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Simpson's Paradox

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Simpson's Paradox

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  • Meg Simpson
  • March 18, 2016 12:23:48 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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Biang Biang

We ‘re adding a special expansion card to Takeout as an SDCC exclusive. (I can’t believe that’s an actual sentence I just typed.) I’ve been considering adding either Taiwanese pineapple cake or Xian pulled noodles, both really stylish, specific foods … Continue reading → The post Biang Biang appeared first on Simpson's...

We ‘re adding a special expansion card to Takeout as an SDCC exclusive. (I can’t believe that’s an actual sentence I just typed.) I’ve been considering adding either Taiwanese pineapple cake or Xian pulled noodles, both really stylish, specific foods that will make attractive cards. Also, my students talked about those foods recently and made me hungry.

I couldn’t remember the Chinese names for either one, and in my search I learned that 菠萝, pineapple, is not part of the Chinese name for pineapple cakes, because that would be too easy. Perfect! A pretty food with a complicated name!

Then I saw that Xian noodles can actually be called Biang (简体).svgBiang (简体).svg… which I just had to copy-and-paste because it’s too complex for my computer’s dictionary. Chinese teachers punish students by making them write biang. There’s even a legend about the invention of biang, which kind of makes the complexity a restaurant joke, and therefore a perfect addition to Takeout.

Now I really want to add the hardest, most complex Chinese character to my game about being bad at Chinese.

 

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After Game Of Thrones

We had a dramatic Westeros death pool at my work for the last season of Game of Thrones, where we bet on who’d survive, and counted out each week to see who was ahead. I don’t watch the show, but … Continue reading → The post After Game Of Thrones appeared first on Simpson's...

We had a dramatic Westeros death pool at my work for the last season of Game of Thrones, where we bet on who’d survive, and counted out each week to see who was ahead. I don’t watch the show, but I read all the books, so I wanted in. Although the TV series has gotten ahead of the books, and I’m waiting for Winds of Winter to come out and wrap up the story arcs for the characters I care about. (Apparently Brienne of Tarth gets knighted?)

I’ve really loved how this story pulls people together, like my coworkers at Epic Games or in Yangzhou or now in Boston, and guessing what will happen next is the best part. I don’t know what other stories have the same mass appeal combined with the same reversals of fortune. I’ve never seen anything like the way the internet exploded over the Red Wedding, and it almost makes me sad that I read that alone instead of with dozens hundreds thousands of friends feeling the same way.

Anyway, I’ll need a new series to read, and since someone refuses to be hurried on Winds of Winter, I’ll have to check the best books about dragons for more fantasy recommendations Of this list, I liked the Cinder and Bone series best, for the blend of scifi and fantasy. In this world, dragons are basically dinosaurs, intriguing but extinct animals, and just like in Jurassic Park, science just can’t leave them alone…  

Right now, I’m currently 2 books in to the Limited Wish trilogy,  and anxiously awaiting the third book. These scifi novels focus on time-travel and tabletop gaming. Fantastic things happen, over and over in these novels, but they’re explained with time travel and split universes, not dragons and magic. 

Shortly after Game of Thrones ended, and our work death pool ended, WorkBro told me he got drunk and ran some stats on our guesses and success rate (This is why we are friends.) and asked if I knew how often we, as a group, correctly predicted the character’s end. I guessed 51%, because the reversals and betrayals of Game of Thrones are a lot of the appeal, but you don’t want fiction to feel completely random. It would be too frustrating. I was just slightly off, it was actually 58% or 59%, but it holds true. Just a little bit better than randomly guessing.

I’ve enjoyed the reversals in Ruth Ware novels, like The Death of Mrs. Westaway and The Lying Game. Both of them have stunning reveals and twists, just like in GoT, although with more modest death counts. (I know The Woman In Cabin 10 is the one getting the most buzz, but it just didn’t pull me in the way her other novels did. Rich people using endless wealth and connections to be over-the-top evil isn’t nearly as compelling as ordinary people doing whatever they can to keep their dark secrets.)   Lucy Foley’s new novel The Hunting Party is another one with twists and turns to take the reader completely by surprise.

What about you? What’s replacing Game of Thrones for you?

 

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Dear Prudence

I always listen to Dear Prudence on the subway. This week, I almost screamed when I heard Julian introduced as the guest! I shouldn’t have been so surprised, since there was already a reference to Julian’s podcast in a previous … Continue reading → The post Dear Prudence appeared first on Simpson's...

I always listen to Dear Prudence on the subway. This week, I almost screamed when I heard Julian introduced as the guest! I shouldn’t have been so surprised, since there was already a reference to Julian’s podcast in a previous Shatner Chatner, but still. My friend is on Dear Prudence! There’s also sweet marriage advice from Seth’s nana included.

You can listen too! But maybe, don’t scream  when Daniel says Julian will be the guest.

 

 

 

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On Leaving Davis Square

No more little branch library next to the subway stop, although that’s closed for renovations now, because nothing gold can stay. No more Thai takeout next to my front door, although the Thai restaurant has new owners, who've stopped selling cheap bowls of noodles and started selling fusion brunch.  Leaf subsides to gentrifying leaf, y'all. Continue reading → The post On Leaving Davis Square appeared first on Simpson's...

For the last almost-3 years, I’ve lived down an alley behind a Thai restaurant and a closed not-restaurant. For a few months, there was a dumpster in front of my house, but then the construction finished, and the abandoned restaurant became a stylish little coffeeshop in front. I started to harbor fantasies about getting fancy coffees every morning (on my way to meet the coworker who’s driven me to school since, uh, since there was some Boston bridge construction traffic two summers ago). I imagined having my reliable home wifi from a cute coffeeshop table.

Now that we have a cute coffeeshop out front instead of a dark alley, our landlord wanted to raise the rent by $500/month. Not a typo. Does that sound kinda evil to you, too? Because when my husband wondered if such a huge increase was legal, our landlord changed his mind and just declined to renew our lease, which is of course 100% legal. So we have to move.

No more little rogue garden in the gap next to the Thai restaurant, with the hardy perennials started by my previous upstairs neighbor. No more riding to work with Aaron, which has been such a nice part of my weekday mornings. No more little branch library next to the subway stop, although that’s closed for renovations now, because nothing gold can stay. No more Thai takeout next to my front door, although the Thai restaurant has new owners, who’ve stopped selling cheap bowls of noodles and started selling fusion brunch.  Leaf subsides to gentrifying leaf, y’all.

The neighborhood has had a lively Facebook board for local news, and it’s usually full of my neighbors finding a missing glove or holding a yard sale or complaining about snow parking, but a few days ago, Trump trolls took over the page with truckloads of own-the-libs memes. I don’t really understand most trumpery, but owning the libs is particularly baffling. “New Yorkers hate Trump for his shady deals and failure to pay staff, and I hate New Yorkers, so I support Trump! That’ll drive those liberals drive crazy! I’ll stick it to those liberals by voting against my self-interest! MAGA!” Weird, unwelcome, and generally unpleasant, and this is exactly this type of heavy-handed symbolism that doesn’t work in fiction.

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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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