The 2020-2021 Diaries
Justin
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2020 will no doubt be one of "those" years in the history books. Certainly in America, it will ride alongside 1776, 1865, 1929, 1941, 1969, 2001, etc. The pandemic, police brutality protests, and the election alone are enough to set this year apart from the rest.

I teach high school history and it would be an eventful enough school year just trying to cover the protests and the election, but we're having to do it in the middle of a high point in this pandemic that isn't showing much sign of slowing down.

So I want to keep some record of this school year since that is how my brain perceives the passage of time more often than not. My plan to to post here about things that are going on and weave in the games, books, etc. that I'm using to help keep me sane. I may start this and ditch it after a month... who knows? But in this moment with classes starting this week, I feel like I need to have a chronicle of this time in my life.
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1. Board Game: High School Drama! [Average Rating:5.41 Overall Rank:17738]
Board Game: High School Drama!
Justin
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It starts here, right?

I've been in training the last couple weeks getting ready for the school year to begin. I'm starting a new job at a new school in a new district in unheard of circumstances.

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For the most part, the teachers I'm around are preparing more or less like normal... normal is just going to be doing school online for the first 3 weeks, then some students will return to the classroom. I'm skeptical that that will actually happen if the virus spread doesn't slow down considerably. I'll be taking all the precautions I can, and I'd probably strike if that were an option in Texas, but it isn't if I want to keep my job. And I have to keep my job if I'm going to feed my family. It's absurd to me that teachers are being put in a position where some are having to choose early retirement or resignation rather than accept the risks of catching/spreading a life threatening virus. Just a bizarro, sick, dystopian kind of scenario we're in. It irks me to no end that to my knowledge, no one making these decisions on our behalf is being asked to expose themselves to a bunch of kids every day. Would love to see some elected leaders volunteer to fill in the gaps in substitute teachers we will inevitably experience.

Going to be an interesting few weeks.
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2. Board Game: D-Day at Tarawa [Average Rating:8.21 Overall Rank:2594]
Board Game: D-Day at Tarawa
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This is the first game on my table for when the year officially starts. I made another trade for a couple of MMP SCS titles that I'm excited to try, but as things get rolling and stuff changes possibly day to day hour to hour, I don't want to be doing a ton of rules reading. I feel like I've got a pretty solid handle on most of the rules for D-Day and I've been wanting to get back to it anyway. Going to try and play a turn a day or so.
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3. Board Game: Battle Cry of Freedom [Average Rating:6.91 Overall Rank:10290]
Board Game: Battle Cry of Freedom
Justin
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From gallery of joestin


This is the book getting most of my reading time as the year gets underway. I am kicking myself for not reading it sooner. I even bought highlighters and tabs to make sure I don't lose track of things I want to toss in to my early 19th century and Civil War lessons this year. I'm about 100 pages in and already have 9 or 10 pages tabbed. The first is a quote from Mark Twain that I thought was particularly prescient (not sure that's the right word here, but whatever).

From the book:

In 1882 Samuel Clemens found that the Civil War remained at the center of southern consciousness: it was "what A.D. is elsewhere; they date from it."

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4. Board Game: Fields of Fire [Average Rating:7.80 Overall Rank:1272]
Board Game: Fields of Fire
Justin
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It's 1944. You're a GI who volunteered to fight the Axis. You've trained for hours, days, weeks, to be dropped into France with the task of pushing the Nazis out. You've studied their tactics, their weapons, the terrain. You know your commanding officers' personalities and what they expect of you on the battlefield. You've got a parachute strapped to your back and you're sitting in a C-47 ready to jump. The light goes on, you attach to the cable and when your turn comes, you leap. You've got this. You're ready.

It's dark, but you can spot some trees below and a small clearing that looks like a good landing spot. With some luck, that's exactly where you touch down. You unstrap and look around.

Something's off.

The ground isn't chunky mud, but rather a more sandy substance. The trees are palm trees. The air smells of chemicals. The whoosh of planes overhead suddenly sounds more like the beating of helicopter rotors. This isn't France. You unstrap from your chute and sling your rifle around. It's... black? Instead of the rugged wood texture of your M1, you feel only warm, sticky metal. The humidity is awful. You hear a rustle in some brush. You catch a quick glimpse of Old Glory and feel relief. You call over and get his attention. He runs up to you with a frantic look on his face and asks if you've seen any VC. VC?

You know you're in a war. You know how to be a soldier. You even can generally assume to know how your rifle works. But this is not the same.
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5. Board Game: Baby Boom [Average Rating:5.79 Overall Rank:14906]
Board Game: Baby Boom
Justin
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There are no games with toddler in the title. Interesting... like not even a gross licensed game for Toddler and Tiaras.

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm over toddler life. I'm sure the pandemic is exacerbating this feeling like it is so many others, but man... my wife and I are both on the verge of losing it. Everyone says, "you'll miss it!" and I believe them. I believe that I will miss the super sweet things she does like walking up and saying "kissy!" and kissing my knee. I'll miss pulling her out of the car asleep and her head slumping on my shoulder. I'll miss watching her learn new words and say longer sentences.

But that comprises about 10% of the experience right now. The other 90 is, in a word, rough. At this point, I can look at my oldest and think, yeah, I miss a few things about her being a toddler, but really, I've far more enjoyed the years of her being age 4 up to now. And she was SUPER EASY as a toddler.

So there. I put it out there. I might regret it. I might read this 5 or 10 years from now and think OH WHAT AN IDIOT I WAS. I might. But right now, I'm just worn out of trying to soothe the 10th hissy fit of the day (and it's just midday).
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6. Board Game: The U.S. Civil War [Average Rating:8.30 Overall Rank:1798]
Board Game: The U.S. Civil War
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No, I don't think we're about to enter another civil war... let's get that out of the way.

What I do think is that so much of this year is going to be defined by death. And I'm increasingly troubled by how untroubled many people seem to be by it.
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7. Board Game: Mind Twist [Average Rating:4.58 Overall Rank:17742]
Board Game: Mind Twist
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Things are going okay. Thursday is the day students will enter my classroom again and I'm equal parts anxious and excited. Teaching online is fine and I would totally do it full time if it were the expected structure and I could just run free with it, but what we're doing now feels like killing time (productively) until we can get back to real life and it's just wearing me out.

I'm finding as the days go on that there is a limit on how many different activities my brain is willing to engage in any given day. I gave up on my Tarawa play because there were new elements I would have to learn in a couple turns and I just knew I wasn't going to have an easy time with it. I bowed out of my ASL play with Andreas because at this point, going to the computer that I only use for VASSAL is an activity that my brain can't process. It's not that it's a huge demand on its own (and I'm loving playing against someone that's not me), it's just that my brain is rejecting the idea of trying to squeeze one more different activity into the day. I got out the contents for V-Commandos a few days ago excited to give it a shot, but they have sat there. For now, my days are work, daughter time, wife time, video games, sleep. That's about all I can handle right now.

But like I said above, it's okay. My students are doing as well as can be expected. My daughters are healthy and happy if not completely exhausting, my wife still likes to spend time with me, and there aren't any massive house projects on my to-do list (knock on wood).

So there we are. That's the update I can muster right now.
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8. Board Game: Sardines [Average Rating:6.06 Overall Rank:12689]
Board Game: Sardines
Justin
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Thursday came and went. I shared a room for 90 minutes at a time with 3 different groups of about 20-24 teenagers. They're able to space out pretty well and I'm able to maintain my distance when I'm not going to a desk to answer a question. Everyone is in a mask and every other desk has an awkward plastic barrier. Unfortunately, thanks to the threat of school shooters, we have to keep our doors closed and locked and our windows don't open so I've got my air conditioning down pretty low to keep the air moving as much as possible.

I don't know. I didn't feel unsafe per se, but it's also just so weird. It was nice to be around kids again, but given the masks and the distancing, it's only a bit more personal than a Zoom call. I guess we'll get used to it.

We did find out that we didn't make our virtual/facetoface selection quick enough for my daughter so she'll be going back on campus Wednesday. She's super excited about it and considering she'll see fewer people in a day than me, we're choosing not to worry.

Gah, this all just sucks. It's so hard to tell what is worthwhile to worry about and not. I stress about kids being in my room, but I know for my part I'm not getting close to them without a mask (or with for that matter) so could I assume my risk is really low? CDC says you have to quarantine if you were within 6 feet for 15 minutes I believe so if I just... like... don't do that, am I good for the most part?

Who knows? Bring on the vaccine.
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9. Board Game: Risk: The Elder Scrolls V – Skyrim [Average Rating:6.47 Unranked]
Board Game: Risk: The Elder Scrolls V – Skyrim
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Due for an update here. Things are progressing. I'm hanging in there, etc. etc.

Nostalgia got the better of me and I bought the new Tony Hawk remake because I remember really enjoying the first few games when I was in high school.

At least... I thought I did?

I've played a couple hours of it so far and the memories indeed flooded back. I don't know if I've ever talked about it here, but I have a bit of a tic disorder... not sure if it's some form of tourette's or what, never been officially diagnosed. It makes it difficult for me to maintain sustained tactile attention sometimes, but it mostly affects me when I play video games that require focusing on something continuously. So games like Tony Hawk or GTA or racing games have always been difficult for me because the longer I have to track movement, the harder it gets to not tic.

So yeah... my memory was loving Tony Hawk, but I think the truth is I always WANTED to like it and played it a good bit, but always sucked at it. So... alas... I can't get a refund since I downloaded it, but whatever. I think I'll be going back to Skyrim (and Terminator when it gets here), but maybe someday I'll want to go back to it, or my daughters may enjoy it or something. I haven't spent much money on gaming the last couple months so I can deal with a misstep. The game seems really well made, though.
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