A Little More Under Control?

I’m starting to feel like things are a little more under control? A little? Maybe? I have almost no time for writing still, because there’s SO MUCH teaching work remote, but I’m not as horribly behind as I was a few weeks ago, so that’s good.

I’d slacked off on exercising, which is always a sign that I’m a little overwhelmed; a few days ago, I started working out more regularly again, so that’s good. I do need to do it earlier in the day, though, because when I work out at 10 p.m., it messes with my sleep. If I do it by 6 or 7, I’m usually okay, and in fact, generally sleep like a log.

I’m a little tired this morning from restless sleep, and having a hard time settling down to work, but I did manage to divide some more irises. My exercise these days is a combination of gardening + walking (either on treadmill or Pokemon walks in the neighborhood) + VR.

Last night, I did ten minutes of Beat Saber, a 20 minute Supernatural medium intensity workout (which got sweat dripping off my nose, so pretty good), and 10 minutes of playing Until You fall. And then a tiny Pokemon walk because I had 100 steps left to make it to 10K for the day, so I just went up to the park and hit a couple Pokestops.

I know it’s an illusion, but when I’m doing Supernatural, popping balloons at speed with my baseball bats in intricate patterns that demand a lot of concentration, but are also kind of fun, in a beautiful vast landscape, with the fans going like a gentle breeze , I can *almost* forget I’m still in my basement.

Jed asked me yesterday if I was still using and enjoying Supernatural, and definitely yes. It’s a monthly charge, but a lot less than my gym membership was. (Of course, we’re actually still paying the gym membership at the moment, because we want to support our local Y, but putting that aside for the moment…)

So far today, though, all I’ve managed is a bit of gardening. It’s really tremendously satisfying — I’ve now given away something like $400 worth of irises in the past few days. I don’t have room for them in my garden, and it makes me really happy to think they’re going to spread around town.

When I finish with the iris divisions, I’m going to try giving away coleus cuttings, I think. I’ve never overwintered coleus before, but everyone says it’s easy. I figure I’ll take a few clippings for myself, to try to keep alive in the basement grow area, and give away the rest in rubber-banded ziplocks with water. That should work, right? It’s stunningly beautiful here right now (I’m working in a tank top on the porch, and Friday is supposed to have a high close to 80), but frost is also right around the corner, so I think that should happen sometime in the next few weeks.

Do you think I can do the same with sedum? I don’t need more for myself of the varieties I have, but I have some big bushy ones, like Autumn Joy, also some creeping sedums. If I clip them and put them in ziplocks with water, can I give them away for others to root?

Until You Fall

Tried a new VR game, Until You Fall. Just got a few levels in, about 20 minutes, and so far, I like it. Only complaint is that my wrists were a little sore after 20 minutes, but that’s probably because I was being a little too frantic in my movements. 🙂

You play a fantasy adventurer, fighting off bad guys, and it really isn’t much more complicated than that, but there’s nice graphics, it walks you step by step through practicing blocking, dashing, etc., and I didn’t feel overwhelmed by my lack of skill, which is sometimes a problem with fighting games. So far, recommended; we’ll see if I keep playing it.

Got a little sweaty, so it counts as exercise too, but interestingly, they also offer a sit-on-the-couch option, if you want a less energetic approach.

A Party in Minecraft

Here’s a recap about Anand’s Minecraft server + birthday party. First, an overview of the concept — getting a server of your own isn’t necessary to play Minecraft! But if you get one, it’s your own realm, and you can invite friends to play with you there.

It looks like costs and other details vary wildly, and you may be able to do this more cheaply. But I think we signed him up for one that hosts up to 10 people, for $15 / month.

Everyone who joins needs to have the right edition of Minecraft (the one we used can be played on tablet devices), plus a free Xbox live account. Generally people have a Discord server running at the same time, so they can easily do voice chat with each other while playing. We didn’t want to make the parents of the kids also learn Discord, and figured most people were already familiar with Zoom, so we hosted folks in a Zoom meeting instead.

So how did it go? Well, the party was supposed to be from 3-5 yesterday. Kavi and Anand spent the week beforehand building a bunch of stuff in Minecraft — they built an archery range, a maze, a fishing game, and chests with prizes.

Kevin warned them that once they opened up the world, other players wouldn’t necessarily do what they suggested, and that was pretty much how it went. I think we had about 4-6 kids joining at any one time, plus a few adults, and in particular, 2 kids mostly seemed interested in ‘griefing’ — seeing what they could destroy.

Anand had a horse, for example, and one kid not only took the horse, but apparently killed it and offered Anand back some leather? Anand and Kavi were not pleased by that.

And even for the kids who weren’t trying to be destructive, they whipped through the prepared games really fast (which I kind of expected, as that’s how art goes, isn’t it? You spend hours and hours making something, which then gets consumed in a minute), and then really wanted to be put into creative mode, where they would have a lot more power to do stuff.

There are some controls on all this — Kavi and Anand had godlike powers, and could do things like teleport people into a box if they weren’t behaving (and could also mute them on Zoom). But they didn’t really want to do that constantly, so they ended up putting the griefers into boxes and then letting them out again, and then putting them back in the box, etc.

And listen, I’m not saying the ones being destructive were bad kids. They’re just 11-year-olds! There are different styles of play, I’m guessing, and sure, I can see how it might be fun running around and blowing things up. But I do think it was often frustrating for most of them, having some kids trying to have a constructive game, and others intent on a destructive game.

So if you’re doing this kind of thing, maybe best to be sure everyone you invite is on the same page re: ground rules and play expectations. We didn’t really send out any instructions about that in advance, because we weren’t that organized — we barely managed to actually get everyone on the server & Zoom. (Minecraft also has issues with my account, so I still haven’t been able to play, sigh. Trying to sort that out.)

Kavi and Anand repeatedly asked:

“Is this what it’s like being a teacher???” and, “College students aren’t this bad, are they???”

That said, I do think overall it was a success. There was MUCH laughter and generally happy shrieking, and it felt like what a kid’s birthday party is supposed to feel like — more so than the socially distanced & masked 5-person porch get together we did the previous week. The two together sort of equals one semi-decent birthday party for pandemic times? If I were doing it again, I’d probably do it all on the same day, a few hours apart, with mostly the same kids.

I think both kids enjoyed it enough that they want to do it again, so tentatively planning to host the server again next Sunday, 3-6. Hopefully I can actually get my account sorted out and play with them by then. I’m a little unclear on whether people who have the server info can just go and play there whenever they feel like it? Maybe?

So there may be a little management to do there — I have to talk to Kevin about the tech and figure it out, because I’m not sure Anand and Kavi want all the kids from the party to have constant access. I’m guessing they can block them if they really want to, though.

But anyway, good experiment, we learned some stuff, and I think this will help get Anand in particular some much needed socializing, esp. as winter descends. If he’s shrieking with laughter as he’s video gaming for hours, that’s an improvement, I think.

Getting Stomped in Ticket to Ride

One nice thing — Kavi came to me around 3:30 yesterday and asked if I wanted to play a board game, and I put aside the work I was going to do and said yes. Teatime is the perfect time to ask me to do something fun, because that’s usually when I’m losing energy for work and need to break for a few hours.

We made popcorn, Kevin joined too, and I taught them Ticket to Ride. (Anand was invited, but didn’t feel like playing.) I’m very bad at this game, so as I expected, both of them STOMPED me.

I’ve now downloaded the iPad version, though, which is very good, and I’ve played a bunch of games against the computer, and I think I’m seeing a little of where I was going wrong before.

It’s a little like Pandemic strategy, I think — in Pandemic, you need to focus on trade in for cures, rather than eliminating disease, and it’s easy to get caught up in the latter and then lose the game. In Ticket to Ride, it’s easy to get caught up in completing tickets, but while it’s important to complete high point tickets so you don’t get penalized, you may get a lot more points by putting down longer segments, so you shouldn’t get fixated just on completing tickets.

Anyway, Kavi may be in for a surprise when we try a rematch. Which we’re going to do in about five minutes, when she finishes the show she’s watching. Stay tuned!

Mildly Recommended

One of Anand’s birthday presents, Kids Against Maturity. Sort of a cross between Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity? The goal is to make the funniest combination of fill-in-the-blank, which my kids say is how they usually play Apples to Apples anyway. But they had fun, and it’s a nice compact game box that you can easily take with you while traveling, so that’s a plus too. Mildly recommended.


VR question, Oculus Quest edition. My family is LOVING the game Acron — one person wears the VR headset and plays as a tree, throwing boulders and slime at pesky squirrels trying to steal acorns. At least two other people play with you, as the squirrels, using an app on their phones / tablets.

It’s the perfect level of fun for us and the kids (ages 10 and 13), and my only complaint is that it’d be nice if you could play with just one other person, because often Anand and I are up for a game, and Kevin and Kavi aren’t. But aside from that, it’s great.

As far as I can tell, though, I can’t find any other games like this, which sort of bewilders me, because I’d think this would be a super-natural format for VR family gaming, given that the headsets are expensive and you probably aren’t going to buy one for every member of the family. Are there games that my Googling is not helping me find? Are they just in development now, and we have to wait?

I’m aware of the escape room-style games, which we’ll try at some point, but right now, I’d really just like more in this vein, fun action games, cute cheery graphics.

Encore on Zoom

Hey, when cataloging my games, it occurred to me that Encore might actually work on Zoom. Most singing stuff doesn’t, because of lag, but with Encore, you’re taking turns.

Anyone who’s played the game, what do you think? Might be a fun thing to try, and I think you only need one person who owns the game, really, who can read off the cards and move the markers, sharing screen as needed?

Jump Space RPG

I’ve been trying to think about what to do with my Jump Space RPG. This is a SF role-playing game suitable for playing around the dining table with your family (I’d say kids should be at least teens for this one, as there’s a fair bit of romance possibility) or roommates, or on Zoom with friends.

I don’t think I have the time or energy to do a big Kickstarter, etc., but I do want to release it to the public. I’m thinking of offering it for something like $5 on my Shopify store.

Then I might also host occasional sessions myself, open to those who have bought the game (I guess I’d need to make it first-come, first-served, in case 5000 people buy it and want to play with me, but that does seem a bit unlikely), so people can have a little guidance on how you play this kind of thing, if they haven’t before.

I could also possibly record a game I play with friends, and have it up as a demo, if that’d be helpful? Although play-through is usually about 2 hours, so that seems a lot. Maybe we record it all, and then just present some bits of it, skimming forward?

What do people think?

Board Game Trades

I’m trying to figure out if there’s a responsible way to manage board game trades in the neighborhood during pandemic times.

We have at least 50 or so very good (and somewhat pricey) games, and I’d be happy to loan many of them out for, say, a week, to a responsible family to add some variation to their summer sheltering-in-place. Porch pick-up with a ‘due date’ seems reasonable to me.

I’m not generally concerned about coronavirus on surfaces, but people who are being careful could pick up a game on Sunday, quarantine it for 3 days, have it to play Thurs – Sat, drop it back off on Sunday.