Out of Print

Just turned up a site offering pirated copies of an anthology that I was in a couple years ago. Totally counts as being back in print, right?

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In Which I Am Actually 12 Years Old

After a Pokemon-catching adventure, my friend’s tween son commented that he remembered exactly where they parked because it was level D, and that’s hilariously memorable because a certain male body part starts with D. Oh man, I thought. Imagine being so caught up in puberty that even the letter D sounds dirty to you. Whoa. Hormones! That’s a thing!

The next day, I was teaching a class on used to and didn’t use to, and I had my students form teams to correct sentences. My students started to ask each other relevant and cooperative questions like Do I want the D here? We need the D. Where does the D go again?

I was really happy to see collab learning going on, but I also had the hardest time not giggling. Because APPARENTLY I am 12.

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Takeout, my new card game, was chosen for Boston FIG’s Tabletop Showcase this September! I’m really excited (and also terrified) to show my game.

Takeout is a social setbuilding game about American backpackers trying to order Chinese food. Each player is trying to get a complete meal of 5 different tastes, plus a cold drink, before their friends. While all players will have to deal with the difficulties of ordering food in a second language, cards let players can use their Chinese phrasebooks or superior chopsticks skills to complete their sets, at their friends’ expense.

This is the first time I’ve done something that is so mine. I’ve worked on a lot of games where I did the best I could within the constraints of the existing creative, or with the deadlines and budget I was given, or according to a licensor or boss’ guidelines. Anyway, I don’t really have any of those constraints for Takeout, and it’s a little unnerving. It is, you know, really, really mine.

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Hold The Spoiler

Today, my coworker wanted to know how far I’d gotten in Game of Thrones, but very considerately didn’t want to spoil it for me, so he ran down the hall, grabbed a doorstop from another room, brought it back and asked me if I feel sad.

Previous GoT posts:

In which my Epic Studio coworkers drag me back into GoT fandom.
In which I read A Song of Ice and Fire in Yangzhou. 

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In Which I Push My Feminist Agenda

Over the years that I’ve been working in games, I’ve been accused of slipping a feminist agenda into game creative. Usually this means I objected to Smurfetteing, or pinking, not that I was actually trying to sneak female empowerment into a game.

This happened once when I wrote backstories and made 3 of the 7 playable animal characters female. I was told to rewrite one of the girls as a boy, and endless jokes were made about how I’d girled everything up. Haha! 28% of our characters are female! So girlified!

This also happened when I made a scientist questgiver female. I was prevented from making the fashion questgiver male, because obviously the fashion track existed only for lady players, and how would ladies know fashion was for them? We ended up with a lady scientist and a lady hunter, and also I drank a lot.

Anyway, I’m working on art direction for a new card game, in which only men will be washing dishes or cooking dinner. Because this time, it’s my project and I actually am pushing my feminist agenda.

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Apps That Need To Exist: Horror Saturation Protection

A temporary plugin that hides all the articles about whatever horrible and outrageous thing the Republican government has done now. It would also hide the backlash articles about how that horrible thing is just a distraction from an infinitely horrible thing the Republican administration is doing, wake up, people. And it would hide the backlash-backlash hypercritical articles about how everyone knows this healthcare bill is NOT throwing working people under the bus, it’s tossing them, geez, check your facts.  A plugin that hides the GoFundMes for people who won’t die of preventable illnesses if they have enough social capital among people with financial capital. A plugin that blocks every instance of active shooter.

This plugin would work across social media and email and just browsing, and users would be able to set a time limit. Shut off the horror for an evening to get some work done without being confronted with growing hopelessness! Shut off the horror for 24 hours to see some baby pictures on Facebook again, and remember you have friends, and they have little ones growing up, and there’s something besides endless horror in the world.

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Wayan And The Turtle King

My friend (and Taiwan roommate!) Yvette is releasing a children’s book, Wayan And The Turtle King. Yvette is a freediver, environmentalist and English teacher, and she’s combined all three in this magical children’s story.

Wayan And The Turtle King promo video on Biteable.
She’s releasing Wayan And The Turtle King in English and in Indonesian, in print and ebook, so that everyone can read the sweet story about a boy in the turtle kingdom, and the timely warning about plastic waste in the ocean. The book also includes extension activities to help kids connect the environmental story to their own lives.

The Kickstarter starts today, so when you support or buy a copy through the Kickstarter, you’re also supporting the spread of this message through book donations. (I have the feelings about Kickstarter that anyone has after backing games that never got finished. If you’ve also been burned by spending $20 for a series of sad emails about how the dev team ran into some challenges, but they’ll probably have a beta sometime soon,  well then be reassured that there’s actually a finished book here.) The Kickstarter will help pay the artist and translator, and help send this book to Indonesian children’s libraries.

I hope you’ll support the Kickstarter and spread a magical children’s story about protecting our oceans.

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 Our new game is actually starting to look like a game!

Harold is at work on the card art for our next (!!!) card game. I’ve worked on so many games, but this is the first one that I’ve designed totally on my own, no input from licensors or product owners or clients or bosses.

Also, we changed the name to Takeout. I’ve been calling it 吃饭了吗, which is literally Have you eaten yet? but frequently used as a greeting. To me, it’s a clever name for a social card game about language and food, but so far only TWO other people have found it funny, and I’ve had to admit defeat and change my title. Harold’s been calling it Takeout, which is also a clever name for a competitive food game, and anyway loads of Chinese dishes have been Americanized into takeout, haven’t they?

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The Paper of Record High Temperatures, For Some Reason

I just sold my New York Times stock. I hope that withdrawing my $22 investment expresses my displeasure in their recent hiring choices. Climate change is real, and reputable publications have a responsibility to report science.

Also, I left the definite article out of their name because that’s AP stylebook for giving the middle finger.



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Bell’s Seasoning

This is the first thing I’ve written for my MFA that I consider a finished, standalone piece. When I started this program, I expected to write so many finished, solid stories. And I am writing so, so much for this program, but I find myself completing something that fits the assignment, but doesn’t fully express what I want to share, or I find myself hitting my deadline with something that needs a rewrite or ten before I feel really good about sharing it.

Anyway, this assignment was to write about food, brands and taste memories for a narrative nonfiction class.

Bell’s Seasoning

In my second year in China, in my first apartment in Beijing, I was overcome by my dislike of Chinese food. The endless peanut oil and five-spice made everything taste the same to me, and with that came the worry that my unsophisticated palate was unsuitable for a traveler.

Expat expeditions to Jenny Lu’s or Auchon’s worked sometimes, but my foreign teacher salary couldn’t keep up with regular purchases of imported cheese. The vegetable market near my house was more suited to my salary, and I could recognize most of the produce. The tomatoes and potatoes were all just a little bit off from my supermarket expectations, slightly the wrong shade or shape or size, but I was determined to cook Western meals for us, to counteract my daily repetition of choosing the least-unpalatable food options.

Garlic or caramelized onions can give a Western flavor to a simple meal. Real butter helps, or meat fat rendered and saved in a drippings can. The harsh red wine works better for cooking than sipping. You can make a pretty respectable pico with red Sichuan chilis in place of jalapenos.  It was enough not to taste peanut oil and five spice on every bite of every meal.

But it was the yellow packet of Bell’s Seasoning that makes food taste like home. It works on mushrooms, stuffed with overcooked and toasted rice instead of breadcrumbs, and then “baked” over the gas ring. It works on a polenta, but only sometimes because the really good cornmeal came from a migrant vendor who occasionally set up shop outside my complex’s gates. It works on the slightly-too-red tomatoes and the lavender aubergines.

It’s great to have an unsophisticated palate.

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