Life without Internet

The Alleged Machine

The Alleged Machine

I’m sorry about your computer, Debs.  The Boobook and I are big fans of building our own computers, which is why our current home computer is a store bought Hewlett Packard Envy Phoenix, which we did not build at all and that comes installed with possibly the worst iteration of Windows ever[1].

That being said, The Boobook and I are definitely members of the Glorious PC Master Race, which is why as I type, The Boobook and I are planning out our current and future computer needs.

It’s likely that as we start setting up a combined household, that each of us would need our own computer.  The Boobook and I play vastly different video games.  Plus, between my writing and his multiple programming and engineering projects, it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to share a single computer between us.  Any computer that we get would either be too complex for my tastes, or not powerful enough for his needs.  We’ll probably also have a single computer as a shared computer for when guests arrive, or when we don’t have guests, for streaming Netflix movies in the living room.  I guess we’ll be living in a pretty technology-heavy household!

That being said, our household has not been completely computer drama free!  In fact, today is the first day that I’ve had internet for ages!

See, a month or two ago, my building received upgrades to get onto the National Broadband Network.  While I’m not fully  cogniziant of the details of how the NBN works, a fiber optic cable had to be installed into our building so that we could receive the network.  Unfortunately, the person who installed the cable decided that it would be a great idea to also cut the phone lines for the entire block.  Since the NBN network hasn’t been turned on yet, this meant that I was without my usual ADSL AND my land phone line for the entire two months it took for them to finish fixing up the whole mess!

Anyway, for the last month, life has been… difficult.  It’s nigh impossible to get anything done without Internet, really.  While I can check up on Internet things periodically on my mobile phone, I had to be super careful not to go over my download limit, since extra data costs extra LOTS of money.  I had to limit my Facebook activity (which was really painful!) and couldn’t watch a lot of my usual online videos.

Did you know that it’s really hard to cook without the Internet?  Most of my cookbooks have measurements in ounces and pounds.  Usually, I’d go online to see what the conversions were, but I couldn’t this time.  I also had difficulty accessing online recipes, since I couldn’t just put my tablet on the table and cook while looking at the instructions!

To be honest, I know that a lot of people claim that being without Internet makes them a lot more productive, but I’ve found that without the Internet, I’m a lot less productive, to the point of practically being a slug!  A lot of my friends communicate with me over the Internet too, so it’s really difficult to have no online presence!

Well, that’s over now!  So, you’ll be seeing a lot more of me now that I’ve got my network back!  Woo hoo!


[1]If you don’t know what this is, then you should know that it’s Windows 8.  Because Windows 8 is just horrible.  I mean, which idiot thought it was a good idea to make a touch screen interface for an operating system primarily designed for non-touch screen computers?!

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Nanoblocks are terrible

I love Lego. I cannot tell you how much I love Lego. My husband loves Lego. The children love Lego.

I do not love nanoblocks. Nanoblocks are not Lego. They are tiny and evil.

Not long ago, J received some sets of nanoblocks as Christmas and birthday gifts. One of the sets involved building a replica model of a space shuttle, which he was quite enthusiastic about. I let him open it, thinking that it would be just like Lego, only smaller, and therefore more challenging. He was very close to finishing the model when he suddenly stopped, put all the pieces away into a tupperware, and walked away, never to return. The set still remains unfinished.

It’s not like J to leave a project unfinished, so I asked him why he didn’t want to continue. He cryptically answered that working on it was ‘too painful’. He showed no interest in opening one of the other sets of nanoblocks, so I decided that I would try my hand at making a replica of Big Ben, a landmark which holds personal significance to me.

This looks pretty straightforward, I thought to myself, squinting at the nano-sized instructions.

Well, I hadn’t started working on it for more than five minutes before I made my first mistake, and had to painstakingly pry all the pieces off the baseboard with my fingernails and start over.

Nanoblocks, tiny plastic pills of pain

Nanoblocks, tiny plastic pills of pain

The pieces were so small, that I was terrified that they would spill out of the packet and disappear forever down a crack in the sofa. They were also a real pain, I mean, literally causing me actual physical pain trying to press these tiny bits firmly together. Press too lightly and they wouldn’t clip together. Press too strongly and you risk breaking apart the entire structure. Either way, pressing repeatedly on these tiny blocks was like jabbing myself with the sharp end of a pencil. Again, and again, and again, until my thumb was red and throbbing.

I finally finished the whole structure after working on it for close to two hours.

It is now sitting next to my computer, and it looks pretty good!

Big Ben sitting in state

Big Ben sitting in state next to J’s Lego tree, my 3M Scotchtape dispenser kitty, and an Ood.

(I still hate nanoblocks, though. Nasty little things)

SurviveINK – a creative writing holiday camp by Monsters Under The Bed

Now, you may remember that I wrote about the importance of creative writing and J’s experience at a 3-day workshop with Monsters Under the Bed (MUTB) earlier this year.

J enjoyed his experience at the EpicQuestINK workshop so much, that he was absolutely delighted to be invited back to attend another Imagination and Knowledge “INK” creative writing workshop with MUTB during the June School Holidays – the SurviveINK workshop!

The tagline for the SurviveINK camp was “With friends like these, who needs zombies?”, so we were prepared for him to have a zombie-themed writing workshop. J is quite familiar with the concept of zombies, having come across them during our weekly family jaunts into the world of Minecraft.

However we weren’t prepared for the scale of the SurviveINK holiday camp as presented by MUTB! It was a total immersive experience! I was so impressed by the commitment and dedication of the MUTB trainers in putting this together for the kids.

A week prior to the start of the workshop, J received an email warning him of a zombie-virus epidemic and advising him to prepare himself. This was a brilliant way of getting J to think about what items and skills he might need in order to survive without basic comforts and also how people might behave when faced with impending doom.

To get him hyped up even more, we received a link to this video on the eve of the workshop!

WOOHOOOOOO!!! What a way to get the adrenaline pumping! J could hardly get to sleep for the excitement of it all.

The next day, J, Little E and I (as well as Thumper, drowsing in his sling) headed to The Arts House.

They're heeeere....

They’re heeeere….

We were greeted by a dude in SWAT gear and gas mask (“Sgt Leroy”), patrolling the hallway with a huge gun, whilst a nearby radio played a broadcast in the background, warning us that infected persons will be shot on sight. You can tell by the big grin on J’s face that he was ready for a real adventure!

At 10am, the doors burst open with a clang, and out stalked a lanky, long-haired titaness towering over everyone and wearing the most frightening stilettos I had ever seen. This was “Goth Leader” Xiangxiang, who seemed to be in charge of running the SurviveINK workshop this time.

“CHECK THEM ALL FOR BITES!” she shrieked, waving her gun in the air, “AND GET THE CLEAN ONES IN THE SAFEHOUSE!!”

The children immediately crowded around her with a million questions. “What’s going on?” “Can we go in yet?” “I have a plaster, can I still come in?”

“SHADDUPSHADDUPSHADDUP”, she yelled, glaring around her, “JUST SHADDUP AND GET IN THE SAFEHOUSE!”

Some of the more mild-tempered children were clearly very intimidated by her brusque manner and hid behind their mums. Not so much J and Little E who were getting more bloodthirsty by the second and asking me if they were going to shoot zombies now or later.

House rules and a creative brainstorm

Safehouse rules and a creative brainstorm

Inside the hall, the children were divided into groups by age, and the various trainers introduced themselves and went through the SafeHouse rules before leading the kids through their first exercise of the day – a creative brainstorm called the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’. Each child had to come up with as many uses as possible for a bucket of ice should the zombies start to attack the safe house.

J immediately came up with a whole bunch of different ways to deal with zombies using a bucket of ice and he scribbled all of these down on his worksheet, ignoring grammar, punctuation and spelling in his haste to get as many ideas down in a short period of time. I was very surprised that he came up with more than ten ways to dispatch zombies using an ice bucket!

This was the first of several creative challenges given to the kids during the duration of the workshop.

At the end of each challenge, the kids were given points based on the quantity and complexity of their ideas, and they could use these points throughout the workshop to exchange for skill sets and equipment. This helped them to be more focussed when thinking of characters for their stories and what strengths and weaknesses their characters would have. It also ensured that they did not create superhuman characters with infinite resources which would make for less tension and conflict in their stories.

Points for weapons!

Points for weapons and skills!

At the end of the first day, the children were informed that Safehouse had managed to get into contact with the university laboratory which was responsible for ‘Project Icarus’, the source of the zombie virus. The trainers spoke over the speakerphone to the scientist who had barricaded herself in the lab as zombies hammered on her doors. She had developed a potential cure but hadn’t had time to test it yet! We listened in horror as we heard the zombies smash the laboratory doors down and attack the scientist whose conversation was cut off with a bloodcurdling scream. There was a hideous moan, followed by the wet sounds of chewing.

GROSS.

One of the trainers, who was playing the role of Lab Assistant, broke down in tears as the children looked on in concern. We were told to go and find a safe place to rest and reconvene in the morning.

Well, how’s that for a cliffhanger ending to the first day at the SurviveINK workshop?

J could not wait to return to find out what would happen next, and spent the afternoon discussing with Little E various methods of faking one’s death for a speakerphone conversation.

The next morning, when we arrived at the Arts House, we were congratulated by the gun and pistol wielding MUTB trainers for reaching the ‘Project Icarus Lab’. The MUTB trainers had smeared dirt on their faces and were bespattered with what looked like blood. Dishevelled and panting from exhaustion, they told all the wide-eyed children that they had cleared the whole area of all the zombies overnight but had realised their zombie-detection alarm was still going off. Was it malfunctioning?

The children were each assigned a face mask and latex gloves, and told to enter the Project Icarus lab to look for clues to the location of the zombie cure. They went into the room in batches according to their assigned groups.

When it was finally J’s turn, we entered the room to find that it had been transformed into the Project Icarus laboratory, with glass beakers, petri dishes and even a toy microscope! Chairs and tables were overturned and there were signs of a scuffle. Impressive!

Investigating the lab for clues

Investigating the lab for clues

After searching around the room, J and his group mates found a bloodstained note as well as several bottles of suspicious looking liquids in various colours.

In their groups, they spent some time figuring out the code and decoding the note in order to find out which bottle contained the potential zombie cure. In the meantime, the kids began drafting their first ideas for their zombie-themed story.

J’s idea was to bake the antiviral medication into pies and launch them at the zombies who will inadvertently consume the medicine after receiving a pie-to-the-face. “Then they will be cured!” said J in triumph.

Decoding a puzzle!

Decoding a puzzle!

During the core of the day, the trainers revealed to us that the experimental drug only had a 50% chance of working to cure an infected person and inoculate a non-infected person. If it didn’t work it would either speed up the zombification process, else turn a non-infected person into zombie straightaway.

Xiangxiang pointed out that the zombie-detection alarm was still going off so somebody in the room was infected with the zombie virus. At this, all the children in the room started getting very excited, each pointing at the various trainers, yelling at the top of their lungs and accusing them of being zombies.

“SHADDUPSHADDUPSHADDUP!”, hollered Xiangxiang, for what seemed to be the millionth time that day, “SHADDUP I NEED TO THINK!”

At this point, J turned to me and whispered, “Do you know who the zombie-in-hiding is? I think it is that shouty lady. Because she’s so angry and zombies are always angry.”

At the end of the second day of the workshop, Xiangxiang accused the Lab Assistant (who had been coughing and shuffling her feet and generally acting suspicious all day long) of being infected, forcing her to drink the experimental drug. Unfortunately, she turned into a zombie and had to be dispatched!

“WHOA!” gasped the room in unison.

Sgt Leroy, falling to his knees, pointed out that that zombie-detection alarm was still going off. So not only did the experimental cure turn out to be a complete dud, but Xiangxiang had wrongly accused the innocent Lab Assistant!

Ooooh, the plot thickens!

“SHADDUPSHADDUPSHADDUP ALL OF YOU GET OUT, JUST GET OUT AND LEAVE ME ALONE! I didn’t mean to kill her!” wailed Xiangxiang in despair, refusing to break character as all of us shuffled past her to leave the room.

Talk about Dramatic Endings!

Oopsie!

Sorry no cure! (literally)

The last day of the workshop was much less exciting at the start. The children were encouraged to improve and fine tune their stories,  writing out a complete final story draft under the tutelage of the trainers. The group leaders and trainers went from child to child, encouraging them and helping to iron out kinks in their plot lines whilst correcting their drafts for grammar and punctuation.

Each child was given a booklet for which to use to illustrate and copy out their completed story. This took up most of the time of the last day.

Finally, all the worksheets and booklets were collected by the trainers (so that the work could be organised neatly), and it was time for all of us to leave the room for a short break which the kids welcomed. The excuse given was that Sgt Leroy was working with another of the MUTB trainers to find a new cure, one which actually works!

When we returned, Sgt Leroy had built himself a barricade and was pacing around inside of it like a caged lion. It turned out that he’d discovered some hidden CCTV footage of Leader Xiangxiang revealing herself to have been bitten in the leg by a zombie, and conspiring with one of the other MUTB trainers to frame the Lab Assistant. So Sgt Leroy completely lost his marbles, destroying the zombie cure and executing everyone in the room one by one, to Dramatic Music!!

monsters-under-the-bed-writing-workshop

Everybody’s dead, Dave.

As the music stopped, all the MUTB trainers who had been playing dead on the ground got up for a curtain call, and we clapped and cheered for all of their hard work!

J was very excited to receive his mini book from his group leader, who posed with him for a photo. When I asked him how he found the workshop, he replied without hesitation, “IT WAS FUN! Much more fun than the EpicQuestINK!”

J with his group leader looking fierce

J with his group leader looking fierce

Thank you to Monsters Under the Bed for this super-exciting experience with SurviveINK! We all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and we are looking forward to attending more creative writing workshops with MUTB!

Monsters Under the Bed are running more INK workshops during the September, November and December holidays this year, so if you’re interested, definitely sign up as spaces get snapped up really fast!

Spell CraftINK

Date: 7 – 9 September 2015
Time: 10am – 1pm
Venue: The Arts House

The HowlINK

Date: 23 – 25 November 2015
Time: 10am – 1pm
Venue: The Arts House

INK to the Void

Date: 14 – 16 December 2015
Time: 10am – 1pm
Venue: The Arts House

Monsters Under the Bed have also recently opened their first brick-and-mortar branch! You can now find their creative writing school at:

MUTB@Frankel
492 Changi Road, Singapore 419900

 

EpicQuestINK – a creative writing workshop by Monsters Under The Bed

When I was 11 years old, I was invited to take part in a programme which offered college-level summer courses for children in a variety of disciplines. At the time, being a math nerd, I really wanted to take a course in calculus, but my father persuaded me to take on a creative writing programme instead, reasoning that it was a subject rarely taught in formal education, at least at the pre-tertiary level. I have never regretted following his advice as that three week programme was one of the most enlightening experiences of my life.

In my opinion, creative writing is a highly underrated field of study. Creative writing not only improves literacy by strengthening grammar and vocabulary whilst encouraging a love of literature, but also encourages the writer to exercise his or her imagination and examine a narrative from different perspectives. This means learning to think critically, learning to plan carefully, learning to communicate effectively and learning to empathise with other people, all of which are skills that will be useful to any child or adult.

And…it’s fun to make up stories.

This is why, when Monsters Under The Bed invited J to attend their EpicQuestINK creative writing camp at The Arts House over the March school holidays, I was really happy and excited for him to have this wonderful opportunity!

J at EpicQuestINK over the March School Holidays

J at EpicQuestINK over the March School Holidays

Monsters Under The Bed is a writing school founded and taught by professional, published writers. During the year, they run both regular weekly in-house classes in both creative writing and expository writing for students (and adults) as well as holiday creative writing camps for 7-12 year olds known as INK (Imagination & Knowledge) workshops.

The INK workshops all have different themes which are not repeated in order to ensure a unique experience each time, and the trainers use a combination of roleplaying, group discussions and writing exercises to get the kids involved and passionate about their own stories.

The theme of EpicQuestINK was based around Greek myths and legends, a subject that J is familiar with, and the focus of the workshop was aimed at teaching the kids how to utilise the concept of the monomyth, or “Hero’s Journey”, in order to formulate a complete and comprehensive narrative. Through the age-old stories of heroes like Heracles, Theseus and Perseus and their battles with fantastical creatures like gorgons and minotaurs, the kids would be inspired to formulate their own protagonists and antagonists as well.

Sounds complex, right?

One of the first rules of the INK workshops is that the trainers do not try to revise or over-simplify the subject matter just for young children. They feel that by doing so, they would be lowering both reading and intellectual standards. Instead, they work alongside the kids, guiding them towards understanding the topics, thereby helping to stimulate and open up their young minds.

In fact, preparation for the holiday course began long before the first day of the course. Imagine my surprise when J received an email about one week before the start of the course, addressed to “Titans and young Mubster Agents” and inviting him to “ascend Mount Olympus” with his “modern stylus and wax tablets”. Needless to say, he was immediately intrigued and asked me if he had to bring special shoes for climbing!

The email was accompanied by this video:

as well as four pages of very beautifully written preparatory reading material (to be read together with a parent, of course) consisting an overview of the Hero’s Journey as well as some questions to get J thinking deeply about his own personal experiences and how to apply this personal knowledge into his stories. By the time the first day of the workshop rolled around, J was already brimming with excitement and ready to learn!

At the start of the first day, the children were shown a Percy Jackson video clip. The chief trainer then proceeded to give a brief college-level lecture on Greek Epic Poetry complete with powerpoint slides and quotations from Homer’s Odyssey.

To my utter surprise, the main speaker was not only able to engage a large group of primary school children who were completely mesmerised by him, but he also held the attention of 4 year old Little E who was sitting in the back with me (parents are allowed and encouraged to sit in to observe the workshop at the back).

After the lecture, the class then split into small groups by age and writing ability. The trainers who managed each small group began to lead the children into avid discourse on the topic and it was clear that they were very quickly able to encourage the children to share their thoughts and ideas. By the end of the day’s session, I noticed that even the most shy child in J’s group was actively involved and freely participating in discussion. What sorcery is this?!

In fact, after the class that day, J was able to tell me all about the different stages of the hero’s journey from “the call to adventure” to “receiving a boon” to “completing trials”, as well as examples of each that he had personally dreamed up during the small group discussion. He could barely wait to return to the workshop the next day!

On the second day of the course, the kids were encouraged to come dressed as a hero or villain as Monsters Under The Bed often incorporates a little bit of roleplaying and dramatisation into their workshops, which is not only fun for everyone but also helps when considering character development in creative writing.

As you can see from the picture below, J is dressed as The Dreadful Pirate Dread, whose scarred face is the scourge of the icy seas, especially after he successfully burgled Captain America and now carries the iconic shield as a trophy. (Little E is wearing her ladybird bug hat – she just wanted to show solidarity for her big brother.)

The 2nd and 3rd day of EpicQuestINK

J participating in the group discussion and dressing up on the 2nd of EpicQuestINK

When J returned home at the end of the last day of the course, he had completed a three page short story (involving the first day at school, a fire-breathing school principal and a tiny Pegasus that you can keep in a backpack) on which his trainer had written some useful comments and tips for further improvement. He was so excited about his work, that once he got home, he insisted on revising the story one more time in order to take into consideration the advice given by his trainer. He even woke up extra early in the morning and when I got up at 6am, I found him labouriously copying his final version of the short story into a blank book.

Since then, J has even started writing another short story entirely of his own accord during his free time, using the methods taught during the EpicQuestINK Workshop. I was surprised when he sat down and wrote out character sketches, a plot outline and then afterwards, drafted out a complete story, all of his own accord. Not bad for a 7 year old kid, I think!

By the way, Monsters Under the Bed has already released their line up of INK workshops for the rest of the year:

SurviveINK

Date: 3 – 5 June 2015
Time: 10am – 1pm
Venue: The Arts House

Spell CraftINK

Date: 7 – 9 September 2015
Time: 10am – 1pm
Venue: The Arts House

The HowlINK

Date: 23 – 25 November 2015
Time: 10am – 1pm
Venue: The Arts House

INK to the Void

Date: 14 – 16 December 2015
Time: 10am – 1pm
Venue: The Arts House

You can register for the workshops online or contact Monsters Under The Bed at +65 6100 4363 or via email to riza@mutb.com.sg. Also, do check out their Facebook page for more information on their previous INK workshops as well as their blog which is chock-a-block full of great writing tips!

As you can tell from J’s response to the workshop as well as the comment he wrote on the EpicQuestINK poster (which you can see at the top of this post), he thoroughly enjoyed himself and has since been asking me if he will be able to attend another INK workshop in the future!

Big, BIG thanks you to Monsters Under the Bed for inviting J to EpicQuestINK – J thanks you for the EPIC experience and hopes he will be able to be back for SurviveINK in June 2015 for more inspirational creative writing fun!

P.S. Check out these reviews by Life’s Tiny Miracles and Tan Family Chronicles on previous INK workshops!

Disney’s Big Hero 6 (2014) – A Spoiler Free Movie Review

There’s nothing like a Baymax Hug!

So, a few days ago, the kids and I were invited to the sneak preview of Disney’s latest animated feature film, BIG HERO 6, which is very (very) loosely based on a little-known Marvel comic book of the same name.

AND. IT. IS. SO. AWESOME.

The movie revolves around 14 year old robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada, and Baymax, an inflatable vinyl healthcare robot created by his college-aged older brother, Tadashi. When disaster strikes the city of San Fransokyo, it’s up to Hiro and his friends to save the day. As you can tell, the main story arc itself is a straightforward superhero origin story complete with Big Scary-yet-tragic Masked Villian, Colour Coded Superhero Team Members and a Musical Training Montage! YEAH!

Mummy Warning: The action is brilliant, fun and well-paced, although some parts may be a little bit intense for preschoolers, particularly if your preschooler is sensitive. My own 3 year old Little E did need a little reassuring cuddle during the battle scenes, but there’s nothing gory or gruesome to worry about. If you are concerned about how your child is going to react, try showing your kids the trailer first!

In terms of animation, the look of the film is a beautifully rendered mash-up of East-West culture, with the story taking place in the city of San Fransokyo, which looks absolutely gorgeous from its rolling Californian hills (so great for car chases!) to the Golden (Torii) Gate Bridge. The attention to detail is absolutely incredible, and I am not surprised to discover that Disney had to assemble a dedicated supercomputing cluster in order to handle the digital processing demands.

Hiro and Baymax fly over the Golden Gate (Torii) Bridge

Hiro and Baymax fly over the Golden (Torii) Gate Bridge

I have to say that I am very excited to see some main characters that are not only of Asian descent, but who also look and behave, well, like regular people. Not once during this film did I hear the phrase, “You have dishonour your fambry!”, nor did I see any wispy bearded old person wearing a silk robe and dispensing sage advice. None of that! We are making big steps here, people, big steps!

The movie was also a great launching point for many discussions with the owlets on the nature of science and ethics as well as the capacity for people to make helpful or harmful choices. My 6 year old, J, was particularly thoughtful after the film, commenting that creativity can be channelled in both constructive and destructive ways, and it is up to each person to decide how they want their actions to impact the world.

We watched the film in Incredible 3-D, which I felt did very little to enhance the overall experience of the film, so here’s a tip: save your pennies and watch Big Hero 6 twice instead! Don’t forget to stay to the end of the credits for the obligatory Marvel-related cameo.

(By the way, the movie is preceded by ‘Feast’, a lovely new animated short about love as seen through the eyes of Winston the dog and is revealed through the meals that he shares with his master, which had me all teary-eyed even before the film started. Disney, you really know how to tug on those heartstrings!)

Debs G rates Big Hero 6: An exploding fist bump followed by an acrobatic fire-breathing dragon!

Big Hero 6 premieres today (13 Nov 2014) at cinemas across Singapore. Go watch it!

Upcycling for kids: Make Captain America’s Shield using MATH

All those who choose to oppose his shield must yield!

All those who choose to oppose his shield must yield!

J is seriously into superheroes right now, and I mean seriously, mummy I’m really serious about superheroes. Earlier this year he attended a party and was given a bright blue domino mask to bring home, which he immediately dubbed his ‘Captain America’ helmet.

Which is why we decided to make him a shield to go along with it, out of some cardboard boxes that I have been hoarding in the storeroom for such a purpose.

Instead of making a flat shield using a single piece of cardboard, we decided to give it more shape and depth by stacking the circles of cardboard on top each other to approximate the concave-convex appearance of Captain America’s circular shield. As a guide, we decided to use the shield design from this old copy of the Avengers comic.

Materials:

  1. Large Cardboard Box
  2. String
  3. Pushpin
  4. Pencil
  5. Stanley knife or box cutter
  6. Glue (we used PVC glue for this)
  7. Red and blue paint (we used tempera paints for this project)

Instructions:

The red, white and blue'll come through

The red, white and blue’ll come through

1. Draw five circles of diminishing circumference sizes on the large cardboard box: To get the round circles, I had J draw the circles using a length of string with one end pinned to the cardboard and the other end tied to a pencil. Then we shortened the string by an inch and repeated the process five times. This is a great way to physically demonstrate the concept of a circle’s radius, diameter and circumference, as well as the relationships between them.

2. Use a sharp Stanley knife to carefully cut out each circle.

3. Use blue paint to cover the entire surface of the smallest circle. We used tempera paints as they are kid-friendly and washable, but you can get a much nicer, brighter colour using spray paint or acrylic paint, or by adding a layer of varnish or ModPodge to get a nice glossy finish.

4. Use red paint to cover the entire surface of the biggest circle and the middle-sized circle.

5. For the 2nd largest and 2nd smallest circle, we decided not to paint them white. This is because white tempera paint tends to disappear into the brown cardboard and you need many layers of tempera paint to get a good white finish, which will soak into the cardboard and weaken it’s structure. Instead, we peeled off the top layer of cardboard to expose the corrugated centre, in order to give it a contrasting texture.

You are my star

You are my star

6. Next, we drew a five pointed star onto the small blue circle. This is a great way to demonstrate the relationship between a convex polygon (in this case, a pentagon) and a regular star polygon! Using a stanley knife, J carefully traced the outline of the star, then peeled off the cardboard to expose the cardboard centre.

7. Using PVC glue, we glued the circles one on top of the other, making sure to line up the exposed pleats of the corrugated board so that the pleats are all in the same direction.

Double strap time

Double strap time

8. For straps, we cut out two long strips of cardboard around 5cm or 3inches wide and glued them to the reverse surface of the shield, making sure there is plenty of room to comfortably pass one’s arm through the straps. (If you want to be super fancy, you could use thick cotton or felt strips and space them further apart so that the shield can be worn like a backpack!)

9. Prepare the men to do battle!

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011): Thoughts from the Couch (Potato)

Well, this movie is good for only one thing: ROBOTS!
 
Why? Do you ask? Well, because…
 
ROBOTS ARE AWESOME!
 
If you want to see ROBOTS then definitely rent this film!
 
ROBOTS ARE AWESOME!
 
There’s some trifling love story and some blonde chick with long legs that provides some minimal eye candy but who cares about that? BRING ON THE ROBOTS, I SAY!
 
ROBOTS ARE AWESOME!
 
There aren’t any extras on the DVD (would have liked to see some behind the scenes action of the voice actors or even a blooper reel).
 
However, in lieu of more DVD extras, here’s a fun game you can play whilst watching the film:
 
How many Star Trek references can you find in this movie?
 
(I counted 6, but I’m sure there are more.)
 
So get your Trekkie/Trekker friends together with some popcorn for some home entertainment and remember…
 
ROBOTS ARE AWESOME!
Debs G recommends: Watch this with Pacific Rim for more Gundam Funtimes and the shrieking sound of metal scraping metal!