Tag Archives: iPhone apps

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 …

Making Magic: Appreciation


(Photo credit)

I am immersed in deadline after deadline right now, and in days of yore (I’ve always wanted to use that phrase in a post!) I would have let myself be pulled into a static, drone-like existence, working long hours day after day, late into the night.

No fun, no creativity, no laughter. Just work, work, work.

But I’ve been surrounded by so many creative, fun things, and I realized I don’t have to slip into that drone-like state. I don’t lose my creativity just because I’ve got too many deadlines hanging around.

Yes, I can continue to make magic in my life, even when I’m busy. And that alone inspires me.

So you’ll all be seeing a series of Making Magic posts. Today is Appreciation day, where I look back on the past few weeks and love all that’s gone by – a lot of life happened to me in the space of a few days! – and most importantly, remember there’s more to come, in this moment, and this moment, and this moment.

Because that’s really what life is – it’s filled with moments, and I’m always free to choose to focus on all the happy, glittering, fun moments.

Even when I’m knee deep in an index (or three or five).

Appreciation List

Hayley met Tim Burton yesterday! Hayley’s a member of the Toronto International Film Festival’s Next Wave committee, and as a special treat, TIFF arranged for Burton to meet with the board members for an hour yesterday. Hayley said he was so very down-to-earth, and gave them this very lovely piece of advice: Do a bit of everything. Don’t just focus on being a director. Be lots of different things.

I really loved hearing this – it was such a good reminder that creativity isn’t confined to any one thing. And the more creative I am, the more I get my hands in there, in project after project, the more the creative sparks fly every which way and totally light up my life.

Dinner with Nigella Lawson. Yes, I took time off from work last weekend to have dinner with Nigella Lawson at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto. I went with my sister, Dawn, and we had such a great time. Nigella was warm and gracious, and during the Q & A, Ward texted me questions, and Dawn asked one of them! (I was too busy texting and tweeting …)

Nigella Lawson

Yes, that’s a terrible picture. I only had my iPhone with me. But luckily my sister had her camera so she has some good pictures, which she says she’ll send to me. On the other hand, I was able to get some great close-up shots while Dawn was busy chatting with Louise Dennys, the publisher of Random House Canada; as an event planner, my sister definitely knows a lot of people (including the chef and the wait staff at the Royal York!).

The night ended with my sister taking me out to Pravda, a vodka bar. I’ll just say here that vodka is not as tasteless as I once thought it was. I’ll also say a sort of thank you to whoever kept putting drinks in front of me all night. Needless to say, I was, um, slightly hung over the next day …

But I had fun!

NaNoWriMo. Okay, so there’s a good chance I’m not going to make my real NaNoWriMo goal. And I’m okay with that, because I’ve had a lot of life happen the past ten days, and it’s been really a lot of fun. I also know that I can do this, I can complete this novel, and the next, and whatever else takes my fancy. And I’m very grateful to NaNoWriMo for helping me see this.

I’m going to “win” the regular NaNoWriMo this year. I’m almost at 42,000 words, and there’s still a full week left, so I have no doubts. Yes, I’m deep in Deadline City, and I’ve missed a few days of writing, but I’m going to keep plugging away at it. And I intend to have the first draft completed by the end of this year.

PiBoIdMo. I haven’t been keeping up with PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) the way I’d intended, but I’m still having fun with it. So far I’ve jotted down about 12 ideas, two of which are keepers.

And I’ve learned something very interesting: sitting down with the intention of brainstorming ideas is like exercising a muscle. It’s hard when you first start, but the more you do it, the more creative you get. And the whole process is just so much fun, you realize how much you miss when you don’t exercise that creative muscle.

Husband who cooks. Okay, so he’s pretty committed to being vegan, but my husband cooks the most delicious things, and does not hesitate to whip me up a meat or seafood dish anytime I request.

sushi rolls

Lately he’s mastered the art of sushi rolls, and since he enjoys making them as much as Hayley and I enjoy eating them, we’ve all been in seventh heaven food-wise. And yesterday he made a special set of sushi rolls with smoked salmon in them, which were so delicious.

He’s also been making these samosas that are really delicious. He fills them with a lovely Indian potato mixture and we have them with chutney or plum sauce. And we’ve discovered that our little picky eater will eat these as long as they’re made with a Mac n Cheese filling!

Christmas! I’m really delighted because we got a head start on Christmas this year: we put up the tree and all the decorations on Friday. In years past, we’ve had our “Christmas tree day” right in the middle of my deadlines, and it just isn’t so much fun when you’re doing it as a “break from work”. This time around, we spent the whole day shopping for a few new ornaments, getting the house ready, putting up the tree – we always make a little “tree party” of it, just for us, so we finished up with a viewing of Santa Clause 2, accompanied by sushi rolls and samosas.

iPhone Games. I’ve been letting my Inner Geek have some play time every day. So there’s no way I can write an appreciation list without mentioning all the iPhone games I’ve been having such fun with. They help make work go by faster, because I’ve developed a bit of a reward system: every 45 minutes or so (I usually time it according to the number of pages I’ve indexed), I let myself take an iPhone game break. So I end up feeling like I’m having fun, even though most of the time I’ve been working!

I know what you’re thinking. It doesn’t take much to make me happy, does it? And that is very true. Which is a very good thing indeed.

And now, back to work …

And now that I’ve reminded myself what a fun time I’ve been having, I’m motivated now to tackle this workload. All I have to do is take a deep breath, plunge back in – and remember to keep coming up for air and a little bit more of life.

My iPhone Life: Work ease and productivity … ahhhhh

Last year, for my birthday, I got an iPhone.

And my life changed. No, seriously, it did. And it’s changed enough that I’ve decided it’s high time I blog about it occasionally.

Take my indexing work, for example – which, by the way, is THE perfect day job for a writer. Sure, it’s deadline driven, but my time and schedule are on my terms and hey, I can honestly say that I read for a living. Okay, so for the most part, it’s not the most entertaining type of reading, but still …

So when it comes to my indexing work, several of my publishing clients require me to sign either a contract, or a purchase order request, and send it back to them. In the “old days”, I used to fax everything back; these days, I send things back by email.

Now, in a regular month (the “famine” months, in self-employment lingo), I’m not incredibly busy so it’s not so challenging getting those contracts and quotes sent back. During my “feast” months, though, (aka as “I’m really tired, I’ve got deadlines coming out of my ears, what do you mean, it’s Christmas?” time around the MsBookish.com household), the number of indexing projects I’m working on explodes, and my work becomes based on how much sleep I really do need (as opposed to how much sleep I like to think I need).

That means an awful lot of contracts that need to be printed out, signed, scanned then emailed back to clients.

And our scanner is an old one. In other words, it kind of sucks. Not to mention, it’s attached to my husband’s computer, not mine, because it’s also his printer (I have a lovely single-function laser printer which I like very much).

So, the thing is, when you’re really busy with the actual work component of a project, it’s hard to tear yourself away for the extra fifteen minutes it takes to get a contract all signed and ready to be emailed back.

Seriously. It is. I know it’s only fifteen minutes, but I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. If I get up from my computer to do this kind of stuff, chances are good I’ll then go and check out what kind of cookies my husband’s baking at the moment, and if I get myself a cookie, I’m going to want a cup of tea to go with it, and if I get a cup of tea, I’ll probably spill it carrying it back to my desk, so I’ll have to go get a cloth to wipe up (oh, wait … you’ve read this story before?).

But now, with the iPhone, it’s a breeze. I bought this really great app called DocScanner. It costs all of $5.99. This app lets me take a picture of the signed contract, scan it so it looks like a real scanned page, even put together several pages into one document (some of the contracts are three pages long), and then create a pdf file out of the whole thing.

Then I send it to my Dropbox account (which I only very recently discovered, and I am really, really, really LOVING it). Before I got my Dropbox account, I’d email it to myself from my phone, which was also easy but now with my Dropbox account (which DocScanner integrates with), it’s even more easy. It’s literally one touch.

I like that.

Once it’s in my Dropbox account, I can email it to my client (I can email it directly from my iPhone, too, but I always like to check the finished PDF file first before I mail it, just in case.)

This all takes me a couple of minutes, and is done while I’m sitting at my desk. So I have absolutely no excuse for getting that cookie. Which means I’m more productive.

See what I mean about my iPhone life?

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?