Showing posts from 2014

2014 in review!

This is Leo, ladies and gents, sleeping upside down and sprawled on his bed as he hasn't done since he was a puppy, thanks to his cushy bed. That's his 2014 in a nutshell, really. :) And not a bad start for mine.

So, this was actually a really good year for me. I got a lot accomplished this year, even if it was hard won in a lot of ways.

January:Despite my early concerns, I didn't back out of grad school. I balanced school with Oscar season, which will be starting soon again as well. We went to the Flying Fig for our anniversary, which was amazing and on my list to go back to some day ( though likely not for our anniversary this year, given time and money issues).

February: I turned 43. We had an awesome Oscar party. I read a lot of stuff, but not as much as I should have, because taking comprehensive notes is only so useful. I started putting my head down and focusing on my work. I presented a paper on a Hitchcock movie at the SouthWest Popular Culture Association Confere…

Christmas trees are the weirdest tradition.

This is my Christmas tree this year. It says hello.

This is the first year, for me, that it really feels like a Christmas tree. We bought it from a reputable dealer who gave it a fresh cut and knew how tall it was. We measured to make sure how tall of a tree would responsibly fit in the space we have. We bought some foil garland and some new glass ornaments (and some robots) to put on the tree. We have a few older ornaments from Matt's previous tree, but they were all of a type, and now it's finally achieved "glorious mishmash" status, where the unique weird non-themed stuff outweighs the coordinated things. There are still ornaments I'd like to phase out with stuff that is meaningful to us and our kids, but that'll come with time.

Now, with all of that said... Christmas trees are a very odd tradition. I mean, for me a tree is kind of necessary. It isn't Christmas if there isn't a tree of some sort, and it's got to have some sort of gaudy lights …

Who's afraid of Cuba?

Not us anymore, apparently. We're over it.

President Obama's move to normalize relationships with Cuba is huge, really. The ongoing embargo, "na na I can't see you" method of dealing with Cuba was, to my mind, one of the last big holdovers from the Cold War. Small enough we could pretend not to notice in the greater scheme of things, large enough that as long as we had it, there wasn't a lot of moving forward that could happen. Untouchable so long as we held to a Cold War neo-conservative basis -- if the Cold War is your raison d'etre, then letting go of Cuba policy is the last thing you'll ever do. There were missiles there, man! Commies on the border! Insanity!

And yet, here we are.

In a lot of ways, this strikes me as a definitive blow to the neo-con baby boomers that have been in control of politics for so very long. If they were really in charge, it never would have happened -- and yet, here we are, and by and large, people are pretty happy abou…

Deathy death death -- Happy holidays!

So I was reading a review of Hozier's concert in LA, and they mentioned that if there was a niche for a death-obsessed hipster guitarist, he fills it nicely. Given that Hozier's album is frankly my current obsession, I went, "hey! That's not true...." But then I thought about it and yeah, it kinda is. But I don't tend see it that way.

Maybe I'm kinda death-focused myself, if I think about it. I find Gothic things resonate for me; questions of immortality and contemplation of other states of being feel comfortable, like old friends, and I regularly question how we know what we are and what others are, and how hard it is to leave any sort of lasting mark behind is when we go. But what does this have to do with anything, you might ask. And how it is related to Christmas, of all things! And right you are to ask such questions, dear reader. Right you are.

This time of year, I find myself particularly thinking of such things. And it's not due to missed rel…


So, since a shift in my meds, I have problems sleeping in any more. I fall asleep earlier than I was wont to do six months ago, and I wake up earlier than I'd like. By 7 AM on a typical day, sleep is no longer an option. And I know, all of you who have to get up earlier than that for work (including my husband) are all playing the world's tiniest violins for me, but here's the thing: would you willingly get up at that time if you didn't have to? I don't have anywhere to be that early, and I still can't sleep in. Thankfully, we have an arrangement where my husband makes coffee when he gets up so that I can get some, and then I can sit in bed with my computer and drink some coffee, and then the world seems like it's a far better place. But this also means that I should get some work done.

For this week, I need to study Latin for the final on Wednesday. So that gets done today and tomorrow. I need to work on moving my article into Chicago style so it'll b…

Downsizing deliberately

So, my car is currently a leased vehicle, and my lease is up at the beginning of February. We've started to look at what our end of lease options are -- and one of them, of course, is to let the car go back. Currently the buy price on the car is more than it's worth, so we're not keeping it. Matt's car is a CR-V with nearly 300k miles on it, so we'd like to get something newer for him too. We've gone around about this a few times over, and really what it's coming down to is the idea that, as his new job is not terribly far from my work, it might be the right time to consider dropping down to one car, and getting a newer CR-V for the two of us together. Even if we still have a car payment, we'll only have the insurance and gas for one car to consider and I won't be paying for a parking pass at my school, which is a considerable savings. Also, our schedules work for it to be feasible.

This is a big deal for me, as I have only been without a car for m…

Looking back and thinking forward

So I think, from the clothing, that I was about 16 in this picture. That would have made it roughly 1987 or 1988. That's me on the left, and then my brother Mark on the right, and my grandmother in between us. Grandmother (because that's what we always called her) was my dad's mom. I'm closer to her age now than it really strikes me to think about, but if you look at a current pic of me and then look at her... well, the resemblance is pretty clear, allowing for purple hair and everything.

With my exams finished finally and all the good stuff going on in my life right now, I find myself thinking of her often. I admired her greatly -- she taught me a lot about crafting and being a pretty cool and creative person. She was a painter and a pretty darn good one at that. I have her art on my walls here, and I'd take more of it once I have a good place to hang it. My dad loved his mom, but their relationship was a lot more conflicted -- he wasn't wrong, and she wasn&#…

THANKS-giving! Hah!

See what I did there? Of course you do. :)

So, things I'm thankful for this year.

Firstly, I'm thankful that I passed my exams. Like all the thankfulness that it's done. It pretty much ate my life for a year, and while I don't regret it in the least.... I have a number of other things I'd like to move on to, not the least of which is my dissertation.

Secondly, I'm thankful for my husband. Matt made it possible for me to do... well, everything over the past year. He really honestly is the best thing to happen to me, and he makes all the rest of it worth doing.

Thirdly, I'm thankful for my kids. Alisdair and William are really the best sons I could ask for. They live much further from me than I like, but I respect their choices -- our time together again will come. They're such awesome people, and it's a privilege to be their mother.

Fourthly, I have these dogs, you see. As I sit crosslegged on the couch right now, Si has wrapped himself around me and…


I'm looking to my friends this morning because I need help knowing how I can deal with this. This situation is not about my feelings or my response, and I know that, so I won't waste space with them. I just... from my friends who engage more deeply in activism than I do, I want to know... where does that emotion go? And how can I turn around and help when I don't have much money to help with? How do I find a place to direct my need to engage without burdening someone who has enough burdens of their own over the system we have?

I am overwhelmed this morning, and I need a conduit, a way to refocus and help make some sort of change. If anyone has suggestions, I'm open to them.

All I want for Christmas...

At Matt's request, I'm making a Christmas list of things I think are nifty.

First off, I have an Amazon wishlist.

Second, I love this site and nearly everything on it.

Third, I could use more winter dresses and good leggings. This site has a number of them. Fourth, I don't really have enough geeky nerdy literary shirts. There's lots of sources for those, though. 
Fifth, here's a link to my ThinkGeek wishlist
If you need more suggestions... um, I have no idea. That should do it, though. :)

Post-exams update

The Edgar Degas painting to the right is pretty indicative of how I'm feeling at the moment.

So, exams are done. I passed both my oral and written exams without having to redo any of them. I've been asked to ponder my dissertation. I have to catch up on the grading and Latin I've let slide this past week. I am so very DONE, but I'm trying to at least keep a semblance of forward momentum through the rest of the semester. My committee was helpful in pointing out some of the weaknesses in my approach for moving forward, which is really helpful, and I need to take back a billion books to the library, which I'm actually really looking forward to -- but not today, as the weather is a complete pain. As I look out the window, the snow is coming down in what I think of as sifted powdered sugar -- light enough you can't really see it snowing unless you've got a dark backdrop, but enough to slowly blanket every freaking thing out there.

I am due to phone my sons toni…


I voted yesterday. I did research, I looked over the issues, I even read background on the judges, for heaven's sake -- and EVERYTHING except the school bond that I voted for lost. There were a few bright spots nationally in races I couldn't affect, but by and large, people voted for the exact opposite that common sense and a vague overview of the issues would have told them to... and I'm so very depressed as a result. What the hell, people. *hugs her coffee cup tighter*

Cue exam montage.

So today I start my doctoral exams.

I'm looking a bit like the woman in the image, except she doesn't have enough books lying around her. I've got 72 hours of doing nothing but writing like mad ahead of me, and I'm going to be crazy and non-responsive to the internet -- hell, to most of the world -- most of that time.

That being said... I'm oddly grateful to be doing this. If you'd told me in 2000 that I'd be getting my doctorate in... well, anything, really, much less English, I'd have thought you were crazy. Now that I'm doing it, I'm pretty sure I'm crazy. But it's a good sort of crazy, I think, and it seems to suit me. I've turned into this person who half the time Yodas her way through things. Somehow I lost most of the ability to have someone tell me something they want that's crazy and agree with them. Now I'm on the path of, "you want that thing? So looking at this and that and the other, here's what it take…


OMG, exams.

So, I was doing pretty well on the posting for a while, and I will do again, but first I have to get through doctoral exams. I am so deep into prep mode that it's not even funny, and I'm still super behind. You don't even know. So, don't expect anything new here until November, and maybe not until Thanksgiving. It's not that I don't love you, anonymous blog-reading people. It's just that I have all kinds of mental and writing stuff to do that doesn't include blog posting. So... yeah. Have fun! I'll check back with you in a month or so.

Close Reading Top 40: "Mirrors," by Justin Timberlake

So, I have this thing, because I'm an English major, wherein I listen more closely to lyrics than are probably intended by their composers. I also listen to alternative rock and top-40 in the car (and NPR -- don't judge me). And as such, sometimes I'm just floored by what I'm hearing. Today, therefore, brings a close reading and feminist analysis of Justin Timberlake's "Mirrors," off his latest album The 20/20 Experience.

Now, the history behind this song is apparently very sweet -- he wrote it about his feelings for his then bride-to-be, Jessica Biel, along with being inspired by his grandparents. The video makes me tear up a bit, honestly -- it's very sweet, at least until you get to the clown women dancing in the mirror hall.

But honestly, if we're going by the lyrics, there are some issues here. Let's start at the beginning. Lyrics are courtesy of A-Z
1st verse: Aren't you somethin' to admire?
'Cause your shine is …

I hab a code.

It's not so bad as all that, really, more just sinus headaches and sore throat and feeling blah. I'm 99.5% sure it's not ebola, at any rate, so that's something we can all celebrate.

I'm working on getting back into my reading list in some depth, so I've reorganized things and made some piles of books so I can see what I have left to do, and I find this is far more motivating than words on a list. Visual stuff for the win. I have a new lamp sitting beside my chair, and it really improves my whole world. Yay for seeing things!

After taking a few days to read secondary material (so much faster) I'm back to reading primary stuff. I have 9 of the 15 primary novels (the longest sources) that I need to read in my possession. The rest I'll end up getting from the library. I have a lot less of the poetry, but that's a much quicker read, and I've got half of the drama. I'm starting on DeFoe's Roxana today after a round each of secondary sources f…

Affordances and Feminism in Games

I'm currently reading James Gibson's The Ecological Approach To Visual Perception, which seems like it would have nothing to do with literature at all -- except you'd be wrong. (It also seems like it'd be boring, but you'd be wrong there too, amazingly enough.) Basically, this book applies early systems theory to visual perception and moves it outside the eye and into the environment in a very painterly, "what sort of things do we actually see and interact with" sort of way. In it, he puts forward the theory of affordances, which is basically that things give us opportunities or possibilities when we interact with them depending on their physical qualities. That sounds simple enough on the surface, but really there's a wealth of applicability there to things beyond just the environment, particularly when it comes to literature.

If we look at literature as an assembly of concepts (setting, characters, plot, genre conventions, objects), then it's in…

Truth to Power, or that sort of thing.

Soapbox time.

So. We're only human, right? And one of the things we hate (as humans) is hearing about when we've fucked up. We get cranky. We get defensive. We get anxious. We feel attacked, and all those panicky feelings shoot us full of adrenaline and we have to react right the fuck now to make them go away.

Heck, I even feel accused looking at the image I uploaded. Um, sorry about that.

But here's the thing -- sometimes we fuck up. And when we mess up in a way that affects someone else, and that's a fairly common thing, it is often the right and proper thing for them to call us on it. Particularly, as it happens, if it's part of a pattern of error, or mistaken beliefs, or bad choices, or just mishandling we don't realize we're doing. It's entirely possible to be wrong and not even realize it, and our friends are doing the right thing if they call us on that, no matter how icky we might feel inside. The right thing to do, in that case, is not to defen…

Rising Waters, Session 6

Song: "Why Don't You Do Right," Carolina Chocolate Drops

(Honestly, the video is so awesome I had to include it, even though I usually just link. Fantastic performance.)

So after the group left Adelphia's lover's house, they went back to the garage to regroup. Uno was determined to go see the winter changelings trapped in cold storage by Mab as punishment and question his counterpart Ymir, the minor Winter Knight. Zeke agreed to go with him, as an angry Uno was not someone you wanted to see out on their own confronting enemies. (That Mab might be annoyed with their interference didn't really come up.)

Dylan was very focused on making his diving bell, and neither Eldi nor Adia wanted to tag along to the cold storage facility so they stayed to "help" Dylan. Viktor got in touch with his contact on the White Council, but she needed more information before she could definitively help identify any monsters in the deeps of the bay other than "Chessie.…

50 posts, yay!

So I managed to make it to 50 posts! While I'm not posting daily, I'm posting semi-regularly, and that's something in and of itself. Today's post, then, is sort of a general update.

1) GenCon is done. We did well (I won't say we made money on the con as a whole), but we offset a decent portion of our expenses. We sold through nearly all the stock we brought -- we might have sold more had we been more ambitious about bringing material, but then we might have had to carry stuff home, too, so it worked out. I had a great time, my kids had a great time, and all is well on that front. And now on to Chill, 3rd Edition. *grin*

2) Classes start today. We got glowing reviews from the summer course I co-taught, so I'm thrilled with that. I've got Latin this afternoon but that's the only class I'm taking -- so long as I can order my books today, I'll be fine.

3) I've got a ton of studying and writing to do. No really. You don't even want to know.


GenCon: The Rest of It, 2014 edition

So I did day 1, and then GenCon happened, so now I'm doing a recap, because seriously. There's not enough time in the world.

Friday: So Friday was a big booth day for me. I spent most of my day there meeting people and selling stuff. Seriously, we had a great booth that had very little downtime for the whole con -- I'm thrilled with the Indie Game Showcase and how successful it was. In the afternoon, I left the booth and went to a panel on "Intro to RPG Design" run by Mark Richardson, whose game Headspace is currently being playtested with an eye to release soonish. Very pretty, I have to say.

Anyway, the panel was well attended and well received. We were able to give some suggestions on moving from idea to design and design to game. I think we may have been too broad in terms of what people might have expected to be covered, but it worked out well and people said they appreciated it.

Following the panel, though, I had to high-tail it over to the JW. We all ate br…

GenCon, Day 1.

So Matt and the boys and I drove out to GenCon on Wednesday, getting here a day ahead of the official start so we could set up the booth and attend Trade Day and represent the Indie Games Showcase! for the con. Getting it set up was the usual mix of Victory! and frustration, so that was about par for the course. I did kiss a guy on the cheek for bringing me a bottle of water, though.

Thursday morning we head over bright and early to finish setting up the booth -- it takes a village and people with more coffee than I'd had, but we get it running, and then I spent most of the day there. Once we had it going... well, we had a really good day.

Thursdays are normally a decent day, but today was crowded like no Thursday I'd seen before. The hall was packed and not just in a huge queue for the one big thing, but in a lot of lines for a lot of cool things, and then also wandering around. The Indie Games Showcase (#1539) is our booth, and by our I mean Indie Game Designers Network, and…

Garden plans!

So, back to the whole getting the grounds at the house fixed up thing.

Once upon a time, this house was owned by people who enjoyed doing garden stuff. I can tell this, because the things they did were really quite expansive and required a decent amount of money to do. Unfortunately, they got old/died/sold off the house, and no one after that has cared quite so much, and now it's over a decade later and I'm excavating the garden, essentially, to find what they did and whether I want to/care to recreate it.

This year, my sons are old enough and big enough to handle and even subversively enjoy some light manual labor stuff. I have therefore put them to work in the garden to help me with some of the heavier lifting. In the last week they're here, I'll have them help me with planting, perhaps -- we'll see, but at least we can get the beds somewhat ready.

So, the first part of my plan has been to scale back my ambitions somewhat: I can't tackle all of the huge bed b…

GenCon Schedule!

Si says hello.

So, for those who would like to find me at GenCon, I'll be working at the IGDN booth most of the time, which is Booth #1539. Come by and say hello!

In addition, I'll be on two panels:

How to Learn RPG Design: Friday August 15th at 4PM-5PM, Crowne Plaza Union Station in room Pennsylvania Station C.

Looking to get into designing RPGs? Curious about what you need to know? This panel will help you get started! Join Jason Pitre and other Independent Game Design Network members to talk about learning what you need to know to work on RPGs!

GMing as Women: Saturday August 16, 10am-11am, in the Crowne Plaza Union Station in room Pennsylvania Station C.

Are you a woman? Do you GM or are you thinking about doing so? This panel of women GMs will answer your questions and help you get a handle on how to deal with GMing challenges, large and small. Come on down!

Please note that both panels are currently sold out, so that means that standing room/sitting on the floor might be a…

Guardians of the Galaxy!

So, I am not a big comic book goob, unless you're talking about the 90s run of Vertigo, and even then not nearly so much as some. I knew vaguely of the Guardians, but much in the same way I knew of the Inhumans, which is to say names and not much more. I went into this movie neither knowing nor caring about it, for the most part -- but it looked fun and my friends and husband were excited, so here we go.

This movie is awesome. Now, I'm a big adherent to the maxim of "It's okay to like problematic things" because, being a geeky woman who specializes in Gothic and 18th-century British Literature, from a 21st-century and personal perspective, nearly everything is problematic. It's not a question of "if," but "how much" and whether whatever it is exceeds its problematic content by enough for me to put it aside. There were some problematic issues in GotG, I can't lie. Every now and then, I'd be going along and totally into it, and then…