Life

5 Reasons to Love Masks

I hear people complaining about masks all of the time. I know people who blatantly refuse to wear them correctly, and others who will wear them the right way but can’t help but point out how much of a nuisance they are.

Unpopular opinion: I don’t mind them. In fact, I even like them sometimes.

Here are five reasons why people shouldn’t be hating on masks:

1. They keep your face warm

Okay, I don’t know if you live in a place where winter is nasty, but where I live, the cold weather was prolonged and not very fun.

I don’t like winter. The snow is pretty to look at, but trekking to classes every day through it was less than desirable.

I have to say, having a mask to cover my face this year was a blessing. And since it is basically normal now, I don’t stand out at all for using mine as a face warmer.

2. They give an excuse for not recognizing people

I actually am terrible at recognizing faces. I notice things like hair length and hair color, but I forget what people’s faces look like. With the current Covid situation, I can now just blame it on the mask. That makes it a little less awkward.

But even if you are good at recognizing faces, you can use the mask as an excuse for not talking to people you want to avoid. If they confront you for ignoring them, blame it on the mask.

“Oh sorry–didn’t see you there. You know how masks are…”

3. They hide your expression

People do dumb things sometimes. And when they do, your trusty mask can hide your silent laughter. It can conceal those involuntary frowns, the mounting frustration, an evil grin. I can’t tell you how much my mask has saved me from offending people by hiding my expressions.

The only problem is, once wearing masks is no longer a necessity, it’ll be hard to break the habit of being too expressive. By now, I’m used to the mask and no longer try to hold back the occasional smile, grimace, or smirk. Oh well–I’ll worry about that when this whole Covid crisis is over.

4. They conceal acne

Sure, they cause it too (heard of maskne?), but they do hide the entire lower half of one’s face. That’s 50% acne coverage there.

5. They are another way to express your personality

People have always used clothes to flaunt their personalities. But now, fashionable masks are the new craze. Whether broadcasting one’s love of My Hero Academia or one’s obsession with kittens, the masks one wears say a lot about a person. They can show whether one is artsy, minimalistic, creative, or playful.

There are loads of masks that are just plain funny.

Conclusion

Next time you wear a mask, look on the bright side. There are reasons, even besides the obvious health benefits, for wearing a mask. We’re all in the same boat here, and I’m sure this will all blow over eventually. Stay healthy!

Life

First Time Ever – 7 Quick Takes

Hi everyone! So, I’m gonna try something new here.

My mom introduced me to 7 Quick Takes on This Ain’t the Lyceum. Because I wanted to join in the fun, I’m publishing a third blog article this week. You can find 7 Quick Takes by other bloggers here.

In case you have never visited my website before, this is a little about me:

My name is P. A. Wilson, and I am a Young Adult fantasy writer, genealogist, board gamer, Christian, and proud English major. I have four little sisters ages 19, 15, 4, and 2. In about a week I start my final semester of college, after which I plan to go for a master’s degree in Library Science.

Without further ado, here are all the relatively interesting things I’ve been up to this week…

Quick Take #1…

white cotton buds on persons hand

Today was my first-ever Covid test! Was it worth being nervous about? Nope! The local Rite Aid basically required me to show my ID and the email confirmation showing I had signed up, and they gave me the supplies to do it myself right then and there.

So basically I had to stick a q-tip-like thingy up my nose, turn it twice, and leave it there for 15 seconds. Then it was the other nostril’s turn. Other than tearing up and some mild discomfort, it was a piece of cake. Then I stuck the disgusting q-tip thingy into the offered tube and the whole test was over with.

If you’re wondering why I had to take the test, it was not because I had any symptoms. And I hadn’t come into contact with any sick people. Basically, Grove City College is requiring all students to test for Covid before coming back on campus.

My friends were having a conversation about it that was kind of funny. Pretty much my one friend asked if I minded taking the Covid test, and I said….

I don’t care what they stick up my nose as long as I get to go back to school!”

Because many colleges are not allowing in-person classes and are sticking to online. But my college is super stubborn, so that means I get to see my friends and teachers in-person….with a ton of regulations in place….but still, in-person!

So my friend immediately answers:

So it’s okay if they stick a Lego up your nose, then?”

To which I responded that the probability of that occurrence was zero, but that didn’t stop me from thinking about Lego bricks during the entire test.

(I learned this week that the plural of Lego is Lego, according to the Lego company. Americans tend to call them Legos, but everyone else says Lego. The Lego group has also claimed “Lego” can only be used as an adjective.)

Quick Take #2…

After my Covid test, I went for a Mint Chocolate Shake at Arby’s. They have Andes Candy pieces sprinkled all over them, so obviously I had to have one. Mint and chocolate is one of the best combinations of flavors on the planet.

Quick Take #3…

My two-year-old sister went around calling people “Monkeyfish dude” all morning yesterday.

I should explain….

It all started when I started calling my 4-year-old sister Muppet. She would always laugh and say that I was a Muppet instead. Then -fish got appended to the end for no apparent reason and it became “muppetfish”. Over time, muppet turned to monkey, and voila! We started calling each other “monkeyfish.”

Now I don’t know where the “dude” came from, but it wasn’t me.

Quick Take #4…

My four-year-old sister discovered the wonderful things that could be done with a mirror and a light source this week. I tried to tickle her, so she tried to reflect light from the mirror on her fake cellphone into my eyes…and succeeded. That kid is super smart.

Quick Take #5

I tried running this week a little bit. Running and I have a long and terrible history.

For instance, the time that I signed up for Walk Jog Run for a semester and got shin splints after the first week. After that, it was more like Walk Limp Walk.

Then there was the time I was worried about running late for an orthodontist appointment and forgot something. My mom told me not to run, so I decided to jog. I made it one step, and then went from vertical to horizontal in half a second.

Luckily, I am a black belt in Tang Soo Do, so I did a front break fall automatically to limit injury. Unfortunately, that didn’t change the fact that I was falling on concrete covered in salt and ice.

No bones broken or any serious injury, but I lost a layer of skin on part of my hands and arms. I was so embarrassed and startled, I jumped up and yelled, “I wasn’t running!”

Because I didn’t have time to really clean up, I doused my hands in water from the water fountain, grabbed what I forgot, and walked carefully back down to the car.

Anyway, I went to my orthodontist appointment with blood-stained hands and a dirt-streaked coat.

Those are just two of the countless reasons I hate running. But my 15-year-old sister kept asking me to run with her until I finally gave in.

I survived the session of running with nothing more than sore legs. My sister said I run like Naruto (or for those who are not anime fans, she also compared my running style to a penguin.)

Naruto Run | Know Your Meme
Naruto running

Okay, I admit I am a bad runner, but I don’t think I’m quite that bad.

Quick Take #6…

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe - IGN

I’ve been playing MarioKart 8 Deluxe on the Nintendo Switch, and I’ve gotta say…if you bought MarioKart 8 for the Wii U, along with the bonus tracks, this is pretty much the same thing.

The main differences are a few more characters, a new battle mode, and the ability to hold two items instead of one (like in Double Dash).

There is this annoying setting called “Smart Steering” that basically causes the game to auto-correct your bad driving. Nice if you’re new to the game, not so good for advanced players. Having to turn Smart Steering off every time I start the game is a pain.

It’s worth it if you haven’t bought the original MarioKart 8 along with the bonus tracks, but if you have, you may want to save your money.

Quick Take #7…

Super Mario Party for Nintendo Switch - Nintendo Game Details

I’ve also been playing Super Mario Party for the Switch, which has definitely leveled up from its earlier versions. Not only are there different modes of play, including a partner party and a cooperative mode, but also they added more character options. Furthermore, each character has a customized die they can use instead of a normal die.

The only thing is you have to use the Joy-Con controllers. You can’t get away with using cheaper ones.

Final Thoughts…

This was kinda fun for me. I would be interested in doing it again, perhaps.

What do you think? Do you like 7 Quick Takes? Should I do more? Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts!

Humor, Life

The Art of Bluffing (for Essay Questions)

person catching light bulb

Disclaimer: This article is not meant to be serious. Bluffing is a strategy that should only be used as a last resort, if you have no idea how to answer an essay question. Be sure to study hard for your exams and not wait until the last minute.

What is bluffing?

In this article, bluffing means writing an answer to an essay question as if you know what you are doing even when you have no idea what you are doing. This article will outline my top 5 tips for how to bluff an essay question effectively.

Tip #1: Show What You Know – “The Knowledge Dump”

File:The Battle of Gettysburg, Pa., July 3rd, 1863 MET DP831356.jpg -  Wikimedia Commons

With the blank page looming in front of you, it’s easy to focus on what you don’t know. Instead, take what little details you do know and emphasize those.

Maybe you don’t remember what happened in the Battle of Gettysburg. But you know what generally happens at battles–lots of casualties, bloodshed. And you know where it took place–Gettysburg, duh. Hopefully you remember it was a battle in the American Civil War, but even if you don’t, you could probably spin an answer worth a point or two.

If you do remember that it happened during the American Civil War, you could hazard a guess at which side won and what date. Give a date range when it may have happened if you’re not willing to take a chance.

For example:

The Battle of Gettysburg occurred in Gettysburg, PA around the 1860s (during the American Civil War). It was an occasion of great bloodshed and high numbers of casualties. It was a pivotal battle in the war, pitting the Union and Confederate soldiers against each other in what became a bloodbath.

Sure, it’s not long, but with bluffing you have to be satisfied with whatever you come up with.

Tip #2: Use Key Words – “Parrot the Teacher

close up of a yellow and blue macaw

Does your teacher have favorite words? Does the particular field you are studying have technical words or jargon you can fall back on? Maybe it’s an English class and you are given a vague prompt like “Compare and contrast Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer.”

And oops, you happened to have only read the CliffsNotes. (Not that I advocate that in any way. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a masterpiece, and frankly, you are missing out if you haven’t read it.)

Instead of: Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are different in many ways.

Try: Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are foils, polar opposites who are nonetheless are attracted to each other. Their personalities are complementary yet differ greatly.

Tip #3: Feign Confidence – “Show No Fear”

text

Teachers can smell fear.

Nah, not really. But if you seem uncertain about your answers, they’ll be able to tell. Even if you have no idea what you are talking about, write it clearly and without hesitation.

Avoid saying that you believe or think something – if you write the sentence, it is already obvious that you believe it.

Avoid these words: slightly, maybe, seems, appears to, perhaps, may be, possibly, in my opinion, I think, I believe

Tip #4: Fill the Page – “Quantity, not Quality”

yellow rubber ducks

If you don’t know what to write, just write. Repeat the same idea in as many different ways as possible. Discuss how you feel about the topic, even if that does not seem relevant.

For example:

Evolution is built on the idea that changes in organisms and the development of species occurs through natural selection and chance. This, of course, means that the results could be described as accidental. If the results are accidental, this implies that there is no purpose behind design….

This example repeats itself multiple times with slight differences, filling as much space as possible with a single idea. It is not, however, completely obvious that this is what is happening.

Tip #5: Answer a Different Question – “Be Evasive!”

If you can’t answer the question given, answer a slightly different question you do think you could answer. This is not the easiest one to pull off, which is why it is number five. The reason is, most teachers realize you have neglected to answer the actual question.

Actual Question: Why does the author of the book we have just read make the curtains in the living room red?

Question you answer: What emotions are commonly associated with the color red?

Even though you will have evaded the question, it will sound like a thorough analysis of why the curtains were red.

Conclusion

Once again, this article is not meant to be serious. Bluffing is a strategy that should only be used as a last resort, if you have no idea how to answer an essay question. Be sure to study hard for your exams and not wait until the last minute.

If you’re a college student, good luck with finals!

Life

10 Things to do During a Pandemic

red and white UNKs restaurant

Before Covid-19, I had some preconceptions about what a pandemic would be like. Frightening, restricting, dangerous. Like one of those dystopian novels I read for fun, perhaps like the plague in Legend by Marie Lu.

Never in a million years would I have suspected living during a pandemic would be boring.

Sure, those who have contracted Covid-19 and their friends and family are fully aware of how terrible a pandemic is.

But for the rest of us – those who have to isolate, or limit social interaction, or have had all their plans cancelled – bored might be the perfect word.

If you are not bored and you and your loved ones are healthy, good for you. But if you are bored – this is the article for you.

Below are my suggestions to make the most of life during a pandemic.

#1 Exercise, Exercise, Exercise

person wearing orange and gray Nike shoes walking on gray concrete stairs

If you’re anything like me, quarantine life has made you lax when it comes to exercise.

Without the routine of heading to the local YMCA to train at my Tang Soo Do studio, I quickly became unfit. Even when restrictions were lifted somewhat and I was able to return to the studio on occasion, I had trouble getting into a regular routine of exercise.

Recently I’ve made a new resolution to do better with exercise – and I know how I’ll do it.

The pandemic has made things like going to the gym a colossal pain for some and nearly impossible for others, so I’ll focus on the things that can be done without equipment.

Walking, for instance. It has never been my thing, but with how beautiful campus is in the summer and fall, it’s almost irresistible.

I also plan to get into a daily routine similar to my warm-ups for Tang Soo Do. Push-ups, jumping jacks, crunches. Dying cockroach.

Yeah, you read that right. There is an exercise called dying cockroach, where you lay on your back and flail your arms and legs in frenzied motions for a long time. It’s brutal.

There are also plenty of stairs in the dorm where I am residing, so I may just spend half an hour sometime walking up and down them. That would be a workout!

Hopefully some of these ideas will work for you as well.

#2 Be artsy!

paint brushes next to drawing book and water color palette

For this section, I am going to assume you have little to no experience in art. If you already are an artist, you already know you can spend time during a pandemic doing artsy stuff and likely are doing that anyway.

Here are several media to consider:

Colored pencils

One thing you can do with these is try an adult coloring book. It’s relaxing and fun and there’s not as much pressure to create from your imagination since you just have to fill in the line. Yet there is creativity in the colors you choose and skill in how well the design is colored in.

My great grandma had the creative idea of turning her coloring book creations into cards for her loved ones. It was sweet, and sending off such colorful cards may help to alleviate loneliness for yourself and your friends during this time.

If you decide to go freestyle, use good colored pencils and at least decent paper in case you decide to preserve some of your creations.

Watercolor Paint

For watercolor paint, I use Artist Loft brand. I know, it’s cheap – but I have found it sufficient for my projects. Not the pan set, the tubes. I hate those hardened little cakes of paint.

Beginner’s tip – if you use the tubes, you only need a tiny drop of paint mixed with plenty of water. Don’t waste paint. It’s called watercolor for a reason.

Another tip – if you use low-quality paper, you’ll get a low-quality result even if you are a quite talented artist. You can tell a high-quality paper not by the price tag, but by the thickness. I recommend at least 140 lb. paper (if you’re not sure what that means, it’s okay – watercolor paper lists this right on the front so you can tell if you got the right one.)

A final tip – choose your brushes carefully. They don’t have to be expensive but you have to be sure there aren’t any stray bristles and that you take good care of them. I won’t even link to brushes I recommend because I always buy mine in a physical store so I can examine them. Never store them bristle down! If you’re washing them, don’t leave them upside down in water. That’s okay for a short time, but if you leave them for too long, it will damage them.

Acrylic Paint

The best acrylic paint is not too watery and not chunky either – it goes onto paper smoothly.

I recommend going with a great brand such as Martha Stewart or the professional option of Golden acrylics. It’s an investment, but you’ll find that they last a while if you are conservative and only use what you need.

Martha Stewart brand acrylic paint has great quality. I’ve used it before teaching in the classroom at the art store where I work.

I started using Golden acrylics recently and they are brilliant, with vibrant colors and smooth texture.

I just use watercolor paper for acrylics, too. For brushes, I buy these in a physical store as well and look for tell-tale signs they are not any good such as stray bristles.

Oil Paint

I am not as experienced in oil paint, but I can give some beginner’s advice because I’ve already made all the beginner’s mistakes with my first painting…oops…

First of all, do not get Artist Loft brand. They suck when it comes to oil paints. I kept the paints in a box for a couple of months before trying to use them and then all the oily stuff oozed out all over the tubes and made them sticky and gross.

Try a good brand, like Winsor & Newton instead.

For brushes, I won’t recommend any. I would have to see them in person to tell their quality, touch them and examine them. However, keep in mind that they will need to be washed in paint thinner, not water. Water doesn’t mix with oil-based paint and will not take it out of the brush.

I actually just used canvas for my oil painting, but you can get oil paint paper. I don’t know enough to be helpful in recommending what surface to paint on for oil, but I will say that canvas was sufficient for my purposes.

Markers

I began with markers using Copics. Those are professional markers and they are expensive. However, they blend remarkably well and are refillable. I would recommend a pack of grays, skin tones, and primaries to start if you use these. I prefer Copic Sketch over Copic Ciao because the Sketch markers can hold more ink.

Fair warning – they are addicting.

Use the multiliner that comes with their gray pack or buy a separate pack of multiliners of that brand to be sure your pen lines don’t bleed when marker is applied.

A Quick Note….

I have found that using high quality media, while more expensive, has better results. The professionals use high quality equipment for a reason – it makes it easier, not harder, to create masterpieces.

Some of the links above lead to cheap alternatives to high quality media that I have found sufficient for my own amateur artwork. Others lead to more expensive varieties I would nevertheless recommend even for beginners to achieve higher quality results.

I work in an art store, so I have background in helping customers find products that will fit their artistic needs. As a result, I am aware of the best brands and the brands that are cheaper but can produce phenomenal results.

#3 Journaling or Writing Emails

black click pen on notebook

Journaling is an amazing way to spend the time if you are in quarantine or restricted in activities due to Covid-19. Chronicle your experience of living during a pandemic to show off to your future grandchildren.

Keep a daily record of reflections and insights you think of randomly in the middle of night or during your daily routine.

Writing emails or letters is another way to connect with friends let people know you are thinking of them. Make sure if it’s a letter that your friends and relatives aren’t going to be upset about the small possibility of spreading Covid-19 that way. Chances are, they won’t be worried about it, but it’s better to ask in times like these.

#4 Make a time capsule

selective focus photo of brown and blue hourglass on stones

A time capsule would be a good way to remind our future selves what the Covid-19 Crisis was like, or to show our children or grandchildren.

First, buy a durable container. Metal is best if you want it to last for a long time, but undoubtedly plastic would last too even if it has a higher chance of cracking under the weight of dirt.

Second, carefully choose items that represent the times, such as reusable masks and pictures. Be sure that these are things you don’t mind parting with, because digging the box up again would be a pain and counter-intuitive.

Third, pick a place in the yard and bury the capsule. 3 or 4 feet deep would probably be sufficient, but if it’s less than that it could be dug up by mistake.

Fourth, mark the spot with something that will last like a large painted rock. On the marker, write the date the capsule was buried as well as the date it should be dug up.

#5 Sew masks

stack of white yellow green and blue textiles

Sewing masks is not as hard as it may seem. I made two before I was gifted several and no longer had the need for more, and they have served me well.

I recommend getting on Youtube for some helpful how-to videos.

#6 Watch something new

Avatar: The Last Airbender' Live-Action Series Set at Netflix - Variety
Characters from Avatar: The Last Airbender

If you don’t know, the reason why I posted a picture from Avatar: The Last Airbender is because it is now airing on Netflix. I have seen it make Netflix’s top ten several times in the past few weeks, and for good reason! If you like it, follow it up with The Legend of Korra.

If you usually watch all the shows in a particular genre, try a different genre. If you typically don’t watch anime, try anime! If you are squeamish about horror, try something with slight elements of horror. If you usually avoid the sad stuff, try something sad like A Silent Voice, which my sisters recommended to me. Get outside your comfort zone!

#7 Learn!

fountain pen on spiral book

Learn something new! During the pandemic, when I was bored I downloaded the Khan Academy app, the Duolingo app, and the TED Talks app. I’ve used Duolingo and TED talks the most out of the three.

With Khan Academy, you can learn any school subject or lesson that you may have forgotten or that you are not familiar with. You don’t have to make an account, but if you do, it’s free and it tracks your progress.

With Duolingo, you can learn another language. I am currently learning Latin and Spanish little by little.

With the TED Talk app, you can listen to talks about a variety of educational subjects, as well as ones that are just funny. I watched this one recently, which explains the concept behind a video game that teaches about loneliness. I also watched this hilarious one where a comedian describes what happened when he replied to spam emails.

While I wouldn’t say I learned much from the spam email one, it is true that TED Talks in general provide great educational content.

#8 Socialize…long distance

person sitting front of laptop

Socializing long distance can take many forms. It could be an email or letter. It could be a Zoom or Skype call.

James Wilson, a founder of the podcast Tabletop Gaming Guild, offered me a new idea about how to connect with my friends.

Tabletop Simulator and Board Game Arena. If you’re a gamer or just getting into board gaming, these are places where you can play games with friends.

Tabletop Simulator is more expensive at $19.99 for a subscription, but offers a variety of games, including Wingspan, Blood Rage and Scythe.

Board Game Arena is completely FREE. You can play games such as Stone Age, 7 Wonders, Terra Mystica, Takenoko, Saboteur, and so much more!

Full disclaimer – I haven’t tried either yet, but I wanted to pass on the suggestion. I’m at college, so I am lucky enough to be able to see many of my friends in person. In the event my friends and I are sent home due to the risk of Covid-19, I will definitely start online gaming with my friends.

#9 Read!

man reading book on beach near lake during daytime

I’m big on reading. If you’re a reader too, I recommend trying out some of my favorites:

  1. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
    • A YA Fantasy about a rich criminal mastermind who happens to be 12 years old. This mastermind, Artemis Fowl, is determined to get his hands on fairy gold. The fairies he deals with are not the ones from typical bedtime stories – they have advanced technology and live underground.
    • For more information, check out my full review.
    • Btw, it’s nothing like the movie, which was terrible. I also made a review of the movie.
  2. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
    • This is a touching novel mostly about a dying father writing to his young son, and his many reflections. It is about love, betrayal, faith, and family, and it’s fascinating. The language and metaphors are beautiful and creative.
  3. Still Life by Louise Penny
    • This is a murder mystery. I typically dislike murder mysteries, but this one I adored.
    • It’s about an old woman who dies in what appears to be a hunting accident, but Inspector Gamache suspects it may be murder. The beginning is a little slow, but every part of it is an essential piece of the puzzle and contributes to the power of the work.
    • For more information, check out my full review.

#10 Start a website!

MacBook Pro on table beside white iMac and Magic Mouse

Starting a website is not as hard as it looks.

You could take the route I did and pay for the domain, then use WordPress to organize your site. It’s not hard because WordPress is so intuitive. WordPress allows for both pages and posts, so if you want to create a blog, it’s never been easier!

Or you can use Wix.com or Weebly.com to create your website for free. There is less freedom this way though. For example, Weebly.com requires “weebly” to be in the site name.

I can tell you that Weebly is pretty good because I’ve used it for college classes. Back when I was an education major, I made my digital portfolio using Weebly.

Wix has been recommended to me on numerous occasions by close friends, so I thought I would include it as well, although I haven’t had experience with it myself.

No matter which route you take, Youtube will be your best friend! Look up how-to videos to make the most of your website-building experience.