Tuesday, August 24, 2010

In Defense of My Time (and Occasional Money) Spent in the Villes of Yo, Farm, and Frontier

I just responded to an NPR post on Facebook asking if people had ever spent real-world money on virtual games such as Farmville. I responded that I had purchased an occasional game card to furnish a house or finish a building and that I would probably buy a few cards as stocking stuffers for relatives who play. I then read comments that ranged from people who had no problem shelling out cash to people like me to others who think these games are a waste of time and money.

I spend money on many forms of entertainment, as do most people, I think--movies, cable TV, spending time with friends in coffee shops, pubs, restaurants, and as I pointed out, occasional gambling on special occasions (spring break trips to Las Vegas, anniversary trips, etc.) I also spend as much time as possible trying to enjoy myself (I don't think that is a bad thing), and I find these games pleasurable. Many commenters said that most of us spend money on various forms of entertainment.

Then there were the "purist" gamers saying these are not really games because all one does is click, click, click, I have heard previous comments such as this that these are Pavlovian, rat in a maze, exploitive games.

Well, here is my joy in playing: I like shopping and acquiring things, but this becomes a problem of money and space in the real world. Playing these games gives me the pleasure of acquisition without a pile of real stuff to have to deal with. I also feel joy similar to that when I was a child and would spend many happy hours playing house, school, and Barbies. For my friend Debbie and me, the fun of Barbies was in creating houses from toys we had as well as empty tissue boxes and other found materials. We would also create stories for our dolls. These having been different times, we would explain our lack of male dolls by saying our dolls' husbands were in VietNam (as her brothers had been.) We would stuff Little Kiddle dolls under their dresses and say they were pregnant. (Again, these being different times, we did not understand that this was problematic with the absent "husbands.")

I like playing with the Yo girl as she furnishes her rooms, the little farmer as she plants various crops and furnishes and decorates the farm, and my Frontier lady who is so much stronger than I as she chops down trees and tames the wilderness (and I actually begin to see the joy some family members of mine have from real-world "settling" of their lake property, though I would not enjoy this (having been an "indoor kid who reads"--thanks, Daniel Tosh. :-))

There were also people who say those of us who play should get out and meet people in the "real world." I have actually been able to have conversations with strangers in the real world based on playing these games...and I have actually established further relationships with people (mom of son's ex-girlfriend who has become a friend...we have even been on vacation together despite living in different states...granted, most were turn-taking word games as opposed to "Ville" games, but still...).

Then finally there was at least one commenter who said she is not judgmental about the games, but wants to know how to get them off her wall. It is not difficult at all to hide and block these games without blocking the friend.

Therefore, I shall continue to play these games until I am bored with them, and I will even probably occasionally spend small amounts of real-world cash.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hacking Higher Education

Hacking Higher Education

This is really good stuff. This is from Maria, the lady who helped me down the top of the mountain when I panicked. Even though I'm not a "math person", I love this blog. Lots of good stuff here about teaching and learning.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Summer Stuff

So I'm sure, dear reader (do I have a reader?), you have been asking yourself, what has this blogger been up to since last she wrote in February?

I did indeed get my medical withdrawal, but I will be seeing my advisor later thisa week to see if please, dear God, I can take a different class from the one that has flummoxed me for so long. I will then get on a waiting list for fall, or if need be, take it in the winter.

Sad to report, none of the hoped-for graduations from Master's programs have (yet) taken place. I did, however, take my long-coveted trip to Germany! It was wonderful, and I did go on that Swiss Alps trip (riding the gondola most of the way, and taking a bit of a hike after that. I needed to be helped down by a traveling companion after a bit of a panic. Fortunately, she happens to be a former Girl Scout guide who used to live and hike frequently in Montana.)She is also a math instructor. Perhaps I can get her to see me through that source of anxiety as well.

Through a strange sequence of events, I was functioning as something of an exchange student. I stayed with a truly lovely young woman (a bit younger than my son) named Astrid while her parents were away. I was worried she would be very disappointed to be stuck with one of the old folks, but she could not have been kinder or more gracious. In fact, she stayed with me when it was time for the German group to come here. That was also a lot of fun. I had a potluck at my house and went to many of the outings.

There have been some high school graduations and we have a new baby in the family. (For better or worse, the parents of the new baby were two of the graduates.) The baby is beyond adorable and I am looking forward to my first opportunity to babysit.

It has been fun to watch the kids prepare their college plans (fortunately, they all have them, including baby mama and baby daddy.) It has also been fun (and fattening) to go to open houses, etc.

I also went to my first gay bar (technically, gay-friendly bar) and saw my first drag show that was not part of a bigger performance (Cher, Cirque du Soleil, etc.). I have a relative who was celebrating a significant birthday and he has won categories in some recent pageants in this milieu. I learnrd there is something of an etiquette for these performances and also learned this seems to be a friendly, intimate neighborhood type of bar that has Monday night Bingo--who would have thought that to find the smoke-free bingo I have sought lo, these many years, I would need to stop going to the churches and frequent a gay bar?

I have not talked to my relative about this yet and don't know if I will, but I have reservations about drag performances. I don't really understand how they are that much different (except for historical issues, subtleties, etc.) from blackface. There is an exaggeration of sexuality as if that is all there is to being a woman. The performers are not emulating someone like Marie Curie or Mother Teresa or Margaret Mead, but some weird idea of what being a woman is. They dance and lip-synch and the emcee jokes (in a rather hostile way, my friend and I thought) about various aspects of being a woman.

Yet I can't say I didn't have fun. My experiences in this past year have made me think (as I always have, but more so this year) about what being a woman is/means. I know it is not what they are putting out there, but maybe that's not their intent. Is it sympathetic? Is it hostile? Is it a wish? I think it's definitely a misunderstanding.

However, I was very happy for my relative when it was announced as a birthday surprise that he would be third "House Diva" meaning he will perform the first Wednesday of every month and another one of his choice. I will go see him (and the others) again because damn, it was fun.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Time Out

Well, so, long story short, this time I didn't drop the tech class, I withdrew. I'm working on getting a medical withdrawal, per the advice of my advisor. I'm not feeling particularly good about it, but there has just been an unusual confluence of events over the past year and I think my body, mind, and spirit just need recharging (and perhaps a bit of medicating). I always wondered about people who would do this kind of thing when they were ONE CLASS away from graduating, but now I guess I kind of get it.

The good thing is I'm feeling more enthusiastic about my job. I think one of the hard things was going back in January for the first time since last September. While I had the practicum in the late fall, there was lots of flexibility there. Resuming work again at the same time this class began and then having two family health crises in January was a bit much...and as these things go, they didn't play out the way I thought they would. The one I thought was the most immediately serious seems relatively resolved, and the one I thought there was time on before it created problems started being difficult right away.

I think there was also the matter of the changes at work. While those started in the summer and became more pronounced in the fall, I really didn't have time to acclimate to a lot of things before I was out for a few months. Now that I can concentrate on just my job, I'm starting to feel more comfortable in my surroundings.

I will finish this, though, because I really want it. I will use this time to develop and work a strategy for getting this done. I also need to think about strategies for handling challenges that seem to come suddenly from several different aspects of life. I also need to maintain my optimism in what seem like not very good times. Luckily, my husband is pretty good at offering perspective. It's nice to have someone who has been through a few existential crises of his own to see me through mine.

Monday, January 25, 2010

My Sad and Desperate Reflection

Strangely, I'm hoping this helps. If I can dump all this negativity onto the page, perhaps I can overcome the mental block I'm currently experiencing. I've already done 20 minutes on the elliptical trainer, had a good cry (scared the dog), had a rousing chase and play session with the dog, and I still feel stupid and useless and I don't know what to do.

I have a horrible class that until recently, I've been calling the Scary Tech Class. I decided that was part of what was giving me a negative attitude about the whole thing and decided I would stop doing that. It is an online web site development class. It uses a combination of a book which uses Notepad and a bit of deprecated code which we are not to use. It has a software program which, until this semester, I have been unable to download and install on my computer. (Was finally able to do it on my husband's new desktop, necessitated by the big Hard Drive Crash of '09. Long story.) We have the new version of the Web development software, but the training DVDs are geared to the previous version. (I have dropped the class twice before. Once for not such great reasons and the second time because I had to have my (oft-discussed on this blog) surgery.

There are two projects a week and last week, I thought I got at least one of them, but the professor sent back a bunch of corrections. I made a couple, but I'm not comprehending a couple of them. For people who know this stuff, it's not that complicated and would be embarrassing if anyone who knows what's going on saw what the problem was. I ended up getting 0 credit last week even though I worked hard. Now I am probably going to get 0 credit this week too. This means that if I do everything else perfectly (not likely) the best I can end up with is a B.

This is the last class I need to get my Master's. I have been at this for three years. I have established a very nice GPA--not perfect--but something I'm pleased and proud of. I feel I genuinely worked for it, and now this class might keep me from graduating. When I shared a few family and personal problems (primarily health-related) that are going on right now, the professor suggested I might want to drop the class and try this or a different tech class in the Spring/Summer. My husband and I both decided against that because of my two previous drops and we both really want me to be done. Today would have been the last day to drop with a full tuition refund (minus the registration fee, as always).

It's not so much the projects themselves, but I have to submit them via these links on the web site and I can't get them right. In addition to the file and folder naming and placing issues I have, it's not helping that on the lecture videos, the professor's screen is somewhat different from mine (Previous version? I'm not sure.) One problem is I'm not sure what "translates." I don't have an intuitive sense of this, and in these situations, even when I think I do, I'm wrong.

Another thing that's getting to me is a few classmates have made their sites available, and while they vary in quality and complexity, they seem to be "getting it" and I will be two weeks behind tomorrow if this situation continues. That is one thing I hate about online classes (even though I like some onlike classes). In a regular class, even if I end up doing well, if I start out slow I can usually meet a kindred spirit befuddled as I am. I have even had this happen when I've had one online class and one face-to-face class. There will usually be someone taking the same classes with whom I can compare war stories. The ones who are getting it are posting, and the ones like me are lying low. Well, of course, I also have little to post. It just feels so lonely.

I'm mad at myself, too, because I had an offer of help this past weekend from someone who has done this for a living, but I thought I could get it myself; I did not. One of the issues is I feel bad imposing on someone's professional skills, and the other was it was just an awkward weekend. It was my son's birthday and we were taking him out, and it was my first chance to visit a relative in the hospital since she had surgery (I was there that day) and she had been moved from the neuro ICU. I tried to contact him tonight but haven't received a message back.

This is not like a writing assignment in which I can dump a bunch of stuff on a page, then organize and revise it. It has to be done just so, and if it isn't, I can't do the rest of it. I'm stuck, stuck, stuck, and I stare at my screen and re-watch the videos and re-read the book chapters and...nothing. I really need to be taught this stuff in person, but all the tech classes in my program are online now.

Well, back to the salt mines. Wish me luck. I sure as hell need it.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I was looking at my last post and feeling a little deja-vu-ish. Again, I now have two seriously ill family members. I am hoping for some graduation and celebration action this spring (me, and just maybe my son.) I want to belatedly celebrate my 50th birthday, and I am actually kind of looking into a possible trip to Germany (except I found out there might be hiking in the Alps involved, and I really don't want to do that. I'm not what you call an outdoor gal. There have, in fact, been threats in the past to expel me from group camping trips.I would not be the first person thrown off Survivor because I would be totally non-threatening, but I would be thrown off soon because I would be the weakest link.)

I have discovered that illness involves a lot of waiting...for news, for information about treatments, for sitting around during treatments and waiting for them to work, and waiting to feel better, and this is definitely a waiting for more news phase. One goes ahead and makes plans then, and proceeds as if nothing is different, but of course always knowing that it is.

So meanwhile, I will try to finish the last class standing between me and my degree, jump through the other hoops involved, keep adjusting to the fact that I can not control the decisions of other adult people (but still try to figure out how I can positively influence them), beg to be able to go to Germany but not be made to hike, and just try to ride the waves as they come. (Not literally, of course. I would drown.)

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Things I Did in the First Decade of this Century

Started a new job at which I still work. Went to my stepdad's funeral. Briefly took medicine for anxiety and depression. Went to China, Amsterdam, and St. Petersburg, Russia. Started a blog. Had a big party to celebrate my 25th wedding anniversary. Went to my 30-year high school reunion. Waited as family members had bypass surgery, breast cancer surgery, hip surgery due to a serious auto accident, and chemotherapy. Visited Little Rock and Fayetteville, Arkansas, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Austin, Texas and San Diego, California. Fractured a metatarsal; had an endometrial ablation and a hysterectomy. Started graduate school (but delayed finishing until this decade because of the previous items). Saw my son graduate from high school and college and start grad school. Hoping greedily for all good stuff in the next decade.