Cooperative Influenza

We have a rule in this family.

(*Well, to be honest… I have a rule and a 50/50 chance of it being obeyed*)

“Thou shall have one and only one parent sick at any given time. One shall be the number thou shalt have and the number of sick parents will be one. Two shalt thou NOT have. Two is right out.”

I’ll give Evil Genius Inc full credit—we have only had one parent sick at any time over the last month. For almost two weeks, it was me.

And to be fair, it was the spawnlings who ganged up on me. Usually, two kids out of three sick at home at the same time, with late nights played out in a twisted sense of tandem-comforting needs. So I pulled out the only arsenal I have to stop them from attacking me: Cooperative Tabletop Games.

Worked like a charm.

Cooperative Influenza Title

Family Friendly Cooperative Games

When spawnlings are sick, the competitive drive sharpens to the point of snarkiness. A little snark is okay (I consider it healthy) but a lot of snark when you are already really sick… Well, that’s just mean.

Cooperative games are so much better for sick kids. By ‘cooperative games’, I mean the tabletop games where you play with other people and gang-up on the ‘Game’ and not the parents. There is usually a common goal to achieve as a team, and The Game will create a bunch of problems to prevent you.

Cooperative games come in a range of styles and age-groups. Here’s our Top Three:

 

Orchard (Haba) – 3-6yo

Orchard is a go-to favourite for Zaltu (who just turned 4yo last week), and a happy choice for the older two. It’s not their favourite but they will often suggest playing it with Zaltu and keep her entertained for a solid half-hour or so.

Orchard 02

The Aim of the Game is: to collect the fruit from the trees before the Raven steals it all. Each player takes a turn rolling the single six-sided die; there are four colours representing the fruit, plus a picture of a basket and a raven. If the die lands on a colour, you collect a piece of fruit: green/apple; yellow/pear; blue/plum; red/cherry. If it lands on a basket, you collect any two of your choice.

If it lands on the Raven, you have to place a piece of the Raven puzzle in the middle of the board. Everyone is working together to collect all the fruit as a team BEFORE the Raven puzzle is completed.

I also reviewed this game in a bit more detail over at GeekMom. The game is beautiful in its simplicity and intuitive for younger spawnlings. The physical make of the game is equally beautiful with wooden carved pieces for the fruit in the trees, lots of bright bold colours, and cute baskets for collection. It packs away easily, a particularly attractive feature when playing with young spawnlings.

Orchard 01.jpg

The best part is how willing the older two are to play. Orchard is a fairly quick game to play, so they are willing to set up a game or two with Zaltu before we head over to their preferred choice.

Forbidden Island (GameWright) – 10yo+

We originally had this game on the iPad—and then the iPad died. *insert sad panda face* It was a brilliant cooperative game to play during our campervan travels around New Zealand a couple of years ago. This and our digital copy of Ticket to Ride have both been sorely missed.

And then EG Dad scored a hard copy of Forbidden Island and the spawnlings rejoiced!! Seriously, this game is so popular with Sinister and Nefarious, they were reading the blurb of the game early today…instead of comics. They have already planned out this coming weekend with gameplay time.

Forbidden Island 01

The Aim of the Game is: to escape the island with your treasures and ALL members of the team before the waters rise up and swallow the island whole. Once again you are a team, each player having a specific role with specific skills. You might be the pilot, who can transport players all over the island AND off the island when you complete your goals. You might be the diver (Sinister’s favourite), allowing you to move through flooded channels around the island. You might be the engineer, able to save more areas of the island. No matter who you are, you are all working together.

Each player’s turn is followed by The Game’s Turn. That’s right, minions: The Game draws cards and floods various areas of the Island while you are taking turns to explore. The game ends when your team collects all the treasures and escapes, win…or the Island floods, lose.

This is a genuine cooperative game where you have to communicate with the team and work together when planning out your next move. If you run off ahead without your teammates, you will miss the opportunity to capture the treasure or miss the rescue helicopter. This game rewards those who can communicate with others. That’s why it works so well when you’re sick: it forces everyone to slow down and make time for every member of the group.

The age recommendation for this is 10yo but Nefarious has been playing with little guidance since he was 6yo. If you have spawnlings who can read, who can talk through ideas, and who genuinely want to give it a go working with the rest of the family then this game will be fine for you.

Pandemic (Z-Man Games) – 8yo+

Interestingly enough, Pandemic comes with a lower age recommendation and yet I would put it slightly higher on the complexity. Nefarious and Sinister have been playing this with us for a few years, and often require a little guidance. If I were to make suggestions on age: I would be fine with the spawnlings taking Pandemic to school for the Year 5 classes and above; Forbidden Island possibly year 3 or year 4.

Pandemic is really the perfect game for playing when you’re sick. There is nothing more satisfying than knowing you can take a whole continent down on this influenza trip with you. It is also a great lesson for teaching the spawnlings how easy it is for a virus (like influenza) to travel around the world. They have a healthy new respect for the World Health Organisation and vaccinations.

Pandemic 01

The Aim of the Game is: to spread your team across the world to treat and cure diseases. Like Forbidden Island, each player has a separate role with their own unique skills aiding the team. As you meet up, you can exchange cards to discover cures and set up treatment/research centres. If your team can cure all four diseases, you win! However, once again The Game is out to stop you. For each player’s turn, The Game also has a turn, spreading infections and outbreaks across any country.

It’s a real shock to the mind as you watch the ‘virus tokens’ slowly build up across the board and then suddenly burst into an epidemic. At one point, I was tempted to simply pour a bottle of Panadol all over ‘The World’ and walk away, like some bad-ass pseudo-pharmacist pretending to stop the spread of disease (and really just hoping that sucker will disappear during my next nap).

If it sounds a little similar to Forbidden Island, then you may recognise the same game designer Matt Leacock. He is a game-guru when it comes to designing cooperative games. The difference between Forbidden Island and Pandemic is in the mechanics of the player movements. You are still limited to where you can go and subsequently how much you can do, however, Pandemic has clearer paths to plan with. There is also a greater sense of “big picture” with Pandemic, while Forbidden Island has a more isolated story-line to it. I know of some parents who also use Pandemic as a geography learning-tool. I can definitely see how that works.

 

The good news is we have survived the Evil Genius Influenza of 2017. The better news is we maintained our sanity and camaraderie, with the help of some nifty tabletop games. All three age groups entertained equally and without electronics and bloodshed—if that’s not an EG Parenting win, I don’t know what is!

Orchard was provided to me for review purposes, both here and on GeekMom. Forbidden Island and Pandemic are our own copies. All games can be purchased through Good Games, both online and in-store. I do not receive any financial benefit or sponsoring from Good Games for this article, though I will not deny that my local store knows me by name and credit card number…

Marriage Rights v Marriage Rites: Why Marriage Equality is Overdue in Australia

 

Same-sex_marriage_cartoon_(18634736453)

If anyone knows the original artist of this cartoon, tell me in the comments.

 

 

Fun fact: EG Dad and I were never originally sold on the idea of marriage. To be perfectly honest, the biggest selling point was the party.

We spent months planning “The Reception” (almost as much time as we spent planning the honeymoon). We were going to have a marquee with a string trio playing variations of modern classics; fire-dancers would entertain outside; offerings would be given to the trees in the park; guests would arrive by ferry across the river. All four pagan elements would be invited for what would have been a night of absolute celebration. We had the venue (park) picked out, the savings plan underway, the entertainment was booked. The celebrant wasn’t organised yet, because … well, we weren’t really thinking about the legalities.

We kind of took it for granted our de facto relationship had the same legal rights as married couples. We had been living together for around five years…

Then I fell pregnant with Sinister. And being the good little legal professional I was back then, I learnt how wrong we were.

In fact, this is when we learnt that de facto relationships (and especially same-sex relationships) do NOT have equal rights to married couples. For example: When travelling overseas (eg. for a honeymoon), we would need to take the extra paperwork to prove both of us are parents. In most countries (including Australia) married couples travelling together with kids are automatically assumed to be the parents.

The thing is, the legal rights of our de facto relationship were always a little more vulnerable than a married couple. We just didn’t realise it until we factored in children.

Same-sex couples? They realise it from DAY 1.

They have added issues of proving their relationship when one of them is in the hospital. They have added issues of proving legal parent status. And I have heard from one family, passports to travel overseas are a paperwork nightmare.

Now, there is NOTHING in my sexuality or EG Dad’s sexuality that makes us better parents than those in same-sex relationships. So why should same-sex relationships be denied the same legal rights and simplification?

Equal marriage rights will NOT change any existing married couple. Hell, they won’t even change the marriage rites except for one small statement: instead of being between ‘man and woman’, it will be between ‘two people who love each other, to the exclusion of all others’. Isn’t’ that essentially what it is supposed to be anyway?

This will not change YOUR existing marriage. This will not devalue or demean ANY existing marriage. If you’re already married, then here’s a tip: This has NOTHING to do with you.

But it does change the rights of same-sex couples. It is about equal recognition and equal rights. It is about validating their relationship in the eyes of their loved ones AND most importantly, in the eyes of The Law.

And this should NOT be settled by a plebiscite or postal vote. It should be done by the politicians in the parliament where they are supposed to be doing their job. You know, like so many other nations have done already.

But here we are. And now we have an obligation… nay, a duty to equal the legal rights. If you still want to vote no, then recognise you do not believe in equal rights. Own it. Be honest with yourself and others. Because once you tick that box, it is a slippery slope trying to differentiate between which human rights you think are acceptable and which are not.

If you vote yes, then you are a part of protecting ALL rights. Because we cannot ask for rights to protect us if we do not offer the same protection to all.

Equal Marriage Rights will mean Equal Marriage Rites. That’s all any of us want.

That and the huge fabulous party I will be invited to the next day.

480px-Equal_Marriage_Wedding_Cake.jpg

 

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

 

 

 

Astrofest 2017


Well, this is highly unusual. We have an awesome astrophysics event booked for Sydney this weekend, and an AMAZING weather forecast!! 

Of course, I’ve probably jinxed us all now. But let’s note it for prosperity or historic reference or something: on this day, we all held great hope for Sydney Astrofest 2017.

If you’re looking for stars this weekend, why not enjoy it with some truly evil genius minds in the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO). They’re hosting Sydney Astrofest 2017 at the University of Sydney this Saturday, 1 July 2017.

It’s free. It’s family friendly. It’s educational. And it’s outside (dress warmly – it’s a max of 14C predicted for the day). 

There’s going to be:

  • Night-sky scope viewing
  • Astro talks
  • Planetarium shows
  • Interactive activities and demonstrations

If you have any spawnlings with a burning desire for everything extra-terrestrial, this is worth checking out. And if you’re not based in Sydney, then I’ll try to share some live coverage on the night – just to rub it in.


Check out the website for more details. 

Venue: Charles Perkins Centre and the Veterinary Conference Centre, The University of Sydney.

Leave any cars with reflective strips at home. Far away from the event. Far FAR away.

Date: Saturday, 1 July 2017

Time: 4pm to 9pm
See you there!!
PS> not a sponsored post. Just sharing the spacey love 😜