Friday, November 21, 2008

Of sleep, and about ABC**** (part I)

A long time ago, someone told me that those who need more than eight hours of sleep or less than four are geniuses.

Or prone to schizophrenia.

I added the myth/factoid to my list of things I don't feel modest about. And happily ignored the rider. I mean, be reasonable, wouldn't you? But seriously, ever since motherhood happened, I find sleep is what makes the world go around. Regular, full, uninterrupted sleep on my own terms. I need sleep, always have. When occupied by various colds and other such viruses, all I want is sleep, and things get better. When I am too stressed out, a book to unwind and put me in a different land helps before a long long nap, but sleep is essential. Heck, even my labour pains were not as troublesome as the fact that I just wanted to sleep some after 24 hours of contractions! So that is my problem nowadays - how do I get around to writing here when I have more 'important' things to do - and sleep?

ABC kids playground, the site for young children from Australian Broadcasting Corporation is admittedly smaller than the BBC one, but it is still large enough to require two posts. Today we shall talk only about the games visible directly on this page -

Its a simple layout, and enticing too. The characters on the game board, however, lead to other pages of games - or a single one, from where you have to use the back button on your browser to return. There are a couple of broken links, and some game pages are, by their own admission, old. When you hover over a character, a little note next to it informs you of the name and age range for which suitable.

Save-ums have some six or seven games, for which you need to download Axel player in addition to Quicktime with flash - a simple and short download but installation of course requires browser windows to be closed. None of the games are extra special but the animation is fair. Mixy and Joe's games are a mixed bag, with some games like Joe's maze being fairly interesting, and some falling a little short of expectations. 'Petals' have a single jigsaw puzzle.

Billycart racing and Space mission are meant for age group 5-12, but can be handled at a younger level as well; to watch if not to try. Both are based on using arrow keys for navigating the vehicle out of the way of obstacles to reach a goal. However, using a rocket is a first for this kind of game for us, so it was well liked :)

Rattus down the dunny is a game meant to appeal to the, er, base humour of older kids by means of a rat which has to be moved in the sewer pipes so as to retrieve his jacket which went down the lavatory... The mouse movement required can be handled by 4 year olds, and the animation/drawing quality is poor.

Bananas in pyjamas shares its colour game with Mixy and a direct link on the home page itself - and it has very basic limited garish colours and four or five pictures to paint. However, my kid still liked it so I guess my opinion doesn't count. The matching memory game, dress-up (mix and match), puzzle are average. What does make it stand out is the incredibly addicting tune of its title song in 'song time'. Also, you can select one of four instruments to accompany the song or a couple of other rhymes in 'sing-a-long'. Check 'animal sounds' - I should at least give some homework!

The best of all is the Jakers site, better than the link from BBC if I recall. Jakers, if you haven't watched it, is about 'the imaginative world of Piggley Winks. Grandpa Piggley Winks, the elder family member in a typical contemporary, chaotic household of American city-dwellers, (who) entertains and educates his grandchildren with tales of his childhood on Raloo Farm in the village of Tara in Ireland.' Although the size of the game window is not large, it is sufficient, and the games are well designed and innovative.

See-saw hee haws is one of our favourites, and it helped in introducing the concept of two weights being equal even if looking different. It is fun to balance the various animals on the see-saw, and if you succeed, the others jump up in celebration. As you progress up the game, the number of options for balancing increases. However, it doesn't take into account the distance from the fulcrum, which is just as well I think. If you do want that, go to the big wide world of Peep for 'bunny balance'.

Jamming with Wiley is for the older kids - my pre-schooler still can't handle more than the beginning, but is delighted to watch the sheep dance. Its a nice game for getting the hang of beat and rhythm.

Fix-it is a one of a kind favourite of ours. Unlike other puzzles, this is a three dimensional one in which you get to 'glue' together many pieces of increasing complexity broken by the unfortunate pig! Just add your own voice over to the effect of 'Not again! Oh now what do we do?' and the kids will be giggling as they finish repairing things they - for a change - have not broken!

The egg collector and farm escape are some of the other favourites, but all games are likeable at Jakers.

Hickory dickory clock used to be a nice game for introducing the clock, but sadly the link is broken now. I have a feeling that the site is being revamped, and soon I shall be having to re-do this post. In any case, for the newer games and for the five minute more games, some other post, for they are flash intensive and cause my laptop to over heat and shut down...

The url -

P.S. "And do you know what it's like to go for days on end without sleep, for weeks with only two or three hours out of the twenty-four? Do you know the sensation? That fine-drawn feeling with every nerve in your body and cell in your brain stretched taut to breaking point, pushing you over the screaming edge of madness. Do you know it? It's the most exquisite agony in the world, and you'd sell your friends, your family, your hopes of immortality for the blessed priviledge of closing your eyes and just letting go."

Excerpted, with minor changes from Mr. Maclean's book H.M.Ulysses.

P.P.S. I hope that you have read this book? Please do if you haven't. If I were to say it eulogizes the human spirit while condemning the incredible and incredibly stupid waste of human endeavour in wars, you may be put off. But it is not a serious tome, just a very moving, very well crafted work of fiction in the special style of Alistair Maclean. I never can read it without breaking down once at least, and also without wondering how shallow his other novels seem in comparison... But it redeems them all, if they were ever in the need for it!