Oil Changes Are Awesome!

There’s usually a bit of paperwork hassle dealing with things that Harold and I share, but are in one person’s name, like whenever one of us wants to pay a bill that’s in the other person’s name. So I was a expecting a bit of annoyance when I took Harold’s car for an oil change this morning (I assume there’s some kind of highly profitable long con that involves getting oil changes on stolen vehicles.). Today I didn’t have any trouble,  PLUS I got to say “my husband” in conversation!

Being married is so great!


Also The Whole Thing Really

One of the common complaints about social media is that people who are Instagramming or livetweeting their experiences, aren’t really “present” in the moment they’re recording, and are therefore enjoying things incorrectly.  I usually don’t understand this complaint, and it falls into the category of enjoying it wrong or XKCD’s other people having experiences incorrectly.  Does anyone ever wish they had written less in their diary or had fewer photographs of things they enjoyed?

But in the time leading up to our wedding, I didn’t really have any desire to record or chronicle what was happening. Now that we’re married, and I’m just waiting for another chance to say “my husband” and laugh hysterically, here are some things about weddings:

The old rule about the groom not seeing the dress is a good one to follow because if the groom can’t see the dress, he can’t put a cooler of snacks on top of it.

Wedding dresses are complete bullshit. The more I think about the time, money, and effort involved in something I wore for a couple hours, the more bizarre the entire concept is. Social customs, man. So weird if you think about it. Actually, don’t think too much about wedding symbols and why they exist in general, because then you will say things like “Fine, let’s get this patriarchal handover started.” and everything will accuse of you not taking the wedding seriously and not being romantic.

We went to a jewelers in South Dartmouth to get Harold’s wedding ring resized, because our trip to the Chapel Hill jeweler had been not so great. My favorite part was being told that in a few years when we have more money, I could upgrade my engagement ring and get a better diamond, and that I shouldn’t worry too much because lots of people start off with small diamonds. Bizarre upsell attempt, I think. Harold was also told that men always complain about their rings, and that his ring fits just fine.  (It didn’t fit fine, and while I don’t much care about most of the wedding traditions, I do feel rather strongly that a wedding band is not to be worn as a pinky ring, and that’s why we were resizing at the last minute.)

We had a ceremony at my dad’s church, and about 20 guests to dinner at the parsonage next door. I thought this would be simple and manageable. I was wrong.

My dad ended the ceremony with “husband and wife, Meg and Harold” in order to avoid saying Mr and Mrs, because even if I am going to do the whole patriarchal handover, I’m not changing my name.

Even if you are in your thirties, and have given marriage a lot of soul-searching, and are crazy about your intended spouse, and have thought a great deal about whether marriage is just the social expectation or if it’s really the best thing for your life, and know each other very well, and have decided that you’re really, really ready to get married, the part where you actually see the marriage license is pretty scary.  Also, the part where you walk into the church. Also, the whole thing really.

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.


Destroying Daleks in “Doctor Who Legacy”

screenshotI discovered Doctor Who Legacy when some of the kids at a homeschool convention saw my Tardis necklace, and told me all their favorite Doctor Who games and episodes. When one of the kids showed me this game on his iPad, and I saw the screen full of colored gems, I asked if it was a match-three.

“How did you that’s what you do?” one of the kids asked. “Wait, have you played this before?”

Oh, my sweet summer children.

Doctor Who Legacy is a strategic match-three, where all the powers and characters relate to the show. As you play the match-three boards, you’ll unlock doctors and companions, and each character has a special ability.  Martha Jones increases healing by 15%, and the Eleventh Doctor can use A Fast Plan to attack. One of the companions is a cute little Adipose, with the ability to change black gems into yellow gems. That’s because adipose stem cells are pluripotent and can become all different things. (I hope you laughed, because that joke is the only enjoyment I got out of that science class.)

match 3 square

How did you know this is a match-three, Ms Meg?

You’ll get one doctors and up to five companions on your team, while the rest of the unlocked characters hang out on the Tardis, probably  having the best party ever. You can only use one team at a time, but you can make and save multiple teams, so you could have a team with your favorite doctors and his real companions, and a optimal team for defeating levels of Weeping Angels, and also a team of Beloved and Underused Companions. (I stole that idea from a twelve-year-old, and I am not sorry.)

Each puzzle level progresses the plot, and for dedicated fans, you can also buy the related episode right through the game.

The game is freemium, powered either by 30-second invasive adverts, or an in-app purchase to unlock the a Fan Area with new content. There’s so much free content to play, so many levels and characters and upgrades, that unlocking the Fan Area is only really tempting as a way to make the advertisements stop. I had a long conversation with Harold about whether this is an ad-supported game or the freemium model where the game is deliberately unbalanced, and players are extorted to fix the balance. Actually it wasn’t so much a conversation as it was me ruminating on monetization methods and perceived value while Harold reads a comic and murmurs agreement periodically. Relationships are great!

Also, players who pay unlock Donna Noble, so there’s a serious value add for players who purchase. I’m glad that she’s so much of a fan favorite.

skip the story

Are you really sure? We didn’t get this dialogue approved by all those brand managers just for you to skip it! 

If you don’t want to read the dialogue (which is quite good, but definitely doesn’t hold up the second, third or sixtieth times you replay the level trying to get the Martha Jones rare drop), this pop-up reminds you that without the story, you’re playing a clever match-three.

I tend towards simple puzzle games while I’m unwinding… where most people would read a little, but if I start reading I’ll be up all night finishing the book. Anyway. My friend Jennette talks about playing a few rounds of Candy Crush in the evening, and I’m finding that’s what I do with Doctor Who Legacy: Stretch out and defeat a few Daleks before bedtime.


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.