Saturday, November 28, 2015

I Have A Doubt

Firstly, why is "doubt" spelled with a B. It just doesn't make any sense!

Anyway, it's Friday, November 27th, so we are, by definition, 27 days into November, and 27 days into my NoBeProMo attempt to post 30 blog posts in the months. I currently stand at, including this very one, which totally counts, 23 posts, putting me a whole four posts behind.

I'm not confident I can make that up.

Mostly, I've just been lacking in inspiration for what to write about. Inspiration comes from all kinds of places. A whole lot of the posts have been about Ada already, because they're easy to write. Her and Claire and all that are on my mind some days. My previous post on trailers came about because of the recent Captain America: Civil War first trailer.

I've been desperately trying to write some short story stuff as well, but I'm having major minor writer's block. Why "major minor"? Well, it's only a short story for my personal blog, not the fifth installment in a massively successful fantasy series. It would suck to not be able to write the next book in a series millions of people are waiting for. I'd honestly love to write something again, as my short story posts are ones I enjoy going back and reading again years later. But it's just not happening.

Work hasn't helped, even though I can't complain. I've been crazy busy and it's been lots of fun. I've been working with the toddlers and infants a lot, which is always an enjoyable experience. But all this fun has meant little time for writing.

So, I'm behind. I'm honestly going to do my best over the weekend to catch up, but... well... the post title says it all.

Good luck to me.

The Trouble With Trailers

The purpose of movie trailers is to entice the general public in to see your movie. It should grab the attention of the viewer and make them interested in learning more, in discovering the full story and, ultimately, giving you their cash in ticket prices or sales.

It should not reveal, or appear to reveal the entire story. The trailer for The Martian contains a scene from the climax of the book. Now, admittedly, maybe it's only obvious to me because I had read the book, but still. The trailer for Terminator: Genisys has a major reveal! I was warned in advance, and loved the twist when I saw it in theatres. But, as Honest Trailers point out, that's nothing new for the Terminator franchise. Only watch this if you've seen both T2 and Genisys.

As a matter of fact, as a viewer, I've learned to stop watching trailers once I'm hooked. I only watched that first trailer for The Martian, and I really enjoyed it, despite having previously read the superior novel. As mentioned, Genisys was a really great experience in the cinema, a lot of fun, even if it was only an okay movie, but mostly because I hadn't seen the trailers.

Once I've decided to see a movie, I'm pretty much done with trailers. It sometimes take more than one, but more often than not, the first real trailer is enough to get my attention. I've only seen that first, "Chewie, we're home" trailer for the Force Awakens and avoided screenshots, additional footage and any or all talk about it. I'm looking forward to seeing this on a big, big screen, with the best quality surround sound. I'm going to enjoy going in almost completely unspoiled and coming out, hopefully, with a smile on my face.

But I'm not nearly as excited for the Force as I am for a Civil War. This. Just this.

Done. Completely, utterly done. No more trailers, no behind the scenes, no photos from the set, and definitely no "exclusive footage". I'm already excited. I don't need any more.

Roll on May, 2016!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Baby Tipping Part Three

Nighttime doesn't have to be difficult, but you will have to endure some rough patches. Claire and I spent the first few weeks handing off to each other at night. Claire would feed, and I'd look after diapering. It was still exhausting, but at least we could get decent naps at night.

For the most part, it worked well, but there was a run of five or six nights in a row when Ada was three or four weeks old where Ada would refuse to go to sleep, crying and complaining and fighting every attempt to get her to sleep, and then wake constantly through the night. We were exhausted, frustrated and stressed. But it passed, and we got through it together.

Just remember the old Persian adage, "This too shall pass". Let the hard times come, and constantly remind each other that it's just a phase, and it won't last. Be there for each other. And take video documentation of it to use as evidence and guilt trips for the next eighteen years, at least!

Ada actually got into a really nice routine for a few weeks where she was asleep by 10:30, and would sleep until 7am, waking once around 5am for a quick feed. But ever since we went home to Ireland in August, she's been causing Claire nothing but pain some nights, waking every other hour. I don't know if it's just that she needs to eat more, or that she's just a light sleeper, but Claire sometimes gets a very restless night, resulting in a tired mommy for the following day. When I can, I'll take Ada out of the room and let Claire get a few solid hours sleep, but during the week, I leave for work by 7:30 or 8am, so I do my best at the weekend.

Daytime naps can be tricky, with lots still going on around thhe sleeping beast. My advice would be, when they're young, let your little bundle sleep in the living room, with all the noise that that includes, and don't be quiet while they sleep. We had Ada in the living room constantly apart from at night during the first five or six months. She's slept through Pacific Rim at just a few weeks. She can, literally, sleep through an explosion in the same room! And that's wonderful for when friends call over. We've never had to say "SHHHHH!! The baby's asleep". It also helps when we're in town. Ada can sleep on noisy buses, at busy resturants, or walking through a crowded mall.

At a certain point, that needs to change though. Around six months, Ada was too intereested in everything around her to sleep for long in the living room. She would wake up and refuse to go back to sleep after only a short nap, so we moved her back to sleeping in the bedroom even during the day. We still don't enforce silence while she's sleeping, but we do close the door a little. She sleeps much better that way. We also leave a bedside light on, so she can play with her stuffie when she wakes up. Sometimes she'll just cry for us right away, but more than once we've found her babbling to her stuffie, content and happy to be by herself for a while.

Too cute.

In Their Own Time

By definition, half the population will fall below the average for anything you care of measure. When it comes to infants, they are just all over the place!

Ada turns eight months old today, Monday the 23rd. She still isn't crawling, though she does scoot around the room sometimes, moving backwards by pushing with her arms. One of her friends at Family Place on Saturday mornings is older than her by a single day, but has been crawling since she was a bit more than six and a half months!

Claire has sometimes asked if we should be worried about any of Ada's developments, or lack thereof. I constantly reassure her that the longer it takes Ada to crawl, the better. At least for now, we can put her down with her toys, go make a hot cup of tea and come back to find her in roughly the same place we left her.

On the other hand, Ada is able to hold her own weight, standing for a few minutes at a time, leaning on the back of the couch, or against our legs. She's been a fan of tummy time since the week we brought her home, and her arm and neck strength is fantastic! She's been able to roll over since she was four months old.

Her dexterity is pretty good too. She can turn her stuffed toys and blankets around until she finds the tag, or move objects from hand to hand if we're changing her clothes. When I put here down on her change mat, she learned a long time ago that there's a marker by her head, and with a bit of stretching she can get at it. At first, she was only able to touch it with her fingers, but after a few attempts, she gained the dexterity needed to lift it out with her index and middle fingers. Since then, putting her on the change mat usuaally results in an immediate stretch, grab and play with the marker.

One of the things that every baby does is reach out their arms to be picked up when you offer. Every baby, that is, except Ada. Any time I offered to pick her up, she'd smile, but not raise her arms. She understands the sign for up, and has even signed it quickly when I sign it to her[1] but still won't raise her arms to me. I work with babies who reach out to me as soon as I walk into the room, but my own daughter expects mee to do all the work for her.

Until this last few days. Ada has just started to put her arms up when she want to be picked up. Today, in particular, she definitely rreached up to me to be picked up, and my heart soared.

Every kid develops in their own time. Every new milestone or phase is unique to every child. So when you see someone else's baby doing something yours isn't doing yet, I can guarantee you that kids parent is seeing the same thing in yours.

[1] The sign for up is, as you could probably guess, pointing up with your index finger. We've been signing lots with Ada, and she understands a few now, especially up and milk, but when I do up, her index finger will sometimes flicck out and point briefly. It's cute to see, and interesting to watch her learning that she can sign back at us.

Codenames

Sometimes big fun comes in small packages.

Vlaada Chvátil is the designer of space junk builder and racer Galaxy Trucker and space ship crew simulator Space Alert, but is most famous for the magical stategy game Mage Knight. So you'd be forgiven for thinking that his expertise lies solely in big box, big rules games. But everyone needs a change of pace, and Codenames is Vlaada's.

When you open the box you'll be surprised to find just a few packets of cards, in two varieties, and a sheet of thicker card stock with a few cards to punch out. It becomes immediately obvious that this game is clean, clear and simple, but by no means basic.

Codenames plays ridiculously cleanly. You set out 25 cards in a 5x5 grid. Each card has a single word printed on it twice, back to back, readable from both sides of a table. Then there's the map card, a square card with a 5x5 grid of squares, eight coloured red, eight blue, one black and seven cream. Eight plus eight, plus one plus seven equals 24. The last of the 25 squares will either be red or blue, deciding which team starts first, having one extra word to identify.

Players are divided into two teams, each made up of one Spymaster and one or more Field Operatives. The two opposing Spymasters sit on one side of the table, with their Field Operatives on the opposite sides. The Spymasters can see the map, or key, and are trying to clue the Field Operatives in to which cards are in their teams colour.

But it's not as easy as giving coordinates to the colours you want. Spymasters are restricted to only saying one descriptive word and one number. With that, they have to find connections between the words in the grid of 25 on the table, using the key to tell them which cards are important to them. So if the words Day and Star are in your colour, you might say Night, 2, in the hopes that your team get the connection.

And that's really the essence of the game. There are rules about guessing, such as not using part of a code word, like if Seahorse is on the table, you can't use Horse, or Sea as the clue, and there are rules for passing the turn to the other team, but all that is in the silm rulebook. Spymasters give clues, their teammates try to decipher those hints and find the required cards, and everyone wants to avoid that one black card which acts as an assassin, instantly losing you the game if chosen.

Codenames is fast. You can get a game set up in less than a minute and played in less than five if your team is on fire, less than ten if they're struggling for inspiration. And the second game will be even easier, as all the word cards are double sided, so for a second game, simply flip the grid!

I highly recommend Codenames. It's fast, easy to teach, and endless fun. The grid of words will never be the same, so there's no chance you'll just learn an optimal codeword and over use it. As long as a player can read all the words, they can play the game, so it works really well with younger players too.

There is a free app available for iOS and Android that generates the key and looks pretty. This means that it's possible to try the game using the app and a deck of Apples to Apples words, as long as you do some curation on the cards that come up. A fun way to try out this fantastic board game, but not a good long-term substitute.

Photos and formatting to be added later. I'm running disasterously behind on my posts.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Stumped

When I got home this afternoon, Claire and Ada were out with friends, so I immediately tried to write a post to stay up to date with this month-long project. I had fallen behind this week, unable to write over the weekend, due mainly to feeling numb and uninspired after the horrific events in Paris this past Friday.

I had managed to catch up, and wwe proud of myself for posting some interesting stuff, but today I just can't think of anything. I've started a few posts, but been unhappy with the level of writing in any of them. I wanted to try to write a short story, which I sometimes post here, but couldn't come up with a plot.

So blearg. This is still something. A brief, high level glimpse into my state of mind this evening. Uninspired. Not bored, or upset, in fact, far from it. The evening has been lovely. Cuddles with baby and wife, watching YouTube videos, getting frustrated at a video game. All good. Just creatively uninspired.

Tomorrow evening I'm hoping to be playing board games at a friends place, so we'll see if I fall behind then too. But at least today, I have this post. Uninspired, but content none-the-less.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes

"Right. I'm in a dark room. There's a clock reading 18:43, and a timer reading five minutes."

"Ignore the clock. That's the actual time. What's on the-"

"Cool! It uses the PC clock to have the real time in the game? Cool. That's-"

"We don't have time for this! What's on the bomb?"

"The timer reads 4:46. There's a space with wires, a button marked "Hold" and a thing with four buttons with weird symbols on them."

"Right, how many wires?"

"Er... Six vertical wires. Red, red, yellow, bl-"

"Horizontal."

"What?"

"They're horizontal. Vertical goes up and- we don't have time for this. Go on."

Later.

"The bar is white."

"Okay. Release the button when there's a 1 in any position on the countdown timer."

*BZZZZZZZT*

"I said 1!"

"I know! I did that. Wait. This time it's blue."

"Release on a 4."

*BZZZZZZZZT*

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!? I... Oh. Oh. You said a red button marked Hold... Just tap the button. Don't hold it at all."

"Okay. Done."

"Yeah... my bad."

"Last panel. Four buttons. Top left is a backwards C with a dot in the middle, beside that is a kind of balloon thing, below the C is a mountain with a road on it, and then Ha-"

"Wait. Stop. I've only gotten the C one so far. I have no idea what else you're talking about. What's the balloon?"

"It's like a circle on a pole. A quidditch goal."

"Oh. Got it. Next."

"The mountain... er... it looks like... um..."

"Does it look like an A and a T stuck together?"

"Yes! That's it!"

"Okay. And the last one?"

"HalfLife 3 confirmed."

"Got it. Balloon, mountain, HalfLife 3, C."

"Done!! We did it. 43 seconds left on the clock! Easy peesy. Lets do the next one."

And everyone died because no one could read Morse Code.

The story you just read is mostly true, although it's various beats occured over a few seperate games, with a variety of clueless bomb disposal teams, rather than one entirely incompetent one.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes has been the cause of the most laughing I've done while playing a game with my friends in months, if not years. It's simply a laugh a minute, chaos simulator that will often end with the bomb exploding, but will always end with smiles.

One player can see the bomb and has to describe the various components to the other player or players, who can't see the bomb, but who have the manual and can talk the first player through disarming each component.

Keep Talking is so simple and fun that anyone can play with a minimum of explaination. In fact, I've had great fun just handing someone the controller, explaining the four controls (Left stick to move between highlighted components, right stick to rotate, A to select, B to cancel) and letting them go with little to no further instruction. It's fun listening to them come up with their own way of describing the various elements, especially if you get what their talking about but can resist the urge to suggest your own "better" desciption.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is available on Steam and developed by Steel Crate Games, a Canadian indy developer, and I just cannot recommend it highly enough. It's for two to as many people as you can fit in a room, and is hilarious from opening tutorial to the final explosion and beyond.

 

Mobile Girl

Claire and I are pretty tech connected people. We both use our desktop PC's, iPads and phones daily, and Ada is present for a lot of that interaction of man and machine.

So it comes as no surprise to learn that Ada has a fascination with mobile phones and iPads. She sees us on them all the time, and they glow with inviting colours. Claire let Ada chew on her bright red silicone phone cover when she started teething, and she still likes to play with that.

But few toys hold her attention when our phones are in sight. I sometimes let her play with my phone if she's by my side on a soft surface, but all too often, it ends up in her mouth at some point, and that's just not healthy, for baby or phone.

So, on my way home today, I stopped into my phone network's local store and asked about the dummy display phones they keep on the display shelves, and what happens to them once they're no longer needed. One of the staff immediately asked what model my own phone was, disappeared into the back room and returned with a dummy version of my phone.

He handed it to me and suggested I give it a good and thorough cleaning. I thanked him, and walked home, delighted, with an unusual gift for my darling girl.

Ada now has her own phone to chew on, play with and babble at, just like mummy and daddy does. Because it's the same model as my own phone, it looks and feels the same, and even weighs the same. It doesn't light up, but at the same time, the screen is always colourful to look at. It even shares a feature with my phone. My lock screen has a digital effect that looks like there's water between the glass layers of the screen. When you press and swipe, the bubble moves with your finger, and it looks really cool. When I washed Ada's phone, actual water got into the device[1], so now there's a bubble of water under the screen that moves when you press and swipe!

Ada loves her phone. Now if only I could find a dummy iPad as well...

[1] - Don't wash your phone by immersing it, kiddies! Also, probably don't use soap and water.

 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Join Me On The Couch

Some of my best childhood memories are playing video games with friends and family, all sitting in the same room, within shouting, and hitting, distance. From the time my cousin yanked the SNES controller clean out of the console rounding a corner in Mario Kart, to the time my brother and I stayed up past midnight with two Garda recruits playing four-player GoldenEye deathmatch on the N64 with proximity mines, knowing the recruits had an exam the next morning[1].

But, for a while, the concept of couch multiplay was replaced almost entirely with on-line access, gaming against annoymous users half a world away. Games stopped offering split-screen competitive modes, and sometimes even split-screen co-operative modes.

Thankfully, the couch is coming back into fashion.

I first played SpeedRunners at PAX Prime 2013, and bought it that evening from my hotel room. It a fantastically frantic game of heroes racing around a circular course, jumping, sliding and dodging obstacles along the way. As players fall behind the group, they get eliminated, and the screen slowly shrinks down to just a tiny box with everyone laughing riotously at the chaos.

SpeedRunners is the perfect couch multiplayer game, as eliminated players start to pick alligences among the remaining runners, but rounds are over fast, so the player you were cheering for one minute might become your closest rival the next.

I've had many great hours filled with laughter playing this game. With races generally over pretty quick too, more than four players can enjoy the experience, taking turns on the controls. A real party favourite.

If you're looking for a longer experience, Artemis: Spaceship Bridge Simulator is an amazing co-operative game where up to six players can work together as the crew of a starship in hostile space. Each player takes on the role of a member of the bridge crew, either Communications, Science, Engineering, Weapons, Helm or Captain. Apart from the Captain, everyone has their own personnal screen for their role, with the accompanying console on the screen. The Captain has the main screen, which everyone can see, and uses the information the other players gives her to guide her crew around the available space and defend outpossts or attack threats.

Artemis has been around for a while, but until recently, getting six computers in the same room all running the game on a LAN is very, very difficult. But now the game is available on tablets and smart phones, so we have the server running through Steam on my PC, while the seperate consoles run smoothly on the iPads. A neat bonus is that the touch interface makes it feel very Star Trek!

The game as it's presented is very much a sandbox experience with a minimum of deep interaction. There's no story, just a series of missions to play. But the missions are just a map, and you fly around reacting to distress calls. It kinda gets boring.

Thank goodness for the mission editor. You can create your own missions, or, as we did, you can find a forum that posts completed ones, and play theirs. One guy has a forty episode series that you can play through!! With events, and villains, and surprises, and really clever use of mechanics. They really make the game an actual game. Also, because the story and events are revealed through the Communications officer, it greatly improves that role.

If you decide to try out Artemis with a bunch of friends, then check out the missions. You'll enjoy it a lot more.

I've been having a blast playing couch multiplayer with friends thanks to its resurgence from indy developers. Every one offers a different experience, but every one of them results in fits of laughter and high-fives.

Get some friends together. Grab a bunch of snacks. Clean off the couch. Enjoy a great afternoon making wonderful memories. Together.

And I haven't even mentioned my most recent acquisition yet. That one deserves an entire post all to itself. But I shouldn't Keep Talking. More soon.

[1] - They passed the exam, thankfully. I have great memories of gaming with Basil and Brendan while they stayed with us for a few months. I would love to know they're still doing well, but we lost contact long ago.

Sick Day

Everyone gets sick. Usually more than once. In fact, everyone gets sick more than once, unless the first time was catastrophic. But we grin and bear it, complain and mope about, recover and get on with our lives.

Over the weekend, Ada started acting strange. Not head-spinning-180º strange, but almost as disconcerting. Anone who has met Ada will agree that she's a people person, very chatty and bubbly, and loves getting your attention. She smiles, laughs, and has those beautiful big eyes to gaze upon you.

But this weekend she was lethargic and quiet. We went to friends place and instead of entertaining the new faces, she just snuggled into my neck and lay on my shoulder. Not in her usual babbling into my ear while stroking the nape of my neck way either, just resting her head on my shoulder, not really moving or doing anything much at all, zoning out, not even sucking her fingers.

We took her temperature, and sure enough, she had a mild, low grade fever. This is the first time she's gotten sick. Not bad given that she's almost eight months old and we take her out as often as we can.

I know kids get sick. I know they get better. But when it's your own, it's different. You worry. You watch. You wonder. You feel for them. They know something is wrong, but they haven't got the concept to understand what is happening.

She was sleeping a lot, and when she was awake, all she wanted was to be held by either myself or Claire. That's okay. All we wanted to do was cuddle her and reassure her we'd look after her.

And we did. Lots of feeding to make sure she was getting both her fluids, and all the health benefits of mummy's milk. Lots of warm cuddles, gentle rocking and soft singing.

She got better. Sunday evening she had a short feed and a nap and woke up alert and giggling. She still had a bit of a temperature, but it was coming down. She was still a little clingy, and feeding more than usual, including during the night, when she woke up probably every other hour for a quick feed.

It's an odd feeling when your own child gets sick. Even today, while I was at work, knowing full well that Claire was home with her and watching her all day, I still couldn't get my mind off of her. I doubt it ever gets easier.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Baby Tipping, Part Two

When it comes to feeding newborn babies, it's generally accepted now that breast milk is ideal. It's full of what baby needs, including lots of immunity boosts from mommy.

But, Breast is Best is well-meaning propganda at best, and hurtful lies at worst. Not every mother will be able to breastfeed, and it can feel like you're failing you child if it's not working out for you, especially with all the pressure from the "professionals". The truth is, as long as your baby is feeding, then how it feeds is kind of irrelevant.

And often, the breastfeeding will come with time. It took us almost a month before we could go a full day without supplimenting with formula feed at least once. But even if it doesn't, the only difference it will make is you'll have to spend money on formula. You'll still have a beautiful, well-fed baby either way.

Speaking of bottles, the best thing to happen to us is using a bottle with Ada very early on. It has the distinct advantage that she would then happily drink from a bottle if Claire wanted to go out with friends sometimes. It gave us a level of freedom that not many parents have, and in our opinion, it's a healthy freedom. Claire could go watch movies in the cinema, or practice archery, and come home to a happy, fed, bubbly baby.

Both parents need to be able to unwind now and then, and while it's easy for dad to get out, it's not so simple for mom. Even though Claire breastfeeds, before Ada started eating solids, she could express milk into a bottle when she knew she was going to be away.

Expressed milk can also allow mom to get a solid nights sleep while dad gets up to do the night feed every now and then. Happy, rested mom makes for a happy, rested baby, and a happy dad, rested or not.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Like Father, Like Daughter

Confession time: I sucked my thumb when I was a kid.

Nothing alarming about that. Lots of kids do.

I had a blankie that went everywhere with me, and held it in my hand when I was sucking my thumb, rubbing the corner on my upper lip.

A bit more odd, but still okay.

I stopped when I was around 12.

Yeah... That's unusual.

Ada hasn't gotten attached to any of her blankies yet, but recently, very recently, she's started falling asleep with her thumb in her mouth. It's very cute.

That's my daughter.

 

Bonding

It's Remembrance Day in Canada, so I have the day off. I thought I'd get to catch up on some posts, but I'm having a bit of writers block. I actually wrote the previous post yesterday, but wanted to wait until today to get some nice, bright, natural light photos of the Quantum board and components to include. That's my excuse for missing a day, and I'm going to stand by it.

Ada is asleep in her crib in the bedroom, and has been for a while now. I think it helped that I got up early and got her up too. I woke at 7am, which is my usual midweek wake-up time, but rolled over and napped a while longer before getting up and changing Ada and keeping her up. This is actually a great time for her to be asleep. As I write this, it's 11:45am, and in my experience, that's when the babies in daycare sleep too, so ideally, I'd like her to get into a similar routine.

Saturdays are when I get to spend the most time with Ada. We get up early in the morning, shower, diaper change, and a bit of breakfast before heading out the door. We meet up with a friend and his son on the corner and all head over to the local Family Place center together.

Family Place on a Saturday morning is specifically for fathers and their young kids. The center runs six days a week, but the week days are filled with mothers or caregivers. It's great to be able to have Ada around other children, and chat to the other dads. We haven't missed a week since it started up again in October, and look forward to going every week.

When Family Place wraps up at 11:30, Ada and I head home with a trip into the toy store on the way. By now, Ada is usually asleep, so we get home, and I leave her in her carseat, carry it up stairs, and plonk her down on the bed until she comes around.

The rest of the day is sometimes going shopping in downtown, sometimes playing at home, sometimes watching YouTube, and sometimes having friends over to hang out and chill.

Evening is dinner, relaxing, more playtime and giggles before bedtime.

I cherish my time with Ada at this age. I miss her and Claire a lot during the week at work, and while the evenings are great, they're also short, and I'm often wrecked tired. She's growing up so fast, more every day.

These moments are precious and fleeting. It's hard to think I might miss anything. But I'll try not too. It's the least I can do.

Addendum: This post was started on Wednesday morning, but didn't finish until Thursday night. Somee of the earlier times mentioned have no relation to when I actually posted it, despite high hopes at the time.

 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Quantum

For every board game that gets a massive print run, tonnes of hype and a huge release only to be utterly forgotten about twelve months later, there must be dozens of other games that are more worthy of your attention that the publisher can only afford a small print run, gets no fanfare on its launch, but has a rabid fanbase in the following months and years.

First released in 2013, Quantum is by designer Eric Zimmerman and published by FunForge. I first heard about it shortly after it's original release, as loads of people were talking about it online but, honestly, it didn't look interesting to me.

Quantum is a space game with six-sided dice representing your ships. The objective of the game is to colonise a number of planets by flying ships to a planet and dropping a tiny cube on it bringing you one step closer to galactic domination. You can only have one cube of your colour on any planet, so you're forced to travel outwards and get into territory disputes with other players.

It all sounds very dry and unexciting, especially without cool miniature ships to look at while you're playing. But it isn't. It's incredibly tight, exciting and fast, and every game I've played so far has ended with a wicked cool maneuver by the winning player as the final action.

Each die represents a different ship that can be any one of six class of vessel at any time. But that number also tells you its movement value, and even more, it's attack value. In Quantum, lower combat total wins fights, and combat is decided by rolling an attack dice and adding your attacking ship value, comparing that to the defenders defence roll added to her defending ship value. So the slow moving Battlestation represented by the One pip is the best at combat, while the zippy Scout on Six is terrible if it gets in a fight.

Quantum is all about strategy, but at a fun and easy to grasp level. I was never good at strategy games, either in board or video games. I usually got overwhelmed by options and never felt competent, especially in games against other players. But Quantum is so clean, I never felt that lost. Plus, it feels great when the newest player at the table wins because they just quietly sneak a cool victory while the others are attacking each other.

The new edition has beautiful frosted dice that feel great in you hand, and vibrant tiny colony cubes that look far too edible to be safe. The tiles are made of chunky card, the player boards are clean and well laid out, and the rule book is... well, one of my friends asked if he should be wearing gloves while holding it, it was so nice to feel. The pages aren't cardstock, but they are thicker and nicer than just plain paper.

If I have one complaint, it's that they could have included the single tile expansion in this edition. The Void is a tile with no planet, just nine spaces to move through. It's got rules for gaining Research quickly. It was released as a promo card for conventions and events, but then sold on BoardGameGeek.com. It would have been nice to include the tile, rules, and suggested layouts for using it in the new edition of the game, especially as there is plenty of room to include one more tile. As it is, I got the tile through BGG for $6 including shipping, but even then, it didn't include suggested maps, just the tile in an envelope. I posted an image of the information card that originally came with the tile here, just for future reference.

But, honestly, that's hardly a complaint. Quantum is fantastic fun, and I'm delighted to include it in my collection. It's so simple to teach it makes a great, slightly more meaty, introduction to board games for relatively new gamers, while still complex and deeply engaging for more experienced players. I have yet to win a game myself, even when teaching it to an entire new-to-the-game group, but I love every game I've played, and I've never feflt completely outclassed. Highly recommended if you're looking for something with strategy and depth, without the complexity of a miniatures wargame.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Mini Games

I've been enjoying playing a couple of cerebral puzzle games on my tablet recently, mostly on my way to or from work on the bus.

I grabbed a cool shadow manipulation game called Shadowmatic, which I played a lot of until I got completely stumped. It was frustrating when I could see the shape I was supposed to make, but just hadn't twisted the objects to just the right degree. Still loads of fun, and absolutely beautiful to look at.

Rop is another puzzle game about positioning nodes and attached ropes to create set shapes. It starts off very easy, but gets difficult after a while. Or, it did for me. Claire is more spacially aware than me, and cruised through the whole thing.

And finally, the madness that is AlphaBear. This is a game where you're given a bunch of letters and you have to form words out of them, sometimes under a time limit, building bears as you go along. It's cute, fast and I'm terrible at spelling. It's free to play, with some microtransactions, but so far, all that has meant is that I'm forced to play in small bursts and let my credits recharge over time, which actually suits me well.

These make up the vast, vast majority of my gaming recently. Perfect in short bursts, or in one hand while entertaining a baby with the other.

Monday, November 09, 2015

7 Days

So far, so good. Technically, I missed Friday, but posted double on Saturday. I had a long day at work and wanted to spend the evening with my wonderful daughter and wife.

Also, my blog's clock is set to Irish time still. I haven't had the heart to change it, so some posts appear to be from the day after I actually post them according to Vancouver time. I'm only going to really worry about this on November 30th, when I'll make sure the post goes up on that date according to the clock to keep everything together in November.

Friday evening was also spent watching The Fast and The Furious, which was... Interesting. Claire knew nothing about it, so she was confused and mystified for most of the feature. I enjoyed it, but spent a bunch of it playing AlphaBear on my iPad, and just looking up during the racing and action scenes. I think I got all the best parts.

This coming week is going to be busy as well, as I'm working long days every day, apart from Wednesday, which is Rememberance Day here, and a public holiday. It'll be an interesting challenge to maintain some level of posting, even if it is short and rambling, like this one!

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Baby Tipping Part One

Everyone has their own tips and tricks and suggestions for you when you have, or are about to have, a baby, and they're more than happy to share them. Here's a few things I've learned since becoming a father.

Nothing anyone tells you will be exactly what you need for your baby, my own tips included. What you need to do is take all those things and find what you can use from them. Adapt them to your baby, because they may be just a few days old, but they'll have their own personality and desires, and they'll make them known to you somehow!

Feeding time can be a restful, peaceful time with mummy and baby, a moment of intimate bonding. Unfortunately, it also involves a lot of moments of vomitting. As most parents know, babies spit up. A lot. What we certainly did not know is that it is totally normal for babies to have one big spit-up every day. And in my experience, I mean big! For the first few months, Ada had instances when she has spit-up far more than I could believe a tiny tummy can hold. When it happens, don't panic. It's frightening, but it's normal. Remember, as long as your baby is peeing and pooping, they're doing fine when it comes to feeding.

And even if your baby isn't pooping, they're probably still okay! Ada could go five or six days without a single bowel movement, and I got so worried I askedd our GP during one of our visits. She assured me it was okay and told me that I should start worrying around the ten or eleven day mark. That's strange to me, because in my experience working in infant daycare programs, babies poop a lot.

 

Oh, one more thing about baby poop (If you're not a parent, or soon-to-be parent, you're already horrified, so why stop now?). If your baby is breast fed, it doesn't smell when they're young. Beast milk only has what baby bodies need, so very little waste is created, so nothing to make it smell bad! As you start adding solids into their diet from around 6 months, it can start to smell, but even then, until they're mostly eating solids, it's not as bad as you expect it to be.

Babies are amazing, and there's so much I've learned from Ada already, even after studying this stuff for three years, and working with them for much longer. Part Two coming soon.

Related
Baby Tipping Part Two (Soon)

First

I first trained in basic first aid when I was, I dunno, 16, 17? Subsequently, I spent nine years as a lifeguard, continuing my training and increasing my knowledge of first aid, right up to holding an Occupational First Aid certificate for quite a while. I've held some form of first aid qualification continuosly for about twenty years now.

But in all that time, I never really made use of it. I mean, I patched up scratches and bruises, of course, and once, I had to help someone that scalded their arm with a steam burn, putting water directly onto hot coals. Nothing serious. I've never administered CPR, or had to use an AED in real life. I've never even had to help someone choking.

Until very, very recently.

We had already fed Ada her dinner, but I was eating mine a bit later than her. Usually, we all eat together, but it just didn't work out that evening. Ada eats while sitting in her own chair at the table, so that she gets used to sitting and eating a meaal toggether with us. However, she was finished her meal, so I just sat her on my lap while I was eating, giving her little bits of my meal to try.

Ada only recently started eating solid foods, and has tried a bunch of things, including rice, avocado, chicken, pork, egg, peas and carrots, among a lot of others. The one big dislike so far, in fact, the only dislike so far, is crabmeat from a California roll. Her whole body shudders and she spits it out every time.

I had given her a little chicken, and there was a soft chunk of, I think, pineapple. It was well cooked and very soft and squishy. I picked it up and popped it in her mouth. She chewed on it thoughtfully, and looked up at me. I watched her experience the flavours like only an infant can and went back to eating my own dinner.

Claire asked me something.

I turned away to answer her.

A wheeze. Ada was suddenly waving her arms. I looked down at her and she had a look of panic on her face. Her arms were flapping, and she was making a quiet coughing sound, tears were in her eyes and she was just staring at me.

I picked her up, turned her over, my right hand holding her chin, her body lying along my right arm, her bum higher than her head and gave one slap on the back. She immediately started crying loudly.

I flipped her back around and gave her a big hug. Claire took her and held her close, and within a minute she was calm and happy.

At no point did either of us panic. I don't think my heartrate even changed until after the fact. It certainly helped that I could hear Ada coughing, so I knew that it wasn't a total blockage. It helped that she as already in my arms, not strapped into her highchair. It helped that I knew axactly what was in her mouth moments before, how small and soft it was.

First Aid is an important skill that everyone should have. I honestly think it should be a subject in school, a skill taught to every child, even if just on a basic level.

Almost twenty years of having it and not needing it, but I'm really glad I had it that one moment I did need it.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Three-Score Barrels Of Powder Below

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, Guy Fawkes, t'was his intent
To blow up King and Parliament.
Three-score barrels of powder below
To prove old England's overthrow;
By God's providence he was catch'd
With a dark lantern and burning match.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!
It is more a testament to my continued efforts to blog than in support of a British commemorative day that I'm still posting this every year. This is, apparently, the ninth year I've posted this poem on this date, which, honestly surprises me. I've been adding to this blog since 2006, but started this... er... tradition in 2007
This is the first year writing (cut'n'pasting) this with my daughter sitting beside me. Right now, she is destroying a $10 voucher for a local thrift store. I hope it's still usable. Probably not... she's chewing on it now. I just took it off her and got her some apple sauce instead. 
I should probably go make a batch of homemade soup like I was planning. Some for dinner this evening, the rest for the fridge and as needed over the next few days. Yummy. Good, healthy food for all the family!
This has been an unexpected stream-of-consciousness post. Let's hope I have time to write some more coherent ones over the weekend. 
I'll leave you with this, related to the day. 

Tech Baby

Most mornings when I leave for work, Claire and Ada are happily asleep in bed still. Usually Ada will wake up a little later, have a feed and go back to sleep for another hour or two, snuggled up in bed with her mommy. Claire, for her part, usually checks her phone for important messages from the previous sleeping hours while feeding.
Recently, this morning ritual played out and both mommy and baby went back to sleep, Claire having made absolutely certain that her phone was safely out of reach. Ada, however, had other ideas. Apparently, she pretended to fall asleep until Claire was unconscious, then got Claire's phone, opened the camera app and proceeded to record a three minute video of herself chatting and babbling in bed.
It's all disgustingly adorable, and I put it up on YouTube! With annotations!
Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

I Don't *Star* Your *Heart*

Last night while I slept, my world had changed without me even realising. I woke up with the same local star shining its light, my beautiful wife warm beside me and my darling child dreaming of an endless field of clothing tags waving in the warm sun, everything she loves.

I got up, got dressed, missed my wife goodbye and headed out to work, just like any other morning.

Then, it happened.

I opened Twitter, started reading and noticed something odd. The little Star under tweets, beside the retweet button had become a little Heart. I was immediately curious.

Had I slipped into a nearby dimension where the only noticable difference was this graphic? No. Others had noticed the change too.

Did it have the same function as the old Star, or did it do something new and magical? No. Apart from a fancy animation (all 24 frames!) it fills the same roll. And that's where my problem lies.

I have and do star things that I particularly like, but 99% of those are friends sharing something from their own lives that I'm happy about. It might be a photo of their baby or something good happening at work or in their lives. Rarely have I ever starred something from a celebrity to represent just liking what they said or posted.

I often catch up on Twitter on the way to or from work, sitting on the bus, barely awake. Because of that, I most often use the Star button as method of bookmarking tweets for later. They might be videos I want to watch at home on a bigger screen, articles I want to read in comfort, or something I want to look at in depth.

The Star is fine for this. It acts as a neutral icon that represents something shiny that I find interesting or noteworthy, but also, it can just be something to catch my attention. It's equivalent to a star drawn on the back of my hand, or a string on my finger; a generic icon to remind me of something I need to watch read.

But a Heart is different. It represents love or admiration. If I Heart a tweet about an article on lack of funding for school age children with autism, do I now like that those children and families are not getting help or support? Of course not! I remember starring a tweet linking to an article on polluted beaches in Ireland one summer and accidentally upsetting a friend who thought I was taking pleasure in not living there, or having clean beaches near me. I wasn't. I was on the bus, on my mobile, wanting to read the full article later in the evening. My friend understood when I explained myself, but how much worse would it have looked it I had had to click on the Heart instead?

Why change it? The Star was fine. The Heart is, as a symbol, fine too. But as a feature in the way I use it, the Star is vastly superior.

Tell you what, Twitter, give me a seperate Bookmark button and I'll be happy. Then I can Heart things I like and Bookmark things I want to read more of later. Sorted.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

It's The Little Things

Before I became a father, I imagined what it would be like. A lot.

I thought about being there for the birth, seeing that first step, hearing her first word ("Spiduh-Man"). I thought about all the big things that parents cherish during those first years.

But it's so often the little things I never thought of that bring me the most joy.

Coming home from a long day at work and seeing that smile when she first sees me.

Laying her down on her changing mat and watching her twist and stretch to grasp the marker we keep nearby, catching it with tiny little fingers in any grip thaat works for her, and the happiness evident on her face when she gets it without help.

Hearing her babble at nothing, or babble at her chew toy.

Listening to her breathing as it slows, her head pressed into my neck, her little body warm against mine, and then, with a final sigh, she goes slack, asleep on my shoulder.

Just seeing her sitting upright.

Watching her try new foods.

There will be great big moments in her life that I will remember for years afterwords. Her first day at school. Her first boyfriend. Her first girlfriend! But among them, there will be countless tiny ones that might get forgotten in time, but I'll treasure them when they occur.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Let's Do This

November is, for some, a chance to write a lot in a short amount of time, aided by the support of others doing likewise. Most popular is the NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writers Month, during which folks like my wife try to bang out a whole novel. Just the first draft. Editting and subsequent refining are left for another time.

I don't write novels, so instead, I'm trying my own version of November activity, NoBeProMo, November Be Productive Month. I'm going to try to write 30 blog posts over the month of November. The last time I tried this was way back in 2011, and I managed it! It wasn't quite one per day, but it was 30 posts in the month. Hopefully I can manage it again. But more than that, I'm going to try to do video editing stuff, art and more, all of which I'll update about here. So some of the posts this coming month might be short on content themselves, but hopefully I'll have put work into other areas for those days.

This time I'm also going in with a plan. I have a few types of posts I want to do, including movie and board game reviews, a short story or two, and general life stuff, mostly related to babies. I have a few outlines scribbled up in advance to help me manage this task.

If you enjoy what you see, please feel free to comment. Similarly, if you think some post is weak, then let me know. This should be an interesting month!