Habitica

There’s a glutĀ of self-improvement apps coming out for your smartphone lately. WeightWatchers, Strava, FitBit, the various one’s built into Android and iPhone’s operating systems, and plenty of other ones.

Most self-improvement apps focus on a specific purpose, whether that’s exercise, dieting, or quitting bad habits.

My self-improvement app of choice doesn’t have any specific focus. And if you haven’t already guessed from the title, the app is called Habitica.

Habitica Banner

Habitica lets you define your goals, what habits you want to develop, and which bad habits you want to lose. You can also define rewards for yourself (such as eating a piece of cake while on a diet). Let’s take a closer look. Continue reading

Fake New Year’s Eve

Every year my D&D group has a tradition of gathering together for New Year’s Eve and playing games all night long until we fall asleep when the sun comes up on the New Year.

As we got older it became a little inconvenient to hold this event on New Year’s Eve itself as many of us had other parties that we wanted to go to on the coveted night of December 31st.

So we changed when we held our party to whatever was most convenient for us! This year it was on December 27th to 28th. We were unfortunately forced to choose between one of our friends from San Diego and one from San Jose in who could attend as they had opposite schedules of availability. We ended up choosing the San Diego friend as we see him less often with an additional gathering at the San Jose friend’s house on January 3rd.

After greeting each other with hugs we started the night off with a game of Pirateer where we collect treasure and booty. We moved on to a game of Brittania that lasted… 6 hours. Quite long for a game that is supposed to last 2 hours. Brittania is a Risk-like game that simulates all the invasions of Britain from the Romans to the Normans. It’s a lot of fun, but sometimes it takes FOREVER.

After that we got some pasta for dinner (at 11:30PM) and played a few fast games of Tsuro. This was a new one for me. It’s kind of like the old video game Snake where you don’t want you guy to go off the edge. You have tiles that you lay down in front of your token as you move around a 6-6 map. The tiles decide where you go and also where any of the other players go once they touch that tile. You try to get your opponents to crash off the edge of the map while keeping room for you to continue playing tiles until the board is full.

Next up was a drinking version of Liar’s Dice. That’s the game they play in the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie where they bet on how many dice are underneath each person’s cup. In the movie they only play one round, but in our version we play several rounds. If you lose one round, you take a die out from your cup and roll with one less die. You lose the game if you lose all your dice. You can probably guess how we added in a drinking game aspect to Liar’s Dice. Whenever you lose a round, take a drink. When you lose all your dice, finish your drink.

We played Resistance which is a Mafia-like game. The game’s complexity isn’t in the roles like in Town of Salem, but more in how information is gathered. We had five people playing and with five people there are three Resistance members and two Spies. The Resistance wants to complete three out of five missions. I was one of the two Spies and our goal was to sabotage three out of five missions.

If a Spy goes on a mission they can choose to sabotage it or not. Everyone votes on proposed teams for each mission and the Resistance attempts to figure out who the Spies are by seeing which missions failed and who was on the missions that failed. Meanwhile, the Spies sow strife and discord amongst the Resistance by spreading misinformation and lies. I’m quite good at that so my Spy partner and I won.

At some point we played a little bit of Hearthstone and unlocked the Fireside Gathering card back. It’s awesome and I love it, even though I lost all three matches I played to get it.

We went to sleep around 4:30. I woke up at 8:30 and everyone else was up again around 10. We ate some hot breakfast and moved on to the last game of Fake New Year’s, Zombies.

Zombies attempts to simulate most zombie movies. The hordes are coming and you and your friends either have to eliminate the zombie threat or make it to a helicopter and get out of town. We play with a lot of house rules that usually result in everyone dying to the zombie hordes. This time only I died early on in the game. Four other people would have made it to the helicopter, but my Spy partner from before tripped someone to stall the zombies. The tripped person valiantly fought off the horde against his will and bought time for the other three to escape.

We ended the game extravaganza and headed back home. A great night of fun for everyone (except the San Jose friend who couldn’t make it)!

-Mister Ed

Marriage and Gender

I had an internship for my last two years of college. I worked in a biological research lab studying rice genetics. After I graduated I left the lab, hoping for newer and brighter things. Sadly, I did not get into grad school as I planned. My backup of finding a biotech job didn’t work out either. I started a new internship studying nematode genetics and was rehired back at my old job working with rice.

In the time since I’d left the people working in the lab had rotated somewhat. A few people had left and a few had joined. The core of the lab knew that I was married, but the new people did not. I ended up in the position of training a few of the new student hires, a man and a woman. The woman is studying to be a pharmacist. The man was originally a pre-med student. He even joined a pre-med focused fraternity. Then he took some plant biology classes and joined the rice lab. Now, he wants to be a plant biologist.

I was working with each of them separately today and the topic of my marriage came up. I am twenty-two years old, married to my high school sweetheart, and barely out of college. This throws a few people off. While after college marriages were common a few decades ago (and still are), many people see it as rushing into a relationship. I’m confident that I made the right choice. I’m also sure that there’s some person who’ll say, “Blah-blah percent of marriages of people under 30 end in under blah-blah years. What will you do if you get divorced?”

Honestly? I never prepared for divorce. It’s not something most people plan for when they get married. Why would you? Marriage is supposed to be forever and getting a pre-nup makes it seem like you don’t think it will last forever. If that’s the case then why get married? Our eight month anniversary is coming up on Valentine’s Day and I have a feeling that it’s gonna be great. Both of us are extremely happy to be with each other and we recognize that every day.

I mentioned my marriage to the pre-pharm student and she did not react in the typical ways (“You’re married?!” “What?” “Really?” etc.). She didn’t really react at all. She thought it was perfectly normal to get married right after college. So normal in fact that she didn’t even mention the timing of it.

When I mentioned my marriage to the plant bio student he said, “I was wondering what that ring on your finger was for.” He’d thought it might’ve been a wedding ring, but he wasn’t sure. Maybe when he saw the ring he thought, “That looks like it could be a wedding ring, but how could a guy that young be married?” He’d considered the possibility, but he wasn’t sure.

The thing that struck me most about these conversations was that the woman had thought it normal to be married after college and the man had not. It matched perfectly with traditional paths after college. Society pressures women to get married after college while men are pressured to advance their careers. In a few years, the man finds a younger woman just out of college and they get married. The pre-pharm student, being a woman, projected her own expectations onto me and reacted differently than others have in the past. The plant bio student reacted as other men have in the past to the news, with shock that I’d tie myself down so soon and not focus on my job.

Just a little slice of life that I liked.

-Mister Ed