Deep calming games 2018

After receiving an alarming medical diagnosis mid-month in January*, I've been very actively using computer games to help manage my situation. This autoimmune disease manifests itself in scores of itchy bumps. The initial treatment is prednisone, the main side effects of which have been insomnia and mood alteration (primarily an increase in anxiety). Games have been enormously helpful in managing both, and in lowering my stress levels overall as I deal with this.

While many games can appear soothing in early stages, they are often designed to increase in intensity, which is counter to my goal of calming my system. Below are a few which I've found which do work, and which have interesting side benefits. There are three key patterns I leverage as I (and my meds) work to reduce inflammation.

 

1. Stillness as a Constant Option

The one absolutely vital quality of a deep calming game is that at any moment you can stop the game without penalty to take a deep breath, let your eyes focus on the other side of the room, or otherwise pause not only your hands but your mind. This can take the form of simply stopping doing anything—as in turn-based games where there is no ticking clock—or changing out of the game screen—as in games which pause and retain your exact position when you switch applications. Some games are mostly turn-based with brief sections that don't allow pausing; Another Case Solved is a good example of that non-ideal mix, but it is just calming enough to remain on my list.

 

2. Impulse Interference

It turns out when you're trying not to scratch, it's possible to divert the physical world pattern you shouldn't act on into a virtual pattern where relief is easily available. The game element you want here is a random or semi-random resource which appears and needs to be 'harvested' or otherwise responded to individually. Collecting the magic fountain energy in Sunken Secrets or the tax revenue in Townsmen are ideal examples. I found that my brain slipped pretty easily from "argh! itchy spot I want to scratch!" to "aha! another coin to collect!" and that, amazingly, the act of touching the resource on my iPad screen with my finger took away the urgency of a specific physical itch on my body. This trick was probably the key ingredient to my getting through the initial awful weeks while I waited for the corticosteroids to begin reducing my symptoms. It's highly likely I would have scarring if I hadn't been able to divert that scratching urge.

 

3. Sense of Positive Action

Maintaining an optimistic attitude during very gradual change is a challenge. When my body is less able and my mind is less focused that becomes even harder, especially in those grim grey hours of the night when prednisone wakes you all the way up after three hours sleep. Games offer a space where I can act toward both short- and long-term goals and feel less powerless. The difference with deep calming games is that this needs to take place within a low-conflict (or at least very low-consequences) mood. When managing anxiety and using mental imagery to reduce bodily inflammation are the goals, tough battles against powerful foes are definitely not my friends. Enter, therefore, games of constructive, peaceful acts which build upon each other. These can range from the very simple—growing my fish and expanding my pond in Zen Koi—to the more ongoing and epic—building my farm and improving things for my imaginary neighbors in Stardew Valley. The tough part here is finding a game with the expansiveness that makes it maximally calming and yet which doesn't require fighting off attackers. (I've got enough of that going on with my autoimmune system, thankyouverymuch.) I am a long-time fan of simulation games, particularly old Windows city-builders and economy-simulators like Pharaoh and Cleopatra, but there are very few around which don't involve (or allow you the option of turning off) combat as a major part of the game. Farming and house-building games are the dominant form now, but many of them are tainted by in-app purchase models which render the games less fun as you progress in an effort to make you spend money to make it easier again. That flaw is what led to my abandoning Gardenscapes and Homescapes, neither of which I can recommend anymore despite their fun aesthetic and sense of humor. For the moment, Stardew Valley, and to a lesser extent Townsmen, is best to fully engage my mind in creating and achieving goals.


*Thanks to corticosteroids this diagnosis is not life-threatening, but it is life-altering.

@ Posted on February 11, 2018 at 07:37 AM in games, health, linky goodness, worry vs. clarity | Comments (0)

Why I Support London Breed for Mayor of San Francisco 2018

The greatest impact on the character of this city in the decades to come is going to be who can live here. Getting our housing and affordability crisis under control is essential to keeping San Francisco a  community which reflects our inclusive values.

London Breed has made tackling these interconnected problems central to her platform. She’s already been working on the issues for years and wisely puts her emphasis on making incremental positive change happen sooner rather than later.

Having housing at a wide range of costs isn’t an abstract ideal; I see the benefit of diverse housing in my immediate neighborhood of Hayes Valley. I live half a block from public housing in Breed’s district. Nice housing; good neighbors. There is also new low-income housing being built half a block the other side of my home and that is very welcome to me too. Having affordable housing here means people who work here can live here. We need working class opportunity within San Francisco to keep the city healthy and vibrant!

Breed has been involved in helping make good construction projects like these new ones happen. And she’s been a voice for neighbors fighting for a mix of affordable units being added in market-rate construction.

She’s rational and resourceful in her approach. She comes from local experience of achieving progress in a complex, rapidly-changing economic and climate situation. All our options have tradeoffs and she weighs them well. Despite her deep personal understanding of the issues of housing and income inequality—she grew up here in public housing—she doesn’t sacrifice decent actions we can take now for future pipe-dreams that don’t have the funding or political will to put into reality. Her pragmatism pays off.

All her life experience and the empathy it has rooted in her is something we progressives can leverage if we don’t isolate her by demanding unachievable perfect solutions. I do not believe a fast, uncompromising solution is available on preserving income diversity in San Francisco, but I do think we can turn this behemoth of a ship in a better direction with many smaller, smarter moves. That kind of problem-solving is in Breed’s wheelhouse.

She has a strong base in many San Francisco communities thanks to her working class roots, her direct activity building community resources, and her commitment to housing and tenant dignity (which celebrates and continues the very best of Mayor Ed Lee’s life work).

Another strength of London Breed is that she is a deeply democratically-chosen candidate. Our district elected her soundly defeating an incumbent mayoral appointee. Since then she has twice been chosen unanimously as President of the Board of Supervisors by her peers. Neighborhood support is how we got her strong, skillful representation in office. Her performance is how she's demonstrated the wisdom of that choice.

When the city could have been thrown into crisis at Mayor Lee’s death, she calmly and competently bridged the gap. She skips the drama and focuses on good administration of this challenging city.

That down-to-earth focus on what needs to get done will give us a mayor who spares us from unnecessary distractions during 2018 and 2019 when there is so much else for the people of San Francisco to be focused on changing at the national level. Her even keel will give us a stable foundation from which to support progressive change across the country.

 

Breed has been great as Supervisor for my District, and an excellent, level-headed President of the Board of Supervisors. I am very proud to support her competence as Mayor in June’s election; no “identity politics” required. Yes, she’s a San Francisco native, from a working-class background, and a woman of color—and those are assets much needed in office—but more importantly, she is very good at governing this city. THAT is why I support London Breed as Mayor.

 

 

 

Breed’s statement “An Affordable City for ALL of Us

 

Her campaign website http://www.londonformayor.com/

 

 

 

A couple additional thoughts:

- Why not Leno?

Mark Leno, like Scott Weiner, has already moved on to a larger stage—and that’s a great thing. They’ve done vital, good work at the state level, which we should want them to continue in whatever form they can. Our goal as progressives over the next few years is to bring in a wave of newly elected progressive candidates; we need experienced hands to help them be effective. Leno’s potential as a mentor able to help wherever needed is significant. The more effective the left is, the stronger our message and our tactics are against the fear-mongering and authoritarianism of the GOP.

I’ve lived in Breed’s district in 2002 through 2003, and since 2007. Between, I lived in the Castro so I’ve familiarity with Leno too. I like his work and think he’d be fine as mayor, but I find Breed’s city-level focus likely to achieve better results, sooner, and more consistently.

 

 

- Why not Kim?

Jane Kim’s willingness in the “Sunday Night Shakeup” to hand power to the most conservative member of the Board of Supervisors in hopes of improving her shot at mayor demonstrated clearly that she is not the person for the job. We need a capable administrator who is focused on civic service, not a backroom wheeler dealer focused on growing her own political power.

I once supported Kim (first in her run for Board of Education in 2004), but her positions in recent years have become so rigid as to render her incapable of making the project and policy deals which will create a more sustainable, diverse community here.

I’ve been a San Francisco area resident my whole life. I grew up in the east bay, went to college in Santa Cruz, and lived in the south bay for 12 years before moving to San Francisco in early 2002. As a member of the early Web community I have watched San Francisco react to the various waves of tech boom and bust, with a particular eye to how it impacted building and rental inventory in the city, both commercial and residential.

San Francisco is going to continue to feel the strong pressure of the economic force of corporate interests, and to continue to need to resist the extractive goals of their short-term profit cycles. At the same time. San Francisco will increasingly feel the impacts of climate change, both on the local and wider, particularly statewide, levels. Meeting these challenges is going to require smart planning to create sustainable economies and infrastructure for the future.

What we build, what we incentivize the building of, is going to make or break our city in the century ahead. Jane Kim’s position on the Mission Moratorium was troubling to me for its lack of engagement with these issues. Her attempts to spin State Senatorial opponent Scott Weiner as a corporate tool do a tremendous disservice to his work. Jane Kim has become more focused on political maneuvering than actual positive change. I’m seriously disappointed in her arc as a public servant.


This post also appears on Medium.

@ Posted on January 31, 2018 at 04:51 PM in Current Affairs, politics & philosophy, San Francisco | Comments (0)

a couple pictures for the public domain 2018

These are from the slides I inherited from my great-grandparents, Reed Walker Sr. and Adena Zippora Nordberg Walker, of Beverly Hills, CA.

Reed was the main photographer in their artistic pairing (Adena painted and did fine ceramics), so I'm guessing these are both shot by him. To my eye the Fox Hills Country Club sign looks later than his death in July 1940, but so often a color picture deceives me and reminds me how aesthetically blurry the late 1930s are with the early 1950s.

As the owner of these two images I have released them to the public domain and release all my rights to these two images (effective with my upload of them to Wikimedia in December 2017).

 

Photograph of Fox Hills Country Club sign from the slide collection of Reed and Adena Walker of Beverly Hills (my great-grandparents). At the time of the photo the changing text on the sign read: OPEN TO PUBLIC LUNCHEON DINNERS ENTERTAINMENT NITELY.

Fox_Hills_Country_Club_sign_in_mid-20th_century

 

Union 76 gas station and oil service with tall sign, on a southern California corner with bus stop and billboard adjoining.

76_gas_station_with_tower_sign_in_Southern_California_circa_1930s

 

@ Posted on January 2, 2018 at 11:08 AM in creativity, friends & family | Comments (0)

Self-publishing stats update 2017

I'm just starting to get acquainted with the latest version, but the release of Scrivener 3.0 reminds me to give an update here.

Definitely still a great tool which I love and highly recommend. I use it for non-fiction, at lengths from 200 words to entire books, and fiction. I use it for my daily journaling. I use it as a D&D gamemaster. 

I've used Scrivener for seven years now. Two of the books I wrote using it have been successfully self-published (and sold thousands of copies each, thanks!) in both print and ebook form, with one of the titles nominated for a major award in its subject area. 

 

Back in 2012 I wrote about how I created Discardia: More Life, Less Stuff and in 2013, while working on The Art of the Shim: Low-Alcohol Cocktails to Keep You Level, I added more thoughts on self-publishing.

Here are how the statistics have changed since Discardia's first 16 months:

  • Kindle sales have become an even bigger percentage of revenue, growing from 34% to 65%.
  • iTunes sales have dropped from 16% to 9.5% of revenue. Apple's never treated their shopping experience for books with any seriousness and the bad browsing experience seems is likely a big factor in inferior sales.
  • Physical book sales are only 11.6% by copies sold, but 23.6% by revenue. Createspace represents 20.5% of that.

I need to go back and locate my pre-2013 detailed data before I draw any conclusions about which platforms I wouldn't bother with on subsequent books, but I can say that Amazon is and will remain the core of my self-publishing channels.

 

The Art of the Shim: Low-Alcohol Cocktails to Keep You Level came out in fall 2013 and I have the full stats for it. It's a beautiful hardcover with high-quality photos, so the breakdown is radically different.

  • Physical sales are 66% of the copies sold, but represent 93% of the revenue. 
  • Ebook sales revenue is 6-to-1 Kindle to iTunes.
  • 44% of physical sales revenue has been through Amazon.com (I use Amazon Advantage to stock them) and 20.5% were through Ingram (before they killed their small publisher program in mid-2016).
  • Small retailers—not only bookshops but specialty retailers with cocktail items—represent just over 15% of revenue.
  • In-person sales—"handselling" and events—represent almost 13% of revenue.

 

As business projects, not including any of the costs of our labor or of the business generally, Discardia is well into the black and Shim is still a loss. The rate of catching up from that loss is getting better since we stopped having to pay for a storage unit to hold all the inventory. The good news is we're finally also getting a lot closer to not having every corner of our apartment full of cases of the book. ;) Would we self-publish a physical book again? Probably not, but boy are we glad we did this one!

@ Posted on December 2, 2017 at 06:17 PM in publishing, tools, writing | Comments (0)

Work to be done 2017

Though this and last year have had 'not getting to do what I'd planned to do' as their main theme, I have not given up my intention of moving this site to new software.

My goal is to integrate all my online output into this one place. As is obvious below, there's a lot to be done for Twitter integration, just for starters.

A big part of the problem is that as ideal as it once was and as fond as I am of that old Movable Type foundation, Typepad as a platform has been sorely neglected for a long time. Another is that I haven't had web design or even web-based product management as my main job for years. That's why making the big switch has become an increasingly challenging task and ever easier to put off. But it's time. I'll start with my other, vastly smaller, sites before I tackle this big beast.

Feels like I'm standing outside a ramshackle mansion and rolling up my sleeves. :)

@ Posted on November 30, 2017 at 07:10 PM in Weblogs | Comments (0)

* 2017



category: tweets

This is a good human. I hope he heals well and quickly. https://t.co/n5wFYhEmjQ
— Dinah Sanders (@MetaGrrrl) February 24, 2017

@ Posted on February 24, 2017 at 12:27 PM | Comments (0)

* 2017



category: tweets

So glad I use @1Password, which makes this kind of hassle not so horrid. Time-consuming, sure, but not the worst. https://t.co/3b0TDmntoM
— Dinah Sanders (@MetaGrrrl) February 24, 2017

@ Posted on February 24, 2017 at 12:17 PM | Comments (0)

* 2017



category: tweets

Got one more call in, to Dept. of Justice 202-514-2000, to let them know I support protections for transgender youth.
— Dinah Sanders (@MetaGrrrl) February 22, 2017

@ Posted on February 22, 2017 at 03:57 PM | Comments (0)

* 2017



category: tweets

Also thanked @SenFeinstein for fighting for reproductive rights & against assault weapons, & @SenKamalaHarris re: fighting for immigrants.
— Dinah Sanders (@MetaGrrrl) February 22, 2017

@ Posted on February 22, 2017 at 03:33 PM | Comments (0)

* 2017



category: tweets

... opposing anti-semitism & white supremacy in the White House (get Bannon out!); & push back against the Mar-a-lago waste of our $$$.
— Dinah Sanders (@MetaGrrrl) February 22, 2017

@ Posted on February 22, 2017 at 03:32 PM | Comments (0)

Blog (noun) A weblog or similar brief journal usually containing links and commentary thereon. Term coined by Peter Merholz.

Visit Typepad or Blogger to start your own. (I began with hand coding, then switched to Blogger when it first became available, then to Movable Type when I wanted more control over my weblog and to have it hosted at a place of my choosing (Hurricane Electric). Since 06/2003 I've used Typepad, a hosted service built by the same folks who made Movable Type, which I love because I don't have to maintain the underlying system).

You may write to Dinah @ this domain.

Except where otherwise noted all content is copyright 1965-2018 Dinah Sanders. Please do not repost my writing or other creations elsewhere. Instead, copy a tiny bit and link to the rest. Thanks! Images are copyright of their original creators. MetaGrrrl logo and photos by Dinah are copyright 1965-2018 Dinah Sanders. Inkspot Books and the Inkspot logo have been Service Marks of Dinah Sanders since 1993.