Tuesday, August 30, 2016

That Pokemon Glow is Gone

Pokemon Go was fun while it lasted.

Both Breaky and I have told each other lately that the game has lost its....vigor? Chutzpah? Appeal? Whatever made it so that ever time I would be walking more than a few feet, it had to be running, or encouraged Breaky to go on that extra walk with DogCPK and me after dinner.

The walk to and from work for me used to generate some unique Pokemon. In an upgrade, they removed both a gym and a checkpoint, and I am lucky, in a 1 mile walk, I get 2 Pokemon. Usually a Pidgey or a Weedle.  I may get a Zumbat or even an Eevee, but that may be once every other week. The eggs I hatch are becoming repetitive and it is pretty rare if I get a new Pokemon from an egg anymore.

The last straw was how difficult it has become to catch even low-level Pokemon. I run out of balls (*snicker*) or berries (*snort*) and cannot catch a damn thing. I essentially stopped playing when I tried 8 times to catch a Squirtle. The little dude didn't run away.... but I ran out of berries, and heaven help me if I was going to run out of balls too.

That was it. I was no longer having fun with it. My phone hated trying to run it. It would get too "overheated" and go in to a "timeout" and the game would be running, but no Pokemon would show up, checkpoints wouldn't work, and I am pretty sure the egg thing wasn't working either.

That being said, I am still glad I downloaded it. I am glad it was something Breaky and I could bond over. I also had some great quotes that I saved up for a blog post:

Me: I hatched one of those Geodudes or what-ever-you-call-'em
Breaky: That's literally their name.
Me: Oh. I was being funny. But go me.

Me: I evolved my "Radish"
Breaky: Your what?
Me: Radish
Breaky: You mean like your Rattata?
Me: No, the little blue dude that looks like a radish
Breaky: You mean Oddish?
Me: Yes. That's what I said

Now, if I find myself in an area known for a lot of checkpoints and multiple Pokemon, sure, I'll play. If a restaurant throws down a lure for an event like trivia or something, yeah, I'll play a little. I just won't make it a point to play every time I walk. I am going back to listening to audio books while I walk.

Now, if/when someone creates a Harry Potter Go, or a Sailor Moon Go, you would bet your sweet patootie I'll be all over that.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

When Music is More Than Just Noise

As some of you may know, if you are local to our area, that the band Billy Talent is heading to Michigan. Normally, when I tell people about Billy Talent, they either have no idea who I am talking about, or they get really excited and start talking about how much they love that band. Or they are Canadian and know of the band, cause you know, Canada. However, this band changed my life. Extreme? Not if you know the whole story.

When I was growing up, my father was a choir teacher. The house was constantly flooded with music from musicals ranging from The Music Man, to Phantom of the Opera, to Les Miserables. My mother was a huge fan of John Denver and similar oldies. Mind you, I still will rock out to the Broadway classics, and enjoy Harry Chapin, but back then, I had little exposure to "punk rock" or "rock music"

I went to college and did the whole "answer a couple questions and get matched with your roommate" thing, which really was similar to online dating but instead of a romantic connection, you had to live with this person for 8 months. I was matched with my roommate, Jessy who was a huge punk rock fan. She was a tough, fun, entertaining, vivacious person, and I am so glad I was matched with her, despite obviously glaring differences. Believe it or not, back then, I was a little more shy and introverted. I listened to Broadway. I didn't break the rules. I studied very hard when I wasn't chatting on AIM to my high school friends.

Jessy's music taste was known to the hallway, as our door was often left open for the potential of social interaction. The more I listened, the more I found I actually really enjoyed her music. The lyrics were fantastic and meaningful and I found I really liked singing along with this music. She said the band she was listening to was "Billy Talent." I was entertained by my roommate's invention of the "one-man mosh pit" which involved her jumping around the room and into the hallway. Her favorite song of theirs during that time was (and still is) Prisoners of Today

My interest in that kind of music, specifically Billy Talent, helped me connect with my then boyfriend, who helped me download music on to my laptop, which was a new thing back then. He was an avid gamer, and while that year I didn't participate, it was my first introduction in to the world of video games and those who played. Despite an interesting/tricky breakup, the two of us talked things out and realized it was best if we still remained friends, due to how well we got along. His friends and my friends combined to form what would be my core group of friends in college. Many gamers, nerds, geeks, and overall wonderful people. Many of us dated each other, and some ended up married.

College ended, people moved away. Jobs, relationships, marriages, children etc... moved some people away farther than I would have liked (and not just measured in miles) but many stayed close. I kept a lot of the Billy Talent CDs and would listen when I got nostalgic. Sometimes they ended up being a part of a mixed CD for my car, which still only has a CD player.

Billy Talent III came out, and by that time, I wasn't actively following their new music. I cannot remember which happened first, but by the time I downloaded the album Billy Talent III, a close friend from high school died tragically in a motorcycle accident. It just so happened that one of the songs on Billy Talent III really spoke to me and helped me cope with the loss of Tom. "White Sparrows" talked about loss, but wasn't a slow dramatic song. Singing at the top of my lungs to this song on the way to funeral was the only way I made it home in one piece.

It was only a few months after this did I meet Breaky.

My online dating profile had Billy Talent listed, as well as my, mild at the time, interest in video games and things of a geeky nature, and I was matched with Breaky. It was, maybe like the third or fourth date, and we were in my car. I had either a mixed CD or Billy Talent III playing, and Breaky's face lit up.

"That's Billy Talent! You like Billy Talent? I love them, I haven't heard them in years. I grew up listening to them!". I knew then I was going to marry that man. He just didn't know it then.

I, of course, went in to my stories of my roommate and college, and how special Billy Talent was to me, and how it was probably in my top 5 bands of all time.

A month or so later, Billy Talent's fourth album: Dead Silence came out. It was something Breaky and I bonded over. One of our first Facebook interactions was me sharing the new Viking Death March video to his Facebook page:

In later 2012, I also lost my grandmother.  A few years later, Breaky lost his grandfather, and a HoN player he knew. We have known loss and we have coped.

Billy Talent came out with a greatest hits album, and with it, two new songs: Kingdom of Zod, which is a very awesome song,  and Chasing the Sun. The story behind Chasing the Sun was that the band had lost someone very close to them, and a song with a very different sound was produced.

I listened to it, and burst in to tears. It was like they were talking about my losses, specifically about Tom, my friend whom I had lost about 2 years previously.

It didn't really seem to resonate with other fans of Billy Talent, but it is definitely one of my favorite songs of all time.

Breaky and I got married in 2015 and our music selections for both the ceremony and the reception were... uniquely us.

The wonderful people at Overneath did an absolutely fabulous job. We had an instrumental  arrangement of the Halo theme song for our Bridal Party, and an instrumental arrangement of "Never Stop" by Safety Suit for my processional. For our recessional, they did a fabulous instrumental arrangement of "Stand Up and Run" by, you guessed it, Billy Talent.

Our wedding also included us heading in to the reception to "Space Jam" and Breaky insisting they played "Darude-Sandstorm" at some point in the night.

When I found out that Billy Talent was coming, not only to the Michigan area, but to where we lived, the first person I told was Breaky. The second person I told was Jessy. It also sounds like a few others who are fans are interested in going.

It has been more than 10 years, and I have remained a Billy Talent fan. It holds a special place in my heart. That band helped me connect with my roommate, then my husband, and helped me cope with loss and then turned around and helped me celebrate my wedding day.

When someone tells you music is just noise, send them to this blog post. Billy Talent changed my life.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

That's not a Rattata

Last week was....well, interesting to say the least. For some context, I work in an older building that used to be a residence hall (dorm for non-university-worker speakers) and, well, I had the urge to tell the story in tweets and GIFs this time. So I figured out how to embed tweets in to my blog. Here we go:

Friday, August 12, 2016

Food Friday: THE Sausage Dip

Credit to my mother, who's recipe this is and whose permission I have to use publish it and whom I love very much and whom I should call more. (LOVE YOU MOM)


Every time I either host a party or get invited to one, the expectation, and sometimes demand, is that I make or bring my sausage dip. Usually, during or after said party, I get bombarded with requests for the recipe. I am always very open to sharing, even jotting it down for people. So I figured it would be easiest to just put it up here, and direct people to my blog.

Although, there is a small chance that now that people can make it themselves that they will not invite me to parties. You guys will still invite me.... right....... guys? .....Bueller?   * crickets  *

Well, I'm going to risk a life of loneliness and share the ever popular, in high demand, amazing SAUSAGE DIP.

Ingredients/Supplies List

- 1 slow cooker
- Frying pan
- Spatula
- 4 bricks of cream cheese
- 2 cans of Rotel tomatos
- One container/roll of Bob Evan's spicy sausage
- One container/roll of Bob Evan's regular sausage

I have visuals to help with the ingredients list:

First, spray your slow cooker with non-stick spray, or use a slow-cooker liner, then throw all 4 bricks of cream cheese in to the slow cooker and turn it to high. This will allow the cream cheese to soften and make it easier to stir everything together when you get to that point.

Next, combine and fry up the sausage. When that is done, be sure to drain the grease.

Throw the sausage in the slow cooker and turn the slow cooker down to low. Open and drain the Rotel tomatoes and add those to the slow cooker too.

Stir together until completely blended. then I usually turn the slow cooker down to "keep warm" after about an hour on low, as everything is already cooked and should be warm/hot by that point.

Serve right out of the slow cooker. Serve with sturdy chips (Tostitos Scoops are my preference). 

Oh, and DogCPK, of course, is always on hand when I am making anything in the kitchen.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Just Your Standard Update-Life Happened

How is it already August? Where did the summer go? Oh wait.... Couldn't possibly be that we spent most of it outside playing an augmented reality game? No.....

Well, maybe. That, plus a bunch of other randomish things that I feel are worthy of including in a blog post, but are not a singular blog-post worthy topic.

So, here we go.

Yes, I am still playing Pokemon Go! * TEAM MYSTIC * Even got myself a Pikachu!

For all of my good catches/hatches, following my Instagram account would be a good place to start. Also too many pictures of DogCPK. You've been warned.

I am still playing, despite some people rage quitting because of reasons too lengthy and exhausting to ruminate here. I find it as a great addition to my walks. Motivates me to walk to work when I normally wouldn't. It is good at convincing Breaky to go on walks with me and DogCPK, when normally he would want to stay indoors. Overall, I may be enjoying it for different reasons than others, but it keeps me/us active, and that's what matters.

Breaky got me an early Christmas present due to an Amazon Prime sale. I got a new tablet with a keyboard and stylus. I actually started drawing again, this time on a tablet, which is a new experience for me. Working on a drawing of the very own DogCPK and will share when I am finished, or am at a point to share progress.

I have been on a huge "home improvement" kick, in which I take projects I have been waiting forever to do for reasons that usually revolve around pure laziness, and actually doing them. This weekend, we were supposed to start building a fence, so our dog can not get tangled in her line, plus, yay home value! But last minute, plans changed and we are not handy enough of a pair to do it ourselves, so I endeavored to finish painting part of our porch, getting an umbrella for our table, and painting a garage door and two window boxes the color I wanted. Doesn't seem like a lot, but to us, it was a huge deal.

A lot of our home improvement ideas come from one of my many Pinterest Boards. If you follow my blog, our wedding a year ago included a lot of ideas I pinned to our wedding board. Also included on the board pretty prominently is my Halloween board. Ever since my sophomore year of college, I have done some kind of Halloween extravaganza. I will not tell you how many years it has been, as that would give away how long is has been since I was in college, and that is painful to think about. Let's just say it has been a long, long tradition.

But the big question is what Breaky and I should be for Halloween. We were thinking something Overwatch related. Thoughts? Suggestions? Last year we were Jack and Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas

Lastly, a HUGE shout out to my little sister, who just got her first full-time teaching position. 6th Grade Math in a public school in Michigan. I am so incredibly proud of my sister, who was my maid of honor at our wedding, and my best friend. She will be amazing, and all of those kids who will have her as a teacher are extremely lucky.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Alliance Tee-Shirt Saga

As many of you know, Breaky and I have been together for over 4 years. Before I knew Breaky, I did play games, just not with the enthusiasm and frequency as I do now. I tried World of Warcraft during a promotional free month period. I chose to only do the one month for free, because I worked at a call center, had student loans, and lived in an apartment by myself and had no money. In addition to taking advantage of free-month games that usually cost way too much, I also took advantage of ThinkGeek's promotional $5 tee shirts, back when ThinkGeek's customer service was decent and was not owned by GameStop. The promotion was you send them $5 and they send you a random tee-shirt. Usually one that was the wrong color, discontinued, or couldn't be regularly sold. 

Why this information? It all ties in, I promise.

The tee-shirt I received from ThinkGeek was a navy blue shirt with the Alliance logo from World of Warcraft. This was around the time I was thinking about trying the game out anyway, so I did. Was Alliance. Got really confused and frustrated (I didn't have anyone else that played, and was shy about playing online games with others for fear of making a fool of myself), so I cancelled the free month before I got charged. I didn't dislike the game, but definitely couldn't justify the purchase of a game I couldn't see myself playing all the time.

But I kept the tee-shirt. Went about my merry way. Met Breaky (our "how we met" will be a different blog post), and when I would wear that shirt, he would get all pissy, in a joking manner. Told me he was Horde all the way, and that dating someone with an Alliance shirt was blasphemy for him, as he was ride-or-die Horde. Told me when I wasn't looking he was going to burn it, or take scissors to it. When I cut around the neck of it to make it a workout shirt, he was disappointed I wasn't destroying it just for him.

YEARS later (just kidding, probably just less than a year), the shirt, like most articles of clothing, had seen better days, so it was reduced to rags, with Breaky doing the honors.

So imagine my surprise when years later, he started playing WoW again. And with what faction? Oh, Alliance.

* Activate Bitch Face *

All of the grief I got for wearing an Alliance tee-shirt? And you end up Alliance?

"Well," Breaky explained, "it is less about Alliance vs Horde now babe! It is all about 'For Azeroth' and the people I am playing with are Alliance."

Ok, I thought, not that bad. I'll tease him about it, sure, but I won't be super mean about it.

Sure enough, at Blizzcon that year it was evident that Blizzard and the game were really pushing for a "united Azeroth" kind of thing.  Despite being Alliance, Breaky got us Horde shirts at the gift store, as well as got me a Hearthstone journal and a Hearthstone necklace.

Less than a year later, went to see the movie. Even wore our Horde tee-shirts.

Couple months later, the Legion expansion came out. Breaky, ever the socialite, organized a few chat groups to decide what faction, what server, when to play etc.... I had a few weekends here that I have been busy with family and our cabin up-north, so I decided not to join in this time.

Needless to say, emotions were high, and arguments happened. First they were going to be Alliance. Then they were Horde. Finally Breaky came back and said they were officially Alliance. I laughed to myself, and then decided to have my revenge for my poor, fallen tee-shirt. Went online when he left the room and ordered him an Alliance tee-shirt similar to the one I had. It was going to arrive in two days.

Perfect, I thought. It will be a cute surprise, we'll get a laugh out of it, blah blah blah.

That next night, driving home from our Trivia Tuesday at the bar, Breaky announced that they decided, officially, to be Horde.

My head hit the dashboard in a frustrated thunk. I think Breaky thought I was broken. He described all the drama and in-fighting and how someone made this rallying speech and someone followed someone else and that was the end of it. Horde it was.

So I explained with an exasperated sigh about the gift that was coming and how he was going to wear it anyway, because I was his wife and he owed me a little for all the grief about my old tee-shirt. He chuckled and agreed.

We received it the next day. Even wore it, right away. Of course, did so to be troll at work and in his WoW chat. But that's the man I married.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Guest Blog Post: BreakyCPK

Below is a guest blog post by my husband, BreakyCPK, who frequently appears in my blog. He is often asked how he got in to the industry of esports and video games, so he decided it would be neat to share with everyone! Below is the blog post: 

My name is Nikolas Caras, but most people that know of me know me by the name that I go by online which is BreakyCPK.  My closest friends and even my wife refer to me as Breaky instead of Nick, and it doesn’t faze me.  I started my Video Game casting career back in 2009 and over the years I have had the privilege of traveling all over the world, as well as my current place of residence in Kalamazoo Michigan where I met “The Good Geek Wife” or as I know her as, Kelsey.

But this post isn’t going to be a full story of my journey over the years of casting (that I am saving for either future posts, or hey even a book).  Instead, I wanted to go over the story of how I even got into casting Video Games in the first place some 7 years ago, which is probably one of the most popular questions I get to this day.

The very short version is simply I was looking for more ways to get experience with sports casting, so I decided to give it a shot with video games, specifically Heroes of Newerth since I was playing it at the time.

The more detailed version is as followed.

Back in 2005 I graduated from high school, where I was overall a fairly good student.  When it came to my first year of college up at a school in northern California however, I let World of Warcraft get the better of me.  As a result of flunked out after my first year and decided it was best to come back home to San Diego, and live with my parents.  So here I was, in the “what the hell am I going to do with my life” phase that I am sure most others have gone through or are possibly going through as well.

I worked several different retail jobs over the next ~3-4 years including Blockbuster Video and Home Depot, while at the same time attempting to go to some local community colleges just to simply keep up with education and earn some type of degree that I could use to further pursue a career.  It felt like I was just going to school just to go, not really knowing what I wanted to pursue and really just getting general education classes done, but mainly because my parents told me I had to.

During this time as well, I continued to play plenty of computer games and also become more and more of a follower in a very new competitive gaming scene.  Ranging from CS 1.6 to WoW arena, to DOTA, I even did a little bit of writing for some gaming websites just to be involved in that scene.

In 2008 however I happened to be looking at upcoming classes for the new semester of a Community College, and came across sportscasting / radio broadcasting.  I have been a lifelong sports fan, specifically a San Diego Chargers and Los Angeles Lakers fan and I also have been told many times that I have a great voice, and I should do radio.  So it just seemed fitting that I should give it a shot and see where it took me.

I ended up taking the class for the two semesters of that year, and both enjoyed going to school for the first time in a very long time, but also started to gain experience in a career I would potentially be pursuing.  I started to cast some local high school football and basketball games for the college AM radio station.  However those seasons only lasted so long and the opportunities for them were constantly shifted from person to person.

A game that I happened to get into recently was called Heroes of Newerth, a recreation of the popular game DOTA which I had previous experience playing with friends.  Streaming video was also starting to become a more popular thing, however the tools were nowhere what they are today.  But I wanted to get more experience in this career that I have come to realize is something I could really make something out of in broadcasting, so I decided why not.

Now to be clear, streaming has evolved a LOT in very little time.  Back in 2009 when I did some research and a lot of testing, I was lucky to get a stream going with 360p quality.  But hey, that was great for its time and the idea that people could just see what you had on your screen was cool enough.  For a better idea of what it was like to stream, you can check out this video that I made in the earlier days, before Twitch was a thing. 

The first couple of times I did it, I don’t think I had any viewers, especially without there being a platform like today with Twitch where people would just go to watch streams.  But that never deterred me, I honestly wasn’t doing it for recognition or in hope that I would one day be a video game caster.  However after a couple of weeks of casting random games, between “in house” matches to some scrims between “top teams”, I started to gain some recognition within the scene.  It wasn’t until I was contacted by someone concerning a project they were planning to start about streaming HoN matches that eventually became the Honcast we know today that I realized maybe I could get something out of this more.

Over the next year things drastically changed, going from me just doing this on the side for experience while still working my retail job living with my parents, to getting a monthly pay check and eventually moving out on my own.  My parents, especially my mother were never really behind the idea of me focusing so much on a video game, especially with my history and of course I can’t blame them.  But in summer of 2011 the offer came to move out to Michigan and work officially as the head caster of Heroes of Newerth for S2 Games, and the realization finally hit that I had started what would be an awesome journey towards being an esports caster.