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Excellent, beautiful book. Amy R recommended it to me, and I really liked it.

The cover image is perfect - a boy alone on a seesaw, with him up on the air and the empty end down on the ground.

The book is narrated by Budo, imaginary friend of Max. It's drawn comparisons with Room and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, and I can see that, but I think the best comparison is Toy Story: The viewpoint character is someone whose life revolves around the child they're attached to, and the child sees them as real but the adults don't, and their two conflicting motivations are love for the child on one hand, and self-preservation and fear of the child outgrowing and forgetting them on the other. And this book's emotional richness measures up to that of the Toy Story trilogy.

The cast of other imaginary friends is vivid and fascinating. Imaginary friends can all see and talk to each other, like in Drop Dead Fred. At least, those who can talk at all. Some, like Budo, are as fully-featured as a real person, but some, whose kids are less imaginative or thorough, are a bit amorphous, or missing ears or eyebrows. One is just a pink hair bow with eyes. She can't talk and looks permanently terrified (I have no mouth and I must scream).

Budo definitely grows as a character throughout the book. He is basically a child, although a bit more worldly-wise than Max. The book does that slightly annoying innocent-child-social-commentary thing: I don't know why adults do X, it doesn’t make any sense to me.

I would like to see a film of this. It's very visual, with the colourful cast of imaginary friends, and the way they gradually become transparent when their kid stops believing in them, like in Back to the Future when people's timelines get messed up.

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Haven't got around to this for a while, which means my memory of the earlier books in the post is a bit hazy.

You Sent Me A Letter - Lucy Dawson

A psych thriller with a dramatic hook: a mysterious intruder in the protagonist's home gives her a letter with instructions to open it and read it at her upcoming birthday party, or else.
This was quite enjoyable and compelling, but I thought the resolution was a bit unsatisfying and bitty.

Amy Snow - Tracy Rees

Interesting historical novel. Amy was found as a baby in the snow by eight-year-old heiress Aurelia, and no one knows where she came from. Aurelia's parents disliked her and wanted to send her to the workhouse, but Aurelia insisted on keeping her, and she grew up in the house as something in between a servant and a companion. She and Aurelia were very close, but when Aurelia died of an illness in her 20s, Amy was left alone, and Aurelia's parents no longer had a reason not to kick her out. But Aurelia had spent her illness carefully planning Amy's future, leaving a fascinating treasure hunt of letters and gifts for her, enabling her to start a new and better life.
What I really liked about this was the way Aurelia's personality, and her and Amy's friendship, shone through the letters and the treasure hunt, even though we never see Aurelia alive and interacting with Amy "onstage".
The treasure hunt was interesting at the beginning, although it did drag in the middle (Amy thought so too, and started to get fed up with it). And some aspects of the book were a bit implausibly wish-fulfilment-y (then again, Amy deserves some good luck), and the final explanation of Amy's origins wasn't very satisfying (but I think this was kind of deliberate - it was like, she's happy in her new life, where she came from is irrelevant now). Overall I enjoyed it.
(I kept feeling that the name "Amy Snow" was confusingly similar to "Emma Swan" from Once Upon A Time. Short first name that goes vowel sound - M - vowel sound; four-letter one-syllable common noun surname with an S, N and W in it.)

The Girl With No Past - Kathryn Croft

This was about a woman making a new life after she and some of her school friends were involved in a mysterious bad thing, and she's recently started getting threatening letters and so on from someone who knows her past. It was quite compelling, but a lot of it didn't add up for me.
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Saving April - Sarah A. Denzil

This was a fun twisty book about a woman who becomes convinced her opposite neighbours' teenage daughter is in danger and she needs to save her. Hannah has a traumatic past and is a bit of a shut-in, living alone and working from home, with no friends. The quest to save April gives her purpose and meaning - but that itself makes you question whether April really needs saving or whether Hannah is interfering and projecting.
The characters are interesting, although in most cases not very likeable (and sopme of the actions of Laura, April's mother, didn't make sense to me).
(And, as a part-time freelance proofreader, I found it implausible that Hannah makes a living proofreading short stories on Fiverr, and gets so many offers that she can afford to be picky about genre!)
But overall, a very enjoyable read.

Irregular Verbs - Matthew Johnson

Interesting slipstream-y collection of short stories. I found them really variable in how much I enjoyed them. Some I really liked, and some I found so boring I couldn't finish them. I particularly liked the title story, about a tribe who are so linguistically proficient that any family or other grouping develops its own language (in addition to the shared tribal language), and the story deals with a man who's mourning the death of his wife and trying to remember the shared language they had. There was also one about a zombie plague which only targets old people and has parallels to dementia. And there was a time-travel one which was pretty unremarkable apart from the delightful coinage "prefugees" to describe time-travellers coming here fleeing historical wars etc.
There's an odd story about Superman and Lois when they're old. It was fairly good, fairly poignant, but I got the impression the lit-fic author and the lit-fic magazine who published it thought it was quite original and don't realise it's the sort of thing fanfic writers do on the internet all the time.

The Paying Guests - Sarah Waters

Sarah Waters is very good at writing historical novels which you could believe were written at the time. I've read ones of hers from the Victorian era, the 1920s, and the 1940s, and they're all very immersive and use idioms and cultural references from the time.
Fingersmith (the Victorian one) is my favourite of hers, because it's delightfully twisty. The Paying Guests isn't so much. The first half of it is very quiet and domestic. It would be quite dull if you didn't find that sort of thing interesting, but I quite enjoyed the portrait of the daily life of an upper-middle-class family fallen on hard times in the 1920s. The second half is a fairly melodramatic story of a death and subsequent murder trial.

Emma's Baby - Abbie Taylor

Enjoyable psych thriller I'd been wanting to read for a while, about a struggling single mum whose 13-month-old is taken. She has to try to track him down, and the police aren't very helpful. (I found this aspect a bit implausible: because she was suffering from depression and admitted to her GP that she was thinking of harming her son, they think she did something to him, and don't believe her that he was abducted. But if they really thought that, wouldn't they be investigating her, rather than shrugging and being unresponsive?)
I also found it a little bit implausible that before the abduction Emma had recognised she was struggling on her own with no friends or family and had deliberately looked for parent-and-baby groups she could go to, and not found any - but maybe it is like that in London and I've just been really lucky in Cambridge?
Apart from those two issues it's very well plotted - eventful and with increasing tension. It's very like The Boy Who Never Was, in that the mother thinks she's seen her son, and the other characters don't believe her and think it's just someone who looks like him, and as the reader you're not quite sure who to believe.
I liked the fact that spoilerCollapse )

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Lumbar puncture

Back last year I saw Prof L at Addenbrookes and he sent me for some tests, including a brain scan, which revealed that the blood vessels on the way out of my head were a bit narrow, and therefore the blood pressure inside my head might be high. So he referred me to his colleague Dr H, who has a theory that chronic fatigue can be caused by a milder version of intracranial hypertension, and that it can be alleviated by doing a lumbar puncture to drain off some cerebrospinal fluid and lower the overall pressure in the head. It took months, plus chasing by Prof L and me and the Patient Advisory and Liaison Service, for Dr H to respond, but then he arranged for me to come in to have a lumbar puncture in mid-June.

The appointment was a bit chaotic. A nurse checked me in and gave me an information booklet and consent form, but said I didn't need to read or sign it now because the doctor would go through it with me and I could sign it then. When I got to go in and see Dr H, he said they were running behind and could we start the process and talk later? I said OK, thinking he meant start with the preparation (local anaesthetic, whatever else is needed) but he went ahead and did the actual lumbar puncture as well. It was basically painless having had the local anaesthetic. I think they drained off quite a bit of fluid (but I didn't have much clue what was going on) and they checked every so often to make sure I wasn't getting a low pressure headache. After the procedure he came to actually talk to me, and explain his theory. He mistook me for two different people (he asked if I was the one he'd spoken to on the phone, and if I was the one who was a personal friend of Prof L). I asked about the consent form but he said he doesn't bother with consent forms.

Afterwards they said I had to lie flat for an hour and rest in bed for another two hours to try to avoid the low pressure headache. I felt basically fine (although not dramatically more energetic, which I'd been kind of hoping for), and went home and mostly rested (I had childcare arranged for the day). Two days later the after-effects really hit me, and I spent a couple of days feeling very queasy whenever I was upright, so had to lie flat a lot. Those two days were very difficult, because I didn't have any childcare arranged then. Thankfully some friends popped in to help out a bit.
I'm supposed to have a follow-up phone call with Dr H to discuss the results, but it hasn't happened yet. I've chased a few times. I'm not expecting much, since it didn't seem to immediately alleviate the fatigue (and I'm not expecting much from Dr H's organisational skills, given the long delay in his initial response, and the chaos of the appointment).


Doctors have been suggesting for years that it might be depression, and I've been resistant to the idea, but am desperate enough to want to try all possibilities, so in March I started taking the SSRI sertraline. It hasn't made any difference as far as I can tell. I phoned my GP about a month ago to ask for advice about coming off it safely, but she suggested doubling the dose instead. I didn't. I feel like I've tried this option now and it hasn't worked. I tapered off the sertraline over the last week or so and have now stopped taking it. I didn't get any negative effects coming off it. I've had the usual good and bad days over the last week or so.


I've been wondering about a strict exclusion diet (the day-to-day variation makes me think it might be food-related) but there's a high cost in inconvenience (and hence energy, which I'm obviously lacking in). On the advice of a random person at angoel's wedding who had similar symptoms I tried giving up wheat. (I don't think I, or the wedding guest, have actual celiac disease, because that's more a long-term thing, and you have to give up gluten for weeks to see any improvement. This guy said he had day-to-day variation, like me, and giving up wheat gave him prety much instant results.) For about a week and a half it really seemed to work, quite dramatically. I thought I'd found the answer. But then I had some tired days. (Which coincided with my first attempt to taper off the sertraline, so that scared me off and I went back to full dose, but I think it was just a coincidence, because the second attempt went fine.)

I'm back to eating wheat again (because the positive effects of giving it up didn't last, and because it's quite inconvenient to avoid it), but the effects for that first week and a half were so dramatic that I think there might be something in it. Maybe the key is not avoiding wheat or gluten, but something that correlates with that, like eating less carbs[*] or more protein (I've tried those in the past, but something else like that which I haven't tried). More investigation needed.

Autoimmune stuff

I'm still quite attached to the theory that it's an autoimmune problem, because I have elevated IgA levels in my blood, and because my sister has Crohn's and rheumatoid arthritis and my mum has psoriasis and all these autoimmune things are supposed to be genetically linked, and because I recently read this article. I think this theory is compatible with it being food-related and possibly correlated with wheat avoidance - it's an autoimmune thing which is triggered by some food my body reacts badly to.

[*]Pedant note: I'll defend "less carbs" because "carbs" is used as an abbreviation for "carbohydrate", not "carbohydrates". "Fewer carbs" would mean fewer kinds of carbohydrate (cf. "fewer wines").

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Stress Gives You Daughters, Sons Make You Liberal: We affect our children’s gender, and it affects us back.
Fascinating bit of socio-biology. (Content note: mention of rape.)
I wondered about this bit: "Weitzman finds that fathers of boys who are ages 12 to 18—but not dads of girls that age or of boys at other ages—are more likely to hold extreme views such as believing that it is okay to force sex upon an unwilling woman. They are also more likely to go outside the marriage for sex and to bring back sexually transmitted diseases to the family. This is perhaps the best evidence for parental socialization by children—the dads’ incentives are not likely to have changed as a result of their sons’ blossoming sexuality, just their mindset."
I don't know enough biology to know if this makes sense, but could this effect be due to pheromones or something, as opposed to social factors? Like when a group of women live together and their menstrual cycles sync up; if a group of men live together, including some teenage boys going through puberty, they might all exhibit high-testosterone behaviour?

The Problem of Susan
Various people object to Susan Pevensie being barred from Narnia because she's into "lipstick and nylons" which is apparently code for mature female sexuality. I don't get that from the text - firstly it's not maturity or sexuality, it's immaturity and superficiality, and secondly she's not barred as a punishment for liking those things, she chooses those things over Narnia and calls Narnia a silly childish game - and neither does the writer of this essay.

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<a href="http://nautil.us/issue/31/stress/stress-gives-you-daughters-sons-make-you-liberal-rp&gt;Stress Gives You Daughters, Sons Make You Liberal: We affect our children’s gender, and it affects us back.&lt;/a&gt;
Fascinating bit of socio-biology. (Content note: mention of rape.)
I wondered about this bit: " weitzman="Weitzman" finds="finds" that="that" fathers="fathers" of="of" boys="boys" who="who" are="are" ages="ages" 12="12" to="to" 18—but="18—but" not="not" dads="dads" of="of" girls="girls" that="that" age="age" or="or" of="of" boys="boys" at="at" other="other" ages—are="ages—are" more="more" likely="likely" to="to" hold="hold" extreme="extreme" views="views" such="such" as="as" believing="believing" that="that" it="it" is="is" okay="okay" to="to" force="force" sex="sex" upon="upon" an="an" unwilling="unwilling" woman.="woman." they="They" are="are" also="also" more="more" likely="likely" to="to" go="go" outside="outside" the="the" marriage="marriage" for="for" sex="sex" and="and" to="to" bring="bring" back="back" sexually="sexually" transmitted="transmitted" diseases="diseases" to="to" the="the" family.="family." this="This" is="is" perhaps="perhaps" the="the" best="best" evidence="evidence" for="for" parental="parental" socialization="socialization" by="by" children—the="children—the" dads’="dads’" incentives="incentives" are="are" not="not" likely="likely" to="to" have="have" changed="changed" as="as" a="a" result="result" of="of" their="their" sons’="sons’" blossoming="blossoming" sexuality,="sexuality," just="just" their="their" mindset."="mindset.&quot;" i="I" don't="don&#39;t" know="know" enough="enough" biology="biology" to="to" know="know" if="if" this="This" makes="makes" sense,="sense," but="but" could="could" this="This" effect="effect" be="be" due="due" to="to" pheromones="pheromones" or="or" something,="something," as="as" opposed="opposed" to="to" social="social" factors?="factors?" like="Like" when="when" a="a" group="group" of="of" women="women" live="live" together="together" and="and" their="their" menstrual="menstrual" cycles="cycles" sync="sync" up;="up;" if="if" a="a" group="group" of="of" men="men" live="live" together,="together," including="including" some="some" teenage="teenage" boys="boys" going="going" through="through" puberty,="puberty," they="They" might="might" all="all" exhibit="exhibit" high-testosterone="high-testosterone" behaviour?="behaviour?" <a="&lt;a" href="http://nautil.us/issue/31/stress/stress-gives-you-daughters-sons-make-you-liberal-rp&gt;Stress Gives You Daughters, Sons Make You Liberal: We affect our children’s gender, and it affects us back.&lt;/a&gt;
Fascinating bit of socio-biology. (Content note: mention of rape.)
I wondered about this bit: ">The Problem of Susan</a>
Various people object to Susan Pevensie being barred from Narnia because she's into "lipstick and nylons" which is apparently code for mature female sexuality. I don't get that from the text - firstly it's not maturity or sexuality, it's immaturity and superficiality, and secondly she's not barred as a punishment for liking those things, she chooses those things over Narnia and calls Narnia a silly childish game - and neither does the writer of this essay.

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Coming Home - Annabel Kantaria
The Disappearance - Annabel Kantaria
These were quite interesting novels which dealt with the ageing and/or death of one's parents, and various problems in the relationships between adults and their parents. But I felt they both failed as thrillers. They both had what were intended as twists and revelations, but they were generally very predictable and unsurprising, especially the main twist at the end of The Disappearance. I think I'd have enjoyed them more, especially The Disappearance, if they were presented as ordinary contemporary-realistic novels, rather than twisty thrillers.
They were also badly edited, with SPaG errors, and garbled idioms like "the white elephant in the room", which would be a clever turn of phrase if it referred to something which was both a white elephant and an elephant in the room, but in fact it was only the latter.

Closing In - Sue Fortin
This was more of a generic thriller, with the basic structure there is danger - the danger gets worse - then it's all OK. It didn't really do anything interesting with that formula. There was also a large romance subplot which I didn't find engaging. There was the potential for twists which could have happened but didn't. For example, the protagonist has left her boyfriend and changed her name, and got a job as a nanny; and it's strongly implied that the boyfriend was abusive and she's in hiding from him. I was kind of hoping it would turn out that she was the one to blame in the relationship and that she'd changed her name to escape the law; but instead everything was as it seemed. (Still, I can add the alternate version to the list of stories I could maybe write.)
This one would have also benefited from better editing - for example, it described something that "lauded over" rather than "lorded over".

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Zoe is two and a half now!

She's incredibly articulate, and speaks in complex sentences. (Some of her funnier quotes are here.) Her grammar's arguably got worse recently, because she's reached the developmental stage of noticing grammatical rules and over-applying them, so she'll say things like "We goed to the shop and buyed some ice lollies, and then we eated them."

She loves stories, and has a great grasp of plot and emotion, and will intelligently explain what's happening in a book or film. (Even before she was two, she was saying things like "Daisy and Poppy are sad because their daddy took their wands.") Bethany at this age had no interest in stories yet, and preferred to read picture books (like "apple, banana, carrot") and watch videos about counting, colours, or the alphabet.

She plays really well with Bethany, and they love to play role-playing games, where they'll be characters from the Lion King or the Jungle Book or Numberjacks. She also usually plays well with other children - friends or strangers - playing co-operatively with them rather than just parallel play.
She can play some preschool board games, and she can even play Guess Who - she always needs reminding whether you flip down the ones which do or don't have glasses (say), but she can choose a character and answer questions about it correctly, and ask mostly sensible questions about her opponent's character. She also enjoys jigsaws.

She likes to climb (although I think she's not quite as confident in that as Bethany at the same age) and bounce on the trampoline. She can play catch with a balloon, and likes trying unsuccessfully to play catch with a ball. She's learning to ride a scooter and a tricycle.

She can count to 20, recognise all the digits, recite the alphabet, and recognise maybe about half the letters. She knows how to spell her name, and which letters a handful of other words begin with.

She enjoys helping with cooking, and helping with some chores if she's in the right mood.

She's out of nappies in the daytime (although not completely reliable with poo yet) and she's mostly given up her daytime nap. She's good at walking, and we don't need the pushchair much any more.

She's very sweet and affectionate, and loves to be with all of us, and is sad when any of the other three of us aren't there. She'll often spontaneously tell us she loves us, and she loves to kiss and cuddle. She's extremely ticklish.

She loves to sing. She's not as tuneful as Bethany, but she's very good at remembering words, and it's lovely to hear them singing together. Although sometimes she gets cross because she wants to sing on her own and doesn't want Bethany to sing with her.

She watches far too much TV and film, but it doesn't seem to be harming her intellectual or emotional development.

At the moment she's really intoslugs and snails, and enjoyslooking for them in the garden.

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These are the "leaders" you can play in the four ages in the game Through the Ages:

Alexander the Great, Aristotle, Hammurabi, Homer, Julius Caesar, Moses
Christopher Columbus, Frederick Barbarossa, Genghis Khan, Joan of Arc, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo
Isaac Newton, James Cook, Johannes Sebastian Bach, Maximilien Robespierre, Napoleon Bonaparte, William Shakespeare
Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Charles Chaplin, Mahatma Gandhi, Sid Meier, Winston Churchill

There's only one woman in the whole 24. (This doesn't bother me - I just noticed it on about my fourth game and thought it was interesting. I'd probably have been less likely to notice if there were zero women.) I was wondering, if you did want to have more female leaders, who would you put in? Who are the most famous women who ever lived? (I think "famous" is a better criterion than "important", where there's a difference.) The people in the list above have a fairly good case for being the most famous people, apart from Meier, who is there as an in-joke because the game was inspired by Civilization; and perhaps Chaplin, who Alex tells me is Elvis in a different edition of the game, which makes more sense.

Some ideas: Cleopatra; The Virgin Mary; Jane Austen; Florence Nightingale; Margaret Thatcher?

Mary wouldn't really work because she's only famous because of her son, so it would be weird to have a card for her and not for Jesus, unless you came up with a clever game mechanic that was specific to Mary. Austen wouldn't work because she'd be functionally equivalent to Shakespeare.

Thatcher is probably not famous enough outside of the UK. But she would offer potential for snark - there are already some jabs in the game, like if you build the Kremlin or implement Communism, you get some civil or military benefits but your people are less happy, and if you implement Fundamentalism, your military gets stronger but your science suffers. So Thatcher as a leader could give you some civil or economic benefits but make you disband a mine?

What obvious famous women have I missed?


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Through the Ages
This is a serious, long, resource-management game. I'd got the impression it would be something I would like, but I was putting off learning it until I had the time and energy to cope with a three-hour game plus rules explanation. That finally happened a few weeks ago, and I really enjoyed it. It is unfortunately quite long, but apart from that it's a really interesting and enjoyable game of the kind I really like and don't get to play enough of any more (others in this category are Terra Mystica, Tzolk'in, Caylus, and Agricola). Luckily there's an online implementation, so there have been a few evenings recently when Alex and I have played two-thirds of a game in real time, and finished it off as a background activity over the course of the next day. That's less satisfying than playing the whole thing in real time on a real board, but it's a very valuable substitute when you don't have the time. There's also quite a bit of fiddly bookkeeping, so it's nice to have the computer do that.
It has things in common with 7 Wonders, although it's more complicated. There are three Ages, and there's card drafting, and you can build resource-making buildings, which allow you to build the other kinds of buildings, which include point-scoring cultural artefacts, science buildings, military units, and multi-stage Wonders; and if you have a primitive building in a certain category it's cheaper to upgrade it into a more advanced building in the same category.
There are a lot of very interesting mechanics, and lots of different things to balance and juggle, and I like it. The flavour and mechanics are tied together well (I think if you had a list of the real historical people and wonders used in the game, and a separate list of the mechanics those cards provide, you could do a pretty good job of matching them up). And there's pleasing structure and patterns in the set of cards you can play.

Creature College
Alex kickstarted this and we tried it out at GamesEvening this week. There are nine bidding rounds in which you bid for monsters in five suits with various strengths, and every third round you have to fight your neighbours.
I didn't like it. It reminded me of King of Tokyo - I think it's aimed at pre-teens who will be excited about the cool/funny monsters and not care about the gameplay. I felt there wasn't enough game there to justify the length and complexity. To be fair, we did play it 6-player with people who were all new to the game, so it took longer than it otherwise would (1 1/2 hours plus rules explanation; box says 45 mins). The length of the bidding round squares with the number of players: if someone puts a higher bidding token on the monster you wanted, your token is kicked off, and you can put it on a different monster which someone else wanted and kick them off and so on.

Hot Tin Roof
This is about cats, which is a big plus.
It's a nice quick game with simple rules and interesting gameplay. There's a map of disconnected roofs, with places where they can be connected with catwalks. There are five action spaces, and every turn you have to seed all of them with fish coins from your own supply. Then you take one of them and all the fish on it (so the less popular spaces get more attractive over time). Three of them are for placing a pair of cats on a pair of distant roofs, one is for placing a catwalk, and one is for placing a shelter (an ownership marker on a roof, which doesn't affect the catwalk topology). You have to get your pair of cats to meet up (which earns 10 fish and gets those cats back), and you have to pay rent to the owners of any catwalks or shelters you traverse.
You can't take the three cat-placing actions when all your cats are already on the board (you have two pairs of cats), so when everyone's cats are on the board, the coins on those three action spaces pile up, and if you can get your cats back soon you can get a big payout that way.
There are a lot of interesting decisions, and it's quick to play and explain. The only flaw is the visuals. It's very pretty and atmospheric, but they've decided to go for realism over functionality. So the board is drawn at night, and all the player pieces are in realistic cat colours: light and dark grey, and light and dark brown. So it's hard to tell which opponent you're supposed to be paying rent to. It reminds me of La Strada, where everything's in different shades of brown. The other issue with the graphic design is that it's very hard to read the board and tell what's connected to what. It's like On the Underground or TransAmerica in that you want to know which spaces are connected to the general network and which aren't yet, but it's harder to parse that than it is in those games. I'm not sure whether that's deliberate or not - whether it's a graphic design failure, or a deliberate part of the skills needed to play the game.
I'd quite like to make a home-made reskin where the connections are more obvious and the player colours are red, yellow, blue and green. It would be less pretty but more playable.

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Watched 101 Dalmatians with the girls. I hadn't seen it before. Pongo and Perdita are having their first litter of puppies, with the women of the house in attendance, who come out and report to Roger that there are 8 puppies. But more puppies keep being born and they keep revising their count - 11, 12, 13, 14, 15! which the girls found hilarious.
Then there's a bit of Mood Whiplash - a revised count, "14, we lost one" and they bring out a tiny bundle wrapped in a yellow cloth and hand it to Roger, who sadly opens it to look (not showing the audience). I thought, eek, puppy stillbirth, that's a bit of a heavy topic to explain to the girls. Then Roger tries rubbing the lifeless puppy to restore it to life, and it works, and a little white nose peeps out of the bundle, and they all rejoice and exclaim "15!"
But then when Alex got home, Bethany described the plot to him, and she thought they'd lost the 15th puppy, as in mislaid it. She thought it was really funny that the missing puppy turned up in the very same yellow cloth the lady was holding when she said "We've lost one" - like, it was there all along and the lady didn't realise!
I wonder whether this ambiguity was intentional on Disney's part, so that young children can understand the film on one level and adults on another.

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