Lazy Sunday CXIX: Summer Camps

Well, my two summer camps for the season are all wrapped up, so the rest of summer vacation is a combination of private music lessons, blogging, gardening, and loafing around the house.  I’ll also get in some family time, and will help schlep my girlfriend’s stuff to Athens.  I hope to get a little fiction writing done in there, too.

With my camps done for the summer, I thought I’d dedicate this Sunday to looking back at some posts about my various summertime endeavors:

That’s it for this Lazy Sunday!  Take a moment to leave a comment about your favorite summer camp.

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp Review

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

This past week I hosted the first of two summer camps I’m putting on in June.  Next week is the ubiquitous, ever-popular Minecraft Camp, but this week saw the first inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp at my little school.

I’m not sure why I didn’t conceive of this idea sooner.  It’s not an original one, as rock ‘n’ roll fantasy camps have been around for awhile.  I’m not Ted Nugent teaching middle-aged yuppies how to play “Stranglehold” in the woods, but porting that concept to rockin’ out with kids is not difficult to do.

But last summer my headmaster kept forwarding me e-mails from a local country club, which was itself hosting a summer rock camp.  He did not include any commentary or suggestions along the lines of “you should do this camp,” but I got the message.  So when it came time to put together our summer camp catalogue, I tossed Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp into the mix.

My headmaster’s implied suggestion was a good one:  the camp was really wonderful.  Indeed, it exceeded my expectations, in large part because of the small but talented group of campers who attended.  We only had three kids sign up this year, but I’ve had semester-long ensemble classes with that few students, so I knew we could make some musical magic even with a small group.  Indeed, we had the perfect number for a classic garage rock band:  four (including myself).

Here’s some of the details about the camp—how long it lasted, a breakdown of our days, and the songs we played.  Hopefully it will provide a useful blueprint for other music educators looking to host their own camps.

To read the rest of this post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

Summertime Schedule Begins

After a long school year and a whirlwind trip to Universal Studios, I am finally settling into my summertime schedule.  My History of Conservative Thought course did not “make” this summer, as I only had one student enroll (the course really needs a minimum of three students to work well), but my dance card is full enough with lessons and other obligations and engagements.

Next week I’ll be running my first ever “Rock and Roll Camp” at my little school.  It will essentially be a condensed version of the Music Ensemble class I run throughout the school year, squeezed into four three-hour days.  The plan is to end the final day with a short concert.  I’m waiting to hear back on who is enrolled and what kind of instrumentation we have, as that will determine the song selections, but I think it will should be a fun camp.

After that it’s the return of Minecraft Camp, a perennial favorite.  At last count I have either ten or eleven campers signed up for that camp, which is quite good.  Minecraft Camp is the most lucrative camp of the summer, and accounts for a good chunk of my supplemental income this time of year.  I missed out on it last year, as I was very sick, so here’s hoping I’m good to go this summer.

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TBT^2: April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective

The Kindle version of The One-Minute Mysteries of Inspector Gerard: The Ultimate Flatfoot goes live today!  If you pre-ordered the book, it should pop up in your Kindle app today.  At $5, it’s a very easy lift, as is the paperback at $15.

It’s April Fool’s Day, a holiday for mirth and merriment, but one I dedicate to remembering the day twelve years ago when I faced unemployment during the worst job market since the Great Depression.

In rereading last year’s TBT and the original “April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective,” I’m reminded how good God has been to me.  Last year I’d lost most of my private lesson students due to The Virus; now, I’m back up to seven students (six weekly, one twice a month), and I’ve just released a book (the Kindle version goes live today!).  Gigging still hasn’t really picked back up, but Bandcamp sales have been decent (and another Bandcamp Friday is tomorrow!), and my front porch Spooktacular was a blast.

I’m still hustlin’, but I’m also taking more time to appreciate life.  Perhaps the hard slog of my twenties has finally paid off here in my mid-thirties.

With that, here are “April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective” and “TBT: April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective“:

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Hustlin’ Towards Financial Independence

It’s another Bandcamp Friday, which means if you buy my music today, Bandcamp doesn’t take their cut; ergo, yours portly pockets a few more dimes.

Those dimes add up. Regular readers know that I’m a major advocate of sensible financial planning and reducing unnecessary spending (at one point, I would have been an “extreme budgeter,” but now some hedonic adaptation has kicked in and I’m enjoying the fruits of my labor a bit more).  I also promote hustlingworking hard and spinning different side gigs—to generate extra income.

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Progress Report: Teaching in The Age of The Virus

Progress reports go out to students today at my little school, so I thought it would be a good time to provide an update of my own now that we’re nearly a month into the school year.  I posted about teaching in The Age of The Virus after the first day and the first week, and now I have a much better perspective on how the year is unfolding.

As a refresher, my school is doing mostly face-to-face instruction, but with some students doing distance learning.  Students have the option to go to distance learning pretty much at will (for example, I had one student who stayed home today with a cold, but who tuned into my music appreciation course), and can return to school at any time.  Students engaged in distance learning are required to attend during the scheduled class period.

The caveat to that general rule pertains to international students.  We have a number of students overseas who, because of new restrictions due to The Virus, are stuck in their home countries.  Many of those students’ classes are late at night, or even in the very early morning, after accounting for the time difference.  It’s a long way from South Carolina to Vietnam.

What that means is that we have to teach our regular classes; livestream them; and record those livestreams, making the recordings available after the class.  It sounds easy enough—so long as everything works perfectly.

That’s turning out to be the fly in the pancake batter.  As one of our dedicated science teachers said—the lady who troubleshoots our woeful technological glitches—“I can livestream, or I can record.  The trouble is trying to do both.”  Amen to that.

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Support The Portly Politico

As I’ve written elsewhere, it’s been a tough year for musicians.  Fortunately, things are looking up on that end, at least for yours portly.  With school starting back this week, I’m hoping some of my old students will be comfortable with resuming one-on-one lessons, especially after sitting in class all day with other students (and with our new sanitation and safety protocols).  Still, 2020 will be a down year for lessons revenue, and especially for gigs.

In brighter news, The Portly Politico has more followers and subscribers than ever.  Currently, my SubscribeStar page has seven subscribers, three of whom are subscribed at the $5 tier.  Thanks to their support, the blog is bringing in $15.38 a month after SubscribeStar takes its cut.  That may seem like small potatoes, but that support means more than the dollar figure suggests.

If you haven’t already, I’d encourage you to subscribe$1 a month is an easy lift, and considering the back catalog of posts is growing every week, the value of that investment continues to grow.  If you’re already a $1 a month sub, you may want to consider upgrading to a $5 a month subscription.

I’m also introducing more perks for $5 a month subs.  So far, the $5 tier has been the same as the $1 tier, just with Sunday Doodles tossed in.  Last week, I included some bonus doodles.  I’ll be doing that more frequently—not necessarily weekly, but often enough to make it a fun surprise.  I’m also going to be uploading more music, especially material that can’t currently be found on my Bandcamp page.

During distance learning, I amassed a treasure trove of history and government lectures.  I’ll be uploading some of those for $5 subs, probably starting with the Second World War lectures.

Finally, select Fridays this fall will be “Five Dollar Fridays,” posts that will be largely dedicated to 2020 election coverage and analysis.  As the name suggests, those posts will be exclusive to $5 and up subscribers.

Naturally, I’ll continue to offer free weekly content Sunday through Thursday, and some Fridays.  We’re closing in on 600 days of posts, and two years is about 134 posts away.  Of course, if you’re not subscribed, you’re missing out on 116 posts (as of this writing)!  That’s a ton of content (and doodles).

If you’re interested in a subscription, sign up here or here.  If you know of someone who might be interested in paying a small fee for quality content, please forward this blog post them, or send them here.

One final pot-sweetenerif we hit 10 subscribers—at any level—by the end of August 2020, I’ll upload some special, surprise content for all subscribers.

Thanks again for your support—and your patience with yet another sales pitch.  It is truly appreciated.

God Bless,

TPP

Lazy Sunday LXVI: Video Games

Happy Father’s Day!  A big thanks to my dad for all of his support (he occasionally posts comments on the blog, and generously and paternally subscribes to my SubscribeStar page).  I thought about doing some kind of Father’s Day theme for this edition of Lazy Sunday, but I opted to go the easier route.

Thanks to my dad’s hard work, his three sons grew up in middle class luxury playing video games.  Granted, back in the old days you pretty much had to pick one console—Nintendo or Sega (we were a Nintendo Family, as all good and decent people were in 1990—although we did love playing our cousins’ Sega Genesis) and you got maybe one or two games a year, so that meant lots of swapping and borrowing games.  It was always a treat to borrow Super Mario Brothers 3 from our other cousins.

So with that clumsy tie-in to Father’s Day, here are some posts about video games:

  • Fallout 76 Announcement Increases Tourism to West Virginia” – Fallout 76, a massively-multiplayer iteration of the traditionally single-player RPG series, ended up being a massive flop.  But it was pretty cool that the game takes place in West Virginia.  Recent Fallout installments took place in Las Vegas, Washington, D.C., and (I think) Boston—all interesting settings, but exploring a post-apocalyptic rural area always seemed intriguing.  How would South Carolina hold up compared to San Francisco (better, I imagine).  Fallout 76 at least promised players the opportunity to explore that question, albeit in an extremely botched way.
  • Hustlin’: Minecraft Camp 2019” (and “TBT: Hustlin’: Minecraft Camp 2019“) – Due to my prolonged illness, I had to miss out on my beloved Minecraft Camp this year (and an estimated $1475 in gross earnings—a hard blow to yours portly, so feel free to ease the pain by subscribing to my SubscribeStar page).  Minecraft is a fun game—I liken it to LEGOs on a computer—that encourages open-ended exploration and creativity.  It has some boss battles, but there are no real objectives; you make your own.  Minecraft Camp is always fun for creating little projects and goals for the campers, and my counselors always hide little treasure chests and create “side quests” for the students.  It’s a game for young and old alike, and I highly recommend it.
  • SimEarth” – I started playing this a few weeks ago (around the time I got sick) using the DOS emulator DOS Box.  Like Minecraft, the objectives are pretty open-ended:  develop life, guide it to intelligence, then get that intelligence smart enough to vacate so another life-form has a chance to dominate.  I found I struggled to develop my planets (although I knew what I was doing as a thirteen-year old, I’ve apparently lost my world-building mojo in the intervening twenty-two years), and that just leaving the simulation to run on its own tended to lead to better results than any fiddling around I did.

That’s it for today.  Enjoy a good meal with your dad—and maybe play some games with him.

Happy Father’s Day!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

TBT: Hustlin’: Minecraft Camp 2019

It’s been a week to talk about video games (I even found a downloadable version of SimEarth that runs in DOSBox, which is one of the nerdier sentences ever written), and my annual Minecraft Camp is less than two weeks away, The Virus permitting.  As such, I thought I’d look back to last summer’s post about camp for this week’s TBT.

The post mostly goes into some of my side gigs, and talks about the weather (we had a blessedly pleasant spring this year, unlike 2019).  My private lessons have died down a bit due to The Virus, but I’m hoping to get those going again soon.

That’s about it by way of preamble.  I’m still recovering from the after effects of this little stomach bug.  The plumbing is fine, but I’m still a bit weak.  Hopefully I’ll be 100% by the time you read this post, and posts will get back to their usual quality soon enough.

With that, here is 2019’s “Hustlin’: Minecraft Camp 2019“:

The June slump has hit, as people are less interested in news and politics and going outside.  It’s been a gorgeous few days here in South Carolina.  I left the house Wednesday morning and it was cold.

For non-Southerners, allow me to explain:  here in the Deep South, our only true season is summer, which runs from late March through Thanksgiving.  I’ve seen people mow their lawns a week before Christmas.  If we’re lucky we get a mild summer.  After an oppressively muggy May, a morning in the low 60s is a blessed reprieve here in the Palmetto State.

But talking about the weather is probably why my numbers are down, so I’ll move on to another non-politics-related topic:  my penchant for hustlin’.  Readers know that I have a few gigs running at any time, including private music lessons, adjunct teaching, my History of Conservative Thought summer course, and playing shows.  I also paint classrooms and do sweaty manly maintenance work at my little school when I’m not molding minds.  And while it doesn’t pay anything yet, I’m hoping to get a few bucks for my writing.

But perhaps my favorite side gig is an annual tradition:  my school’s annual Minecraft Camp.  A former school administrator started the camp, and I’ve carried it on for some years now.

For the uninitiated, Minecraft is basically LEGOs in video game form.  The genius creation of programmer Markus Persson, the game places players in a massive sandbox world, with the objective being… anything!  There are no timers (other than a day and night cycle), no goals, and no ending.  Players generate a theoretically endless world from scratch, and proceed to build—craft—their way to civilization (or endless PVP battles).

Players can activate Creative Mode, which allows for endless flights of fancy, with access to every block and resource in the game, or they can play in Survival, which is exactly what it sounds like:  players hide from (or fight) monsters at night, hunt for or grow food, and have to keep their health up.

Minecraft has enjoyed ubiquity since its release in 2011—it’s the best-selling video game of all time—and when we started Minecraft Camp back in the day (I think it was summer 2013 or 2014, but I’m not sure), it was HUGE.  The game has inspired probably tens of thousands of mods, from simple additions like extra monsters or types of blocks, to total conversions that completely rebuild the game’s mechanics.

With the rise of Fortnite a year ago, the game seemed to wane in popularity, but it’s apparently enjoying a resurgence:  our camp was up to twelve Crafters from a low of about four or five last year.  It gets absolutely chaotic at times—like during our final camp PVP battle, and a hectic boss fight against a gigantic, camper-created Creeper named “Creeperzilla,” that saw kids shouting nearly at the top of their lungs with unabashed glee—but it’s also beautiful to see the creativity of young children.  I am constantly amazed to see what they create.

And, let’s face it, there are worse ways to make an extra buck than playing video games with a group of creative eight-to-thirteen-year olds.  It definitely beats raking up old pine straw and spraying Roundup on cracks in the parking lot.

You can check out our camp’s blog here:  https://tbcsminecraft.wordpress.com/