1st Quarter Goal Report

Thursday, on my way home, I ran into an unwelcome foe—snow. It was isolated to a random backroad, but there was around an inch of snow on the grass around the road and the road itself had snow slush. Hopefully that was the last bite of winter and we can fully enjoy spring now!

Ask yourself if what you're doing today is getting you closer to where you want to be tomorrow. #quote

In error I forgot to post my 1st quarter success on my 2015 goals. For that reason I’m throwing in April and I’ll do a half year analysis come June 30th/July 1st. I’ve made decent progress on my goals across the board. The first quarter of the year was full of change too since I left my old school after almost three years and moved back home to start a new job (an hour away). I’m hoping this next quarter brings a big positive change and I’ll know for sure this coming week!

This playful Final Fantasy 7-inspired bookmark. | 24 Brilliant Bookmarks You Need In Your Life

Goal #1: Beat 15 video games (4/15)

Persona 4, New Super Mario Bros 2, Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride, Alphadia Genesis

I have two games going currently-Final Fantasy V & Doctor Who Legacy. I’m close to finishing up Legacy and maybe ¼ of the way through Final Fantasy V. This girl needs to play more video games.

 

Goal #2: Read 150 books

Total read: 36

Reading has become one of my biggest hobbies lately so I’ve been reading 2-3+ books a week. I’m hoping to get in more reading this month since I finally have a few weekends without plans!

 Lucca helmet

Goal #3 Complete 10 craft or DIY projects

Total completed: 4

I went to a convention two months ago and made a three things for it. My crafting has slacked off due to moving, but hopefully I’ll jump back into it soon!

 

Goal #4 Pay off $10,000 of student loans, pay off two full loans

$2603.53/10,000

It’s lower than I’d like right now, but with my moving expenses, it’s sadly what it has to be. Luckily in the next few months I’ll be upping my monthly minimum and paying off two loans.

 

 

Goal #5 Watch 100 new movies

 I’ve watched 22 movies as of April 30th.

 

 068

Goal #6 Travel

3 conventions: Star City Anime (Roanoke, VA) Wizard World Raleigh (Raleigh, NC)

2 festivals : Matsuri,

1 out of state trip

Goal #7: Earn $2,000 in extra income

$145.68/2,000

Goal #8: Donate or volunteer for 12 causes/organizations

Art council (1/12)

Goal #9: Get rid of 200 items

300/200

This goal is done! It’s amazing how much you can get rid of by moving! Once I move again, this number is likely to increase 😉

 

Goal #10: Retirement saving goal

I added a bit to my retirement savings and while it’s not what some contribute, something now is going to equal more down the road!

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With two more months until we hit the halfway mark for the year, I think my goals have a decent start (and having one done already makes up for the lack of progress on certain goals). I’m excited for what the rest of the year will bring and I can’t wait to see these goals crossed off by the end of the year!

Do you set goals? How did you do on your goals during the first quarter?

Emerging into Spring

It was two weeks ago yesterday that I officially moved back to my hometown. I’m still getting into the grove of being back home and in ways, I’ve forgotten about my life in my old city (not the friends of course, whom I talk to almost daily). My hometown has a very different atmosphere being that there are more cows & chickens that people (compared to never seeing them unless you drove miles out of town), not having many stores and the highlight of social engagement requiring a drive into a nearby city 30 minutes or more away. I work in the city, but I often find myself meeting up with friends there or making solo trips to stores and venues. If someone told me 4 years ago when I graduated college I’d be happy to be back in the boonies, I wouldn’t believe them. Yet, here I am and I’m happy to be here for a while.

(photo taken last year)

Spring (despite us getting snow Friday) is starting and the weather couldn’t feel more invigorating. There are Crocus’ coming up in yards and I’ve seen a few marigolds on my daily walk on my grandmother’s road. This is my favorite time of year and for once, I feel that having a slower paced life is offering me the opportunity to appreciate it a bit more! What I’m really looking forward to is the Cherry Blossom Festival in D.C. in 3 weekends. I go there with a group of four other friends every year to the Matsuri festival and to view the trees. It’s one of the things I look forward to the most every year!

Goong

Yesterday was gorgeous and I pulled out a book to read. Way back when, I used to read Manga and Manwha, a hobby that I recently wanted to get back into. I picked up Goong using store credit from a bookstore Friday and plan on trading in and out manga for the time being. When I applied for my library card in the city I work in, I discovered I need to live in the area to use it. Alas, all those books are just out of my reach!

 

I terms of gaming, I’ve been playing Final Fantasy V and Doctor Who Legacy. Final Fantasy V is a game I picked up in high school, but didn’t get through, but since it’s on my Ipad (meaning I can play it while watching Netflix), I’ll get through it pretty quick. I got my aunt into Sherlock and recently started watching Torchwood. I really like Russell T. Davies writing/creative direction, science fiction and Captain Jack Harkness is one of my favorite Doctor Who companions, so Torchwood is right up my alley.

068 (more Cherry Trees from last year)

My temporary relocation stuff is almost complete and I have a graduate school meeting tomorrow. I’ll be starting my Masters in Special Education in Spring 2016, so all I need to finish up is the paperwork and save up the money. I still have my undergraduate debt to deal with, but my Masters will only run my around $14,000. By living with family, I’m able to pay off huge chunks of my student loans and save up for my masters degree. I am still waiting on getting my rent deposit and first paycheck from my new job, but those will come at the end of the month. Moving and getting a new job was a big decision, but as time goes on, I know I made the right move and couldn’t be happier!

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Have you had any big changes in your life lately?

January reflections

Life updates

Picture 102

Where do I begin when discussing January?  Well, it was an interesting month and start to the new year.  I kicked off the start of January with a couple friends, went to a second baby shower for my best friend and five friends announced they were pregnant.  Babys’r’us has become a pretty consistent shopping destination for me lately (another close friend has a baby shower in two weeks).  Outside of exciting news from friends, I made a couple travel plans including to a convention next week, a trip to New York and another one to Pennsylvania in June.  I’m also in the midst of deciding on where I want to be come next September (when my lease runs out since I really want to go elsewhere) and graduate school.  Having multiple coworkers pursuing their masters degrees at the moment has made me feel pressure to decide on something (I gave myself a two year window).  By then my student loans will be pretty much gone and I’ll be free to enroll in a program.

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Gaming and Entertainment

game case

I’ve been playing a lot of video games this past month and complete two this month.  Two weekends ago I beat Persona 4 (review) and last weekend I completed New Super Mario Bros 2 with everything done and unlocked.  Currently I’m making my way through Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride and I’m in the last section of the game.  I anticipate beating it sometime in the next week (expect a review!)

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Movie wise, I did go to the theaters once to see Into the Woods.  I was in it in middle school and loved it (it’s one of my favorite musicals) and seeing the movie really took me back.  Even 12 years later, I still remembered all the words to the songs (which I mouthed along to).   I thought it was a good movie, though I’m still saddened that the baby wasn’t called Stormeggedon!

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I didn’t read as much this month and only completed three books (yikes).  Goodreads says I’m eight books behind already…but I anticipate reading more next month.  It was just a wonky month since I was going in early everyday (and staying late) to do VAAP stuff (Virginia Alternate Assessment Program) and lesson planning.  I’m almost done, which means more free-time, hurray!

 

Extra earnings

Persona 4

This was an interesting month in terms of earnings, most notably because it was a lot lower than its been in a year since I started taking side-hustling seriously.  There are two reasons for that. 1) The website I wrote for for the last year and a half has tanked and they can’t pay me what I was earning.  2) Sales are down because I don’t really have much else to sell.  In February I’ll be prioritizing this and getting back into the grove of side-hustling. Still I walked away from the month with an extra $92.55.  My earning breakdowns are;

Swagbucks & Mypoints: $35

Writing: $49

Sales: $8.55


 

That was my January in a nutshell.  It was a good month, but I’m looking forward to having a new month (and no more beginning of the year insurance bills!).  How was your month? 

Persona 4 review (PS2)

game case

My journey with Persona 4 began on a warm afternoon in April of 2012 (ironic given the time frame in the game). I had finished the third game around a year prior and it, at that time, ranked as one of my favorite games of all time. I had high hopes for Persona 4 and after making it around 20 hours through it I was forced to put it down and not pick it up for around 2 more years. Let me explain—I finally got a full-time job as a teacher after working 2-3 part-time jobs for nearly a year. All the while I thought about it on occasion, but didn’t pick it up due to moving three times (!) and it got pushed to the back burner time and time again due to other games.

It was surprisingly easy to pick up again in October of last year and I only needed a quick refresher online to know where I was going and what I was doing. It ended up consuming my life until Christmas (2 weeks of travel) and then after playing it when I could for the last three weeks, I beat the game yesterday afternoon. In the moments leading up to and after the ending I couldn’t shake the bittersweet feeling that overwhelmed me. I wanted to play it again with my New Game+ file and if I had a PSVita, I’d be playing Persona 4 Golden right now. Speaking of, there’s an awful lot of Persona 4 media out now including two fighting games, a 3DS game (Persona Q), two anime’s and more games on the way. It’s for a reason—Persona 4 is that good. This review is going to be my attempt to convey just how good it is, even with all the flaws.

At the risk of this review running uncomfortably long for some, I’ve highlighted the major pros and cons at the bottom along with the rating.

Persona 4

Review:

Persona 4 starts off with you (the protagonist) moving to Inaba for a year to stay with your uncle while your parents work abroad. Your uncle, Dojima, is the kind hearted younger brother of your mother who has a young daughter, Nanako. On your first day at your new school, you meet and befriend three students—Yukiko, Chie and Yosuke. Things turn strange with the Midnight Channel and the murder of two residents. Over the next year you’ll make many more friends (and enemies) as you try to solve the mystery of the murders and Midnight Channel.

Take

Gameplay

Persona 4 has a number of gameplay elements in place as it is an RPG/dungeon crawler in addition to being a simulation game. The protagonist is a second year high school student, so he and his friends must balance academics and a social life while trying to solve the mystery of the murders and Midnight Channel. Luckily all three are connected directly and indirectly and in order to succeed in the game players must find a way to balance all three. It’s also a give and take system as players must often choose between building a social link or increasing an attribute such as knowledge and understanding (cue New Game + perks). It works successfully too because players often have the time to spend more time on social links or on the dungeon depending on how they’re feeling.

Speaking of battle mechanics, Persona 4 has a solid system and one that builds on Persona’s 3 engine. I personally felt it was a lot cleaner and less frustrating. Persona 4 is a turn based system and players can choose to direct other characters or let them act freely. Their AI for the most part, is more intelligent that a couple RPG’s that I’ve played, so players are relatively safe if they play lazy and let teammates choose their own actions. Shadows are enemies in the game and players will find themselves often grinding to get strong enough to face bosses. That said, it’s easier than Persona 3 and players can equip items or unlock abilities through social links to make battles easier.

I don’t have any real gripes with the gameplay mechanics other than the targeting on shadows. Players see enemies on the field and can run past them (which gets easier as players get stronger than surrounding shadows as they shrink or even run away). I swear I hit around 100 shadows that got an enemy initiative. I can complain about money being hard to come by and not having enough time to do everything, but those are purposeful challenges and part of the challenge is finding a way to make it work.

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Music and sound

The music in Persona 4 has a mixture of different genres and I personally never felt any were out of place. The version I got came with a Music CD (I was disappointed in it, some of my favorite tracks weren’t on it). The sounds were crisp and clear as well. The voice acting was solid and I thought each voice actor suited their respective character nicely. Chie and Teddie have different voice actors in Golden and I did like the new Chie better. Her voice was a little annoying at times. I did enjoy the music of Persona 3 better, for the most part, but Persona 4 has some great tracks. Just don’t expect to have many stuck in your head after the fact.

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Graphics

Graphics are an area of games that I’m hesitant to grade. Everyone has a style of graphics they prefer and one persons ideal isn’t another persons. That said, I really like the art style in Persona 4, though I admit some of the brighter colors in some areas were a little too much for me at times. I did enjoy the art style in the cutscenes, but some might not be a fan of the anime graphics. Character animations are solid and its held up well over time (it’s only been 7 years, but this game is from two console generations ago—yikes!)

 

persona 4 2

Story/characters

It’s a toss up of my favorite Persona 4 aspect between story & characters or gameplay (ok it’s gameplay, but character is a close second!) As I mentioned earlier, the main character is staying with his uncle, Dojima, and niece, Nanako, in the sleepy town of Inaba. There’s a lot of side stories going on, but they all connect in some way and offer something more to the story. The characters though, are what made the game for me. I had mixed feelings about a couple characters from Persona 3, but in Persona 4 the opposite was true. I enjoyed every single one of the playable characters and I loved seeing them interact. I don’t think I’ve ever played a game where I could say that or one I’ve laughed more at. There were numerous times when I burst out in a legitimate laugh at the characters or even had an emotionally reaction alongside them (Teddie you’re a perv). If I ever get a PSvita, I’m getting Persona 4 Golden mostly for the story and characters, I’m not joking.

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Conclusion:

What else can I say, Persona 4 is a phenomenal game and one that deserves a spot in the collection of an JRPG lover. Heck, I’d argue it for those who are fence sitters in the genre. It’s certainly one of my favorite games and one I’ll recommend until the day I stop playing video games. This is one of the best the genre has to offer, period. Now if you don’t have a PS2, Ps3, Ps4 or PSVita—go sell something and buy it or buy the console you need.

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Positives:

-You’re going to get your money’s worth and you’ll want to play the game again as soon as you beat it.

-You’ll love all the characters, burst out laughing with them and be surprised throughout the story.

-The battle mechanics are polished and players will enjoy balancing an academic, social and investigator life

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Negatives

-There’s a lot of dungeon crawling here, so those who don’t like it will be a little tired of it come the end of the game.

-It won’t be a short game at over 70 hours doing some sidequests and that’ll distance some from playing it.

Anime International Company, Atlus, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4, Rise Kujikawa, Yu Narukami

Rating: 10/10

This review is copyrighted to Alexis G. If you would like to use it on your website, please credit me and email me the link to where you posted it!

 

Three day weekend ahead!

This past week was an interesting one since I was sick from Sunday until Tuesday (took Tuesday off) and Wednesday we had a snow day (our first one!)  It made the week feel pretty short and relaxing given the fact we have off Monday and Tuesday will be a teacher workday.  No complaints from me for an extended weekend–it means extra time with friends and time to get work done around the house and town!  I’m in the process of making a formal list and plan on doing a few errands early this morning to avoid crowds.  My mom is coming to visit on Monday and during that time I plan on starting on my taxes (I just wish I had my W-2 and the other 1099 for my student loan taxes).  I have everything else on my end ready and I would like to have them done by the end of February.

Lucca helmet

I used my snow day this past week to work on my Lucca cosplay.  I converted an orange ruffle dress into her Gi earlier this week and I’m very pleased with how both turned out.  I still need to get three small pieces for her costume and hem the scarf I got for her and I’m done.  My purple wig should arrive sometime today, though I do need to trim it a little bit first.

Persona 4

Speaking of video games, I’m still making my way through Persona 4, though I’m at the final boss battle.  I do want to level up the team I’m using another few levels and get better armor before plunging in, however.  It’s going to be very bittersweet to beat it since it’s easily one of my favorite JRPG’s and I only wish I had a PSVita to play Persona 4 Golden.  That said, I could forsee myself using the New Game+ feature and playing through it again.  I didn’t maximize all my social links and did hardly any questions.  Maybe if I didn’t have around 20 games on my shelf to beat I’d go ahead and play through it again…

It’s nice to have an extra day off and I’m looking forward to seeing how much I can get taken off on my to-do list!  I’m also hoping to do a Persona 4 review in the next few days (once I beat it later today?) since I have a lot of strong positive feelings about it and will undoubtedly have even more in the near future. Once it’s beaten though, I’m going to have a little trouble deciding what game to play next–Final Fantasy V?  New Super Mario Bros 2?  Maybe I’ll take a short gaming break to concentrate on other things like grad school searches or reading.

Yes!

What would you do with an unexpected day off?