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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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.

 

Ze, zir, zim: An Extended Metaphor

Transgender and genderfluid identities are quite outside my experience, actually, so are most queer identities, since my own questioning phase was more about where can I find handsome boys, which boy should I date, and why can’t I date all of them. Er, moving on. But it’s come to my attention more and more, and a couple people in my life have changed the pronouns they’re comfortable with. I kind of imagine that as awkwardly telling everyone in your life that they’ve been pronouncing your name wrong every single time since forever.

When I lived in Brooklyn, every time I filled in a form with my address, I would get this thrill, that the upstairs apartment, under a skylight, in a Brooklyn brownstone was the truest and best address I could have, for the truest and best life I could have, and I was really happy about it. Whenever I write down Bramford, Chapel Hill as my address, I have to remind myself that it’s only temporary. This stupid not-really-me address isn’t that important, right? And even so, I kind of want to tell everyone that I’m not from here, I barely live here, this is not the true me. (Oddly, the lady at the DMV did not want to hear this.)

That’s kind of how I imagine gender pronouns would be, only times 10,000. Like if every time someone spoke to me, they could either say awesome Brooklyn adventure or they could say sad small Chapel Hill with the stupid driving everywhere. Obviously I would want everyone to say Hello, person who is successful in the expensive, high speed and high talent city! and not Hello, person who inexplicably cares whether red beats light blue in college sportsball. So, when presented with a pronoun that would make a friend or acquaintance happy, of course I will use it. Why wouldn’t you use it? I imagine it would be very difficult to make your way through a world where everyone treated you as one type of person when you are completely not that person.

So when someone I know goes through a transition, or, I guess when someone has been going through a transitional period for a while and just decides to tell me about it, I think how great it is that they’ve figured out they are really Brooklynites and now they don’t have to stumble around North Carolina anymore wondering why everything is so terrible and depressing and awful! Brooklynites don’t have to try to act like they care about the sportsball, or the weather, or what used to be where those expensive lofts are now. They’re not expected to know the back way to whenever they’re going. Not pretending like you care is such a big relief, isn’t it? Good for you, looking out at all the state highways and figuring out you’re really a G train commuter! That can’t be easy.

There’s also this thing where anti-social justice types (I discovered that a social justice blogger is a thing you can call someone, which is weird because I mostly talk about games I’m playing or take photos of my makeup, but whatever, I guess I’d rather be in favor of social justice than against it) will mock others with a fake social bio, saying something like “I’m a genderqueer panromatic demisexual, who prefers ey/em pronouns” and I think the goal is to highlight how far these identities are from the expected norm. I’m not entirely sure. Anyway, it always makes me think Good for you! Glad you figured that out! You don’t have to fake it anymore! And of course I want that feeling to mean that I’m open-minded and accepting, but it might also mean that if you hate faking an interest in local smalltalk, then we should be friends.

Felix Felicis

“Have you ever taken it, sir?” asked Michael Corner with great interest.
“Twice in my life,” said Slughorn. “Once when I was twenty-four, once when I was fifty-seven. Two tablespoonfuls taken with breakfast. Two perfect days.”

We’re hiring a new summer camp director at work, and he was being introduced around, and asking what everyone does, and when it came to me, I said I teach app design in the studio, I work with our online students creating and curating game and tech news for our internal community, and I work with our parent community on social media, which means creating content, amplifying positive user-generated content and minimizing any negative feedback.

And when I finished saying that, I was thinking, YEAH, that is exactly what I should be doing! And I seriously haven’t felt like this since, I don’t know, maybe at Next Island before some of the complete craziness went down? I’m doing good things! interesting things! that have meaning! and things I am good at doing! and things that match who I really am on the inside!

I felt really happy and I want to remember this and what it feels like to be contented and happy, instead of realizing later, oh I really liked writing for that outlet or that team used to be really good. I tend to only really recognize a good situation in retrospect.

And then I left work early to work on editing essays for Checkpoint, and I’ve gotten such good pieces, and the ratio of mass-mailed form letters and mistargeted garbage to thoughtful essays is finally tipping the way I want. And some of these pieces are from friends that I’m just delighted to work with again, and some are from strangers so I didn’t even have to beg them for submissions. So, there’s that.

I was pretty tired (I’ve not been sleeping terribly well recently, and I am not great at life when I need rest), so I was considering just heading home to bed, but I didn’t want to miss the game theory after hours at the science museum in Durham. This is more like something I’d do in Brooklyn, and seriously going out is much harder here where everything involves driving and navigating and parking, and, oh, let’s be honest, once I figure out how to get to whatever event, it’s kind of a sad mini-version of what I miss in New York, which is terribly depressing and makes me wish I’d stayed in with a book.

Not this time! We went to the science museum after closing, and joined all the other adults drinking beers and playing with the science museum exhibits and game demos all around the exhibit halls. It reminded me of IndieCade East last year, and I mean the interactive museum space and playful spirit and the crowd in general, not the part where that blizzard kept half the attendees away.

Then Harold and I got PBRs and went to a science classroom for a lecture on game theory. The professor used really clear examples where it was all arithmetic you could do in your head to follow the principles, and there were a couple of demo games to illustrate points, including Two Card Poker (from a custom-made Women In STEM deck, naturally) and a game where you try to guess two-thirds of the average of everyone’s guess. I’m a level 2.5 reasoner, which is, a level 2 reasoning plus a little variance for the Fabrice Effect. I mean, it was a self-selecting group of people who wanted to go to a game theory lesson, so there probably wouldn’t be that one friend who doesn’t quite get it, but on the other hand, PBR was $2.

I looked down at my two cards, and the plastic denarii for betting, and my PBR, and I actually felt good. Oh, ok this was worth driving around Durham. This isn’t a sad little version of a Brooklyn evening, this is a pretty nice time anywhere.

Then I went home and slept a good sleep.

denarii

Two-Card Poker, Denarii, and PBR

Southern Comfort

On Thursday, Harold and I drove up to Richmond for Wizard World Comic Con, where Harold had a table signing copies of Screamland and some of his more recent artwork. We stayed at a hilariously awful hotel, because I simply refuse to learn that when a hotel has a very good location and very low price, there is always a reason.

But when we got into town, we went straight to comfort, a Southern, comfort-food restaurant on Broad Street. (Conveniently located between the comic con and the sketchy hotel!)  comfort was active, not crowded on this Thursday night, and we  were seated immediately. We got a lovely  window table, which was pretty much the best thing ever. Richmond at night is all old brick with new neon, and downtown has a lot of foot traffic, and it wasn’t all that hard to pretend I still lived in Brooklyn.

comfort

Although I really wanted to try the whole cocktail list (in the interests of blog reviewing, obviously), I just got a Jack Rose.

Harold is always hungry, though, so we ordered before I completely devoted myself to people-watching. comfort has a selection of Southern main courses, like pulled pork and fried catfish, served with a selection of side dishes like okra and grits. As you know, I pretty much hate everything about living in the South except Harold and my job. Also okra. The South does a nice okra.

Overall, comfort does a great everything. I’ve had good barbecue and fried catfish and okra before, but it’s somehow less appealing off melting styrofoam plates, served on greasy tables. comfort’s decor and atmosphere were Brooklyn-good, even if the service was definitely on a southern schedule, not New York time.

comfort
200 W. Broad St.
Richmond, VA 23220
Comfort on Urbanspoon

Chirba Chat

Meg: Today I received the greatest news
in all the time I have lived in North Carolina
so amazing
I am not just trying to be happy about this
I am legitimately thrilled about this news
this would even make me happy in Brooklyn
the best news ever
so awesome
Harold: What was that?
Meg: The dumpling truck is coming to my work!
Next Monday!
Bringing me jiao zi!
Harold: Haha
I’m glad you are happy
Meg: Stefan just sent me a schedule of the food trucks near our new studio
AND THE DUMPLING TRUCK IS COMING STRAIGHT TO ME!!!
also some other food
and other days
actually trucks every day
Bringing us food that is almost, but not as good as dumplings.
chirba

Hello Kitty Curriculum Vitae

My career retrospective, as told through Hello Kitty:

hello kitty chinglishI gave out Chinglish Hello Kitty stickers in class to reward my Beijing students.

last day The sad evening when I took my Hello Kitty desk toys home, after my last day at Next Island.

morning hello kittyBut soon I had a new Hello Kitty and a new desk at a new MMO!

meeting hello kittyTraining new teachers at work, so I used Hello Kitty figures. As one does.

 

Hipster Shirts

One of the side effects of tech blogging and games blogging is the endless assortment of branded graphics t-shirts I own.  Like everyone else in gaming, I have an extensive collection of shapeless XL black t-shirts with game logos, all from conventions. (When I was at Next Island, I tried to convince our marketer that we should make up fitted, women’s sizes of our game shirts, but he had different ideas about how to promote to women.) Almost every day I wear a women’s cut of a gaming shirt from one show or another. It’s amazing how long it can take me to get dressed when really I’m just deciding which graphic t-shirt and which pair of hipster jeans and whether to finish with Converse or ballet flats.

And, like everyone else in tech blogging, I have a pretty extensive collection of graphic tees with logos and slogans from various startups. I wasn’t exaggerating too much when I wrote about LoveMyLogo, my (fictional) new startup connecting startup t-shirts with genuine hipsters in Brooklyn, Austin, and Portland. It’s hard to walk anywhere at SXSW without someone handing you a branded t-shirt or offering to trade a hashtagged tweet for a t-shirt. I’ve been writing about tech for a few years now, so some of these have actually outlasted the start-up they’re promoting. Should probably pack them up in an archival box until they become collectors’ items.

In my industry, these funny graphic tees can be ice breakers or conversation starters. A lot of the startup ones have attention-grabbing slogans. I have one with a “clusterduck” on it that usually gets a second glance (although I do not wear it around my middle schoolers, for obvious reasons) and one advertising stock art that announces that prints not dead (Get it? Prints?).

And that is why a branded graphic t, skinny jeans, and Converse (or ballet flats) is totally a work outfit.

lachanophobiaI was asked to write about graphic t-shirts by ThePhobiaShop because I am an extreme hipster.

“Alice In Tumblr-Land”

Tim Manley’s Alice in Tumblr-land: And Other Fairy Tales for a New Generation tells the stories of fairy tale princesses and heroes, as twenty-somethings navigating relationships, friends, sex, careers and social media.

The Tortoise and the Hare Facebook-stalk each other down opposite career paths. Robin Hood worries if his killer social media campaign is fighting hunger or just slacktivism. Beauty’s new boyfriend plays videogames in his underpants. Ariel just doesn’t get pop culture, besides the episode of Hoarders with all the forks. Rapunzel posts a selfie with her short new do, and wonders, did everyone hate my old look without telling me? Ping’s father still calls him “Mulan” sometimes, but he calls the internet “AOL”, so Ping tries not to hold it against him.

Each story is told in a short blurb — a bit longer that a tweet, shorter than my blog posts — and then on to the next story, with the major narratives picked up again. The result is a magical Tumblr feed of fairy-tale characters living out their twenty-something adventures.

The Oatmeal’s guide for online virality includes a healthy dose of nostalgia, and the blend of Disney memories is particularly clear in the almost-woodcut illustrations. (What? You didn’t know almost-woodcut was an art term? Totally is, and that word’s worth a thousand pictures.) Slightly twisted version of childhood cartoon favorites and John Tenniel’s illustrations of Alice, are shown as Brooklyn hipsters. The result is charming, perfect for every fairy-tale-reading twentysomething to reblog. I read the book on my iPad and had to stop myself from screenshotting every single page.

The narrative lovingly snarks at Brooklyn on several occasions, asking –as every Brooklyn-based writer has asked ourselves at least once — if moving to Brooklyn to write is just an expensive cliche, and if living would be more authentic elsewhere; and musing on the tragic undateability of people from LA. (Just kidding, handsome Los Angeles director I dated when I lived in Brooklyn!) Alice In Tumblr-Land hints at Brooklyn in other ways, although princesses agree to meet their ex-boyfriends for coffee, the Ugly Duckling might ostentatiously like music no one else has heard of, and Peter Pan might take an unpaid internship in any other city.

Even through the conceit of Disney characters going on bad dates and posting on Facebook about quarterlife crises, the overall narrative is quite sympathetic. Well, not to the wolves Red encounters on OKCupid, of course, but sympathetic to the characters struggling with post-college worries. Post-college problems are easy to trivialize as frivolous millennial whining, but Alice In Tumblr-Land still manages to mock characters with compassion. Even with a certain amount of navel-gazing and requisite bad decisions, they’re just young people struggling towards a happily-ever-after life.

Monorail Espresso | You Gotta Eat This!

While I was in Seattle for Geek Girl Con, I finally went to Monorail Espresso, instead of just running past it on my way to the convention center. It was amazing, even in a city with great coffee everywhere, and the constant long lines finally make sense!

Monorail Espresso is an unassuming coffee window on Pike Street, between 5th and 6th. Even early on a Sunday morning, there were a couple of people in line ahead of me. When I got to the front of the line, ready to order my skim hazelnut cappuccino, the owner completely disarmed me by asking how my morning was going and talking about tango.

Monorail Espresso on Urbanspoon In my native Brooklyn, we snap out the order first, and the barista snaps out the total, we nod and go on our ways, mutually prioritizing efficiency. Meanwhile, when I’m in Chapel Hill, I have to brace myself for stream of inane questions and banal observations on the weather until I am begging the barista to please stop talking and start making a coffee. I don’t know what to do with human warmth AND coffee-making efficiency together.

via Monorail Espresso |You Gotta Eat This!

Lucha Tigre

lucha tigraLucha Tigre is a new Latin / Asian fusion eatery on Chapel Hill’s Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard*, tucked into the Foster’s/Flyleaf stripmall. (Well, I’m saying it’s new, because whenever I mention it, I’m told that it used to be the Flying Burrito, but honestly every restaurant here is new to me.) Inside, the place is styled with modern red, white and black paintings, and lit with those wonderful hipster essentials, paper lanterns and strings of Christmas tree lights.

Lucha Tigre on Urbanspoon The menu creatively blends Asian and Latin staples, for tasty tapas like Thai Chicken Empanadas. Several vegetarian options, too, although so far Chapel Hill and Carrboro have been pretty good about offering vegetarian options besides a token salad. Tapas are stylishly plated, and it’s pretty much impossible not to share them, another reason Lucha Tigre is a sweet date spot.

Brunch offerings vary, but have included a pork belly biscuit for Southern-Asian flair and huevos rancheros. And the brunch menu always includes mimosas and bloody Marys my hipster brunch essentials. Perfect for a late-morning catchup with friends. They have recently raised the price of the all-you-can-drink mimosas which is probably not because last time Alicia and I drank their profit margin. It is probably just a coincidence.

There’s a pretty impressive bar, with a collection of sake and tequila — what else would you expect in Asian/Latin fusion spot? Cocktails might be a little steeper than the student pubs of Chapel Hill, but inexpensive for Brooklyn transplants. (I keep getting $4 cocktails, expecting mixer with a hint of booze, and then when I take a sip, I remember that I am not in New York City anymore. In other news, I don’t hate everything in North Carolina.). PBR and unusual drink specials complete the hipster vibe, and it’s almost jarring to step out into a sprawling parking lot instead of running for the G train home.

 

* MLK Boulevard is not to be confused with Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, or MLK Parkway. Those do not go anywhere near Lucha Tigre. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard is the one that is also called Airport Road, and Route 86, because road naming in North Carolina is payback for Reconstruction.

Future Tech 1

My new colleague and I were at work, looking through his Make magazine and talking about awesome MakerFaire printouts, when I noticed that a small section of a page had been clipped out. My colleague told me he’d snipped out the bikini girl because he wanted to share the magazine with his preteen son.

I thought for a second that he was putting me on — I’ve only been working here for a few months, and I don’t think I’ve (yet) complained about using over-sexualized female bodies to sell technology, but on the other hand, my feelings are pretty easily googled. But before I could ask, my colleague explained why he thought pictures of boobs are a poor choice to sell technology.

In North Carolina, I sometimes feel like I’m surrounded by perfectly nice people, with their strange and inexplicable customs of smalltalk and driving. Other times I miss Brooklyn like a breakup. It’s quite rare and really good to feel like I’m around my people.

But What About People Who Aren’t Mermaids?

I stumbled across this interview of Amy Shearn, the author of the amazing novel The Mermaid of Brooklyn, which I loved and couldn’t recommend more highly. Here, she’s asked a particularly inane question, and responds cleverly about the power of good fiction.

How can women who don’t have children appreciate this book?

One of my favourite all-time novels is Moby Dick, and I have never been on a whale ship, nor do I ever hope to be. I also love The Sun Also Rises, and I am not an expatriate and I have never seen a bullfight. I adore The Cather in The Rye, and yet, I am not a young boy running away from boarding school.

I happen to think Holden Caulfield is a whiny little prat, but what a brilliant answer to the question!

Via The Mermaid of Brooklyn by Amy Shearn

The Subway Bride

The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature will be publishing my story, The Subway Bride, in their November issue! I’ve been getting more interested in storytelling through magical realism, and The Subway Bride blends Southern gothic and the Brooklyn start-up scene. I’m very excited to share it.

Also, my Submittable account has become much more cheerful with two acceptances!

Brakes and Clutch

Whenever someone asks me for a ride, I feel like an alien pretender trying not to be unmasked. Oh! This is a thing adult humans do for one another when they are all going from one place to another place together! I try to remind myself. This person is treating me as a normal human! Act normal! Make a facial expression like a regular person would make!  Then I try not to react like they’ve just suggested something terrible and insane, and that driving a car is not horrible for me, and driving another person wouldn’t  be embarrassing torture.

I don’t like that driving is such an essential skill here when for me, it’s an awful mixture of tedium and terror, a blend of dull, monotonous highways and then a lightning move to avoid crashing into the idiot without a turn signal and then moving along again, totally ignoring how close we just were to death and dismemberment. It makes me hate people, too, and see them less as interesting stories and possible friends, and more as morons who are trying to kill me.  (How can it just be that way “for me”? How are normal people able to cope so well with boredom punctuated by near-death?)

One of the many, many things I loved about Brooklyn is that driving is such a non-issue. And there are many, many reasons I hated living in Cary, but the necessity of driving every single day was one of them.

Whenever I drive, I arrive unhappy, flustered and upset. In North Carolina, I’m constantly battered by spending so much energy simply getting places. It makes a hard day, devoting so much energy to what is to others a mindless daily task, and it means always arriving tense, and always making those forgot-the-milk, lost-my-keys sort of strained mind mistakess that usually signal a stressful week, but are the everyday constant for me now.

In Brooklyn, my emotional resiliency (Are you familiar with Jane McGonagall’s SuperBetter?) was constantly strengthened. I read novels on the train to work, or watched crazy fashions, or eavesdropped, and stopped for coffee on my walk. Sure, some days the train was late or crowded or dirty, but the default settings were very good! I really miss that.

I can drive, and I do. But carefully backing the car out of a visitor’s space at my building (it takes me several tries to get into the assigned space), turning the radio off so I don’t get overwhelmed, and then taking the special back route around the second-rate coffeeshop, where parking is easier than the good coffeeshop, is exhausting.