Awesome Buddy Nights In for the Financially Impaired Student

The friends you make at college are such an important part of the experience. But for a lot of people, the high-life of hitting the town and spending cash at all sorts of fancy establishments just isn’t a reality. It costs too much! But that doesn’t mean you can’t find the time and opportunity to just chillax and enjoy some company. Instead, let’s look at some of the three relatively inexpensive options to kick it with your buds.


An old school multiplayer session

More and more people are getting into video games. There’s a good chance that some of your housemates and your inner circle are going to share that passion if you have it. We tend to gravitate towards people who have similar quirks to us, after all. One way to make those competitive and cooperative gaming sessions a lot more fun is to use it as an opportunity to take a good old fashioned nostalgia trip. Old school games tend to get people bonding over memories that they might already hold dear. To be completely honest, there’s a bit of ironic enjoyment to be found in the blocky characters of Tekken 2 and other little flaws of those much-treasured games, too.


Netflix party

The chances are that you’re already going to be sharing some kind of TV streaming service with whoever you share a room or an apartment with. If you have a friend or two who spend a lot more time at yours than at their own place, it might be worth getting them to pitch in, too. With Secure Thoughts, you can get access to an even wider library of shows, as well. That way, you got plenty of fuel to keep these sessions going long into the future. Netflix parties (or Amazon TV parties or Popcorn Time parties) are a lot of fun, whether it’s binge-watching a series together or intentionally picking out a movie that looks awful to replicate the Mystery Science Theater 3000 experience.  


Ye olde adventure

It might take a bit of cajoling to get those who aren’t quite as nerdy into this. However, if you overpower them, then they’ll buckle eventually. Dungeons and Dragons is becoming much more popular than ever before, thanks to Youtube series like Critical Role bring them somewhat into the spotlight. The simple fact is that the same is a lot of fun when you get a party on the same page. You can enjoy serious, epic adventure together or you can all play a much more comedic scenario where you loot, burn, kill, and wise-crack at everything in sight. One of the largest demographics for D&D players is college-goers as well. Meaning you won’t have much trouble finding winning players. It takes a little investment to get the books and the figures, but those are one-off costs that pay for hours and hours of entertainment after.

These kinds of nights in are going to become the bread and butter of your college friendship experiences. The best thing about most of them is that they prioritize actually spending time with people and developing or sharing interests. Otherwise, most options tend to become about drinking or social posturing, which gets in the way more than anything.

Social Gaming: 5 Tips to Help You Throw an Amazing LAN Party

What gamer doesn’t love to throw an amazing LAN party for their friends? Hours and hours of high-octane gaming, screaming at the top of your lungs and chowing down on pizza and fast food snacks is how many people spent their childhood and teenage years—so why not revisit those moments and throw a LAN party?

One of the most incredible and memorable experiences a gamer can have is relaxing with a group of their friends while playing through some of their favorite games together. It could be online team-based games like League of Legends, old competitive gems like Starcraft or even modern party games like Rocket League. Whatever your choice, you’re bound to have a great deal of fun by inviting your friends over and setting up some space for them to use their computers.

LAN parties have been somewhat forgotten over the past couple of years due to the increase in distance between friends who move away for work or family related reasons, the rise of accessible internet gaming due to fast internet speeds and the lack of LAN support for many newly released games. But it’s still a nerdy gaming ritual that many people still indulge in when given the opportunity. So get a pen and paper out and start planning your glorious LAN party with your friends and family members with these five helpful tips.


1. Spacious Seating Arrangements

The more space you can clear the better. LAN parties usually involve people bringing over their own computers, so make sure you can provide them with desk, tables and chairs. You can check out this site for some excellent gaming chairs to fit your budget. The best thing about gaming chairs is that they’re as comfortable and durable as premium office chairs but come with unique design flairs, racing-inspired shapes and many LAN party creature comforts such as being able to recline the seat all the way down to create a makeshift “bed” to sleep in.

If you also plan to use a big-screen television to play console games or if you have a PC setup that uses controllers, you might also want to invest in some large beanbag seats or ensure that your sofa has been cleaned up and all the cookie crumbs have been hoovered up to create a clean and comfortable seat. LAN parties usually involve people sleeping over as well, so ensure that you have enough space for guests to stay over such as spare beds, guest rooms or sleeping bags.


2. Extra Hardware or Computers

One of the worst things that can happen during a LAN party is a piece of crucial hardware breaking or someone forgetting to bring a cable after driving halfway across town to get to your home. It halts the fun, someone will get left out and it won’t be the nostalgic experience that you had hoped for. Things like power cables, network cables, wireless adapters and even monitor cables are extremely important, and there’s always someone that manages to forget a vital piece of equipment for their computer.

If you’re the host of a LAN party then it’s common to always carry some spares or extras so that your guests can game away without worrying too much about hardware failures. You don’t need to have an extra computer or laptop (though that would be handy for anyone that couldn’t bring their computer) but some extra cables, controllers, keyboards and mice will go a long way if you host regular LAN parties in your home.


3. Ensure You Have a Fast Internet Connection

Since most online games require you to have a stable and decently fast internet connection, it’s going to slow down your gaming experience if you have multiple computers connected to a puny router that can’t handle all of the load. To remedy this, check if your internet service provider can upgrade your internet speeds before the LAN party starts. This way you can ensure that everyone in your home gets the optimal internet speeds to make downloading, updating and playing games smooth and fast.

If your router is old and can’t handle multiple wired internet connections, then consider using wireless. Using wireless isn’t recommended for serious gaming, so if you prefer a wired connection it’s a good idea to invest in a simple budget network switch so that everyone can connect to your home network.


4. Plan What Games You Want to Play

This is the second worst thing that can happen at a LAN party. If you aren’t playing games then you’re probably sitting around doing nothing. Make sure you make a list of games that you want to play together. You don’t need to conform to a schedule, but making sure that you and your friends share common interests is key to hosting a successful LAN party.

Don’t just pick from the latest releases because you’ve probably played those games to death. How about revisiting some old classics? Heroes of Might and Magic 3 was a popular staple for video game enthusiast and it can still hold its own against modern strategy RPG games of today. Old FPS games like Quake 3 Arena are still a blast to play as well. Though they aren’t as popular as newer team-based FPS games such as Overwatch, you can definitely squeeze an hour or two of nostalgic fun out of older titles. And best of all? Old games support LAN play which means that you’ll get buttery smooth lag-free connections to your friends.


5. Don’t Forget the Food!

How else are you going to fuel your all-night gaming sessions if you don’t eat? Gather up some oven pizza, microwaveable snacks and lots of sugary drinks to keep you and your guests playing all night long. You could also contact a takeaway or catering service if you have a lot of guests or if you want to ensure they have quality food instead of fast food.

You might also want to consider the dietary needs of people. For example, if you have guests that are vegetarian or vegan then you want to have some options ready for them too, and consider allergies as well.


Now go forth and have an awesome party!

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Making Time for What You Want to Make Time For

The title of this post is something I say to people often. It can apply to anything (and anyone) and speaks to what we value and what we make space for in our lives. Granted, there is always more that we can do with our time, but often, I find that people suffer from inertia coming from what they've always done or whatever is easiest. Time is a finite resource. When we "save" it, it isn't going into some bank to use later, we have to make the most of the time that is given to us.

An example of this that often frustrates me is people making time for each other. Whether it is friends, colleagues, or family, we have to deliberately make time for whatever we want to make time for, even when that might not be the path of least resistance. We always give each other the pleasantries of wanting to meet up and do something or talk more, but we often don't. After the long days of our busy lives, we end up procrastinating about these sort of things. Perhaps those are efforts that are best left undone, maybe they don't deserve our time, but a lot of them might warrant our attention and we have to push through the inertia to actually make it happen. If we don't then the decision about it will probably be made for us by the people and tasks we're neglecting.

We can do more and be better by spending purposeful energy thinking about what specifically we want to make time for and actually making that time. Schedule time to talk with that person you want to talk to, make a to-do list about that project you want to get done, and figure out what in your life deserves your attention.

Inertia is the enemy of productivity and the enabler of complacency. We can do more and be better to each other by being aware of it and actively working against it. We have to make time for what we want to make time for. Only then will we feel empowered to make positive change for ourselves and each other.

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What I Learned From Living in Maine

My time living in my home state of Maine for the first time is coming to an end. I don't know if I will ever live here again, but I will certainly visit often and have appreciated being able to explore this naturally beautiful state. I've learned a few things from being here for two years, and I wanted to reflect on this time here on the blog.

My Appreciation for Craft Beer

Maine has an awesome craft beer scene. There are breweries of all sizes and styles, from Allagash, to Shipyard, Sea Dog, Black Bear, Geaghan's, Baxter's, and my personal favorite, Orono Brewing Company. This community is a fun, passionate one full of unique flavors and artistry in each beer. Going to local breweries helps support small businesses, but it also allows for connections based on a share interest with other people or it's especially great when you can talk with the people who made the beer you're enjoying. I look forward to continuing to support the breweries I love, and discovering new ones in Maryland and wherever else I go to visit.

The Value of Beautiful, Natural Spaces

Most of Maine is covered in trees, that is a fact. The state (which is larger than most people think) is sparsely populated with small towns nestled in these woods, and Maine also has a beautiful coastline. My partner and I especially enjoy the Bar Harbor area which is a popular tourist location that neighbors the very awesome Acadia National Park. There is an abundance of naturally beautiful spaces in Maine, with plenty of great trails to walk and mountains to climb. It is important to preserve areas like this for people to enjoy. It's good for communities in so many different ways (jobs, recreation, and the environment just to name a few major ones) and I look forward to finding spaces to explore in Maryland.

The Importance of Family

My mom and all of my extended family lives in Maine (my brother still lives in Delaware, where both of us grew up) so it has been nice to see my family up here more often than I ever had before. It is really great for me to be able to spend quality time with my mom as our relationship shifts into a new phase with me no longer being a student and "adulting" full-time with my partner. It is a bummer that I will be moving away and not able to spend as much time with everyone, but I know the values that I have developed and the importance I have put on my family will persist into the future. I'll come up to visit as often as I can, and it will be a priority more then it has in the past, when I would go too long between visits. Our families can be frustrating sometimes, but they also (hopefully) love us unconditionally. They will always be supportive and excited for what is happening in our lives, so it is important to make time for them when we can. I look forward to doing my best to continue to cultivate my relationships with my family, especially my brother and mother, since it was just the three of us for a long time and I don't want us to drift apart.

I've appreciated my time in Maine, but I am looking forward to getting my first apartment, living with my fiance, and being close to two big cities as well as our friends. Stay tuned for more thoughts as I go on my next adventure!

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Geeky Office Décor Series: Lynne Meyer

This week we're featuring the office of Lynne Marie Meyer, the Director of Spiritual Life and Diversity at Illinois Institute of Technology.

Here's what Lynne wrote about her office:
Buddha Yoda and the other deitiesoverview of my interfaith display
Here are some shots of my office. There's not a lot of overtly geeky stuff -- at least, not pop culture geeky anyway -- but my prize piece of geekery is the Yoda Buddha given to me by one of my students just before she graduated. That Yoda sits right next to a little Yoda magnet given to me years ago by a Jedi-identified colleague, who decided that I needed Jedi representation among my interfaith display of icons, statues, etc. -- which has also come to include things like Mexican paper flowers, origami cranes, and yes, even a nun with a baseball bat, "Sister Runnata" (I'm a huge Cubs fan, and I want to help give my guys in blue any and all divine support that I can). Many of the icons and statues were gifts from students and colleagues, including Mary, one Ganesha, one of the Buddhas, a Greek Orthodox icon, and Athena. You can also see that I the end of the cabinet facing out towards my door, there are items about the Golden Rule in various religions, my Safe Space sticker, and two Hekate magnets. As I'm a devotee of Hekate, and since statues of Her are/were traditionally placed at thresholds/doorways, I've placed Her as close to my door as I could.
Medicine Shield
Next to that cabinet, on the wall directly to my right as I sit as my desk, you'll see a different kind of a display. The two African masks I bought because they're beautiful and I loved that artists' statements about what they signify. The Buddha tapestry was given to me by a colleague. But for me, hands-down, the central item is the focus. It's a medicine shield made for my late first husband, Ken, many years ago. He was part Northern Cheyenne, and when he was in his 20s (he was 18 years older than me), a friend made the shield for him. It features a crow, because that was Ken's spirit animal. When Ken died in early 2007 from colon cancer at the age of 53, I didn't know what to do with the shield; when he was alive, Ken was very clear that no one other than him could touch it, as it contained powerful spiritual medicine for him alone. As it turned out, I got my job at Illinois Tech later in the same year, and so I decided to display it in my office, where it could be honored and also serve as a kind of spiritual and emotional support for me. It's visible to students and colleagues, but removed enough that no one touches it. I later added the small shield with the spider on it to represent me, after a spiritually significant series of experiences following Ken's passing which left me deeply connected to Spider teachings.
Diversity walllamp
The other photo shows the opposite wall, which showcases my diplomas, a 370-degree photo of Harvard Yard, a diversity-related banner, a tapestry with a favorite Dalai Lama quote, and a cool (I think) map of religious diversity in the US. You can just see the Daffy Duck mug on my desk, next to my very favorite thing in the office: that lamp. My mother's aunt Esther was a Baptist missionary who focused her career on two things: improving race relations (she was doing this in the 50s and 60s), and resettling refugees. She traveled the world, and made friends everywhere she went. One such friend, years and years ago, gave her this lamp. I've heard many stories about who it represents, and I'm not entirely sure which is accurate. We think that he's one of the Eight Immortals of Taoism. Because of the scroll and large forehead, he seems to me to be associated with wisdom. But hey, if any of your readers can give me more info about him, I'd love it!
I love this wall -- and my office as a whole -- because it's colorful, provides a number of talking points for students and colleagues when they visit, and more importantly, gives them a very visible indication that this is a space for everyone. I want students to see something of themselves here. and know, too, that I'm a real person with lots of interests who's going to take an interest in them as well.

What I really enjoy about Lynne's office is how she brings her genuine self to the space through items given to her by friends, family, and other loved ones. Every item has a story and a meaning. There is personality covering all the walls and students instantly know who Lynne is, can ask questions, and learn so much just by the way the space is decorated. It's an amazing office that really embodies the spirit behind my thinking for this series, which is why it feels like such a great way to kick everything off. I really appreciate Lynne sharing her story in such depth for you all.
HH Dalai Lama quote
Stay tuned for more awesome offices in the coming weeks!

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How Board Games Helped Me Make New Friends

social-3f4a4c57 Making friends as an adult is tough. When you're in college, you're in an environment that lends itself to connections. It's easier to meet people your age who share your interests. As an adult working full-time, I've had to make more of a concerted effort to connect with people. I have made friends at work, but it is different to meet people completely outside of any context you have like work or class.

I've mingled in some social meetup groups in my community recently and have made some awesome friends in the process. When we hang out, we typically have game nights where we play different card or board games together as a social activity for our small group. It's been a fun way to help get to know each other and just have fun outside our normal routines. While I was not one to play a lot when I was younger, board games have helped me solidify my first adult friendships, and I'm eternally grateful for that.

Some of the games that my friends and I play have been Cards Against Humanity (a common favorite), We Didn't Playtest This At All, Geek Battle, Man Bites Dog, and various others as well as just other random card games that some of us know of that we use a regular deck of playing cards for. It's been a lot of fun to discover new games like these since board games are experiencing a bit of a Renaissance now it feels like. Games like these just help us put down our phones and interact with each other through a simple and fun activity. Some of the games are mindless fun, others are competition based. A bit of friendly competition though is never a bad thing!

I highly recommend exploring this world of board games with your friends, if they're old or new, you can find a fun game to engage with. There are so many different types now that you can definitely find something you'll enjoy.

Thanks for stopping by!