my students writing a standard narrative AND those who were working on their super hero origin stories.



This is the shirt I am anticipating the most. While teaching spelling this last week, my students had to deal with certain spelling features which focused on vowel/consonant combinations. So, for example the long a using the CVCe word pattern. (Yeah, it's a little intense, I think, as far as spelling is concerned.) As a review, I asked the students, what are the vowels. . . they are sixth graders. . . and they were like "It's like. . . a-w-sometimes y." I mean, they kept saying w. . . and it made me wonder what disconnect happened where they thought u was w. So I went home that night and I saw this shirt on  snorgtees.com and knew it was a must. Here are all the vowels that are always counted, partying inside and Y is only invited sometimes. Love it! Hopefully they'd never forget it. We'll just assume they're drinking soda and punch. What? You thought it was alcohol? Shame on you! Be an adult!


Now that I'm getting to wears my shirts in the classroom, it's wonderful to see that my plan for hooking the students is seriously working. My peer coach also recommended having reference posters that remind the students about some of the t-shirts. I'm not sure what I want to do about that. Either way, I am loving being able to wear my t-shirts in the classroom. Complete with dress pants! It's a great idea for use in your classroom if you're a teacher, especially in middle school.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Dauntless Divergent Cake

I promised myself that I would try to relax this weekend by participating in the Dauntless Read-a-Thon and make the Dauntless Cake (Previous entry with promise here!). I've never made a complex cake like this. In all honesty, I find baking to be a rather tedious endeavor. I prefer making things like stews and soups and things like that. Like today, we're making 2-Can Stew in the crockpot.

But I really wanted to try the cake. I mean, I love being able to connect things I love together. So cooking and reading was a combination I was so excited to try. Here is my photographic journey of MY FIRST LAYER CAKE.


1. Shopping. Had to get the ingredients I didn't have my in pantry already. My daughter (3) came with me and helped me pick out the ingredients. Like, which brand of Devil's Food Cake and which two containers of frosting I should get. She "drove" us by riding in the little car at the front of the cart.

2. I got home, unloaded the groceries and got ready. Let's start with the cake batter. . . I only had one cake pan. I have a feeling there might be some somewhere, but not without digging or doing something STRESSFUL! Oh, and my pan was 9". . . sigh. . .and one of the mixer pieces was missing. . .it's a make-it-work moment. So here's the cake mix based on the directions:


3. I split the cake mix, cooked and waited.


4. I get tired of waiting and I decide to make the frosting, because it dawned on me that I have to actually toast the coconut and almonds myself.  So I made the frosting according to the directions. {BOOK BREAK!}



The frosting mixed with coconut and almonds for the layers.
 5. I let the cakes cool {BOOK BREAK!} and I divided them into the layers. I didn't perfectly split the batter and the pan was too big, so the top layers are a little wonky. That is alright, though, because it'll still be delicious!




6. Then I had to make sure I had enough filling and frosting. Thankfully it worked out perfectly!



7. And now the final frosting of the outside of the cake was done with all the little bits of parchment/wax paper (I used the leftovers from the ring at the bottom). I got out my daughter's Happy Birthday footie cake-stand. And here it is!



 8. READY TO EAT! {but first. . . cooling. . . and a BOOK BREAK!}


 9. And here's the inside.


10. Finally. . . mmmmmmmmm delicious!


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Let Them Eat Cake, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Make a Cake

For anyone who knows me, you know how much stress I've been enduring lately. I have too many fingers in too many pies. . . my plate is overloaded. . . a bee has got nothing on me. . . I arrived home from our trip to North Carolina and I hit the ground running. I immediately had to work on curriculum for the Milwaukee Film Festival. Then I had to meet with some district colleagues to complete a Literacy Department District Assessment. It was the first week back at school, which was full of all the staff meetings and trainings and things like that. Then. . . the first week of school. I started a new club for Tabletop Gaming. I'm running the school newspaper. My weekends have been stacked with traveling down to Milwaukee for events.

Throw into the mix that I'm trying to relaunch the school paper with a brand new staff. I'm also trying to get a field trip organized for the Tabletop Gaming Club so that they can participate in N.E.W. Game. . . I've got my PDP (Professional Development Plan), 2 SLOs (Student Learning Objectives) and 2 PPGs (Professional something Goals). . . sigh. . . and I'm on the Academic team at my school developing a school-wide goal of improving students ability to apply close analysis with citation support for claims. . .and just the normal ins and outs of being a teacher.

Then there are money issues and I have the whole mommy-wife thing going on. Meal planning and "life" planning. Did I mention we have a puppy?

Do you feel stressed yet? I haven't even mentioned everything. It's no wonder to me why I'm ready to crash at 8PM every night. And I've been lamenting to my husband that I need a zen weekend where I am not worrying about lessons or grading papers or anything. Lucky for me, I finally hit my stride with being comfortable with my lessons and my Thursdays and Fridays are a bit more relaxed.

So after I kicked my husband out of the house. . . and off to a gaming night with the group we've joined, I had some time to relax with my daughter a little bit. After she went to bed, I had some time to just. . .scroll endlessly and blindly through Twitter and Facebook. Something caught my eye. It was posted by Epic Reads and it was about a Divergent Read-a-thon!

I've never read the Divergent books, but I know a new one is coming out very soon. So I went to the Epic Reads website and I started reading about this Read-a-thon. From October 1-6, you have to read the entire novel. Then there will be another week to read Insurgent and, finally, the third release, Allegiant. I'm heading upstairs now to read as much as I can before I fall asleep.

Yet, a link caught my eye on the page. Recipes that relate to books? I am intrigued. What could this mean? I clicked the link and all of a sudden. . . there it was. . . a chocolate layer cake. . .inspired by the book I was going to attempt to read in three days. And that is how stress becomes a chocolate cake. . . I will be reading Divergent and making a chocolate cake this weekend. What better way to eliminate stress than with reading a new book, baking a cake, and then eating that chocolate cake WHILE reading that new book?!? (Just see this from a girl's angle where Star Trek, Asimov, and Bradbury don't exist. . . haha!)

Epic Reads Recipe
Thank you Epic Reads! I am so looking forward to reading this and enjoying the cake recipe! Who knew you could have your cake and eat it, too!


UPDATE: Epic Reads gave me some love for a tweet I made when I started the Read-a-Thon. Check out their daily updates!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Bill Nye - A Man of Incredible Spirit

Bill Nye has his own legacy as the Science Guy of so many youthful hours of television watching. He inspired a love of Science in many and continues to inspire my own students in Science (when I'm teaching it). {Along with the likes of Mr. Wizard and Beakman from Beakman's World!} I love watching him and I love watching all the little shows I see him popping into now that I am an adult.(http://www.billnye.com/ and http://www.youtube.com/user/TheRealBillNye)

I must also admit, I have a tendency to tune into Dancing with the Stars. Mostly if there are people I adore on it. This year I really don't have people who I am dying to watch dancing on the show, but Bill Nye drew me to watch this season.
Sadly, an injury put him in jeopardy this week and I feared the worst for him. I thought the injury would completely put him out of the competition and some might argue that, in the end, it did. What I loved about his performances on DWTS was that he geeked it up hardcore! He wore the suspenders and played up the mad scientist... err... scientist thing on the premier.


Then on the next week, where he was injured, he was Beethoven.


Last night, though, the full extent of his injury was revealed and. . . I wouldn't want him to have gone out any other way than as some sort of crazy sci-fi robot (Asimov anyone?). . . here was Nye's final performance, demonstrating his incredible spirit and will to persevere!


For a laugh at a fake Bill Nye tweeting like a Gangsta Bill Nye, go here...well... if you don't mind inappropriate language. If Gangsta Nye is not your thing, enjoy the GIF below! And have a great rest of your day!