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Simpson's Paradox

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  • Meg Simpson
  • March 18, 2016 04:23:48 AM
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A Little About Us

A personal blog on gaming, travel and fiction. The author lives half in China and half in the US.

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My Chinese Food Autobiography

When we made Takeout, I wanted to share my personal experience with players. It’s an autobiographical game, using game mechanics to tell my story and my feelings. I wanted to share the frustrating mystery of ordering in foreign language and … Continue reading → The post My Chinese Food Autobiography appeared first on Simpson's...

When we made Takeout, I wanted to share my personal experience with players. It’s an autobiographical game, using game mechanics to tell my story and my feelings.

I wanted to share the frustrating mystery of ordering in foreign language and the joy of finally getting a good meal. The face-down draw deck represents my understanding that there was something good in the kitchen, but not being able to choose what I was getting. The lack of Cold cards represents, well, the lack of cold drinks, due to the traditional Chinese belief that cold drinks are unhealthy. Even my original game title, Chi Fan Le Ma?, sums up the value of good food in Chinese life.

Last weekend, we took our games to Ithacon. Total disclosure: I almost backed out of the show because I felt totally overextended. Our landlord is selling, so we have a surprise move coming up, which means every minute I’m not teaching, I’m apartment hunting, Harold is changing jobs, and also adulting is unpleasantly time-consuming in general. And when we finally left for Ithacon,  we got caught in a freak March snowstorm in the upstate mountains, so I quoted that road to Ithaka poem to Harold as we pulled into a highway motel and hoped that we could make the rest of the drive in the morning. (Being married to me is an unending delight.)

But I’m glad we made it, because I had a really wonderful time sharing Takeout with new players. We also demoed our Captain Action card game and our newest project, a beta release of a vintage fortune-telling game, but while I’m quite proud of our other projects, they just aren’t as personal as Takeout.

With Takeout, I’m sharing more of myself and my own experiences with new players. It can be a bit emotional to share my game, submit it to a festival, or even talk too much about it, because on some level, it really is my personal story, in a deck of cards.  So I really loved seeing new friend groups figure out the food-stealing as they teased each other about their real-life chopstick skills or yoinked a favorite dish. The Ithaca College kids were so friendly and receptive, and I just felt so lucky to be there.  Ithacon was great in general, the student organizers and volunteers killed it. We’ve been to professional conventions that didn’t run nearly as smoothly. But my main memory was just the warm feeling of watching friends steal each others’ dishes and draw new cards, hoping they got something delicious.

 

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Things I Learned In Grad School

I read faster than anyone else. I guess I kind of knew that already, but grad school gave me external validation and certainty. I don’t like craft books. I am so deeply disinterested in other people’s processes, I almost can’t … Continue reading → The post Things I Learned In Grad School appeared first on Simpson's...

I read faster than anyone else. I guess I kind of knew that already, but grad school gave me external validation and certainty.

I don’t like craft books. I am so deeply disinterested in other people’s processes, I almost can’t believe that anyone else could care.  Is everyone else faking it for the grade, too? Or does someone actually care?  It’s like discovering an entire genre of overcooked broccoli. Like, I guess it’s healthy and all, but really? I’m even bored by thinking about my own process.

Having a published book doesn’t necessarily make someone a good writer. I guess I kind of knew that already, but I’m certain now.

I expected to learn a lot about writing fiction, but instead I learned a lot about writing politely and professionally worded emails asking certain staff members to do their jobs. Following up with anyone who hasn’t gotten back to me is already terrible.  Following up with someone who’s previously been impressively bad at her job but is still in a position of academic power over me is my own personal hell.  I spent a lot of time in my own personal hell in grad school.

It turns out I like books about people having feelings and relationships, and I’m not sorry.  My biggest resolution is to read popular and commercial fiction unapologetically. I’m not going to hedge by labeling it a beach read or insisting that I usually read obscure literary fiction. I still love character-driven lit fic, but when I see lyrical prose in a book blurb, that book is back on the shelf at the speed of light. Using nice words is no replacement for writing complex characters. I already knew that, too, but I’m certain now and I have a paper that says I know things.

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Honolulu, Novel and Reality

I first read Honolulu several years ago, and this is the novel that sparked my interest in Hawaii. Before I read it, my  mental picture of Hawaii was hulu, surfing, mainland American honeymooners, and the last Hawaiian queen (also through reading), I didn’t … Continue reading → The post Honolulu, Novel and Reality appeared first on Simpson's...

I first read Honolulu several years ago, and this is the novel that sparked my interest in Hawaii. Before I read it, my  mental picture of Hawaii was hulu, surfing, mainland American honeymooners, and the last Hawaiian queen (also through reading), I didn’t realize quite the influence of Japanese, Korean and Chinese immigrants on Hawaiian life. This got me reading a lot more about Hawaii… which eventually led me to spend a month working on Oahu.

Jin, nicknamed Regret in a family that prefers sons, leaves her village in Korea and makes her way to Hawaii with a group of other picture brides. They’ve been promised to Korean men, but that’s just about the only thing that’s true about their husbands-to-be. Jin dreams of prosperity and romance in Honolulu, but her husband isn’t exactly a prince. She also dreams of earning enough money to rescue Blossom, a little girl promised as a small wife to Jin’s brother, and bring her to Hawaii. Although Jin has years of hardships and challenges in her new home, the story is ultimately  uplifting and filled with the ohana spirit. Her Korean picture-bride girlfriends, Hawaiian Joe and Esther, and their complicated family, Jin’s second husband and children (spoiler alert!), and even her Japanese neighbors are all part of her ohana by the end of the novel.

I loved the mix of exotic, beautiful Hawaiian landscape and Jin’s personal adventures. Sure, Oahu a land of sunshine and bright flowers, but for a lot of the book, Jin is working in the pineapple-canning factory or sugar cane fields, not chilling at Waikiki. Since I was working pretty long hours myself on Oahu, I found myself thinking about this novel a lot. Being a worker in a place where everyone’s on vacation is a strange feeling. I mean, I had time to vacation afterwards, and that’s how I funded my trip, and I’m lucky to get to do that, but it’s a strange feeling to be working in a holiday destination.

Later, when I was done with classes, I went to stay in Waianae. When I was taking the bus from Waianae, I saw the old train tracks running between the bus route and the ocean, and I realized I was on Jin’s path. The bookish traveler’s dream. (There’s no train on Oahu, which blows my mind. There once was needed infrastructure! The tracks are still there! But you can’t take a train! You have to sit in traffic next to the train tracks!)

When I read, I bookmarked basically every place where Jin went to eat that was still around. I would have gone to try malasadas, masubis, and Hawaiian fusion meals anyway, but it was extra fun to do it after reading about them.

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Waianae Dreams

For my last week in Oahu, I booked a room in a hale in Waianae. When I mentioned this, several coteachers in Kaneohe warned me about Waianae,  suggested I cancel and stay somewhere else, and told me to keep my … Continue reading → The post Waianae Dreams appeared first on Simpson's...

Found this googling for Waianae beaches.

For my last week in Oahu, I booked a room in a hale in Waianae. When I mentioned this, several coteachers in Kaneohe warned me about Waianae,  suggested I cancel and stay somewhere else, and told me to keep my car locked and my eyes on my wallet all the time. Joke’s on them, I don’t have a car!

But actually, Waianae is my dream vacation neighborhood. The lava coastline is so beautiful it kind of hurts. In the mornings, I’d go drink a coffee and read on the rocks, and I’d only see a few grandpas out fishing, and maybe a dog-walker, peacefully enjoying the beach.

There are tasty plate lunches, Chinese and “Chinese” meals, diner food, and beachy seafood all for under $10. But put a fork in your bag, because most of this deliciousness is sold at  counters or stands, where everything is disposable. Prices for food and coffee were literally a third of what they were in Honolulu and Waikiki, and no one seemed to be in a hurry here, so I often found myself chatting instead of getting hustled out to turn the table.

And Waianae’s on the bus line to Honolulu for all the other touristing I wanted to do! To me, Waianae is like Bed-Stuy or Jersey City or whatever, only with stunning natural beauty. Just a regular working-class neighborhood, plus endless rainbows, epic mountains and wild hibiscus flowers all around.

Waianae under a rainbow

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In Honolulu: Foster Botanical Gardens

About a week into my Hawaii trip, I was feeling a little underwhelmed with Oahu. I guess I wasn’t expecting the levels of beach trash and homelessness, and I thought it was particularly jarring right next to the boutiques and … Continue reading → The post In Honolulu: Foster Botanical Gardens appeared first on Simpson's...

About a week into my Hawaii trip, I was feeling a little underwhelmed with Oahu. I guess I wasn’t expecting the levels of beach trash and homelessness, and I thought it was particularly jarring right next to the boutiques and resorts of Waikiki. Also, my work turned out to be 7ish hours of English instruction, plus an additional 60 or so hours of child-wrangling. I wasn’t having a bad time on Oahu, it was just kind of underwhelming.

So on my first day off, I took the bus down to Chinatown and walked up to Foster Botanical Gardens. Honolulu Chinatown is pretty great, too, all my familiar sights and smells, with the gorgeous weather and natural beautiful of the island. The botanical gardens are right beside the temple of Kwan Yin. I didn’t spend too much time there, because it’s an active temple, and there were worshippers praying and lighting incense.

You guys, this part is how I imagined Hawaii. Tropical flowers and strange trees, arranged with quiet benches and meandering walks. Entering felt sort of like Central Park, when you walk a little bit in and the traffic sounds fade.

The flowers, you guys, are just a riot of colors. One of the reasons I can’t bear New England winters is the lack of color. Every winter, I force hyacinths indoors to get some color, and every spring I’m newly delighted by the return of warmth and color. It’s just grey for so long in Massachusetts, without color to break it up.  Meanwhile, in Hawaii, in January, the frangipani trees drop their bright blooms at the perfect stage to pick them up, and tuck them into your hair. That’s the everyday frangipani trees, next to the sidewalk, not even the special ones in the gardens.

With the scent of incense drifting across from the temple of Kwan Yin next door, my walk in these gardens was the absolute dream of a tropical island.

 

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Leaving for Hawaii: The Islands At The End Of The World

I read The Islands At The End of The World on the plane to Honolulu, along with Big Little Lies. I’d been reading a lot about Hawaii before my trip, and I’m always interested in post-apocalyptic stories, so I enjoyed … Continue reading → The post Leaving for Hawaii: The Islands At The End Of The World appeared first on Simpson's...

I read The Islands At The End of The World on the plane to Honolulu, along with Big Little Lies. I’d been reading a lot about Hawaii before my trip, and I’m always interested in post-apocalyptic stories, so I enjoyed this story about surviving on Oahu after electronics mysteriously fail worldwide. Teenage Leilani and her dad are on Oahu for Leilani’s experimental epilepsy treatment when communications and electricity start to fail, and in the new world that opens, they have to use their wits to survive and make it back home to Leilani’s mom, grandfather, and little brother. It’s a solid adventure story, with believable post-civilization social factions and a supernatural twist.  (It’s also the first post-apocalyptic story I’ve read in which a girl loots a razor to shave her legs, and, honestly, I get it. I’d be looting cosmetics and plucking my eyebrows in the post-civilization world.)

But I have to say that I didn’t fully get this novel until I was in Hawaii, and had been here a couple weeks. A lot of the story relies on an understanding of Hawaii and Hawaiian life, on the simultaneous nearness and incredible distance of the islands, and one the constant contrast of old and new lives. I thought of this book when friends noticed the wild chickens running around, and joked that Hawaiians could catch and pick a dinner if they wanted.  I thought of this book when I saw the gorgeous beaches and plastic trash.

The whole thing really shows the exploitation of Hawaii for (foreign) tourism, from the weird lack of ferries between islands (which still completely blows my mind — how is there no commuter line or tourist cruise between the islands???) to the conflict between locals and visitors, Hawaiians and haoles, wealthy and struggling, all just under the surface on these beautiful islands.

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