Bennington Girls Are Easy

Bennington Girls Are Easy is about two best friends, and their wider circle of college friends. Actually, it’s about living in the city right after college.

I love struggling-friends-in-the-city chicklit, and I love lifestyle porn, but I get extremely annoyed when they touch. (The I gotta find a job — any job! motivation* does not work for characters who each have their own room in their doorman apartment, and it just makes me wonder if the author’s ever been to Manhattan.) Bennington Girls Are Easy does not make me wonder if the author’s ever been to Manhattan. No, I’m convinced that all of these characters are real people who are going to sue the author for revealing all of their private and unflattering moments.

Would definitely recommend — I read it in two sittings, and I only stopped because APPARENTLY Harold wants to spend time with me or something —  but don’t expect a cheery adventure about college girlfriends making in the big city, though. That NetGalley blurb is a bit misleading. Instead, this novel is a blunt and somewhat dark look at sex, money, social class, and the evolution of college friendships in adulthood.

*But I love when the protag needs a job and can’t be picky, so she takes this strange position with this oddball cast of coworkers, and hilarity ensues. Love it.

Bennington Girls Are Easy by Charlotte Silver will be out on July 14th, 2015. 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.

Every Flavour Perfumery

My trip to New York for IndieCade involved facemeeting some of my internet friends, and revisiting some favorite Manhattan places. This means a lovely wander around snowy St. Marks Place (thanks, ADigitalMagician!), and a black-and-white cookie, and a long walk through Chinatown, and eating at just a few of the amazing restaurants around, and also, a trip to the drugstore to sniff perfumes.

The Duane Reade next to my old office and the one next to the Port Authority both carried this insane line of perfume. They are plain square bottles of Honeysuckle,  Freesia, and Jasmine, but also Wet Garden and Crayon and Old Books and all kinds of random, good-smelling things. When I missed the DeCamp bus to my parents’ house (sometimes because DeCamp wasn’t running on the Julian calendar that day), I’d go and sniff perfumes.

bertie botts every flavor perfumes

Not an advert. Just an example of some of the awesomely weird fragrances.


I know that when one reminisces fondly about working in Manhattan, drugstore perfume isn’t supposed to make on the list, but you guys, I walked about a dozen blocks out of my way to go to one of the drugstores that has these in testers, so I could try spray things on my arm, and get so excited over how Rain actually smells like a rainy day, or Laundromat actually smells like clean laundry, or how that Honeysuckle spray still smells exactly like the spring when I was writing quests for Next Island and Harold had just moved to New York.


Still Life With Yggdrasil


My friend Allison has this on a necklace, she wore it a lot in college. Actually, I’m not sure sure if she wore it every single day, but that’s how I picture her in my head, and so, every time I see it on jewelry or other designs, I’d think of Allison.  Pretty sure Allison didn’t actually invent Yggdrasil, but I see it as “her” thing.

(By the way, one of our projects at work is called Bifrost, and I didn’t come up with it, but if you’re a fan of describing technical products through mythological allusions, it is kind of perfect. Studying ancient myth, you guys,  improves basically everything.)


I realize, though, that no one I know in Chapel Hill has ever seen Allison, and isn’t that terribly sad and bizarre? That Harold and Allison have never met each other? That my adventures living upstairs from Allison were all more than ten years ago? That I see my friend basically once every two years? Wait, what I meant to say is, that since no one here knows Allison, I can probably wear the same world tree without being a big copycat.

These are my new favorite earrings! I think about Allison every time I put them on, which is nice. Also, I got these on my midwinter beach adventure with Harold, when we decided that adults can drive to the ocean in January if they feel like it.

And naturally, I wore these earrings  to New York, and when I went to have dinner with my sister. We met on the Upper West Side, and once we got out of the cold, and into a wonderful basement restaurant (that turned out way fancier than I’d expected, from a basement restaurant, but then again, UWS), I peeled off my scarf and hat.

“Oh, Meggie!” my sister said, “I have those earrings, too!”


Apps That Need To Exist: PreDoctor

Social checkinsSince Google knows pretty much everything about us, I can’t wait for it to apply what it’s learned from our checkins and sleeping hours and steptrackers to answer our medical googling. “Google,” I might ask it, “do I have that horrible flu that I recently read about people dying from? Or did I pick up some dread disease eating streetcart food in Beijing?”

And Google would remind me that it saw me watching Downton Abbey at 4 AM, and then check in at work at 9AM, via a tweet about a breakfast donut, so if I’m not feeling my best, I’m probably suffering from direct consequences of my actions, and not from a rare and terrible disease.

“Yeah, thanks, Dr. Google. That’s probably right.”

“Would you like to try GoogleLabs’ beta version of PreDoctor? Our new service will use predictive patterns, and warn you before you engage in risky and destructive behavior.”

“I’m a writer and programming teacher, Dr. Google, I don’t exactly encounter a lot of health-related risks.”

“In your case, after the third unusually late clockout from work*, you’ll be on yellow alert. With the addition of a second risk factor, like excessive Kindle rereads of Harry Potter, a missed checkin at yoga, or increased impulse shopping, you’ll be on red alert, until you have checked in at a fitness location or Instagrammed a healthy meal.”

Anyway, maybe this isn’t so much of a silly app that needs to exist, more something that’s definitely coming. What would your red alert look like?

*I automated my phone to clock in and out at work because otherwise I would forget.

Sushi With Harold


When Harold and I go out for sushi, we spend a long time debating different rolls. Should we get a Volcano Roll or a Tokyo Roll? Should we get the special with yellowtail, and then get a plain smoked salmon roll, or should we get the Alaska Roll with salmon, and then get an eel and cucumber roll? There is a lot of debate involved in getting the correct combination of flavors and textures,  the right ratio of fancy rolls and plain pieces before we order.

Then we start talking about other things, and by the time the food comes, we have practically forgotten what we ordered and ask each other, is this one going to be spicy? What else is in this tuna roll? This one’s really nice, what’s it called?

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.


Two-Card Poker, Denarii, and PBR

The Three O’Clock Sandwich, and Other Things I’m Terrible At

One of the many life skills that everyone but me has mastered is eating. Mostly I screw it up by forgetting to eat. This sounds really convenient, like I’m going to tell you the secret to magically losing ten pounds, but mostly it just means that I don’t realize I am hungry, while I start to realize that everyone around me is extremely annoying. And stupid. And that I can’t concentrate. And that the last time I thought everyone around me was super annoying, it meant that I’d forgotten to feed myself.

Also I will realize that it’s time to eat, and do about an hour of one-more-thing, just finish this quickly, etc., before I go to eat.

This was fine in New York, where there are about a thousand food options at any time of the day. I could have a sandwich or a salad or a diner meal whenever I felt hungry, even if it wasn’t a proper meal time. (Also, when I was in Manhattan, I worked with Chip a lot, so only one of us had to remember that food is essential.) Actually, if you want dumplings or curry or fried chicken at any time, you can get it in Manhattan.

North Carolina, though, isn’t really into 24-hour access to anything. (One of the nail salons near me is open nine to five, which blows my mind every single time I try to go there and find it’s closed. Is there really no overlap between people who visit a salon, and people who have jobs?)

Hungry at 3:30? Should have thought of that last night, and packed a snack! That’s 3:30 PM, by the way, I’m complaining about my inability to get a late lunch, not wishing for a midnight meal. It’s easy to forget that human bodies require nutrition,  but I never forget that I’m not in the city anymore.

Around Harold’s office, there’s a collection of lovely breakfast and brunch places, which are all closed by 3. There’s also a collection of bars, which seem to open around 6. Which means if you are looking for something to eat before meeting Harold after work, YOU CAN NOT EAT.

It’s not the end of the world, of course, I’m capable of packing an apple or a granola bar, and I’m sure if I keep looking, there’s someplace I can drive to where I can get a three o’clock sandwich. But looking hungrily at a half a dozen closed restaurants is a pretty clear object lesson in how I simply don’t get it here, how I want things no one else wants, and how I’m overall just Doing It Wrong.

Building a better action figure with 3D Printing?

future_actionfigure_3Dprintyoda-600x600In which Harold goes to my work party, but is actually thinking about action figures the whole time.

Mobile apps and games now occupy children from a very young age. In addition to consuming New Media, more and more children are becoming New Media producers and makers. There is a great deal of evidence showing that  toys which allow players to build and create are gaining much more traction. Lego, for example, has gained a huge market share, earning $2 billion in the first six months of 2014, beating the earnings of Fisher-Price, Mattel and Matchbox.

All these things came together in my mind recently, leading  me to think about the possible future for action figures. I was at the opening reception for the new studio for my fiancé’s place of work, Youth Digital. After working in game design for years, Meg now teaches game design and app design to children as young as eight. Others at Youth Digital teach 3D modeling, animation and 3D printing to children and teens.

As I made my way through Youth Digital’s new space, I came face-to-face with examples of their 3D printing. 3D printers are becoming more common and more accessible to the general public. The quality of the printed output continues to improve, and 3D printing is more accessible to casual and hobby designers, especially as companies such as Shapeways spring up to provide 3D printing services and a marketplace for 3D designs.

via Building a better action figure with 3D Printing? by Harold Sipe on Action Figure Fury.

The Lesser Richmond Convention Center

When Harold and I got into Richmond, we drove past the stylish restaurants, art galleries, and bookshops of downtown, and we were in payday loans and check cashing counter territory when we found our hotel. We also weren’t entirely sure it was open, because all the lights on the street-facing side were off. It was not entirely reassuring.

This one of my stranger hotel visits, because the building had, at one point, been a fairly upscale hotel. You could see how someone had once carefully chosen and coordinated the (peeling) wallpaper and (stained) carpets, and that when it was new, it must have looked really nice. We looked at the pool, but the room was only lit on one side (unsure if this was a wiring failure or lightbulb apathy) and the floor was warped enough to leave deep puddles. There was also a whole wing devoted to holding functions, but it was deserted, naturally. Pretty sure anyone holding an event would have a few blocks down the street, at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, rather than here in the ghost hotel.

Everything non-essential was broken, and in some cases, even the Out of Order signs were dusty.  One elevator was non-functioning and the other had a little sign asking riders to please press the buttons harder. But hey, the bed was comfortable, and the room was clean, and it was right down the street from Harold’s comic con.

Although, when we left the first morning to go to the show, the desk clerk was visibly relieved that we weren’t checking out early.

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.


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.

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

Godzilla is the Focal Point of Our Library

Harold has started writing about toys for Action Figure Fury, writing a toy collecting column for people who know the proper names for his monster dolls, or Barbie’s army boyfriend, or little Star Trek men. This recent post talks “finding the fun” (UGH) in game development meetings, playing with little action figure men, and our home:

Godzilla is the focal point of our library, drawing the attention of child and adult visitors alike. We recently had some old friends over and their 4-year old daughter fixated on Godzilla immediately, though she would persist in calling him “Bigfoot.”

via Finding the Fun Factor in Action Figure Collecting | Action Figure Fury.