Science Saturday

Besides the usual bathroom cleaning, I dedicated much of today to Science! I finished writing that 100 Proofs article I’ve been mentioning.

And I planned out what I’ll be doing with the school children on my next STEM Professionals in Schools visit on Monday. I wanted to do a Q&A session with all the classes, because it’s minimal preparation for me, but my contact said the kindergarten and Year 1 teachers requested me to do a presentation, because their kids are too young to be able to come up with sensible and meaningful questions. [It’s true – last time they got fixated on asking me “how many X are there?”, for X=(cats, animals, fish, bones, trees, etc).] SO I went through my old slides and found one I did on dinosaurs 5 years ago – so none of the younger kids will have seen that one. I refreshed myself on what was in the slides so I can talk about it on Monday.

And for Science Club I planned a new experiment. We’re going to make pH indicator using red cabbage, and then test various household chemicals. The usual suspects like lemon juice, vinegar, baking soda, etc. Which meant I had to draw up a shopping list. I’ll have to go shopping tomorrow for everything I need.

Oh, and I spent a bunch of time making tomorrow night’s Darths & Droids strip, following the writing session yesterday.

And now, it’s late… time for bed!

New content today:

Games night!

Late update, because last night was fortnightly games night with friends. I took my new games acquired at Spiel in Essen, and we played Walking in Burano:

Walking in Burano

And Deep Blue:

Deep Blue

Burano was a hit. Deep Blue I think we need to play a few more games of, and with more players. We had four players for Burano, which was great, but two more people arrived after that, and Deep Blue only supports up to five, so we split into two groups of three. The box says Deep Blue plays in 45 minutes, but we took almost 2 hours to play the first game. It’ll speed up as we become more familiar with the rules and strategies, but my feeling is that more interaction with more players will be better as well.

We also played a new game that AS brought, The Quacks of Quedlinburg, a magic potion brewing game which was a lot of fun:

Quacks of Quedlinburg

Earlier in the day I wrote a few scripts for Darths & Droids, hoping to be able to go through them with the guys before games started. But AS was hosting, and it’s difficult to do at his place since he doesn’t get home from work until later, and by then everyone just wants to get started on the games. So we’re going to review the strips over online chat this weekend – hopefully in time for Sunday’s new one to be published!

Doing that, and other stuff, meant i didn’t have time to complete that 100 Proofs entry I started on Thursday. Maybe today??

New content today:

Games night

Friday was fortnightly games night with my friends (so this update is a few hours late, posted Saturday morning).

I spent the morning working on some scripts for Darths & Droids comics, to prepare for a group writing session before we got stuck into the board games. Sometimes at the writing sessions we sit staring at a blank screen for a while before figuring out what the story action is supposed to be. To avoid this loss of time, it helps if I write skeletons for strips containing the major plot points as dictated by the screencaps we’re using, which we can then either tweak or just fill in with jokes during the group writing time.

When we assembled early to start writing, it helped a lot, and we breezed through writing a batch of scripts for the next few comics. When I say “breezed through”, I mean at one point we spent 10-15 minutes discussing a single word of a script, looking up synonyms, trying alternatives, arguing about it, until we finally settled on the right word to be used – and then of course another 20 minutes or so going through the repercussions to the rest of the script and the plot of choosing that particular word and redrafting several other lines to make the word choice more significant.

We do this sort of thing quite a lot – during this process we recollected one time a few years ago when we’d spent almost an entire 2-hour lunch break arguing about the pluralisation of one word. An argument that continued later that day, and into the next week, including one of the writers logging onto chat during his honeymoon to continue the argument remotely. (When I say “argument”, these are academic arguments with points of logic, rhetoric, and carefully phrased rebuttals, not shouting matches. Mostly.)

After successfully completing the day’s writing goal, we turned to games. We still had some games from last fortnight’s Magic: the Gathering draft tournament to complete, so those players peeled off to do that, while others joined a couple of non-Magic players to start board games. Because people were in and out of Magic duels, we stuck to short games, rather than start anything too long. I played my last game of the tournament, and finally drew the Ancestral Recall that I’d drafted, so I got to cast it for the first and only time of the tournament. It didn’t help though, as Andrew S. used Armageddon to destroy my lands while he had creature advantage, and I couldn’t recover in time.

I played games of Magic Maze, Junk Art, Bärenpark, and a new playtest of the game that Andrew S. is working on developing: The Queen of England.

Bärenpark

The photo shows Bärenpark in progress. My bear park is at the bottom, Andrew C’s at left, Andrew S’s at top. Final scores: AS 96, AC 95, me 93. This game is often extremely close in scores at the end. Unfortunately I made an error in reading one of the symbols on the bonus tiles, and so concentrated on getting statues instead of sun bears, which probably cost me a few points, but oh well.

The Queen of England is a game that AS has been developing for a while now, and it seems to be approaching a version playable enough for commercial development. It’s a deck building game with vague similarities to Dominion, but with a board and area control components that add a big chunk of tactical depth. We may be ready for a wider playtest at some stage – I’ll have to ping Andrew about that.

New content today:

Comic maker, makin’ comics

Besides the usual Saturday morning housework, today was mostly spent making comics. A new strip of Darths & Droids, and assembling strips from the batch of Irregular Webcomic! photos I took during the week.

Um, that’s about it. I went out for dinner with my wife to an Indian restaurant – a new one we hadn’t been to before. It was good.

New content today:

Basil Sunday

This morning my wife and I took Scully on a long walk, around to a bakery/cafe over in the next suburb, where we stopped for a morning tea. On the way back we ran into another couple walking a dog, and they were new to the area, so were asking us about good routes for walking dogs. We showed them part of the way we were taking home, down a steep set of steps to the Harbour shore and along a cove where there’s a small marina with yachts. It’s a nice walk, and there are often several types of birds around: ducks, cormorants, gulls, swallows, occasionally parrots.

Back at home I continued writing new scripts for Irregular Webcomic!, before realising that hadn’t made today’s Darths & Droids strip yet! So I made that (my friends and I had written the script a couple of weeks ago).

Late in the afternoon we went to the hardware and pet stores. We wanted to get a basil plant so we’d have fresh basil leaves to use for cooking through the summer. And some saucers to go under the pots of the basil and the chilli I bought the other day, to catch any excess watering.

New content today:

Architects of the West Kingdom

Today was spent getting used to my new tooth, and also in doing some comics work. I assembled a new Darths & Droids strip for Sunday’s update, and then wrote a bunch of new Dinosaur Whiteboard comics for the first time in six months. It’s funny how having more spare time means I’ve had less time to spend making those. Anyway, I’m hoping to keep those up 5 days a week for a while again.

I did some admin work involving contacting my mother’s ISP to sort out some account stuff for her. Then went out for lunch and to buy some groceries to lead into the weekend.

Tonight was fortnightly games night with friends. Five of us gathered at Steven’s place, and we kicked off with a Darths & Droids writing session, titling the strip I’d made this morning and then writing new strips. After we did that we got stuck into games.

I played a couple of quick games of Rubik’s Race, which was really only there because Steven has primary school aged children. It’s nowhere near as difficult as a Rubik puzzle, and is essentially a simple sliding tile puzzle that is played as a race between two players.

After pizza we got stuck into a serious game: Architects of the West Kingdom. This is a worker placement game, in which you have 20 meeples and each turn you place one on the board in a location of your choice, and then depending on the location you perform an action per meeple that you have at that location. Some locations simply give you resources, while at others you spend the resources you have to buy artisans, or build buildings. There are also some actions that interact with other players’ meeples, such as capturing them, or ransoming them off to the prison tower for money. You gain virtue for doing virtuous things, such as building the cathedral, giving goods to the king, or paying off debts, while losing virtue for things like raiding the tax store, or visiting the black market to secure a better trade deal.

Here’s the game partway through. I’m playing red, with my supply on the far side of the board in this view:

Architects of the West Kingdom

It’s really engaging because each turn is only a few seconds long and your turn comes around again quickly, so it always feels like you’re doing something, rather than waiting for your turn. You get victory points for buildings, gold, marble, coins, virtue, having built parts of the cathedral, and also any bonus points on cards you may have bought during the game. So there’s a lot of variety in ways to accumulate points, and thus a lot of different strategies that you can use that feel like viable ways to winning. All these are good features, and it’s a fun game. As it turns out, I won with 34 points! The next player had 30.

If you’re looking for a good new game that supports up to five players, I recommend it.

New content today:

Slow Saturday

Housework day! The bathroom is sparkling clean once more, groceries have been shopped, and… I finalised the sale of my old computer to a buyer through a local classifieds website. All very domestic.

In more fun activities, today saw the assembling of tomorrow’s Darths & Droids strip, which was written just last night at Games Night, as reported in my previous post. And I now have RSVPs from everyone I invited to my Very Special Magic: the Gathering Draft event Secret Project that I told you about on Wednesday. Even though I saw some of the guys last night at Games Night, we didn’t talk about it, so I don’t know what sort of thing they’re expecting. But the emailed RSVPs have expressed curiosity and intrigue.

To round out the day, wife, Scully, and myself went out for dinner at a nice restaurant a few suburbs away – from which we’ve just returned home this fine winter evening. It’s always nice to not have to cook! Their dessert menu had a “deconstructed cheesecake” on it, which I had to try because it reminds me of some of the things at mezzacotta Café. It was delicious, actually.

New content tonight:

Games day

Updating Saturday morning because I was busy Friday night. It was a day dedicated to games!

Andrew C. is an experienced golfer, and a few months ago invited me and another friend to try playing a par 3 “pitch and putt” course. We had no experience hitting a golf ball, and it took us a while to start to get the hang of it, but I managed to hit a few half-decent shots (as well as losing two balls). Yesterday Andrew and I went to try the course again. The 18 holes have par 54. Andrew scored 61, while I managed 92 (better than my first effort). I tied one hole with Andrew, and won two holes. My technique is still terrible, but improving! Here’s a photo of one of my best shots of the day. These are our balls after our tee shots on this hole: mine is nearest the hole, Andrew’s is in the foreground. Unfortunately I didn’t sink the putt for a birdie.

Tee shots

After that we grabbed some lunch at a Japanese place and had a bit of a drive along the beachy coast to head home. All up, a good morning/lunch time. Although it’s still the depths of winter here the day was sunny and warm.

And Friday evening was our fortnightly board games night. We had 5 people, which is a little on the low side, but enough for plenty of games. We started early and had a writing session for Darths & Droids, writing four strips before moving on to the games.

We played a quick game of Ingenious to warm up, then when our host’s daughters arrived home from dance lessons one of them joined us for a game of Junk Art, which was a lot of fun. We liked that one because Steven – who is the most serious game player and strategist and hence who often wins games of strategic skill – needed to use dexterity skills instead, and so most of us beat him!

After the girls went to bed, we started a game of Power Grid, with the Italian map board. I got off to a reasonable start, but by the time we’d estimated the game would finish we were still clearly only about halfway through. It was getting late and I’d promised my wife I’d be home by a certain time, so I had to leave mid-game. The others continued, playing me as a robo-player by making reasonable decisions for me in my absence. And I ended up coming second! So that’s pretty good.

New Friday content:

Winter Sunday

Spent time with the wife and Scully today. We did a 5 km walk around the neighbourhood, passing two dog parks along the way where Scully got to run around and chase a tennis ball. We stopped at a bakery for morning tea, and then walked home via the marina down in the bay.

At the marina

Work-wise, I wrote some scripts for new Irregular Webcomic! strips, tidied up tonight’s new Darths & Droids strip for publication, and worked a bit on the mezzacotta random generators. Andrew Coker, whose original idea led to these random generators, did a lot of coding work today, developing a new generator to produce random art description plaques, like you see in art galleries, that give the title, artist, and a description of the work. It’s not quite ready to show off yet, but if you look at the Github project you can see the code as we commit and push it.

Here are some preview samples of the sort of artwork titles we can generate:

  • Portrait of the artist’s sister-in-law
  • Composition of pentagons and squiggles
  • Self-portrait as Agamemnon
  • The perfection of love in the toe of someone laughing
  • Allegory on the vision of Satyr