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.


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


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-"



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


"The bar is white."

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


"I said 1!"

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

"Release on a 4."


"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.