Journey to Silver: Part 1

I adore League of Legends. I started playing in 2010, when Boyfriend thought it’d be a good game for us to play while we were apart over my college Thanksgiving break.

I was TERRIBLE back then. I’m still comparatively terrible now, but then I played with camera lock, didn’t use a mouse, and couldn’t even stay alive against beginner bots.

I spent time away from the game for about 2 years, playing World of Warcraft mostly. It wasn’t until Season 4 that I actually began playing again and started to really see improvement in my play. That’s when I started playing ranked.

I was atrocious in ranked placements, but somehow managed to make it to Silver 5. To make a long story short, I’ve played much less ranked than is required to actually climb, and was placed in Bronze 5 in Season 5 and again in Season 6, despite a 5-5 placement ratio.

My goal this season is simply to make it to Silver.

I actually started recording my games this season recently, to be able to look back on what I did wrong and mindfully figure out how to not make those same mistakes again in future games. It’s also nice when my recordings capture an awesome moment, like a three-person shockwave on Orianna that causes all three people caught in it to flash. I don’t play enough ranked to climb fast, but I am happy to have climbed to Bronze 4 so far and haven’t fallen back down yet.

The first games after my placements were crazy. It felt like I was with the worst of the worst of the League community – both skillwise and attitude-wise. People were yelling at each other, flaming, and doing absolutely atrocious plays and dying left and right. I think after my placements I lost at least 6-7 games in a row. I just kept going, figuring I’d have to win sometime. Then, I started to gain LP and climb through the tier. It was like something just clicked into place, and I actually won my first promotional series ever, and celebrated my promotion into Bronze 4 by dancing in my chair a bunch. I’ve stuck to mostly three champions – Ezreal and Lucian for bot lane and Orianna for mid. I feel that it is going to be easier this season too, since you only NEED to know two roles rather than all of them (jungling randomly in past seasons was NOT fun). I enjoy that I am good at and enjoy playing champions that are not banned often and mostly aren’t picked away from me.

As I reach each threshold, I am reminding myself not to be discouraged. I know that after that losing streak at the beginning, if I just keep playing the climb will continue. Right now, I’m in a ranked bounce house – I’ll lose one, win one, lose one, win two, lose two, and stay at approximately 50% winrate consistently. I know that eventually I will fix something that I’m doing wrong (or will get really lucky with my teams) and I’ll continue to climb from here. I still have until Worlds to climb to Silver 5 at minimum.

For me, having something that I like to do competitively is a new thing. I have never been competitive, not liking sports games and people worried so much about winning. But finding an outlet where I can compete and improve my own gameplay and mechanical skill is incredibly satisfying to do, which keeps me going back, wanting to play at least one game per day, if not more. It makes me want to read each patch notes as they come out, searching for changes to my favorite champions. It makes me want to watch professionals stream and learn more from their play as well. And ultimately, I am having fun, which is the most important part.

I will update you on my progress as the season goes on. Please leave any advice, encouragement, or ideas for music to listen to while I play in the comments! :) 

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Review: The Turner House

“The Turner House” follows the story of a black family of thirteen children, and their family home on the east side of Detroit. I listened to it on audiobook, and finished it last night. Usually, I’d just write a review on Goodreads and leave it at that. However, something about this book just thrilled me altogether. My only complaint is really that I wanted to know mo
re. I wanted more information about what happened after the book ended. But the big thing was that it reminded me of so many things within my own family, on both sides, and made me laugh and smile and nod as I listened.

In the story, each sibling is grown and out of the house, and the siblings that still live in Detroit are gathering together to try to figure out what to do with their childhood home, the house on Yarrow Street. The mortgage is upside down, and is worth far less than they owe on it. If you can imagine what trying to come to a decision among thirteen kids is like, that’s what happebjcx-square-1536ns throughout the book.

The story weaves in Francis and Viola’s (the parents) story, of how Francis left Viola and their oldest son Cha-Cha in Arkansas while he went north to Detroit to find a job and come back for them eventually during the 1940’s. We follow the oldest son Cha-Cha, while he deals with seeing a haint at night; Troy, one of the youngest, who is now a police officer and is attempting to find a solution for the Turner House on his own, and Lelah, the youngest, who has a gambling problem and has lost her house and her job. These three are the main focuses of the story, but we get enough perspective on the rest of the children to understand what they’re like and laugh when something that could be perceived an inside joke is said within the story.

Like Francis, my grandpa (on my dad’s side) left my grandmother to find work and send for her later, except he went to California from Oklahoma. I was never able to meet either of them, much as I wish I had, and it was interesting to read about a couple’s experience of going through this time apart in order to help propel their family toward a better future, and the difficulties that could present, both because of the time spent apart, and the time period they were living in, where although there might not have been Jim Crow laws necessarily, but there was surely racism and segregation to deal with while each of them were in their separate places.

On the other hand, my grandma (on my mom’s side) is the oldest of thirteen. They grew up in New Mexico, and she was the first to come to California, and led the way for the rest of her family to follow her. Sometimes when I was reading about Cha-Cha and his leadership of his family, it reminded me of my grandma. My grandma is tough as nails, and is definitely highly respected in the family.

The ability to relate to the characters in this book helped make me enjoy the story that much more. All of this aside, it is an incredibly well-written book and is Flournoy’s debut novel. She also did a good job of making Detroit itself into a character, and inserting narrative about the housing crisis, redlining, and other issues facing the city without hitting you over the head with it. And ultimately, all around it made me feel a huge swelling of appreciation for my own family.

I’d recommend it highly. I am really intrigued by what Angela Flournoy will write next.

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Why You Should Try Podcasts

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I started listening to podcasts a couple of years ago. At the time, it was just the weekly book news oriented Book Riot podcast, and it has slowly grown from there. I started listening to their other podcasts that included book recommendation, new book releases and their form of Dear Abby podcasts. I’d added the podcasts from Blizzard Watch as well, their main and Lore Watch podcasts and thought I was pretty set.

Then, I read this post about story-driven horror podcasts.

I’d heard about Serial, but hadn’t really thought about the fact that there could be podcasts that had continuing story, that were heavily produced and edited. I decided to try Limetown first. It started a down-the-rabbit hole spiral of finding other similar podcasts to listen to, and binge-listening each one while cooking, playing video games, cleaning, and even just sitting in bed playing simple games on my iPad. I was hooked.

Listening to podcasts has started to help me understand why radio was such a huge source of entertainment for people before television became widespread. It helps me understand why people thought that the 1938 radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds was happening as they listened.

I know almost all of the podcasts I have been listening to lately are fictional docudramas (with the exception of Lore), but they are so brilliantly produced, written, and acted that it feels like it could be real. I’ve enjoyed the anticipation of waiting for the next episode; of reading discussions on Reddit for the podcasts, exchanging theories and discussing the parts you liked best; and, of course, having that feeling where you want to know so much more but you look at your phone and realize there’s only two minutes left and you’re going to have to wait until the next one.

These podcasts have created a respite for my ears when I’m in between audiobooks (or even regular books!) to listen to while I do other things. I think if you like stories, like audiobooks, or even enjoy watching/listening to TV while getting other things done, you will enjoy podcasts in general, but especially the “docudrama” types. Here is a list of the ones I’ve been listening to and see if any of them look interesting!

  • The Black Tapes by Pacific Northwest Stories & Minnow Beats Whale
  • TANIS by Pacific Northwest Stories & Minnow Beats Whale
  • Lore by Aaron Mahnke (folklore and stories passed down in real life that are based on supposedly true happenings)
  • NoSleep Podcast (horror stories written by people on Reddit and then produced for audio)
  • Limetown (currently on hiatus, but I highly recommend the first season)

Do you listen to any podcasts? Do you have any recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments! 

Toxic Messages: They Need to Stop

While turning over the idea of this blog post in my head for the past few days, I feel like I’ve written this before, in some capacity. I’m not a person who likes to complain much (or at least without rationalizing away reasons for complaint). Or ask for help, much to the chagrin of my family and boyfriend. But this recent story about a 25-year-old employee at Yelp’s firing from her job and the response of most people to it has really gotten to me.

I don’t think she should have written an open letter on Medium or rage-tweeted at her CEO. There are other reasons people have dug up on social media why she was fired and that suggest she may not be “as poor as she seems” (which ugh, let’s not get into the problems with that statement). However, a lot of the concerns she brings up about living in the Bay Area (or, in many places) are valid.

Rent prices are outrageous. Completely, and utterly. I am lucky to have the rent price I have where I live right now, even with it being raised last June. I still pay at least $400 less than most people that live in a smaller apartment than I do. I live in a quiet mountain town and it’s hard to get anywhere, but my rent is low. I’m thankful for that, honestly. But the prospect of moving anywhere else and finding a job that can pay for that is daunting.

People want to get on this girl’s case about “not planning ahead” and not budgeting for living in the Bay Area…but someone has to fill those entry-level jobs in any city. Often, for a college graduate, that is all you’re going to get. These jobs may have once been intended for people in high school or college, but people have to eat. They have to live. They have to find a job where they can get one. People love to bash on “millennials” for whatever choice they make. If they stay at home and live with their parents, they get called entitled and lazy. If they complain about the fact that they have a college degree and still can’t be paid a living wage, they get called entitled and lazy. If they have a few years of work experience under their belt and still can’t get an interview for anything above $15 an hour, they get called entitled and lazy. There’s really no winning in the situation. And that’s part of the problem I have.

No one is perfect. This girl who wrote this open letter certainly isn’t. But there’s no need for people to dogpile on someone who spoke out about it (however right or wrong her approach was) when several facets of what she said are true. People commenting on this article say “Well if you don’t like it, find another job.” When’s the last time they job-searched? Do they realize how difficult it is to do so? That even if you are working, that finding something else can take years? Especially something that pays more than you are currently making. Even if you have been paid more money in the past it’s more likely you’ll be able to find a job that pays less because you need to get something right away than something that pays you what you have actually earned through the work you’ve already done.

Ultimately, I’m just tired of being told that my generation is entitled, lazy, stuck-up, and can’t do anything for themselves. It’s a toxic message and it needs to stop. The reality of the statistics and numbers for what our generation experiences are real. Why do people think we are getting married and having kids later? Why do they think we’re not buying houses? Why do they think that we’re not saving any money? Why do they think we’re not moving out of our parents’ houses? Do they think we want this? Do they think that we’re stupid enough to not think that saving, buying a house, or living on our own are good ideas?

I don’t pretend to know what the solutions are. I only know what I’ve dealt with and what kind of situation I’m in. I don’t know the details of why a business that makes millions can’t manage to pay a living wage to even their lowest level employees. But I still think that the overarching message to millennials and the blaming of people who have no power needs to stop. We are all at the mercy of what people bigger than us decide. There are several ways to deal with it, but those methods shouldn’t come with criticism and shame. It’d be great if for a change, we could all lift each other up instead of tearing each other down.

Did you read the former Eat24/Yelp employee’s letter to the CEO? What do you think? Let me know in the comments. 

Scary Things About Trying Something New

Something you may not know about me – and may seem odd considering how little I watch television – is that I ADORE YouTube.

In the past couple of years, I started watching a lot of YouTube, mostly WoW-related machinima and other videos at first. I really liked Nobbel87‘s lore videos, and SlightlyImpressive‘s machinimas, and then discovered Nixxiom and Moocluck and fell down a rabbit hole. Now I’ve added people to my sub list like ShoddyCast who do Fallout and Skyrim lore (and an amazing “Rethinking” series, where they use in-game problems and relate them to the real-world), and people like Laci Green and Feminist Frequency for food-for-thought type videos. I’ve got a really long sub list, now.

It got me thinking about making my own videos.

Part of the reason I thought about doing videos is that currently, I do not have the capability to stream. My internet download speed is 6Mbps, my upload speed is…something I don’t want to think about. It’s definitely too slow to stream anything without major hiccups and freezes. My computer is a beast and so can handle it while laughing at Twitch, probably, but my internet would have a field day. So, I thought about doing videos instead.

I took a film class in college where I learned the basics of using video editing software. I know essentially how it works, and downloaded Lightworks to start with. I began recording a few of the games I play. It’s nice that recording is relatively simple with my graphics card and ShadowPlay, and so have a nice recording of one of my first League games of the season and the first hour of my playthrough of Rise of the Tomb Raider.

I was pretty confident that I’d be able to video edit easily. I learn new software super quickly, and I’d done video editing before, albeit 5-6 years ago. What could be hard about it?

Turns out, a lot.

For full disclosure, this does not mean I’m giving up. Or that this is too hard for me, because it’s not. But the types of problems I’ve had are incredibly frustrating and it’s scary to think you’re going to do something relatively easily and then have obstacles all along the way.

First of all, I’ve been using Audacity to record my voice separately from the Shadowplay mic recording because it tends to make the game audio far too loud while my voice is drowned out by dramatic music, no matter what game I’m playing, and it doesn’t separate the tracks by default. This means I have to add in the audio later, and with something like a League game where I’m only going to upload highlights or funny moments, isolating the audio to the right parts of the game is mostly very time-consuming. This is something I need to expect, but something I hadn’t thought about much before beginning. I have a video from that game that I’ll likely upload soon, but it’s most likely going to be a shorter rendition of what I had originally planned, but hopefully will be much more entertaining.

Then, I thought of the fact that I was eagerly anticipating the Rise of the Tomb Raider release for PC. I had been incredibly disappointed that it had been released as an Xbox exclusive, and was admittedly smug when they announced the PC release date about a month after the Xbox exclusive release. (They released it the same day as Fallout 4. Probably not a good idea.) I thought I’d start a Let’s Play of the game since I adored the first game and love Lara Croft as a character so much that I had a hard time getting into other games because a. they weren’t Lara and b. they weren’t ladies, usually.

I recorded about a full hour of gameplay with webcam and separate audio on the Monday after I bought it for PC. I excitedly uploaded the video into Lightworks to separate it into 15-minute intervals to edit together and upload to YouTube. However, I ran into a concerning problem – the audio and video did not match up. By quite a lot.

This is a problem that is fixable in post-processing, but I was confused as to why it would even be out of sync. I read a ton of forum posts, and most people who had asked the question hadn’t received a satisfactory answer, and were usually using a different editing program. I downloaded a trial of Adobe Premiere and tried it there, and had the same result, possibly even worse. I downloaded Handbrake and re-encoded the video for constant framerate vs. variable framerate, but it didn’t help – if anything, it made things worse. At the moment, I’m still trying to find a solution, and trying to avoid having to record the whole thing again, or completely readjust the audio by hand over four 15-minute segments where the audio could be in one of the other segments I’m splitting it into. Recording it again wouldn’t be the worst thing, since I could actually make sure to time myself and stop a little before 15 minutes so I wouldn’t have to split it, but I’m still not sure which direction to go at the moment. If you have any suggestions or have had this problem before, please let me know!

Honestly, I’m not discouraged as far as I’m going to throw it on the ground and say “Nope, this isn’t going to work”. It is frustrating, though, and I’m going to have to fight a little bit of an uphill battle to get started on this thing I want to do. I’ve been thinking about if I have this much issue with this type of recording, what would happen if I wanted to do machinima? Having to use green screens and WoW ModelViewer? The main thing is for me to try to push down my own self-doubt and keep my own stubborn willpower going. I can do this, even if I have to hop a bunch of obstacles along the way.

What obstacles have you run into trying out something new? Do you have any advice for me? Do you know how to solve my audio/video sync problem? Let me know in the comments! 

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Presence by Amy Cuddy, Thoughts

I’m currently reading Presence by Amy Cuddy, a book that I received for Christmas from my mom. I’ve always been relatively shy, not good at showing my true self on first impression. Not that I fake it by any means, but I am quiet and shy and I don’t feel like I’m necessarily engaging upon first meeting someone. Interviews are the worst. I have gotten better at them over the years, but the wrong signals from an interviewer and I feel like I’m sinking into myself, and they won’t see the things I’m capable of.

Reading this book has been fascinating. Every few pages, I am seeing behaviors, body language, and more that I can pinpoint to the past few years of my life, especially in the workplace. What has been especially interesting is the concept of power, and how people act when they feel powerful or powerless, and I vividly (sometimes painfully) remember both instances I felt at my last job, sadly the “powerless” one far more often. These observations, combined with others about emotional labor and my own introversion and the needs that weren’t met, it’s a cocktail of things to notice and take to heart for future use.

I don’t feel that I have the luxury to be picky about my future work yet, for the most part. I’m still rather young and although I have more management experience than your average 26-year-old, I am in that tricky little middle segment where I don’t have the years of experience required for the field I want to be in, but have the work experience and skills that can translate to other fields easily, if I were to be given the chance. But, I think that after finishing this book I will have some of the internal skills necessary to show my best, most honest self – and to spot the things in a job or company that will be toxic to my well-being. The concept of personal power to me is amazing, and looking back on the brief, but numerous times I felt that are inspiring.

This book is helping me to understand the factors that helped spur me to my highest highs, where I got things done quickly, efficiently, and was on top of every single thing imaginable, and to my lows, where I still kept the balls in the air of importance, but felt discouraged, unappreciated, small, cold, and powerless. To be able to understand how this happens and to take the reins on channeling my more powerful moments into a constant, personal flame is something I hope I can do soon.

I may have some more thoughts to share on this book once I finish it. I’m amazed at how much I’ve gotten out of it already, and I’m only about halfway through. Stay tuned to see if I have more to add in another post later.🙂

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I Got a DXRacer and It Was Worth It

So as we’ve established, I’ve been home for a couple of months straight in the most literal sense. I spend a ton of time at the computer: looking for jobs, writing blog posts, gaming, working on other projects (coding, more recently video editing), and eating dinner while watching the Daily Show.

Previous to around March of last year, I didn’t own a desktop computer. Because of this, I used my laptop anywhere but at a desk. This meant I also didn’t own a true desk chair because it would have gone essentially unused. When I did get my desktop computer built last year, I had to sit at a desk and since I didn’t have a desk chair yet, I used an armchair as my desk chair. I was also only spending maybe 2-4 hours a day in it, so it wasn’t terrible. The worst would be having to sit for 2 hours for raid, and once I stopped raiding, it wasn’t as much of an issue.

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You can probably imagine why this chair ended up being not-so-comfortable.

But then I end up being home all the time after being laid off, and my chair began to really hurt my whole body. I knew that if I was going to spend this much time at my desk (especially if I ended up getting a job where I could work remotely), that I was going to need a good chair.

Being involved in gaming and esports, I had definitely heard of the DXRacer chairs. I had taken a look at their website and was waffling over whether I should buy one. It seemed like a really huge purchase to make when you’re unemployed. At the same time, when I looked at desk chairs on Amazon, they were nearly as expensive as the DXRacer anyway, and most of them didn’t even have a high seat back, not to mention any of the other features a DXRacer offers. After some thought and discussion with Boyfriend (who offered to help with cost if needed), I decided to go for the DXRacer F-Series (which is the standard, smallest gaming chair they offer). They notoriously go out of stock every few days, so it was a definite challenge to make sure to catch it at the right time, order it, and make sure it got shipped here okay.

The day it arrived, I was waiting impatiently to receive a FedEx delivery notification, a knock on the door, anything to signal that the truck had arrived. Since we don’t have apartment numbers at my building, I was terrified they were going to try the wrong door and then I’d have to go pick it up in a city over an hour away. Although they weren’t supposed to drop it off without a signature, as soon as I got the email notification that it had been delivered, I rushed outside to find it on the doorstep of the big house that’s currently vacant. I ran back to my apartment, grabbed my dolly, and put its box and the chair mat I had also ordered on it and rolled it all the way back to my side of the house. Did I mention it was raining? Oh yeah, it was raining. -_-

I managed to get it into my stairwell, but knew I couldn’t get it up the stairs on my own and Boyfriend was coming over anyway to help me get it upstairs and build it. The process went fairly easily, and soon we had the entire thing built. DXRacer even included a nice little mat that’s supposed to wick moisture when you’re gaming in warm conditions. It’s going to be really nice in the summertime with just the window air conditioner in the kitchen and the way my computer heats up the entire living room.

 

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Built chair and moisture-wicking mat!

 

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The entire setup. Although you can’t see it too well here, my computer is also mostly red and black.

It’s been a few weeks since I began using the chair, and I think it was worth every penny. I am practicing much better posture since I got it, I don’t hurt anymore, and the amount of adjustments I can make to make the chair perfect for whatever activity I’m doing is phenomenal. Plus, the chair is simply great quality. When we were building it, Boyfriend and I were both marveling at the inside construction, and how it is built from metal and other good quality materials that ensures it’s going to last for a really long time.

In the end, I’m ridiculously happy with this chair. Is it for everyone? Probably not: I don’t think most people spend the amount of time I do at a desk. However, I don’t think it’d be a bad purchase simply for its quality and support it gives that is going to last for years.