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Two Board Games to Build Big Brains in Your Kids

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If my kids don’t grow up knowing how to pack an efficient and orderly truck and/or dishwasher, then I’m a failure as a father. Seriously, spatial awareness is a gift, my friends, and folks who just haphazardly toss luggage in the back seat are monsters of the highest CR.

So I’ve been having a good time playing a couple of board games with my kids, being that both of them pack a lot of fun even as they help build spatial skills.

Two Board Games to Build Big Brains in Your Kids: Ingenious

The first game is Ingenious. This is a game that is about 10 years old and was created by the famed Reiner Knizia and published by Fantasy Flight Games. You can trust the marketing tagline for Ingenious, which says its “An Amazing Game for 2-4 Brains!”

There are 6 colored symbols on the board as well as on players’ cardboard tiles. Players take turns placing the colored conjoined-hex “domino” tiles on the game board, matching the colored symbols.

Each player has a rack (punched into the game board) of six of the tiles. For each tile a player matches on the game board, one point is scored for that color that both lies adjacent to it as well as in a straight line from it. If a player brings the score of a color to 18, she immediately yells “Ingenious!” and takes another turn.

A hex is a near perfect shape, if you ask me. And Ingenious is a fun game. My 8-year-old and I can play a game in just 20 minutes. Not only do we enjoy ourselves, but I feel that our matching and spatial awareness get just a smidge better with each play. We also practice our silly voices when we yell “INGENIOUS!”

There isn’t much to Ingenious, which makes it really easy and quick to learn. The production isn’t perfect however. It’s nearly impossible not to have all the tiles slide around on the game board, which means the alignment is almost always just a smidgen off. That’ll make your spatial awareness radar start beeping.

That–coupled with the scoring cards being slick–means that little players who are apt to bump things (meaning all little players) will require that everything needs near constant realignment. I realize that making a grooved game board might make it cost prohibitive, but it feels like at least a textured non-slip coating would have been nice.

Still, that’s part of the fun and Ingenious is a nice little game for both having fun as well as building big brains in your kids.

Two Board Games to Build Big Brains in Your Kids: Patchwork

Next up is Patchwork. This is a newer 2-player game that was created by the famed Uwe Rosenberg and published by Mayfair Games. I never thought I’d be promoting a board game with a theme of quilt making, but here we go.

Players compete to create a patchwork quilt on a personal 9×9 game board. At the start of play all of the cardboard “patches” are randomly laid out in a circle. Cardboard “buttons” are the currency that is used to purchase the patches.

On a turn, a player can purchase (should they have enough buttons!) one of the three patches laying clockwise. The player then places the patch on their board, fitting everything together highly like a it’s Tetris.

The “timer” is a central game board where player markers are advanced according to a number on each patch. As the makers advance, there are opportunities to pick up more buttons.

At the end of the game, each player scores a point for every button in his possession, but loses two points for each empty square on his game board.

That might sound like a granny game, but it is wonderfully designed, a surprising amount of fun, and perfect for building spatial skills in little gamers. Patchwork gets tons of play in our house, as I both my wife and I play it with our kids, and they also play it with their granddad.


There are other good abstract board games out there, but Ingenious and Patchwork stand out for several reasons:

  1. They are both enjoyable to play.
  2. They are inexpensive.
  3. They are quick to learn and play.
  4. And they help build big brains in little gamers.

I can’t promise they will help you properly pack a trunk, but they sure won’t hurt.

The post Two Board Games to Build Big Brains in Your Kids appeared first on Nerds on Earth.

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1 day ago
I love Patchwork. It is also surprisingly good for playing with a child (6 years old) while also being interesting for an adult.
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You should’ve asked


Here is the english version of my now famous “Fallait demander” !

Thanks Una from unadtranslation.com for the translation 🙂

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5 days ago
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The Paradoxes of Progressive Political Theology: On Liberals and Liberationists

Last week I posted about what I called "the paradox of progressive political theology."

In that post I argued that many progressive Christians like to use Anabaptist theology to level critiques of the state while simultaneously advocating political engagement in democratic politics. Rhetorically, I said, progressives often talk like Anabaptists but act like Niebuhrians.

(Reinhold Niebuhr argued that it was a duty of Christians to participate in liberal democracies to bring about justice and protect the weak.)

Some readers of my post objected that the political dichotomy I used between Anabaptist and Niebuhrian political theologies wasn't very comprehensive. For example, many progressive Christians embrace liberationist political theologies.

That's true, but progressives using liberation theology exhibit the same paradoxes. 

First off, liberation theology is a paradox in itself. The paradox of liberation theology is that you use it to denounce empire, with the political end of revolution being to take over the empire. Historically, we've observed how revolutions "from below" have played out in Russia, Cuba and China, one empire replacing another. Plus, theologically it's hard to turn Jesus into Che Guevara.

But in regards to progressive Christians espousing liberation theology, there's the same disjoint I noted in my post last week: the disjoint between rhetoric and practice in regards to the state.

Specifically, another paradox of progressive political theology is rhetorically using liberationist anti-empire theology, while practically encouraging everyone to call congress and vote. Revolution through democratic participation!

In short, there is something paradoxical about liberal Democrats using liberation theology.

An example of this paradox from the last election was watching progressive Christians using liberation theology to defend voting for Hilary Clinton, she of Goldman Sachs fame.

To be clear, I voted for Hilary. But Good Lord, the Clinton's were not the revolution we've be waiting for. And if you didn't notice, neither was Barack Obama. And I voted for him twice.

Liberalism isn't liberation theology.

So again, the same paradox I noted last week:

Denouncing Caesar while embracing Caesar.
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10 days ago
Reading this article and the previous article, I realize that I must be very bad at getting into the anabaptist mindset as laid out. Is it really the case that all political power is an inherently corrupt 'empire' wielded by 'caesar' who must always be opposed? Was Tyndale right to translate every instance of the word 'king' into 'tyrant' in his bible?

If 'empire' and 'government' are truly synonyms, and if morality consists of denouncing empire, then what is the bigger picture? Is it a matter of never being able to make the world truly better before the next dispensation? Or is there some form of societal organization that is not an 'empire' that can be aspired to?

I'd think that the best way to square the circle between denouncing empire but embracing political change is to see a middle ground between 'empire' and 'anarchy' that consists of just governance.
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10 days ago
"Denouncing Caesar while embracing Caesar."

hashtagdion: “friendly reminder” posts annoy me, but here’s one anyway: The word “problematic” was...

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“friendly reminder” posts annoy me, but here’s one anyway:

The word “problematic” was never meant to be the auto-win card of social justice discussions. Problematic is not a synonym for bad or wrong. Problematic literally means that an issue is complicated, open to debate, and raises important questions about an issue, questions that should be analyzed, discussed, and unpacked.

So when you say something is problematic, don’t just lean back in your chair, pat yourself on the back, and call it a day. Go deeper. Get a discussion going. Analyze that shit. Hear from others and come to some tough conclusions.

Saying “we shouldn’t do X because X is problematic” is as nonsensical as saying “the weather outside is weather.”

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12 days ago
There is no such thing as an objectively good norm. Norm enforcement is an important part of maintaining a society. But it is also a tool used by some people to bully others. This is true of every norm in every society or sub-group.

A just society must navigate between the two dangers which threaten it on either side. If norms are not enforced, then predators will exert power by flouting the norms. If norms are too strictly enforced, predators will flock to enforce them as a tool for exerting power. In the worst case, you can end up with predators who gain power by both enforcing and flouting norms.

A final danger to avoid is to believe that the locus of injustice is 'out there' outside of the societies you participate in or outside yourself. Any society of more than one person is prone to potential predatory power relationships. This includes societies set up in opposition to larger societal injustice. And every person can fall into predatory habits and practices if they believe they are pure and stop keeping a watchful eye on themselves.
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Comment: Seven years on from Steve Jobs’ ‘Thoughts on Flash,’ it’s time for this protocol to die


It’s now seven years since Steve Jobs wrote his famous Thoughts on Flash open letter, in which he explained to Adobe the six reasons why Apple did not allow Flash on iOS devices. These reasons were, in brief:

  • It’s a proprietary product, and Apple prefers open web standards [sometimes]
  • An increasing number of websites are switching to better video formats
  • Flash has poor security, reliability and performance
  • Flash decreases battery life
  • Flash was designed for desktop, not touch
  • It’s an additional layer that holds back innovation

Most of those reasons are just as valid today, security not least among them …


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15 days ago
It is time for Flash to go because HTML5 has stepped into its role and now provides the same capabilities it used to. All the bad things about Flash are now bad things about HTML5. All the benefits of Flash are now the benefits of HTML5. The more things change...
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15 days ago
That it is
Atlanta, GA

Silicon Valley: A Reality Check

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The nation has spoken: weird pointless $400 wi-fi enabled juicer company Juicero is the perfect symbol of Silicon Valley.

So says the Washington Post: Juicero Shows What’s Wrong With Silicon Valley Thinking. So says TechCrunch, which calls Juicero “the absurd avatar of Silicon Valley hubris”. So says Newsweek, which renames the area Silly-Con Valley in its honor. And of course there’s Deadspin, which calls it “the best story ever written about Silicon Valley… a stupid libertarian dystopia where investor-class vampires are the consumers and a regular person’s money is what they go shopping for.”

In case you missed it, Juicero was a startup that got $120 million in funding to manufacture high-end juicers which were supposed to be the bleeding-edge in juice-related technology. Then Bloomberg View did some investigative reporting and found that you could actually make juice equally well by skipping the $400 juicer and just squeezing the juice packets with your bare hands.

This is, admittedly, pretty silly. But I want to take a step back and suggest a reality check.

While Deadspin was busy calling Silicon Valley “awful nightmare trash parasites”, my girlfriend in Silicon Valley was working for a company developing a structured-light optical engine to manipulate single cells and speed up high-precision biological research.

While FastCoDesign was busy calling Juicero “a symbol of the Silicon Valley class designing for its own, insular problems,” a bunch of my friends in Silicon Valley were working for Wave, a company that helps immigrants send remittances to their families in East Africa.

While Vox was busy writing about how Juicero “says a lot about the state of Silicon Valley right now”, Silicon Valley was leading a revolution in solar power that’s resulted in a 1500% increase in cell installations over the past few years.

While Slate was busy telling us that Silicon Valley companies “repackage familiar ideas and sell them back to us as exemplars of Groundbreaking Disruptive Innovation”, Silicon Valley was shooting a fifteen-story rocket a hundred miles into the air at 4,100 mph, then landing it gently on a 300 foot platform in the middle of the ocean.

While Gizmodo was busy writing that this “is not an isolated quirk” because Silicon Valley investors “don’t care that they do not solve problems [and] exist to temporarily excite the affluent into spending money”, Silicon Valley investors were investing $35 million into an artificial pancreas for diabetics.

While Freddie deBoer was busy arguing that Silicon Valley companies “siphon money from the desperate throngs back to the employers who will use them up and throw them aside like a discarded Juicero bag and, of course, to themselves and their shareholders. That’s it. That’s all they are. That’s all they do”, Silicon Valley companies were busy inventing cultured meat products that could end factory farming and save millions of animals from horrendous suffering while also helping the environment.

Or maybe we should try to be more quantitative about this. I looked at the latest batch of 52 startups from legendary Silicon Valley startup incubator Y Combinator.

Thirteen of them had an altruistic or international development focus, including Neema, an app to help poor people without access to banks gain financial services; Kangpe, online health services for people in Africa without access to doctors; Credy, a peer-to-peer lending service in India; Clear Genetics, an automated genetic counseling tool for at-risk parents; and Dost Education, helping to teach literacy skills in India via a $1/month course.

Twelve of them seemed like really exciting cutting-edge technology, including CBAS, which describes itself as “human bionics plug-and-play; Solugen, which has a way to manufacture hydrogen peroxide from plant sugars; AON3D, which makes 3D printers for industrial uses; Indee, a new genetic engineering system; Alem Health, applying AI to radiology, and of course the obligatory drone delivery startup.

Eighteen of them seemed like boring meat-and-potatoes companies aimed at businesses that need enterprise data solution software application package analytics targeting management something something something “the cloud”.

And the remaining nine were your ridiculous niche Uber-for-tacos startups that we all know and love, including Cowlar (“FitBit for cows – it’s way smarter than it sounds!”); Origin (“Keurig for smoothies”), MoveButter, which compares itself to three different companies I’ve never heard of in its first sentence but seems to be grocery-related in some way; Mere Coffee, a better-tasting coffee machine for small businesses; and LitHit, a smart target for shooting sports. I’m sure somebody in the comments is going to tell me why FitBits for cows is actually a vital service that will revolutionize agriculture, but I’m trying to err on the side of caution here.

I’m concerned that Y Combinator might be so successful that they’re unique in going for status and do-gooding rather than being a real cross-sample of startups (and they also seem to recruit a lot of international startups from outside Silicon Valley). So I also looked at the first twenty startups in the portfolio of Andreessen Horowitz, a famous Valley venture capitalist firm. One of them seemed explicitly prosocial – some kind of science education partnership company. Four of them seemed high-tech or otherwise awesome – including the obligatory aerial-surveying-with-drones company. Twelve seemed to be some sort of enterprise data solution software application package analytics targeting management something something something “the cloud”. And only two of them seemed even a little vapid – eg this high-end photo sharing/printing site. Which is hardly that vapid – nobody would bat an eye at that if it were done by Kodak or Staples.

So although meat-and-potato business/software companies do outnumber really high-tech or altruistic ventures, there’s not a lot of evidence for silly Juicero-style startups being much of the Silicon Valley business community at all. So how come everyone thinks that they are?

Here’s my theory. If you’re an average well-off person, leading your average well-off life, consuming average well-off media and seeing ads targeted at the average well-off demographic, and going over to your average well-off friends’ houses and seeing their average well-off products, which are you more likely to hear about? A structured-light optical engine for cytological research? Or a juicer?

Or to put it another way: there’s a chapter in Unsong (spoiler!) where an archangel brings peace to the Middle East by splitting the Holy Land into two parallel dimensions. Any Jew who enters will find themselves in a united Israel; any Muslim who enters will find themselves in an independent Palestine.

And sometimes I wonder if the same archangel has gotten to Silicon Valley.

If a deeply good person crusading for a better world enters Silicon Valley, she’ll find herself surrounded by deeply good people crusading for a better world. She’ll see mobile apps that track tropical diseases, clean energy startups that fight global warming by directly sucking carbon dioxide out of the air, companies bringing microbanking to poor Nepalese villagers, and boutique pharmaceutical labs searching for cures for orphan diseases.

If a futurist enters Silicon Valley, she’ll find herself surrounded by futurists. She’ll see neural nets and deep learning, reusable rockets and flying cars, high-throughput genome sequencing and CRISPR, metamaterials and nanotechnology.

If a social-media-obsessed narcissist whose view of the world begins and ends with his own Instagram page enters Silicon Valley, he’ll find himself surrounded by social-media-obsessed narcissists whose view of the world begins and ends with their Instagram pages. He’ll see a bunch of streaming video services and Uber-for-hair-products apps and elite pay-to-play dating scams and people trying to disrupt the gymwear market.

And if one of those people who talks about “the cloud” all the time enters Silicon Valley, he’ll find himself surrounded by people who talk about “the cloud” all the time. I have no idea who these people are or what they’re doing, but they all seem really happy with each other and I’m glad they’re enjoying themselves.

They’ll all have their blind-men-and-elephant view of what kinds of things Silicon Valley “does”. And they’ll all be sort of right.

(thinkpiece writers: “Can you believe that Silicon Valley only makes products for shallow elites obsessed with the latest fads? It’s the strangest thing!“)

So I would recommend people stop talking about how Silicon Valley only makes ridiculous overpriced juicers. It’s not that it doesn’t make those. It does, just like everywhere else. A Facebook friend pointed out that QVC has been selling our parents ridiculous overpriced kitchen items since before we were born. Billy Mays pitched the EZ Crunch Bowl, which promised to “revolutionize your cereal-eating experience”. The unique thing about Silicon Valley isn’t that it’s got overpriced status goods designed to separate rich people from their money. The unique thing about Silicon Valley is that it’s got anything else.

I don’t want to downplay the problem. Anything remotely good in the world gets invaded by rent-seeking parasites and empty suits. Silicon Valley is no exception, and raising awareness of the infestation is certainly a public service. But for some reason, it’s hard for me to believe that – let’s say Deadspin – really believes in the spirit of Silicon Valley, really thinks that there was once somewhere that weird nerdy people could get together and produce amazing things for the good of everybody, and that to some degree this is still going on, and is a precious thing that needs to be protected. At its worst, some of their criticism sounds more like a worry that there might still be some weird nerds who think they can climb out of the crab-bucket, and they need to be beaten into submission by empty suits before they can get away. Or maybe that’s just paranoia. Fine, I admit I’m paranoid. But I still feel like people should lay off the criticism a little.

When Capitol Hill screws up, tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis get killed.

When Wall Street screws up, the country is plunged into recession and poor families lose their homes.

When Silicon Valley screws up, people who want a pointless Wi-Fi enabled juicer get a pointless Wi-Fi enabled juicer. Which by all accounts makes pretty good juice.

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16 days ago
I often feel like Slate Star Codex starts out with some decent points contrary to the conventional wisdom and then goes too far and over-corrects.

For example, it is true that a lot of genuine innovation comes out of Silicon Valley. And it is important to remember that there have always been stupid ideas growing in the field alongside the good ones. And the fertilizer (BS?) of the valley helps both grow. So to that point, SSC is correct.

But by the end, he seems to want to trivialize the problems of SV and exaggerate problems elsewhere. And that is just too far for me to follow.

When SV companies screwed up and made it easy to spread fake news and game their publishing platforms (like FB and Google did), they helped get a senile, authoritarian rapist access to the button. We can only hope that this will not lead to tens of thousands or more getting killed.

When SV companies screwed up, they did so alongside wall street helping spur the last two big business cycle bubbles and the recession (including families losing their homes) that accompanied them.

And many of the SV's darlings are explicitly rent seeking. Creating fake marketplaces that scams both sides for extra nickels and still can't seem to make a profit. Either mostly scammy like Uber or completely scammy like the fake health care analysis company that recently folded.

So it is a bit much to say that Juicero is somehow emblematic of everything that is happening in SV right now. But it is also an important signpost. Because a single bad idea might be rotten when it comes to harvest and only hurt a few investors and customers involved. But a whole crop of bad ideas all at once can bring about another recession or even undermine many of our longer term institutions which are crucial to keep our society together. We shouldn't overstate how important a high end juicer is. But we shouldn't trivialize the trends that it represents either.
15 days ago
You nailed his shtick perfectly – too much in love with the contrarian image
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14 days ago
«Here’s my theory. If you’re an average well-off person, leading your average well-off life, consuming average well-off media and seeing ads targeted at the average well-off demographic, and going over to your average well-off friends’ houses and seeing their average well-off products, which are you more likely to hear about? A structured-light optical engine for cytological research? Or a juicer?»
South Burlington, Vermont
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