Follow-up Stories

I don’t have a lot of new stories to tell right now, but I can expand on some of the previous ones:

Everything Is Awesome

For Christmas, I was seriously thrilled to find a Lego cat set for him. (I mean really! A Lego cat! What could be more perfect for this boy?) I also ordered a pound of random Legos from one of those eBay sellers who offers random Legos by the pound. On top of that, my friend Tashi got him a set with the Ice Cream Machine from the completely awesome, totally-shoulda-been-nominated-for-Best-Picture Lego Movie. Oh, and Santa also brought the videogame version of the Lego movie.

When he got all these new Legos, he decided he wanted to mix them all together in a big box after following a couple of the recipes. He used the melange to make a bunch of his own creations, which he called “The Dragonfighters of England.” These are various brave Lego people, with various brave Lego ships, dedicated to battling the dragon who lives in our house. The dragon is furry, and cute, and fierce, and meows a lot. He is far more powerful than the Dragonfighters, so the merest sniff blows them away.

Quick aside: Here’s how Nimbus earned his reputation as a dragon. One day Laura brought home a bag of marbles as a gift for Dante, and for whatever reason, the marbles were marketed as “Henry Hobbit” marbles. Whenever one of these would drop on the ground, Nimbus would run up from wherever he was and start batting the marble and chasing it around. As a result, Dante nicknamed him “Smaug”, and he’s been a huge hobbit-chasing enthusiast ever since then. Lucky for the hobbits, they’ve figured how how to find safe haven beneath the oven.

Anyway, after the Dragonfighters’ day was done, they were disassembled, and Dante decided to sort all his Legos by color, so that he could make some more recipes. He did that (made the cat), and this week has been building a “Lego utopia” for his people – basically a campground and a playground, along with some vehicles. There’s a tent, a tree, a grill, a pool, a boat, a slide, a sandbox, etc. Laura and I have been participating on some of these, but the passion is Dante’s all the way.

Lego Utopia

Little Nero In Filmland

The “making things with computers” energy is going into mini-movies right now. The Lego video game (and movie) has a concept called “Master Builders”, which basically means that a character gathers up a bunch of Legos into a whirlwind, then builds something cool at super-speed. Dante got interested in reproducing this effect on video with himself as the builder, so he explored a couple of ways to do that.

First, he discovered a time-lapse feature on our tablet, with an adjustable interval. It works very well to create the super-fast building effect, and he’s also taken various movies of other things too – the gathering night, parts of our house throughout the day, and of course the cat. Then he started investigating a program called Nero, which I mainly bought for CD burning long ago, but which also has a video editing component. That video editor has some speed variation effects, which can slow down or speed up a piece of video up to 10x. He tried the high speed for master-build videos, but it didn’t come out as well as the time-lapse. However, the slow speed has proven to be lots of fun. He’s made slow motion videos of Lego contraptions exploding, balls flying through the air, and of course, the cat.

I’m Making A Note Here: HUGE SUCCESS

Dante finished Portal! And when I say Dante finished it, I mean that I gave no answers, no walkthroughs, no hints. I sometimes sat in the driver’s seat, especially for those puzzles which required quick reflexes, but at all points I asked Dante what to do, and he directed me. I was the instrument at times, but the exploration, examination, and experimentation was all his. It was very cool to see. Sometimes he could solve a puzzle straight away. Sometimes he’d bang away at a puzzle for a while and then take a break from the game, only to come back later and very quickly see what needs to be done. Sometimes he’d try a few things fruitlessly, then say, “Ooh, I have an idea.” I think that was my favorite one to watch.

I’d played the game before, so I had a pretty clear sense at all points of what the correct next step was, but I restrained myself from providing that info. It’s much more satisfying and empowering, not to mention a better lesson and a better mental exercise, for him to solve it himself. He even figured out the game’s final puzzle way faster than I did when I played for the first time!

Now we’re on to Portal 2, which is even more fun than the original. I’m loving the experience of seeing the game again through his eyes, especially since the game itself is so completely entertaining. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if one of its cast members turned out to be an Academy Award winner in a couple of weeks here…

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