Getting Stomped in Ticket to Ride

One nice thing — Kavi came to me around 3:30 yesterday and asked if I wanted to play a board game, and I put aside the work I was going to do and said yes. Teatime is the perfect time to ask me to do something fun, because that’s usually when I’m losing energy for work and need to break for a few hours.

We made popcorn, Kevin joined too, and I taught them Ticket to Ride. (Anand was invited, but didn’t feel like playing.) I’m very bad at this game, so as I expected, both of them STOMPED me.

I’ve now downloaded the iPad version, though, which is very good, and I’ve played a bunch of games against the computer, and I think I’m seeing a little of where I was going wrong before.

It’s a little like Pandemic strategy, I think — in Pandemic, you need to focus on trade in for cures, rather than eliminating disease, and it’s easy to get caught up in the latter and then lose the game. In Ticket to Ride, it’s easy to get caught up in completing tickets, but while it’s important to complete high point tickets so you don’t get penalized, you may get a lot more points by putting down longer segments, so you shouldn’t get fixated just on completing tickets.

Anyway, Kavi may be in for a surprise when we try a rematch. Which we’re going to do in about five minutes, when she finishes the show she’s watching. Stay tuned!

Mildly Recommended

One of Anand’s birthday presents, Kids Against Maturity. Sort of a cross between Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity? The goal is to make the funniest combination of fill-in-the-blank, which my kids say is how they usually play Apples to Apples anyway. But they had fun, and it’s a nice compact game box that you can easily take with you while traveling, so that’s a plus too. Mildly recommended.

Acron

VR question, Oculus Quest edition. My family is LOVING the game Acron — one person wears the VR headset and plays as a tree, throwing boulders and slime at pesky squirrels trying to steal acorns. At least two other people play with you, as the squirrels, using an app on their phones / tablets.

It’s the perfect level of fun for us and the kids (ages 10 and 13), and my only complaint is that it’d be nice if you could play with just one other person, because often Anand and I are up for a game, and Kevin and Kavi aren’t. But aside from that, it’s great.

As far as I can tell, though, I can’t find any other games like this, which sort of bewilders me, because I’d think this would be a super-natural format for VR family gaming, given that the headsets are expensive and you probably aren’t going to buy one for every member of the family. Are there games that my Googling is not helping me find? Are they just in development now, and we have to wait?

I’m aware of the escape room-style games, which we’ll try at some point, but right now, I’d really just like more in this vein, fun action games, cute cheery graphics.

Encore on Zoom

Hey, when cataloging my games, it occurred to me that Encore might actually work on Zoom. Most singing stuff doesn’t, because of lag, but with Encore, you’re taking turns.

Anyone who’s played the game, what do you think? Might be a fun thing to try, and I think you only need one person who owns the game, really, who can read off the cards and move the markers, sharing screen as needed?

Jump Space RPG

I’ve been trying to think about what to do with my Jump Space RPG. This is a SF role-playing game suitable for playing around the dining table with your family (I’d say kids should be at least teens for this one, as there’s a fair bit of romance possibility) or roommates, or on Zoom with friends.

I don’t think I have the time or energy to do a big Kickstarter, etc., but I do want to release it to the public. I’m thinking of offering it for something like $5 on my Shopify store.

Then I might also host occasional sessions myself, open to those who have bought the game (I guess I’d need to make it first-come, first-served, in case 5000 people buy it and want to play with me, but that does seem a bit unlikely), so people can have a little guidance on how you play this kind of thing, if they haven’t before.

I could also possibly record a game I play with friends, and have it up as a demo, if that’d be helpful? Although play-through is usually about 2 hours, so that seems a lot. Maybe we record it all, and then just present some bits of it, skimming forward?

What do people think?

Board Game Trades

I’m trying to figure out if there’s a responsible way to manage board game trades in the neighborhood during pandemic times.

We have at least 50 or so very good (and somewhat pricey) games, and I’d be happy to loan many of them out for, say, a week, to a responsible family to add some variation to their summer sheltering-in-place. Porch pick-up with a ‘due date’ seems reasonable to me.

I’m not generally concerned about coronavirus on surfaces, but people who are being careful could pick up a game on Sunday, quarantine it for 3 days, have it to play Thurs – Sat, drop it back off on Sunday.

Thoughts?

Tried Supernatural VR

Tried out Supernatural VR app — basically like Beat Saber, but 360, which is a little harder and more interesting, with more squats and lunges, and more of a gym / exercise / dance vibe. Free for the first 30 days, $20 / month thereafter, so am planning to try it for a month, see if I do it regularly.

I’ve just done the tutorial so far, planning to try it out for real tomorrow.

A project that crystallized last week

So, I think I’m ready to talk a little about this new project that crystallized last week. (Photo of dragonfruit chocolate bars ‘crystallized’ for inspiration.)

 

There are multiple elements coming together in this, things I’ve been working on and thinking about for a long time. I’m still not positive of what the final shape will be.

• the memoir: I’ve been working for a while on a project titled _Domestic Resistance_, a meditation on how we stay sane while under siege in the Trump presidency, how handwork and reclamation of heritage skills, appreciation of culture and diversity, celebration of community and the joys of making all came together to sustain me (as I worked on my Sri Lankan cookbook in the last few years) through intense work, deep political frustration, and occasional flailings of despair. Asking how we can work for change without exhausting ourselves.

• the makerspace: we may have found a place in Forest Park for the first stage of the writing / textile arts / tech makerspace that we started planning two years ago. Our hope is that it allows the community to share their knowledge, help each other over the initial humps of uncertainty and anxiety, finding our way to new skills and approaches that make our lives better in a host of ways. I have some legal and financial details to work out still, and then there’ll be a Kickstarter to help get us off the ground (looking for around $25K in initial funding, I think), but I hope we’ll be up and running soon, possibly by May.

(NOTE: the space won’t be wheelchair accessible, unfortunately; you’ll need to be able to navigate a flight of stairs to access it. My plan is that if people who can’t access it want to sign up for a class, we’ll find an alternate accessible location for that class. And then long-term, we’ll continue looking for accessible spaces in the area. Ideally, I’d eventually like to grow into a constellation of spaces in Forest Park, Oak Park, Austin, etc.)

• the magazine: this is the newest bit, and still a bit inchoate. For my memoir, I was already thinking that I wasn’t sure I wanted to write a traditional book — I was wondering what it might look like as a quarterly magazine, sort of a cross between Martha Stewart Living and Granta. Glossy, beautiful photos, a year in the life, combining running for office, the tail end of cancer treatment, the house and garden and parenting and engaging in local politics, and of course, cooking.

Last week, I realized that it would be SO GREAT to extend that into a broader publication. I’ve been increasingly frustrated by how balkanized communications media are becoming, and at least locally, we’re really splitting demographically, with some people reading the print Wednesday Journal, some people mostly on FB groups (often very private ones), some people mostly auditory listeners, and the kids are on TikTok and SnapChat doing god knows what…

If we had a publication that showcased progressive voices and conversations, in a variety of areas (garden, food, schools, etc.) and if we could push it out in multiple media (a print version, an online version, a podcast, TikToks, etc.), maybe we’d have a chance at actually talking to each other, actually listening.

So often when I was running for office, I found that with something as simple as getting rid of fines at the library, people I talked to were initially resistant, but all they needed was for someone to actually present the argument to them, and then they realized that yes, doing this would actually align with their values. And we could afford it too.

*****

That’s where my head is right now. I have a lot more specifics, but I think the next stage is a whole host of conversations. I’m going to want to shape this very carefully, if it’s to do what I hope it’ll do, and I’m going to need a lot of community input.

But I think my own memoir would be interesting in conversation with a broader community magazine, and the magazine would be in conversation with what we do at the makerspace, and as Serendib Press develops, Stephanie and Heather and Darius and Emmanuel and Julia are learning more and more about the publication process, so we’re getting into a better position to do this well.

So that’s where I am right now. I’m about to go out of town, and much of March is super-absorbed with travel and Feast launch events. But I’m going to be talking to people, local and otherwise, about all of this. We’ll see where it takes us.

(We’re going to need a name.)

Hey, folks — here’s my schedule for FogCon next week in Walnut Creek!

Hey, folks — here’s my schedule for FogCon next week in Walnut Creek! I hope to see some of you there: https://fogcon.org

Friday:
3:00 PM – 4:15 PM, Salon A/B “Food in Genre Fiction”
Inspired by Mary Anne Mohanraj’s latest publication being a cookbook, let’s think about food and its place in genre fiction! In stories where a stranger visits a new culture, we often hear about their food choices (Becky Chambers’s “Record of a Spaceborn Few” comes to mind). Food can be a marker of similarity or difference between people, and ultimately, it is a necessity. When our worlds change, what happens to the food in them?

M: Sasha Pixlee. Rebecca Gomez Farrell, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Tina LeCount Myers, Deborah J. Ross, Juliette Wade

4:30 PM – 5:45 PM, Salon C, POC Meetup
Social gathering for members who identify as people of color (only, please). We’ll share questions, experiences, and solidarity. Coffee and tea will be provided. Anyone who wants can also bring their own snacks, from the Consuite or elsewhere.
M: Abie Ekenezar

7:45 PM – 8:00 PM, Salon A/B, “Opening Ceremonies”
We’ll start the convention off with a brief gathering to meet the Honored Guests and hear some words from the Honored Ghost.

8:00 PM – 9:15 PM, Salon A/B “Societal Defaults That Carry Into Genre”
Genre fiction allows us to imagine worlds and cultures completely different from ours, yet sometimes some cultural assumptions are so ingrained that we don’t consider them changeable. For example, Mary Anne Mohanraj’s “The Stars Change” is a book that challenges the assumption of monogamy. What other assumptions do we see carrying into the new spaces and cultures we create? How can we break out of those?
M: Lisa Eckstein. Karen Brenchley, Garrett Croker, Alyc Helms, Mary Anne Mohanraj

Saturday:
9:00 AM – 10:15 AM, Salon A/B “Archives and Genre”
Archives are science fictional: archivists have to anticipate climate change, the evolution of technology, and how historians will view the present day. Archives are fantastical: they involve a deep encounter with the past, redolent of parchment, leather, and the dust of vanished information. This panel will explore archives as an SFF-nal phenomenon, as well as portrayals of archives and archivists in science fiction and fantasy.
M: Michele Cox. Marion Deeds, Bradford Lyau, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Norm Sperling

1:30 PM – 2:45 PM, Salon A/B “Genre Nonprofits With Mary Anne Mohanraj”
Mary Anne will share what she’s learned about nonprofits and the field, discussing con-running and organizations such as Con or Bust, Strange Horizons, and her own Speculative Literature Foundation. Topics may include succession planning, professionalization (and its hazards), organizational growth, fundraising, inclusiveness / exclusion, and realistic enforcement of convention codes of conduct.
Mary Anne Mohanraj (This description and title got fixed and updated in the app but not the printed version of the program; my apologies, but we didn’t catch it in time.)

3:00 PM – 4:15 PM, Santa Rosa “Honored Guest Reading”
Mary Anne Mohanraj, Nisi Shawl

Saturday evening: No schedule — maybe run RPG of “Jump Space”?

Sunday morning: No schedule — maybe run RPG of “Jump Space”?