Aug 042012

What if someone said that if you did something special for 20 minutes a day, your memory would improve.  Your intelligence too!

Would you do it?

Turns out, our family doesn’t.  There’s this Dual N-back app that Catherine downloaded.  It’s challenging and I could see how practicing is good exercise for one’s mental capabilities.

It’s just so boring.

Instead, I’ve convinced myself that learning new games and the strategies within them, is the way I’d rather work out my brian.  Ben pointed out that I don’t like running, but would play basketball.  Same thing.  Analogies are the mark of intelligence.

Anyway, I’m still hooked on Carcassonne.  But now, there’s some Outwitters going on.  It’s of a class of games that I haven’t played much, but I thought that the characters would interest Sal.  And it’d be another good way to get his mind shaped around strategy development.  He’s taking to it very well, though we still see the game a bit differently.

He was asking me what my favorite character was. And in my answer, I qualified it for the different types of boards, the style of game I was going to play, the style I felt my opponent played, and the color of my mood ring.  It took me that long to realize he was just asking which character I thought looked the coolest.

You need to play 5 games to get a ranking in the game.  Sal finished his five games over a few days (depending on your opponent, things could take a while). But he came to me sad.  “Dad, I’m so bad at Outwitters, they won’t even put me in the Fluffy league.”  This was just a few days after he had a victory against some stranger online.  He was bummed and I felt bad for him.  But I also felt like everyone gets ranked.

He had two games against me, which were unranked.  He thought those counted.  So he’s happy now he’s still in the hunt for the Fluffy league.  Click on that game screenshot to see a video of his win. Which was completely unassisted by a parent.  I got a text from Catherine while I was at work that he beat a stranger (she’s staying away from the game because the Fog of War makes her nervous…the Fog of Poor Memory makes me more nervous) and I was anxious to get home to watch the replay.  I was pleased with how aggressive he was.  Over the wide variety of games that we play, he’s picking up some decent strategic ability.

Myself, well, more than half the time I make a move, there’s some aspect of it I immediately regret.  But the percentage of time that’s happening is shrinking.  Slowly.  Shrinking because I’m making fewer mistakes.  Slowly because I’m still learning more about the strategy of the game myself.  I’m increasing the number of things I’m paying attention to – meaning I’m learning new ways that I’m making mistakes.  But I figure collecting those facts/strategies is in the same spirit as the N-back test.

Or at least, it is good enough for me.

Jul 182012

We were in the city the other day, visiting Nivita and her new baby.  Afterwards, to make the time spent longer than the time commuting, we walked around a bit.

He got to

  • see the inner workings of a clock.
  • find out that circular platform that is used to turn trains around in his toy train sets really exist for real trains. Well, trolley cars at least.
  • see guys playing buckets as drums.  And felt that the guy that used the street light as an additional instrument was utilizing his environment better than the others.
  • eat a churro.
  • get a 3-D adventure board game on sale for 75% off.
  • read the instructions for that board game while pretending to eat dinner on the 36th floor of the Hyatt.

Decent highlights for a couple of hours on a lazy afternoon.  Probably could have done more wandering around, except we were of course underdressed for the chill that the city has.

But my highlight came early on.  It was set up by the homeless guy we saw on our drive in.  It was by the Giants game, he was playing to the traffic going in, and had a sign that said “I bet you can’t hit me with a quarter.”  That spurred some good conversation in the car with us.

Then, later, walking into that mall on Market street that has Zara (we don’t get to do just what Sal wants to do), there was a homeless lady with an interesting sign.  I tried to distract Sal, pointing out the Adidas store or something, and he was fine with going to look for goalie gloves.  But asked, as we entered the mall, “Why does that lady’s sign say ‘Fuck you, pay me’?”

A couple of weeks ago, we were talking about bad words.  He brought it up.  And I forget which word we were focused on, but it wasn’t a big deal. Jerk or something.  Then I asked him what was the worst word he knew of.  He said the worst thing someone could say was “Shut up”.  I felt like he was playing to the audience, cause I completely agree with that.  But there was also a bit of relief that that was it for the guy.  There was a little doubt about maybe his ranking of bad words was a little off, but I didn’t want to push it and was happy to live in my bubble of ignorant bliss.

Anyway, of course we had to chat about the sign.  Eventually getting to the conclusion that a mean sign probably wasn’t the best way to get a handout.  But everyone tries to be funny in their own way and everyone’s a little different.  And try not to say the word fuck that often.  It was a pretty fun chat…

Kind of reminded me of this Jimmy Kimmel bit.

Jul 072012

I love me some Carcassonne.  Not sure why, and it took about 2 months for it to take, but I’m pretty well addicted to it.  Sal, once, even to try and hurt me, said that he wanted to delete Carcassonne off his iPad.  We still haven’t fully recovered from that.

I’ve started playing some strangers online now, in addition to my regular stable of friends.  This is one result:

Some people like dishing it out more than taking it, apparently.  He LOLs me when he orphans one of my players.  And on the next move, I put a player out there that could again get orphaned, so I mention I’m a slow learner. Then I orphan 3 of his players, as well as one of my own (but that’s a reasonable sacrifice to make) and I wonder if this is just as Laugh Out Loud funny.  It was to me at least.

Another game I was playing, I quickly realized I was up against serious competition.  Sal was talking to me about something and I asked him if we could have the conversation later because I was playing a tough person in Carcassonne.  He was fine with that and came over to watch.  Catherine asked how I could tell and I talked about some of the types of moves he was making.

Sal asked me how come I knew it was a guy, when their avatar was a women.  I had to start describing how sometimes people don’t represent themselves perfectly online and I felt that the best way to get around some of the tougher topics was to bring up the New Yorker comic where the dogs were talking about how the internet was great, cause “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

Sal thought about that for a while, watching our game progress.  Then he said “Or maybe, they are a dog and are just really excited because they are finally playing another dog!”


Oct 142011

I have a little best friend who’s willing to get up at 6:15 on a Sunday morning and drive up into the mountains to watch another friend try and do a 7 mile obstacle course in less than 59 minutes.  We were excited driving into the fog, rooting for miserable weather, only to get excited when we were above the clouds and enjoying a unique view.  He didn’t even mention getting car sick once.

He knew there was money at stake.  He knew there was a time to beat.  We killed the time looking at their vendor stands, eating some specially branded Chex mix.  When the first finishers came in and jumped in the mud, he let out a joyful cackle as he saw someone willfully do something that seemed so…not right.  He loved watching everyone jump in the mud.

But when we saw Shawn, it was all business.  In the video, you’ll hear him ask near the end “time? time? time?” – he was a little anxious too.  But my favorite line was his candid observation.

Afterwards, he was excited – talking about how easy it was to win money, since I didn’t have to do anything.  I spent the drive back down the mountain trying to explain to him the difference between betting on something you can control and something you can’t.  He spent the drive down the mountain thinking about what Gundam robot he was going to get with the winnings.

He’s seen the fun side of friendly wagers.  He acknowledges that he’s got the easiest task in our family weight bet (Catherine and I have to lose weight, he has to gain weight or grow).

Then he turned on me.

We’ve been playing a bit of Battleship on the iPads now and then.

They’ve extended the basic game a bit by adding super weapons.  You unlock those by achieving various goal through the game.  Sal was talking some trash to me the other day, because he unlocked the Sky Sword.  It basically uses 1 shot to wipe out a 5×5 diamond on the board.  I wasn’t sure if I had unlocked it on my account, since it sounded tough – winning a game in less than 10 turns.  I was impressed he did that.

But you can’t show weakness.

So I told him I had a Sky SuperBomb which would fill up the entire board with one shot.

His eyes opened wide and he leaned across the table towards me.

“I bet you don’t!”

“Yes I do.”

“That’s not even possible in the game.”

“Yes it is.”

“What did you have to do to unlock it?”

“I don’t remember…something super tough though.”

He kept pestering me about the various super weapons.  Till he found enough weakness, mixed with enough self-confidence…

“I bet you a hundred million thousand dollars you don’t have that weapon.”

“Ha.  Sal, you can’t bet money you don’t have.”

“Okay.  Five dollars.”  He said it without a pause.

“Uh…I don’t think I’ll take that bet.”

“Because you don’t have it!”

So the next morning, we played.  I kept bluffing that I’d use the Sky SuperBomb, but of course, I don’t have one.  I was pleased that I had the Sky Sword though at least.  But I missed everything with it.  He got 2 hits with his.

I still won the game.  Couldn’t let him know I didn’t have that super weapon and lose the game all in one fell swoop after all.

But I am pretty sure I only won just a battle…not the war.

Aug 302011

…that thinks that just cause he jumps on me in the morning, I’m going to open my eyes.

“I found a bug!” he tells me with a sense of urgency.

“You know how to take care of it.” I try and shrug him off.

“No I don’t.”  Lately, he’s really enjoyed practicing the art of argument.  I was kind of pleased that he understood the Argument skit from Monty Python when I explained it to him.

“Just get a paper towel or something.”  By now, he’s sitting on my pillow practically and I don’t sense him moving in response to my suggestion.

“I don’t see how that’s going to make the weather work.”  That response was a little odd, so I crack an eye open to see what’s up with him.

He’s holding an iPhone and eager to show me how the weather app won’t tell him what’s going on in Sunnyvale or NY.

That’s the bug now a days that he wakes me up about…

Aug 032011

Sal’s in a writing program.  $25 bucks a day.  I was against it at first, thinking it was too much academics for the summer.  But it has actually been a very good class for Sal.  He has found that he “likes writing the ideas in my brain”.  Catherine was right about this class.

Plus he came back with this gem today:

If I could be a wizard for a day I would be…

…happy.  [First, I would] put a mind control on my mom to flush her self down the drane.  I can play video games all day with owt her telling me to stop.  Next, [I would] get my dad to tech me to turn on the game.  Finally, I will flush my dad down the dran.  Then nobody will bother me win I’m playing. Being a wizard would be awesome.


A bargin for $25, right?