Texas is under intense stress. You know it. You have seen the news – the El Paso shooting at Walmart, the conditions at the border. In the wake of these tragedies, perhaps Texans have forgotten where we originate, and who our state represents. Your history books in grade school had an entire section dedicated to mass immigration through Ellis Island, but did it go into detail about the immigration movements to Texas? Probably not. 

Texas started out as a Republic in the 1830s and did a lot of positive things including taking down a dictator from power in Mexico, setting up schools, making strides for peace between the Native Americans. Texas’s leader in this brief period after the Texas Revolution, Sam Houston, was a proponent of such peace. Even though Texas had established independence and had set up a government, however, this new nation was in a great deal of debt. Houston needed to incite entrepreneurship, so he agreed to immigration plans. 

This wave of immigration brought in a variety of Europeans – contracts included “1,000 families of Germans, Swiss, Danes, Swedes, Norwegians, and Dutch immigrants [to settle] between the Llano and Colorado rivers.”  The most successful of these movements was the one led by the Adelsverein (The Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas). With their assistance, Germans settled land people now know as New Braunfels and Fredericksburg. I actually descend from one of those immigrants who came through during this movement – an army doctor named Christian Althaus who in 1847 set sail to Fredreicksburg along with many other German immigrants. Althaus was a doctor in the truest sense – helping where help was needed without prejudice. He offered medical treatment to Native Americans and distributed food to them as a government agent.  As stated in the Texas Handbook online, he followed the creed “be friendly and never pull a gun.” He also dabbled in business selling supplies to Forty-niners making the trek to California for gold. 

As noted in the Library of Congress, The Spaniards colonized Mexico and regions within the southwest that are now part of the modern United States. In the mid 1800s the United States only covered so much (highlighted in pink). 

The United States did not annex Texas into the union until 1845. With this land annexation came conflict, and war broke out between Mexico and the nation. Mexico was defeated, and with it came massive land expansion for the United States in a $15 million land purchase. Then another land expansion in 1854 into what we now know as Arizona and New Mexico. With these land purchases, came an adoption of Mexican immigrants into American society.

Mexican immigrants had to struggle through American domestication which included not getting what they were promised – guaranteed safety and property early on because it could not be enforced through the disconnected United States – a disconnection remedied by the folks that included Mexican immigrants who were willing to build railroads to connect our country. By the 1900s, the Mexican Revolution was underway, so immigrants fled into the United States for economic opportunity. They scrambled to survive and returned to Mexico when they felt stable. They have dealt with an American government that has not represented them and assimilation procedures that are arguably racist in nature. Their willingness to do the difficult, thankless jobs for low wages became a stigmatized truth. In essence, their journey and development in America has been one that is most American. They have been able to endure ongoing struggle. It is about time Americans own up to what they have put the the immigrant population through thus far. It has been a cycle of abuse. A cycle that we have the capability to break. 

Instead of seeing immigration as a burden, we could look to it as an opportunity. An immigrant’s path to citizenship means more tax-payer dollars to contribute to public. 

According to data collected in 2017 by the American Immigration Council, over half (59.5%) of all immigrants have a high school education or higher. We cannot assume that these immigrants are not worthy of occupation in the United States. They have been willing to fulfill the hard labor positions that others cannot or refuse to do. They are also involved in administration and other occupations that are not listed in this broad, generalized chart. There are leaders, artists, scientists among them waiting to emerge. If we assume for instance that the Alderverain were dangerous – then Christian Althaus would have never been able to practice as a doctor in Texas – a practice that helped both the Native American and the Immigrant population. It is possible to create a solution that can benefit both parties. Like Houston saw in the 1800s, immigration is an economic opportunity to bring immigrants into the workforce, or provide new services with new insight. Moreover, Mexico is a loyal trading partner. 

The Office of the United States Trade Representative boasts Mexico as the “3rd largest goods trading partner with $611.5 billion in total (two way) goods trade during 2018. Goods exports totaled $265.0 billion; goods imports totaled $346.5 billion. According to the Department of Commerce, U.S. exports of Goods and Services to Mexico supported an estimated 1.2 million jobs in 2015 (latest data available) (968 thousand supported by goods exports and 201 thousand supported by services exports).”

Our relationship with Mexico matters. It matters to people’s livelihoods. It matters our economy. Together we have the ability to crack down on what Trump hyperbolizes as a Mexican problem – the idea that immigrants coming across the border are all dangerous. He uses inflammatory rhetoric that I dare not repeat. Why would families risk life and limb to come to the United States knowing there is a measure in place against them? They must deem it worth the risk. That is something we must understand. There are issues in Mexico that influence their crossing. We should start a dialogue about those issues in order to solve them. There are those that smuggle drugs illegally past the border, and there are dangerous people that may want to enter into the United States. That does not, however, mean that dangerous and Mexican are synonymous. The moment we believe that is the moment we have let fear win over reason. That is the moment we have negated a history of diplomatic negotiation with Mexico. That is the moment we forget all that these immigrants have already done for Americans, things Americans were not willing to do for themselves. There is an opportunity here for Mexicans and Americans to work together to solve issues around crime.

The Native Americans held land in North America, then Spain held land, then later the rest of the world. We are not a nation of one. We are a nation of many. Immigrants and allies from other nations have been with us since the inception of Texas. I love Texas. I really do. Despite how I may disagree with its current politics, I’ll fight for a chance to work with the place that gave my German ancestors a home so many years ago. I do not believe people are fixed and that we are merely Republican, Democrats, Green Party, Libertarian, Independents. We are reasonable people who see problems and have the ability to utilize diplomacy. Despite what our individual views are we have to see that our conflict at the border and our greater conflict with immigration is a conflict that cannot just be shut out. Shutting out a problem does not solve it. Just like in life when you put up the proverbial wall, it only blocks you from seeing a problem, but the problem is still there. Problems stay until a person, a community, or people come together and decide to do something that actually solves. When we ignore, when we block –  that is when the louder, domineering voices get the say, and their say currently doesn’t actually provide a well-crafted, diplomatic solution. It provides a flimsy bandage while the wound underneath festers. 


American Immigration Council, “IMMIGRANTS IN TEXAS”, accessed August 08, 2019, https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/immigrants-in-texas

Handbook of Texas Online, Barbara Donalson Althaus, “ALTHAUS, CHRISTIAN,” accessed August 09, 2019, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fal78

Handbook of Texas Online, Joseph Milton Nance, “REPUBLIC OF TEXAS,” accessed August 15, 2019, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/mzr02

Library of Congress Online, ” MEXICAN – INTRODUCTION – IMMIGRATION,” accessed August 15, 2019, https://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/presentationsandactivities/presentations/immigration/mexican.html

If you already play Dungeons and Dragons, you likely already agree that everyone should play D&D. Maybe you don’t play and you are curious. What is D&D? Maybe the only version of D&D you have ever witnessed were those scenes from Stranger Things.


Or Freaks and Geeks


Or Community


It seems once we graduate from elementary school, move onto secondary schools, and eventually get a job, we forget to put time into stimulating our imagination. Work, Weekend, Repeat. We hit the bar on sixth to blow off steam, but pretty soon that gets too repetitive too. Existing becomes a mindless blur of elevator button dings mixing with front desk greetings and the incessant tapping from typing at desks. You come home exhausted, fix dinner, turn on the television to allow yourself to empty your mind. You get time to relax, yet you still feel unsatisfied, because there is something missing. That something is the ability to think, to let your mind wander into a faraway land or some distant galaxy. Maybe you read fantasy novels and so argue you have a means of escapism. Even when you read a fantasy, however, you are still lacking in creativity. That is, the means to create. You need a safe place to explore the “What if” and the “What happens when.” We are taught to give up on make believe at a certain age. We are taught that it is unproductive, but that is just not true. We desperately need outlets to utilize our imaginations, to explore uncharted territories with our friends, to experiment, and to learn.

D&D is a tactical role-playing game which requires spatial reasoning, basic math, and problem solving – skills applicable to your daily life. D&D shows you how to work in a team. It’s a known fact in the D&D universe that splitting up and flying solo could prove fatal for a player. Maybe you are someone who gets anxious at the thought of conversing with that Jim or Jane you just know you will never get along with at work. D&D is a game where you could learn how to deal with those people, and how to deal with people in general if you find you are socially anxious.

As a Dungeon Master, you must craft the world, describing it in detail in order to paint a cohesive picture within the players’ minds. It challenges the DM to question – what might I likely find in this location? How do I describe it? You will tap into your storytelling ability as you craft a series of scenarios for the players to encounter. Anyone who wants to hone their storytelling skills should play this game, because you are building something from the ground up. Moreover, you’re doing it often times on the fly. That can be a scary thought for a writer if you are used to hyper-planning or find you get stuck in writer’s block. The thing that is great about D&D is – the show must go on. There is no time for writer’s block. The game forces you to create. Embrace the “um, uh -” and go with your gut. Pretty soon you will find writing the first draft of anything – be it a novel, a play, a film, a game script will be one hundred times less daunting.

Just like you learn in an improvisation class, D&D also teaches you how to listen and practice “Yes and.” If you are not familiar with the “Yes and” concept, in improv 101 you learn how to accept others’ ideas and bounce off them, elaborate on them rather then cast them down to steal the show for yourself.

From personal experience, I can say the clarity I have in my communication with others has greatly increased since playing this game. I am more open, more willing, more ready than ever to tackle challenges that come my way. Although it is abstract, if you go about your day like a D&D campaign, like how you took down that Necromancer or that oafish Bugbear, dealing with life problems seem a little less frightening. If anything you know you have that one special day of the week where you can kick back and tackle demons. You have a place to vent.

For all you teachers and parents out there, Dungeons and Dragons is a great tool for teaching students. Studying up on lore, demons, rules, etc. is a great way to get kids to learn self-discipline and research. That may sound ridiculous, but when you are calling for a game one day a week (as per tradition for a D&D campaign) and kids have to be accountable for character back stories, leveling up their characters, keeping track of spells, and notes – all of that is great training in time management for school work (provided you tell them “treat your school work like you treat D&D”).

It does not stop with students, though. We should not stop learning as adults. We should challenge ourselves to think. Some of our jobs do not require utilizing the aforementioned skills, and we let exercising that part of the brain fall to the wayside. Maybe we aren’t as quick on the draw as we used to be because of that reason.

At the risk of my preaching D&D as pure pedagogy, on top of exercising your brain, D&D is just plain fun. You get to laugh, pretend, and tell stories with your friends. Did I mention the snacks? A D&D campaign should always be accompanied with tasty treats, and if you are playing on my home team – also beer! So go forth a play some Dungeons and Dragons. You will create deeper bonds with your fellow players than you realize, and it is so worth the journey. You may think it is too nerdy, too complicated, and too childish, but I demand a re-vote on those preconceived notions. It is not. And you are not too old to play it. All you need is some people, some dice, and some imagination.


We all have our hobbies. My new hobby is streaming. I am among a vast community of streamers who for their own individual reasons decided to capture themselves playing a game and broadcast it to the world.

Streaming is an interesting hobby. You meet people from different parts of the globe. I met someone from Finland who solved a Sudoku puzzle for me in a mystery game! When does that happen? The internet makes this seemingly vast planet seem oh so small. I think what makes streaming entirely worth its many hours on the computer is the connections you will make. You may never get to meet each other in person, yet you know each time you get on the computer, people will be there for you. No matter what happened at work, in your life, your fellow streamers and viewers will be there to greet you throughout the day.

For that reason alone streaming becomes a kind of addiction. I still consider myself new to the twitch community, but if livestreaming has taught me anything, it has taught me that we desperately crave connection. We don’t connect enough in our daily lives. It can be hard to find the right people in our immediate social circles. Once we open ourselves up to the world, though, we find the people that make us want to tell our stories, open our hearts, or just meet up for a laugh.


I love connecting to the world. I feel richer, yes monetarily – I am so grateful to have subscribers and people who give me tips – but also richer in mind, richer in perspective. I love getting to know you all. If you haven’t felt enough love on my stream, let me tell you now that I appreciate you. More than I can express in a silly blog post.

Not only has livestreaming forged friendships, but it has also made me a better communicator, improved my focus, my ability to multi-task.  Livestreaming has lit a fire under my butt and fueled my creative spirit.

Though I will always have goals of making my stream more professional, more organized, connections will always be first, because that’s the stuff of quality. Livestreaming teaches all of us the importance of reaching out, listening, supporting others, growing, and encouraging others to grow. For that alone, it is an irreplaceable experience.

So reach out both into cyberspace and your immediate social circles and make things happen. Open up, fall, grow, change. Repeat. Reach out your hand. You will eventually find the people who will take it, and go on a walk with you. It will be worth it. Just don’t give up.






I am still trying to wrap my head around this, and put all the pieces together. But from what I have seen, a trend of nationalism has arisen. To use an example  – Britain has separated from the European Union to gain control of its borders. Moreover, the insurgence of refugees from Syria has led to xenophobia in countries like France and Austria. Austria’s election did not fall to the far right populist movement, however.

I try to pay attention to the news. I feel like I am sometimes grasping at what I do not understand. It can be a challenge to keep up with what is going on worldwide, but when you open your heart and mind to the world, I believe you become a better person in empathy, in intelligence, as a communicator. You start to see the world less as a series of states and more as a population of humans.

Currently, you also  see a kind of pattern evolving in government across Europe. The pattern I see is fear.

It is easy to fear what we do not understand. For instance, it is easy for me to hide in my shell and forget what is happening in the world. It can be even harder to talk about. You think — if I am concerned about worldly affairs — does that make me annoying? Is it hopeless to care? Or at least I pose these silly questions in the back of my mind as someone who works in entertainment.  I do not profess to be a genius. A historian, a politician, or a journalist is probably more suited to write a piece like this. I am simply someone who is trying to understand.

Most of the fear I see seems to stem from the refugee crisis in Syria. History has shown that when an influx of immigrants flock to a country, xenophobia arises. We, meaning the collective who take in refugees, fear  we are letting our guard down. That if we do not shut our borders, we could let in terrorists. We fear that refugees will take space we presume is reserved for ourselves, and that refugees will take our resources. Where do we house them? Will they just live in tent cities? We do not have the space.

On the extreme level, fear escalates to hatred, in particular, a heightened fear that one group is somehow superior over the other, and we should relinquish the inferior.

Perhaps some like self-proclaimed Neo-Nazis are a lost cause. Do not mistake my words as a free pass. Any action they make which causes harm to others is completely intolerable, and we should remain vigilant that they do not harm others. What I am saying is that perhaps they have reached a level of xenophobia that cannot be changed.

What we can do is encourage others, those that have not reached the heightened, extreme level of fear, not to fear. Such a task is not easy. But bravery is always the harder decision. To make things more complicated, I do not believe simply accepting refugees is the brave decision. Yes, we (in the global sense) should accept innocent civilians into our countries that are trying to wait out war. In viewing their fleeing as a humanitarian crisis, it is a must. But logistically there is only so much space countries have for other people. We must also realize that refugees were also forced to leave. Conditions were bad enough for them to want to flee their own home

But imagine if they had lived in a home that was safe originally? Imagine if the U.S. could be the type of country to instill peace and democratic values in Syria and other countries around the globe?

This is not an easy, uncomplicated decision, and maybe sounds a bit too much like imperialism on the surface. It also likely means warfare and other potential diplomatic and economic issues that I would need to read way more information on before I could begin to make an informed stance.

But I do not think it is wrong to believe people should be able to speak their minds across the globe. I do not think it is wrong to believe people should feel safe no matter where they live.

In any case, fear is not the solution. Fear is what is easy. Fear is what is familiar. And more importantly, fear is only temporary. It does not solve a problem at its core.



A wave of childhood memories washed over me today when I looked up one of the first video games my parents bought for my sister and me: The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis ©1996, a puzzle/adventure computer game. Over recent years, I have periodically searched for this game, because my sister and I unfortunately lost our copy.  But the game is extinct; you can’t buy the original game to play on today’s technology. The closest I could get to the original game was watching a “Let’s Play” on Youtube from somebody who kept their copy from years ago — or so I thought. Today I realized there has been a campaign on kickstarter for a reboot of The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis to match the original game.


TERC, the game creators, have already released the iPad/tablet version of the game; the desktop version for Mac and Windows will not be released until later this year. As you can see from the kickstarter video, the reboot contains updated designs for the landscapes and characters, but everything else from the music to the voices is on point with the original game. I will admit that I am going to miss the original designs. Still, I can understand why the old designs cannot be used. As stated on the Zoombini kickstarter page:

“…we are updating the graphics for modern devices. The original art was just not scalable. All our characters were pixel-based sprites, and the background art was a fixed resolution….[Now] The game will…work with tons of different devices and screen resolutions.”

This graphic update allows a greater chance for more people to play the game – which is the the most important thing.

Why is it important to play this game? 

To answer this question, let’s back track (as well as look forward) to the game’s original designer, Scot Osterweil. In a podcast quote from Osterweil snagged from the blog of Henry Jenkins, media scholar and professor, Osterweil stated regarding the creation of the game Zoombinis “instead of putting math in the game, we tried to find the game in the math.” There seems to be a fine line in edu-tainment games between fun and learning. You either have one or the other, but you can’t have both; it’s either a bunch of fun with some math tacked on, or it’s the equivalent to lifeless math worksheets from school.” With Zoombinis, you can have both. You learn sorting, probability, and most importantly how to use logic and critically think – the key to all learning.

Almost more important than how you learn in the game, ironically, is how fun it is. Adults may get jaded and think that hard work can’t be fun, but it can. Also, because the game is fun even if it is hard work, the player keeps coming back for more. Moreover, each time you play, it is a new experience; the solutions to problems will always be randomized.

Scot Osterweil currently works at MIT and he is also the Creative Director of the Education Arcade. He believes that play and playing games can make a true impact on people.

“what games do that’s different from freeplay is give us a structure and give us a set of proximal goals…we have a sense that maybe we will get a little better…and we tend to rise to the challenge…” (Osterweil)

People enjoy interesting, authentic challenges and setting goals with the hope of achieving those goals. This idea is supported on a scientific level as well.   In his goal-setting theory, Psychologist Edwin A. Locke outlines the importance of goals. His theory reveals that goals motivate people in daily life and in the workplace. Think of it this way: when you were playing those Bowser levels on Mario 64 or you were in the middle of that basketball game, why did you keep going? It seems obvious; you wanted to win, of course! Even more so, you enjoyed the anticipation of winning, or else why would you go through all the trouble? Now what if we applied that mentality to school? What if students tackled math problems not as a chore, but as a puzzle where at the end you could receive the winning solution? Looking at how seemingly difficult subjects like math and reading can be played rather than just regurgitated is looking at ways we can really learn and have fun doing it.

What about the story?

Another reason to play this game is The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis has a good story.

The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis is the story of blue creatures who are similar, but have differences in appearance. They had a thriving mercantile society until the Bloats invade and take over their land. The Bloats promised the Zoombinis prosperity in life and business if the Zoombinis joined forces with the Bloats, so the Zoombinis allow the Bloats to help. Unfortunately, the Bloats end up taking over and essentially enslaving the Zoombinis. Therefore, the Zoombinis escape on a quest for a new home, one they will call Zoombiniville. Before they get there, the Zoombinis must go through various destinations (i.e. Allergic Cliffs, Stone Cold Caves, Pizza Pass, Captain Cajun’s Ferryboat, Titanic Tattooed Toads, Stone Rise, Fleens, Hotel Dimensia, Mudball Wall, The Lion’s Lair, Mirror Machine, and Bubblewonder Abyss), each with a complex logic puzzle to solve in order to get each Zoombini safely across.

None of that description is what got me personally attached to the game, however. What did get me emotionally attached was the fact that I could lose Zoombinis along the way. The player didn’t just loose a life, and see their avatar reappear. The Zombinis experience perma-death! When I first experienced the loss of Zoombinis, I thought it was my ethical responsibility to get them to their new home in Zoombiniville safely.* Moreover, after each Campsite checkpoint for the Zoombinis, if I didn’t have 16 Zoombinis with me, I couldn’t continue the game. I would have to go back to a previous checkpoint. If there were no previous checkpoints with Zoombinis, I would have to get more Zoombinis at Start and get them through each destination again.


Perhaps it seems absurd to care about blue dots with faces and no post-cranial anatomy besides legs and feet – or bike wheels or a spring or a fan. These creatures may not look like people, but we can still relate to their story and their struggle to find a new home. Trust me when I say, after all the work you put into this game you will be proud of your own logical reasoning skills, and even prouder if you can say you got your original 16 Zoombinis across the map without a scratch.

**Just to be clear, there are no  Zoombini killers. If the player looses a Zoombini, it either goes to a checkpoint or Shelter Rock. This is after all a kid-friendly game.