Anyway, to recap for you, the advantages are:
- 9-Again: Reroll 9s for additional chances at successes.
- 8-Again: Reroll 8s for additional chances at successes.
- Extra Success: Add successes (if you roll at least one).
- Modifies Resistance: Reduce the dice penalty from a victim's Resistance stat (or other dice penalty), or, alternately, add to your own Resistance stat.
- Rote Action: Reroll all failures for a chance at additional successes
- Advanced Action: Roll twice, keep the best.
- Extra Talent: Add a third trait to the Attribute + Skill pool (ie. Attribute A + Attribute B + Skill).
What I'd love from the White Wolfers in the crowd - or even just the mathematicians - is an idea of how mechanically effective these advantages are relative to each other.
I know that some of these advantages are situational, or have characteristic quirks. For example, I know that Extra Success has the quirk of being potentially very powerful, but only if the player can roll that crucial first success. I know that Modifies Resistance is situationally useful.
However, what I want to know is how the "basic" advantages stack up. 8-Again is better than 9-Again, but how do the "X-Again" rules measure up to Rote Action? Or Advanced Action? Are more dice (ie. Extra Talent) better than rerolls (X-Again, Rote, Advanced) or worse?
Thanks in advance for your help. I'm looking forward to interesting discussion.
It's everyone's favorite time again - the least exciting part of the year. Testing!
I'm going to be sitting around the classroom, hopefully watching silent children silently complete their test. Any amusing links and emails you can send me would be appreciated.
Normally, I love this job. Proctoring standardized tests... not so much.
J (A Student): I just thought that you love me so much that you'd just let me in.
Me: No, I love you so much that I'm going to be consistent with you and teach you integrity.
J: Damn! (leaves to get tardy pass)
I think it is continually fascinating that my English Language Learners are much more likely to get my silly puns than my native English speakers. For example: practically without fail, my Latino boys (and some girls) will laugh when I call a student selected by pulling his equity stick (a set of sticks, each with a different student's name written on them - an engagement strategy that lets every student know that he/she can be called on, even if they don't volunteer, and helps address any subconscious biases I might have) a "sticktim" (a victim selected by equity stick - as opposed to a volunteer who rases his/her hand). Very few of my native English speakers appreciate my silly puns.
I don't know what, if anything, it means, but I find it odd and entertaining.
Is there such a thing as Perceived Frequency Creep?
By that I mean does the frequency with which something happen seem to increase with repetition, even though the frequency does not actually increase?
I ask because I have a really crappy phone - smart enough to actually crash periodically, just like a crappy computer, but not smart enough to actually do anything smart - and it seems like those crashes are coming with increasing frequency. It hasn't reached the point that the crashes are exactly common - we're not at the "once a week or so" level - but it does seem that they happen more often. It seems that the first few times my phone crashed, I had to strain to remember the last time it had happened, whereas now, while I can't recall the exact date, it seems much more recent.
This sounds exactly like the kind of bullshit our brains produce to keep us looking out for the newer, better, and tastier... but then again, my phone is really crappy.
I hate giving tests.
It's boring for me. I came here to teach, not to sit around and torture children. If I have to torture children, I'd like to at least be active about it! Tests stress the kids out so I have to give a lot of consequences, and I'm not convinced that it really has any place in education.
In other words, total fail.
Anyway, my first and second periods have been pretty easy on me. Let's see if that holds true for the rest of the day.
Coming to you up a muddy road
Good an' dirty, I got a truck load
And when you get it, you got something
Don't worry, 'cause I'm coming
I'm a mole man, I'm a mole man
I'm a mole man, I'm a mole man
Got what I got the hard way
And I dig it deeper, each and every day
So honey, said don't you fret
'Cause you ain't seen nothing yet
I'm a mole man, I'm a mole man
I'm a mole man, I'm a mole man
I was brought up under the street
I learned how to dig before I could eat
I was educated at Woodstock
When I start loving, whoa I can't stop
I'm a mole man, I'm a mole man
I'm a mole man, I'm a mole man
Just grab the rope and I'll pull you down
Give you hope and be your only boyfriend
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
I'm talking about a mole man, mole man
I'm a mole man, I'm a mole man
I'm a mole man, I'm a mole man
I have achieved my second Tiny Plastic Spacemen related injury! Yay?
I'm in the process of stripping down some used models I got for free, and last night I managed to give my left hand a major cramp. First world problems, I know: "man, it's so terrible. I was doing some art on some plastic toys that I got for free and I gave myself a cramp." But, actually, it really hurts! I'm sure it will be fine by the end of the day. To be honest, I'm taking it as a badge of honor. You can tell you're serious about your fun when sometimes it hurts.
Of course, this still isn't as gory as the time I buried my exacto knife in my left index finger. It looks like it will heal clean, but you can still - just barely - see the seam where the cut was.
The models were a serious windfall though. That was probably more than 200$ worth of used Space Marines - practically a small army! - and it was all free, and now it's all mine. Of course, they had a truly horrible color scheme: base-coated black and smeared all over with bronze paint. Really gaudy and really poorly done. The marines are well put-together, but the tanks seem to have been assembled with rubber cement and are falling apart as I strip them. Of course, that's a problem that's not a problem; the more to pieces they fall, the easier it will be to strip the paint off, and when all is said and done I can easily reassemble them.
Oddly enough it's the Space Marines that are the biggest treasure, even though it was the tanks that first delighted me. There are some seriously old, seriously cool, and seriously out of print metal marines in there, including this awesome guy with huge skulls on his shoulder pads. I may not be the world's best painter, but I am going to be able to do some seriously cool stuff with these guys, once I've got them stripped and base-coated.
Anyway, the whole thing includes about twenty Space Marines, some of them Assault Marines, some of them Tactical Marines, and some of them with various special weapons, two tank chassis, and four (four? These guys are always fielded in groups of five or more) Terminators.
I'm going to have a lot of fun with this.
"Death Spiral" is not the name of a goth metal band, but it should be.
Actually, I was introduced to the term "Death Spiral" by RPGs. In an RPG context, a Death Spiral is a rule that causes a character (or other entity) to become less effective as it approaches death. For characters, this has the effect of heightening tension and increasing drama. As the character becomes increasingly injured, he or she must struggle on despite the pain and handicap of wounds. Death Spirals - although for this to work they usually have to be accompanied by a mechanic for ignoring them at some cost - can often produce some awesome "from hell's heart I stab at thee" moments.
Of course, there are problems with Death Spirals. For one thing, the "circle round and beat the crap out of an increasingly crippled opponent" scene isn't much cooler than it sounds. A few games have done interesting things with inverted or otherwise altered Death Spirals that make opponents different or just plain nastier as they get more hurt, which is counter-intuitive, but usually a lot more fun, in that it produces rising action over the course of a battle, rather than falling action.
In the last few minutes, I've also learned that Death Spiral can also refer to some economics conditions, too.
But I digress. I'm here to talk about the Death Spiral in terms of sleep.
The Stress-Work-Sleep Death Spiral goes like this:
First, I am stressed. This is a general condition of my life. Then, I have work to do (also a general condition of my life). Because I am stressed, I am often doing the work at odd hours of the night. As it gets later, I get more tired, which reduces my efficiency and increases my stress. Which reduces my efficiency. Which causes it to become later. Which increases my weariness. Which reduces my efficiency.
And so on.
This is probably the worst thing about reality. Time, man, it totally blows. I would totally arrange things differently if it were up to me.
I think that recognizing the Stress-Work-Sleep Death Spiral (SWS Death Spiral, or SWSDS, for short) has helped me to avoid it, or at least mitigate it. The problem with totally preventing the SWS Death Spiral is that it acts upon the part of my brain that, well, acts. I may see it coming, but that doesn't mean I can do anything about it because it's the parts of me that manages time, makes decision, and works creatively that are slowed down, skewed sideways, and otherwise fucked up. However, there is something powerful about sitting in front of my computer at 12:45 AM and saying "damn, I know what this is - this is the Death Spiral" that helps. It opens the door to radical solutions, like "fuck it - I'm going to go to bed and set the alarm for 5:30 so I have time to do this before school" (a personal favorite). On a smaller scale, it sometimes helps spur me on to make more intelligent decisions about how to manage my time and reach the inevitable conclusion of the SWS Death Spiral - finishing my work and going, the fuck, to sleep.
And for the record, I know where the spacebar is. There's some kink of the Dreamwidth interface that they're still working out that occasionally erases my spaces. It's a space erasure. Very exciting.
In my line of work, it's considered a virtue to be sensitive to the culture(s) of the kids we work with. We are supposed to educateourselvesinwhat's appropriate and inappropriate in the cultural contexts of our kids and then do our best to meet their expectations. In a lot ofways, thisisan entirely good idea. It helps us get past the "culture of poverty" myths, connect to our students, and dodge a lot of the social,racial,andeconomic issues that could potentially divide and destroy classroom culture.
Even though I know this is basically a good idea, I sometimes wonder if it's bullshit.
Before I go any further, I feel like I should add a disclaimer. By that, I mean that the opinions expressed in this post are not necessarilyendorsed by the writer. In other words: I don't really know what I think about this issue, much less how I feel about this issue. I'm unloadingmyemotionsand expressing my feelings, and if you take this post as anything but me thinking out loud for your entertainment andedification,you're a jerk.
So, with black kids - and, in many cases, kids who belong to other cultures but have undergone a lot of their socialization around black kids -you aren't supposed to single them out by name. It's apparently disrespectful. I don't really understand how, but I don't have to. It's aculturalthing. It's true for the kids. Whatever.
The thing is, you can imagine that as a classroom teacher this isn't easy to deal with. How the hell else am I supposed to deal with kids ifIcan't single them out? It's important for me to note here that I'm not talking about insulting or humiliating kids - yes, yes, at least not bymyentirely subjective standards - I'm talking about saying something as simple as taking a break from whatever bit of instruction I'm doing tosay"hey, Manuel, please stop talking and listen to me" or "Christine, spit out your gum please."
I want to note that it's not like I'm taking any heat from anyone in authority to do this differently. My administrators seem pretty content to let merun my classroom my way, and they're pretty happy with how I relate to the kids. I've noticed a lot of conflict in my classroom, and I'm trying tofigure out how to improve my classroom culture. My classroom culture, not my kids' culture. That's their business. My mentor's advice was toconsider this "calling out" phenomenon and see what I can do to change how I relate to my kids.
The first thing is that I'm very confused about how the heck to communicate with my kids if I'm not going to single them out anymore. What am Isupposed to do, say "remember that gum isn't allowed" while looking meaningfully at one of my students while she chews? Is anyone but meaware that this will totally fail to produce any kind of response?
I know what the solution is, of course. My school has a number of excellent teachers who are born and bred in Oakland's black community. Ican - and will - go and watch them and see how they deal with it. Perhaps I'll discover that it's simpler than I think.
What's really frustrating is that the entire project seems a little ridiculous. My classroom isn't just full of black kids. There are black kids from Oakland, black kids from elsewhere, latino kids, kids born in America, and latino kids born abroad, Mongolian kids and Chinese kids and Vietnamese kids, and even one lonely white kid (actually, I think the white kid moved, but I still see last year's white kid in the halls sometimes). I know that more of my kids are black than anything else, but by bowing to their cultural preferences and ignoring everyone else's, aren't I perpetuating the same inequalities I hate, just for different reasons?
And for that matter, why the heck don't we expect black kids to develop cultural competencies like (nearly) everyone else in America (except the white people) has to? I know that the black and Jewish experiences in America are very different - for one thing, we got to be white eventually, and I'm not sure America can handle making black people white - but nobody ever gave a shit about my culture when I was growing up. I've had to learn to appreciate the Jesus myth in literature. I've had negative interactions with teachers based on my argumentative and belligerent ways. I've had to explain my weird Jewish holidays over and over again. Is this a white liberal guilt ("we must limit the ways our awful white culture impacts these poor innocent black kids!") thing? A low expectations ("we can't expect these fucked up, poor, urban black kids to adapt to other cultures") thing? Or is it some other thing?
The thing is, I understand that none of that really matters. It doesn't matter where this thing comes from or how I related to it in my childhood. What matters is that I want to teach these kids science, and the more harmoniously I can do it, the more science they will learn. If I have to figure out how to discipline kids without talking to them individually - or whatever it turns out I have to do - then I'll do it. But I still have a lot of questions, and I think I'm going to have to get used to not having answers.
I won't lie - I enjoy getting presents. It seems that enjoying receiving presents goes out of fashion after a certain age, but I've never really lost it. Perhaps its redeeming that I also enjoy giving presents - perhaps it doesn't need redeeming. This year I did pretty well: I got a tiny plastic (well, resin) spaceman from one friend and a tiny plastic space-tank from myself, a wonderful and hilarious necklace from Abby (one side: the Prime symbol from Mage: the Ascension, the other side: "Motherfucking Sorcerer"), a list of the Internet's best free adventure games from another friend, a personalized Cards Against Humanity-style game from Abby's sister, a blue blazer from Abby's parents, and a nice check from my grandma. I also received the priceless gift of the time and company of many of my friends, old and new, over the course of the weeks of my birthday celebration.
So far, 29 is turning out to be a good year. I've got my work in order, more or less. For the first time in a long time, between tiny plastic spacemen, D&D Encounters, and Dresden Files with Max, I'm getting my play in order, too. I've got a professional organizer and a personal trainer to help me get my home and body in order, and both feel more like opportunities than onerous obligations.
What do I hope for in my 29th year? I'd like to get back to the guitar, make more time to write, and continue to grow and develop (or, in the case of my personal trainer, shrink and develop). I hope to continue to improve my work and my play.
I'll keep you posted.
Of course, there are days that don't. There are days that make me wonder why - why, in the name of all that is lizards - I'm subjecting myself to this, and for so little money! And there are days where the spark just doesn't catch and it's just a job (like today, for example).
Anyway, I want to write about one of the formermost days that happened a few weeks ago, but for that, I'm going to have to give you a little background.
As many of you know, I was raised by a crazy woman and her sidekick. Or, as my wife likes to put it, I was raised by Captain Kirk and Frodo Baggins (now there is a match made in heaven) and my parents were just two people I had to put up with in the meantime. The truth is kind of elusive. I'm certainly a fairly crazy person thanks to my parents' behavior, but I'm a lot more selfless and creative, less neurotic and doubting, than you'd think I'd be with parents as nutty as mine. I'm proud to say that part of it probably is because of my adoptive dads James and Frodo. It's probably partly because, as an older child, I identified more with the somewhat less aggressively crazy of my parents, my father, also an older child. The fact that I spend nearly a month in an incubator might have also prevented me from bonding properly with my mother, which might have contributed to our lousy relationship today, even as it kept her from pouring as much of her crazy into me. Part of it is because for all their dysfunction, my parents have always loved me as deeply as they were able, something which they communicated despite their issues. And part of it is because of the other adults in my life, my teachers, mentors, and relatives.
Chief among them, in many ways, was my uncle Michael, my mother's brother. Michael was a chemist who worked on identifying hazardous chemicals in products and preventing them from becoming a danger to health and the environment. As a young person with a growing interest in science, Michael was possibly the coolest thing to ever happen to me, and every time he visited us - and that one time we visited him - we would stay up long into the night and talk about science.
The thing I remember most clearly about Michael was his incredible patience. Here was a guy doing very high level science at one of America's leading universities, and here is a ten year old who likes the Time Life: Human Body series and Eyewitness Science books.
And yet, I remember one of the proudest moments of my young life was the day that I proposed inventing a chemical that would stop HIV from copying inside a host cell and my uncle told me that I had just predicted the principle behind AZT, one of the first drugs to slow the progress of HIV to AIDS.
A few weeks ago, I was proud to find my class discussion of the mechanics of HIV turning in the same direction, with my students asking me, with significant creativity and clarity of thought, about how HIV might defeated. It was a lot of fun, and it made me feel close to my uncle, and proud that I've created a classroom that is, at least sometimes, a place where my students feel safe to explore their ideas.
Today we begin one of my favorite units of the year: the HIV Mini-Unit.
I enjoy teaching this unit for several reasons. Firstly, I'm really proud of a lot of the activities I've cooked up for it, including the T-Pain Suicide analysis activity (culturally appropriate pedagogy for the win!). Other activities that come with the curriculum, like the "Drinking Party" or the "Mix and Match Fluids and Orfices" activity, are fun just as written. It's also fun to get to teach something that I know will definitely be relevant to my students' lives, practically no matter what choices they make. Everyone should know how to do science - it adds a lot to your life to understand the world around you, and the problem-solving skills it provides are invaluable - but let's face it, a lot of people don't remember an iota of middle school science and they do fine. HIV-avoidance, however, is a matter of life and death.
And, let's face it, I'm a bit of a sadist about this work. I enjoy cracking open my kids' brains and challenging their adorable little assumptions and preconceptions for its own sake. It's fun. The HIV Mini-Unit gives me lots of opportunities to do that.
"Do we have to do this unit?" C asks me, in a typical whiny twelve-year-old voice.
"Yes," I reply, curtly. I don't like to spend a lot of time answering questions my students already know the answers to, things like 'do we have to do this?' and 'can I go to the bathroom?'
I thought the matter was safely resolved, until I walked by during the Pair Share to discover that C was sobbing. A moment of conversation revealed that C's aunt had died of AIDS last month.
I had been trying to explain to my kids that HIV is a growing problem in Oakland. Case in gut-wrenching, tragic, mother-fucking point.
Anyway, I shuffled C off to the counselor's office. It turned out later that all of the counselors are out sick today (wtf?), but when I saw her again she was feeling better; I guess a break from class did her good. C's mother - I called home to giver her my condolences and a head's up about C's feelings - is adamant that C participate in the unit, and I can see why. She's also a little puzzled about C's feelings, since the deceased was her father's sister and not someone she knew very well, but you never can tell with kids. Sometimes things effect them in weird ways.
Anyway, I don't think I actually did anything wrong, but I feel weird nonetheless. It's not every day I dive feet first into someone's personal family tragedy, and while I've had kids who have lost family members to HIV in three years I haven't previously had the bad luck to begin the HIV Mini Unit a mere month after an AIDS death.
That's it from the trenches today - unless someone else starts crying in my six. Wish me luck.
Anyway, here is my first post via Dreamwidth, and my first personal blogging post in some time. I feel under a lot of pressure to make this post "good" and "seminal," to define with grace and brilliance what this blog is going to be about.
That's why instead I'm going to post this RPGnet motivational poster I made about five years ago.
Sometimes, you just need to move on.
I'm not entirely sure what I want to do with a blog. Post about writing, gaming, and random geeky things on the internet? I do that already on the Burning Zeppelin Experience. Post about miniatures, wargaming, modding, and painting? I think I'm the only person in my immediate internet circle to be into that sort of thing. Post about how freaking slow and unreliable Audible downloads are? Tempting, but probably not a great idea.
So, I guess that leaves posting about my life. Hopefully I can elevate the format above "how was your quesadilla?" blogging, but I'm going to assume that if you're reading this, you're at least tangentially interested in what's going on with me, in a broader format than Facebook allows.
Which reminds me - if I want my friends to read this and be updated about my life, I should link to Facebook from it.
Anyway, the fact is that I miss the heyday of Livejournal. I miss reading my Friends page and seeing what my friends are up to, creatively presented in their own words, impregnated with their own personalities, intermixed with a liberal sprinkling of people I don't know personally but think are neat. Maybe there's nothing I could do to bring those days back, but I can post this, I can post about Dreamwidth on Facebook, and I can hope.
So, here goes nothing. This blog will be about me, for those who care to read it.
Also, is it just me or does Michele Bachman look less like she's dropping out of the race and more like she's promising to bite all those who oppose her?
There is definitely something bitey about that woman. I know that her dropping out of the race doesn't mean that she will stop spouting horrible hate-filled rhetoric, but at least it means that I won't have to hear about it - or look at her horrible bitey weasily face - nearly as frequently.
But enough about politics. What's been up with me?
The last - God, how long has it been? - the last period has had some ups and downs. Ups include my teaching career, which continues to be lots of fun. Abby is well, as well, and I'm still quite happy to be married to her. I've recently gotten into wargaming - I'm sure you've all noticed, after all the pictures I've posted - and while it's a hobby that's possibly even sillier than the rest of the ones I've already got, It's also a lot of fun. I really enjoy the artistry that goes into assembling, modifying, and painting my Tiny Plastic Spacemen, Tiny Plastic Lizardmen, Tiny Plastic Giant Robots, and Tiny Plastic Giant Monsters (TPSMs, TPLMs, TPGRs, and TPGMs, for short). Apparently, I'm even quite good at it, and getting better.
However much fun it is, though, minis wargaming doesn't replace roleplaying. Real roleplaying, the kind I did in college, the kind where you tell deeply meaningful stories. I'm done feeling ashamed - I've been done for a while now - this is one of the major ways I express myself. It's also really hard to do when you're a grownup. I've posted about it before, and I'll probably post about it again. It's kind of up right now in my life, and it's been a major source of frustration.
There are some lights at the end of various tunnels. I've got a Dresden Files game going on - while it isn't quite a game of truth and beauty yet, it's certainly fun and I think it has the potential to become such. I've started developing more local friends (Friends! Dear friends!), which is good, because while I've got some awesome friendships already, I'm also pretty isolated and lonely.
In other news... well, I think that about covers it. If you read my blog you already know about my Summer from Hell, my mother basically disowning me, and my brother's continued douchebaggery. You probably also know that in addition to being wonderful and fun, teaching is probably the hardest thing I've ever done, and it continues to leave me exhausted.
So that's where I am: work is fun and work his hard, my creative life is full of new things I enjoy and all but empty of old things I love, I have more friends, and that front is continuing to improve, and my marriage is great, but unsurprisingly strained by all the things that are difficult in the rest of my life.
Watch this space for more blogging. Let's see if we can't keep in touch.
I gave out progress reports today, and a lot of kids were surprised. Some of them pleasantly ("Mr. Simmons, what do you mean, I got a B? I've never gotten a B in science in my life!" "What did you get last year?" "Oh, I got a D.") and some of them less so. One girl in particular came to me with a brave and angry face on, saying "Mr. Simmons, I'm furious with you!"
"Oh? Why are you furious with me?"
"It's my progress report. I shouldn't get a D!"
So, I took her aside after class and I showed her her grade. I showed her her test scores - which she has seen already. I showed her her marked lack of Exit Slips and Do Now sheets. I showed her her unexceptional behavior grade. By the end of my showing, she was in tears.
I don't know if it was a good thing or a bad thing. On the one hand, it looks like she took responsibility for her grade. She saw what I was showing her and went from angry at my unfairness to sadness at her own lack of performance. She stopped being mad because she saw that she gave her a D, not me. On the other hand, I made an adorable 12 year old cry!
Man, this life is hard.
Anyway, I have her the talk. I told her that I believed in her, that she could still get a C or even a B by the time the actual report cards come out and that she could still earn an A overall by the end of the year. We'll see how it works out.