Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Buck Fifty: Addendum

Well! I did it! I successfully wrote a minimum of 150 words each day in November. While I didn’t have to post every day, as. long I wrote the required amount, as it turned out, I ended up writing 30 separate blogs! Here’s some interesting facts about the month. Or, at least, interesting to me facts. 

My shortest post was on Day 7, The Future Looks Brighter Today, at just 180 words. 

The longest was also one of my favourites, Murder, They Streamed, at 732 words. However, a large part of that was actually written over the course of the summer, and just edited in to new material. I actually only wrote around 300 new words that day. For the rest of the math in this post, I am taking an educated estimate of 311 words for Murder, They Streamed in relation to the challenge requirements. Adjusted, that would make Christmas Started Tonight In Ireland the longest, at 678 words. 

Only two posts broke 500 new words published, Christmas Started Tonight In Ireland, and the post immediately preceding that, Teaching Inis, at 503 words. Both were written in the final week. 

I published 8306 words in November. I wrote a lot more, but they got deleted or edited out before posting. That’s an average of 276.86 words per day. The mean word count was 251. That is to say, if ordered by word count, there are 15 posts of less than or equal to 251 words, and 15 posts with a greater than 251 word count. By coincidence, Day 16, Distance Grandparenting is the post with 251 words. 

At the time I’m writing this, My Nightly Ritual has the most views, at 41. Though that was posted on Day 4 and has had all month to accumulate that number. By contrast, The End Of All Now from Day 28 already has 37 views. 

If you did, thanks for joining me on this process. I really enjoyed this month, and hopefully it’s gotten me back into writing. Only time will tell. My next project, I think, will be a video I really want to do. I’ll post about it here if I succeed. 

Monday, November 30, 2020

Education Through Games

My kids are big into their tech. 

It’s been fun watching my daughter develop her skills with my phone or iPad, and more recently, the Switch. Practically everything she can do she learned herself through trial and error, with just a little nudge from watching me. She knows the PIN code to access my phone and iPad and can get to the apps she wants and jump between them. 

When Covid hit, I invested in some good art programs and educational apps for her to discover. My favourite is a very colourful and engaging app to teach programming that builds in complexity at a very manageable scale. Ada really loves it. I watched her start by randomly placing the instructions until she got the little critter to its home, and move to understanding the effects of the various commands and place them correctly. As the game goes on, they add new commands she has to experiment with to discover their result. 

We still try to limit their screen time over a week, but some days they spend more time on them than others. At least it’s partially educational. 

EDIT: I had to manually adjust the date so that this post appears as a November Post. The clock on my blog is still set to Ireland time, so it initially showed up as a December 1st entry. It’s still very much November 30th where I am, though. It also means that all previous posts show up as a day late, but I’m less concerned about that. 

The GIF That Took Some Getting

Spent a lot of today working on some fun creative stuff. 

I did a bunch of photography in the morning, for two main purposes, neither of which I can reveal just now, but both projects are seasonal themed, and very different from each other.

This evening, I did a bunch of fun editing on the second batch of photos I took. I use Procreate on my iPad to do all my drawing, and it works okay as a photo editor. Unfortunately, I actually discovered a bug in Procreate this evening while working. I was trying to make a nice, simple, animated GIF. When I saved it at full resolution, it worked fine, but was far too big to do very much with, including sending via Whatsapp or posting to Twitter...the two platforms I wanted the GIF for. 

In order to back my way around it, I had to save the animation as a 4 second MP4 and send it to my phone. From there, I had to send it by Whatsapp to my wife's phone but instead of sending the video, choose to send it as a GIF and let Whatsapp convert it. Once my wife's phone had it, I send it back to my phone and saved the GIF to my photostream. 

And that's how I created a stupid GIF of a silly gag that no one else will care about, but makes me smile. You might see it on my Twitter feed on Tuesday morning. It might make you smile too. 

Sunday, November 29, 2020

The End Of All Now

There's a lot of talk about what everyone is planning to do once this whole pandemic thing is over. Ignoring the fact that the definition of when that could be is hazy at best, there are a lot of differing ideas, even a variety of plans by individual people related to different aspects of their life. 

For me, I can't wait to travel home to Ireland again and see all my family and friends in person. Skype just doesn't cut it. I've been missing them a lot, especially given that my mum and sister were due to travel to us in May to celebrate my birthday. In fact, the last time we had visitors from home was this very week last year when Claire's parents stayed a while to be here for my son's second birthday. 

Without traveling half a world, I want to go to board game conventions and meetups. I want to hang out in a room full of friends, laughing and chatting and hugging and high-fiving. I want to be surrounded by friends I haven't seen in over a year. I'm not even all that interested in playing games, I just want to spend time with them all together in one place. 

Finally, I want to organise a mask burning party. I want to have food, and Rock Band karaoke, and fire pits to sit around after dark. I want a big metal barrel with a wood fire where people can throw in a mask to celebrate the end of it all. 

But, actually, I don't want it to ever entirely end. I don't want everyone to burn or discard all their masks once a vaccine becomes widely available. I want a certain level of mask wearing to become common place if anyone has a cough or snotty nose. I want that to be an ongoing common courtesy to your community in stores, or workplaces, or any other gathering place. 

Never forget how bad it got, or how much better it could be. 

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Christmas Started Tonight In Ireland

When I was a kid, the first sign of Christmas was the Late Late Toy Show. The Late Late Show is a long running late night chat show that most of Ireland watched throughout the 60’s, 70’s 80’s and 90’s. It still runs today, and is the second longest running late night talk show in the world. To this day, it is broadcast live in from of a studio audience (except in current pandemic restrictions).

The Late Late Toy Show is an annual special episode in late November where all the good little children of Ireland are let stay up long past their bedtimes to see what the hot toys, games and books of the year are. It always has special guests, children presenting toys, musical pieces and other novelties to entertain. As a kid, it was magical. 

Recent years have been less than awe-inspiring. There was just something missing ever since Gay Byrne retired in 1999. All subsequent hosts just didn’t have the same skills and screen presence, and the Toy Show became a 2 hour advertisment for the toys companies that could afford to promote their stuff. While I was in college it was a joke, and in the last decade or two, I haven’t bothered with it. 

While browsing twitter earlier today I was alerted to the fact the this years show had just begun! Purely out of nostalgia, and expecting absolutely nothing, I fired up the RTÉ Player on my iPad and started watching, streamed live from Ireland, with my kids. 

And it. 



The musical numbers were utterly beautiful, and there were lots to enjoy. The show opened with the host and a bunch of kids in an elaborate set piece, and they later did an encore with Singing In The Rain. But by far the two most magical moments were the beautiful rendition of Rule The World dedicated to all those who can’t come home this Christmas and... well... it’s better not to spoil it, but this cover of a song by an Irish artist, called Giants. Seriously, if you ignore all other links in this post, don’t skip that one. It’s...special. 

And the kids! Every one of them was a character, a joy to see on screen. They could banter away and gave as good as they got with jokes and friendly insults! After each one, I thought they couldn’t top that, and then the next kid would appear and I’d have to grab my tissues again and try not to sob too loudly. The surprise guest for a little boy with brittle bone disease (the Late Late Toy Show always made bringing sick children a little extra joy a priority) was possibly the sweetest moment I’ve witnessed all year

The positive buzz online during and after the show was deafening! People all over th eWorld were live Tweeting it, myself included, and individual guest names were trending in Ireland, much to one 7 year old girl’s delight! Everyone was enjoying the love and heart that was on display throughout. In a year where a lot of families are feeling the pinch, it was very nice to see them take the focus off the toys and land it squarely on the children. 

All this and they raised €5.2 MILLION in about two hours for children’s hospitals across the country! Ireland has a population of about 5 million, and given that the donation drive remains open after the show, I can only imagine what it’s up to now! 

This year’s Late Late Toy Show was breathtaking, and my love and congratulations goes out to everyone involved. I’m so delighted I got to share it, live, with my kids this year. We will absolutely be tuning in again next year, and until then, we’ll be rewatching the hightlights on the RTÉ YouTube channel for some time to come. 

Oh! And the host, Ryan, said “Fuck” on live Irish television in front of a seven year old girl and absolutely everyone watching lost it, and we will all love him for it forever.  

Friday, November 27, 2020

Teaching Inis

There’s a particular board game I love. It’s been at the number one spot on my favourite’s list for a number of years now. Designed by a French designer, published by a French publisher, it is entirely themed on Irish mythology. 

Inis is about trying to control key gameplay states on the board to be crowned king of The Island. It has an awesome table presence, from it’s uniquely shaped modular board pieces, to the lovely little minis each player moves around the board, to the stunning artwork on the cards, all licensed from a world famous Irish artist that specializes in Irish mythology art. When the game is laid out on a table, it just screams at anyone walking by “Hey you! Come look at me! I’m beautiful!” 

SHUX is a convention run by a popular board game review site based in the UK. The twist is, because they love me and wanted to spend time with me, they chose Vancouver to host their convention! I got a ticket to the very first one, sight unseen, day one of sales, some 10 months before the actual event. 

I played Inis four times over those two days. Worse, I taught Inis NINE times over the two days. By early on the Sunday, people were hunting me down because other attendees had been tweeting about me. I had The Teach down to a fine art, a swift 25 minutes, filled with gags to keep players engaged. 

On Sunday morning I borrowed a second copy from the actual owner of the company that publishes Inis and ran two games side by side. It was an amazing sight that made my heart sing with joy. 

But even so, I was burned out by Sunday afternoon. Staying up gaming in the convention hall until 1am Saturday night/Sunday morning probably didn’t help. So, as I was expalining the game for the nineth time, I decided that this was the last one. 

Halfway through The Teach, someone walked by the table, stopped and said “Ooohh! Inis! I’ve wanted to play this all weekend but never got the chance.

Inside my head, my brain silently screamed “NOOOOOOOOOOO!! Don’t you-“ but my mouth involuntarily responded “I can teach you once I’m done here.

I heard a door slam and my brain stomped off angrily into the foggy ether of my subconsciousness. 

Thankfully, he thanked me, but said he was heading to the airport soon and would have to take me up on the offer next year. 

My brain shouted “You’re on your own!” as it drove out of sight in an imaginary red Ferrari, and I really don’t recall much of anything from the rest of that Sunday. 

The moral of the story is: Don’t stay up until 1am at conventions when you have a whole other day to come, even if it is to school a table of friends in your first game of Nations: The Dice Game by winning with at least a twenty point gap to second place. 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Mad As Heck

The current global pandemic has been hard on everyone... Actually, it's been hard on everyone that has at least a modicum of humanity and community. While we're all isolating and wearing masks and avoiding contact with friends and family, the few that aren't are ruining it for the rest of us. 

We've tried so hard to stay safe. We wore masks in stores for months, but now I'm wearing one pretty much as soon as I step outside my home. My kids wear their masks when asked, and they haven't played with their friends at the playground in weeks. 

But it doesn't matter. No matter how careful we are, because others don't care, because others throw up their arms and steam about freedom and oppression, my family is stuck in a lockdown again. It makes me furious. If people cared more for each other, we'd be doing well enough that these restrictions wouldn't be needed.

I can't abide idiots, particularly idiots that harm my family without a care. 

Ugh. I miss friends. I wish I was more of an uncaring asshole.