Friday, 22 December 2017

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (Book Review)

"Your real friends will not have a problem when you come out and if they do, well they weren't true friends in the first place. You can go and find some better ones"




This book as amazing, I read it in 2 days and just couldn't put it down. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda written by Becky Albertalli is a real page-turner. Seriously, you will not want to put this down. (Find on Amazon here) Aimed at young adults, this is the story of a not-so-openly gay teen Simon, coming to terms with his identity. But parents and teachers should read it also. And it's not just for LGBT youth, everyone should read it to gain a little insight into the life of a young LGBT person. 

Within the first few chapters you are drawn into the World of a young gay person, Simon is figuring out his identity, secretly emailing another gay person (Blue) in school, dealing with how and when to come out along with all the other crap and challenges in high school thrown in for good measure.


Then, horror of horrors, Martin (a student in Simon's class) finds an email that Simon has sent to Blue and starts to blackmail him. Everything spirals out of control forcing Simon to come out to his family and friends on Christmas day.  It's an exciting story, intertwining the busy social media driven World of today's teens with the constant struggle for identity and self.  Simon suggests that everyone should have to come out and declare who they love, rather than a Gay Agenda it should be the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

Thankfully all of Simon's friends have no problem with his sexuality, which, as I say to anybody when they are thinking of coming out, "Your real friends will not have a problem when you come out and if they do, well they weren't true friends in the first place. You can go and find some better ones".  

But still, the magic moment when Simon first comes out you are on the edge of your seat (he comes out to a female friend just before the whole family) and you can't help letting out a huge sigh of relief (No, I didn't cry....ahem).  It in fact reminded me of when I came out to my 2 best friends, now that's a blog all on it's own I will write next week. It's just so exciting and from then on you keep turning the pages to find out, if or when Simon and Blue will meet.  Nope, I'm not telling, get the book yourself.

Next March the movie is getting released with the title Love, Simon (more info HERE) and previews so far look awesome...



Without a doubt this book gets ten out of 10 planets from me. Get it. Read it. Share it. If you can spare a copy leave it somewhere a young LGBT person can secretly pick it up.


Other LGBT books I have reviewed are


Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan HERE

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde HERE

When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid HERE

Noah Can't Even by Simon James Green HERE


John The Captain Ryan  


      

First 100 days of blogging.

It’s been a blast; I’ve smashed my target and am over the moon.  With over 5,000 page views in the first 100 days now the real work starts.




I did a mini review after 77 days (HERE)  just to see where I was going and was short on my target of 1,000 views per month.  I used this retrospective to see what worked, what didn’t and to figure out where to go from there.

I quickly realised that I needed to work a lot more on 2 main ingredients, content and marketing.  So, I wrote about what I knew (mainly Scrabble) and shared my blog across Facebook and twitter.  I’m linked with many  Scrabble groups and clubs around the World so sharing my Scrabble blogs proved very successful.  The top 5 posts are all about Scrabble:

422 views – Summary of Scrabble Blogs - HERE 

274 – Introducing Scrabble at your library - HERE 

271 views – Scrabble & Literacy - HERE

265 views – A Dog is For Life - HERE 

207 views – Alternative Scrabble - HERE 

This is a huge difference as my previous top 3 blogs ranged from 130 to 118 views.

I noted that my Stephen King/IT blog (HERE) didn’t do as well as I though it should have so I planned on promoting it again on social media.  The blog was previously at 30 views and after sharing it’s now at 109 so that’s cool.  In fact I just watched the remake again last night.  We all float down here Georgie...

To get down to the nitty gritty, my target was 1,000 views per month which equates to 33 per day so after the first 100 days my target was 3,300.  I’ve just tipped over 5,000 views now so all I can say is thank you everyone for reading and sharing my blogs.

(screen print taken on 21.12.2017)


So, for the next 100 days, until 31st March 2018 I’m setting myself the following targets:

  1. 5,000 additional page views. 
  2. Write at least 4 posts per week with at least one post per week getting over 250 views (i.e. great content). 
  3. Work on getting followers.
  4. Find at least one blogger that will guest blog for me and I can guest blog for them.


Fini

John The Captain Ryan


Thursday, 21 December 2017

Musical Movie Quiz

Another round at the Christmas Pub Quiz league last week, try your luck at these favourite Musicals...


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1. Sound of Music
2. My Fair Lady
3. Chicago
4. Oliver
5. La La Land
6. Bedknobs & Broomsticks
7. Mary Poppins
8. Annie
9. The Wizard of Oz
10. Muppet's Christmas Carol



Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas

John The Captain Ryan

Christmas Movie Quiz

This was a round at a Christmas Pub Quiz league I organised, test your knowledge of Christmas Movies...

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1            It's a wonderful life
2            Elf
3            Bad Santa
4            Gremlins
5            Home Alone
6            Edward Scissorshands
7            The Snowman
8            Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
9            A Charlie Brown Christmas
10          Batman Returns


Toodles for now

John The Captain Ryan


Wednesday, 20 December 2017

How playing darts can help numeracy skills

As a child, my mother realised I was having difficulty rote learning, the corner stone of the Irish education system but equally recognised my love of games and competition. So for as long as I remember, my Mam played Scrabble and my Dad played darts with me. 


Way to go ‘Rents, I ended up learning and having fun, not even knowing I was learning.  If you are stuck for a stocking filler, you can't go wrong buying a dart board (magnetic and velcro ones are available for children). Playing darts covers the most important elements of numeracy; addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. In fact if you don’t have these skills the rest of maths may as well be written in ancient Aramaic. 

AND, I know we have smartphones and calculators but we still need basic numeracy skills to get by in everyday life and work.  Anyway, here’s how darts teaches numeracy skills...

The circular board is numbered in segments 1-20, there are 2 inner circles, the larger worth 25 and the centre 50 points (The Bullseye or Bull).  There are striped bands (alternating red/green below) in each numbers segment denoting a doubling or tripling of that score.


(picture from www.Darts501.com)

So, if you look at the number 7 segment going from the outside towards the middle...

1st band = 7 doubled = 14
2nd band = 7 single = 7
3rd band = 7 tripled = 21
4th band = 7 single = 7

That’s the multiplication element.

A player throws 3 darts at the board and adds up their score.  When I played with my Dad, I had to add up his score and mine!  Bloody hell.  That’s the addition element.

When you start a game you start at 501 and subtract what you scored for the round.  So if on your first turn you scored 57 points, you are left with 444.  There’s your subtraction element.

And finally to the end game.  You must go out on a double.  So say, you have 43 points left.  There are several ways to go out.  You could score 3, leaving you with 40 points so that’s a double 20.  You could score 13, leaving 30 points so that’s double 15 etc.  There’s the division element.

The real challenge is being able to add up the round score in your head, write that number down and then work out what you have left.  After a while your sheet of paper or blackboard will look like this:


If you are afraid of children “accidentally” stabbing each other with darts, there are velcro and magnetic versions to buy in any good toyshop, especially good for the classroom or library.



Darts will bring a fantastic level of accuracy and speed to numeracy skills.   A great quiz to have with a group of children is the “what’s left” quiz.  The teacher calls out a number and the children have to write down an option for going out using up to 3 darts.  The highest possible number that can be gone out on is 170.  That’s 2 x triple 20’s and the bullseye which is a double 25.  Take note that there are sometimes many ways to go out using a given number.  Top players will sometimes prefer a particular number so they will use that one to go out. 

As a top player is throwing, they will work out the numbers in their head and score accordingly when getting close to the finish point.  Some numbers cannot be finished with three darts even though they are lower than 170 so players will work towards those numbers if they can.  The ultimate dart game is playing a whole game using only 9 darts.  Work out the math for that one!

Not to gloat or anything, but I can work out simple math like this quicker than my colleague can work it out on a calculator all because of playing darts and Scrabble as a child. Anyway, get throwing, adding and have a great Christmas.  

John The Captain Ryan.   




My Blogs about Scrabble (a summary)

I love playing Scrabble and teaching other players so blogging about it came easy.  I've done 5 blogs about Scrabble as follows:

Fun at Scrabble
(www.cartoonistgroup.com)

Being the son of a retired primary school teacher and working in the library, I know how literacy and the ability to read is so important.  Scrabble can help with literacy skills so here's a little introduction with a list of clubs in Ireland: Scrabble & Literacy

You will find the basic rules of Scrabble & a variation of the game called Duplicate Scrabble to get started HERE

A dog is for life, just like Scrabble.  Combining my love of Scrabble & dogs, here's an important message and a great list of words allowed in Scrabble A Dog is for Life

If you are thinking of starting a Scrabble club answer all the questions HERE

And finally, put more fun in your games by using these rule variations Rule Changes

Have a lovely Christmas and a fabulous 2018.  Remember it's all fun and games until someone loses an I.



John The Captain Ryan

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Making family fun more fun – Alternatives for Monopoly.

Playing board games at Christmas SHOULD be all about having fun with your family and friends, not war but the “go-to” traditional board games can cause arguments due to the flawed nature of the game mechanics and rules. 



Following on from my post about some rule variations for Scrabble HERE, read on for some variations for playing Monopoly.

Alternative Rules for Monopoly 1

As of October 11th 2017 there are 1,298 versions of Monopoly with new versions being shipped every year.  There are some fab ones from our favourite TV series and hobbies including Game of Thrones, Star Wars & Mario.

Alternative Rules for Monopoly 2

My favourite of course was Star Trek The Next Generation complete with Gold Pressed Latinum, planets, ships and space stations.

Alternative Rules for Monopoly 3

The main problem with Monopoly is the game takes too long to get going and then drags on, especially if one player has amassed a huge lead.  Or if four people are playing, 2 have gained a lead and are battling between themselves; the remaining 2 are left trying to be good humored losers.  Most importantly of course, don’t change the rules mid-game.  You can use one or a combination of these alternatives...

Alternative 1
Accelerated start. Each player gets 2 property cards dealt randomly from the deck.  This helps things get started. (This is easier than the alternative rules packaged in the modern game that has an extra dice and extra rules).  If there are 4 players, randomly deal the 4 stations also.  This stops one player getting the full collection too early.  If there are 5/6 players add in the utilities.

Alternative 2
Timed ending.  Set an alarm clock with a time limit of about 60 minutes (go with 57 or 62 to keep people guessing a little).  Hide the clock.  When the alarm goes off each player has one more move.  Add up money after this.

Alternative 3
Help the game end quicker.  Remember the recession, nobody could get a mortgage.  Don’t allow any loans from another player, “letting off” of a rent bill or taking out a mortgage.  All bills should be paid, sell what you need back to the bank and go bankrupt.  Let the game finish as quickly as possible.  Not allowing loans or “letting off” of a rent bill also heads off what normally causes arguments with players helping each other to beat the other opponent.  Don't allow exchange of property to settle a bill, sell the property back to the bank and have an immediate mortgage for it.
  
Alternative 4
Extra money at the start.  Be careful with this one.  Yes, it helps the game get going but the flip side is players have more money so the game will last longer.

Alternative 5
Auction off everything.  Don’t forget the rule at the start of the game that when a property is landed on, the player can chose to buy it or IT MUST BE auctioned by the bank.  Help get all property bought up as quickly as possible by auctioning all remaining property after all players have gone around the board 3 times.  This brings an interesting tactic into the game, the player who has been unlucky in landing on property squares gets a chance to buy and also the players who has been frugal with their money gets an opportunity to buy up what’s left.  

Alternative Rules for Monopoly 4
(image courtesy of www.maze.icomix.com)

Adults Only

Check out this nice printable A4 poster I've done up, played between consenting adults of course...


Adult Rules for Monopoly



These alternatives should help, let me know how you get on or if you have any other variations.  Remember make fun, not war and no throwing game pieces around the room (but it's ok to throw your clothes)!


John The Captain Ryan






Monday, 18 December 2017

Making family fun more fun this Christmas – Alternative Scrabble

Change the Rules (but not in the middle of the game)


Change the Rules of Scrabble

(image courtesy of CBC News)

Old traditional board games are the “go-to” over the holiday period but the rules can sometimes descend into anarchy and arguments.  Here are a few alternatives you can try this holiday period that address some of the inherent problems with Scrabble and will make the game more enjoyable.  Remember playing board games at Christmas is about getting your family/friends around a table and having fun...not war.  Let me know how you get on.  

Bonus points for Scrabble

Bonus Points. 
Give 25 extra points for Christmas themed words.  Helps keep people in the festive mood.


Santa plays Scrabble

Playing 5 letters (either making a 5 letter word by hooking or making a 6 letter word with one tile on the board).  Traditional Scrabble gives a player 50 bonus points when they play all their tiles.  This is difficult for beginners/kids so give 25 points when 5 tiles are played. 

Handicap.  At the start of the game give handicap points based on age/ability.  For example, give youngest kid 50, middle kid 30, oldest kid 15.  Parents get zero unless they are useless! 



Timer for Scrabble


Time Limit. 
One of the worst things about any board game is how long the game can take, how long a move can take or if one player has gained a massive lead and other players just want the game finished.  This is when most arguments happen. Using an egg timer is handy but it can ruin the game for weaker players because they will feel rushed.  


One alternative is to set an alarm, somewhere between 50-60 minutes and hide the countdown.  When the alarm goes off every player gets one more turn.  This helps with the end game because sometimes it can get very tight and difficult to play when you don’t know that DZO is a word. 


Or, everyone gets a set number of turns, 8/10/15, whatever number you like really.  It’s also a great way to set a “bedtime” time– “Ok let’s play Scrabble and everyone gets 5 turns”.  It also does away with the difficult end game.


Duplicate Scrabble.I've mentioned this before but it's worth another go.

Supplies: 1 x complete board.  Lots of paper to hand out. Set Up: Everyone sitting around a large table in view of the board.

* Leader pulls 7 tiles from bag and everyone writes down the 7 tiles (a bit like countdown)
* Leader starts a timer (egg timer or timer on phone).  Allow 3 minutes.
* When the timer goes off each player writes down their word and declares it.
* Leader places the different words on the board and helps people add up the score.
* The highest word remains on the board.
* Leader should replenish tiles from bag to a total of 7 tiles.  If remaining tiles are dreadful leader can opt to choose 7 new tiles and throw rubbish back in.


(Another option is that leader could have nice selections pre-prepared with the blank and usable combinations)


This a great way to see what words everyone found and gets everyone playing.  It’s also a quick way of playing, play as many rounds as you like but if you play about 6 rounds the whole thing will be finished in about 30 minutes.  It’s also a great way to learn strategy, particularly if you have a couple of really strong players in the group.  This is the best way to get beginners and children playing, nobody gets bored and it’s finished fairly quickly.
  

Naughty Scrabble

Adults Only.


Check a dirty word HERE 

Naughty Scrabble 2



Handy Printable A4 poster for Adult Scrabble





(Above played between consenting adults of course!)


Anyway, have a great Christmas and best wishes for 2018.  Remember Make Love not War.



John The Captain Ryan

Skyscraper (movie review)

Skyscaper is a modern day melange of some of our favourite movies, The Towering Inferno, Die Hard and throw in a little homage to Enter th...