Tag Archives: games

Following your heart, blog post images, games, kidlit and more {From My Haphazard Twitter Files, No. 8}

Haphazard-Twitter-Files7

The week has just flown by so fast! It’s Saturday again, and here are some of the links I tweeted on Twitter this past week. It was another eclectic week of links – I read such interesting things online!

  1. When You’re at the Crossroads of Should and Must really spoke to me, as I feel more and more these days that’s where I am, and I need to make the choice that’s right for me. The Should is so tempting because it’s comfortable, it’s familiar, it’s what I’ve been taught to do, but as I get older, I find myself with so many regrets because I never had the courage to choose my Must. I’m hoping things will change this year, and I’ll be able to embark on a path that includes the things that are in my heart to do.
  2. We all need images for blog posts these days, and when I saw this list of 32 free image sources for your blog at Lifehack, I immediately saved it to Evernote. I know this list will come in handy!
  3. Writer, Get to Work! is a free board game “of procrastination and misplaced competitive angst for 3-5 scribes”. Created by Jill Murray, writer and game designer, all you have to do is download, print to two sheets of letter-sized paper, add your own die and game tokens and off you go! I haven’t tried the game yet, but it looks like a lot of fun.
  4. Elegy for a Dead World is an experimental game that turns players into poets and writers. It’s available on Steam and I’m thinking of giving it a try. It’s another game that looks like fun.
  5. If you’re a Harry Potter fan and haven’t seen these yet, you’ve got to click through and check out these truly awesome interactive illustrations created for the first Harry Potter book by artist Kincso Nagy. I found these via @TifTalksBooks – thanks, Tif!
  6. This post from Flavorwire is filled with famous authors’ handwritten outlines – I love love love handwritten notes and things, and it’s quite a treat to be able to see how famous writers like J.K. Rowling outlined their books.
  7. This Guardian article, Children’s books are never just for children, poses a really interesting question: “Many adults – many well-known authors in fact – re-read books that in childhood had a big impact. So why is children’s literature not considered worthy of major awards?” My personal opinion? Children’s literature is in no way lesser literature simply because it’s written for children. Perhaps one day a children’s book will win a major book award, when the judges finally lose their biases against children’s books.

My Top Ten Guilty Pleasures

I’m on a campaign to strip the guilt out of all my guilty pleasures. Needless to say, it’s not easy going (have you noticed, we humans seem to be hardwired for guilt?). But in the meantime, I thought I’d share my top ten guilty pleasures with you. You probably won’t be surprised that my list contains quite a few bookish things …

1. The Snacking Reader

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Anyone else do this? I LOVE to eat while I’m reading. The habit started when I was a kid; put a book in my hands and I’d automagically reach for an apple. I remember the first time I read a Hercule Poirot mystery that featured Ariadne Oliver, I was so happy: here was a fictional mystery writer who loved to eat apples all the time (presumably, then, while she was reading, too).

If I didn’t have kids, you’d probably find me sitting at the dinner table every night with a book propped on the salt and pepper shakers, long-suffering spouse by my side. However, once you have kids, you find you have to do that role-modelling stuff. So usually I just eat much slower than everyone else, then when everyone’s all done and hopping mad to leave the table, I graciously give them my leave and then surreptitiously whip out the latest read.

2. Red Wine and um, Salami

[I was going to upload a picture of a salami

but then thought better of it. You’re very welcome.]

The secret’s out! I like to have a glass of red wine every night (purely for medicinal purposes, of course). Since it’s for medicinal purposes, the wine itself doesn’t qualify as a guilty pleasure (don’t you just love how that works?!)

My problem? I like my wine with food, but since I usually relax with a glass of wine late at night, I’m not about to haul out the grill and cook up a rib steak (much as I’d like to). I’ve found that salami (the dry cured kind) works just as well with red wine. It’s not particularly healthy for you, true – but the way I look at it, it surely must be healthier than an 8 oz rib steak, right? When, that is, I can stay disciplined and only have a few slices (and that, my friends, is a battle to be saved for another post).

3. Plants vs. Zombies

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Lest you start thinking all my guilt comes from food (although, now that I think about it, there’s a very clear association there …), let me introduce you to my current addiction: Plants vs. Zombies. I love my iPad version, which I bought for a whopping $2.99, and which has given me much gaming pleasure. I’ve defeated the adventure mode level three times now, and am trying to accumulate enough to purchase the final bonus game pack.

My eight-year-old has it on his PC and loves the game, too, so lately a lot of our dinner conversation has centered on PvZ strategies (accompanied by a lot of eye-rolling from Ward, who refuses to go near the game. But that’s just because he’s an Angry Birds aficionado).

4. Cracked.com

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I don’t really know why I feel somewhat guilty about having the Cracked.com feed in my Google Reader, but I do – just a little bit of guilt. But I grew up reading MAD and Cracked magazines, you know. Not that it’s nostalgia that has me reading Cracked.com these days. I just find a lot of the posts quite fun – and I especially like the posts they do on conspiracy theories and hoaxes. I love the snarky humor, and of course, there are quite a lot of bookish and film topics. But I always have this funny feeling while I’m reading a Cracked.com post that surely, I’m a little bit old for this kind of thing now …?

5. Britain’s Got Talent on Youtube at 2 a.m.

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It’s not that I feel guilty about watching Britain’s Got Talent on Youtube. I don’t – everyone knows how much I LOVE this kind of TV talent show, and Britain’s Got Talent is one of my favorites. No, it’s the fact that I always seem to get a hankering to watch it at 2 in the morning, right around when I really should be falling asleep. One thing always leads to another (aka searching out old favorite clips) and before I know it, it’s 3 a.m.. Which, at my age, is most certainly Not a Good Thing.

6. Magazines

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I admit it. I’m a magazine junkie. Just ask Ward – he’ll give you all the confirmation you might need. When we made the big move to the city (trading down about 2000 sq. ft. in the process), I had to face the big question: what to do with all the magazines I’d accumulated over the years? Sadly, there was only one answer. I just hope they all found good homes with good people who will, at the very least, create cool artsy collages with them.

Where’s the guilt in being a magazine junkie, you might ask? Here’s the thing: most of the magazines in my stash were still unread. Yup. Of course, things are a little bit better now, because I’ve gone digital with almost all of my magazine subscriptions, so at least they’re not physically piling up taunting me with all of their naked unreadness.

7. Blank Notebooks and Journals

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I simply cannot resist a blank notebook. I’ve amassed boxes and boxes of these over the years, many of which sport a line or two I jotted down in some fit of motivation (I’m rather prone to these short spurts of motivation which quickly peter out to nothingness, I’m afraid). My absolute favorites are Moleskines, which, as it turns out, is actually a good thing, because it’s rare to find a Moleskine on sale, and my accumulation habit usually has a lot to do with bargain bins.

This is what happens when I pick up a brand new blank journal at a store (usually nicely marked down): I hold it in my hot little hands and dream about all the creative nuggets that I’ll write into the beautiful blank pages … Alas, you all know the end of this particular story, no?

8. Browsing the Kindle Bestselling Freebie Lists

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I know. You’re asking yourself, “why on earth does this count as a guilty pleasure?” But it does. You see, my TBR pile is ginormous. It really and truly is. And every day I’m online, I come across yet another great title to add to the title, courtesy of all the wonderful book bloggers I know who post such fabulous reviews. I have holds galore at the library, and honestly, am never at a loss when it comes to reading material these days.

But does that stop me from browsing the free lists? Nah. Not at all. So I stuff my Kindle full of free books, and feel such guilt because I’m actively growing this TBR pile when I should really be trying to reduce its size. To make matters worse, I’ve found quite a few treasures in the bestselling freebie lists on Amazon (probably because my “secret weapon” is scanning the sample chapters first before I’ll even consider downloading a a book, free or otherwise), which, of course, means more authors to put on my “to watch out for” list. It’s a vicious cycle, folks.

9. Gel Pens

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I actually DO use all the gel pens I buy, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling guilty about it. Probably because I buy them every chance I get. There are gel pens in every corner of our place, and I know Ward’s eyebrows always go up a fraction of an inch (or centimetre, as we say here in Canada. No, actually, we don’t. We still say inch. Which is kind of funny, when you think about it) whenever I get another fresh new batch of pens. Not that he ever says anything. But still, I feel the guilt.

In other words, gel pens are another thing I can’t resist, and I love nothing better than shopping for them at the art supply store, where you can buy them INDIVIDUALLY! (Seriously, I can spend days standing in front of those little pads they mount to the shelves so you can test out the gel-ness of the pens.) These Sarasa gel pens by Zebra are my go-to pens; I use them for writing in my notebooks (you know, the ones in point no. 7 above, whenever I feel that short spurt of motivation). But I also love the more colorful pens, too. Guilt, guilt, guilt. Yes.

10. Deep Fried Anything [Well, Almost Anything]

image Onion Rings

Here we go, back to food again. I do draw the line somewhere when it comes to deep fried foods, though. The 75 deep fried foods here, for example – probably not my kind of thing. But I do tend to gravitate toward deep-fried deliciousness. I discovered this when I first started on Pinterest and realized I pinned an awful lot of pictures of yummy deep fried foods. And not only was I pinning them, I was also sending the links to Ward, with the endearing line “Make this, pretty please?”

So, needless to say, our deep fryer has been getting quite a workout lately. Which ultimately means I am now in need of a workout (or ten) myself. Ahhh, guilt, you are such an easy thing to spawn …

So there you have it – my top ten list of guilty pleasures. What about you? Any of my guilty pleasures fit the bill for you? What guilty pleasures do you indulge in every now and then?

Angry Birds and Creativity

Dylan and his Angry Birds creations

Whenever people talk about kids and video games, you don’t often hear much said about being creative, but I was thinking today about all the ways video games enhance and support my eight-year-old’s creativity.

Take Angry Birds, for example. If you’re not into video games at all, Wikipedia tells you all about the phenomenon that is Angry Birds. In a nutshell, Angry Birds is an extremely popular puzzle-based video game that first debuted a few years ago as a game app for the iPhone. It’s grown a lot since then, and is now available for other mobile platforms as well as PCs.

Around here, it’s not just Dylan, my eight-year-old, who’s a fan of Angry Birds. Most days you’ll find both Dylan AND Daddy passing Daddy’s iPhone between them as they replay Angry Bird levels. They both wait for updates eagerly, and it’s always cause for celebration when an update appears in the App Store.

A few weeks ago, Dylan was thrilled to discover one of the vending machines outside a favourite Chinese vegetarian restaurant had changed its offerings: little Angry Birds “stuffies”. He now has three of them, and they occasionally get pulled out and played with in various Angry Birds scenarios.

And yes, there’s both creativity and hands-on, tactile, play going on when that happens.

But Dylan does even more with the whole Angry Birds concept.

Every night, after his bedtime reading, he has “drawing time” in bed. Armed with a lap desk, reams of paper, and a bag of Crayola Pipsqueak markers, most nights you’ll usually find him in bed designing and drawing Angry Birds “levels”.

We have a whole stack of these now (he’s been doing this for about three months, and he draws new levels at least four times a week, so that adds up to a whole lot of levels). I asked him to pick out one of his favourites for you:

Angry Birds

It doesn’t end there, though. When Dylan finishes drawing a level, he calls my husband up to sit on the bed with him and they PLAY the level. Don’t ask me how they do this – despite the fact that I’m very fond of video games myself, Angry Birds has never enticed me enough to give up some of my time playing it.

All I know is, a whole slew of sound effects floats out from Dylan’s room, along with a ton of laughter (not exactly conducive to a sleepytime bedtime environment, I  know …).

Dylan carries the whole Angry Birds thing even further: he’s built Angry Birds scenes out of LEGO. He’s recycled toilet paper tubes, cardboard boxes, scrap paper and other bits and pieces into new levels.

Basically, he’s built Angry Birds levels out of just about anything he can get his hands on. And once he’s done building the levels, he plays them.

The other day, while decluttering the house, I found a stash of plasticene I’d picked up at one time or another for some long-forgotten kids’ art project. Dylan was thrilled with my discovery.

“So, what are you going to make?” I asked. I pulled out a craft book on making things with plasticene that we had on our shelves. “How about a whale, like this? Or maybe a bee?”

“Nah,” he said. “I know what I’m going to make.”

You guessed it, didn’t you? Yes, Angry Birds.

Plasticene Angry Birds

Now he’s trying to figure out how to film an actual scene using one of his plasticene levels so he can upload it to YouTube …

Time Management Games: A Major Misnomer

I recently stumbled into a whole series of games called “time management games”, a name which I think is terribly, terribly misleading.

“Time suck games” is more like it.

Let me just say, none of these games have helped me with my time management issues, although they’ve been quite good at adding to my time management challenges. Maybe that’s why they’re called time management games.

These games have been around for quite a while; my daughter used to play Diner Dash when she was younger. I always thought it was one of those “tycoon” type of games, where you build up a restaurant empire and earn mega bucks.

Thanks to my iPhone, where I now get to do things like play Cooking Dash (I’m at level 30 something, and let me tell you, running a Japanese-themed diner is hard), I now know what these time management games are all about. You’re not building up empires. You’re keeping customers and clients happy.

So here’s what I’ve learned so far from playing these games:

  1. It is preferable to be the wait staff at an unsuccessful (ie slow) restaurant (or hotel. Or fast food outlet. Or spa – yes, a spa. And here I thought a spa was for relaxing.)
  2. Customers these days need to learn some patience.
  3. Wait staff definitely work for their tips, and then some.
  4. It’s a good idea to play something like Cooking Dash right before you’re planning to clean up the kitchen, because you actually do end up cleaning the kitchen a whole lot quicker. (The job isn’t nearly as thorough, mind you, but for a little while there, you’ll feel like Speed Man/Woman.)

While these games are addictive, after a while you do get rather tired of rushing around, which is a good thing.

It’s at the point where I’m contemplating dumping plates of food onto the floor and throwing up my hands in despair that I switch to Sims 3. Which isn’t exactly the most productive thing in the world to do, either. But it’s a lot slower pace, and quite worthwhile for building up those procrastination muscles, too.

This post has been written to explain where I’ve been the last little while. Now you know.

Odds and Ends

It’s been quite a week – I’ve finished a couple of deadlines, spent Wednesday morning getting a test done (no worries, all is well), Wednesday night feeling pleasantly drowsy, pampered and well-fed, (oh, and I spent Tuesday night very hungry since my test required an all-liquid diet the day before), and today I finally managed to get back into Twitter and Facebook mode after having to stay away during the weeks I was drenched with deadlines.

(I don’t think I mean “drenched”. I think I mean another word, but for the life of me, I can’t think of another suitable word right now.)

So I thought it’s time for a nice odds and ends post!

2010 Blog Improvement Project

I joined the Blog Improvement Project last year, but quite late, after people had already dived into the first few assignments, and I never really did end up truly participating. But since I have plans to revamp the template here, and clean up my categories and tags and things like that (and couldn’t participate in Bloggiesta because of deadline woes), I thought it might be nice to participate this year.

This year the BIP is being run by both Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness, who hosted last year’s BIP, and Jackie at Farm Lane Books, and it has it’s own site: 2010 Blog Improvement Project.

Have you joined? What kinds of things are you looking forward to doing this year with your blog?

Work Sanity: The Art of Taking Breaks

During my recent avalanche of deadlines, I made sure to take several breaks each day. In addition to pampering myself with baths, I also used games as incentives. When I finished a chapter, I’d indulge myself with a few rounds of the following games (but beware. They can be addictive.)

Mah Jongg Dimensions. This game is hosted at AARP, but luckily you don’t have to be retired to play it. It seems simple, but you only get five minutes and the second and third levels have a lot more tiles. Very fun.

Yumsters 2. Don’t ask me why I became so beguiled with these musical worms. But I was. And I took that trek across all those countries with them many, many times on my iPhone.

Suduko. I played this on my iPhone – and I admit freely, I finally clued in that Suduko is solved EXACTLY like a logic puzzle. I love logic puzzles. I never loved Suduko. Now I do.

If You Like Cats …

(And I do.) My not-aunt Margaret sent me the link to this video (she’s also the one responsible for the Mah Jongg Dimensions game, too. In fact, I tremble in fear before opening her emails because she finds the most addictive and fun stuff online, guaranteed to fritter away chunks of my time).

This video’s on the long side (and it’s been around for a while, so you might have already seen it), but it is totally worth it (if you like cats, that is).

The bit near the end when Maru plays with the boxes is just priceless!

So those are my odds and ends. I’m really looking forward to the weekend – I have a few days to rest, relax and (fingers crossed) get back to my writing. No, I haven’t forgotten that I am writer, and a writer writes. (Not to mention the manuscript of NANTUCKET which is still waiting for me to read in its entirety for the first time …)

Any odds and ends going on with you?