International Friends and National Trees

There are so many ‘official’ days or ‘recognised celebrations’; it is hard to keep up with them. Pizza Day. Tiger Day. Red Shoe Day. This social responsibility with my geek calendar is exhausting.  Believe me, I try.

And then one day, when the planets are aligned and you stick your tongue out to the side at the correct angle… BAM! You score a two-for-one you can work with.

tree hug

Sunday 30 July is International Day of Friendship, as recognised by the United Nations. It’s a day to promote solidarity of the human spirit.

Buddy. Bro. Mate.

That network of people who listen when you rave about the last Doctor Who episode, whinge about the Australian Senator with the tin-foil hat, and cry about the state of the Great Barrier Reef.

Sometimes they are fellow-parents you catch up with for a coffee every month or so. Sometimes they are the lovely ladies you meet with to talk about comic books and superhero movies and chocolate brownie recipes. Sometimes they are a roughly-thrown-together bunch of scruffy looking nerf-herders who are trying to convince you to travel all the way over to the United States of America to join their cosplay. BTW: I’m totally in.

And this is where I love the internet. I’ve said it before: the internet is awesome for friendship. Not just for me, but for the spawnlings too. Take Zaltu, for example. She has this amazing friendship with the daughter of a minion over in the States. Let’s call our spawnlings Z1 and Z2.

International Day of Friendship

 

These girls chat about everything over Facebook Chat. They show each other their Super Hero Girls, they give tours of their bedrooms, they talk about dance moves. When my phone starts having a long series of buzzing fits, I know Z2 is sending Z1 a bunch of stickers and GIFs through Facebook Chat. And I know my bundle of joy is returning the favour to her friend… usually at 2am in the US morning, thanks to time zones (we have finally figured out how to use this to our advantage – teaching the girls about day/night and summer/winter… see, we’re educational and stuff).

Zaltu has friends at preschool and in the neighbourhood, but not all of them have the same interests. And not all of them want to talk about Wonder Woman for the umpteenth time. Yeah, I don’t understand that either. But this is where the technology works so well because I can show her a real person, just like her, who DOES want to talk Wonder Woman. It’s a bit like those pen pals ever so popular during my childhood. Except Zaltu can SEE her friend and talk with her in real time. For Zaltu, that’s what makes a true friend: support, connecting, and availability. It really doesn’t change much as we grow up older.

Now, before you get all excited about celebrating your friendships all over the internet I have a bonus for the Australian readers.

Sunday 30 July is also National Tree Day. Which means you can look twice as savvy by combining the two! Take your friend out for a picnic under a tree. Or plant a tree in honour of a special friend. If your special friend is far away, go and hug a tree instead.

tree-friend-day.jpg

Don’t be overwhelmed with the social calendar of the internet. Choose your days wisely. Look for overlaps to instantly double your cool geek status. But most importantly, stick with the ones that mean something to you as well. There’s no point in celebrating a day if you aren’t doing the celebrating part.

This one is easy. Friends + Trees. Zaltu is already heading over to the tree with my phone for some Facebook Chat… wait, that’s MY phone… DAMN IT!!

And The House of Pun

My grandmother is always telling me:

“Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.”

Yeaaaaahhhhhh… that doesn’t fit our household.

We pretty much live in a cyclone of sarcasm, dry wit, and punishing puns. 

Seriously. We have pun wars. At the dinner table. Regularly. Sometimes they are really really bad. And those are often the best ones. 

It’s like a garden of puns. And none of us can leave it alone. 

… hehehe …

There are rules: 

  • Nothing personal, especially no name calling;
  • Must be contextual, stick with the theme of what’s happening right now;
  • Must be with good intent, encouraging others to join in. Nobody wants to excluded or ostracised.

It’s all fun and games until the spawnlings throw it back at me.
Tonight I had to go and remind the two older spawnlings to quiet it down. Zaltu was already asleep and I said “I swear… if you wake her … I’ll … make your holidays …”

Yeah. Lame. And it really sucks because I know that they know I’m pathetic at empty threats. Especially since they replied, with pitch-perfect sarcasm:

“And remind us again, exactly what that would involve? Like, step by step details…”

Damn. Them. 

They kept to the rules. And they called my bluff. I don’t usually bluff. I suck at lying so if I say something, you know it’s going to happen.

There is nothing as frustrating as the anger at your spawnlings throwing your own words back at you… and the pride of them doing it in the best way possible.

Go on. Share stories of your kids using your own words against you. We’re all friends here. I won’t tell…

Minecraft and Villager Farming

I think I am the only person in the EG family who does not play Minecraft.

*Quick headcount… not counting Zaltu, since she is only three years old and still mastering Diego’s Dinosaur Adventure on the Wii*

Yep. I’m the only one.

So when I walk into the bedroom and hear EG Dad cheering because his villagers are breeding all on their own… well, of course, I am going to be concerned. Curious, but definitely concerned.

Minecraft at the Opera House 5 - credit Michael Yore

Image provided by Sydney Opera House – credit Michael Yore

It all started when I saw a villager trapped in a room… a digital room within the game of Minecraft, not a real villager in a real room within the EG Lair.

 

For those new to Minecraft, it is a computer game available online through servers or locally on your own computer. It is a game based on your ability to ‘dig’ (mine) and ‘build’ (craft). There are lots of elements to it, regarding challenges to complete, worlds to create, and strategies to apply. For all of these things, you need to find resources to create various items. And here is where villagers come in.

Villagers are useful because you can trade with them. Different types of villagers trade different kinds of stuff. For example, a cleric will sell you an emerald for an amount of rotten flesh. If you do that trade a few times, it unlocks another “level” of trades. But you can only do a limited number of emerald-for-rotting-flesh trades before you are locked out of that particular benefit.  This means each villager has hidden benefits but also limited usefulness.

The more specific the trading, the harder it becomes to find these specific villagers and thus creating the pathways of trade.

EG Dad had intentionally kidnapped a villager. He had found a village a fair way off and was tired of the travel to and from the village for trade.

To the Googles! EG Dad then learnt of a few ways you can “farm villagers”.  Essentially, he pushed a villager into a boat and then brought them across the ocean to his base. There he kept his villager safe from monsters and well-fed on potatoes. How magnanimous of him.

I’ll be honest. I felt a little uncomfortable about the idea of EG Dad holding a villager captive to help increase his trade record.

It’s not a unique idea but it definitely is new for our family.

The concept is that you create a space where the villagers are contained, so they don’t go wandering off and are accidentally attacked by monsters. A place where you can bring them together so they can breed. Give them enough food so they are content and therefore breed. And then they produce baby villagers and you create a beautiful cycle of trade.

In a simple process, you give them food. In the complex one, they will start to farm their own food.

The second night, I walked into the bedroom and see EG Dad has captured a few more villagers. Because his base was in a roofed forest biome, it means that it was difficult to set-up. Instead of flat terrain, EG Dad needed to work with sloping hills. That’s the thing about “villager farming”—you need resources to build this from the beginning. It is not something you can simply set-up overnight, particularly in survivor mode. As your farm grows, you are going to need space to separate them out a bit and allow room to trade.

Working with his hilly environment, EG Dad created a slightly more complicated design to prevent them from escaping—for their own good, of course. “To keep them safe from monsters”, he assured me.

He had set up a flow of water against villagers, preventing them from moving up the room to the door and their unattainable freedom.

Again, I was seeing a problem but finding it difficult to express my concern at his slavery villager farming.

It all came to a head on the third night when I heard cheering from the bedroom. His villagers had started to breed, all on their own.

I will not go into the complicated details of the whole program because even though it is just a computer game, I have watched Tron and Tron: Legacy too many times to feel comfortable about the treatment of characters ‘in the computer’.

Which EG Dad finds hilarious.

The thing is: This set-up works. And introducing me to the mathematical concepts within the World of Minecraft, I can see how it works. I’m not too sure how I feel about that, but I appreciate the work and strategy behind it.

If like me, you have no idea what in Hel is going on with Minecraft, then you may benefit from the Minecraft Festival being held in Sydney today and tomorrow (2 and 3 July 2017).

 

Minecraft at the Opera House 1 - credit Michael Yore

Image provide by Sydney Opera House – credit Michael Yore

 

The Sydney Opera House is hosting Australia’s first Minecraft competition and festival in the Concert Hall on 2 and 3 July. The Opera House’s grand Concert Hall and Northern Foyers have been transformed into a Minecraft extravaganza spanning three sessions over two days. If you have been lucky enough to score a ticket, you can come and go between the main competition on stage and the activities in the foyer. If not, you can still buy tickets for Monday, and maybe even catch a glimpse of yours truly.

Alongside the competitions, there are a few helpful interactive sessions for beginners like myself. You can join me with Jens Bergensten (Lead Creative Designer of Minecraft) and Lydia Winters (Brand Director of Mojang), as I hopefully pick up enough tips and tricks to start playing with the spawnlings.

I’m not even attempting to meet EG Dad on his level just yet.

 

Minecraft at the Opera House 4 - credit Michael Yore

Image provided by Sydney Opera House – credit Michael Yore

 

Stay tuned for my post-event review on GeekMom, and follow me on social media – #SOHMinecraft