International Tabletop Day 2016

I like it when ‘big dates’ fall on the weekends – means less time explaining to disinterested teachers and more time focused on another level of education for the Spawnlings.

Seriously, who can’t see the benefits of Tabletop?

30 April is now THE day for some gameplay. So bring out your tablecloth, set up some tunes, and get ready for some sneaky cheeky fun! Here’s our Top 7 planned for the day:

1. Munchkin Quest

This ALWAYS top of the list for spawnlings. It has storytelling; it has weaponry; it has the opportunity to gang up on parents and make their life really difficult. What more could you want?


2. Zeus on the Loose

We bought this almost two years ago but never came around to play it yet. However, recent school holidays gave us the opportunity and we love it! I’ll be putting up a review after the weekend, but short version: you take it in turn adding numbers to the pile to reach 100. There are Greek Gods who will help you along the way because who ever hits 100 scores the point. Mathematics and strategy in a card game = more fun than you’d think!

3. Settlers of Catan

I grew up thinking Monopoly was the game to teach you how to negotiate. I was wrong. So very very wrong.

Catan is probably the most famous geeky tabletop game, known in almost any geeky circle. It is about bartering your resources well enough so you don’t have to rely on the fate of the dice.

Needless to say, I suck at it. But I love it!


4. Pandemic
Not the ideal game for germ-a-phobes. I like this game because it is a team game; everyone works together to defeat the icky diseases breaking out across the world. There is some serious strategy building required, and a great opportunity to work on communication. 

What really makes the game work is the collection of individual roles for each player. Everyone has their own skill/profession to be in the game and EVERYONE has a skill that gives you a good chance of winning.


5. Tavern Fame

Minus the drinking in the bar, this is easily the favourite warm up game in the Lair. It is brilliant as an introduction to RPG and storytelling, giving spawnlings a chance to build some serious Tall Tale talents. Hardest part is allowing each kid to tell their story without the inevitable challengers interrupting.


6. Qwirkle 

Even the 2yo can play this one (with a little help). Great strategy and pattern recognition. It starts friendly, with the shared intent of keeping the game ‘neat’ – but there is always some mongrel who has to mess the neat pattern, and then it descends into a table full of jibes and defensive moves.


7. Too Many Monkeys

Another one 2yo Zaltu loves to play. Simple card strategy, collecting all the numbered monkeys from 1 to 6, avoiding raccoons, elephants, and giraffes. All three Spawnlings were happily playing this for 20mins at the hospital while the doc took my cast off. I keep this one on the side between Zaltu and I, while also playing one of the ‘older’ games with the others. It’s not a ‘baby game’ – I’d peg it around 3-8 years old. 

Plenty of games to fill your day! Remember: the primary objective is to have fun! Put the World Domination on hold for one day, and spend the time getting to know how your fellow gamers think. Show the spawnlings life is not just shoot’em up and count the credits. 

Well, unless your bartering those credits for a cup of tea…

One Fridge At A Time

It was not how I wanted to be spending my Sunday morning.

Arm deep in an empty fridge, surrounded by food, trying to figure out where the leak was coming from.Leaky-Fridge-Title

Why was I doing this and not calling a tradesperson?

Because how am I supposed to teach our spawnlings how to conquer the world if I can’t show them how to conquer a simple refrigerator?!?

Plus I’m a cheapskate, and it was Sunday morning. Do you have any idea how expensive tradespeople are on a Sunday morning? I do not have that many kidneys.

However, the good news is I successful conquered the fridge. One-handed (literally…broken wrist, remember?) and while EG Dad was scouting out the competition in the US of A (apparently travel for work).

I’m rather impressed with myself. So was my grandfather, EG the Great (EG Great Grandad). Now here is a man who can conquer anything, anything. Electrician, mechanic, surfer, spear-fishing, gardening, hang-gliding … and all this right up until a couple of years ago. He’s like my own Leonardo da Vinci.

And he turns 80 today. He will hate me telling you, but he won’t risk telling me off as that would reveal his secret location. He is in hiding from the other 80-year-olds he knows, who are trying to throw him a big party.

So instead he was sitting on the phone with me, brainstorming about my fridge problem.

In fact, we were both so impressed with how I solved the problem, I thought it wise to share with you the ‘hows’ – so you can see how easy it was. Trust me – I ain’t no mechanical genius.

Leaking Fridge

  • First, where is the leak coming from? In my case, there was a pool of water around the front right corner. The water was leaking through the seal from inside the fridge. This was my first clue it was a defrosting issue. If the leak was from the back, then you need to consider the water tray at the back (where the water goes) for cracks; any pipes for water or ice dispenser (if you have one); pipe-tube that cycles back to the motor (more on that later).
  • Pull the fridge out (slide on the tiles) and TURN IT OFF AT THE WALL. I cannot express this enough. EG the Great is a retired electrician. It was the first thing he would always say to me as a kid, and he said it to me again this time. Turn it off and pull the plug out of the wall.

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  • Freak out at the mess back there – It had been awhile since I cleaned this area. Ugh.
  • Empty out the fridge – I kid you not. Everything. Good time to clean, except that it was Sunday morning and I was missing my ritual coffee-and-yell-at-the-tv-during-Insiders (political commentary show). With our FisherPaykel c450, the defrosting panel is most of the back wall. I needed to check this for ice, which meant everything out.
  • BTW: At this point, probably a good idea to note the model and serial number in case you DO end up calling that tradesperson.Fridge Serial and Model
  • Once you have all the trays out, you should be able to pop out the plastic covering over the defrosting panel at the back. Do this carefully because if you crack it, it will no longer hold in place and you will be calling the tradesperson for parts.

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  • This is the point where I found the back wall pretty much iced over. I also checked the door seals and they are looking a little dodgy. So my theory is that the seals are getting a bit more of a workout during the school holidays and are due for replacement (requires +2 dexterity so it will have to wait). This means the motor is working overtime to do its job. Let’s look at the back to see what else is going on.
  • Now remember it hasn’t been cleaned for awhile (let’s say, at least since before the wrist-break). Good idea to give it a vacuum. EG the Great also suggested I have a feel of the tube at the back for blockage: a small tube going from inside the fridge to the motor. This deals with water collected during the defrosting cycle. If it becomes blocked, the water will back up inside the fridge.IMG_9717
  • Unfortunately, to pull out the tube and have a look is again +2 dexterity (needs two hands), but you can squeeze along the tube and feel for any large chunks; a bit like the jelly pearls you find in the Asian drinks in shopping centres. If you find one, try breaking it up with a bit more squeezing.

Conclusion:

After cleaning up the ice and squeezing the little ball of whatever at the back, I have turned down the fridge power (making it a little warmer) to stop it from icing up again. I’m monitoring it with a thermometer and so far it is bang on 5 degrees Celsius (ideal for safe food standards).

I will still need to replace the door seal, but in the meantime, I have fixed the fridge. There are no more pools of water in the morning. There is no more ice covering the back wall inside the fridge. And there are no more mystery jelly balls in the tubes.

EG the Great

Happy Birthday, EG the Great. Thanks to you, I have the confidence to assess it myself first and show the spawnlings how-to as well. That’s more a present for me than you, but I know you’re pretty happy with this too.

 

Now folks – always be reasonable about what you are capable of. NEVER mess with electrical. Always turn things off at the wall. If you really want to try plumbing, turn the water off AND the electrical. But most of all, be realistic. I didn’t try pulling out the tube because I knew if I did, I may not be able to put it back together. Be honest with yourself. BUT don’t be so fearful you don’t try first. 

Sydney Brickshow 2016

Happy 5th Birthday to the Sydney Brickshow!

We’ve attended four out of the five shows in Sydney; Sinister won a place as a Junior Builder in 2013.

Each year the show is an absolute hit with the kids AND the bigger kids. It’s a huge exhibition for Lego fans to show off their designs. This is not an official Lego show; these are fans who create displays that combine sets with free play – just like every spawnling dreams!

Check out the beach scene – you won’t find this as a set in any store. You’re going to have to cannibalise whatever you have at home.

But it’s not just a flat Lego scene. Look at the barrel in that wave! The use of the linked bricks! And they move! That’s an added level of creativity.

Sometimes the fans just want to build their fandoms, whether or not Lego has released a set.

This year had a stand-out Pokemon display. Not only were the Pokeballs impressive (see above), the complete layout for the original opening route was equal parts nostalgic and inspiring.

That’s the secret weapon of these local exhibition shows – not Lego itself, but the ability to inspire you to go home and create.

I overheard one parent comparing the Sydney Brickshow to the other hot Lego ticket in town, Nathan Sawaya’s Art of the Brick: DC.

Both exhibitions are designed to inspire; both show the endless creativity available with Lego as a medium.

But while I love Nathan’s ability to show play as an art form, I also love the approachable nature of local exhibitions.

For me, the star of the show (for this and ALL the Sydney Brickshows I have attended) was this guy: Henry Pinto.

He just started this year – won Best Newcomer for 2016. Built the above chess set for his son to learn how to play, as well as a very cool collection of Bat-vehicles.

But the real reason I would give him the title of Evil Genius Lego Builder is because of this:


Not only was Henry willing to show how he made his chess set, he actively encouraged the kids to recognise the pieces they may have at home. He is interacting with his audience and showing them how to do it too. He is sharing stories with them! He knows about being a Lego fan and shares that. This all happened so quick and so naturally, I’m lucky to have caught it at all!

While we love all the exhibits and will definitely be back next year (maybe junior builders again?), Henry is the guy I will be looking for.
All photos from our visit will be posted on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. No sponsorship – happily paid for our family tickets as the money supports a fantastic charity, Bear Cottage.

Happy Birthday Senor da Vinci

EG Inc took a slightly different approach for our Forensic Friday today.

I recently learned today, 15 April, is Leonardo da Vinci’s birthday.

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Senor da Vinci was a true Evil Genius. I really wanted to celebrate this day but I was stuck on ideas.

After reading a GeekMom article by My Little Poppies, I was so inspired by the idea of celebrating DEAR this week, I thought: why not celebrate DEAD – Drop Everything And Draw?

And what better way to celebrate DEAD than with a DEAD artist… like Leonardo da Vinci.

For those not familiar with DEAR, it means Drop Everything And Read. Author Beverley Cleary wrote about DEAR in her book Ramona Quimby, Age 8. It was such a hit, the USA hold national DEAR programs on April 12th, Beverly Cleary’s birthday. She is still alive too –  celebrated the big 1-0-0 this week.

At our local school (not US), the spawnlings practice both DEAR and DEAD in the classroom. I thought the timing was perfect for our Forensic Friday.

The thing about da Vinci is that he wasn’t just an artist. He was a polymath; an individual that was brilliant at everything (particularly during or influenced by the Renaissance). We’re talking painter, sculptor, engineer, astronomer, anatomist, biologist, chemist, geologist, physicist, architect, musician, philosopher, and humanist.

Over-achiever.

But I like a challenge. Today was in celebration of Leonardo da Vinci.

 

Now remember we ARE on school holidays at the moment, and the two older spawnlings have definitely earned a rest. So I opted for just one of his many interesting inventions, The Flying Machine. I took most of my cues from a book I picked up a year or so ago:  Inventions – Leonardo da Vinci, published in 2014 by Lake Press Pty Ltd.da vinci book

The Flying Machine was completely inspired by da Vinci’s jealous admiration for birds; particularly their ability “escape the Earthly bonds”. Namely, gravity.

This was a great opportunity to kick the spawnlings outside – let’s find some birds or wildlife and draw it! We live next to a park with PLENTY of birds that wake Zaltu up every damn morning.

Do you think we could find a bird today?

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All we could find was this bug. I don’t even know WTH it is.

But we were committed to the cause!! (*committed to something…)

After our great exploration, we returned inside to observe and draw our wildlife.

Sinister really enjoyed this part:

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Nefarious decided he wanted to paint the adventure, rather than the achievement:

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And Zaltu… well, Zaltu…

Rainbow Zaltu
She chose to paint the participants in the adventure. Namely, herself. Literally.
As you can see, she was mighty impressed with me calling an end to the artistic display. Zaltu calls this piece “Rainbow Zaltu”. You can have it as a complete work of art for a mere block of chocolate… but don’t call me when the artwork wakes you at 3am asking why the possums are allowed to play outside her window and she is not.

 

Seriously though, Zaltu painted a beautiful wrapping paper design for da Vinci’s birthday presents. And was then upset when I had to explain there were no presents to wrap.IMG_9800

At which point, Sinister realised da Vinci gained his deep understanding of bird muscles from observing them inside and out (read: dissecting them) and was a little … concerned. During which time Nefarious read ahead in the book and learnt about the blowy-uppy weapons da Vinci designed and wondered why we weren’t building our own canons instead. Broken wrist remember?

We then had pizza for dinner and I sent them to bed – at 5.30pm. Because they tired me out.

For a bunch of activities to do for a day, it was actually kind of fun. The spawnlings were truly amazed by the concept of a polymath. The sheer amount of study da Vinci undertook to confidently do the work he did. Not so much Zaltu (she is only 2) but definitely the older two.

It was great watching them both realise you did NOT have to limit yourself to one speciality. You CAN be a marine biologist who incorporates art and software development in their work. You CAN be an astrophysicist who includes chemistry and electrical engineering in their project designs.

DEAD was just something to start the discussion. The best ‘birthday present’ today was listening to all three talk about what they wanted to create tomorrow.

I’ll let you know how Zaltu’s Batcave turns out.

 

Horrible Histories: Pirates in the Museum!

Tell your spawnlings you’re heading to a pirate exhibit at the museum, and even the least academically inclined child will show an interest in coming along.

Tell them it’s a “Horrible Histories” exhibit, and they will probably try to drive your doom-mobile themselves.

CaptZaltu02

 

If you’re lucky enough to live in Sydney, you can still catch the Horrible Histories Pirate Exhibit at the Maritime Museum (Darling Harbour). It finishes at the end of the April School Holidays – 27 April 2016 to be exact.

And it is worth catching. EG Inc has been twice. We’re going a third time this week, broken wrist and all.

Horrible Histories is pretty popular in itself – there are books; tv series; spin-off books about geography; and museum exhibits like this. The appeal of the brand is, of course, their ability to be absolutely honest about the dark and dirty but in a funny gross way that clearly works for kids.

And juvenile evil genius parents.

There is no singing Pirate King; no Errol Flynn swinging past the sails. There is definitely nothing romantic or cinematic about any of this.

I knew I was in the right place when the entry has an interactive “rat-squashing” game. Using a projector and motion sensor, kids can stomp on the rats scurrying along the floor to the exhibit. It is hilarious fun when you see the blood and guts spread across the floor in a spectacular cartoon fashion. It kept Zaltu (and myself) entertained for at least 15mins.IMG_9007

Inside the exhibit, there are plenty of visual displays, very informative posters, and a range of tactile play areas on show. We each had fun creating our own Wanted Pirate posters along with exploring for hidden treasure on the little beach.Nefarious the Fearless

But the winning feature – the one we are really going back for?

The big battle scene in the very middle of the exhibit.

Kids split between the two sections, each with a stack of soft(-ish) balls and an air-powered ‘canon’. Then the battle begins across the sea!! And woe be the parent who strolls across the firing range. Pirate spawnlings have no mercy.

There’s no time to be ‘dilly-dally’ on this one – as mentioned above, the last day is 27 April (two weeks from publishing this article). Details about the exhibit can be found on the website.

No affiliation or sponsorship for the post either. EG Nan and Pop gave us an annual pass for a Solstice present. Brilliant idea two years in a row. Our spawnlings simply had way too much fun learning to keep this quiet.

Apparently Thursday (both weeks) look like possible rain…if you need a suggestion of a day…

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The Interwebs: Where All The Evil Kids Hang Out

I have just finished a really long, heated, and frustrating telephone call with my father – EG Opa. The short version is that the Internet is an evil place, where evil things happen, and only evil people benefit from it.

</old baby-boomers rant>

Yeah, I was going to palm it off as “grumpy old man say whaaat?” … But I’m one of those people who benefits from the Internet.GotG-Idiots

So naturally I felt the need to defend it, and all the other people who benefit from it without the intent of evil status (if you’re reading this, then accept that you are at least subconsciously working towards ‘evil genius’ status).

Now let’s make one thing, one very particular thing, clear before we go any further with my rant. I currently do not receive any financial benefits from my blog. Just old school wanting to write stuff.

So the first thing I asked my dear old dad is “What’s the evil benefit that I’m gaining?”

Yes, he stumbled. He ranted about evil people trying to steal information and lead people astray; corrupting young minds; and stalking my spawnlings.

No mention about my blog. Because clearly I am not on the internet.

So then we started talking about Facebook and Twitter and other social media forums. Predictably, he was back to “they’re evil, no-one is honest about who they are, they are all out to defraud you, no-one is really your friend” etc.

I am not naïve enough to think that everyone is honestly my bestie and thinks I am funny everyday (though, that day will come). However, I have received great positive benefits from online relationships – friendships that enhance the person I am in real life.

Way back in the 90’s, we had mIRC through the university servers. My first uni was a regional campus that used mIRC to connect students across hundreds of kilometres. It WAS supposed to encourage study groups, in the same manner as long-distance education. All faculties were included.

mIRC

Let’s be honest – only IT geeks used it. Mostly guys. There were a few females. And it was SOOOOO much fun. I met one of my closest friends through mIRC.

When I changed universities and moved to the city, I knew where my people were: Computer Labs and mIRC. Once again, I found a group of people who were as geeky as me and made me feel welcomed in a new habitat. We started meeting up at the pub for beer o’clock and pool (billiards) – and yes, one of them was even a genuine study buddy (the only other law student in a group dominated by IT and engineering)! Still friends with some today.

Over the years, the ‘forums’ have changed, but the friendships have not. Despite the stereotype EG Opa was giving, I was not some awkward teen unable to make any friends in the real world. I was merely a multi-layered individual who enjoyed associating with a diverse group of people.

Just like you.

I still maintain a presence in chatrooms and message boards; I frequently participate in Facebook and Twitter discussions (not much else due to time constraints); I have met many of my online friends in the real world (Hi Bruce and Tracey, and tribe! Hey Clinton and Kimberley, are you going to Supanova?).

I even write with an amazing group of people I have never met in person, yet respect and admire for their own Evil Genius. They have taught me so much and guided me through a fairly steep learning curve over the last 6 months. All from their computers.

Most of all I have been able to connect with people around the world, people who I would never EVER have met otherwise and yet give me the support to explore so many awesome things: geeky interests; International Humanitarian Law; Cosplay for kids; Gifted Children. Believe me when I say there are VERY FEW people in my geographic location that I can talk to about all of these topics, and yet there they are – on my computer.

NONE of this has been corrupt. None of it has been creepy. None of it has ever been as evil as the grumpy old man would want you to believe.

I know this is all a rant (how ironic), but the main reason for this rant is to show you, my loyal minions, that you are not alone. Unfortunately there are still people who do not understand the social benefits of the internet – but I do. I DO!

The Internet is NOT an evil place where only evil benefits. It is merely a tool, like anything else. And while there is a small minority of ick, there is a greater overwhelming feeling of YEAH!

Don’t let the grumpy old man ruin that for you.

Go say hi to your online friends.

And tell them thanks from EG Mum.

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