What have you been doing for fun?

This weekend I’m still having to work because I’m still about two weeks behind on a ton of deadlines.  But if we weren’t quarantined I’d have wanted to DO something, like go to the city or I dunno.  Something to break things up.  Weekends aren’t weekends when every day is like the one before.  The past few weeks I’ve been too busy with getting everything changed over to online on top of all my service obligations to feel like I was missing anything but it’s been a long time and I see a future with these weekends that aren’t really weekends in front of me.

I’ve been reading novels (mostly rereading Jayne Ann Krentz… comfort stuff) and eating very well (DH is stress-baking).  I’ve also been getting a little thrill from any online shopping that needs doing– I have a better understanding of why my grandma was on every mail order subscription service known to daytime television commercials.   Problem is, after I’ve taken care of our food needs by ordering groceries, and bought some fun stuff from places like nuts.com or coffee for DH from southernseason.com and random things for other people (birthday presents and care packages)… there’s not really much else I want right now.  What’s the point in buying clothes when I only wear pajamas and will likely be a completely different size at the end of this?  (I also told DH to buy some hot sauce from heatonist.)

I can’t really go for walks in the neighborhood because with everyone home and everyone going on walks, it’s been impossible to do a 6 foot distance AND also people TALK to me even when I’m just trying to get the mail.  Apparently I’m not starved for conversation yet (turns out a day of zoom meetings leaves me just as drained as a day of in person meetings!).  I could go to a much richer neighborhood where there’s more space and fewer people but I’m afraid of getting shot for not belonging (unlikely since I’m a middle-aged white female, but what if I cough?).  We’re also under a city-wide emergencies only rule and the uni sent an email saying that police were stopping people in cars (I wonder how social distancing works there…) and asking for proof that the person is essential personnel or going to get food or take-out.  I can probably avoid that again by being a middle-aged female with a nice but not luxury car, but still… and I can’t really take the family either.  I dunno.

DH is getting more socializing than usual.  People from his former lives scattered across the country have been remembering that he does a lot of gaming so they’ve been contacting him for online table-top games and video games.  So that’s pretty cool.  He’s also used to working from home, though the children interrupt both of us.  I’ve had a few texts from people checking in, but not really long conversations from people I don’t normally keep in contact with, probably because most people from my past are also dealing with online classes and children.  I know folks who regularly do things like book clubs are doing them virtually instead of in person, which is cool.  (I don’t want to do a bookclub, but I think it’s awesome that people who enjoy it are able to keep it up.)

So other than reading books and watching youtube videos, which I always do anyway, even on weeknights… I’m out of ideas for things to look forward to.  How have you been handling the need for fun or breaking up the routine?

What have you been doing to break up the days?  What do your weekends look like?  What have your quarantine buddies been doing?

 

Best ballpoint pen for someone who loves to push hard? Ask the grumpies

Heavyhands asks:

Do you have a favorite kind of pen?  I am tired of using cheap Bic work pens that get blobs of ink all over my fingers and smudge all over the page.  I have some Pilot G2 when I want to write in colors, but I really like ballpoint pens [ed: the kind with tacky ink] better, except they glop all over my hands!  I read some good reviews about the uni jetstream and bought them, but I’m not liking it so far.  Yesterday I suddenly realized, “why am I using these pens that glop ink everywhere?  I can afford to buy pens,” but I don’t want to keep ordering random pens and not like them.  I can’t afford that!

NY Magazine thinks my crappy work Bic pens are good.  (The Bic roundstic)– how can I ever trust anyone?  They get globs of ink everywhere!  But… I do trust your readers.

Does grumpy nation have any advice for me?  I think I prefer ballpoint to rollerball [ed: this is what I would call flowing ink like the G2 or my favorite Tul] because I push really hard with my pens.  I also am ok with gel pens, but I’ve only used them for fancy things like writing cards.  Since I push hard with the pens, there’s less friction with a ballpoint than with a gel pen or a rollerball pen.  I think I wreck the tips on rollerballs.

I would love to hear people’s pen recommendations?  What’s your favorite pen?

Oh gee, we both have light touches with pens.  #1 prefers rollerballs and definitely has a lot less friction with a rollerball or gel pen than with a ballpoint.  #2 prefers marker tip(!)

I think my favorite was the uni jetstream 101 (the kind you get 12 to a box, not the retractable kind), but that advice is probably not at all helpful to you since we have such different writing styles and you didn’t like the uni jetstream that you got!

This article recommends the uni-ball signo 207 premier gel pen and the Pilot Dr. Grip Ballpoint.

DH loves his space pen, though I cannot imagine spending that much ($22) on something I would invariably lose.  (DH has not lost his, though it has gone through the wash a couple of times, since it is always kept in his pocket.)

Grumpy Nation, can you help Heavyhands out?  What are your favorite pens?  Do you press heavily or lightly?

Ask the grumpies: Favorite apps for fun?

Leah asks:

Do you have any sort of favorite apps you use for fun?

#2 doesn’t have a cell phone.  Like not even a flip phone.

#1 doesn’t use apps for fun because she has major problems with time management and internet addiction.  Still, she does use Yelp a lot.  And she watches Youtube a lot, but doesn’t use an app for it.  I use the Apple Podcast app in the car.

DH and the kids like all sorts of games (DH is currently playing Hyper Light Drifter).  DH uses the Netflix app a lot and Amazon PrimeTime.  He listens to Audible.

What are your favorite apps for fun, Grumpy Nation?

Ask the grumpies: Favorite podcasts?

Meaghan asks:

 Favorite podcasts?

#1 listens to a bunch, including Dear Hank and John.  I tried Here to Make Friends and couldn’t get into it.

Podcasts from the Maximum Fun family:  Jordan Jesse GO is the main one.  I stopped listening to Judge John Hodgman because the answer was always the same: People like what they like.  I sometimes have listened to The Adventure Zone or My Brother, My Brother, and Me— both of which star the McElroy brothers doing zany things, sometimes with other members of their family.  I listened to a few of Baby Geniuses and Throwing Shade, and I’m thinking of trying Lady to Lady.

Book podcasts:  Book Fight, where two writers talk about books and argue about why they’re good or bad; also sometimes includes features like Fanfiction Corner and Raccoon News.  I listen to some of the Book Riot family of podcasts, including the original Book Riot podcast.  I also listen to Get Booked, which is a book recommendation show, and sometimes The Reading Life if they’re interviewing someone I want to listen to.  I stopped listening to Dear Book Nerd because I felt like I knew the answers better than the host did.  :-)   I can’t listen to All The Books because my TBR list is already way too long!  Sometimes I’ve also listened to Oh, Comics!

Random other podcasts:  Sometimes I re-listen to old episodes of The Indoor Kids, because I find it soothing.  I wish they’d come back from hiatus, but that doesn’t seem likely anytime soon.  Very nerdy.  I also listen to Ditch Diggers, by Mur Lafferty and Matt Wallace, which is about the business side of writing.  I used to listen to Writing Excuses, which is more about the craft of writing, but somehow my feed dropped them.  They’re great, though.

I can’t listen to any podcasts about science or about my particular area of work, because they are too much like work and engage my brain in work-like ways, and aren’t relaxing at all even when they are very good.

I would check to see if I missed any, but my iPod is out of batteries for now…

#2 only listens to two podcasts:  Here to Make Friends, a feminist podcast about the Bachelor franchise from huffington post, and Dear Hank and John, a comedy podcast about death from the creators of vlogbrothers.

AND you get a bonus from #2’s DH who listens to a lot of podcasts and like last week answered this very question over email:

FYI, here are the podcasts that I like, not really in any order.

Radiolab  This is the best science-y podcast I’ve heard so far. It’s well produced and has interesting material about a variety of topics. It doesn’t produce new episodes very often though.

DLC aka DownLoadable Content  An easy-listening video gaming podcast. Also has a segment on boardgames that’s short but good. It’s up-beat and isn’t negative or long-winded. Probably my favorite of the gaming podcasts I’ve found because most gaming podcasts get into arguments, go off-track, are more based on cult personalities, or are boring.

Idle Thumbs A bit more like other video gaming podcasts, slightly bigger cast, a bit more focus on cult-of-the-new, etc.

Three Moves Ahead The best podcast I’ve found about strategy video games. The quality/enjoyment is a bit lower, but I like the topics.

Thrilling Adventure Hour Old-timey radio shows. Short episodes that can be hit or miss, but some really funny bits.

Gamers With Jobs,  Another video gaming podcast. Can sometimes have really insightful material, but more often it’s just interesting to hear what other video games people are playing. This one and Idle Thumbs are somewhat interchangeable for me.

StarTalk Neil deGrasse Tyson is really cool.

The D6 Generation The best miniatures/boardgame podcast. I’ve listened to it off-and-on for about a decade.

More Perfect The RadioLab series about the Supreme Court has been incredibly engrossing.

Roguelike Radio Not the best audio/recording, but I find Roguelikes so interesting and there are 125 episodes all about them.

The Secret Cabal Gaming Podcast It’s about boardgames like several other podcasts out there, but with a cast I find quite interesting.

Rocket Talk  I bounce in and out of this one. I like the idea of listening to podcasts about scifi/fantasy books, and narration of short fiction, but I’m not always in the right mood for it.

Oh, and NPR has recordings of their shows…I don’t listen to these by myself, but when we go on car trips I usually grab some for the family….Splendid Table and Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me are our most popular.
I’ve listened to Nerdist too and liked some of it but ultimately it’s not what I’m looking for.
I don’t think I’ll keep listening to the Dev Game Club…it’s an interesting concept, but the actual value-per-time is too low for me.

WHEW.  Ok Grumpy Nation, what do you listen to?

Poll: What is your area of expertise

This could be by training, by profession, by hobby, whatever.  You get to decide.  Pick as many as you want.  Add details in the comments!  Especially if you choose other!

 

 

Foods to make at a party

For all you 20-somethings who still have lives… or for folks with older kids… here are some food-making party ideas.  As in, during the party you cook as a group.  These are a little more complicated than putting out cold-cuts for people to turn into sandwiches.  Most of these are pretty inexpensive party ideas too so um, how about a money Monday post?

Pizza — As RAs we did this during finals week and we’ve had small parties/large playdates for our child starting pretty young (maybe 4 or 5?).  We make the pizza dough (you could buy it instead), put out spaghetti sauce, shredded cheeses, and toppings.  Folks assemble their own personal-size pizzas.  We bake them.  Relatively easy and even adults seem to enjoy it.

Cookies — you can make the cookies in advance and just frost (similar with cupcakes), or for older kids, you can have them help with cutting/shaping dough.

Sushi — we haven’t done this en masse but know people who have.  We only have one sushi making kit, so DC1 has done it with a friend over, but not with more than one person.  Seaweed, sushi rice, and fillings and you’re good to go.  I bet you could make things other than rolls without more sushi kits.

Vietnamese fresh rolls — DC1 has done this with friends over before too.  Similar to sushi, only you need a big bowl of warm water to soften up the wraps.

Wontons — We went to one of these in graduate school.  The hosts had wonton wrappers, fillings, and egg-wash ready.  Guests stuffed, folded, and sealed.  The hosts cooked the filled wontons (in this case in a soup, but in high school I vaguely remember we deep fried them one time since I had a fryer and we didn’t have ovens or stoves).

Taffy pull/popcorn balls — I used to have taffy pulls at my birthday parties growing up.  They are sticky and messy and fun, but kids do grow out of it I think.  (#2 had this event THIS YEAR at a new year’s party and it was all adults doing it.)  My mom would make the candy, then we’d let it cool enough to touch.  Kids would wash and butter their hands and then pull the candy until it was stretchy and cool.  Popcorn balls are similar, but with butter handed kids shaping sticky popcorn/candy into balls.

This is not cooking, but maybe is frugal: #2 just came up with the idea of a booze-trade party.  “I have this two-thirds full bottle of gin I’ll never use.”  “Cool, I’ll take it!  A friend gave me this tequila and I don’t drink tequila, who wants it?”  “I’ll trade half my six-pack for half of yours and we can both try them both!”  “This bottle of vodka was in our freezer and my roommate moved out, it’s up for grabs.”  “I need 3/4 of a cup of Grand Marnier for a dessert but I don’t want to buy the whole bottle, who can hook me up?”  Doesn’t that sound great?  Maybe?  Or it could be just an exchange of weird foods that you bought for one recipe but you’ll never use the rest.  Black rice?  Fenugreek?  Turmeric?  (You should use turmeric though, it’s cool.)  It cleans out your kitchen guilt-free!

Have you ever been to a cooking party?  Cooking what?

In which I am a Giant Nerd

I don’t even play D&D (YET!?!?), but I made a D&D character (4th edition).  I thought it would be fun.  It was!  I did a lot of it online, and we also whipped out some of my partner’s large collection of D&D books in order to help with the many options.  The great thing about the online system is that it spits out printable cards with all your attacks on them, with necessary stats on each, and color-coded.

Meet Dara, the level 1 half-elf swordmage.  That isn’t her real name.  I know her first, middle, and last names — but I’m not telling you because neither is she.  She’s going by Dara because she’s not too proud of a certain event in her past.  She travels around trying to get back to something that happened years ago.

Dara has a familiar, because I thought it would be fun to have one.  Also, it gives her fire resistance, because I know it sucks bad to be on fire all the time (thank you, WotC podcasts with Penny Arcade, PvP, Wil Wheaton, and celebrity DM Chris Perkins [who is totally cute]).

She’s highly intelligent, which wasn’t actually my first choice, but when I started constructing her stats, all her good attacks were int-based.  She’s also got a knack for success to help her friends and an aegis of assault to mark an attacker — look out, monsters!  So far she only has leather armor — look out, me!  Dara is good with Arcana and History, but terrible at bluffing.  She’s pretty decent with Insight.  She’s got a booming blade and a lightning clash, which seem fun.  Even better is her Vanishing Blade attack, where she becomes invisible and teleports.  Wheee!  It’s a daily, but a cool one.

Dara is currently unaligned and prays to Ioun.

My partner, of course, thinks this is awesome, because he also is a giant nerd.  A hot nerd.  Who bought a very hot table (“Suck it, Swiss army”).  Another reason I am a nerd is because I want this, even though I have no real use for it.  No use, and nowhere to put it.  And it would be ridonkulous expensive. But still.

#2 has played D&D first edition (with the boy she had a crush on in middle school, she was DM), D&D second edition (with her first boyfriend and his friends, she was a Psionocist), and D&D third edition with her partner and some of his friends of friends (she was a cleric).  That’s not counting all the computer games she used to play, ending with Neverwinter Nights.

#2 sometimes makes role-playing gaming jokes in class and a small handful of students will giggle.  She wishes a subset of that small handful would learn to make friends with soap and water.

Children’s books for misfits, eccentrics, and other inadvertant loners

These don’t necessarily have the best morals… generally they’re ugly duckling kinds of stories.  We’re different because in some ways we’re better.  That’s probably why they’re not listed in Some of my best friends are books (unless Caldecott or Newbery winners).  But they sure are satisfying reads when you’re out of sync with your peers and you worry that the problem is you.  Maybe we should celebrate our differences and not be so eager to squish square pegs into round holes (“Won’t fit?  I’ll make you fit!”)  After all, boring people seldom make history.


Ferdinand


Pippi Longstocking


Matilda


Jennifer, Hecate, and Me, Elizabeth (and other books by E L Koningsburg, the most famous being From the Mixed up Files)


The Mysterious Benedict Society


The Stanley Family (Also many other books by Zilpha Keatley Snyder… like The Egypt Game)

Bagthorphes Ordinary Jack
by Helen Cresswell
Powells.com

 

The Bagthorpe Saga


Ender’s Game


Artemis Fowl

(Also Harry Potter..)

And a song for y’all.

“Anything other than that and you know you’re dealing with someone who is different, and different is not what you’re looking for.”

Are we missing any?