For Love Or Money

This story on Laowai!Laowai! talks about running a speaking exercise for high school age ESL students. This exercise asks each student to choose between Love or Money, and explain why.

Without exception, the boys in his class chose Love while the girls choose Money. I don’t think this would happen in an American high school, but it’s not surprising to anyone who’s spent time with teenage Chinese students. (What I really want to know is how did he get the girls to stop giggling long enough to have this discussion?) Laowai!Laowai! describes the Love vs. Money debate:

In China it’s like this: women dream of love but eventually choose the secure way of the non-perishing banknotes. Men only dream of wealth – so that in the end they actually can get the most beautiful girl in the class. But… isn’t that buying love instead of receiving it? Poor bastards.

I think there’s a hidden variable in this game. LL’s students are choosing which to discuss in class and to publicly prioritize, in front of their peers and a foreign teacher. It seems likely that LL’s students are choosing what they want their classmates to think they value, which may or may not be their real priority.

Because I’m the kind of teacher who tries sociology experiments out on my students, I tried this game for the discussion part of my teenage girls’ class. I wrote LOVE and MONEY on the board, and asked my girls to tell me which was more important.

Two girls waffled for a bit, but when pressed, all six girls picked money. They all seems to agree that love could grow in a marraige, but without money, spouses would fight more. I seem to remember a statistic about American couples frequently fighting over money — but I might have read it in Cosmo.

But I don’t think Chinese dating is really all about the Maos. When I mercilessly hounded questioned my girls about this in practical terms, no one said that they were looking for a rich husband and no one intended to stop working after marriage (although, again, there may be a gap between what’s said to the foreign teacher and what’s really thought). Instead, my class all told me that they wanted to delay their weddings until they were older and were making good salaries.

In other teaching news, today one of my students ate a sticker to impress a girl sitting nearby. He’s 11.

One Man Bandwidth also talks about Laowai! Laowai!’s article

China’s New Altruism Videogame

Usually my local net cafe is full of boys and young men playing CounterStrike for hours on end or staring at the lao wai girl (your results may vary). As internet gaming becomes more popular, it’s having some surprising effects in China.

China is home to the Beijing Internet Addiction Treatment Center. It may not be totally unwarrented, as this article on a serial cyber-husband, whose internet dating cost real cash and a huge GPA decline, shows. I’m not entirely sure how one cures internet addiction… does the treatment center fake a power outage? Do they find girlfriends for the nerds in page-refresh recovery? Do they enlist all the addicts in a week-long D&D game?

Also, the CPC is worried that these gamers are learning about dark elves and snipers, but not about Mao. So now the Chinese government has asked the Shanghai-based gaming company Shanda to develop a new game, called Chinese Heroes. In this game, players will learn about Chinese history and tradition virtues. No word on if there’s a dragon boat race to rescue a drowning poet.

In case you think China was inspired by America’s Army, some tasks include carrying bricks and answering questions about the hero’s life. I’m not sure how that’s going to pull players away from WoW, but Puzzle Pirates’ block games were surprisingly addictive. No release date yet.

Little Red Blog’s take and PC Magazine’s article

Imperfect, Tense

Stick called midway through my teenage girls class — I was telling them that they had to be more focused, that they needed to pay attention instead of coming to class with their minds somewhere else, and then my cell phone rang. Universe: 1, Meg: 0.

“I’m here,” he said.

“What? Here? You mean, Yantai? You said you’d be here this afternoon!” I looked down at my blouse and skirt and thought lovingly of my carefully assembled airport outfit, lying in readiness on my bed at home. (I also thought of the pile of clothes that didn’t make the Perfect Meeting cut and were now lying in disgrace on my closet floor.)

“I’ll come get you in one hour,” I said. The girls were lucky — for the rest of the class, none of us really had our brains in the classroom. We had a very creative lesson on imperfect tense, that’s the interrupted or incomplete action. I was teaching when the boy called. And 12:01 I was running down the stairs into a taxi.

I fished in my bag for something to put in my face, thinking of the lipstick, eyeliner and earrings, arranged next to my sink like little soldiers ready for action. I found some strawberry lipgloss, but everyone who’s been in China is laughing at the futility of putting on makeup in a moving cab.

The taxi driver wanted to know who I was meeting, and when he was arriving, and what airline, and how long he’d be staying and all sorts of questions and didn’t bleive me when I said I didn’t know enough Chinese to answer him. But we were in the one and only cab in Kaifaqu with A/C so I just smiled and repeated the few phrases I could say. I imagined a hungry, tired and disoriented boy would be walking though the airport and wondering when I’d show up.

We pulled up outside the airport, and I started to ask the driver to wait a moment while I got Stick and then drive us back to Kaifaqu, when he said “Look, your husband!”

And there was Stick, standing in front of the terminal, surrounded by bags that held peanut butter cups, Nutella, lotion, tampons and — alas for him — only one shirt. My boy. In China.

I stared at him in the cab. He’s been going to the gym with Hugo. I know he doesn’t want to hear this, but there’s more gray in his hair. The stress of dating me, perhaps?

“You look exactly the same,” he said. “You’re beautiful.”


Dragon Boat Day

(Written on 6/1 but Dragon Boat Day is 5/31 so I’m backdating this)

Once there was a Chinese poet called Qu Yuan (??). Depending on who you ask, Qu Yuan either jumped or fell into a river and drowned, and the Chinese celebrate today as the anniversary of his death. (Maybe he wasn’t a very good poet?) Today is also Dragon Boat Day, a holiday involves which involves racing dragon boats and pushing poets off the boats. Ok, I may have made that part up. I think the races are actually to commemorate Qu Yuan.

I can’t seem to find two people who tell the story the same way, but everyone agrees this is a very important day. I’m actually pretty sad that my headmistress hasn’t included the foreigner teachers in celebrating Chinese holidays, but I’m not sure if that would be intruding. I think I’m biased because Stivison family holidays usually involve at least one friend from far away, like a British exchange student, the entire international student population of Wesleyan University…

Like all Chinese holidays, this one involves eating a lot. Today’s food is zong zi, which is a rice ball wrapped in a leaf. The rice can be filled with red bean, pork, sugar, fruit, fish or anything else you can think up. Instead of eating them, you can also thrown them into a river for the drowned poet.

Also, you’re supposed try to stand an egg on it’s end at exactly noon. If you can do this, you will have a very good year. And you should put a special kind of herb on your front door to protect your home from bad spirits. (I didn’t try either one, didn’t I already ruin my chanced by crying on New Year’s Day? And don’t I already have a good year from fireworks on Lantern Festival?)

Lily and her husband Bag invited me to have dinner with them, so we gorged ourselves at the nighttime food court as an appetizer for our zong zi. I love the night market, you can get such awesome food there! In fact, I think I’m starting to really love cheap Chinese food, it’s only the classy stuff that’s foul. Anything considered a delicacy is totally wasted on me. I had a really good time with Lily and Bag, eating good food, getting the elusive cold beer and just enjoying a summer evening by the beach.

This morning when I left the house, I saw that my neighbors had tucked some leaves into my door to protect me from bad spirits.

Related: Dragon Boat Day two years later in Beijing

Games and Relationships

Stick just sent me a link to this MSN dating article, in which a girlfriend writes for advice on dealing with her computer game-addicted boy. In the spirit of Dear Abby’s Wastebasket, I’ve written a different answer.

Dear Tired,

Did you notice your boy’s fixation with videogames before shacking up? I mean, you must have dated him for at least a little while before moving in. Did he spend every waking moment playing City of Heroes or EverCrack then? You didn’t expect him to change because you moved in, did you?

Consider cultivating your own hobbies. What are you doing in the evenings while Boyfriend is slaying Defias Bandits? I mean besides sighing loudly and writing to Break Up Girl. You must have done something for fun before Boyfriend came along, try doing it again.

How about asking your boy to teach you to play too? MMORPGs are a fun way to bond with your boy. When you’re playing a multi-player game, you have to work as a team, solve problems together, deal with failure and share successes. So his gaming skills are pretty important relationship skills too. World of WarCraft and Guild Wars are very girl-friendly online games to get you started.

But if your boyfriend doesn’t realize that dinner time and plans with you come first, even though his teammates need a defender to get them through Perez Park, then he’s not a gamer, he’s a jerk.


Sidenote to Lynn Harris:

I thought BreakUpGirl was the coolest superhero and I was so sad when you stopped updating! But you really let me down when you suggested that those who play videogames aren’t mature enough for a real relationship.

Sidenote to Stick:

Why were you reading “my SO plays too many videogames” advice letters? Are you trying to tell me something?


Stephie and her new boyfriend are walking around in a perfect haze of love and adoration. I’m afraid to listen too closely in case I hear “I love being stuck in traffic with you!” or “Isn’t this hailstorm just beautiful?” They give each other those googly eyes over Latin homework and all in all, it’s adorable.

Everyone has a different romance threshold. Some people propose on a kissing bridge. One of my friends bought roses and cooked dinner for his girlfriend, who thought the whole thing was a ploy to get him laid, and got pissed. Some people show their affection in other ways. I’ve heard that some boys allow their girlfriends control of the remote, but I think those girlfriends have to promise not to wander off and read a novel with a movie on. Just a thought.

I would like to take this opportunity to address those rumors that I was seen dancing through the video store singing “la la la la we have a joint account”. I categorically deny this foul slander and insist it was an unfortunate case of mistaken identity.

A Professional Yenta

For the last six years of my life, people have looked at me funny and asked “Oh, classics… and what are you planning to do with that?” I would mumble something about teaching or my secret plan to be a female Robert Graves or change the subject.

I will never be stumped by that question again, because I just got a job as a professional yenta*!

It was the hardest interview EVER because my new boss owns and directs the Lonely Hearts Club. Always nerve-wracking in an interview! {I decided not to blog the real name of the dating service. Because of what happened last time I used a real name… Hi Cyberlore boys!) But I think it’s better to have the boss down the hall, than to report to faceless corporate headquarters in, say, Milwaukee.

She asked me about my career goals, which I HATE almost as much as the classics-major question. I can never bring myself to say I have a bright future in vacuum-cleaner sales, but I can’t say that I’m just here because I don’t want to starve. I said I hoped to make enough money to support my dead-Romans habit.

It was the right answer, because I’m employed.

*yenta — Yiddish for busybody, matchmaker, gossip.

Another Book Report

So there’s a new book out called He’s Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, and it’s a dating advice book. I read The Rules when it came out, notice I said “read”, not “committed to memory”, “bought” or even “left the bookstore with”. Let me defend The Rules as a great way to manipulate yourself into a marriage with a fellow who’s not smart enough to see through you. Anyway, He’s Just Not That Into You follows the question-and-answer formula for a relationship advice book (have I actually read enough relationship advice books to spot a formula?). In each chapter, women send in their cliched problems, author Liz commiserates, and author Greg gives his tough-love answer. It goes kind of like this:

“I went out with this boy but he didn’t call again/made me pick up the check/didn’t kiss me goodnight/took off during dinner/actually has a girlfriend/wanted to have sex/didn’t want to have sex/changed his number. What’s going on?”


“I slept with the boy but he says he can’t be together because he’s really busy at work/really busy at school/can’t leave his wife right now/is in rehab/has trust issues/is still wounded from his divorce/marriage/parents. What’s going on?”

And the answer is always:

“Because he doesn’t like you.”

This book is brilliant and I wish I’d thought of it first.

EverQuest 2 And The Flu.

Stick, a candidate for Greatest Boyfriend Ever, got me three months of EverQuest 2 for Christmas. I installed my new game — all 10 CDs of it! It was like an old Sierra game! — and found out that I needed a new videocard. I’d actually just gotten my GeForce 4 when I started dating Stick, so it’s still new and still pretty high-quality. (Am I the only person who measures relationship length in computer upgrades?).

During the installation of my brand-new GeForce 5, Stick did not once tell me the correct way to turn a screwdriver. YEAH! If you’re ever helping me install computer guts, I want to know what needs to go next to the fan. You might even need to remind me to ground myself. But I think, at twenty-three years old, that I’m got a handle on righty-tighty, lefty-loosey.

Another reason that Stick is The Greatest Boyfriend Ever, is that his plans for January break involved bringing my computer over to his house and playing EverQuest until we stare with glazed eyes, argue briefly about whose character is cooler, and fall asleep. My character, who is, actually, the coolest, is Thera. I bet you think I classics-geekily named my EverQuest character after the island just north of Crete. No way! She’s actually named after my Morrowind character who’s named after the Greek island.

All characters start on The Island of Refuge, where you do a couple basic class-dependant quests, get some gear, learn your hotkeys, and get off the island. I was apprehensive about meeting those 300th-level characters who prey on newbies, but it turned out that EverQuest is PvP-free and bad guys respawn fast enough to keep competition down.

Quick sidenote: Who are these people who are level 50 EverQuesters? Do they leave the house? Are they freakishly good gamers, like my roommate Andy, with a high level character in each class? (Andy, AKA the guy who lives in my attic, disagrees with me on the value of City Of Heroes and has a high level character on every server) Or maybe they live in the Artic Circle and they’re housebound with snow for six months a year.

Once on Qeynos (Sadly, a proper noun and therefore no good for Scrabble), you get a room. No, not in the sense that I’m usually thinking about Stick. You get a room at an inn, for which you must pay rent. This room can be decorated, with furniture, books and paintings, and while I know it’s a clever way to keep the in-game economy moving, I love it. I love playing dollhouse! One flaw in the game is that I haven’t seen any really unique clothes yet. That would be a great way to move the economy, to customize your character and to show wealth and rank. Besides, I like playing dress-up.

The quests are a mix of “Deliver this letter to NPC X”, and “Slay 5 sewer rats” (Like all adventure games, EQ2 has a rat-infested catacomb). They seem disappointingly linear now, but there are so many missions that it’s all right. Some of the real highlights of Morrowind or Neverwinter Nights are the social missions. So far, EQ2 has been lacking in fight-or-talk quests, there’s usually only one dialogue option at a time, but that may be a function of character class or level.

There’s also “stuff”. I love Sierra games, and Roberta Williams taught me to take anything that not nailed down. One of my big problems with City Of Heroes was the lack of items. But EverQuest is great for this. Rural areas are filled with rocks to mine, plants to pick, even butterflies and feathers to collect. There are “?” icons to search for collection quests, my favorite was the seashell collection.

In my fluish feverish state this week, I started having creepy EverQuest dreams. With a fever, I usually have nightmares. So far, I dreamed that Stick left me for a prettier girl, that Professor Marathon told me I can’t graduate in spring, and that every time I found a little “?” icon, it turned into an item I already had in my inventory. Pretty terrifying stuff.

Even though I was terribly sick, I managed to play EverQuest obsessively. The highlight being the day I dragged myself out of bed, leveled Thera, and went back to sleep for another 12 hours.

Goodbye Professor Antioch

On Friday I went to Prof. Antioch’s memorial service, it was at the bar of the Lord Jeff, which is somehow quite appropriate. I went with Marcus, and we got an odd look from Magistra. See, Magistra knew that I used to date him and also that he lives with Becky now and I’m seeing Stick (you following all that? and people think classicists are dull) but she didn’t say anything because it wasn’t really appropriate. Although I know of at least one pick-up from that night… And no, it wasn’t me.

It was weird for me because when I got the chance to work on the mosaic, I wanted to tell Prof. Antioch about it, he was my Roman Arch. teacher, also he was very interested in Antioch (that’s why I’m calling him that) and my mosiac is from Antioch. But obviously I couldn’t tell him, and I can never tell him.

Then I got blitzed with my favorite teachers so I felt better. Prof. Neapolean had been off last semester because his wife was having a baby, so I hadn’t seen him in a bit. I love him to pieces, I adored his Age of Augustus class! I think I am going to take the Aeneid with him next fall, although only a masochist would sign up for that much homework. Anyway, he said named his daughter Claudia! The whole table pointed out that that’s a good Roman name. “That’s a family name,” Prof. Neapolean insisted. “If you’re an early emperor,” I agreed. (That’s another reason why Stick and I shouldn’t get married, you need someone to tell you that you cannot name your son Marcus Tullius and your daughter Lucretia.)

Kathryn from Greek Arch. was there too, and she looked like she was going to cry when Prof. Rex was eulogizing Prof. Antioch, but Prof. Marathon made us all laugh afterwards. It was weird to see Prof. Rex so upset… Then Prof. Woodsman told us a joke to which the punchline was “The vocative L in ancient Sumerian,” and we all had another drink. (Except Marcus, he quit drinking. I don’t know if Antioch’s death had anything to do with it) The memorial was actually REALLY fun, everyone was a classicist or archeologist so when there was chit-chat it was about dating mediterrean pottery or translating linear B.

I think that’s how I want to be remembered. I’d like to get my near & dear to have a few drinks and talk about good times… and dead Romans, of course. One day, Stick’s father said that he wants a foozball table set up over his casket. I was a little creeped out at the time, but now I think I get it.

Stivison On The Future

The Sims 2 is coming out next month! September 17th, if you’re not already counting down. The Sims is a real tough act to follow. It’s the best-selling PC game ever, because it is hugely popular with a wide audience, regardless of sex or age or even previous gaming experience.

Which is not to say that everyone plays The Sims the same way. I like playing with a dollhouse (made easier by all the downloadable Sim decor!), while my roommate Andy likes to amass huge fortunes, and my boyfriend Stick climbs the career ladder. My girl friend Kristin used to make Sim soap operas. In a dorky dating moment, Stick and I made a Sim couple. We took turns playing, and after a couple hours of bickering about money, were happy as the Stick-Sim became a general and the Meg-Sim sold her paintings. Like I said, many different playing styles are available…

From what I’ve seen, I think Sims 2 has a pretty good chance of topping The Sims as the best-sellng game ever. In the original game, Sims could have babies but the babies would never grow up. In the new game, the babies are going to look like a combination of their parents! And they’re going to be babies, toddlers, children and then teenagers! Along the way, your sims will have milestone experiences like their first kiss, first day of school, first love, first car crash (ok, I made that one up). Personally, I can’t wait to start planning my Sims’ weddings. It’ll give me soething to talk about with my engaged girlfriend, and I can indulge my white-dress fantasy without terrifying my menfolks.

Maxis has already released the Sims Body Shop, a downloadable program to make your own Sims. When I get bored of the dozens of new heads and bodies and clothes in The Sims 2, I’ll just make my own.

And you can make movies of your Sims! I loved the photo-album option in the original sims (and, yes, I downloaded a bride’s gown and a tuxedo to make “wedding photos”), I can’t wait to try making movies! It’ll be just a like a reality show — heavily edited by the director.

The only reason that the Sims2 might not beat it’s predecessor is financial. The Sims 2 comes with pretty heavy price tag — $49.95. This is not a huge obstacle, everyone in my house found $50 for City of Heroes. It’s no more than I paid to pre-order Rome: Total War. (No one tell Stick, ok?) And it’s not a shot in the dark, it’s fifty bucks for what seems like a sure thing, The Sims only better. But it is kind of steep for the casual gamer.

And the system requirements. The EA sims 2 sites says you need a T&L-capable video card (Tramsforam and Lighting) with at least 32 MB of video RAM, and a 800 MHz processor or better, 256 MB RAM, and at least 3.5 GB of hard drive space.( To translate that from geeklish to English, you need a really good PC to run The Sims 2. Serious gamers will update their system or buy a new PC for a new game, but casual gamers won’t. I worry that the casual gamer will either not buy The Sims 2 because it won’t run, or will buy it and be frustrated with the choppy framerate.

The Sims Online, which I received as a herald of futuristic sim-societies to come, was frustrating for that very reason. I needed to upgrade my PC to play it (fortunately Grant had already set me up with an acceptable connection speed) and once I did, I found that all the other players were horny preteens. There are few things more unpleasant that cybersex between those who cannot spell “tongue”. The upcoming Sims2 is single-player, unless you want to make your own cooperative mode Stick and I did, so fans of the Sims Online may be frustrated. (I think they can find an AOL chatroom and talk about Hilary Duff, but that’s just me)

The bottom line? With less than three weeks to go, The Sims 2 looks like the most fun you can have without taking over the world.

Playboy: The Mansion

“I got a job,” Stick says proudly. “I’m going to be playtesting for Cyberlore!”

While I’m shrieking “That’s great, honey!” my gamergirl gears take a second to catch on. I almost wish I hadn’t. “Aren’t they doing that Playboy game?”

“Yeah!” he says.

I am a dedicated gamer chick. I have my own dice, my own copies of Neverwinter, The Sims, Civilization, Morrowind and a least a dozen others, and a strict policy of never dating my GM. I’ve been a computer geek since the days of King’s Quest (Thanks to Roberta Williams, I try to steal everything that’s not nailed down). But a Playboy game? My boyfriend spending eight hours a day, looking at polygonal nudes?

In theory, Playboy: The Mansion seems like a gamer boy’s dream. You play as Hugh Hefner, and the object of the game is to get women to take off their clothes for your camera. Oh, and pick some articles.

I realize Stick has a chance at the gamer boys dream, all day playing videogames and getting paid for it. But what boy can look at Playboy bunnies, albeit CGI ones, all day and then come home to a real live girl, without doing at least a little mental comparision? I don’t exactly have Bunny-calibre looks.

“I’m so freaking happy.” he tells me. I tell myself not to get upset. Sure, those Playboys models have long legs and perfect hair, but I’m a flesh-and-blood girl! I can borrow his clothes, take the blankets, consistently arrive twenty minutes late, leave my lipgloss and barrettes around his room… How can I even compete?

A few days after Stick started at Cyberlore, we were in his room playing Caesar and Cleopatra (which is actually a Kosmos card game and not kinky classicist sex, thanks for asking) and he was telling me about the Cyberlore game.

“This is great,” he said. I’m reminding myself not to flip out when he continues. “You actually know what I’m talking about! I have the greatest girlfriend!”

Edit: We also played Hector and Achilles a few nights later. I won, but since I read the Illiad I had a bit of an advantage.