Going Home: Welcome Back

Travel is one of those wonderful things about the Navy that I miss but would most certainly not go back to just for the travel alone. In my 4 years serving on the USS O’Kane (DDG 77), I went to Guam, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tahiti, Palau, and Bahrain in addition to San Diego, California and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. I did all of that in four years. That’s not bad at all!

Not too shabby for a kid in his early 20's!

Not too shabby for a kid in his early 20′s!

Now-a-days, I don’t get out much. I live just north of Seattle and the most traveling I did over the summer was south for puppy visits and east for a stellar camping trip which I may or may not have been high during depending on your respective state/countries view on cannabis consumption. Anywho, I thought to myself in a long-winded shower ‘You know what, Jace? You haven’t been home in over 2 years. Isn’t it time to go see family and old friends? P.S. Wash behind your ears.’ With this epiphany, I decided that maybe enough time had passed since I was home and I should go and visit. Thanks overly-thinky brain in the shower!

With a decently sized tax return in my bank account and some excited folks ready to have me as a guest, I made haste in purchasing a plane ticket for the first time in years and a rental car for the first time ever. Once all of my accommodations were made, I only had to kill time for a month…which turns out isn’t easy to do but I found a way. I went and read the last thing about the Kern River Valley I wrote while doing radio shows at the campus. For those who aren’t in the know, you can read about it here! I really have nothing nice to say about the place where I grew up but as my friends will tell you, I griped about not being able to see my family during the big holidays for the last year. Have you ever bit off more than you can chew or just bit off the right amount knowing that you were knowingly biting into a hunk of shit? Yeah, that happened to me…

The day finally came to get on the plane and head south. I was excited knowing that I was solely responsible for everything as I came home for the first time in years and what a start to an adventure. The plane was full of the type of people you would only find in LA but in Seattle. Loudly talking about their sexual exploits while sporting Ed Hardy clothes, spamming Teen Mom episodes on their iPads only to tell their significant other who they were significantly draped over with no care to my comfort about the make-up products the “mothers” were wearing and the one dude in the suit with no tie attached to his button-up shirt but two buttons undone (which I am notably guilty for as well). A promising start indeed. I landed after a short flight and made my way to the Hertz car rental around midnight where I joined a line of 25+ waiting to be greeted by 2 checkers. I swear the lady in front of me was going to kill someone before she left the building to wander Inglewood in the dead of night. That’s a brave woman. Finally, after an hour, I had my borrowed wheels and hit the road in style.

It’s a long 3 and a half hour drive to get home to the Kern River Valley where I grew up. I enjoyed some new music and cruise control which made the drive easy and unremarkable. I made it into town at 4AM and met with my friends, Jessica and Dillon. Hugs were traded, stories were told, and I crashed HARD into an air mattress that was fit for a king. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen when I woke up but I was eager to get out and about in this little area that I used to call home. I forgot why I used to call it home in just two years but I think I can hold on to that fact for much longer now.

I awoke in the late morning and donned all of my Seattle gear so no one would mistakenly take me for a country bumpkin hick from the sticks of California or as native Californians call them; Okies! We made our way to El Rio, which has some of the best Mexican food I have ever eating. Upon arriving and feeling glad to be home, we entered the restaurant only to be ignored by the server and to be shot mean looks, especially me, by the patrons. I figured that all of my Seattle stuff like my Seahawks hat and Sounders sweatshirt was why I had these glaring eyes on me but that was not the case. No, a little secret was waiting to be discovered later in the afternoon but that’s a story for another day.

Why did I think it would be different?

Why did I think it would be different?

More to follow as this psudo-travel blog of mine or my scroll of complaints about my hometown continues tomorrow. Stay tuned for more!

~J.R.Alexander

Heating up the Standard Competition

In 2003, I was introduced to a playing card game that would forever change the way I nerd out. I am talking about the amazingness that is Magic: The Gathering. I grew up in the age of Pokémon at the height of its popularity. I collected all the cards (and kind-of still do, kind-of) and even taught myself how to play. This was great because it gave the cards more value than just having a pretty picture. Unfortunately, I was the only one of my friends who wanted to play the card game and not just collect the cards. For years, I just accumulated these cards and it didn’t lead to anything. Enter the end of 8th grade and the start of 9th.

Yu-Gi-Oh was something of a flash-in-the-pan following Pokémon. I never gave up on the pocket sized monsters, I just took a mistress to my nerdy loves. You know, anything to really push my chances of losing my virginity. Anyway, the Yu-Gi-Oh show was great…ish and the card game was incredibly competitive. I was easy prey for the older high school kids to swindle my good cards away from me in well talked trades for shit cards. By the end of my Freshman year, I had enough of this Pokémon chaser and needed my next fix. I decided to become a Planeswalker and take up Magic.

I know that it’s well known that high school kids are pricks but seriously, high school kids are relentless, ruthless soul-suckers that get off on exploitation of someone they see as lesser than them. Really, it’s the psychological equivalent of capitalism in work. I was obviously not cool enough to hang out with the popular kids but I was so “uncool” that the nerds didn’t want me in either. I remember they told me to invest in a Magic set that wasn’t recognized as officially playable. I was led astray so I couldn’t play but rather than give in, I got on the horse, took to the dial-up internet, and learned what I could about the game and came back at those nerds with the fury of 144 kbps internet and earned their respect.

Now that I am an older, more socially acceptable nerd dude I find myself phasing in and out of Magic as new sets come and go through the turnstile of the multiverse. Lately though, I find myself cruising to tournaments with friends and making new ones along the way. It has really reignited my spark for the game and trying to get back into the swing of things. What’s more is learning how to play competitively with the Standard Format. I have locked down the great start of a Green/Red deck but it isn’t completely me. No, I needed something more fueled by passion and emotion. A deck that favors haste and destruction above all else. A deck where any mistake can be rectified with fire and precognition. I needed a pure Red deck where I could foster all of those things.

Let's kick it up a notch. BOOM!

Let’s kick it up a notch. BOOM!

Aside from all of the wonderful things that make up the color Red in Magic, such as but not limited to fire, flames, lightning, chaos, chance, and destruction on a catastrophic level all for the chance to claim a victory. This may explain why I am a “ends justify the means” type of thinker. Red also fosters the chance to promote the underdog, the unlikely hero. At the card store I have been playing at, single cards are easily bought and sold but one of the Rare cards that they seem to hold in stock and sell for cheap is a little ditty known as the Satyr Firedancer.

Behold, the hero of my Red deck!

Behold, the hero of my Red deck!

Satyr Firedancer Card

Going for a measly $3, it’s one of the most underrated cards in the latest Born of the Gods set. I have found it to be my opponents undoing only because they’re rarely seen and rarely used for what they can actually accomplish. Sure, a 1/1 creature in the fray of tournament play is a risky gamble at best. However, look at the effect of the card. With a cheap and well placed burn spell at your opponent, the effect essentially doubles and gives you a chance to pop a small creature before it gets big or destroy a mana producer before it becomes beneficial for your foe.

So, with the Firedancer, you’re spinning out some nice bonuses to burning your opponent. Still, you need to burn with a little bit of forewarning. This is why I am enjoying the Theros block and the fact they brought back the Scry mechanic. It allows you to look at the top card(s) of your deck and choose whether or not to keep them in your sleeve or place them at the bottom of your deck for another time. So when your burn your opponent, you not only get to possibly pop a creature they control but you may also get to plan your next move to keep the burns-a-coming!

In addition to that, you need to have booms for every occasion.

*thump* No life for you!

*thump* No life for you!

Skullcrack is one of my favorite cards to pair with the Firedancer. With that combo your opponent takes 3 damage, a creature then takes 3 damage, and your opponents can’t gain life this turn as well as damage can’t be prevented this turn. For only 2 mana, what more could you want? It’s a shame that this card with phase out of Standard play before too long but for now, I shall enjoy.

 

Bring some big fire for the larger targets.

Bring some big fire for the larger targets.

Fated Conflagration is a nice card to clear the board of any larger creature that may be causing you grief or a pesky planeswalker card causing your flames to become doused. With this little Instant, you can bring down a larger target and prepared yourself for the consequences by scrying. It’s a win/win.

A lot of bang for a little mana buck.

A lot of bang for a little mana buck.

Magma Jet; 2 mana, 2 damage, and scry for 2. This card is impressive and a reprint from Fifth Dawn. Who knew? Again, paired with the Firedancer, that’s an additional 2 damage going at another creature. This card gets a very spirited “Oh YES!” in the voice of David Tennant.

Tennant Oh Yes

 

Of course, most people do enjoy a sideboard in tournament play. So far, mine is limited and needs to grow. For what it’s worth, this is all I need. A few Demolish offer me a chance to destroy an artifact or land which may be great. Searing Blood is another great one to have with the Firedancer. 2 damage to a creature and if it pops, 3 additional damage to a player and that means 3 more damage to another creature. Purge the board with heat and fire!

Here is a look-see at the finished product and it has served me well. Most of the cards were traded to my but the rest were pulled from boosters. I did drop $10 to get some Firedancers and Magma Jets but that’s it and it plays like a dream. I give you the “Firedancer” deck!

 

That’s all I have to share this time. I just wanted to say that the Theros block is helping me melt my competition in the Standard tournament style. Much like Smaug, the chiefest of calamities, “I am fire, I AM DEATH!” I love my foes charred to a crisp.

BURN IT WITH FIRE!

BURN IT WITH FIRE!

~J.R. Alexander

What My Life Needs: An Arch-Nemesis

It’s a brisk, snow-covered Sunday afternoon in my neck of the woods. Homework is getting done at an unusually monumental level and the cups of tea are filling up just as soon as they’re emptying. I keep wandering over to my sliding class door doing a minimal job at keeping the cold out and keeping the heat in but it’s not too bothersome. Why? Because it’s a fine balancing act that this door is doing. It’s trying to keep the icy air outside of my living quarters while the rest of the apartment is trying to conjure enough heat to keep me warm. It’s this balance that got me thinking about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. You know the one. This one.

Okay, sure, but where's the part two for cynical nerds?

Okay, sure, but where’s the part two for cynical nerds?

Now what happens when you have all of the things? You make a another hierarchy of needs of course. What does that call for? I have no idea but I can assure you that it’s not a pyramid. It’s more like an evolving four-square court that is always changing the rules to add more squares and new conditions. So, it’s exactly not like a four-square court at all.  I don’t even know why I mentioned it. However, we’ll call this the Alexander Method for Sustainable Living through Adventure and Excitement or AMSLAE for short. if I were to fill in the first square in with this terrible analogy with information, the bold text world be Arch-Nemesis.

I made a graphic so you can understand me. I'm awesome.

I made a graphic so you can understand me. I’m awesome.

Now let’s be clear, there is a fine line between an Arch-Nemesis and a rival/anti-hero. While a rival can be a pest, they’re not their to make you quit at life or become “an hero” as it were in 2006. The Arch-Nemesis is there to place a stop to all of your plans, to destroy you from the inside out, and to cause you to possibly become dead in the process. One can become dead very quickly with an Arch-Nemesis. I have seen it done. It’s no joke. That’s why you should have a serious talk when deciding to take on an Arch-Nemesis in your life.

Here are some things to remember when decided whether or not to have an Arch-Nemesis.

1. An Arch-Nemesis is there to test every fiber in your being if not destroy you. THIS IS NOT A LIGHT DECISION. You’ll constantly have to be aware of your surroundings, be willing to stand up to every issued challenge, and able to handle a henchmen or two if your Arch-Nemesis is unable to meet in person.

2. Your loved ones will also be in danger as well. At a moments notice, you may be called to action to save them if your Arch-Nemesis is vindictive. This may include puzzle solving, riddle guessing, disguise work, surveillance, and on the occasional off day, off-humor chit chat that will be sure to pull fans to your cause. Do not let this go to your head as they may be the next victims.

3. Arch-Nemesis’ require a lot of attention. As soon as you take your eyes off of them or vice-versa, something may get blown up as a collateral damage due to your negligence. Don’t be a victim of capital damage for not answering correspondence, ignoring phone messages, or, Odin forbid, forgetting to let your Arch-Nemesis out to pee. I don’t choose your Nemesis’ flaws. Different strokes for different folks.

All in all, having an Arch-Nemesis can increase the excitement and adventure in your life. Just take the case of the BBC Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty for an example. Does an Arch-Nemesis get any better?

You may find that your very own Arch-Nemesis will also want to "burn your kingdom". Proceed with caution.

You may find that your very own Arch-Nemesis will also want to “burn your kingdom”. Proceed with caution.

This prime example is exactly what you can expect if you choose to adopt a villainous foe into your everyday lifestyle. Be aware, take notes, and be prepared for anything. Thanks for letting me rant about the Alexander Method for Sustainable Living through Adventure and Excitement. It’s a new way of living and it may not be for everyone but when you life’s needs are met, Maslow style, it’s important to not let life get stale. Keep on growing and be smart of who you make enemies with.

~J.R. Alexander