Physics Class

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^It has me like… But seriously, I don’t find this inspiring one bit. I hope this class won’t sap the interest I have in this subject ’cause it took me some time before I liked math again. I just want it to be June already, that’s all I ask for lol.

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Life Lesson #9: Listen to Music

Dear Reiina,

 

I mean, really listen to it.

Something wonderful happened to me this morning, Reiina. I was taking my usual weekend stroll across campus and a beautiful piece of music played on my iPod and it made my walking experience that much better.

How often is music used as nothing more than background noise to our lives? How often do we have it on whilst taking a shower, walking, driving, blogging, cooking, or studying? I realized this morning it’s been quite some time since I actually took the time to actually listen to a piece of music and gave it my undivided attention.

I found myself completely mesmerized, like I was transported. When I was walking around my college campus, I was having thoughts like, “This university was here before I was born” and “People took the time out of their day to make all these buildings”. It took me away from my dreadful thoughts concerning my physics class, it allowed me to be some place else. When I got back to my dorm room I returned feeling more invigorated, it was a refresher for my soul. It was a wonderful experience and a nice way to end the AM. Life can be busy with the school, socializing, work, and writing, but I made a promise to myself Reiina that every now and then, I will give myself some time where I put on a piece of music and allow it to take me wherever it wants to, to give it all of my attention, and not just use it as background noise, maybe you can give it a try too sometimes?

The song I was listening to was Garden Shed by Tyler, The Creator. It’s beautiful:

Rayman Review

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Developer: Ubisoft
Platform: Playstation
Also on: PC, Android, Atari Jaguar, iOS, DSiWare, MS-DOS, Sega Saturn, Gameboy Color and Gameboy Advance
Release Date: Sep 1995

Click here for the intro to Rayman

Note: It’s been awhile since I’ve done a video game review, so let me fix that with this one. 🙂

Alongside Gex, Rayman was one of the first games I remember playing on the Playstation. I also remember playing it on my brother’s PS3 back in 2013 (damn, I miss my community college days) and dying quite often. I know I’m not as good at video games as I once was because I know I beat the game without using any cheats or dying as much as my recent playthrough. The point I’m trying to get across is I honestly cannot remember the last time I played a game so massively unforgiving and punishing. Sure it tricks you into a false sense of security at the first few levels. It welcomes you with a cheesy opening cinematic where Rayman’s Alice in Wonderland-esque world is besieged by Mr. Dark a guy who is… well dark. Mr. Dark has stolen the Great Protoon. This energy force maintains balance and harmony in the world Rayman lives in. Its sudden disappearance causes disorder to be commonplace and all the Electoons to scatter across the world. That’s where Rayman comes in, as he MUST find all of the Electoons and defeat Mr. Dark. As typical of platformers during the 90s, the story of Rayman is not anywhere near a harrowing tale of complexity or drama.

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This friggin’ world..

You’ve noticed I capitalized and bolded the word “must” because if you’ve never beaten this game before you may not have known that you need to find and free the Electoons from their cages in order to beat the game. There are 102 cages, 6 in 17 different levels and you can’t gain access to the final level unless you find all of them. I’ve been a Rayman fan since the first game, but if you’re familiar with Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends you’ll instantly recognize certain aspects like the style of the map, the Electoons and of course Rayman, but you’ll likely be surprised at how slower and harder it is. Seriously, the difficulty of this game cannot be understated so I find it peculiar my childhood self was able to beat it.

Gameplay consists of navigating through the side scrolling levels to reach a signpost with an “!” on it which completes that level. Once you reach said sign Rayman will say “Yeah!” and giggle. It’s a pretty satisfying thing to hear. Levels tend to consist of platforms and parts of the environment that you can interact with to gain access to out of reach areas such as bouncing plums which can be used to get across water because for some reason Rayman can’t swim. Depending on the level, they’ll be different obstacles and environments so it’s not all walking and jumping and there are times you’ll be sliding fast. Each level is cluttered with enemies and also the caged Electoons which you must release by smashing their cages open with your fists. This sounds straightforward enough, you can even revisit the levels from the world map (which you’ll have to anyway, I’ll get to that in a second), but the Electoons can be tricky to find and even more trickier to get to. With limited lives and continues, you’re going to have your work cut out for you.

At the start of the game, Rayman only has the ability to move, jump, and climb certain structures. This makes enemies a big threat. However, as you progress throughout the game, Rayman learns new helpful abilities thanks to Betilla the Fairy. He can gain the ability to throw a punch, to hang from cliffs and pull himself up, to grab special objects like rings to fling himself across, and to pull out his signature helicopter move, allowing Rayman to slowly float across gaps.

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You’re probably still wondering how a colorful and cute game can provide such a challenge. You see Rayman is extremely difficult for a number of reasons. It is one of those games that has pits and traps, which are the bane of every platform game. Enemies are whatever, but pits are the pits (tee hee)! Oh and the enemies in this game have a strange habit. When reaching arbitrary points in a level, enemies, Protoon cages  platforms, and other hurtful things will spawn on or off screen. There is no indication of where or how to trigger them to appear, only an audible sound plays to let you know that something has appeared. For cages, you have to make sure to always be on the look out. There are times a cage will appear when you reach next to an exit level sign, so if you don’t react fast enough you’ll exit the level without breaking the cage and have to do the whole level over for that cage. This kind of design means that completing most levels is a case of trial and error.

The funniest thing though, and this is a product of its time rather than anything else, is the save system. Or more precisely, the password system (and I thought memory cards were superannuated). You can choose to either use a memory card or passwords to keep track of your progress, but if you use your memory card, you won’t really get far and here’s why: you are only given five continues, and there is no way to earn more in the game. There are five lives with a continue. You can gain more of these, but they are extremely hard to find and reach. Every time you save a game or receive a password, it isn’t just recording how much you’ve completed, it is also recording how many lives you’ve spent in the process. So, whenever it’s game over, you go back to your last password or saved game. With however many lives you had at that point, which probably wasn’t a lot. AT least there are checkpoints in the shape of cardboard cutouts that you can get your photograph taken with halfway through a level. So despite the difficulty, at least you are never too far off from the next checkpoint.

For those of us who don’t mind masochism, or entering cheat codes, there are a multitude of levels to keep one busy. You are going to die a lot. As if the levels weren’t hard enough, the boss battles can be quite intense as well. Rayman has a limited amount of hits he can take before he perishes (3, but it goes up to 5 with a temporary power-up). You’ll need to outmaneuver their attack patterns which they mix up on a consistent basis.

Who is Rayman‘s target audience is a mystery. It makes me wonder if it’s for children with all of its cartoony characters, colorful levels and elaborate animations. But young gamers will become frustrated easily after they’ve lost their first few lives (which shouldn’t take long) and older gamers will probably be put off by its cutesy charm.

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The presentation of this game is awesome. Beautiful, this game looks absolutely beautiful. Everything on and off screen is smooth, though everything requires a large loading time, this is common with any game on the Sony Playstation, especially that early into its life-span. The levels are consistently pretty. The controls are tight and responsive. Rayman jumps, runs, punches, and glides like a hero should and never do you feel like you’re completely out of control over what happens. The music is the absolute best part of the game though. It’s catchy, fun and is listenable when you’re studying for a final exam or something.

Rayman is a memorable experience and conundrum. On one hand it is full of personality, with inspiring platforming and gameplay. On the other hand, it is full of such frustrating times that the intended audience of the game will without a doubt abandon it unless they cheat or look up how to do the levels. If you are into things like solving Rubik’s cubes blindfolded, then Rayman is a wonderful choice that will provide hours of either challenging or frustrating entertainment, maybe both.

 

My rating: 4/5

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Life Lesson #8: Your Mom

Dear Reiina,

 

I’m not sure why I’m writing this life lesson because I don’t think it’ll make much sense or be of much use until you figure it out for yourself.

It’s a surprising revelation when one day you see the world for what it really is, and that your mom is just a person, the same as you. She was once a baby, and then she was a toddler, and then she was a kid (and considering you exist, she even had one!). She went to school, got in to trouble for some of the silliest things (or sometimes for being a smart ass), went on dates with guys, and even snuck out of the house (I promise I had nothing to do with that). She had (and has) dreams, ambitions and goals of who she wants to be and what she wants to do with her life. She experiences all kinds of emotions and feelings too: happiness, sadness, anger, frustration, surprise, bemusement, etc. She worries about things too, and also gets excited about things (like your birthday)! Her heart will inevitable crack each time she sees you’re upset or in pain, and her heart will skip a beat with each milestone you accomplish in life, from your first steps, to graduating from high school, and beyond.

She’s a person too, also finding her place in this crazy, beautiful, but broken world, only she has 20+ more years of experience than you, so make sure to know stuff like the importance of brushing and flossing your teeth every day, and not to play with fire ’cause you can get burned, and you should treat your fellow human beings decently. She will teach you about this stuff.

Your mom, just like everyone else on the planet: is confused and scared about the future, and yes, she makes mistakes too, just like we all do. She can be amazing, supportive, wonderful, loving, and funny (yes, there are times when your mom makes a good joke, but not very often so make sure to pay close attention lol). And you’re truly blessed ’cause your mom only wants what’s best for you and she loves you a lot.

I know it’ll be hard sometimes, and there will be moments when you’re older where you won’t see things from her perspective and will disagree on one thing or another. There may be times when you feel let down or she frustrates the hell out of you. But remember, your mom is only human at the end of the day, trying to do the best she can.

Realizing that your mom is human is terrifying, it sure was for me regarding my father. It’s normal to want the perfect parents. But maybe knowing everything I just wrote will do something for your relationship with her to become something different, more positive and even more special. I hope so.

Happy Mother’s Day to my sister and your mom!

卒業おめでとう

Note: The title is Japanese for “Congratulations on graduating” and it’s what I said to my brother when I saw him. This blog post is dedicated to my brother who graduated yesterday.

Dear Emanuel,

 

First off, congratulations on graduating from a university I don’t care about, but a number of people hype up like it’s the best thing since ice cream sandwiches. Anyway, college graduation is one grand achievement. Although these past years have gone by in just a blink of an eye, you have your whole life ahead of you.

Yesterday you most likely wanted to graduate and get the heck out of there and I don’t blame you. Yesterday you walked to receive your diploma that you’ve worked so hard to earn. May 6, 2018 will be a day to remember. Can you believe it? I know I can. You finally did it. I remember moving you into your college dorm your freshman year, I gave you a hug goodbye and wished you the best.

To be honest, I was a little sad the moment I left you at university and knew we wouldn’t be living under the same roof any more. Besides reading a lot of visual novels, playing online with you in Sm4sh was the highlight of my community college days. We always stayed in contact even though you left home, and eventually, I transferred to my dream university. I’ve known you for 21 years and I’ve watched you grow from a boy to a young man with a future brighter than the Flash move from Pokémon. I sincerely see only great and wonderful things.

I’ve always been one of your supporters in life. I want to see you win in this game of life and I will do everything I can to support you. I have your best interest at heart. I’m excited to see what the future has in store for you. Most importantly, I am proud of you for completing college (at least for now if you plan on pursuing a master’s). As your brother, seeing you complete college means you’re moving in the right direction and taking necessary steps to having a prosperous future. I’m happy you stayed dedicated to your education. I’m happy you have worked hard to achieve your goal. It’s even sweeter because there were a number of people who told you you couldn’t or that you were “lucky” to attend UF and you were able to prove them all wrong.

You’re an inspiration to a number of people, and you’re an inspiration to me. Remember your worth, you’re a valuable person and there are people who are happy you exist. Enjoy your life and the opportunities it presents to you. I fully believe in you and your future. Never settle and keep reaching for the stars.

 

And if nothing else, the best part about you graduating from university? Not a single cent of student loan debt to your name!!! 😀

 

Love always,

Your brother