May Fit The Requirements

social-media-intern-hiddenA few weeks ago, I noticed Indeed’s depressing new “feature” which sends an automated follow-up asking if you’ve heard back from places to which you’ve applied. Because who doesn’t want to be reminded of the CVs and cover letters they’ve sent, without a response from a prospective employer? I’m in a pretty good place with freelance work and teaching, but being reminded of just how many cover letters I’ve written and sent off into the abyss is deeply depressing.

Today Indeed sent me a different message! In theory, sending available positions to job-seekers is a much better feature. Except Indeed wants me to know that I’m probably qualified to be an unpaid intern. Not definitely or anything. It’s not an offer. But they’ve reviewed my resume, and think I’m probably qualified to work for free.

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Captain Prototype

Remember that Captain Action game I started working on last year? We got the first prototype this week, and it looks so good. After so long on index cards and in shared docs, it’s great to see it looking like a real game. Harold’s done an amazing job sourcing original Captain Action art from a long list of comics illustrators, and he’s also come up with packaging and a wild cards that references the original. I’ve kept the original 3-in-1 game concept, with three different card games that can be played with the same deck.

captian-action-demoJust a couple more tweaks before our November launch!

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Turing Test, HSK Test

You know that philosophy puzzle called the Chinese Room about the definition of AI? It basically ask if you don’t speak Chinese, but have sufficient dictionaries and translation resources to fake it to people who don’t see your 老外 face, did you just pass a Chinese Turing test?

Searle (1999) summarized the Chinese Room argument concisely:

Imagine a native English speaker who knows no Chinese locked in a room full of boxes of Chinese symbols (a data base) together with a book of instructions for manipulating the symbols (the program). Imagine that people outside the room send in other Chinese symbols which, unknown to the person in the room, are questions in Chinese (the input). And imagine that by following the instructions in the program the man in the room is able to pass out Chinese symbols which are correct answers to the questions (the output). The program enables the person in the room to pass the Turing Test for understanding Chinese but he does not understand a word of Chinese.

Searle goes on to say, “The point of the argument is this: if the man in the room does not understand Chinese on the basis of implementing the appropriate program for understanding Chinese then neither does any other digital computer solely on that basis because no computer, qua computer, has anything the man does not have.” The Chinese Room Argument (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Anyway, I’m studying for the HSK right now, and I’m pretty sure that I’m the guy carefully producing a reasonable facsimile of Chinese in the Chinese Room.

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Adult Collector


These nerd toys are labeled adult collector so that kids can’t accidentally open it and  decrease the value by playing with it. These are for grown men to keep NIB and then swap and sell on toy collecting message boards.  I have married one of these men, which is how I know NIB means New In Box on toy collecting message boards.

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Some of my students from my last session at Chinese school came back to visit me between classes, but I only have a very short break in 6 hours of class (and my break was already eroded by school admin giving me some brand new paperwork that’s due today. There’s no way this could have been avoided, because email hasn’t been invented yet).

I wanted to see the kids, and see how adorable they are and how much they’ve grown over the summer BUT I also wanted some time to eat my sandwich.

This has been a metaphor for my entire teaching career.

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Nancy Drew: Code and Clues

tech-fair-ndccIn the new iOs game Nancy Drew: Codes and Clues, tween Nancy Drew, along with her usual pals Bess and George is about to enter their robotic puppy into the school tech fair. (Sound familiar? A robotic puppy was also Barbie’s project in thatdisappointing Barbie programming book. Previous Nancy Drew releases from Her Interactive have done a great job avoiding the pink and cute trap, so I really hope robo-puppy will be upgraded to a robotic T-Rex in future games. I mean, every time we see girls engaging with code and development, it does a little bit to dismantle programmer culture, but I still hope the next round of these products will move beyond packaging programming as a cute puppy.) When another girl’s project disappears, the three friends are on the case, collecting clues and questioning other students!


This follows the Nancy Drew game pattern of alternating hidden object scenes to collect clues with Nancy talking to witnesses and suspects.  The difficulty is scaled down perfectly for a younger crowd, with lots of repetition in the clues, and a suspect notebook to check later. I can definitely see this introducing younger players to the Nancy Drew case files series.

The coding section basically adds a minigame into the beloved Nancy Drew mix of hidden objects scenes and mystery clues. After each stage, Nancy, George and Bess send their robotic puppy to sneak around or get to the exit. Players need to use simple commands like forward, up, down, and crawl to get robopup to the goal. Later levels introduce loops and so forth. It’s hard to mess up these challenges — even trying to fail, I couldn’t. You could easily hand this to an elementary school student, without worrying about any programming frustration.

art-girls-ndccAs the detective trio search for clues at different locations, there are frequent dress-up opportunities so the girls can blend in, as good detectives do. This is just choosing from three new outfit options, it would have been great to have separate tops and bottoms, or accessories to really customize the characters.

Nancy Drew: Codes and Clues is a $3.99 purchase, which is quite reasonable considering the number of scenes and playtime. There are no in-app purchases to tempt young players, in keeping with the game’s target demographics.

Overall, this is a fun, age-appropriate iPad game. It’s a sweet little sister to the Nancy Drew case files games, and it was great to see young girls excited about participating in the tech fair and about programming. Bonus points for not condescending to the classmates they meet in the gym or art studio!

I was so happy to have the chance to partner with Her Interactive on this post. Longtime readers will know that I love the
Nancy Drew Dossier series, and I’m always excited by products aimed at introducing more girls to programming and development.

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Mid-Autumn Festival

moonviewing-dayOn my early-morning walk to Chinese school, I saw barriers closing off a Chinatown road, and wondered which Chinese holiday was  coming up. The lunar calendar means that even though Moon-Viewing Day snuck up on me last year in Shanghai, it snuck up on me again this mid-autumn in Boston. They should call it mid-autumn festival or something so I’d know when it is…

I really imagined that after living in China, I would understand and keep track of Chinese holidays better. But understanding Chinese life is one of those endless learning curves, so every time I understand something new, it just shows me how much I still don’t understand even a little. (See also: Writing) It’s taken me several attempts at dry, heavy cakes to admit that, no, I don’t want to eat a mooncake, and even so, if you tell me that your grandma makes the best filling or that this shop sells out of lotus-paste cakes every year, I will probably fall for it again. And again.

Last year, I enjoyed the full moon reading on my porch at Woman Tree Bookshop, in Shanghai. Marcus’ book had just come out, and I’d done all the jiggerypokery to get it to my Kindle, and found myself rereading it after a long, busy day exploring Shanghai.

This year, I taught my classes and then walked through the Chinatown street fair. At home, I sat in my tiny triangular garden, a little patch of green wedged in between my house and the Thai restaurant next door. It’s walled just like my Shanghai porch, and good for reading, and very brief moon-viewing, before I heard the siren song of my pillows.

So many changes between last Mid-Autumn Festival and this year’s.



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Jack Up Pharma Prices In New ‘Epipen Tycoon’

epipen tycoonIn Epipen Tycoon, you play as a pharma CEO who’s struggling to turn lifesaving medical technology into personal millions.

This game is basically a clicker, which makes it extra clear that you’re playing as the invisible hand of the free market, raises prices just as much as the market will bear. Click to raise or lower the price of epipens, but if you fall before what consumers are willing to pay to stay alive and keep their kids alive, you’re ousted from your CEO job, with a severance package of just a couple million dollars.

severanceSo, unless you want to be unemployed with just a couple million in the bank, you’ll click to increase the price of epipens, quickly enough that your salary keeps increasing but not so quickly that customer outrage rises to dangerous levels. If it gets too high, you can use one of the random items you receive, like a 2% discount, a chance to blame Obama, or a phonecall to senator dad to reduce patient outrage.

epipen tycoon screenshotObviously, the ideal strategy is to keep outrage at a gentle yellow level, so your salary is climbing, and people are just unhappy about the price of healthcare, but not actually protesting your company. Sometimes, sure, some people drop dead in front of your offices, but free market, baby!

Epipen Tycoon is about five minutes of generic clicker gameplay, but at the same time, it’s  incredibly creepy to play as the invisible hand of the free market affecting healthcare.

Epipen Tycoon is a new browser game from The GOP Arcade, the same people who made the Thoughts and Prayers game.


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The History Major

The History Major, a novella by Michael Phillip Cash, tells the story of a college freshman who wakes up in a dorm where everything’s just a little bit off. Her roommate, her classmates, even her class schedule are unfamiliar, and she seems to have lost a few months between lying down and waking up.

The story’s got a great premise, but it’s not exactly a page-turner. I wasn’t waiting to see how events would turn out, in fact, a lot of the time, I wasn’t even sure the scenes were going or which details were background. Instead, I continued reading because Cash conveys a dreamlike state, where things are just not quite right, and I was intrigued by this half-world, which began to seem like a possible afterlife.

While we’re having a wider conversation about content warnings and consideration in academics, it was interesting to read about a student being reminded, through course content, of dark secrets in her past. Aristotle (or a semi-Aristotle, like many times in this book I wasn’t entirely sure what was real and what was a spirit) teaches a strange history class, and he was kind of a pompous dick, which is pretty much how I imagine him.

Overall, this book went in many different directions, ending as more of an intriguing world and interesting thoughts about an afterlife, than a traditional plot.

the history major

I received a copy of this book to review, all opinion are my own, as always. This review is cross-posted to my new books blog, The Fiction Addiction as well.

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High-Fives All Around

I came across this on Beth Woolsey’s blog, and it’s perfect:

I am quite sure these days I am failing at All the Things, and even though I definitely, for sure, absolutely do NOT subscribe to the idea that we have to All the Things well All the Time, I do like to do Some of the Things well Some of the Time. Hell, I’ll even take doing One of the Things well On Occasion and high-five myself for it in the mirror because my standards are low…

If you also managed to complete A Thing today, let’s all high-five each other, and maybe give each other stickers. Doing things is hard, man.

Source: Five Kids Is A Lot Of Kids » This isn’t a real blog post, but it appears to be real life.

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