The beginning of the end or the end of the beginning?

Youngest has just had his last day at nursery. His last day. Last. No more driving him to nursery before heading off to work, no more racing back there to pick him up and find out what toys he’s been playing with. No more chasing him back to the car – he’s FAST!

Come September he starts in Reception and we’ll be walking down to school in a pack, me, him and his brothers. Come September he’ll have his first day at school – and that’ll be the last first day at school! No more younger siblings to follow in his footsteps.

Now, as Status Quo asked, is this the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning?

As youngest, he’s in a privileged position – there’s pretty much nothing he can do that one of his brothers or his sister hasn’t done before. They’re going to make the mistakes so that he can (hopefully) learn from them and avoid them. Granted, there are some mistakes you’ve got to make for yourself – that hangover, just how bad can it be? for one – but the majority of pitfalls will be covered. But that’s assuming he pays any attention to what they’ve done before him.

For me, though, it’s a time of mixed blessings. Until Thing5 there has always been a younger one further down the line to focus on, to spend more time with when one of them went up to school. Don’t have that any more. I find I’m missing the strangest of things – things like the permanent state of borderline insanity brought on by baby-induced sleep deprivation.

The time has come to grow up with them all. Things will still move at the speed of the youngest, but that youngest is growing up. Pretty soon I won’t have a clue what’s replaced the Octonauts, what the latest Julia Donaldson book is. I’ve enjoyed having an extended childhood, revisiting some of the best bits of mine, but now it’s time to explore new frontiers.

Thing2 starts senior school in September. This isn’t a first for the family, his sister begins her GCSE studies at the same time. She’s the one trail-blazing for them all. She gets to do everything first (when she’s not being a stroppy teenager, that is). Those are new beginnings. Thing2 will never go to junior school again, unless it’s on a visit. Weird how I don’t remember noticing details like that when it was happening to me.

I’m the eldest of my lot, my wife’s the eldest of hers. We’ve precious little experience between of us doing things second.  Not a lot of advice to give!  Still, as a parent, things slip on 2nd and subsequent children.  First child, everything’s got to be perfect. Everything has to be sterilized, protected, moved out of harm’s way. Second child’s lucky if you blow the dust off the bottle! (I’m joking, mostly!).  You also get more relaxed – escorting the first child everywhere, kicking the rest off to the park once they reach the same age.

Anyway, we’ve got a list of “Things you might like to do over the summer” from Thing2’s school. I could kiss their IT teacher! “You might like your child to create a web page, or learn some Python…” So. One Raspberry Pi, one CamJam Edu Kit, much fun to be had!

I’ll leave you with some music…

Is this the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning?  Bit of A, bit of B, I think…  You?

Amazon Prime – 1 month on

prime

One month ago, I signed up to a free trial of Amazon Prime.  On the face of it, it sounds pretty good.  Let’s look at the benefits…

  • Free 1-day delivery on a whole load of items
  • Half a million items to borrow through the Kindle Owners Lending Library
  • Unlimited instant streaming of more than 15,000 titles with Prime Instant Video

And all for the low, low, price of £79 a year.  Which you can only pay yearly, not monthly.

Now, let’s have a look at those benefits in turn, see how I did from my month’s free trial…

Free 1-day delivery…

Well, the first thing that happened was Amazon’s website crashed on the “confirm your order” page and duplicated the order I’d placed, sending 2 of each present to the recipient.  Amazon were very good about this and arranged free collection but still, not an auspicious start.

And then it turned out that was pretty much the only thing I needed from Amazon during the trial month that was covered by Prime.  I only needed to place 1 other Amazon order during the trial and that was for an item sold by an Amazon Marketplace seller and didn’t fall under the auspices of Prime.  Fortunately, they dispatched fast and it wasn’t an urgent need, anyway.

I find that, with a bit of planning, I can get most thing from Amazon with their free delivery anyway.

Do I need Prime for 1-day delivery?  No.  Not even at Christmas when I might be ordering a lot.

Kindle Owners’ Lending Library

What a crock of crap that turns out to be – it’s only for people who own an actual, physical, Kindle.  Not those of us with the app on our phone.

Do I need Prime for this feature?  Nope, can’t use it at all.  They’re 0 for 2 so far.

Instant Video

You would have thought this would be an absolute Godsend with all that sport clogging up the TV, but no.  Did not even get a chance to sign in and watch one minute of anything.  Let’s see…

  1. Switch on PS3
  2. Log in
  3. Find Amazon Prime app
  4. Launch
  5. Wait for app to update itself to latest version
  6. Log in (having retrieved password from wherever I wrote it down this time)
  7. Browse and hunt for something you want to watch
  8. Wait for buffering.
  9. Watch

Versus…

  1. Insert DVD (which has the added benefit of switching on both PS3 and TV)
  2. Log in
  3. Watch Angel.

TV time shouldn’t be taken up with menus, waiting, spinning loading images.  Ideally, since these are actual physical DVDs I’ve purchased, I’d love it if a good chunk of my TV time wasn’t taken up by copyright warnings I can’t skip – have they not realised that one reason people might choose to get a pirated version of a DVD is so they don’t have this crap between them and their film?  But I digress.

Am I going to get any use out of this feature?  Don’t think so.  I reckon owning a movie on DVD is the fastest way for me never to see that film again, goodness only knows how little I’d watch when I’d got that much at my fingertips!  I know I’m missing out on stuff – whole seasons of TV shows I’d love to catch but just don’t have the time.  But it’s not worth £79 a year.

The Verdict

Am I continuing my Prime subscription?

No.

I’m not entirely sure who Prime is aimed at – Kindle owners who order a lot of stuff from Amazon Prime sellers and spend all their free time watching films and TV streamed over the internet, I guess.  Is that me?  No.

13th Age FAE

13th Age of Fate Accelerated – Part 1

Before we begin, for those who don’t know, a role-playing game (or RPG) is a way to tell stories as a group – one person sets the scene, the rest have characters described in terms of their attributes, skills, abilities and powers.  One might play a fighter, wielding a magic sword to take down hordes of goblins.  One might play a powerful wizard, hurling fireballs into the fray.  Success and failure is determined by a collection of unusual-shaped dice and how high (or low) you roll.  The grandfather of them all is Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), due for an upgrade this July.  However, in the decades since it was released, it has seen hundreds of alternatives hit the shelves…

In my left hand I hold 13th Age.  A beautiful, letter-sized hardback.  Bound, colour-illustrated throughout, it contains the rules and game world for Pelgrane Press’s flagship fantasy roleplaying game.  It’s roots are firmly in D&D – characters are described in terms of Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, etc., and have lists of talents, feats, powers, and so on.

13th Age has a number of tweaks that update D&D, streamlining things and involving players and their characters in creating the fine details of the game world.  Many of these elements are modular in nature and can be lifted wholesale and applied to whatever game you’re playing.  It’s also one of the best written RPG books I’ve had the pleasure to read, the conversational tone and frequent interjections by one or other of the developers in sidebars providing examples of how they do things.

I’ve blogged about 13th Age here before:

Problem with 13th Age is it hasn’t moved very far from it’s roots in D&D – 6 attributes, lists of talents and feats, much flicking around in the rulebook when creating characters for the first few times

Fate Accelerated

In my right hand I hold Fate Accelerated Edition.  My right hand has the far easier job.  FAE is A5 or thereabouts, 48 pages long including index and character sheet and, on the virtual scales of balance, you’d need about 200 copies of FAE to balance 1 of 13th Age.  It’s lightweight, story-driven gaming.  Characters are described in terms not of Strength, Dexterity and the like but CarefulCleverFlashyForcefulQuick and Sneaky.  Instantly, on seeing the character sheet, you’ve got a much better idea of what sort of a character this is.  You also have Aspects – puncy sentences that describe the sort of character you’re playing.  “Hard-drinking Dwarf thug from the mines of M’Zark“, would be a decent “High concept” Aspect.  It nicely describes, in a nutshell, what sort of character this is.

For picking up a game quickly and diving in, you don’t get a lot faster than FAE these days.  You used to – the system from the old West End Games’ Ghostbusters International was even simpler and faster than this!

What you don’t get with FAE is a world to play in.   And that’s where 13th Age comes in.  You also need special dice with +, – and blank sides to roll.  But then you need the whole range of dice for 13th Age.  Chances are, as a gamer, you’ve already got both.

By taking elements of both games – the lightning-fast character creation and rule-set of FAE coupled with the world-embedding tweaks of 13th Age (and the general setting itself) you’ve got a near-perfect combination of simple rules and great world.

13th Age FAE

But I’m not quite finished yet.  Bits of Dungeon World appeal to me – playbooks for the characters that stop you having to reference the rulebook so often (not that that’s a big deal with FAE), the way it describes campaigns and gets you to think things through…  Z6 will feed into this little project as well.

That’s the problem with RPGs.  Once you start tweaking it’s very hard to stop.

Kids, writing, coding, stuff & things.