Wednesday, December 23, 2009

End of the year

The year is ending, and after today I shall have no time on the net - so, wishing you all a very happy new year. See you on a new blog next year, hopefully a better and brighter one :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A makeover

For various reasons, I have let this blog slide into disuse, even though I still have dozens of sites I still want to share. I have been, in fact, thinking of a makeover for this blog, so hopefully soon you will have a new and better place to visit. I am also going to change the name, since 'Hello, net baby!' always gets caught in the spam filters of typepad, wordpress and like. Something to do with the use of the word baby perhaps? Anyway, does anyone have any ideas about what the new name should be? I am going to divide the blog into two - one for my personal thoughts, and the other for kiddie sites only, so I welcome suggestions for both!

Friday, August 28, 2009

PMS and poetry: Children's poetry archive****


Yes, I know this is a kiddie blog. At least it is a blog where kids can click safely on images. So maybe it is not a good idea to have this video here: it contains Violence.

But on the other hand, it is not the kids who are reading this. I hope.

Ok, here is the compromise. Go watch that video -over at Parallel/Alternate before you read further.

This one, on the other hand, you can safely click on now -

I know, there are tons of related cartoons and videos; I have posted more or less the first couple that I found on google, because it is really late, and I have to get started somehow.

And the reason I wanted to grab and hang on to your attention was actually this - I was reading up something about PMS, and came across some theories about the cause of PMS. PMS, or pre-menstrual syndrome, is a name used to refer to a collection of symptoms including and laying stress on, emotional and mental ones, which occur up to two weeks before the menstrual periods and resolve subsequently. As about 80-90% of women in US (and presumably a similar even if lesser proportion worldwide) report some degree of emotional or physical symptoms pre-menstrually, it is actually more in the nature of a norm rather than deviation. About 3-8%, however, experience a more severe form known as PMDD.

The exact cause of PMS is, as yet, unknown. Each female body is subjected to a cyclical ebb and flow of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, but why some should react differently than others is not known, as is the mechanism for many of these changes. We know some correlations, but not enough yet. We will get there, of course, but in the meantime, there are several other theories - and I am talking of theories which are more or less accepted by psychologists and psychiatrists, not the exotic ideas of your neighbourhood eccentric.

"The psychosocial theory hypothesizes that PMDD or PMS is a conscious manifestation of a woman's unconscious conflict about femininity and motherhood. Psychoanalysts proposed that premenstrual physical changes reminded the woman that she was not pregnant and, therefore, was not fulfilling her traditional feminine role. Obviously, proving this theory through scientific evidence is quite difficult.

The cognitive and social learning theory hypothesizes that the onset of menses is an aversive psychological event for women susceptible to PMDD. Moreover, these women might have had negative and extreme thoughts that further reinforce the aversiveness of premenstrual symptoms. They then develop maladaptive coping strategies, such as lability of mood, absence from school or work, and overeating in an attempt to reduce the immediate stress. The immediate reduction of stress acts as a reinforcement, leading to the regular recurrence of symptoms during the premenstrual period.

The sociocultural theory hypothesizes that PMDD is a manifestation of the conflict between the societal expectation of the dual role of women as both productive workers and child-rearing mothers. PMDD is postulated to be a cultural expression of women's discontent with the traditional role of women in the society."

I have quoted from eMedicine, and that is almost like a pure medical text, so first I must clearly state that this is not really meant for laypersons but for medical professionals. Also, all these are valid and useful approaches, both of looking at psychological diagnoses and of treating them. And finally, one line summaries do not do justice to the whole concept which may be wider and more inclusive than this would lead us to believe.

Nevertheless, I found them funny, in a sad kind of way. Here is why -

As far as I can see, all of these link up the symptoms to something that is happening before: an awareness of the impending menstrual period. That is to say that according to psychoanalysts, the woman is aware - at some level if not consciously - that she is not pregnant; the cognitive and social theorists propose that women are troubled by pre-menstrual symptoms, and cope with the wrong strategies, which becomes learned behaviour after repeated reinforcements; and the socio-cultural theory generalizes this even further as discontent with women's role in society at large, but without explaining the cyclicity of it, presumably just because periods remind them of their being female. To really reduce this to basics, all are implying that a woman knows she is going to get periods, and so she becomes moody, for whatever underlying cause (lets not discuss that at this time).

Obviously all women know they are going to have periods - more or less regularly, but does any woman constantly live with awareness inside? An average woman, not the one who is really looking for conception, or looking to avoid it - but an average woman does not count the number of days left till the next one, does not think about it all the time, does not, in fact, have it on her mind. It happens, you live, what is there to think about? Yet these theorists claim that we all are counting down in our secret hearts all the time. Isn't that slightly ridiculous to assume? Further, pregnancy is always a possibility in a sexually active female, and is not discounted till the periods occur - so why should a woman get upset at not being pregnant in the pre-menstrual time? On the contrary, it should be the onset of periods which should induce depression or anxiety or whatever.

Not meaning any disrespect to psychologists, isn't this way too generalized, far too vague, and rather - conveniently trivialized thinking - to explain everything so? Oh, I grant there is likely an element of truth in them, much the same as in vino veritas. But just as you wouldn't ply wine to get a confession in the court of law, you shouldn't just define PMS so. It disturbs me faintly, this so easy clubbing of PMS into such cliched reasons...

And now, to business.

Over at the Papertigers blog today, I was introduced to this poem by Spike Milligan -

On the Ning Nang Nong
Where the Cows go Bong!
and the monkeys all so BOO!
There's a Nong Nang ning
Where the trees go Ping!
And the tea pots jibber jabber joo.
On the Nong Ning Nang
All the mice go Clang
And you just can't catch 'em when they do!
So its Ning Nang Nong
Cows go Bong!
Nong Nang Ning
Trees go ping
Nong Ning Nang
The mouse go Clang
What a noise place to belong
is the Ning Nang Ning Nang Nong!!

How can anyone not be moved by this little poem? Call it nonsense verse if you will, but poetry for children does start off with nursery rhymes and limericks and nonsense rhythms before it becomes real, before -

...From their gross Matter she abstracts the forms,
And draws a kind of Quintessence from things,
Which to her proper nature she transforms
To bear them light on her celestial wings.
This doth She when from things particular
She doth abstract the Universal kinds....

So today's featured site is all about poetry - the Children's Poetry Archive.
This cute looking site is based on the premise that it is better to listen to poetry than to simply read it by yourself. Accordingly it features audio files, usually read by the poets themselves. There is some information about each poet as well. Necessarily only those poems are available for which there is an audio file available, but even that is a good enough introduction to poetry for children. Also necessarily, the older poets are not represented, but on the other hand, the new ones, the ones still living, whom even we might not know of, are.

The site also sells audio cd books of poems if you wish to buy more :

The url -

P.S. Incredible stuff you sometimes come across. Viz -

That is an umbrella skirt: a skirt made from an umbrella. Do you really want to wear something so uncomfortable - with spikes and shafts? Looks good, but why not a simple umbrella skirt: you know, the cut? Do follow the link to see the more uncomfortable versions!

Or this, people are paying up for this, in auctions, no less. Limited edition and what not. Piece of wood with a hook - if its done by you and me, it would be dismissed as jugaad, but if it is designer, wow, watch out! And that - seriously - is that a designer baniain, a highbrow version of the humble ganji or what? Isn't this some kind of a joke he is having on us?

(If you look around at his website, you might like the drum disguised as a seat - don't we all know of trunks covered to make diwans, of tins made into stools? Necessity it seems, is not as glamorous as political correctness.)

P.P.S. Indian boyhood by Spike Milligan (he was born in India) -

What happened to the boy I was?
Why did he run away?
And leave me old and thinking, like
There'd been no yesterday?
What happened then?
Was I that boy?
Who laughed and swam in the bund
Is there no going back?
No recompense?
Is there nothing?
No refund?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rethink time. KneeBouncers*****

I like to believe this is good discipline, this blogging, this groping in dusty recesses for thoughts, this opening long closed synapses for right words, this shaking rusty links to find a logical progression of sentences. That in some way, this will bring me back to life, from what I am to who I am, or can be.

I like to believe that writing daily, or at least regularly, will remind me of work, of the commitment and promise inherent in any job, of what I used to do, and may again, go back to. That it is a beginning of self discipline in my current luxuriously lazy lifestyle.

I liked to believe that once I had started with this light stuff, I would move on to more serious topics, more detailed discussions, a more professional blog.

But is any of it true? Or is it all just a delusional excuse for footling, for wasting time reading other blogs but not really gaining much except a few hours away from my own life?

At any rate, I tell myself, there is a reason for this blog. A hope that someone may stumble upon it someday and find a treasure trove of sites for their infant. Someone who has been looking, like I was, for something fun and useful and perhaps educational. That hope is what is keeping me in the chair today, instead of the floor, dissolved in brine.

And so, let us revisit Kneebouncers. A new and redesigned KneeBouncers with fresh content. KneeBouncers, 'a whole lot of fun for the itty bitty ones'. To date, I haven't found any other site dedicated to the infant and toddlers which is as much fun as this is. Even my preschooler, seeing it after a long time, wants to play, but then, so do I!

The website is the brainchild of Jim Robinson, who, along with friend and flash master Kurt Dommermuth, created this site for their kids then nine month and one year old respectively. When he talks of his quest for websites for young ones, oh, how that resonates in me! The only difference of course is that I know nothing of programming, or the web, save that I can 'enquire within upon everything', and so, can happily bask in other people's works.

At the moment there are thirteen games here, but more are in the offing. All the games are meant for toddlers, that is to say, mouse movement is not required. Any key on the keyboard, or all of them (we know how hard those little fists rain on the keyboard), will lead to fun changes in the game screen such as a character popping up to play peekaboo, or splashing in the water, or playing musical notes.

The site is brightly coloured, and simple in layout. The area of interest is right in the centre, with no scrolling needed to get at it, and the games are just the right size. There is an ad window but that features only the site's own store.

KneeBouncers is totally free of course, but you can also download these games as an embeddable object for your blog or facebook page or whatever for free! Not just one or two, but a whole lot of them! Amazing. Hope you tried a few of them here. I apologize for the amount of space they take up: I had no idea it would be so, but decided to leave them in as a one time post.

They have also recently started a forum which you can join to discuss the site and other things with like minded 'sleep-deprived, spit-up donning and the beaten down' parents!

The urls -
KneeBouncers -
Games page -
The previous review of KneeBouncers (it was my very first post so there is next to nothing there!) -

P.S. Are you using Firefox or the newer version of Internet Explorer which allows tabbing? If so, I invite you, Nino's mum, and everyone else out there, to play a game with me. It is called 'The Web And Me', and we will play it thus -

At this time, just now, as you read this, look at your browser, and just note down the names and urls of the websites you are simultaneously browsing at this very moment in time.

Now post it in your next blog post, and if you please, do tell about what you were looking at, and if there was something you liked or disliked - tell us anything you want!

Let me know so I can link up to your post.

Invite your friends to play, with the proviso that they let me know too, so I can keep on linking. Let us see how far we will go in the next six months or so, how many websites we will get to know about!

Lets play! Here is my effort -

1. Blogger: Hello, Net Baby! - Create Post
2. KneeBouncers the game page, for the last screenshot I had taken -
3. Hello, Net Baby! - search for kneebouncers (to look for my previous post) -
4. Read for change - a website I reached through the KneeBouncers forum, open for later exploration -
5. Thinkfinity featured resources - another link followed from the above site, for later exploration -
6. Reading is fundamental site for pre-schoolers - to be checked at a later time, once again (I leave a lot of tabs open even when I am ready to leave the computer!) -
7. The Nino Effect - for linking and commenting :) -

Your turn!

P.P.S. If you have survived with the music this long, tussi great ho! I have written to the KneeBouncer people to find if I can turn it off in any way: will effect changes as soon as I know how to.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A teaser, a trailer, a tormentor

Take a look at these -

A torment for me - all these sites to be covered, and I haven't done it yet?

A trailer for you - of the goodies to come.

A teaser for you as well - if you can guess which sites these images are caught from.

A hint: these are all our beloved sites, to be revisited, in view of new content, or previously inadequate coverage.

Any guesses?

Lost ideas and Cartoonito***

Today as I was trying to remember the extraordinarily brilliant idea for this post I had last night, I was reminded an old wish of mine, for a book in which one could get all answers. All of us, have at one stage or another, for one reason or the other, wished for a guidebook to life, a companion handbook, a phrase book or a dictionary, a template - something to help us through life when things get in a bit of a muddle. How much comforting to have a map to tell us the right way! A how-to guide to assembling your life! In 1856, Houlston and sons published a book entitled "Enquire within upon everything", which proved to be such a success that 113 editions were published by 1923. (Source - wikipedia, and some googling for old books). How could it not be, with such a foreword by the editor Robert Kemp Philps as this -

"Whether you wish to model a flower in wax;
to study the rules of etiquette;
to serve a relish for breakfast or supper;
to plan a dinner for a large party or a small one;
to cure a heache;
to make a will;
to get married;
to bury a relative;
whatever you may wish to do, make or to enjoy, provideed your desire has relation to the necessities of domestic life, I hope you will not fail to 'enquire within.'

Ever since I read about this book in one of Miss Marple's dialogues (the book referred to as belonging to her mother), I have been fascinated by it. Not perhaps the real book, which I expect would be of little use to me in our world, but the idea of the book, the title of it. Imagine a book where you could get to know everything you ever needed to, or wanted to! All books in the world are but components of this GREAT book, THE BOOK, in fact, which would hold all the information that was ever there... And you could just open it, and ask, and the answer would be there... So romantic, this notion, so beguiling! I wished it were possible, that I could have a whole library at my fingertips, always... Of course, the lure was in the books, not just in the information, but still!

The only other book from fiction, which has interested me so much, has been the hitchiker's guide to the galaxy, with the words 'DON'T PANIC' written on it, in big capital letters. Whether or not the guide contained useful information became irrelevant in face of the comforting preface such as this! With the net at my fingertips, at least my wish for an 'everything' book has been granted in a fashion. Now if only someone would make me a book which will comfort me when I can't remember post ideas!

Cartoonito is a pre-school dedicated tv channel developed by Cartoon Network for the UK. They claim to have 'followed the example of the learning through play framework to create free, fun and educational games for your child. The Early Years Foundation Stage is set up by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCFS) and used in nurseries and play groups. The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is made up of six areas of Learning and Development...' These are -

'1. Personal, Social and Emotional Development
2. Communication, Language and Literacy
3. Problem Solving, Reasoning and Numeracy
4. Knowledge and Understanding of the World
5. Physical Development

6. Creative Development

I will not take up issue regarding how Scooby-Doo the pup can teach problem solving skills or increase understanding of the world - but I will say that some of the programs are promising, and presumably, useful. At any rate, I would prefer to have a milder version of Scooby Doo than the full blown (and to my mind silly) one on Cartoon Network! However, our focus at home, and here on this blog, is different. Let us explore the site for some online fun for the little ones.

The presentation is cute, which I am a sucker for! See those shapes - they each have names and personalities, and I am told they introduce the shows on the channel. Not having a tv at our home, we have no connect with them save their presence on this page, and the links they lead to. Bobble, for instance, will list the games -

The Adventure valley from Land before time is a well designed game which actually consists of five separate ones - click on each of the characters in the main menu to make a choice. Starting anticlockwise, these are Sharptooth sneak, Cavern slide, Boulder bash, Rock hop, and Running Wild. All games have three levels, with a gentle no fuss easing of one into another. Cavern slide is about side to side mouse movement, as is Running wild, the difference being the context. Boulder bash needs single clicks of the mouse on moving targets (note that unlike most games, the pointer will not change into a hand to indicate area to be clicked), and Rock hop requires varying amounts of click and hold to allow Littlefoot the dino to cross a broken bridge. Sharptooth sneak is the most innovative one, featuring Petrie hiding from a giant dino in a rock cavern. Click and hold the mouse to move him from column to column, so that he continues to avoid the vigilance of Redclaw. If you release the mouse while he is moving, he will scamper back to the previous column. There is no scurrying back if he has reached the next though. When spotted, Redclaw will only roar, but that roar brings little hands to ears!

Krypto the dog features in a X-ray fetch game involving finding hidden objects in a museum within a limited time, using his special ah, faculties. It was a promising idea, had there been some kind of correlation between the shape required and the shape hiding it - something to challenge a little mind. Think of the art pieces that could have been included, the mini lessons given! Instead, there is no need even to look at the shapes required. All you have to do is to go on clicking at everything that can be clicked, and the 'finds' will be collected for you. Disappointing.

The painting games are lovely, allowing for full screen and printing, and with the reset option though not 'undo', with the cutest proviso of splattering the background with colours by banging on the keyboard. Can you imagine how much fun that is? Sometimes the foreground hardly gets coloured! A little drawback, at least on our machine, seems to be that the splatter doesn't work in full screen mode. Also a pity that each image is labeled as a separate game whereas in reality it is the same game with different images.

Sam the firefighter features in a couple of games in which Norman is in trouble, like lighting a fire or landing in a tree, from which Sam and Dilys rescue them. The format is of a storybook, with words highlighted as they are read but both the speed of reading and the words used are not suitable for pre-schoolers. The story ends with a question regarding the means of rescue: ladder vs rope, hose vs bucket, followed by gentle moralizing. Rather damp; it wasn't requested ever again at our place, but may be useful for the very tiny ones. The full screen option with simple graphics, and the choice of turning sound off so you can read yourself, is helpful there.

The counting game is useful for small children too. The graphics are neat, there is sound and animation when you hover on the animals, and the pace easy. A good one! I would love to see more along this line, perhaps including word building as well. There are also a few other games - memory games, body matching games and one jigsaw.

Clicking on the activities link will lead you to a short selection of nursery rhyme videos, some colouring sheets, and some other activities like dot to dot and differences. There are also four masks to print out. Create a picture will insert your uploaded picture in a frame incorporating the cartoonitos. Nothing elaborate but sufficient.

The videos are more numerous, but short, too short in duration! There are karaoke ones too, if you have a budding genius :) The french section I gave a miss altogether, being wholly unacquainted with that language, so would love to hear your take if you go through it.

There are ads of course, but only related to the channel itself. All in all, worth a bookmark for occasional play.
The urls -

Cartoonito -
Games -
Adventure valley -
Easter painting -
Animal counting game -

P.S. If you are interested, here is the link for downloading the guidelines suggested by the channel for skills which are a must before starting school -

P.P.S. You can read the 89th edition, circa 1894, of 'Enquire within upon Everything' on Gutenberg, or the 1865 one in Google, and doubtless a few more here and there. If you have a little time, do go and check it out, for a few smiles, a few useful tips, and for homage to the people who have made our life as easy as it is now with the net!

P.P.P.S. When you are quite finished reading, do check this last page out! If you google, you'll find many versions of this, but the first look is always the best one! Doesn't it remind you of the restaurant at the end of the universe?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Beginnings, and Bonte games***

"...the aftermath of confidences is embarrassment."

Beginnings. Have been on my mind lately.

A kaleidoscopic vision, no less. Beginnings in terms of relationships, projects, life, books, work, whatnots. Beginnings as difficult, as easy, as complicated, as natural, as piecemeal, as small, as grand, as fresh, as endings. Beginnings. A word of many flavours, many explorations. For now, it will remain - kaleidoscopic, but one day maybe the colours will shift into a pattern I will know as the one I have been waiting for. I am in no hurry. It is enough to have an idea, to be tantalized by the possibilities, to have, something new in the palm of my mind.

But in the meantime, there is this, that started it all.

Agatha Christie's novel 'The mystery of the blue train'. Its heroine: Katherine Grey, with quiet gray eyes, a sense of humour, and a fortune from the last old lady she had been a companion of. Its hero: A murder in a train. Assorted supporting characters in Riviera, her destination, and in St. Mary Mead, her origin. And the threads which get tangled with hers following the murder - the good-for-nothing devilish and handsome gambler, Derek Kettering; his multimillionaire heiress wife Ruth; her ruthless, Midas like father; the dancer Mirabelle, lending the exotic touch of depravity to Derek's existene; the hard working secretary who falls in love with Katherine.

The story opens - 'It was close on midnight when a man crossed the Place de la Concorde', and you know it is a mystery novel, out and out. The late night clandestine sale of - something small but highly expensive, which goons are after. But it might have started anywhere - any place in the first few chapters could have done for a beginning. It could have started with the dancer Mirelle upbraiding Derek for his pusillanimity in obtaining money or divorce from his wife. It could have started with Ruth Kettering reading love letters from her highly inappropriate paramour, or her father remonstrating with her for doing so. It could have started with Katherine Grey in the lawyer's chambers, learning of the extent of the inheritance she has just come into. Or in the Blue train, Ruth Kettering talking to Katherine Grey - "I am in trouble and don't know what to do." Or even from the sentence Katherine thinks to herself at the end of this conversation - "the aftermath of confidences is embarrassment.' I wonder if I could do it - start from this sentence and rework the opening chapters while keeping the rest of the novel intact, not changing its purpose or nature. It is an interesting, and idle, speculation, but the idea itself is fascinating - that there can be a multitude of openings, given the same book. A fun idea because there are so many possibilities.

Do possibilities excite you too? New beginnings, new ideas?

Talking of new things, here is something new again - something I didn't expect to be showcasing so soon. But, what the heck, it is all the rage with my kiddo, so who am I to quarrel with destiny? Although I must admit, I have tried my best to switch back to the staple diet of our educative and fun games suitable for young 'uns, as opposed to these new and attractive snacks, some of which would classify as junk perhaps. I know I found them, and some of them are quite useful for developing logic and reasoning - yet, I am uneasy at some level, preferring that the sounds from the computer belong to cute and cuddly animals or alphabet and numerals. Read on and see what you think.

Bonte games are the creation of the Belgian games designer Bart Bonte. Some are point and click games (a term I learned after I found these; it means a game in which you look for clues in a given scenario, and find helpful objects needed to complete a task in hand, usually some sort of escape) like Bonte room or Free the bird. Others involve pure logical reasoning - something like the questions in aptitude and IQ tests. The most recent addition is a word game, a kind of variation on scrabble in that you have to make words from falling letters as quick as you can. If you have a pre-teen or a teenager, they are wonderful I think. Heck, it is easy to get addicted to them yourself (but mercifully its a short addiction). But for a kindergarten kid? And yet, would you believe it, for the last month mine has been asking for just these, in particular Loose the Moose, another of those point and click games!

The game is simple, once you get the hang of it. Though I must admit I never had the patience to work it out, and instead relied on the ubiquitous walkthroughs for all such games. (A walkthrough is a step by step solution kindly provided by some smart person for lazy ones like me!) I suppose I could justify it by the need of the hour - show something new quickly to the kid or else this meal opportunity is lost! But truly, I am lazy too! Ok, about the game - collect things from around the room, get the mouse out and get him to do your bidding so as to find the key out of the room. I made the moves the first time, but from then onwards, I am just required in an advisory role. You'd think that once or twice would have been enough, but no, kiddo here wants it all the time. I don't know whether the facination is from the mouse making screeching noises as it jumps, or the Moose head from which the game gets its name, but there you are! Its become so annoying that I have had to ban it outright!

On the other hand, I have tried to encourage Factory balls or Factory balls 2 - both of which are excellent logic games, involving the use of common sense and a bit of logic to decorate balls in a given fashion. I thought it would help in developing rational thinking. Perhaps I am wrong about that - perhaps it is too difficult for my child, hardly four, in that the moves are getting memorized rather than reasoned. But at three and a half, the answer to the conundrum about grass/goat/tiger/man with one boat and a river to cross had come in easily, so I did think that this would not be too hard... I would recommend it wholeheartedly to you though, and older kids. My only regret at the end of these games is that they are so short!

Duck - think outside the flock is the first of the Bonte games I had encountered, and saved it up because it looked so cute and was all about reasoning. To begin with, you are encouraged to click on the ducks to figure out what they may be required to do and it is very simple. Simple enough for pre-schoolers with a hand on the mouse. The higher levels get progressively difficult, and I am invariably called in after a while. But while it lasts, it is fun, and I am hoping that with time, more levels will be within the grasp of that mind.

I am not, purposely, featuring all the games on this site - that is for you to explore if you find it interesting. So Doggnation, which involves planning out sequences in advance, and some quick (but not too fast) mouse flicks, is a wonderful end to this post. It is a game for teens, or pre-teens at the earliest - I had to play it all by myself just to show the built up castle at the end - but wow, it is fun! There are dogs standing, with some building blocks. And there are dogs moving through whose job is to take the blocks according to the order mentioned at each level. Sometimes they can take one, other time, more; there are no limits to retrials, and at the end you have the satisfaction of having successfully sorted out the kind of puzzles you thought left behind with grade school. Unless you are a computer geek of course, in which case it is right down your alley :)

Be sure to remember that not being a kiddie site, there are ads all over, and you have to supervise to prevent the wrong clicks. Also, as Mr. Bonte also shows, blog fashion, the latest games he has found over the web, sometimes you can find yourself in alien lands which had looked promising but are way over the head for your pre-schooler. Bookmark the site, for there are surely going to be new additions from time to time.

The urls -
Bonte games -
Factory balls 2 -
Duck - think outside the flock -
Doggnation -
Loose the Moose -

P.S. The aftermath of confidences is embarrassment. I wonder. It is true that sometimes the very atmosphere of confidential exchanges makes you share stuff you wouldn't otherwise, and then follows the inevitable self questioning - how much did I reveal? What did I make myself look like? Should I have said this or that about another person? And you might then want to hide, to wish away this person you opened up to. But isn't it also true that you might, after being confidential, discover a friend, a deeper respect than ever before?

Monday, August 3, 2009

An award neglected. A Sprout** and some.

This one is for Rhymes and More, in lieu of the award she so generously awarded me, and which I find myself unable to pass on, because -

Just because.

Just one word to cover too many. Internet connection down. Phone company strikes. Maids who don't come on time. Cooks who leave. Summer which is too hot. Child who falls sick often and then some. Simple words like papa ill. Difficult words like cancer of the brain; emergency surgery; radiotherapy and chemotherapy; a median life span of 14 months after full treatment. And then, school restarting, homework and projects.

In the middle of everything, there hasn't been any time for myself. Occasionally reading up my favourites, but writing? When no one ever reads me anyway? What difference does it make?

But. Someone somewhere thought this worth reading. Someone liked this enough to pass on an award, to let others know - and that is what I write for, after all, for letting others know. Unlike the other kiddie blogs I read, mine is not current: this is no voyage of discovery I am charting in real time. This is a treasure chest I want to share, stuff I have found and saved, for what else can I do with it? So, thanks R&M, for bringing me back to life.

So, in keeping up with that mood, here is today's game all about restoration of life, about germination and propagation - Sprout. Created by Jeff Nusz, a flash and web programmer, this is a pretty simple game calling for some persistence, some logic and knowledge, and some intuition. It is not really a kiddie game, designed or featured on a kid website, but nowadays it is 'in' at our house, so I have no choice but to include it here :)

The game features a single bean shaped seed which has to travel from an island on the sea to an oak grove, across varying landscapes including hills, a village, a desert and a mountain. How does it travel? Simple. It converses with various other plants it meets on the way, and imbibes their character, magically transforming into a coconut, a dandelion or an apple (and others), as per the need of the hour. Your task is to choose the right plant or tree for the seed to sprout into, so as to get it to its destination.

Those of you who are familiar with the world of gaming will no doubt find the technique rather old, but to me, so far only surviving on the kind of kiddie games meant for pre-schoolers, it was almost a revelation. The landscapes are beautiful, pastel or crayon like, the animation simple and elegant, the music and background score very appropriate and soothing, and the idea great fun! My only complaint is that it is too short, and perhaps a little short of educational content - which is unfair considering that it wasn't meant to teach! But I still used it to convey the differences in plants, shrubs, vines and trees, and to talk of the various ways of propagating seeds :)

Jeff Nusz has a website called Custom-logic, which led me to the following cool links as well - all designed by him -

Cloth simulation: a piece of cloth, whose size and other parameters you can change, billows in the wind. You can anchor its points if you wish, and it behaves pretty realistically. A very simple illustration actually - not a game, but I am thinking it shall come in fairly handy in physics lessons sometime in the future. And it took up some minutes to explore anyway, which is all I needed to get the dal in :)

Rigid body simulation, complete with gravity and bounce and damping - another useful little tool or distraction.

And the Kaleidoscopic reef, in which you get the chance to rebuild a destroyed reef from scratch, with the help of some eco-savvy fishes of course. This game, however colourful, was still too difficult for a pre-schooler, and I have not the patience to sit and play all levels, just in order to demonstrate how it works... So, reluctanctly I have shelved it, and not explored further regarding its possible usage in an ecology lessson about pollution and oil spills and the like.

There are also other games listed, of which I found the Webworm game promising, but I couldn't find the actual link either at the website or the site of New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, whose campaign to combat the GypsyMoth this had been a part of. The others are not suitable for the very young, or even the young ones but teens no doubt will like to fight zombies and explore imaginary wonder lands with Anika.

Be warned that although the links I have given for individual games are ok for kids, the sites themselves are not designed to be kid friendly and parental supervision is required at all times to prevent the wrong ads or links from being clicked.

The urls -

Sprout -
Custom-logic -
Cloth simulation -
Rigid body simulation -
Kaleidoscopic reef -

P.S. Here is a little poem I liked from Nathalie, at 'Word of the day!' She posts a new word each day, and with it, a little rhyme or some phrase or sentence to illustrate its meaning. Such a lovely way to meet new words. (It could be argued of course that I am just footling, reading blogs, but it is still fun!)

Twitter faces, Twitter faces
Why do you footle so?
My prose can’t be that fascinating
Why can’t you just let go?

Should I declare myself charmed
By the attention, the following
When I truly suspect other motives
Behind your cloned proffered fascination?

Twitter faces, Twitter faces
Why do you footle so?
My prose can’t be that fascinating
Why can’t you just let go?

I think I’d better let you know:
While I am sure you could be human
Maybe, perhaps, and not really a spambot
Don’t ever expect me to follow.

Twitter faces, Twitter faces
Why do you footle so?
My prose can’t be that fascinating
Why can’t you just let go?
And now, adios! See you soon I hope.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Important notice


We are closed down - all the computer watching gremlins and babushkas and tonylets are being given some weeks off because of a health problem in the family. We'll be back when we'll be back. In the meantime, we'll appreciate some prayers and hugs, if you can spare them!

The management

Monday, April 13, 2009

Odds, ends and Hulala girls**

They are drilling holes in kitchen walls for the piped natural gas connections we had applied for aeons ago it seems. Three of them. Men, not gas connections. One to actually hold the power drill, another to stand besides him and twiddle his thumbs, and a third to stand in the balcony and shout to a fourth (also a fifth?) for a tape measure. Red brick dust is all over the kitchen, and it is taken for granted that I will be the one cleaning up. And I still have to make lunch. Oh well, as long as their drill doesn't blow a fuse and leave me computer-less, I shall scribble.

Here, in no particular order, are various promises I made to myself or others.

Papertigers blog is running a cute project called 'Around the world in 100 bookshelves', in which they feature kid bookshelves - ours is here. Check out the others following the tag at the bottom of the post. Isn't this a fun idea? I would love to see yours too: write to Corinne with a photo and a few lines about the bookshelf to get featured. 'By submitting a photo you will be automatically entered in a drawing to win a selection of 5 age-appropriate books to add to your little one’s bookshelf! First winner will be announced on May 15, and drawings will happen every other month, on the 15th, from then on.' Come on, go take a photo!

Behold our sock monkey! I had two pairs of those flesh toned toe-socks so essential for Delhi winters, particularly if you want happy feet and prefer chappals to anything else. Both pairs were torn in more or less the same place, and so useless for any other purpose - that, and Vivianne Schwarz resulted in the creation of this monkey -

Notice the funny face, so unlike a real sock monkey? That is where I improvised in view of the impoverished condition of my socks. And the clothes came about because of the colour of the socks too - the first time I ever stitched something like a garment I think.

There, the hole is made, and two have slunk out of the house. I think I will send the third one packing too. It is somewhat annoying to have him carrying on conversations with his mates from my balcony, wiping his dusty hands on my clean clothes if you please. But they still have to come back and put the pipes in. Wonder how long will that take, and could I start lunch in the meantime? Surely they will turn up the minute I start; sigh.

Do you know about the Melanie Stokes Mothers Act? If you are American, you may know about it already. But in case you don't, it is time you did. Check out this blog - Postpartum progress. In addition to the act, it is a great informative blog for all new mums. And dads.

It is now the next day, and the gas pipe people are back again, indignant and annoyed that I dared ask them - again - how long it will take. They had turned up about three hours later yesterday, with a mass of heavy pipes, just at the time we were getting ready for the afternoon nap, and claimed that it would take merely an hour. Claimed, mind you, who knows how long they might have taken, or will take today. So, that is the update for now.

I was tentatively exploring Hulala Girls yesterday, a site which says (in a cute girly voice) - 'girls, gaming for a green planet!' and I think we'll stick to it. It is a site new for us too, although it has been bookmarked for a while. I see the reason why of course - it requires registration, which is very well for tweens or teens perhaps, but it has been enough of a deterrent for us, with the impatience of the very young with a delay getting the games started once you've opened a site, and my own reluctance to remember yet another password. So I spent an hour or so getting things sorted out on that front, and am ready to explore today. Here goes -

Hulala girls are a creation of Christy Hui, who I suppose also owns or runs Kokomo O'global which owns the copyright here. And what exactly are they? They are three surfers with super powers, on the imaginary island of Cowlanai, with witch doctors, an amazingly young looking granny and the mandatory ululele playing uncle Billy, some mermaids, a monkey and a turtle for company among others. I am not sure if this online community, with avatars to dress up and interact etc. etc. was the first, or whether the plush dolls or videos came first, but they are interconnected, and aimed at girls in the 6-12 years bracket. If you hover on the home page, you'll find various links in the image, some of which do not appear on the menu bar at the top (friends bay for example, but it is still under construction, as it were). When you do follow a link, be warned that there is no way to just go back - it is flash based, and will load each time you click on home. At any rate, the games, which you can access only after logging on, are here -

The first two - modelicious and mermaidtastic, are dressing up games with only a slight difference in the er, doll. Cute in their own way, and while nothing exceptional, I don't suppose it is positively harmful either. Or is it? How different is a little girl dressing up a doll, or herself, in mom's finery from one doing it online?

The third game on this theme - dress up game, is more interesting. Five seconds to memorize a doll, which means hair, eye colour, and a two piece dress, and then choose the correct fit from the options given. If you are not paying attention, it does get difficult, and it is a variation from the usual memory match up games anyway.

Hulala rip it and coconut slalom are two games related to surfing, both involving use of the arrow keys for manouevring a character as it moves through the waves.

Banana boat is similar but also involves four of the number keys, to hand over items to characters on the shore -

Camp captain is the recycling game - click on a piece of trash to make a girl move to it, click again to choose which bag to put it in. Having seen a couple of these already - for example the great one at UpToTen, I found it slightly unhelpful for those who are not aware of the colour coding, because the labeling is too small to be helpful, if at all it is meant for that purpose. Still, it is good, and it will, like the other games, earn you 'shell points'.

The moosic studio is for the little ones: click to make an instrument sing. Some information about each instrument at the bottom of the page would have helped give it a distinct identity. As it is, Peep still wins in this category. Or the new ABC, or even the old one - there are quite a few games of this sort. But the one game here which I haven't found anywhere else so far is the Wiggle station. Now here is something truly original in concept - even though it is the same maze with hazards. Wiggle station is a compost pile, and the poor little worm has to survive and grow by eating the right foods and avoiding the bad ones, and so on. Each time you win or lose, there is a bit of info about composting. And the worm inching this way and that is really charming. I have had to play this one for my little one, just because it was such a hit! Wish there was a simpler just maze version also for the younger kids who are not dexterous enough to play this...

In addition, there are videos, a few downloads of wallpaper and the like, a toy shop, a board for discussions, and of course, place to dress up your avatar. My opinion of this site is somewhat hypothetical, since I have not yet reached that stage where it will be useful - but I found it slightly wearying to see another of these bikini clad dolls with super large round heads and eyes... The games were well crafted, and there are no ads. Take a look and decide.

The url -

P.S. The pipes were duly installed in an hour or so - truly a miracle. And now we just have to get rid of the paint splatters, and get the electrical point moved because of the gas pipes' proximity to it. More work, darn.

P.P.S. Here is another forwarded email which made me laugh. (Especially the very last bit, now so much in vogue.)

"Keeping up with the Joneses" -

After digging to a depth of 100 meters last year, Russian scientists found traces of copper wire dating back 1000 years, and came to the conclusion that their ancestors already had a telephone network one thousand years ago.

So, not to be outdone, in the weeks that followed, American scientists dug 200 meters and the headlines in the US papers read: 'US scientists have found traces of 2000 year old optical fibers, and have concluded that their ancestors already had advanced high-tech digital telephone 1000 years earlier than the Russians.'

One week later, Indian daily newspapers reported the following:
'After digging as deep as 500 meters, Indian scientists have found absolutely nothing. They have concluded that 5000 years ago, their ancestors were already using Bluetooth and Wireless technology.'


P.P.P.S. If you see some funny colour combinations just above, its not me, its blogger.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Only zefrank**

There are so many words hanging from their idea pegs, awaiting their turn, that I can't possibly do justice to them today. Or tomorrow, or the weeks to come, unless I devote myself full time to this job, forgoing some silly stuff like eating or sleeping (the rest, alas, is essential). So I am jumping straightaway into deeper waters: here is as promised last.

I agree that this index page is rather unattractive for kids, who will surely not appreciate the humour in the labeling of extra spaces on the page, but bear with me. There must be a hundred links here! Skip the 'Buy things', 'Recent projects', 'Stuff, stuff' - none of these are likely to be useful for children. 'Stuff to read', 'stuff to watch' and 'other stuff' can be stuffed too; I at least found them too tedious to explore further after a couple of links proved useless for my purpose. From the section interactive toys, I am posting the descriptions for all games, and including links so you may bookmark individual games if you wish. Be warned that the names on the links can sometimes be pretty obscure. Most of the links, when clicked, will open in a separate window or tab. Some are totally ad free, others are crowded with them, so you have to be around when your kid is here. . .

Meditation flowers are er, flowers which will grow as you sing, or whistle or just blow into your mike. Even if you do stop, it will keep on moving and changing shape on its own. Admittedly its not really a flower, but well, it is so much fun! If your toddler doesn't like it, you might find yourself staring and humming when really you are just there to write that report...

The frog works on the same principle of sound evoking action. In this case it is a frog which mouths the words you speak :)

String spin we have already talked about. Carol maker is where you can make la-la-la music, voice supplied. You can add notes (high, low or double - don't know what it is called musically but I mean when two people sing at the same time in different registers), and change their timings, to make a little 'carol'. Something like the animal sounds concert over at Cbeebies. Or you can choose from a preset, and then send as an e-card to a friend. They get to see a pic of elves in a chorus hopping up and singing...

Flake maker asks you to click and drag anywhere in the given circle - and then, it will automatically generate a six sided symmetrical snowflake from that. You can make it rotate in two or three dimensions, and keep on adding more if you so wish. Nifty, but not the best of this site.

Scribbler also has been covered earlier. The next one - 5 sec doodle defeats me utterly. For one, it opens in the same page and I keep closing that tab instead of pressing the back button when I am done. And another, although it claims it will morph my 5 second doodle to the last one(s), nothing seems to happen. Maybe because it is a first doodle and there are no past doodles? But it doesn't have any option to let me make more. So it must be the net, that convenient post to hang blames on :)

The rather strangely named dtoyvsbyokal is 'The drawtoy vs. byokal'. Draw, and you shall see. That little grey triangle - see that? It will turn your image, no matter how doodley or how refined, into a kaleidoscope. No more, no less. In fact there are two other gadgets here called drawtoy and kaleidoscope, which should explain the name. I think.

Your mama is one which I didn't quite like. The idea seems alright - change the facial features, and when you click play, it will animate them in the order in which you clicked them. But, somehow, it wasn't as enjoyable as it might be. Plus, it is a little confusing at first. (I think I am also prejudiced because of its name - had it been 'make a funny face', perhaps it would have been acceptable?)

The puppet dances to the music playing, and you can adjust 'appearance, sensitivity, gravity and damping'. This hasn't been subjected to the child test yet, so I don't know for sure if these technical sounding controls will be fun or not. What I can predict is that sooner or later mine will find out that the puppet falls down if you fiddle with the gravity in the right direction, and then that will become the goal of the game!

Flowers is a nice little game where you can take your kids after you have been teaching them the parts of a flower, or types of petals, or - whatever! There are a few petal shapes, lots of colours, choice of number of petals and the opacity of paint, and voila, you just have to click and drag once to get a perfect flower with as many petals as you specified. Remember that the flower is always central, so if you wish to make other things, adjust the slider to draw one petal rather than many. You can save your creation, or email it.

The next is snm#1 or craymachine. A little orange square. Type in low case letters, and you'll get shapes on the screen accompanied by various musical sounds. Perfect for infants who just want to bang on the keyboard! Or anyone really. I loved the falling drops - letter l, I think.

Sequencer, simple though it may appear to be, is beyond tone deaf me. Click on notes to arrange them - and wait to hear - your melody, or cacophony. You can save it for public pleasure, if you so wish, or load from what the rest of the world has created...

Gyro will draw mesmerizing spirals from a set of given shapes, for which you can change a variety of er, parameters like rotational stability, chaotic movement, alpha, or horizontal bias. Never mind the technical language - isn't it fun to twiddle knobs just to see what happens? Indulge that wish here!

Bug is. A bug. With four pair of legs, or is that five? Anyway, the point is that they all point in the same direction, viz your cursor. So the little ones can enjoy that, and getting the legs all in a knot when you are directly over it :)

For shelda's mom is a kaleidoscope with a choice of eight shapes, from which the kaleidoscopic pattern is made by, and your mouse movement changes the resultant design... Build yer own is a kaleidoscope too, with a little visual explanation of how it works. An early design I think.

Matrix is just that - a matrix of tiles arranged in different patterns revealed by rolling over the image. If you click, it will show the maths behind the pattern. Rather useful for someone interested in studying patterns, or teaching them, I imagine. It made me a bit dizzy though, and I yet have to subject it to the kid test :)

Oranges - witness the growing of a vine with 'oranges' of different hue at the click of your mouse. Cute, but of course, utterly useless. Or perhaps cute because of that? Quotes animates famous words, or your words, in random order and no particular reason. Too fast for me to read even one full sentence though.

What we want is not for kids: a rapidly changing mosaic of facial features and singles ads.

Googly - you know those image elements which seem to snap back as if on an elastic thread when you pull (click and drag)? That is what it is. Could be interesting for toddlers and infants, but I think it'd hold a pre-schooler for all of five seconds maybe.

Babypics does not have baby pictures, period. It is an animation in the form of three cylinders with the same funny face animated image on each - and you roll over each to make it 'spin'. Not very funny, really. Letters 1.2 is related to the 'letter project' - since 2001 Apr, this guy has been collecting photos of people holding a letter (the first letter of their last name if you really want to know). You type a phrase, and then watch the computer cycle through those images, using the corresponding letters for your words. Punctuation seems to be understandably rare: I have not met anyone yet whose name starts with a comma or an exclamation point! Still, quite a project, don't you think? Webnoise is - be warned - noisy! In effect, background music and a collection of clicking points which add further sound effects. Neither melodious nor particularly attractive.

Kal 2 is yet another kaleidoscope. Choose from 18 thumbnails and it will make a kaleidoscope of that image. Gets slightly spooky when eyes and ears appear: not sure if all kids will take to it.

From the rest, I have not checked out each and every link, and have forgotten some that I had checked, but the following are the ones I thought suitable for our purpose -

Animal noises - very short videos of man making animal noises. First time I ever heard a giraffe noise, by the way. And, yes, the sound of the horse's rear end is gross, and so of course, will be popular with 4 year olds! If you want to see some cat videos, check My cat Annie. You might like to use the santas request line if your kids forgot to write to Santa in time :)

Remember the dtoyvskal above? Well, drawtoy is the drawing component all by itself. Worth a few minutes at least! You can save your image, and view others in the gallery too.

Memory game is the usual but there are short animations instead of images. Definitely worth trying! Also for those so inclined are the digital version of matchsticks - you do remember them from childhood, don't you? Remove or replace a few sticks to change the figure? You have to know the solution: this program doesn't give you extra chances!

Overall, its a nice site with lots of little toys, but - totally kid unfriendly. If only it were set up in a Poisson rouge kind of setting, what fun it could be! In fact, it is perhaps owing to the tedium of having to sit and sort that the rating is a star less than what its individual games deserve!

The url -

P.S. Hope this extra long post goes a little way in compensating for my prolonged absence? I see that I had started this on 28th of last month...

P.P.S. Don't ask me why, in the middle of the post, when I had selected all text to change its colour, is one sentence in black!