Road to Insanity

“A mad scientist friend offers you a chip that would allow you to know what the people you’re talking to are thinking. The catch: you can’t turn it off. Do you accept the chip?”

No.

I’m not even sure many people know what they are thinking themselves! Their muddled thoughts tangling with mine would be too much. I’d have trouble figuring out which was whose. As it is, I tend to retreat from Facebook and other sites just so I can chill.

Even if I got away from the babel by shutting myself alone in a room and doing cross-stitch, would I find myself hearing hundreds of tiny voices all around?

This plant tastes very bitter… I’ll just work my way up the leaf a bit. Lookit those nice bright flowers, don’t know why I can’t get at them. Keep bumping my head on something. There’s a whole colony of us inside this soft toy, sleeping in the stuffing. He’s alive with us and our thoughts, and it’s a wonder he doesn’t pick himself up and totter across the floor. Maybe if we all jumped together at the same time…? We should do it just for a laugh.

Am slinking through the grass, feathery blades ticking my nose…. whoo, that mouse was tasty! Must jump up and see if window open. Can see human inside. Silly human! Thinks I love her.

Would I only hear the thoughts of someone near me, or would I hear them every time someone sent me an email?

Dear Delilah, thank you for your email. (Bored, bored, bored). It was a lovely hot day, wasn’t it? (I don’t know what else to talk about). What you said about that book was very interesting and made me laugh (you talk an awful lot, don’t you?) I’ll have to look out for it (can’t remember what it’s called now, but I won’t be looking for it anyway). Gosh, is that the time! Got to run (staying right here and drinking tea)…

I don’t even need a chip for that.

Even viewed in isolation, think of what it would take away from my normal routine. When writing my diary at night, whose thoughts would I record — mine or everybody else’s? I could quite happily record a conversation I had with someone and think “that was a good joke, I enjoyed that!” but if I knew what the person was really thinking, it might not be so much fun.

“What on earth? I better just humour her. I suppose she can’t help it if she’s a bit weird.”

Would I want to even remember the joke afterwards, let alone add it to my diary? It would be more likely to turn into a rant.

It sounds simple to suggest you could read someone’s thoughts, but how much of a person’s mind and memories would you be able to see? Could you sense what that person remembered of growing up, and feel the presence of people he knew? When he looked at you, could you see yourself in detail? The spot on your nose, your crooked teeth, the expression of shock as you gazed unwillingly back? Could you see flashes of yourself all over town, seen from various angles and different people? Maybe you’d look beautiful to some and a mess to others.

You would take on people’s emotions too, even if they weren’t thinking about you. As you walked along the street with your eyes to the ground, you’d shimmer through a multitude of different moods, as though gliding through patches of sun and shade. You wouldn’t know your own view of a thing from one moment to the next.

In my diary at night, would I find myself describing events in someone else’s day, and would I ever confuse them with my own? “My cat went missing a week ago and I’ve been so….. oh wait! Socks isn’t mine, and Samson is snoring downstairs, what a relief. Then there’s the dog Fluff, a grumpy little hamster called Wee Nip, and a couple of guppies in a tank. Only when I went to feed them, they didn’t exist. It makes me sad.”

If I could feel another person’s sense of home environment, I might find myself heading to the garage to wash my car or work on a go-cart, then wonder why I’m standing looking at a blank wall. What car, anyway? And though I had to get a nubbins to fix something, I don’t know how to plumb. Only it wasn’t me who bought it anyway.

If I could hear music through someone else’s headphones (reading it in their mind), would it sound to me the way it sounds to them, even though I’m severely deaf? Would I hear all the notes that are missing? Would that cause me to hate a song I thought I loved, just because it didn’t sound the way I thought?

Come to think of it, I’ve not enjoyed CDs since the advent of the digital hearing aid, which has seriously impaired my listening experience. If I could hear sounds though other people, I could force them to listen to non-stop hits from the 70s and 80s. If young people start disappearing from your local community, you might find them locked up in a tower with Abba and Billy Ocean.

If you had this chip and could read the minds of people around you, you might feel more understanding of humanity in general (and of individuals in particular), but at what cost?

If a stranger was walking along thinking pleasant thoughts about the people she liked and the hobbies she enjoyed, you would be inclined to warm to her, but all that would change when she suddenly caught sight of you. She might start thinking, “Look at her! Woman her age shouldn’t have messy grey hair like that. ‘S not decent. And what’s that rag she’s wearing?? Time she chucked it in the bin.”

From hero to zero in an heartbeat — for both you and the stranger.

If people didn’t understand you just as well as you understood them, you could wind up hating them for it. ‘Understanding them more’ would be wiped out as a benefit. What exactly would you understand about them anyway? “I know why he’s angry all the time… I can see why, and feel it too. I also know that he doesn’t try to see other people’s points of view because he prefers to believe in his own rightness.”

Would you subscribe completely to that other person’s view of himself, or would you stand outside his thoughts and see exactly what was missing? Would you know why he wasn’t making certain leaps? If he didn’t know; would you? Would you understand him more and cut him some slack, or would you feel even more confused and disillusioned?

While I was at it, shouldn’t I be wondering how my mad scientist friend knew this worked…. is that why she’s mad? Is she going to make the rest of the world mad too? What is her ultimate aim?

What does she know about me that makes her think I’ll accept? That has to be proof she’s not wearing the chip herself, and she just wants a guinea pig. Thanks but no thank you. Take it away!

Original question posed by The Daily Post.

Gratitude Journals

Isn’t there a song that begins:

You gotta accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative and latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between?

For years I’ve been trying, but the negative insists on creeping in. As for the middling greyness, that confusing and disappointing place, that’s where I do most of my lurking.

Luckily it turns out there is help at hand.

It’s called, HELP!: How to Become Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done by Oliver Burkeman. It’s a collection of Guardian articles about his findings when delving into the murky world of self-help. I found it amusing and down-to-earth, describing situations and attitudes I recognized — for instance, unaccountable irritation when accosted in the street by charities. As with anything else, there’s both good and bad in the world of self-help and popular psychology.

One tip he liked — and the reason for my post — is the idea of writing in a gratitude journal. He says don’t force yourself to do it, as it must never become a chore — and only list 5 or 6 items a day.

Well, I’ve been writing one for over a month now, but (being lazy) I just add it to my personal journal. I don’t think I could have separate books with different things (can’t think how I survived school!) I have a small black ‘ideas journal’ (somewhere) but that’s as far as I go.

I wondered why it had to be a list of ‘gratitudes’ and not ‘likes’, but I suppose we are grateful they exist! However, grumpy things kept floating through my head while I was trying to think of nice things. This is frustrating when you’re writing a general journal that records all your thoughts (not just some), so when a friend admitted to keeping a gratitude list herself, ranging it alongside gripes in a steno pad, I gave in and allowed the more negative things a voice as well.

This wasn’t the advice we were given! I’m not sure gripe lists will encourage me in my drive towards positivity. This is the trouble with mixing notebooks with different purposes… or are they really that different? My friend claims annoyances swirl around in her head forever unless she writes them down, and then she forgets them. I know what she means, as once I’ve laid an annoyance bare on the page, I’m more likely to step back and laugh. My old journals always sound like someone else has lived my life.

Recently I was doing scans of an old handwritten 2009 journal. I have a vague plan to back these things up, but it’s tedious work. In any case, back in 2009 I was writing about the need to pay attention to the more positive things in life rather than be critical about myself and everything else. Presumably that thought goes back even further, but every time you think of it, it seems new…

Well, I may not have a separate pad to flip through when seeking happy inspiration, but I thought it would be fun to ransack each month and find the best. Each day’s list seems coloured by mood, and I don’t know why that surprised me! I imagined them as simple lists of items and random thoughts, but sometimes I was tired and angry, other times amused and chatty — and you can tell what sort of day it was just by the lists.

The following are my June gripes and gratitudes, whittled down. Obvious items such as friends, family, health and chocolate don’t appear, though originally were there. Couldn’t remove coffee — I would have had withdrawal symptoms! My hand shook every time it hovered over the delete key, so I had to leave it.

*GRIPES*

(1) Spiders who run very fast to a spot just above your head, then vanish in the blink of an eye.
(2) Fundamental attribution error (FAE).
(3) Boredom and procrastination.
(4) The way the most recently changed post in Notes automatically moves to the top of the list as soon as you click on an older note… and suddenly you’re back on the most recent post instead of the one you were trying to switch to. It throws you off balance.
(5) Yes, we have no aubergines.
(6) SPAM!!!! (Stomp stomp stompstompstomp).
(7) Apps with adverts all over, even when you’ve paid.
(8) Not having enough time or light in the day!
(9) Eternal terms and conditions.
(10) Technology moving so fast that people get left behind.
(11) Getting spam from a Honey and having to double-check it wasn’t ‘my’ Honey.
(12) When Mum turns up the volume, a bar appears on the TV screen, blanking out whichever subtitles are there. It seems to stay there for quite a long time while you’re on tenterhooks, wanting to know what they’re saying, and then she clicks it again, and it stays on for another long time. Drives me absolutely bats.
(13) Being bombarded by charity adverts.
(14) The entire Textilus document is indented, and I can’t un-indent it.
(15) Feeling too hot. Who put on the central heating, and why??
(16) Not seeing in time that the Grumpy Mule coffee I picked out is decaffeinated.

*GRATITUDE*

(1) Bed and sleep.
(2) Rain.
(3) Song ‘Butterfly’ by Danyel Gerard.
(4) Coffee.
(5) Spider plants.
(6) New ideas — new ways of doing things.
(7) Homemade rice pudding, full of spice.
(8) Energy and enthusiasm.
(9) Those who are genuine.
(10) Zone-out days (Furry Blanket Days, in my case).
(11) Ty Beanie snails.
(12) Being safe from wolves.
(13) The existence of people who write things like gratitude journals.
(14) Cats with a sparkling sense of humour. (Nobody ever told Samson he shouldn’t hit women. He smacks every woman in the house who goes past — human or feline).
(15) The cat in the Caveman’s Prophecy game who’s just like Delilah, especially her plaintive mew.
(16) Fried mushrooms with egg and bacon.
(17) Tumbler tomato plant tumbling with tomatoes.
(18) Learning and mellowing through the years.
(19) Still being able to use Bryce when so many other Mac users have lost access to it.
(20) When I remember to wear my hair as a pigtail and it doesn’t get so much in the way when I sleep. Didn’t remember tonight…

I took so long polishing this post that June is long gone and July is nearly over. Hopefully there’ll be a list for July too; doubtless not till near the end of August! Watch this space.

Trapped inside Brushes

I’ve been desperately trying to make space on the iPad, but that doesn’t stop me downloading stuff from the App Store!

BRUSHES

I recently discovered Brushes 3 is now open source and free in the App Store… it’s this app that’s famously used by David Hockney.

I painted a picture I really liked, and it’s huge… takes over most of the screen on my big desktop Mac! (Not as big as it could be, but big enough). Which was when I realized I had a problem… the only way to get the master files off Brushes and onto my Mac (for back-up or further work) is by exporting to Dropbox or emailing it to myself. There is no iTunes option. When you have huge layered paintings like mine, the network can’t take them. It doesn’t help that you can’t see what size images are in Brushes… not till they reach Dropbox.

Why should ‘online’ be the only way of moving files?

I saved a PNG to Dropbox (2048 x 2048, 8.2 MB… it went quite slowly!) but can’t save my layered files. They are stuck inside the Brushes app for the time being.

I remembered reading about something for the Mac called Brushes Viewer… perhaps that allowed export of some type? Searching online turned up a discussion about how Brushes Viewer wasn’t available any more. People who needed to exhibit their paintings were stuck… unable to export high-resolution images from their iPads.

Doesn’t bode well. Will stop using the app meantime, even though I loved the results. I get the impression (from searching around) that there are people looking seriously into developing a new Brushes Viewer, or perhaps a companion Brushes app for the Mac. So it’s a space worth watching.

Pauses hopefully…

INKPAD

Inkpad is now open source and free in the App Store too, so I downloaded it… it seems very highly thought of. Export options might still be problematic. SVG files (amongst others) can be exported, but only via email or Dropbox — or to other apps on your iPad. It appears to have been updated since it went open source, with the export options improved, which is a good sign.

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with vector apps… love what they can do, but hate using them! I can never get used to anchor points, nodes, handles and so on…

PRETTY PLEASE?

I’d love to see more tutorials (and full manuals) for both these apps. Brushes is particularly infuriating because of its name. If you search for ‘brushes tutorials’, you find pages of links to creating custom Photoshop brushes… no mention of the Brushes app.

I prefer text tutorials to video tutorials, which are so often not captioned. I found an Inkpad tutorial in Youtube that I had to abandon for this reason.

Meanwhile, my iPad continues to fill up…. it’s a losing battle!

Delilah’s Lost Mountain Pattern

Finally finished my Lost Mountain doodle!

It began as a rough abstract but I started drawing things, so it wound up being a strange landscape. Just made it difficult for myself when it came to joining up the edges…

It’s supposedly seamless and can be used as a repeating pattern or texture, but I don’t think it makes a particularly good brush. You are welcome to try, though I reserve the full-size image of 1800 px. :-)

I have an issue with creating ArtStudio custom brushes… maybe someone out there has the answer? They look absolutely fine right up to the moment I use them — then appear on their side (in landscape mode). When I go into the brush settings to check, it’s the right way up in the preview. I can set the angle to 90 degrees to force it round, but that makes it even softer than it was initially.

Procreate has the useful brush setting ‘orient to iPad screen,’ but I don’t see one in ArtStudio. I’ve not found similar complaints yet, so probably I’m missing something! The setting might still be there somewhere, and I’ve just overlooked it.

Ho hum.

Why Do We Write?

The Daily Post asked: “Who do you write for? Who do you think of when drafting a post?”

I’ve been having trouble recently with both journal and blog, so this question comes at the right time. It occurred to me just a few days ago that my life experiences are the same whether I blog about them or journal. It’s too complicated approaching the same life from a multitude of different angles and platforms, so I’ve stopped trying. However…

JOURNALS

In my personal journal I write what’s in my mind. My internal monologue finds expression! Minus all the “who left the milk out of the fridge?” bits, which are mostly too small to be on the radar.

It’s interesting to re-read old journal entries and I’m always surprised by how much I’ve forgotten. Old dreams could have been a stranger’s, as they’re so new to me. Snatches of conversation are funny, so I make a particular effort to include those. They are the first to go from your memory, so if they are not in your journal, they’re nowhere.

A recent example is a small victory I had over Mum. I like the Johnny Depp version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but not the old one from the 1970s. Mum is not keen on Johnny Depp and kept telling me the old film was better. Well, we saw the old one the other day (orange faces, bubbles, thin chocolate rivers and Tiswas foam), and eventually she said “you’re right…. Johnny Depp IS better!”

Of course he is. :-)

I can be bored by my journals too, skipping over reams of stuff about computer blips / projects (e.g. how I reorganized my back-ups… that was a major process taking weeks). I still write about this stuff, partly because I need to vent (“the cloud is evil!”) and partly to clear my mind and work things out.

I used to think a journal was somewhere to write about your problems, but that doesn’t mean spilling vitriol about things and people. I get more of a buzz from re-reading light journal entries and so I don’t go down the agony aunt route often — not any more. Been there, done that, tore the T-shirt to bits…

I don’t enjoy writing about bad or unsettling experiences anyway, avoiding them altogether — though if I’m already upset, I might hint at how I was feeling. As a result, it’s more of a positive ‘thinking’ journal than a full record of my experiences.

It’s the little things that count, really. I don’t want to read about the big things, even more than ten years later.

BLOGS

Ah ha! My blog is trickier.

It’s supposed to be a place where people can glimpse a particular way of life, but my dreams and conversations won’t interest anyone else… so I don’t write much. I’m no teacher or guru so can’t turn it into a tutorial corner, though I’ve helped people occasionally. It’s more of an ‘experience’ corner where I’ll say what I had trouble with and how I solved it, and maybe someone else will find that useful. A recent example is my little ArtStudio disaster (The Mountain that Walked).

I’ve found my own links and tips useful! If I do something only rarely (such as make a home movie), and have a problem months or years after I first solved it, I won’t remember how to do it again. It’s better to have those tips on my blog than my journal, as they’re easier to find. I still feel shy about blogging such experiences, though, as it usually means writing about my own mistakes.

It’s a good time to face that, as I’m still reading ‘Being Wrong’ by Kathryn Schultz. People do make mistakes — like it or not, they’re a fact of life. She suggests errors can be valuable and creative, and it’s not as though we have a choice anyway.

It occurs to me that blogging and journal-writing offer ways of dealing with the process of being wrong! Otherwise, perhaps, there would be nothing to write about or discuss. If we never got a thing wrong and didn’t experience reality differently from others, what need of information or thought? How would life even go on?

That’s me, anyway… I write for myself while trying to be useful, but feel dubious about putting any of it in a blog post.

Talking of past mistakes, I managed NOT to lose half of my doodle today. If you stand back far enough (or too close perhaps), starting it may have been the real mistake! Or the true mistake was my beginning to take it too seriously in the middle, so that now I can’t draw a single tiny line without redrawing it a hundred times.

What about you… what mistakes have you made, corrected, re-corrected or avoided today — and did you write about it? :-)

The Mountain that Walked

Was horrified when resuming my doodle in ArtStudio to find my newest mountain had vanished! Layers were missing, I thought, then realized the work itself hadn’t been saved. As I’d spent a lot of the previous night on it, it seems strange nothing was saved during those hours. I normally save a lot, but possibly I was lulled into a false sense of security by autosave…. and simply forgot?

According to the ArtStudio forum there’s an autosave.art file that you can only see in iTunes when you back up your iPad. If you get to that autosave file early enough, it might have what you lost.

Originally I misunderstood what autosave was doing. I thought it saved the file I was working on, not a hidden copy that might change according to which drawing I was in. I looked for it in iTunes and found it, but it was blank. Same dimensions; one white layer!

Maybe that was because I turned off autosave before I even knew that it saved to a separate file. I thought it had somehow caused a problem but wasn’t sure what. But IF disabling autosave reverts the autosave file to a blank white file, that’s something else… people might think they were protecting their autosave file by stopping ArtStudio saving new stuff to it in the meantime.

Well, my mountain’s gone, and I don’t know why… but I’ve re–enabled autosave now that I understand it better.

I managed to retrieve my work by using a jpeg I created last night on a whim. The white areas show blotchy JPEG artefacts; I don’t know how it manages to do that on what should have been a pure white background! I cleaned it up but the lines are jaggy (had to erase the white completely, which took away from the smoothness of the black lines).

For the rest of the night I just cleaned, tidied, merged layers and duplicated copies of the file. Sent a PNG to the camera roll and saved a PSD ready to export to iTunes. Closing the stable door after my mountain had bolted!

Doodling time has not been wasted… I found several useful tips in the ArtStudio forums. For instance, I kept wanting to remove white areas without having to spend ages with the eraser. I went to the affected layer, made sure the palette colour was set to white, then went to the menu and chose Adjust > Color to transparency. The white bit just disappeared.

It didn’t work on the JPEG mountain because it left shadowy artefacts behind, but it worked on other layers. Saved my bacon!

Monday Wrongness

Worked on a seamless b&w texture design in ArtStudio, which has ‘offset’. It’s for a brush in Procreate. I’m not sure it’s going to be any use, but who knows… might be the best brush I ever made. I’ve been rapping myself on the knuckles for not doing the design in Adobe Ideas (smooth vector pens) and copying it into ArtStudio for offsetting. There’s a lot of space (a 500 px doodle is becoming a 1800 px doodle) so I’ve been doodling all day!

It’s quite fun, though I slowed down a lot and started turning it into a mountainous landscape when I’m supposed to be doing variegated texture. It’s a little like a Chinese pen & ink panel. I even put a long winding wall in.

I made eggs and bacon pots for supper… my first attempt ever at baking eggs. It looked quick, and you don’t have to brave the gas hob. Mum was enthusiastic and said the eggs were tasty. She agreed with me though that I should cook the bacon first, next time… I was hit with griping pains just before bedtime!

Stupid.

Was reading more of the ‘being wrong’ book today (by Kathryn Schultz). She says being wrong leads to a form of existential crisis. That moment when you suddenly disagree with yourself (or wonder how you came to do what you did) is an uncomfortable and confusing feeling. Yesterday I was thinking how ‘wrongness’ (both mine and everyone else’s) leads me to feel ill-at-ease most of the time. I don’t breeze through life with confidence.

Apparently it’s hard to remember the specific ways in which you were wrong. I believe that’s true… all your mistakes are lost in the comforting fog of distance. You start to feel it wasn’t you responsible for the stupid stuff, but someone else. I bet I’ve forgotten more stupid things I did than I remember, though I remember plenty.

Like:

(1) Believing Pete when he said we should always trust and be honest with each other.
(2) Thinking I knew what the Space Needle was (and not checking first).
(3) Putting something on the database after being told not to, and screwing up the whole thing.
(4) Writing letters instead of studying.
(5) Making wrong moves in games, sometimes realizing half an instant later that I did the very thing I meant NOT to do.
(6) ‘Unsubscribing’ from spam mail (before I knew better).
(7) Choosing the yellow dress instead of the blue and then trying to rationalize my decision.
(8) Mis-hearing or misunderstanding people, sometimes not realizing till much too late.

The author says there’s no such thing as “I am wrong,” as you don’t know you were wrong till afterwards. And then because you are now right in seeing that you were wrong, you are free to forget your little lapse as quickly as humanly possible.

I find though (maybe it’s just me!) that you sometimes know you’re wrong even before you do it… usually when running a risk. Like when I ate the bacon… I knew it was underdone and I shouldn’t touch it. But I’d gone to all the trouble of cooking it, and had looked forward to it… didn’t want to admit defeat.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

PS: Just got this email from Amazon: “As you’ve shown an interest in books, we thought you might like to see a selection of titles trending with our editors and customers.”

I had to read it several times before I understood. ‘Trending with…’??

Talking of mistakes, they forgot to change the customer reviews on their Daily Deal page for two days running. The ‘how to draw’ book I bought had a review about how it was wonderful for anyone wanting to know more about economics.

Nice to know it’s not just me who messes up. :-)

Just Had the ‘Grue’

Was annoyed when I came down with the cold… I knew it was going to interrupt everything, and so it did. Blog, business in town, Christmas shopping, grocery shopping, housework, organizing stuff… everything!

A friend and I agreed there needs to be a word for something that’s halfway between a cold and a flu, as you want to make it clear to the office you’re not well enough to leave the house, even if you were well enough to get out of bed. If you say “I have a cold,” they think maybe you could have come in anyway, but if you say “I have flu,” scorn is poured on you for overestimating what is wrong with you. You can’t win!

I was reading that you can have ‘flu-like symptoms’ caused by whatever flu virus is going around, though it isn’t flu you’ve got… clear as mud! I suppose you could phone up and say “I have flu-like symptoms” but that sounds as though you’re not quite sure that you’ve got anything!

Perhaps we should make up a word of our own, seeing as the doctors don’t appear to have any suggestions. Coldenza? Grue?

Of course, there are probably things we do say, like “I have a bug, a virus, what’s going around.” If I thought of it in time, I’d go with ‘bug’. I usually don’t realize ‘there’s something going round’ till it nobbles me!

Have been mourning my weakest cells. Poor little things.

I Hate Colds

Just to let folks know I’ve got a monster of a cold! It started innocently with a mild throat, and I thought it would be over in 24 hours. But it’s like nibbling at a tiny leaf only to have something huge and scaly erupt through the sand!

Gaaaarrrgh.

Hope to get back on the blog-beat soon, but I’ll be taking it slow for a few days.

Nine iPad Games

iPad Games in FolderThis is a screenshot of the iPad games I most often play (click thumbnail for better view). All these run in iOS 7 on an iPad 4… I can’t guarantee they would play on older systems and iPads. More about those little nuggets of goodness below.

Cave Quest HD

A beautiful adventure involving treasure, mountain spirits and a missing family. It offers a series of tile puzzles and ‘find the object’ scenes. I found it relaxing to play… to me it was everything an iPad game should be. Even the free trial version was exemplary… it gave me enough to get my teeth into, and didn’t annoy me into refusing to buy it, which some other games have done!

It got me through a bout of shingles. Every so often I would look up and dutifully swallow a dose of Rhus tox. It’s a weird experience being handed a bottle of poison ivy by your mother… “take this, dear, it will fix you!”

Plants vs Zombies HD

A strategy game in which you deploy a range of plants to keep zombies away from your house. I have a soft spot for the old grandfather zombie who gets upset when he loses his newspaper. When the crush gets too much in Walnut Bowling and I have to let one zombie through while I go after the others, he’s the one who gets to hirple past the finishing post.

You can play through the adventure or choose from the mini games, puzzles and quick games. In the quick games you are offered a set of options: weak zombies or strong? Night, day, poolside, rooftop, fog? Perfect if you don’t have much time and just want to relax (or experiment with different plants). And because there’s a lot of variety, it’s more addictive than the sequel.

Plants vs Zombies 2

Some of the plants and zombies in this one are new, operating in three different worlds. It is free-to-play and can be played all the way through without any purchases, but is all but impossible without certain ‘power-ups’. Power-ups can be slowly earned as well as bought… I won through without them, except in one game.

It’s fun to start with, but you eventually find it drab and repetitive compared to the original. You would like to explore the worlds a little, but the spot where you fight zombies is always the same. It would be nice if a set of fantasy mini-games was made available, such as It’s Raining Seeds or Zombotany, but there really isn’t much variety.

Worst of all, there’s a zombie I refuse to play against now that I don’t have to…. the parrot! As soon as I see it waiting in the wings, I quit. That means I haven’t got any further than Level 6 in Dead Man’s Booty. If you can get further than that without having to play against the parrot, let me know! I’ll be incredulous.

Roads of Rome

You are directing teams of workers to build roads for Caesar, interrupted occasionally by wild animals. It’s not free to play, but that’s its strength! It doesn’t make you feel you might win more quickly or have more variety if you buy something. It’s peaceful and attractive, and you don’t have to play against the timer unless you want to.

There’s an expert mode, however, and if you can win all the games in that mode, a bonus level is unlocked. (At the moment I can’t remember if ROR has bonus levels, or if it’s just parts 2 and 3). At first I thought I would rattle through those in a matter of hours, so it was a shock when I found it wasn’t that simple! I got annoyed about playing levels over and over, missing the expert time by a fraction of a second in some cases. The workers would get home and the celebratory fireworks would be popping AND I’D STILL LOSE! It’s really just a challenge to do everything within the time, however, and I’m glad it’s there. It offers something more to strive for.

Roads of Rome 2

An extension of the above, though with improvements and different animals. I actually played this one first, as I read somewhere we should get this one and ignore the first one, which is clunkier. I think that was a mistake, though — I’ve enjoyed all three.

Roads of Rome 3

This is my favourite version. This time we don’t build roads… the barbarians have run amok, damaging the roads and setting things on fire. Our task is to douse the fires, rebuild the settlements and mend the roads. I was delighted not to have to sit and watch the workers slowly hammer their way along, plank by plank. When you’re up against the clock, it’s excruciating!

Cut the Rope

Cute little thing, loves his sweeties. I enjoy thinking about how to deliver them to his mouth without losing any stars along the way. He doesn’t care if you haven’t won them all yet… once the sweetie comes within reach, it’s gone.

I don’t spend all my time playing this, though, as it’s not all that relaxing! I play a level or two then potter off to bed.

Two Towers

A fantasy card game, not particularly expensive. I’ve not seen another like it; it’s unusual. I liked it enough to buy it twice (for Mac and iPad). It’s about battling to win strongholds with the cards in your hand, sometimes aided by magic spells. At one point I was a bit addicted to it!

Le Vamp

Ah. Another cutie. I love the way he looks quizzically out of the screen at me, as though hoping I’ll do something to save him, but not really caring all that much. He’s got such sangfroid! You have to keep him from the angry mob for as long as you can (they get him eventually). I do love it, but I wish the scenery would change and something else would happen. I don’t care about his selection of hats and cloaks, and some of the curses and charms seem a bit odd. (I don’t understand how the ‘armored heart’ works, but maybe I’ll figure it out).

I do like the wee vamp, though, and hang out with him from time to time.

I’ve got a cold, so I think I might be playing a few of these over the next few days!

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