Wonky firewood dice

Firewood is weird stuff. It’s wood, from a tree, but we just throw it in the fire to warm us up. I wonder if a tree would rather be firewood or a table.

We get a load of wood in late summer, stack it in the garage, and slowly turn it back into dust and gas and heat through the winter. The mix of woods is always a bit random. Half hardwood, half softwood. There’s usually some birch, beech, oak, ash and others I couldn’t hope to identify. It’s fun to stack it and see the variation and similarity. You can pretend you’re at Walden Pond. It’s the exact opposite of sitting at a computer. It’s nice.

When we started the boardgame a month thing – the boys and I went to the garage and started making some firewood cubes. They wanted to make a different version of Bang!, so while we waited for the blank dice to arrive from ebay we made our own. Home made is more fun – they are wonky, they are unfair, and they are a little disconcerting to use.


They also just look wonky.


We haven’t used any oils / varnish on them. We ‘nut’ them. Rub a Brazil nut on them to give them a little sheen and stop them getting dirty.

calibrate wonky dice

The boys spent a while calibrating the dice. Figuring out which numbers were more likely to come up by rolling them again and again. They got to use saws. They learned about different grits of sandpaper, and how the order in which you use them matters. How preparation at early stages pays off by making later stages easier and quicker. They got to burn themselves on a soldering iron to do the wood burning of the dice dots. They also got to not just play a cool game, but make their own cool game out of a log that would have gone in the fire.

Something something life lesson something something even the rubbish old firewood something something potential something something with a bit of effort something something turns into a lovely thing everyone likes. Something something…


Boardgame a month?

This whole X a Y thing is addictive. Reading a book a week is fun. In addition, as a family, we appear to be trying a new board game a month in 2017. This should be easier. We love a bit of Carcassonne, Chess or Junk Art. Trying a few more games should be fun.

Freezing outside = #boardgames inside.

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January – Sushi Go Party.

Deal a deck of cards from a MASSIVE tin box of cards, with all kinds of shushi on them. Pick a card you want to keep, and pass the rest of your cards to your right. Repeat. Do you try to make high scoring combos, or just keep high scoring individual cards? Do you aim high and risk collapse, or play safe and hope for the best? Do you play your own game or try and block your brother? Great value considering the sheer amount of variation in the game, the number of cards, and the nice tin.

Boys rating: 8/10
Grown up rating: 8/10

BANG! #boardgames

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February – Bang! the dice game

Roll some dice, to score points, strike opponents, and other stuff. You play a sheriff, or an outlaw, or something. You have to try and kill your opponent. Some nice character cards, neat dice, and really fun quick game play that even the most distracted five year old will grasp in seconds. Also, wild west theme. Fun. Nice small box too, so good to tuck in the suitcase/car as an emergency rainy day half hour filler.

Boys rating: 10/10
Grown up rating: 7/10

KING OF TOKYO FTW #boardgames #gamesnight

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March – King of Tokyo

King of Tokyo is the current head a shoulders leader of the boardgames. Parasitic Tentacles causes the odd grumpy battle – but on the whole it’s a perfectly balanced game for <10s. Just complicated enough to hold interest, without overloading the players with too many contradictory factors. Collect energy, buy power ups, earn victory points, try not to lose too many health points. The power up cards are really well done – full of character and the boys love just finding out what’s next in the stack.

Boys rating: 100/10
Grown up rating: 10/10

Codethecity Chatbots

Codethecity Eight. Wow. This thing has some legs huh?

We had fun making computers speak a little like humans, in useful ways. I was on a team this time, with Alan and Bianca. Which was fun.

Our project was around using chatbot interfaces as the only way to create meetings in a business setting. Instead of just being able to slap a meeting into someones Google Calendar, you have to negotiate access with their chatbot protector. I think this could actually contribute to the bottom line in a lot of businesses – and be a resilient, reliable, robust reminder of how things should be for people.

Too much coffee bot #codethecity

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* return

Browsers remember what you visit – allowing you to get to sites without typing the whole url. This is awesome. It’s well known. As I get increasingly impatient I find that a side effect of this is that any site that requires more than a single key stroke before hitting return is just annoying to visit. Two isn’t too bad (t-h-return for the guardian). More is now really painful.

Since I’ve started using goodreads.com a bit more it is genuinely frustrating me that I have to type gee oh oh dee return to escape the Google. That’s a whole five keystrokes to visit a website. I should really invoke some alfred goodness.

Running through the alphabet in chrome I get defaults like this:


I wonder how many of those will still be in place a year on.


January & February 2017 Books

Blogging the books I’ve read is a little odd. But I’ve started now so I’m going to keep it up. Habit > Logic and all than. Blogging like it’s 2001 again. I write these down so I’ll remember them, I think. Prettier list with covers and such on goodreads.

1 Human Acts, Kang Han
A far less depressing ending than I was expecting. Reasonably sure it needs a re-read.

2 Small Data, Martin Lindstrom
Interesting stories about weedling insights out of fridge magnet placement, unused toy arrangements and where we look in lifts. Read More


Books 2016

A year ago I decided to try and read a book a week in 2017. I failed. I only read 47 and a half. I’m reasonably sure that if I’d skipped Midnight’s Children or SPQR I’d have made the 52.

Since the last books post

44 Do Not Say We Have Nothing Madeleine Thien
Remarkable book. You should read it. I love a bit of historical fact in a story, especially when I know so little of the history. Just brutal at times. Also, sometimes history repeats itself.

45 After the Quake Murakami, Haruki
I think short story Murakami is maybe my favourite Murakami.

46 The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World Andrea Wulf
This was just a delight to read. Started it in August I think, and picked it up from time to time for a chapter or two of olde adventures. The refs and footnotes are almost half the book.

47 Strange Weather in Tokyo Hiromi Kawakami
Trying to fill in the gaps in the profile of my books I thought a love story was in order. The food all sounds delicious.

47.5 Human Acts Kang Han
This is the half. I got half way through and just couldn’t pick it up again over Xmas. I’ll finish it in January. Similar student uprising territory to book 44 – only with absolutely no relief from the horror. Slightly jars with the endless sounds of Mariah, Ninjago and Junk Art in the background over the festive season.

Some numbers

Just over 17,000 pages total. Male/female author ratio was ~2:1. Roughly one in four books were translated into English. Just over 2:1 ratio of fiction:non. 5 Booker winners, 9 of the 2016 Booker long list. All but 13 books were written in the past 3 years, and only 2 before I was born. The exact opposite of my musical taste. Unsurprisingly the ISBNs broadly obeyed Benford’s law apart from 9.

The fiction ratio is the biggest shift. I’ve been reading almost all non fiction – so tackling a few stories has been fun.

Obviously a bunch of the best of the year aren’t in the photo – because I passed them on at some point. I don’t think I’ll pick a top three or anything you can find the full list on goodreads with handy amazon links etc… and all the books posts from the year.

Not sure if I’ll make the 52 in 2017. I might try making a better goodreads instead.

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