Oil Changes Are Awesome!

There’s usually a bit of paperwork hassle dealing with things that Harold and I share, but are in one person’s name, like whenever one of us wants to pay a bill that’s in the other person’s name. So I was a expecting a bit of annoyance when I took Harold’s car for an oil change this morning (I assume there’s some kind of highly profitable long con that involves getting oil changes on stolen vehicles.). Today I didn’t have any trouble,  PLUS I got to say “my husband” in conversation!

Being married is so great!

 

China Rich Girlfriend

china richChina Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan, blends lifestyle porn and careful attentions to customs and manners of an Edith Wharton or Candace Bushnell adventure, only set among the hyperwealthy Chinese, instead of hyperwealthy New Yorkers. So, the correct designers outfits are worn to the correct private jewelry showings, but instead of getting a summer house in the wrong side of the Hamptons, new money characters make their New Year’s visits in the wrong order. So good, you guys.

This would be a really fun read, if only for the travelogue and lifestyle porn aspects, but you guys, there is so much snark in this novel. There’s occasional Hokkien and Cantonese insults and snark, with the translation in even snarkier footnotes. When social consultant Corinna Ko-Tung agrees to reinvent Kitty Pong, a reality star with high-class aspirations, she gives her an assignment list of some of my favorite manners novels, with hilariously harsh commentary on how to learn from them.

At one point, Collette Bing, heiress and Instagram celebrity, spontaneously flies her friends (and her friends’ personal maids, of course) by carefully decorated private jet to Paris. Most of the friends in question treat this as though a  friend dropped by the office with a surprise latte, not that anyone here works an office job.  In another scene, gossiping aunties discuss who has been tragically disinherited and left with mere millions. And a young wife wonders if her hyperrich father might have deliberately overvalued and then secretly bought out her husband’s tech startup, in order to give his son-in-law some independence.

china rich exerpt

So much of this novel is snarky footnotes.

The story took a little while to get going, but don’t skim the names of party guests or skip who gave who a meaningful glance, and definitely don’t lose track of which characters are cousins. This is all vitally important information.

Apparently Rachel and Nick’s romance was covered in Crazy Rich Asians, Kwan’s first novel, but I didn’t realize this going in. At the beginning of the book, Nick has defied his wealthy and connected family to marry Rachel, an American-born college professor, who doesn’t have a famous name or even a father’s name. But it turns out that Rachel bears a striking resemblance to another Hong Kong patriarch, and she might have a pedigree after all. There were several story arcs, with so many great characters, leading to a really delightful ending where all our star-crossed lovers get to be together, including a perfect secret boyfriend for Kitty Pong. But a pretty major question has been left unresolved, because we never really find out if Nick will be reinstated as the heir to his family’s fortune after marrying someone outside the circle. Maybe that means a third romp through the social lives of hyperrich Asian families is coming?

 

 

I received a copy of the book to review. Opinions are my own, as always, and eARCs have never stopped me from snarking about a bad book.

It Is So Ordered

it is so ordered

Today all my social channels are rainbows and happiness and lists of benefits for married couples and sweet courthouse wedding photos and more rainbows. It’s so wonderful to be a newlywed looking at all the newly married couples, and seeing all the happy brides and grooms, and reading all the reasons why people get married! I mean, I’ve only been married 6 days, but it’s been pretty great so far!

husband

 

Sorting and Packing with Sortly

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The Sortly app was originally called My Things — Where Are They and seriously, isn’t that exactly what moving feels like sometimes? Basically, Sortly is Evernote for your items. If you are a collector (or, ahem, married to a collector), you could also use it for organizing your mint condition action figures and comic books.  You can take photos and add items to containers, so you could keep track of where each Star Trek figure ends up. You can also search by tag, but that means knowing if you put that Batman variant under DC or Detective Comics or Bruce Wayne.

sortly square

You can rename your folders in Sortly, which is particularly useful if you’re trying to separate things we’re using now, things we’re packing for our future home in Brooklyn, things Harold will use for a few months in North Carolina alone, things I’m taking to China, and a small box for Harold to mail to me in China later. (I didn’t add these next categories to Sortly, but I also had bags of clothes for the thrift shop, a bag for the Scrap Exchange, and way too many boxes of books to sell.) (Since I lived in a tiny Brooklyn apartment, I’ve been making a conscious effort to get more books and ebooks from the library, and only buy copies of the books I really want to own and reread and devote the space to. Turns out there are still a lot of books I want to own in hard copy.)

I’ve also been using the GoodReads scanner app as I pack up. Julie mentioned this a while ago, I thought it was brilliant, as I don’t have to spend all day scanning barcodes, and then I promptly forgot about it. So I’ve been adding the books I plan to sell or give away to my virtual shelves.

The Sortly app has a free version, and a premium version. I was offered the premium version for this review (Thanks, Sortly!) but the free version has so many options already and does so much useful stuff already, that I’m not sure I would have purchased premium on my own.

 

sortly life

This post is shared with you in partnership with Sortly, because I’m an expert on sorting junk. Or because the nice people at Sortly took pity on me. You decide.

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Also The Whole Thing Really

One of the common complaints about social media is that people who are Instagramming or livetweeting their experiences, aren’t really “present” in the moment they’re recording, and are therefore enjoying things incorrectly.  I usually don’t understand this complaint, and it falls into the category of enjoying it wrong or XKCD’s other people having experiences incorrectly.  Does anyone ever wish they had written less in their diary or had fewer photographs of things they enjoyed?

But in the time leading up to our wedding, I didn’t really have any desire to record or chronicle what was happening. Now that we’re married, and I’m just waiting for another chance to say “my husband” and laugh hysterically, here are some things about weddings:

The old rule about the groom not seeing the dress is a good one to follow because if the groom can’t see the dress, he can’t put a cooler of snacks on top of it.

Wedding dresses are complete bullshit. The more I think about the time, money, and effort involved in something I wore for a couple hours, the more bizarre the entire concept is. Social customs, man. So weird if you think about it. Actually, don’t think too much about wedding symbols and why they exist in general, because then you will say things like “Fine, let’s get this patriarchal handover started.” and everything will accuse of you not taking the wedding seriously and not being romantic.

We went to a jewelers in South Dartmouth to get Harold’s wedding ring resized, because our trip to the Chapel Hill jeweler had been not so great. My favorite part was being told that in a few years when we have more money, I could upgrade my engagement ring and get a better diamond, and that I shouldn’t worry too much because lots of people start off with small diamonds. Bizarre upsell attempt, I think. Harold was also told that men always complain about their rings, and that his ring fits just fine.  (It didn’t fit fine, and while I don’t much care about most of the wedding traditions, I do feel rather strongly that a wedding band is not to be worn as a pinky ring, and that’s why we were resizing at the last minute.)

We had a ceremony at my dad’s church, and about 20 guests to dinner at the parsonage next door. I thought this would be simple and manageable. I was wrong.

My dad ended the ceremony with “husband and wife, Meg and Harold” in order to avoid saying Mr and Mrs, because even if I am going to do the whole patriarchal handover, I’m not changing my name.

Even if you are in your thirties, and have given marriage a lot of soul-searching, and are crazy about your intended spouse, and have thought a great deal about whether marriage is just the social expectation or if it’s really the best thing for your life, and know each other very well, and have decided that you’re really, really ready to get married, the part where you actually see the marriage license is pretty scary.  Also, the part where you walk into the church. Also, the whole thing really.

See Ya, Space Cowgirls: Til Cows Tear Us Apart

I’ve been playing tons of browser games to review for my students, which means spending a lot of time on sites like Kongregate. I keep getting Til Cows Tear Us Apart in my recommended games, which is probably because a retro space adventure about alien ladies is perfect for me. But I’m usually looking for games to share with my students, and one of the first player choices in Cows is whether or not to pretend to be hookers, and that’s followed by which kind of recreational drugs to buy, so even though I really wanted to see where it led, I realized this was probably not the best choice to introduce to my 10-year-olds.

Wah wah wah, I had to stop playing the game I wanted and go play a different game for work, wah wah, my life is so terribly hard. But I finally had the chance to play it at home, and this game did not disappoint.

welcome to the freakshow

Welcome to the freakshow, foreigners!

Til Cows Tear Us Apart is about two girlfriends, Enora and Quanee, and their struggles to smuggle a payload of cows across the galaxy to Truxon, where cows are super valuable because the citizens really, really like cows. Ahem. (Hmm, that part’s probably not kid-friend either.)

The spacefaring duo need sneak to past alien customs, battle bounty hunters or try fast talking out of trouble. There are multiple paths with different endings, depending on player choices, or whether you use the FTL drive to warp out of or into trouble. Along the way, the cow counter on the top of the screen keeps track of how many cows have been sold, given as bribes, teleported away, or otherwise disappeared.  In between conflicts, Quanee and Enora will flirt, discuss their heist, and listen to the radio, in a Cowgirl Bebop kind of way.

louise gannett

She seems nice. Pretty too. Did Enora date her?

As I played, I unlocked achievements for reaching different story points, which made even goofy decisions (Should I land on this planet and try the peyote? Should I flirt my way out, or just nuke this guy?) seem more meaningful. Also, players can speed through sections in replays, which encouraged me to replay again and again, for different storylines that did not disappoint. So much blasting, romance, and listening to space music in this little game!

first ghost

This is when Quanee and Enora tripped on peyote and saw the ghost of Chloridian General Clusterduck.

Til Cows Tear Us Apart was created by Pierre Corbinais for the Space Cowboy Game Jam. Even if you’re going to play the browser version on Kongregate, it’s worth checking out the game jam’s page to see how Til Cows Tear Us Apart ranked in essential space cowgirl categories, like Lonesomeness, The Void, and Romance. When I realized this was made in just a couple days, I started to notice that the images of Enora and Quanee at the ship’s console is the majority of the game’s art assets, but that’s ok, because the fun concept, the variety of music and the branching story options make it seem like a much more vivid gameworld.

Til Cows Tear Us Apart blends retro pixel art, choice-based adventures with a Cowboy Bebop / Firefly space bandit universe, which are pretty much all things I like. Probably why it kept coming up on my recommendations.

First Step: Proving I Don’t Have Leprosy

leprosy free border I’ve been talking around this for a bit, mentioning my Chinese lessons and alluding to future changes, but with my work visa in the works, now it seems like it’s really happening. I’m going back to China for a few months to teach.

Actually, I’ve been talking about going back for years. Literally years. I’ve looked into it a couple times, but there’s always been a reason to stay. Mostly for wonderful reasons, like I was enjoying my work, or I had a great opportunity here, or I loved being in Brooklyn, or I wanted to be with Harold. But there’s always going to be good reasons to stay, you know?

I’m really looking forward to the new adventure. I’m excited to be traveling again, improving my Chinese, seeing a new city in my second country, and joining a great program to teach ESL, although I’m not really looking forward to being away from Harold for a few months. He’s planning a good long visit this fall, a bit of a delayed honeymoon, but my Harold isn’t exactly a traveler at heart. (If you know Harold, you are giggling at my understatement. If you don’t, well, Harold is someone who really likes his daily routine, and his comfortable chair in the evening, preferably surrounded by his collection of comic books and toys.) For some reason, the idea of heading to a new country where he doesn’t speak the language, or have a job, or any familiarity with the lifestyle, or know any one, just doesn’t appeal to him. Whatever. People can be so strange, the way different people want different things than I do.

There are a lot of annoying logistics to sort out before the full awesomeness kicks in, but when I think about all the things I have in the works, I am so, so excited.

 

Destroying Daleks in “Doctor Who Legacy”

screenshotI discovered Doctor Who Legacy when some of the kids at a homeschool convention saw my Tardis necklace, and told me all their favorite Doctor Who games and episodes. When one of the kids showed me this game on his iPad, and I saw the screen full of colored gems, I asked if it was a match-three.

“How did you that’s what you do?” one of the kids asked. “Wait, have you played this before?”

Oh, my sweet summer children.

Doctor Who Legacy is a strategic match-three, where all the powers and characters relate to the show. As you play the match-three boards, you’ll unlock doctors and companions, and each character has a special ability.  Martha Jones increases healing by 15%, and the Eleventh Doctor can use A Fast Plan to attack. One of the companions is a cute little Adipose, with the ability to change black gems into yellow gems. That’s because adipose stem cells are pluripotent and can become all different things. (I hope you laughed, because that joke is the only enjoyment I got out of that science class.)

match 3 square

How did you know this is a match-three, Ms Meg?

You’ll get one doctors and up to five companions on your team, while the rest of the unlocked characters hang out on the Tardis, probably  having the best party ever. You can only use one team at a time, but you can make and save multiple teams, so you could have a team with your favorite doctors and his real companions, and a optimal team for defeating levels of Weeping Angels, and also a team of Beloved and Underused Companions. (I stole that idea from a twelve-year-old, and I am not sorry.)

Each puzzle level progresses the plot, and for dedicated fans, you can also buy the related episode right through the game.

The game is freemium, powered either by 30-second invasive adverts, or an in-app purchase to unlock the a Fan Area with new content. There’s so much free content to play, so many levels and characters and upgrades, that unlocking the Fan Area is only really tempting as a way to make the advertisements stop. I had a long conversation with Harold about whether this is an ad-supported game or the freemium model where the game is deliberately unbalanced, and players are extorted to fix the balance. Actually it wasn’t so much a conversation as it was me ruminating on monetization methods and perceived value while Harold reads a comic and murmurs agreement periodically. Relationships are great!

Also, players who pay unlock Donna Noble, so there’s a serious value add for players who purchase. I’m glad that she’s so much of a fan favorite.

skip the story

Are you really sure? We didn’t get this dialogue approved by all those brand managers just for you to skip it! 

If you don’t want to read the dialogue (which is quite good, but definitely doesn’t hold up the second, third or sixtieth times you replay the level trying to get the Martha Jones rare drop), this pop-up reminds you that without the story, you’re playing a clever match-three.

I tend towards simple puzzle games while I’m unwinding… where most people would read a little, but if I start reading I’ll be up all night finishing the book. Anyway. My friend Jennette talks about playing a few rounds of Candy Crush in the evening, and I’m finding that’s what I do with Doctor Who Legacy: Stretch out and defeat a few Daleks before bedtime.

 

Trumpington Street

stcatzOne of our welcome lectures right after I arrived in Cambridge told us that the friendships and connexions* we were all about to make would last us all our lives.

Blatant classism!
I thought.  Literally announcing that who you know is important!

At the time, I was on a short-term exchange from a large state college, and this seemed like a peek into how the other half lives. Actually, the entire course seemed like that, reading classics at Cambridge was a wonderful academic dream, while at back at my school, I was always having to explain what classics is. Anyway, that moment from the welcome lecture stayed with me because it seemed somehow un-American and un-democratic to announce that who you know will affect your future great deal, and that meeting Cambridge students was naturally a huge leg up on the chauvs** back at my state school.

I was recently talking to a work contact, and the moment I found out he also went to Cambridge,  my perception of him changed.  I want to say that I immediately though he was quicker or cleverer now (That reminds me, another of our lecturers said that Oxford students are led to answer questions, while Cambridge students discover which questions to ask, which blew my mind because back at my state school, students learn how to show up on Fridays to take the obligatory reading comp quizzes), but instead I thought, Oh! Just like me! Let’s be friends! Even though we didn’t live in the same college, have the same major, or even attend at the same time. Basically, I instantly warmed to this person entirely based on mutual familiarity with the train station, the Eagle, and possibly a couple of classrooms.

I wonder if that’s what that welcome lecture meant.

 

*Spelled that way because this was in the UK, obviously.

** Still in the UK.

Will You Survive ‘Give Up 2’?

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give up 2 logoI’ve been playing a bunch of platformers, like Continuity, Vex, and a crazy elephant game called This Is The Only Level, and the kids have been recommending more and more evilly difficult platformers. So Give Up 2 over on CrazyGames fit right in.

This game takes the funstration of difficult platformers to the next level by adding a gigantic GIVE UP button and an unseen enemy who taunts players as they use the arrows (or W A S D) to avoid obstacles.

give up 2 crazy games

On each level, players will avoid standard platformer hazards, starting with spikes and then including deathrays, while trying to get to the exit door. I’m not entirely sure why we’re running for the exit, since it just leads to another evilly difficult level in this mad science laboratory.   Fail, and your stickfigure character becomes a bloodstain. (It’s not gross, but that is why I decided not to show this one to my students. The kids would love another evil game about carefully timing taps, but I’m not sure if parents would love stick figure carnage quite as much.) The whole game has a great atmosphere and a zany concept, the combination was a little bit like Portal mixed with This Is The Only Level. (And a dash of Achievement Unlocked, another zany elephant platformer.)

Give Up 2 finds new ways to be evil on each level, and the giant GIVE UP button on the bottom of the screen at all time is surprisingly motivating. If you’ve beaten every Vex-ing challenge, see how long before you Give Up.

Give Up 2 is currently available on CrazyGames, along with plenty of other Flash games like puzzle game 2048, and evil twin 2584, secret vampire makeouts in Twilight Kissing, and cute buttonmashing adventure Mighty Knight.

playable

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crazygamesThis post is shared with you in partnership with CrazyGames.

 

 

 

 

“If You’re Not The One”

In If You’re Not The One by Jemma Forte, Jen Wright is in an underwhelming marriage, with two small and needy children. She’s wishing for a little more passion and excitement when she’s hit by a car, and while in an accident-induced coma, is able to see the other lives she could have had by making other choices.

I love this basic premise, that by making a slightly different choice — or in Jen’s case, by making a fairly large choice about who to date and who to break up with — we could have entirely different lives. Jen experiences days in her various alternate lives, and sees the positive and negative sides. If she’d run off with Aidan, the handsome free spirit she met while backpacking, she’d have had an amazing year in Australia, but lose touch with her friends and become estranged from her mother. If she’d stayed with her workaholic tech entrepreneur boyfriend, she’d have ended up with all her material wants sated, but also be having an affair with the chef.  I won’t give the whole thing away, but Jen experiences each possible life with each possible mate before waking back up to her husband, Max.

One of the possible lives, though, was so much better than the others. I mean, you’re supposed to root for Jen and Steve, right? The drawbacks — that they never have kids and that they look after his aging mother — are so tiny when she and her husband have amazing careers, travel all over, and he’s still so crazy in love with her. Well, anyway, totally sure which One I would have picked.

I received this novel from NetGalley to review. Opinions are my own.

Beginning Chinese

Chinese for Beginners

 

Just finished my Chinese class! I took the beginning Chinese class from 北京大学 through Coursera, and now I can do basic things in Chinese, like say the days of the week or ask about favorite television shows, instead of just ordering food.  I really liked how this class was organized, and not only because I got to see nice little green checkmarks whenever I passed a quiz. The lessons are short, so you’re not bombarded with new vocab, and the class constantly referred back to vocabulary from previous lessons. Students also get a couple tries at each quiz, which always reduces test stress, and it’s a Coursera on-demand class, so you can watch the lectures whenever you want, as many times as you want.

Exploding Limes and Fractal Cabbage

secret study in enchanted cave banner

A few weeks ago, I covered the browser version of Enchanted Cave 2 for my students, so I was pretty excited to review this roguelike treasure grab for adult gamers over on Hardcore Droid. Lots of meta-jokes for RPG gamers, and silly items to loot!

Enchanted Cave 2 opens in a typical RPG town, full of townspeople sharing the requisite warnings about the boundless dangers and wonderful treasures found in the nearby cursed cave, but this is not quite an RPG.  I quickly discovered that the cursed cave is a randomly-generated dungeon of treasure and death, perfect for roguelike exploration. Adventurers battle their way through, looting bags of cash, weapons, armor, and crafting ingredients (like unicorn poop or exploding limes).  If you let your adventurer run out of health, he’ll die in the cave, never to be seen again. More importantly, you’ll lose all the gold, loot, and skills you’ve acquired in that dungeon run, so keep an eye on the all-important health bar. This gives a great tension to battles, and makes those healing potions incredibly precious.

via Enchanted Cave 2 on Hardcore Droid