Friday, October 7, 2016

League of Legends Star Guardians theme - Burning Bright (Full Version) Lyrics



Video via Vax

(Vocalizing)

We were born from light before there even was a dawn
So pure, so bright
Falling from the skies above into our darkened fate
The time has come
Walking through this world we bear the secret of our lives
The light we share
Caught in destiny we shine for we are meant to be
The Star Guardians!

Gone in a flash before our time
Up in the skies together
The vow we have made has kept us strong
Don’t fade away, it’s time to shine!

Burning bright
As we reach out for the same horizon
Burning brighter
Running out of time, we’re chasing the light

(Vocalizing)

Gone in a flash before our time
Up in the skies together
The vow we have made has kept us strong
Don’t fade away, it’s time to shine!

Burning bright
As we reach out for the same horizon
Burning brighter
Piercing through the dawn, we burn on and on, and on

The thought of us stuck in my mind
I long for the days when we were young
The song in my heart, the light in your eyes
But now I drown in tears I’ve cried
Yelling your name into the wind
Don’t push me away, let’s head for the sky!

Gone in a flash before our time
Up in the skies together
The vow we have made has kept us strong
Don’t fade away, it’s time to shine!

Burning bright
As we reach out for the same horizon
Burning brighter
Running out of time, we’re chasing the light

Burning bright
As we reach out for the same horizon
Burning brighter
Piercing through the dawn, we burn on and on, and on

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Japan Series! - Fushimi Inari Taisha

     Now that I've explained my extended leave of absence, let's jump right back into the Japan series!

     Of all the shrines we visited on our trip to Japan, Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto was my personal favorite.

The torii gate at the entrance.

     Upon approaching this beautiful shrine, we could immediately see the color palette used throughout a lot of the site - red and white complemented by the green of large bamboo trees as well as other plants I couldn't identify. The huge red torii gate that greets visitors at the entrance was far from being the last one we would see there. In fact, the entire shrine is home to thousands of torii gates, many funded by donations from the patrons of the shrine.

View of one set of torii gates from above.

     The multitudes of torii gates are in several areas lined up one after the other, creating an experience almost like walking through a tunnel of red painted wood or, in some places, grey stone, with glimpses of the surrounding forest showing through the gaps between the gates. The entire path winding through all the gates can take hours to traverse, but we were limited to only one hour. Peek-sensei advised us to walk as far as we could in 30 minutes, then turn around and retrace our steps in order to meet at the front torii gate at the designated time. I wanted to take my time, see the sights, and snap some pictures, so Billy and I didn't manage to make it very far before our time was up. (Billy is determined to go back on our next trip to Japan and walk all the way through, no matter how long it takes!)

This is about the farthest point we reached.

     Another notable aspect of Fushimi Inari Taisha was the fox statues that were located throughout the shrine's ground. As I understand, these represent fox spirits, or kitsune, which are one of the many types of animals considered "messengers of gods" in Shinto beliefs. The kitsune in particular are closely associated with Fushimi Inari Taisha itself. The various fox statues we found there were all beautifully made and looked a little imposing.

I like how this one seems to be looking right at you!

     Billy and I also stopped for a moment to sample some dried fruit at a vendor's stand in an open square. It was delicious, but with our limited budget, we couldn't find a package small enough for us to afford. -_-'

When people come to pray at the shrine, they pull on the red and white ribbons to ring the bells at the top.
 
At this fountain near the shrine entrance, visitors wash their hands and mouths as a purification ritual.

Some of the smaller shrine structures.

     On the way back towards the entrance, we noticed that the backs of many of the smaller red wooden torii gates were inscribed with kanji and hiragana. Peek-sensei later explained that they listed donors who paid for each gate to be erected.

Here you can see the inscriptions on the backs of the torii gates.

     When Billy and I arrived back at the front torii gate, some of the others from our group had already made it back, and were saying goodbye to a group of Japanese people we'd never met before. One of our friends turned around and pushed a small, warm object into my hand, saying something along the lines of "You've gotta try this!" After tasting the food, I recognized it as takoyaki, which I had tried before in the States, when my other Japanese teacher, Miho-sensei, had made it for us to try in class. Takoyaki tastes kind of like gooey bread with chunks of cooked octopus inside, and it was delicious both times I tried it. Only after I had eaten it did my friends inform me that they had been given the food by the group of strangers they had just been talking to. Of course, I wouldn't normally recommend eating food received from strangers, but we all turned out okay. ^_~

A Shinto priest.

A miko, or shrine maiden.

     And that pretty much sums up my experience at my favorite shrine in Japan, Fushimi Inari Taisha. Thanks for reading, and keep an eye out for some more of my favorite shrines and temples!

P.S. - Click here for the full list of Japan series posts!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Why I Haven't Blogged in a While, Why I Quit My Job, and What I've Learned from It All

     So... it's been quite a while since I've written a new blog post. I want to explain why that is, but at the same time, I want to avoid making excuses. Instead, I'm going to tell you what I've learned from this period of time in my life.

     Trigger Warning: I'm about to discuss some mental health issues, including suicidal thoughts, so if this will cause a problem for you, I suggest you stop reading now.

     In August, just before I launched this blog, I got a job as a preschool teacher. I thought it was what I wanted, because it's what I went to college for, and definitely better and higher paying than a fast food job. I had several blog posts prewritten already, and topics planned for more, so I didn't think continuing the blog while working full time would be a problem.

     But everyday when I came home from work, I was too tired to do anything but veg in front of the TV or computer. I didn't have the energy to cook dinner, keep my house clean, or work out, much less blog or make jewelry for my Etsy store. I struggled with emotional eating during this time, too, and gained back a lot of the weight I had previously lost. Eventually, I began to sink into depression.

     For me, that was pretty normal. I have bipolar disorder, so I've struggled with depression many times throughout my life. Over the last few years, I've learned some strategies for managing my bipolar symptoms, but there's still going to be a bit of fluctuation in my moods. So I guess at first I didn't think it was that big a deal, and I thought I could handle it.

Best illustration of bipolar disorder that I could find.

     But over the next several months, the depression got continually worse. Now, I want to be clear here: it wasn't a problem with the company I worked for, or any of the people I worked with. I loved all my kids at the school, and got along well with my co-workers. My bosses were reasonable in their expectations and helpful whenever I needed anything. The job duties would not have been too demanding - for a mentally healthy person. But for me, the normal, everyday stresses of teaching and caring for 15 or so 3- to 5-year-olds were too much. Not too much in the same way as a job so horrible that you feel like quitting on the first day, but in the tiny, almost imperceptible way that builds up over time until it feels overwhelming.

     It probably didn't help that I was an introvert in a job that required nearly constant social interaction (which, in case you didn't know, many introverts find draining). If it hadn't been for my time doing paperwork in the office in the afternoons, I probably would have broken a lot sooner.

     Most people may be able to work through stress, but for me, too much stress triggers my bipolar mood swings. Being tired all the time also caused me to have difficulty taking care of myself mentally by using my usual strategies to control my symptoms. I wasn't getting any exercise, eating right, or getting enough sleep, which only aggravated the problem.

     Eventually, my depression got so bad that I was feeling suicidal practically every day. Whenever I was alone, I constantly had to fight to keep from acting on these thoughts. I was always having emotional meltdowns at home, and had a hard time keeping it together at work some days, too.

     My husband, Billy, told me I could quit my job if I needed to, but I was stubborn. I felt like if everyone else could handle the stress of their jobs, I should be able to, too. I felt like quitting would be admitting I was too weak to handle my life - a life I knew was less difficult than those many people have to deal with. Now I see that suicide would have been essentially the same admission, though it didn't seem that way at the time. And I guess I thought at least that way I wouldn't have to face everyone and explain why I couldn't handle it. I worried what my friends, family, and co-workers would think if I just suddenly quit a reasonably good job. (At the time I wasn't ready to share the real reason with everyone, as I am now doing.) I also sort of felt like if I couldn't handle a teaching job after spending three years in college and putting myself into debt to learn how to teach, then all that time and money would have been a huge waste. And on top of that, I was worried about money. We had a bit saved up, but it wouldn't last us long if I didn't have a job at all.

     But even with all these reasons to stay at my job, I was rapidly approaching the point where it would basically come down to quitting or suicide. Not that either option was good, but I knew that I would eventually, inevitably, do one or the other, unless something unexpectedly changed.

     Then an opportunity came up that surprised us. Billy has wanted to open his own computer repair shop for a few years now. He had been fixing a few here and there, just operating out of our home, but he wanted a physical location. One day we found out that the rent of a unit he had looked at had recently dropped by 25%. We talked about it for a long time, and decided to go for it.

     It might have been a better move financially for me to stay at my teaching job and for him to quit his regular job (in-home assistance for disabled people) to run the computer shop full time. But because of my recent struggles, we decided that I would take over his hours with one of his two disabled clients, he would keep working with the other, and we would each work part time at the computer shop. I don't know much about fixing computers, but I knew I had the organizational skills to help with record keeping.

     So we rented the unit and put this plan into action. I quit my teaching job, telling everyone I was quitting to help my husband with his business - which was true, but not the whole truth. I apologize to anyone who feels deceived because of this, but honestly my mental health is my personal business to share or not, as I see fit, and I didn't feel comfortable sharing it with everyone at that time. Now I do.

     Now that I was working part time at a regular job and part time at our business, where I didn't have much to do most of the day, you'd think I could start blogging again, wouldn't you? But I didn't right away, because I felt that I owed my (few) readers some explanation before jumping right back in, and I still wasn't quite ready to give that explanation honestly and openly. Now, two or three months later, I've realized some things which made me decide that it was time for me to write this, and that I was ready.

     1) I should not be ashamed of having a psychological disorder, and it's my duty to talk about it in order to help others who struggle with the same feelings of shame. There is a huge stigma against the mentally ill in our society. I've seen it in my personal life, like the time when an acquaintance described another mutual acquaintance as "bipolar-crazy." It felt like a punch in the gut, and I wanted to say "Bipolar doesn't mean crazy," but I didn't say anything, because I didn't want her or anyone else within earshot to know that I had bipolar disorder myself. Now I wish I had said something anyway. Some people with psychological disorders are stable enough to be able to pass ourselves off as "normal" (if such a thing exists), but if we don't let anyone know that we have these disorders, how can they be expected to realize that not all mentally ill people are like the stereotypical "crazy person" they've seen on TV?

     I've also seen the stigma in our culture as a whole, like when mental illness is immediately blamed every time someone commits a horrible, violent crime. It's never the only factor in such situations, when it's a factor at all. More importantly, most people with psychological disorders aren't a threat to anyone but themselves, if that. Personally, I've never been tempted to physically harm another person - only myself. But again, society mainly sees the extreme cases of mental illness, because those of us who have less extreme illnesses are likely to hide them out of shame.

     TL;DR for #1: If I want the stigma of mental illness to change, the best thing I can do is openly talk about my experiences and help others understand better.

     2) Everybody has limits, and knowing yours is actually a good thing. In the past, I've sometimes had a tendency to quit too easily when faced with difficulty. But if I know that something is damaging my ability to take care of myself physically and/or mentally, quitting may be the wisest thing to do. And there shouldn't be any shame in that either. It's a lot better than stubbornly refusing to admit that I've taken on too much and overloaded myself.

     So what if I couldn't handle the stress of teaching preschool? A lot of mentally healthy people probably wouldn't be able to handle it either! Some people can't work at all, because of mental/psychological disabilities. I hope that it doesn't come to that for me, because I would like to be able to continue to contribute to my small family's financial well-being. But if I can't, it's no more shameful than someone not being able to work because of a physical disability.

     3) My education is not wasted if I don't use it in the traditional way. My early childhood education classes will help me immensely with my own children when that time comes. I can blog about psychological disorders and provide comfort and understanding to others who struggle with them, partly because of my personal experience, but also partly because of my education in psychology. Learning Japanese and getting to visit Japan were amazing opportunities for which I will always be grateful. Although I do wish I didn't have college loans to repay, I refuse to regret going back to college. It was one of the best times of my life, and learning is one of the most valuable uses of my time and money that I can think of.

     4) If I'm so worried about money and what others think of me that I'm willing to sacrifice my mental health, I'm not displaying much faith that God will take care of me. I knew for a while that quitting was the right thing for me, but I thought I shouldn't because I thought I needed to handle everything myself. Once I reminded myself that God would take care of our needs, it left me free to take care of my own health, which is one of my primary responsibilities as the steward of this body He's given me. Starting a business is risky and a little scary, but because we're trying to do what's right for us, I really believe God will take care of everything we need.

     I felt like these realizations were important enough to me that I wanted to put them out there for the world to see (or at least the tiny percentage of the world that will read this blog post). In addition, writing them out helped me understand my own thoughts better and reminded me of what I believe.

     Epilogue: I am doing so much better emotionally since I quit. My moods are much more stable, I've hardly had suicidal thoughts at all, and I'm just generally happier. My marriage has even improved, and Billy's business is doing fairly good as well, if you're wondering! :)

     If you've read this far, congratulations! You've won the Geeky Ginger Girl Gold Star Award for Sheer Determination. :p

     Now that I've gotten all this off my chest, I probably will be able to get back to blogging fairly regularly. I may not stick to a strict schedule, because I don't want to push myself too hard and let this become a stressful thing. But I do have several things I'm excited to blog about soon!

      Please feel free to share your thoughts and feelings about this post in the comment section - but, as always, please be kind and considerate of others' feelings, including mine! Thanks for reading! :)

Monday, November 4, 2013

For the Organized DM: Using Info Cards to Increase Roleplaying and Decrease Metagaming

     Hey fellow dungeon masters! I know it's been a while since I promised more tips on organizing your campaign, but here at last is another one!

My D&D binder and my beloved dice. <3

     Imagine this: you're in the middle of a gaming session, and the party comes across some information that only one character would know/understand. For example, Draconic runes on the dungeon wall, a symbol that requires a Knowledge (Religion) check to know what it means, or a vital detail that only a high Gather Information roll could uncover. Whatever it is, only one of your characters has the appropriate knowledge, skill, or language, so that character would in essence have an important bit of information that the rest of the party wouldn't have. The problem is, as a DM, how do you convey that information to that character's player without the other players also finding out?

     Most DM's I've gamed with had the same solution: they would just outright tell the player in front of the others, trusting the rest of us not to metagame and act like our characters knew the information too. But this usually resulted in the exact opposite response. Often we all role-played it out as if the well-informed character had already filled the rest of us in. We didn't intentionally metagame, but in that situation, it's sometimes hard not to.

     Another solution I've seen used is to take the one player into a different room to tell them the information. This leaves the other players bored and in a bit of a limbo, waiting for the DM to get back. It usually works fine for the bigger, more important secrets, but it  would be too inconvenient to use all the time.

     So are you ready for my solution yet?

     Info cards!

An example of some info cards my group received while playing through the "Dark and Stormy Knight" module.

     Here's how it works: When you're preparing for your next session, take a look at the material you expect to be covering (whether it's a pre-made adventure module or one you created yourself). Figure out what information might end up being revealed to only one character. Usually this would include things found out through Knowledge checks, speaking certain languages, and sometimes Gather Information checks. (I even like to include Spot/Listen checks sometimes, when I want the specific monster or villain's big reveal to be more dramatic.)

     When you find a bit of information that fits the bill, write it down on an index card. Then flip the card over and on the back write the method of obtaining the information - skill check, language, whatever. On skill checks, make sure you note the minimum DC for obtaining the information. You can also write what room number or event number the card corresponds to, just to make it easier to find the relevant card at the right time.

Back of info cards. I used abbreviations for Bardic Knowledge and the Knowledge checks, but write it out if it makes more sense to you. The number beside those is the DC. The "S" in the square stands for "start," because this info was before the characters made it in to the actual dungeon. But normally I would write the room number in the square.

     During the session, have your characters make the required rolls as normal. If someone rolls high enough (or knows the necessary language), you just hand them the card. It's all mysterious. ;) Seriously though, the player who got the information feels important, and the other players are in suspense waiting to find out what's on the card.

     As an added bonus, the player who has the information then gets to decide whether or not to share the information, depending on what his/her character would really do. In some cases the character really wouldn't share the information, would share only part of it, or would twist it to suit his/her own purposes. Giving the player a chance to do that really makes for some good opportunities for interesting role-play. And even if the player decided to tell all the information, just letting the character tell it his/her own way, and having the other characters react in-character, presents more great opportunities for role-play.

     Got two different DCs for different amounts of information? No problem! Just write the lower DC info on one card and the higher DC on a different card. If the player beats the lower DC but misses the higher one, give the player only the lower DC card. If he/she beats both, hand over both! (Just make sure the cards are read in the correct order, if it matters.)

For example, if Aster the bard had rolled a 12 on his Bardic Knowledge check, he would've only gotten the information on the first card.

     It's as simple as that! Of course, if you're the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, make-it-up-as-you-go, spontaneous type of DM, this probably won't work for you. But if that were the case, you probably wouldn't be reading tips for being an organized DM to begin with, now would you? ;)

     If you missed my first tip, for using highlighters to organize campaign information, you can check it out here. Stay tuned for more tips soon, and leave a comment letting me know any tips of your own! Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Japan Series! - Japanese Temples and Shrines

     We're finally getting around to the sight-seeing portion of my Japan trip series! One thing we saw a lot of were sites of religious significance to the Japanese people. Japan's two major religions are Shinto and Buddhism, so that means lots of shrines and temples!
 
Byodoin, a temple in Kyoto.

     The major difference between the two types of sites is what religion each is related to. Temples are devoted to Buddhism, a religion revering Buddha and his teachings, which is popular in many Asian countries. Shrines are instead associated with Shinto, a polytheistic religion is which followers worship many gods, spirits, and ancestors. Shinto is a native Japanese religion which has mostly stayed unique to Japan.

Itsukushima, a shrine on the island of Miyajima.

     For me, it was a bit difficult to tell the temples and shrines apart. However, certain clues sometimes made it easier. For example, if there were statues of Buddha, it was obviously a temple.

Buddha and other statues at Nanzenji, a temple in Kyoto.

     Although both types of sites sometimes had statues of humans or animals as guardians.

Kitsune (fox) statue at Fushimi Inari Taisha, a shrine in Kyoto.

Phoenix on the roof of the Phoenix Hall of Byodoin.

     Pagodas usually meant temples...

Pagoda at Koofukuji, a temple in Nara.

     ...while torii gates often indicated shrines.

Huge torii gate in front of Fushimi Inari Taisha.

     Both had beautiful architecture and gorgeous gardens.

Building and garden of Ginkakuji (The Silver Pavilion), a temple in Kyoto.

     The sites were all really beautiful in their own unique ways. But for me, my visits to these sites were about more than just sight-seeing. Because I don't follow either of these religions, I did not participate in religious rituals or worship at these places. But I found it fascinating to learn more about these belief systems and religious sites through direct observation. I feel that learning more about another person's religious beliefs (or any beliefs, for that matter) makes it easier to relate to and understand them. Just making the effort to learn shows that you're not ethnocentric and bigoted, which is a major stereotype of Christians that I believe we need to overcome. And if one is secure in one's own beliefs, exposure to other belief systems should strengthen that faith, not weaken it.

Couple praying at Kasuga Taisha, a shrine in Nara.

     Over the course of the two-week trip, our group visited six shrines and eleven temples, in addition to some other sight-seeing. Yes, we were basically speed-walking a lot of the time, trying to keep up with Peek-sensei. XD I actually would've like to take it a little slower and have time to take more pictures. But I still have a ton of pictures and experiences to share, so look forward to the next several posts covering some of my favorite temples and shrines!

     P.S. A complete list of posts in my Japan series can be found in the Intro post.

     PPS. For a more detailed explanation of the differences between shrines and temples, check out this post from The Japan Guy.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Adventure Time Giveaway Winner!

     As promised, it's time to announce the winner of the Adventure Time Shape-Shifting Jake Puzzle Game!


     I said I would determine the winner randomly from everyone who commented on my last post. There were three commenters: Cedric, Justin, and Rikian.

     Because I'm a D&D player, my favorite way to randomly determine something is through rolling the dice. :D And since I don't own a 3-sided die, I used a d6 and assigned each commenter two numbers:

                    Cedric = 1 and 2
                    Justin = 3 and 4
                    Rikian = 5 and 6

     And the winner is... *drumroll*


     Cedric! Congratulations! I know for us gamers a 1 is usually bad, but this time it's a good thing for you!

     Thanks to all three of my commenters! Check back next month - maybe I'll have another Nerd Block-related giveaway! :)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Nerd Block October 2013 Review

     So... I know I'm due for a Japan series post, but I just got something exciting in the mail and I wanted to write about it!


     This is called a Nerd Block. You subscribe ($19.99 a month plus shipping and handling), and every month they send you a box full of geeky goodies. It's like the Cheese-of-the-Month Club, only cooler. ^_^ (BTW, just so you know, Nerd Block didn't pay me to write this review, or send me free stuff or anything... Although that would be cool.)

     The Nerd Block service just started up last month, and we missed the September box. But the October box just came in tonight and we were super excited to open it!

     The box always comes with a t-shirt plus around 4 to 6 other items like figures, stickers, etc. Here's what we got this month:

DC Universe Mystery Minis Vinyl Figure...

...Which turned out to be one of the six Joker designs.

Another blind box figure, a turret from Portal.

There were lots of different colors, but we ended up with the plain white one.


Bonus: Hilarious warnings on the box!

The Spawn figure wasn't blind boxed...

...We got Skullsplitter! (I actually don't know anything about Spawn, but this guy looks
pretty cool.)

This wasn't labeled, but we're guessing it's a TMNT coaster...?

A cute and tiny Iron Man eraser. ^_^

The t-shirt design. It's like... Darth Vader as Death, skeletal Storm Trooper, and the Death Star.

     There was only one thing I didn't like all that much. I'm not a fan of Adventure Time, so I thought, what better time to do my first ever blog giveaway? :)

Adventure Time Shape-Shifting Jake Puzzle Game.
     For all you Adventure Time fans out there (in the continental US, that is), you can win this little puzzle game. All you have to do is comment on this blog post. Next Wednesday (October 23rd, 2013), I'll choose a winner randomly and announce it in another post. After that, the winner will have a week to email me with his/her mailing address. If not, I'll choose another winner, so keep an eye out for the announcement!

     Okay, one more shot of our loot pile...

Yes, I like to make a loot pile whenever I get new things. I think I might be part dragon.

     Oh, and BTW, when you subscribe to Nerd Block you get to choose your t-shirt size and style. Billy and I used our "fun money" and split the cost, so we chose the regular style (rather than fitted men's or fitted women's) and a size we could both wear.

This is my "Nerd Block, YEAH!" face.

     Thanks for reading!