dinosaur ranching

The hubs and I recently started playing ARK: Survival Evolved, a survival crafting adventure game where you tame dinosaurs. It is unforgiving, but, you know, in a fun way.

Highlights of our first session include:

  • A small army of tamed dodos!
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Two of the dodos are named Dodger and two of them are named Mogs because I thought the first of each had died when they hadn’t. In my defense, all the previous ones got eaten. …which doesn’t sound like much of a defense now that I say it.

  • …that were quickly eaten by wild wandering dilophosaurs. (Womp womp.)
  • Taming a pair of parasaurs!
  • …that also quickly met their end. RIP Hellyeah and Ruby. Hellyeah died trying to defend Adam against a school of piranhas when he overzealously jumped into some water chasing after an oviraptor he wanted to tame. Ruby died trying to protect me against titanoboas (Fuck you, titanoboas.)
  • Taming a triceratops!
  • …that died trying to defend us against another trike we were trying to tame and who was mad at our efforts.
  • I got chased up a mountain by two titanoboas (seriously, fuck you, titanoboas), ran out of stamina, and threw myself off a cliff to escape. And then died from falling, obvs. (Adam talks about this on episode 217 of Coffee with Butterscotch, starting at about 18 minutes in.)

I feel like there’s a pattern in there…

ARK is primarily billed as an online multiplayer game.* You can form up tribes and go to war against each other or try to carve out a peaceful settlement for yourself, though good luck going that route if you’re playing on open servers. Hubs and I play on our own private server so that we can hang out and game together without having to worry about randoms intruding into our space and fucking up all our shit. (As though dinosaurs fucking up all our shit wasn’t enough to begin with.)

Here’s what we learned so far after we muddled through our first few sessions on dino island.

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This seems effective.

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unexpected car expense

I took my car in for an inspection yesterday, and got a call this morning that there is a part that needs to be replaced. (He told me the part, of course, but I promptly forgot it because my brain is a sieve when it comes to car stuff.) Unexpected, but also not. My car is something like ten years old. That it hasn’t needed more maintenance up to this point is a minor miracle, really. Especially since it handles the bulk of our road trips to various parental units.

But when someone says to you “It’s not technically a safety issue because it’s not completely broken yet” and it’s about a car part that seems important for general car-ing…

escape pod!

It is internet official now, which means I can announce it — I am one of the new associate editors for the Hugo-nominated science fiction podcast magazine Escape Pod!

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LOOK AT HOW OFFICIAL IT IS

I’M SO FLIPPING EXCITED, YOUDON’TEVENKNOW. (Apologies to Shiv and Phoebe for drawing over their bios a little.)

Excuse me while I go squeal some more in the corner.

two years-ish, and an update

I didn’t make it out of the semifinals for the Podcastle flash fiction contest, and I got waitlisted for Viable Paradise.

I was a reasonable level of bummed, but honestly, that feeling was outweighed by burgeoning feelings of… momentum? possibility? improvement? And maybe, even, dare I say, pride? Making it to the semis is nothing to sniff at, and I’m in excellent, talented company on the VP waitlist. (They tell me that many of the submissions relegated to either of those categories are publishable. Whether I can find a place to publish my submissions is another matter entirely.)

In the face of these (I hesitate to call them failures because they don’t feel like that, though ostensibly, that’s what they are. Let’s go with rejections. That seems more accurate, and it’s good for me to make that distinction for myself.), I keep reminding myself, it has only been about 1.5 years since I started writing seriously, with the aim of improvement and (hopefully) eventual publication. I can see how much better I am now compared to when I began. I’m starting to write things I actually like, things that I believe in. It’s a good and delicate feeling. In MRK parlance, I’m leveling up.


And on the heels of that thought is the reminder that it has been two years since I left medicine.

Last year, this point in time passed without much acknowledgement on my part. At least not out loud. I noted the timeline, of course — I wonder how long it’ll take until July no longer reminds me of radical change. When the heavy heat of summer is no longer associated with the lifting of weight. But I let the month slip by without talking about it last year because I felt like I had talked about it enough.

And honestly, there were still nights when I would startle awake thinking my pager had gone off. There were still mornings when I would wake up and wonder if I had dreamed the whole thing. It still felt new and fragile and a little unreal.

There are days that still feel like that, but they’re far and fewer now. In the weird stutter-skip slippage of time, it feels like a lifetime ago. (Except, of course, for the occasional moments when it feels like it was yesterday.)

I still don’t feel any regret about my decision to leave medicine. I don’t think I will. Even though whenever I think about it (which is, again, far and few now), I do so carefully, gingerly, tenderly, on the look out for any points of pain.

And I suppose there are echoes of pain. Fracture lines that haven’t set quite properly. The anger is fading, though there is still some bitterness. But not about the leaving. More so about the staying for so much longer than I should have. One day, I think (and I hope), I’ll be able to forgive myself for that.

an aside

Why is writing a cover letter (or personal statement or the like) so much more difficult than writing just about anything else? The first draft always sounds like a prolonged apology. I am terrible at talking about myself without immediately diving into self-deprecation. This is one of the many reasons I hate it when interviews or conversations include periods of time where I’m just supposed to monologue. I invariably feel like I’m taking up too much time and space.

I’ve been so socially/culturally trained to downplay my achievements and desires and expectations that I can’t even be forthright about them to a metaphorical piece of paper without apologizing for having them in the first place.

this is not what i want to worry about

Last night, Adam and I went to go see Captain Marvel. About thirty minutes from the end of the movie, the screen went black, the lights came on, and the emergency alert sounded. The fire alarm lights flickered and a pre-recorded robotic announcement told us to exit the theater in an orderly fashion.

And because I live in the United States, where we refuse to do anything about rampant gun violence despite everything, I didn’t try to look for or smell smoke. I didn’t try to remind myself what to do in case of fire. No.

I immediately thought, Oh fuck. What if this is an active shooter situation?

I looked around at the nearly evacuated theater and then around at the people crowded with me at the front exits, and I thought about how easy it would be for someone to come in up top and kill us.

I’ve been in places before when the fire alarm goes off or some other alert sounds. Usually, the people in the crowd joke with each other or roll their eyes or are exasperated at the inconvenience. Usually, people look around and wonder if it’s a mistake or a drill. Last night, we all got up pretty quickly after the alarm went off. As we were all leaving the theater, everyone was hushed. There was a quiet urgency as we all tried to leave, nearly pushing but not quite.

Once we were all outside in the cold night air, the tension broke a little. There was nervous laughter scattered across the parking lot, pockets of anger here and there. And all I could think about was how very fucked up it is that “active shooter” is the first place my brain went. And how fucked up it is that that’s now a normalized response.

What the fuck.

when the roses speak, i pay attention

“As long as we are able to
be extravagant we will be
hugely and damply
extravagant. Then we will drop
foil by foil to the ground. This
is our unalterable task, and we do it
joyfully.”

And they went on. “Listen,
the heart-shackles are not, as you think,
death, illness, pain,
unrequited hope, not loneliness, but

lassitude, rue, vainglory, fear, anxiety,
selfishness.”

Their fragrance all the while rising
from their blind bodies, making me
spin with joy.

– Mary Oliver, “WHEN THE ROSES SPEAK, I PAY ATTENTION” from Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver

a cancelled dinner party: sweet potato galettes

We have been trying to have a small get together with one of my friends and her husband for months now. It’s been hard to coordinate because her schedule is rather busy and she’s wrangling littles.

The plan, as most of our plans tend to be, was to have them over, ply them with drinks and childfree time, and have a nicely adult dinner.

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Vegetables! Textures! Being an adult!

She is vegetarian, so my usual dinner party stand-bys don’t really work. I don’t have much practice planning a vegetarian menu, but I knew that I wanted to stay away from the here-is-some-pasta-I-guess? vegetarian solution. I wanted to put together a meal that was still simple, but didn’t rely too much on bread/pasta/rice to act as filler.

Enter, my Ottolenghi cookbook. (And also the Serious Eats website, as per usual, for ease of referencing in the kitchen.) Between it and it’s predecessor Plenty, both by Yotam Ottolenghi, there are plenty (heh) of tasty and beautiful vegetarian recipes.

We settled on a date — it was supposed to be this past weekend — but at the last moment, childcare plans fell through and they had to reschedule.

At that point, I had already gathered ingredients for Ottolenghi’s sweet potato galettes, as seen on the cookbook cover. I could have abandoned the cooking plans altogether, but why waste the opportunity to try a new recipe and go meat-free for the weekend in the process?

It turned out, as has everything else I’ve made from these cookbooks, delicious.

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Sweet potato galettes.

I’m already thinking about possible future riffs:
– Purple potatoes, chili powder, cotija + parsley cilantro oil
– Beets, pistachios, goat cheese (plus figs if additional sweetness desired)
– Carrots, garam masala, spicy pecans
– Turnips and apples, parmesan, maybe some bacon + tarragon in the oil

But if you want to try to original, here’s the recipe.

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