The Shield https://mcqshield.org McQuaid Jesuit's biweekly content heap. Thu, 16 Dec 2021 13:09:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.8.2 NFL Playoff Projections and Super Bowl Pick https://mcqshield.org/2095/showcase/nfl-playoff-projections-and-super-bowl-pick/ https://mcqshield.org/2095/showcase/nfl-playoff-projections-and-super-bowl-pick/#respond Thu, 16 Dec 2021 13:09:18 +0000 https://mcqshield.org/?p=2095 With the season over three-quarters of the way done, its time to start looking into the future, and decide who takes home the Lombardi Trophy.

American Football Conference

AFC East Champions: New England Patriots

Great. And just when we all thought that the dynasty was over, the evil empire is already back. New England is once again one of the NFL’s elite clubs, led by a dynamic rushing attack, a stingy defense, and a surgical rookie quarterback in Mac Jones. With a win over the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, this team has proven it can beat anyone, no matter the weather. Whatever Darth Hoodie has in store for this team, be on the lookout.

AFC West Champions: Kansas City Chiefs

Forget the start of that season, when KC fielded a sloppy offense and a historically awful defense. In a matter of weeks, Steve Spagnuolo’s defense has gotten back into the top ten in terms of preventing scores, while the offense is starting to regain its rhythm, as we all knew it would with Mahomes under center. If this team continues to play like it has in the past few weeks, the Chiefs should be back in contention.

AFC North Champions: Cleveland Browns

Both Baltimore and Cincinnati have been very inconsistent in terms of on-field play, mostly by losing to teams that they should have beaten. Following a home win against Baltimore, however, Cleveland has a legitimate shot at winning a hazy AFC North, so long as Baker stays effective as a game manager, letting the rushing game and the Myles Garrett-led defense take care of the heavy lifting.

AFC South Champions: Tennessee Titans

Even with the Colts nipping at their heels, I think Tennessee is still the team to beat in the AFC South. Their defense has performed much better than expected, with multiple players such as Jeffery Simmons and Harold Landry III having breakout seasons, and when AJ Brown and Derrick Henry are back, expect this offense to be extremely dangerous, putting this team back into contention.

AFC Wild Cards

Buffalo Bills

Los Angeles Chargers

Cincinnati Bengals

AFC Bold Prediction: The Ravens miss the playoffs

This Ravens team has been way too inconsistent for me to call them a legitimate contender in the AFC. Baltimore’s dare-I-say gimmicky and inconsistent offense has not been able to sustain an average defense, which has mostly kept this team in games, but these Ravens have been unable to execute in the clutch. With a tough schedule for the remainder of the season, including two games against the Packers and Rams, Baltimore may miss out on the playoffs because of how inconsistent they have been.

National Football Conference

NFC East Champions: Dallas Cowboys

For once, Dallas has actually lived up to their expectations. Their offense is arguably the best in the league, with a dangerous rushing attack and arguably the NFL’s best receiving core in Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup. Their defense has also had an amazing turnaround under new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, much improved from that dreadful unit we saw in 2020.

NFC West Champions: Arizona Cardinals

Even with a close loss at home to the Rams, Arizona is still in excellent position to take the division. Arizona, after all, is the most balanced team in the league, with a top five offense and defense. Of course, this team is led by arguably the best quarterback in the league in Kyler Murray, and a dangerous receiving core led by DeAndre Hopkins. The defense also is good in almost all aspects, led by a dynamic pass rushing duo in Chandler Jones and Markus Golden.

NFC North Champions: Green Bay Packers

This is probably Aaron Rodgers’ last year in Green Bay, and he sure is making the most of it. Headlined by an explosive offense and a top-ten defense, this team has proven, with wins against really good opponents such as the Rams and Cardinals, that Green Bay, as of right now, is potentially the most dangerous team in the league, even without former all-pros Jaire Alexander and David Bakhtiari. Now we will see if this team can finally not implode in the NFC Championship Game.

NFC South Champions: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

With MVP frontrunner Tom Brady leading the league’s best-scoring offense, and arguably the league’s best front seven on defense, this team is in good position to do damage in the playoffs. However, their secondary is cause for concern, which may come back to bite Tampa come playoff time. This, along with the multitude of good teams in the NFC, could end Tampa’s bid for a repeat.

NFC Wild Cards

Los Angeles Rams

San Francisco 49ers

Philadelphia Eagles

NFC Bold Prediction: The Eagles make the playoffs

Okay, I am not saying that the Eagles are about to go on a run, especially with the amount of contenders in the NFC. What I am saying, however, is that Philly is in great position to make the playoffs, as they have an easy schedule for the rest of the season. With one of the best rushing offenses in the league and a surprisingly serviceable defense, this Eagles team might very well make some postseason noise.

Now, time to actually predict how this will shake out.

Playoff Predictions

AFC

  • Wild Card Round: Buffalo Bills (5) over Cleveland Browns (4), Tennessee Titans (3) over Los Angeles Chargers (6), Kansas City Chiefs (2) over Cincinnati Bengals (7).
  • Divisional Round: New England Patriots (1) over Buffalo Bills (5), Kansas City Chiefs (2) over Tennessee Titans (3).
  • AFC Championship: New England Patriots (1) over Kansas City Chiefs (2).

NFC

  • Wild Card Round: Los Angeles Rams (5) over Dallas Cowboys (4), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3) over San Francisco 49ers (6), Green Bay Packers (2) over Philadelphia Eagles (7).
  • Divisional Round: Green Bay Packers (2) over Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3), Los Angeles Rams (5) over Arizona Cardinals (1).
  • NFC Championship: Green Bay Packers (2) over Los Angeles Rams (5).

Super Bowl LVI Prediction and Pick

This will be an entertaining matchup between the New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers, with a rookie Mac Jones dueling against a veteran Aaron Rodgers. However, in the big game, I have confidence that Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense will be able to overcome the Patriots’ defense, with the Packers’ defense holding off a late Patriots comeback.

  • Final Score: Packers 28, Patriots 20.
  • MVP: Aaron Rodgers.
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Olympic Drug Testing is Unfair https://mcqshield.org/2072/showcase/olympic-drug-testing-is-unfair/ https://mcqshield.org/2072/showcase/olympic-drug-testing-is-unfair/#respond Thu, 16 Dec 2021 13:09:18 +0000 https://mcqshield.org/?p=2072 What is anti-doping?

Anti-doping constitutes a large range of activities with the specific motive of eradicating doping (the use of PEDs) in sports. PEDs, or performance-enhancing drugs, are considered to be an unfair aid when rising to the top of almost any sport. Some processes or PEDs banned in the Olympics include: blood doping (the process of extracting and storing one’s own blood and then injecting the stored blood immediately before competition), androgenic agents like anabolic steroids (which often increase testosterone), and some stimulants, hormones, narcotics, etc. The point of anti-doping is allegedly the conservation of integrity in sports in terms of respect for rules, other competitors, and a level playing field.

What is my position?

It seems to me that since drastic amounts of top-level professional athletes already use many of these drugs, and have been for decades, anti-doping does more harm than good. There are many problems with anti-doping, including the fact that it creates an unlevel playing field, it facilitates corruption, it forces athletes to use more dangerous drugs, and it makes the impressionable public, especially children, think that sports are drug-free. Despite these problems, I would like to say that if anti-doping worked 100% of the time, I would not be opposed to it at all, but because of the problems it creates, it seems to be working against most people.

Are top level athletes really using PEDs?

To think about this question in an Olympic context, we have to look at a few examples. First of all is the case of East Germany. From 1976 to 1988, East Germany came second in medal count in all three of their Summer Olympics. The government of the GDR oversaw a decades-long initiative of managing and distributing PEDs, like testosterone and other anabolic drugs, to its top-level athletes. Drug use in East Germany had many components to it. First, we see the beginning of using sports as a tool to gain legitimacy. The aim of the doping program in East Germany was to strengthen the country’s image and status by dominating international sports events like the Olympics. Eventually, the program was exposed. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, many athletes and other members involved came forward and a series of investigations and trials were organized against the organizers of the East German doping system. It became distinctly clear that sports are not simply about a fair competition or a fun time. This scandal not only laid the groundwork for sports to become a political tool, but also for an immense amount of corruption to seep into international sports competitions. To be clear, drug testing occurred even in those days, but the main problem we find is that drug tests are never up to par with the drugs people are using, or how they are using them to avoid testing positive. We can see government documents that have been leaked or released since the times of the doping-scandal. Graphs of just how much performance improved when athletes took things like testosterone are widely available. There are even examples of doping protocols that athletes followed pre-competition to pass drug tests. These athletes all had to pass doping tests to compete, but even back during the East German days, it didn’t stop them.

Next, it is important to analyze the data from retrospective drug testing. Retrospective drug testing is a huge example of the fact that doping is a massive issue in Olympic sports. These tests usually analyze urine samples years after they were taken, and it generally becomes obvious that more athletes than we think use drugs. While these examples vary based on sport, weightlifting is the easiest example, due to the fact that PEDs help more than in almost any other sport. The targeted re-analysis of samples from the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games resulted in 61 weightlifters producing retrospective ADRVs (anti-doping rule violations). This included 34 original medalists, the highest of any sport identified by Olympic Games re-testing. Another example is Thomas Zielinski, who originally came in 9th place in the 2012 Olympics. After the re-tests he got bumped up to third place, getting a bronze medal. This occurred because so many athletes got caught with drugs, but he did not. Later, he tried competing in the 2016 Olympics . . . but he and his brother got caught using drugs.

It is obvious just how absurd these competitions really are. Doping protocols to pass tests don’t always work perfectly, so it seems as if these sports have become more of a guessing game and a science experiment than a display of hard work, talent, and skill. Doping and PED usage is almost as common in other sports as it is in weightlifting. If we look at the all-time men’s 100m list with names associated with doping crossed off, we can see that out of the 29 best runs, 20 of them have been crossed off. Even more surprisingly, the best nine runs are all accredited to one athlete who has not been caught doping: Usain Bolt. And even in Bolt’s case, there was a ruling in the Olympic Doping Case which took his ninth medal. Even if you look at the ten best overall 100m sprinters in history, only three have never had a doping charge. How long will it be until the next best athlete is caught with drugs? Is it less impressive when they are? And what about those who are never caught? It seems as if all of this seems to be creating an incredibly unfair environment. For a final example of weightlifting, we have Lasha, who was banned in 2013, when he tested positive for winstrol. A couple years after his suspension ended, he added 80 kilos to his total, becoming the greatest super heavyweight of all time, all while passing every drug test for the past couple years. For those who do not follow Olympic weightlifting, 80kg is an incomprehensible, and seemingly impossible, amount for someone to add to their total in just a few years. Even this year, at the 2020/2021 Olympics, Lasha Talakhadze beat the world record clean & jerk and the world record snatch, setting a new world record total of 488kg. There seems to be too much evidence pointing to the fact that exceedingly many top athletes use drugs.

 

Even in the NFL, according to a report published on the Bleacher Report, current NFL players project that between 10 and 40 percent of the league is using human growth hormone. Is it really surprising that top NFL players use substances that increase strength, decrease body fat and facilitate quicker healing from injury? The testing procedures aren’t catching almost anyone, and if they did, then players would quickly find an alternative. At the highest level of sports, the amount of influence that money and fame has to offer trumps any view of fairness or safety, so wouldn’t the most fair, and most safe option be to let these athletes go without testing? It is no surprise that new compounds are constantly being experimented on, and used by athletes all across the world. It would be much safer for athletes to take testosterone, let’s say, than an experimental drug created and facilitated by the government of Egypt.

Isn’t drug testing supposed to protect people and create a fair environment?

 

Sure, the point of drug testing and anti-doping protocols is to protect all the athletes, while creating a fair environment. But it doesn’t work. I mean, do you still think it creates a level playing field, and prevents people from having an unfair advantage? Realistically, it does the complete opposite. First of all, drug testing in every country in the world is different. If you are born in a western country where drug testing is generally stricter, you will be at a severe disadvantage compared to somewhere far less strict. For example, if you are a weightlifter from the USA where you get tested multiple times per year outside of competitions, how can you compete with someone from North Korea where out of competition drug testing is non-existent. Sports are extremely corrupt and, as has been proven by history, governments will help their athletes dominate on a global stage by any means necessary. 

Are drug rules the same everywhere?

There is no stable agreement on a global level about PED use, or even recreational drug use. Someone in Egypt can simply walk into a pharmacy and buy whatever steroids they want. How is that fair when in Denmark and Belgium, anabolics are so demonized that they drug test random people in commercial gyms? It isn’t.

So what is the conclusion?

Realistically, if anti-doping didn’t exist, sports would be more fair. All that WADA (the World Anti-Doping Agency) does is make it so that the athletes with the most money, the most access to drugs, and with the most corrupt people behind them will win.  I would say that anti-doping has been proven wrong because of how bad the tests are, the fact that athletes will never stop using drugs due to the political importance for some countries to do well, the individualistic, competitive aspect of every athlete, and the fact that it causes more unfairness, which is the opposite of its stated goal.

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Theological-Style Proof of a Quesadilla https://mcqshield.org/2070/showcase/theological-style-proof-of-a-quesadilla/ https://mcqshield.org/2070/showcase/theological-style-proof-of-a-quesadilla/#respond Thu, 16 Dec 2021 13:09:18 +0000 https://mcqshield.org/?p=2070 The following statements are proofs meant to convince the reader that quesadillas are in fact the greatest food, ever. These proofs are in the style of Saint Thomas InstituteonDeweyAvenue’s proofs of the existence of God. This is not, in any way, a direct comparison of quesadillas to God. It is merely a sign of reverence and respect to the “lord” of all foods: quesadillas.

Surface Area

The tortilla is the most efficient way of delivering food and sustenance unto the hungry consumer. It is far more efficient than a piece of bread (with which sandwiches are made) because it has more surface area. The formula for the surface area of a circle is π times the radius squared. The formula for the surface area of a square piece of bread is area = side squared. Most of the tortillas that people buy at the store are 8-inch tortillas, which means they have a radius of 4. The surface area of a tortilla this size is therefore 16π, or about 50 inches. The average piece of bread that people buy at the store is about 4.5 by 4.5 inches, which means its area is 20.25 inches. The tortilla’s surface area is 29.75 inches larger than the bread.

People who refute this claim may say that burger buns are also circles, which therefore means that they are also more effective that a piece of bread. This, however, does not strengthen their argument, because tortillas are bigger circles, which means their surface area is more plentiful.

Carbs are—of course—the vehicle by which scrumptious foods are delivered, which means a carb with more surface area is more efficient, and therefore better.

Burrito

Opponents of quesadillas may agree with my initial evaluation of a tortilla’s surface area, but they may also raise the argument of the burrito. They might say: “Burritos also use tortillas. What makes quesadillas better?” The answer is simple: burritos have folds. By folding the tortilla, you decrease the effective surface area of the carb.

Burrito Again! (Ed. Note—“Burritwo” Was Right There)

Opponents may also say that, through the folds of the tortilla, you create a bowl-like structure, which enables you to increase the volume of the meal. FALSE!

A full-size quesadilla will have nearly twice as much sustenance within it than the average burrito made with the same size tortilla. Opponents might say to this that a full-size quesadilla uses two tortillas, so it is logical that you can fit more things in it. I say to this: “Even a half-sized quesadilla, made with a single tortilla folded upon itself, has the same amount of food inside it, if not more, than a burrito.” Through a demonstration, the dissidents may try and stuff as much meat, beans, and cheese into a tortilla as possible and try to fold it, and they would look at me with glee and say “Ha! Look at how much food is in there!”

I would look on with even more glee while they struggled to effectively fold the tortilla without it tearing at the delicate seams they must shape for a proper burrito.

Closing Thoughts

There may still be some dissidents; however, they may easily be convinced with the same logic shown above. The tortilla is the most efficient method of food delivery, and the quesadilla, in turn, is the best way to use them.

But let’s talk about what a quesadilla really is. The word quesadilla in Spanish literally means “little cheesy thing.” The quesadillas that I talk about and argue for are a blend of meat and cheese. “Little cheesy thing” seems to suggest that quesadillas are to be only cheese, but quesadillas can have meat as well. [Ed. Note—and other fillings as well!] I tend to advise against overloading quesadillas with cheese because it can distort the simplicity and taste of the meal. This is similar to the obsessive “cheese pull” of modern pizza. It has steered away from the proper ratio of sauce to cheese, just as it is possible to improperly set the ratio of cheese to meat in a quesadilla.

In conclusion, quesadillas are the best food that can be made. They are the most efficient use of the most efficient carb, and they include the most scrumptious combination of the most pleasing flavors.

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This indie rhythm game has a frog that spits fire beats https://mcqshield.org/2024/video-games/this-indie-rhythm-game-has-a-frog-that-spits-fire-beats/ https://mcqshield.org/2024/video-games/this-indie-rhythm-game-has-a-frog-that-spits-fire-beats/#respond Thu, 16 Dec 2021 13:09:18 +0000 https://mcqshield.org/?p=2024

Have you ever played an RPG game? How about a rhythm game? Well, why not both at once? Everhood is a game where music and a great story combine to create a rhythmic RPG masterpiece. Chris Nordgren and Jordi Roca (aka the Foreign Gnomes) are the two geniuses behind this game.

DISCLAIMER: I played this game on expert, and it was the first rhythm game I played.

Gameplay

Frog.

Everhood packs a runtime of about 10-20 hours per playthrough. (Yes. Playthrough.) The game has three routes, pacifist, evil, and a secret boss (only in New Game+, so you have to beat the game once to even access it). In pacifist, you pretty much end the game after a secret boss, by explicitly saying you don’t want to kill everyone at the right time to the right person. In the evil ending, of course, you kill everyone and everything. The secret ending? If you no-hit every boss, a cat named Samuel appears. Chat with him, and he takes you to his home and summons the cat god, where you must fight for your life. Though the gameplay is great, there are a few issues I have with this game. The game is single player. I enjoy games more when I can play with friends. Saving requires you to get to save points which appear after most boss fights. You can’t just leave a fight; you have to close the entire game to get out of a fight. But other than that, nothing is more satisfying in Everhood than no-hitting a boss. When you win a fight without getting hit, it feels amazing and you get an achievement. Chris and Jordi are adding a replay feature so no-hits will be less tedious.

 

Story

 

Green mage.

A wooden doll gets possessed and becomes sentient. This wooden doll must get his arm back, which was cruelly stolen by the golden pig, so you have to fight him and all of his lackeys.  You make some friends along the way, and have to help them  by doing little tasks. Then you go through these cool areas and pretty much everyone is your friend, which doesn’t make a ton of sense, right? I actually mean you have to fight them. Anyway, you finally meet Gold Pig and try to earn your arm back. Gold Pig’s fight is pretty cool, but it’s pretty difficult at that stage. I’d say he could be an endgame boss, maybe like the second secret boss—who will remain unnamed. The only problem I have with the story is the repetition of characters. I think you fight two of the characters 3-4 times each.

 

 

Soundtrack

Gnome.

On a scale from 1 to 10, this game gets an 11 from me in the soundtrack department; it is absolutely perfect, and every song matches every fight. Sure, some people might disagree, and I clearly like this game, but that’s fine. I’ll admit the soundtrack is a bit repetitive, but I liked it enough not to mind.

Bosses

Flan and Muck.

So I was going to put this in gameplay, but hey—they’re pretty good and a majority of the gameplay. Sure, there were quests, stories, etc., but the thing I focused on the most were the bosses. Some of my favorites, in terms of enjoyability, were the After-Death Experience, Gnome, Brown Slim Mushroom, Quantum Battle, Flan and Muck, and Frog’s Wrath, as well as any Rasta Beast fight. I like the After-Death Experience because of the visuals and the simplicity of the fight. Gnome’s song was a bop, and when you fight the gnomes there’s always something going on. That might be the background changing, some gnomes slapping each other back and forth, and finally, the fight is genuinely difficult. Brown Slim Mushroom was the hardest pre-arm fight for me. Quantum Battle is a bullet hell, basically requiring you to actually dodge instead of doing a rhythmic “battle” against the boss. Flan and Muck are brothers that give you wood and both play some sort of guitar-like instrument, and they’re cute. Frog’s Wrath has great visuals, music, and a Frog. Rasta Beast is a gentleman and most of his music is really good. 

Price

Everhood is $10. I would be willing to drop $10-$15 on a game like this, so I think the price is great, and since it’s on Steam it will go on sale during different seasons.

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Polos and Backpacks: Kanye and The College Dropout https://mcqshield.org/2037/music/polos-and-backpacks-kanye-and-the-college-dropout/ https://mcqshield.org/2037/music/polos-and-backpacks-kanye-and-the-college-dropout/#respond Tue, 16 Nov 2021 16:46:23 +0000 https://mcqshield.org/?p=2037 Kanye West. Where to even begin?

He’s arguably the most renowned rapper of the 21st century rap. Everyone knows who Kanye is, especially since his fame reaches far beyond his music. He’s been involved in multiple controversies, designed one of the biggest shoe lines in the world, and until recently was married to Kim Kardashian. While many associate Ye with fame and riches, he wasn’t always the dominant artist that he is now.

Kanye after crashing his Lexus with his jaw wired shut

At one point, he was a small producer from southside Chicago making beats for local acts. Eventually, he gained recognition from big names like Jay-Z, whom he produced for the first time on “This Can’t be Life” on The Dynasty. The young producer wanted something more, though. He wanted his music to be his, instead of selling his skills to other artists and record labels. That’s when Kanye began rapping, trying to show his demo tape to other artists, producers, and A&Rs. Unfortunately, no one wanted to sign Ye as a rapper, and no one thought he was good enough.

Everything changed one night, however, when Kanye fell asleep at the wheel of his Lexus and nearly died in the resulting crash. The incident required his jaw be wired shut, and granted him a lot of free time to contemplate what he wanted to actually do with his career. That’s when he decided that he was set on becoming a rapper, and recorded his breakout single.

“Through the Wire” would end up being one of the most important pieces on his debut album, The College Dropout, as it was both great to listen to as well as astonishing from a vocal perspective—since he delivered the lyrics with his jaw still wired shut. After his car crash, everything changed. Ye signed with Roc-A-Fella Records and the rest is history. 

Themes

While I usually don’t discuss the themes of an album, all of Kanye’s albums represent something more than a collection of songs. In the case of The College Dropout, Kanye follows the narrative of a college dropout student, discussing the toxic American education system as well as other social issues which would continue to generate discourse into the 2020s. As examples of this theme, I have chosen “Jesus Walks” and “All Falls Down.”

“Jesus Walks”

“Jesus Walks” samples both gospel choir and military humming to contrast a harsh motif with soothing choir humming. The song delves into issues such as racism and religious suppression, and political correctness in media. The following lines could just as easily apply to recent events as they did when Kanye recorded them:

“Getting choked by detectives, yeah, yeah, now check the method
They be askin’ us questions, harass and arrest us
Sayin’ “We eat pieces of **** like you for breakfast”
Huh? Y’all eat pieces of ****? What’s the basis?
We ain’t going nowhere but got suits and cases”

“All Falls Down”

“All Falls Down” is a part of the title college narrative. The song delves into issues of student debt and the harshness of the college system in America, talking about the romanticization of college as well as the difficulties that people face even after acquiring a college degree. I felt these lines especially resonated: 

She’s so self conscious
She has no idea what she’s doing in college
That major that she majored in don’t make no money
But she won’t drop out, her parents will look at her funny
Now, tell me that ain’t insecure
The concept of school seems so secure”

Kanye’s imaginary girl is going to college, but stuck in a major that won’t make her a decent living—and due to a culture that romanticizes college, she will be stigmatized for dropping out. In truth, college isn’t “secure” for everyone. College students can accrue six figures of debt without the job security a degree is meant to provide. For many, alternatives such as trade school or going straight into work are necessary paths in order to not live in debt for the rest of their lives. Many people overlook the situation of dropouts, and this album addresses all the false stereotypes about dropping out of college.

Production

Here, The College Dropout is truly one of a kind. Kanye produces and co-produces on all of his songs, mixing and mashing with other producers in order to produce a symphony of beautiful instruments which accompany revolutionary sampling. The reason Kanye was able to land production jobs with artists like Jay-Z was his skill at using 20th-century soul samples, which is evident even in his later works, like “Blood on the Leaves.” On The College Dropout, Kanye would pitch up these samples in order to create synth-like instrumentation. The best example of this is “Family Business,” where Kanye sampled Fonky Thang’s “Diamon’ Rang.” He uses this sample both as backup vocals and as a short intermission during the chorus. 

Ye’s use of drums on The College Dropout is also sensational. While he had not yet delved into 808s (this would be his groundbreaking “discovery” on his 2008 album, 808s and Heartbreaks) his use of the quiet snares, bass, and other drums provides a perfect backdrop to each of his songs, controlling the tempo through their crescendo and diminuendo. Kanye’s mastery of the piano is also put on full display on The College Dropout, and songs like “School Spirit” combine traditional percussion with piano melodies to create orchestral sound. 

While it is common to see production like The College Dropout nowadays, it was revolutionary for its time.

Rapping

While I already discussed Kanye’s rapping in the thematic sense, I would also like to talk about Kanye’s pure voice from a vocal-instrumental aspect. In my review of Playboi Carti’s self-titled album, I mentioned Carti’s use of his voice as an instrument. Kanye, similarly, uses his voice as part of his layered instrumentation. As many who listen to his current works can recognize, Kanye not only perfectly controls his tempo on every piece, but he will even add effects on his voice in order to match with instrumental or soul samples. A great example of this is on “Two Words” when Ye adds a faded-out radio filter to his voice, complementing samples from Mandrill’s “Peace and Love.”

Conclusion

Simply put, every album Ye has put out has changed the game. Even his most hated albums, like Jesus is King, are revolutionary in some aspect or another. The beginning of his fabled rapper’s journey is on full display in The College Dropout, and it’s easy to see why it became a classic as soon it was released. Out of any album I’ve listened to so far, The College Dropout is the best without contention, and I say that confidently. While the album is overlooked by many, the symphony of narrative, instrumental, and vocal performance is unmatched and it stands the test of time.

Further Listening

  • To Pimp a Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar
  • My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West
  • 4:44 – Jay-Z
  • Man on the Moon: The End of Day – Kid Cudi
  • LONG.LIVE.A$AP – A$AP Rocky
  • Oxymoron – ScHoolboy Q
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Genshin Impact Anniversary: Is the Community Crazy? https://mcqshield.org/1956/video-games/genshin-impact-anniversary-is-the-community-crazy/ https://mcqshield.org/1956/video-games/genshin-impact-anniversary-is-the-community-crazy/#respond Tue, 16 Nov 2021 16:46:23 +0000 https://mcqshield.org/?p=1956 Genshin Impact is a open world role-playing game that took a good portion of the gaming community by storm just over a year ago. I had high hopes for this first anniversary, as someone who has played nearly since the original release. To understand my expectations, here are some brief pieces of information that should probably be covered before I dive into the article.

Genshin Impact is mainly known for incorporating a very uncommon system into the open-world RPG genre: the gacha system. Players get currency called primogems from quests and events that they can use to take their chances on the gacha, where they might get a character or a weapon. Five-star characters are featured on their special banners for about 20 days at a time, at which point they are no longer obtainable for some time.

These primogems are what makes all of the money. People spend a lot of money just to get the character they desire. To put the amount of money in perspective, this is how the pity system works.

To do a singular wish on your desired banner, you need a total of 160 primogems. The most common way players get primogems is by completing quests called “daily commissions” where players can amass a total of 60 primogems a day. Obviously, this is not a lot of primogems. To make sure that you have a 100% chance of getting the featured character you desire, you need to do 90 wishes. That means that you would need a total of 14,400 primogems, meaning that if you only got primogems by doing daily commissions every day, it would take you 240 days to get enough to guarantee that you will get the character you want. Events also tend to come out around a week and a half apart, with the average event granting an extra 420 primogems over a week. Some events, however, can give you over double that amount, such as the Thunder Sojourn event featured when the 2.0 update was released.

Credit: https://www.dualshockers.com/how-much-is-1680-genesis-crystals-in-dollars-genshin-impact/

Now we need to look at how much primogems cost. To the left, you can see a chart of how many primogems you can get for how much money you spend. For $100, you can get 50 wishes. This game also applies the idea that you get a higher value per dollar spent, so you would not get 25 wishes from 50 dollars. Assuming that you were willing to spend all of your money in order to get the character, you would have to spend approximately $360. It’s possible you’d spend closer to $250 if you got the character when the chances went up, or you could just get lucky and get the character for free—unlike me.

 

People were expecting a lot of free primogems given out on the anniversary, and some even made a chart about getting a free five star character as seen in the picture below.

Credit: https://www.essentiallysports.com/genshin-impact-what-to-expect-from-the-upcoming-one-year-anniversary-esports-news/

As you can see, this is a community-made concept, but many people expected to get rewards like this for the anniversary. Little did they know that those high expectations were going to be let down by a shocking anniversary reward.

Credit: https://www.forbes.com/sites/paultassi/2021/09/28/genshin-impacts-anniversary-arrives-with-no-compromise-from-mihoyo-on-event-rewards/

This is what was released September 28th, Genshin Impact’s first anniversary. When I saw this, I felt it was slightly underwhelming. It was apparent that everyone else felt the same way, so much so that the game’s userbase grew restless. Many people were very upset at not getting a free five-star character, and more were upset at not getting a boatload of rewards. For those of you that don’t know, one intertwined fate is equal to 160 primogems, so people got 10 wishes as the anniversary reward. This is honestly kind of a low bar, and many expected much more to come from the developers as a “thank you” for playing their game. This is when even the developers realized that this was not enough and more needed to be added to the rewards to please the community.

Credit: https://ag.hyperxgaming.com/article/12189/genshin-impact-anniversary-rewards-beefed-up-with-free-glider-after-fan-outcry

This is the first gift sent out in the mail to all of the players. Four of these gifts were sent out in total, each one giving 400 primogems + something else as another added bonus. This meant players were getting an extra 1600 primogems, a wind glider (an in-game tool used as an instrument) and some more in-game related items. This was certainly a big deal for miHoYo, as they were not known for giving out much at all.

You would think that this extra bonus would be enough to keep the community at bay. I personally felt that this was more than enough for rewards, and so did the majority of my friends. However, the community did not feel the same way. The first noticeable sign of anger coming from the community occurred in the official Genshin Impact discord server.

Credit: https://libredd.it/r/Genshin_Impact/comments/px7rxz/genshin_official_discord_is_filled_with_qiqi/

Thus, the arrival of the Qiqi emotes began. Throughout all of the chats in the server, members started spamming this emoji nonstop as a sign of hatred towards the developers for not giving them even more rewards. To some this was no more than a meme, but to others it was a message to the developers: basically, “screw you.” This was also followed by an even bigger and more serious issue in the Google Play Store.

Credit: https://www.sportskeeda.com/esports/google-help-genshin-impact-recover-review-bomb-deleting-negative-reviews-play-store

People took time out of their day to rate Genshin Impact with a 1* or lower rating just because they didn’t get a lot of rewards from the developers. This had a serious, well, impact on Genshin Impact and really showed how evil the community was.

These reactions from the community lead to the obvious question: are the developers really that greedy? The game already makes so much money and they didn’t give the community a whole bunch of rewards for their anniversary, so how bad was this?

The obvious answer is that the community overreacted. The developers gave out fairly good rewards overall. About $50 worth of materials and primogems were given out for free. That is a lot of money that they are practically giving away, and yet the community still felt that it wasn’t enough.

This whole series of events really goes to show how bad a community centralized around a certain video game can be. The fact that a community could push the developers of a game they love so much into such trouble over rewards that they didn’t even need to give out is honestly sad. I personally am grateful to the developers for making a game that has kept me playing for one year, whether they give out free rewards or not.

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NFL Rookies Revised https://mcqshield.org/2054/showcase/nfl-rookies-revised/ https://mcqshield.org/2054/showcase/nfl-rookies-revised/#respond Tue, 09 Nov 2021 22:52:15 +0000 https://mcqshield.org/?p=2054 Since I wrote an article about some disappointing NFL rookies, some of these players started to show promise. I wanted to update my list accordingly. 

Trevor Lawrence (QB, Jacksonville Jaguars)

Lawrence has shown promise these last few weeks, mostly due to his success limiting turnovers. He has only thrown two interceptions since week 3, which has made the Jags offense look a lot less bleak. Sure, they aren’t anywhere close to where they should be, but they are good enough to allow the defense to keep them in some games. Lawrence’s improved decision-making has led the Jaguars to two wins in three games, a feat that is somehow impressive for a team that had previously gone a whole calendar year without a single win. 

Kadarius Toney (WR, New York Giants)

My narrative has completely flipped on Toney, especially after his 189-yard breakout game vs. the Cowboys. Sure, he hasn’t had much consistent production since, but that game showed he has serious potential. Plus, he’s a fun player to watch, as he puts defenders on skates every time he gets the ball. Once he gets fully healthy and Saquon Barkley comes back to alleviate some of the pressure off of the quarterback, Toney should be right back where he left off. 

Alex Leatherwood (RT, Las Vegas Raiders)

Since my first article, the Raiders have moved Leatherwood to guard. From what I’ve read and watched, he seems to be performing a lot better not having to deal with the NFL’s speedy edge rushers. Regardless, I still don’t understand why he was drafted so high. I think the Raiders have more serious problems to be worrying about than Leatherwood’s first-round value, as they’ve already lost their coach and top draft pick due to “incidents.” 

Justin Fields (QB, Chicago Bears)

After his atrocious game vs. the Browns, Fields has turned it around a bit. He has four touchdowns to eight interceptions, with almost half of those picks coming in a brutal game vs. the Bucs. Fields has still shown playmaking ability, especially after he almost led the Bears to a comeback victory against the Steelers. (If only they hadn’t paid the refs.) Fields is the perfect QB prototype for today’s NFL. He just has to fit all of the pieces together, and I have faith that he will. 

Zach Wilson (QB, New York Jets)

Not much has changed with the BYU Babyface. He had a relatively good game against the Titans, but the defense was what ultimately won the Jets that game. He got injured in the second Patriots game, and since then, Mike White looked (for a week) like he could replace him. White won them a game against the Bengals with an outstanding performance, but was injured in the Colts game, which the Jets lost. Remarkably, third-stringer Josh Johnson did throw for 3 TDs and played well in the losing effort. Zach Wilson’s return from injury seems imminent, but undeserved, given how well his backups have been playing.

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Life-Saving Candy Review for Halloween Enjoyment https://mcqshield.org/1983/showcase/life-saving-candy-review-for-halloween-enjoyment/ https://mcqshield.org/1983/showcase/life-saving-candy-review-for-halloween-enjoyment/#respond Tue, 09 Nov 2021 02:50:37 +0000 https://mcqshield.org/?p=1983 In the course of American childhood, one may come across a certain odd tradition called “trick or treating.”

If you’re not familiar, it goes like this: on the last night of every October, kids approach their neighbor’s houses and ask for candy. Most of the time, their neighbors comply. They stock up on candy a few days before, eat said candy, and sometimes, go back to the store for more candy on the day of, in many different brands, sizes, and flavors; among them you may find Three Musketeers, Milky Way, Snickers, Twix, Kit-Kat, Reese’s, M&Ms and Crunch. Today, I intend to analyze why they are popular.

Let’s start with what seems like the most basic: Three Musketeers, which consists of chocolate mouse wrapped in chocolate. Basic, as I said, but it is easy to find joy in its simplicity. It doesn’t try to be anything fancy. It doesn’t claim to “cure hunger” (like Snickers) or live by a snappy catchphrase like “give me a break” (Kit-Kats), and that’s what makes it appealing. Three Musketeers may not be as tasty as some other candies, but it still provides the trick-or-treater with the sugar rush that they desire.

Next: the Milky Way. The Milky Way is simply a Three Musketeers with caramel on top of the chocolate mouse. Some people would debate that the addition of caramel to anything as plain as a Three Musketeers is a huge improvement, but I disagree. Caramel makes things chewy. Many kids who go trick-or-treating likely have braces, and anyone who has braces has been told by their orthodontist and their parents to stay away from chewy foods. Thus, it doesn’t make sense to add caramel to a candy bar that his marketed toward young children. Then there’s the taste of caramel. [Ed. Note—oh, now it’s on.] People everywhere love the taste of caramel . . . but I am bothered by it. It is too fake and sugary, and I actively avoid most candies with caramel in them.

Logically, what follows is the Snickers bar. It is simply a Milky Way with nuts. Many consider it the best candy bar; few would turn one down. Despite the presence of caramel, I actually like Snickers. The nuts are a major bonus, adding crunch, flavor, and variety that you don’t see with other candy bars. However, I would never go so far as to say that Snickers are “the cure for hunger.” Mars, Inc.’s claim that this candy bar can quench someone’s desire for sustenance and satisfy their hunger feels like false advertising, and they could be sued for millions of dollars. Hunger aside, it’s a great candy and worthy of most of the praise it gets, and I am not disappointed when I pull it out of my trick-or-treating bag.

Twix is a candy bar consisting of a crunchy biscuit topped with caramel and chocolate. It is really quite crunchy and chewy, but it is marketed towards young kids, who likely have braces. I, however, am fond of Twix. I like the combination of the flavors, but I am bothered by their ad campaign as well. The put either “left” or “right” on each of their wrappers, which suggests that the two are different, when, in reality, they are not.

Now, the Kit-Kat. It is made of sugary wafers wrapped in chocolate, and it has no caramel. I like this one very much; it is crunchy, sweet, and a Halloween staple. Unlike some of these other candies, there is a specific way to eat Kit-Kats. You tear one of the long wafer pieces off and eat them one at a time, rather than biting into the whole bar like an animal! Ask most people on the street how they eat a Kit-Kat bar, and most people will say that they eat it the proper way. With those who say otherwise, you’ll start to notice that how they eat Kit-Kats is far from the least of their moral failings. Apart from that, Kit-Kat has been running their own misleading ads, where they claim to be the signature candy bar of “having a break.” This is, of course, outrageous, deplorable advertising.

Next are Reese’s, which is the only peanut-butter-based candy on this list, probably because it has monopolized that market. It is made of a peanut butter base wrapped in chocolate, and has many varieties: original (large), mini, and pieces (M&M sized). I personally enjoy them, and I am certainly not disappointed to receive them.

Next comes M&Ms, which are just milk chocolate wrapped in colorful coatings. They also come in many varieties: original (milk chocolate), peanut, peanut butter, and caramel. I really love M&Ms are a Halloween staple, and in fact fit for all other festive occasions.

Finally, there’s the Crunch bar, one of my all-time favorites. It is a milk chocolate candy bar with crisped rice. The rice gives it the eponymous crunch, and the milk chocolate is some of the best out there. I wish that this was more of a household name in terms of what the “complying neighbors” buy. I get very excited when I pull it out of my bag, because it is a very rare occurrence.

Those complying neighbors may also give out other, less compliant, things: dental floss, toothbrushes, or even mini-Bibles. These will do nothing but focus the hatred of neighborhood children on said house, and possibly even earn it the old TP treatment.

Even if some kids may have a peanut allergy, and cannot eat lots of candies. I still believe that everyone should go trick-or-treating as a child. It is a fundamental human experience that every child in America should get—and a lot of candy, of course.

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Veterans’ Mental Health https://mcqshield.org/2014/showcase/veterans-mental-health/ https://mcqshield.org/2014/showcase/veterans-mental-health/#respond Tue, 09 Nov 2021 02:11:05 +0000 https://mcqshield.org/?p=2014 According to a report published by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in 2016, an average of 20 veterans die from suicide every day. That is a serious issue and it does not appear to be going away. Data from the VA shows that 30 percent of active duty and reserve personnel deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan have a mental health problem requiring treatment. Of these 30% only half of returning veterans in need receive any mental health treatment from the VA, which is the executive department responsible for providing life-long healthcare services to eligible military veterans. Unfortunately, this agency has been devastated by various issues for years. The VA has faced reports of excessive and contradictory spending, allegations of inadequate health care, massive backlogs of benefits claims, and an untenable position for senior leadership. 

This graphic shows just how much of an issue mental illness in veterans is. (Credit: Mental Health First Aid)

Why is the care of our veterans an important issue? These brave citizens have earned our appreciation and affection because of the sacrifice that they have made for us. Without our armed forces, the United States of America would be unable to protect the freedoms and rights of its citizens throughout our great nation. This critical duty is the most important role of our nation’s government: to protect the life and liberty of American citizens. And yet, we are continually distracted by more trivial endeavors. Oftentimes, veterans do not get the respect and love that they deserve after returning home from combat. Our nation’s veterans are often ignored and disregarded and this has occurred for decades. A classic example of the unwelcome return for American veterans was after the Vietnam War. Approximately 2.7 million American men and women served in Vietnam, 58,000 of which died. When they returned, America failed to welcome its veterans back as heroes—a terrible occurrence, as our troops suffered because of unpopular decisions by political leaders. The situation has improved since then, but there is still a long way to go and many challenges exist in the way of achieving proper respect and appreciation for veterans. 

Physical injuries are often obvious and rather diagnosable. Conversely, mental illnesses are less noticeable and are often recognized only much later. According to the Catholic Health Association of the United States, “Unlike missing arms and legs, emotional and spiritual injuries can be hidden or minimized by veterans and their families. They can also be ignored or passed over by health care providers.” When veterans are missing limbs, the issue is quickly diagnosed and established treatment plans are enacted. Veterans are cheered on with each physical therapy session they attend, or as they master the use of new prostheses. When they return from combat and struggle to re-assimilate into civil society because of the guilt that they feel, however, the next steps are often much less clear. These injuries can be locked in their minds, without any outlet to release the frustration. Even though these mental injuries may be less obvious, they can cause serious issues. The three most common mental health concerns for veterans are Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). These illnesses are caused by the frightening experiences that veterans endure. They can be the result of physical injuries such as trauma, combat exposure, service injuries, or they can come from mental assaults such as the pressure of keeping yourself and others safe. Without therapy and a strong support group, veterans may feel lonely, lost, or hopeless when they encounter challenges in civil life. Many veterans end up homeless, unemployed, and poor. While these are sad conditions in any setting, it is particularly depressing to know that the very people who risked their lives for us are now suffering when they have returned to civilian life. Our veterans fall into these unfortunate cycles because they have not received sufficient mental care needed to address the issues they faced while serving. Life back in America can be very difficult for veterans who suffer from mental illness.

America’s veterans need our help, and there are plenty of ways that we can improve their situation. Supporting your local centers for veterans with donations of food and clothes is helpful, no doubt, but we can provide an even greater service with the simple investment of our time. Volunteering at veterans’ centers is a great way to make a difference in the lives of these brave people who have served our nation. As simple a task as sitting down and having a conversation with a veteran can contribute such an impact. One of the greatest services that we can provide is giving these veterans someone to talk to, someone who will listen. Oftentimes, a discussion can be therapeutic for a suffering person, and you will find that you will feel better, as well, after helping out a veteran. We can make a difference in the lives of the men and women who have served our nation, even if all we can change is the small things. 

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Emma Raducanu and the 2021 US Open https://mcqshield.org/1926/showcase/emma-raducanu-and-the-2021-us-open/ https://mcqshield.org/1926/showcase/emma-raducanu-and-the-2021-us-open/#respond Tue, 19 Oct 2021 01:51:41 +0000 https://mcqshield.org/?p=1926 The last Grand Slam event of 2021 was nothing short of history-making for the sport of women’s tennis.

The US Open took place in New York City, and on August 25, upcoming star Emma Raducanu played in the qualifiers. Battling opponent after opponent, she did not drop a single set and landed herself in the finals. This feat was incredible for many reasons.

First of all, before this summer, Raducanu had not played a single player ranked inside the top 100, and now she was about to play in the finals of a Slam. Raducanu also played the qualifiers, and then got all the way to the finals—a feat that had never happened before in the history of organized tennis.* On top of that, she had not dropped a single set during the entire tournament, gaining more than 100 ranking places and becoming British No. 1 on the way to becoming the first British woman to reach the US Open Final since 1968 Virginia Wade.

Now, after defeating Stefanie Vögele (currently ranked #841), Zhang Shuai (#8), Sara Sorribes Tormo (#34), Shelby Rogers (#40), Belinda Bencic (#9), and Maria Sakkari (#7), Raducanu faced Canadian Leylah Fernández for the title. If that wasn’t already an earth-shaking run, both Raducanu and Fernández are teenagers, both born in 2002, which made this the first US Open final in more than twenty years to feature two teens squaring off. (The last one was 1999, and the players were—you may have heard of them—Serena Williams and Martina Hingis.) As the match started, it was clear that Raducanu was not slowing down. After taking home the first set, the 18-year-old qualifier, who had ranked #150 in the world before this tournament, was only one  set away from victory. The pressure built up in the second set until finally, Raducanu came out with an ace to close the match.

Ten rounds and zero lost sets later, Emma Raducanu won the US Open and is now on track to become Britain’s richest sportswoman. The win also made her the first British woman to win a Grand Slam singles title since 1977. All was seemingly going perfectly for Raducanu, so it was very unexpected when she decided to fire her coach less than two weeks after winning perhaps the most prestigious tournament in tennis. Andrew Richardson had coached Emma for two years, and although it seems like it was certainly working, Raducanu had a different view. “I’m looking for someone who has been at that level and knows what it takes,” Raducanu said. Clearly, Emma feels like Richardson could only take her so far. She then said, “And especially right now because I’m so new to it, I really need someone to guide me who’s already been through that.”

Although the decision seems sudden and questionable, coaching relationships can go very wrong very quickly. At the top level, a coach is ‘hired to be fired’. The game changes from tournament to tournament, and in the end, it is up to the player to figure out what they think is best for them. If this US Open tells us anything, it’s that the future of women’s tennis looks bright, young, and talented.


Ed. Note: The Morales couldn’t resist pointing out that Puerto Rican tennis star Monica Puig, who won gold at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, completed a similar feat: she was the first unseeded player in the modern era to take the gold.

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