Monday, June 28, 2021

How I Became a Surprise President

I like phone games.  I play them only on my phone, even when they offer laptop versions because my phone is in theory where the fun things happen, although that's also where I do all my social media, so that's not always what's happening on my phone.  I am aware that since I constantly use the internet on my laptop, I am always about a click and a half away from a game, but this is knowledge I try to ignore.  
I've begun playing these two hidden object games that are both from the same creators.  As with other things, once I find a game I like, I often search for others like it.  My attention span for games is sort of variable.  I often love them a lot for a few days, drop down to a more reasonable amount of time, and then either complete them or fade out.  Not all games offer end points.  
At one point in these two hidden object games, I was offered the opportunity to join a club for more rewards.  I don't do everything the games always suggest to garner rewards.  I basically never go liek their social media, I will occasionally watch ads, I am a little variable.  But joining a club in the game seemed harmless.  So I searched for ones with easy breezy sounding names and joined one.  And then I reached a similar point in the other game and did the same.  
So, these two games are from the same creators, but there are some differences in operation.  One has much more regular little sidequests, and club membership lets you share energy and other rewards, as well as getting you access to a weekly challenge.  Basically, since I've joined the club I have so many coins I don't even know what to spend them on, and our team wins the weekly challenge really regularly.  I was welcomed on entry, and told that they liked to chat, liked to friend each other on Facebook, and liked to have each team member maintain a certain level of points each week, but if I had a week where something took me away and I let people know, that was fine.  
I confess at the start that seemed like a lot of data, but it was clear, and so far they have been fine with my regular but comparatively minimal contributions.  (Many of them appear to be insomniacs who play through the night.  I am a person who likes to have play breaks during the day, but does not play too late because I ended up dreaming the game.)  
The other group no one said anything.  Or at least not at first.  Now the other game the weekly challenges for teams have varied, and do not always require team participation.  You can share gifts that convert to energy or clues, and so we were doing that.  
And then we got a new person who was very chatty.  Not excessively so, but when there had been almost no chat before, there was now daily chat, so it was a shift.  And it was almost entirely this one person trying to encourage us to move up the leaderboard, play the challenge, rah, rah, rah! They started remarking that we had more players who hadn't played that week at all, than we did who were actively playing.  We made it past one leaderboard challenge, and the rest, we did okay but often got beat out by teams with more active players, or more willingness to spend money on extra energy.  
And so finally that person announced they were off to form their own team with celar requirements and leadership roles, and they left.  Several other players left with them.  We had a few new people join, ask a question and when it didn't immediately get answered they left too.  (In fairness, people are in all different time zones, but hey.)  
I kept playing.  I was playing a lot and noticed one week I was the only one who participated in the special challenge. I started checking the stats of other players to see if I was the only one still playing.  One player who had been active seemed to have stopped.  One other player was still making progress.  And that seemed to be it, out of eight theoretical people.
I was trying to decide if I cared.  There were a couple of bonus things that you can't really ever do without others, but beyond that, it wasn't holding me back from playing the game.  And then one day I got a game alert.  Usually they tell me my energy has renewed.  This one said I was President.  
I immediately logged back in to the game because how could that be right?  But as I poked around I was not listed as president, and it appeared that I could not eject people from our club and I also could just reassign the presidency.  
I have not yet done anything with this new power. But I might.     

Friday, June 25, 2021

Re-Release - Repeated Burn

As long time readers might recall, I had a story called Repeated Burn, that originally appeared in the Do It Again Anthology.  The anthology (which has now been sunsetted) worked around a theme of second chance or bouncing back.  As I thought through who to write about, I thought about Raven.  Raven had shown up in Aloha to You as Adriana's fellow small business owner and purveyor of excellent brownies.  (And tea. Let's not forget that tea.)  
As it developed I decided that it was essentially a spinoff of the City Complications Series, so I'm re-releasing it as the first in the City Entanglements series.  For those of you who like to adhere to reading order, I wrote Repeated Burn to take place in approximately the same time frame as Aloha to You, which is to say they can be read in either order and nothing will be spoiled. 
Raven is already having a bad Monday, and the appearance of her ex's new ex is not helping. She delivers Sienna to her brother Marcus, planning to wash her hands of the whole thing. But the universe seems determined to throw her and Marcus together. Marcus is used to cleaning up his little sister's messes. They usually don't involve attractive women. He is drawn to Raven's independence and her confidence. But Raven's been burned by those who claimed to love her time and again. Will she be able to trust that Marcus is ready for the long haul?
TL:DR version of the blurb
*Coffee shop and bakery owner
*Meets corporate hotel dude
*The older brother of her ex's new ex might be the hotness
*Contains brownies and so much coffee
Buy links

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Three Interesting Things

1. Sarah Kuhn writes wonderfully about how anger isn't always the wrong response
2. Linda Holmes writes about how the Fast and Furious franchise's evolutions, are in some ways, a look at how Hollywood has changed. 
3. And with a warning that this is a WaPo link, there have been a lot of nut thefts lately.  Like trucks full of nuts.  

Monday, June 21, 2021

Juneteenth and Incremental Change

This is essentially a version of my window dressing post. 
As Juneteenth became a holiday for the limited number of employees who are privileged to celebrate federal holidays, I thought of a few things. People often assume everyone gets holidays off. When you mention things like utility employees, first responders, hospital employees, and restaurant employees, as a start, they say,  well sure not them. But at least they get holiday pay. I mean maybe. Holiday pay is not legally required anywhere in the US. 
And of course I had a similar conversation with someone about Emancipation Day, which is a DC city holiday. A holiday that no school or company I have so far ever worked for took off. Again, thrilled for the folks who get it. 
DC's Emancipation Day dates back to 1862. Civil War buffs might note that predates the US Civil War. The US was getting pressure to get rid of slavery and so as a compromise they banned slavery in the Capitol. So like you just had to buy and sell people in Alexandria. (Those of you who recall that Alexandria was part of DC and then got given back to Virginia might be having a bit of an aha moment.)
I don't presume to know what the feelings were of the 3000 enslaved persons who were freed by this, but I imagine it was odd to be like yay free, but now where can I go, what can I do, especially when on all sides slavery was still happening. Just not in this truncated square city. 
And it took a war and some time to make further progress on the I guess slavery is bad front. 
But it occurred to me that maybe that was a thing to hope for here. Not war. But that this additional holiday was a step in remembering and acknowledging the harmful policies our country enacted and continues to try to address. That the holiday is clearly not the end, but a step along the way towards more progress. 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Three Interesting Things

1. I was pointed to this post from March, that includes a delightful chart (my heart!) about easy ways folks who have made a name for themselves with a culture not their own can make solidarity a part of their everyday.  Equally applicable to others looking for ways to be more than just a social media ally. 
2. If you heard about this story and thought, Tara is putting this in her ideas file, you are correct.  A woman discovered her boyfriend was cheating right before a planned trip.  Meeting the other woman, they decided why let a good trip go to waste.  Woman let boyfriend know at the airport about the plan change, leaving him to figure out where to stay and all that on his own.  (Also, I have mixed feelings about vaccinated folks engaging in tourism to places where vaccine access is low so I am choosing to believe that this trip happened in the before.  Your mileage on that may vary.) 
3. DC, in addition to having a Council, has ANC's that handle issues for a hyperlocal area.  The ANC that is primarily occupied by the city jail has been vacant, but thanks to a recent election, is now occupied.  

Monday, June 14, 2021

"In the Heights" - the movie

I have listened to the "In the Heights" Broadway cast album countless times over the years. It is part of a July tradition for me. 

When I finally got a chance to see it performed live, both times "Alabanza" made me cry. 

When they released the trailer for the movie, the "We are Claudia's Dream" sign got me. 

I saw one critic mention that they were still in the thick of grief and didn't think they could give the movie a fair shake. 

I knew going in, I was going to be emotional. In my case I worried that I would like it too much, because I needed it to be good. 

Well, I liked it. It's easy, when seeing a thing in a different form, to dwell on the changes. There are some, for sure. 

The themes of hope and home are still there. It is a love letter to a neighborhood, to a cross section of diasporan Latinx folks, with different dreams and plans, but all trying to support each other.  The essence is the same. There are songs, and dancing, and fireworks. Nina is back from a disappointing year at Stanford, her dad is worried about money, Usnavi is close to getting back to the Dominican Republic, but also could maybe see an eye to asking out Vanessa. Maybe.

Some new bits are layered in, references to a Carribean hurricane, to the DREAM Act, and to racial profiling. 

The trick with filmed musicals is taking advantage of the cinematic opportunities, but also not going so big you lose your characters. There is some amazing cinematography. Beautiful choreography. Enough of it was filmed on location that it feels like New York. And there are enough extras and ensemble members that it feels like New York. 

They use a lot of film tricks and even CGI and there was one point where I thought, was there any trick they didn't try? But it was also fun. So many moments where it looked fun and felt fun to watch. 

And yes, I cried. 

It's interesting. I love filmed musicals, because I know it's an embarrassment of riches in normal times with the access to theater I have here, and I also know some of the earliest theater I watched was filmed musicals. They make it more accessible to more people. But sometimes, like the "Rent" movie, I feel like it's more of an intro. Like, the "Rent" movie is a taster, and if you are into it, then you should go get the real thing. I think the "In the Heights" movie is a whole thing. And if you love it, you could also keep an eye out for local productions. 

Friday, June 11, 2021

Three Interesting Things

1, I found this article about how those who lost loved ones to COVID finding calls for normal troubling resonated.  (WaPo link so may be pay or registration walled for you.)
2. This Washingtonian post is about DC places that are named - um - not where they are.  This is likely true of other localities, but as someone who lives near one of these places, I am regularly amused by it. 
3. I've been thinking a lot about reality chef shows and found this article about the audition process interesting. 

Monday, June 07, 2021

The Ripped Bodice Bingo Suggestions for 2021

I enjoy the challenge The Ripped Bodice Bingo presents to my reading.  (Formal rules and bingo board at the link.)
If you choose to participate, here are some suggestions of books that I have already read that meet some of the categories.  (I will obviously have to find more for my own challenge.)
Educator:  The super easy answer on this is Teach Me by Olivia Dade.  Rebekah Weatherspoon's Xeni also qualifies. 
Construction: Meka James Being Neighborly and Beverly Jenkins Wild Rain both have folks involved in construction. 
Friends to Lovers: Jackie Lau's A Fake Girlfriend for Chinese New Year
Down on it's luck small town:  So, I think Tracey Livesay's Sweet Talkin Lover works here.  The town is not quite struggling, but they need the factory to survive and the corporate person has been sent there to evaluate and unbeknownst to them has been encouraged to find in favor of shutting it down.  
Reality TV:  Well, wel, well, *stretches*, Alexis Daria's Take the Lead series, Lyla Lee's I'll Be the One, Ryan La Sala's Be Dazzled.  There are more, but that should keep you busy.
Demigods: Bear with me because this is kind of a stretch. Olivia Dade's Spoiler Alert features an actor in a show based on The Aeneid. 
This Dating is Fake Isn't It:  Well since I already mentioned Jackie Lau and Tracey Livesay, let's add in Gloria Chao's Rent a Boyfriend, and Talia Hibbert's Take a Hint, Dani Brown
Cover has snow: Since I already mentioned Jackie Lau (who has several titles that meet this), let me mention Stacey Agdern's Miracles and Menorahs. 
Reporter:  Since I already mentioned Beverly Jenkins Wild Rain, let me also add Andie J. Christopher's Not the Girl You Marry, and also, I have Aloha to You that fits into this category.  
Holiday That is Not Christmas:  The Love All Year Anthology has got this covered.  
Scientific Pursuit:  Alyssa Cole's A Princess in Theory 
Protagonist smells like freshly baked bread: This requires a more thorough search, but I think baker romances are likely the best bet.  
Circus: Lucy Parker's Making Up
Graphic Novel: Tee Franklin's Bingo Love and S. W. Searle's Patience and Esther
Stable Romp: The Shadow Warrior by Ann Aguirre
Revenge Quest: Oh goodness, Beverly Jenkins' Wild Rain works here again too, but Emery Lee's Meet Cute Diary also has some internet stuff as the catalyst. 
Bodyguard: Piper J. Drake's Safeguard series is a great choice here.  
Tattoos:  Roan Parrish's Small Change and Alisha Rai's Wrong to Need You are great choices here. 
Wardrobe Malfunction: Sarah Morgan's Ripped works for this.  


Thursday, June 03, 2021

Three Interesting Things

1. Jemele Hill gave a good overview of both Osaka's recent tournament withdrawal in tennis, and other athletes that have tried to protect themselves so that they can play at their best.  
2. There is an auction running to raise money for the Middle East Children's Alliance and the Palestine Children's Relief fund. Some great items for both readers and writers.  
3. I honestly have so many questions about this invisible sculpture than an artist sold. Like are invisible sculpture's harder or easier to sculpt? Did you sometimes forget where it was and trip over it?  How hard is transporting an invisible sculpture without damaging it?  This piece answers none of these questions, but the wondering is fun.   

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Setting Boundaries

I am at best a dabbler when it comes to paying attention to women's tennis. But I think whatever happens going forward with tennis, the current events with Naomi Osaka are worth talking about.
I want to say that while I'm about to share many, many thoughts and opinions, Osaka's choices are hers and hers alone. And the pro tennis circuit is of course balancing many competing priorities as well. 
So, for those who don't know, Naomi Osaka announced ahead of the upcoming tournament that post-game press was honestly not helpful to her mental health during a tournament and as such she had decided to pay the fine for not doing it.  Much hubbub ensued, including a now deleted tweet where the tournament itself implied she wasn't living up to her obligations.  And so now she has stated that hey, she was not trying to be a tournament distraction, and she was not trying to say all journalists suck, and she was not trying to trivialize mental health, and instead she was simply going to withdraw from the tournament. 
So, let's discuss. 
One could argue that press is just a natural part of the business of many things. I know that's an argument I have sometimes made myself. 
The thing is, it's honestly tiring. Not all of it of course. But I personally get bored of watching players who won demure over how lucky they were, players who lost try to explain that physics were not on their side, and so on. Sure, there are occasional moments of interest. But they are few and far between. And honestly this is why podcasts and other longform things that have the time and space to go deeper are often more interesting. 
So let's talk about another reality. These interviews are easier for men. They are easier for white men especially. And they are easier for folks with little to no mental health issues. And they are easier when it's not a pandemic, but that's true of almost anything. 
I'm not saying they are easy for anyone or even anyone male and white and without mental health issues. But any cursory look at sports press shows that male athletes get asked about technique and female athletes get asked about feelings. It's not the same. 
And if you are part of any group that is underrepresented in professional sports, you get asked about that too. And if you admit to mental health concerns, you get asked about that also. It's a lot. 
I haven't done the math on the fines to see if winning makes not doing press worth it. I suspect because the circuit requires a certain amount of tournament participation to maintain your ranking, it might be worth it if you have enough endorsements. 
And of course, I don't begrudge anyone who says it's worth it for my mental health. 
Osaka is coming into this choice with a lot of privilege. But I feel like some folks are focusing on that, and not on the idea that she, as a champion, is saying, hey here's a thing in place that makes this job exceedingly hard. Have we considered changing it? And honestly, that's what we want, right? For people to work their way up a ladder and say, okay, I have some thoughts on making things better. 
I hope the tennis circuit is able to really listen even if no press at all is not a stance they are willing to accept.
The world is changing. Athletes all have social media and are able to communicate with viewers and fans directly if they choose. Obviously that option is also not equally safe for everyone's mental health. But it exists. 
And I hope tennis and the press consider that. 
I think the best thing we can do when presented with a boundary someone is trying to set for their own welfare is consider how best it can be accommodated. I would rather watch Osaka play tennis than not. So I hope those aren't the only choices.