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Refurbishing an Old Board Game

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Does anyone else here like to play the board game Aggravation? It’s a game where you have to move your marbles around the board to get from “home” to “safe.” Along the way, you can take shortcuts, or take out your friends and send them back to the beginning. It looks like this:

I love this game! It’s so fun. So, when I saw a crappy old one for $1 at a garage sale, I bought it. But it didn’t have enough holes drilled in it. It only had holes around the outside (see photo below). That isn’t very fun! You need a center hole to be a short cut, and some way to get into the middle. So, I decided to add more holes!

I tried to make the curves smooth, and by putting masking tape on, I could erase them and adjust them before drilling them.

Initially, I used a drill stand which holds the hand drill at whatever angle you set. I set it for 90 degrees, or perpendicular. It worked alright, but on a couple of the holes, the device moved a little and the hole did not end up where I had wanted it. Then, we found a drill press on kijiji! So, I set the depth and that was better… for the holes it could reach. It couldn’t reach the holes closes to the centre, or the curved parts. So in the end, I used a combination of the hand-held drill and stand and the drill press. I think I may have drilled the center hole a bit too deep! Once I had all the holes drilled, I took the masking tape off.

Now, I had to do something about that rather awful finish. There were some pretty big gouges too, where the wood had broken away when the original maker drilled their holes. I filled those with wood filler and then went at it with the sander! The wood filler shows up as light grey in the photo below. Isn’t that a nice piece of wood, though!?! Without that orange stain?!?

I had to redrill one hole because the stand had slipped and the hole was too close to its neighbour. I put down lots of wood filler, then very carefully drilled into all that wood filler to move the hole over. It worked! in the photo above, the new hole is pretty close to 12 o’clock.

Next, I slowly and carefully painted all the holes with dark brown enamel that I’ve had around here for ages. Looks nice, doesn’t it!?! Sure beats that orange-brown wood! You can see old holes, new holes and painted holes below.

The new holes needed 2 coats because some enamel absorbed into the wood. Then, I had to decide what to do for the colours. Did you notice this game is a hexagon? There are home bases for 6 people to play. I thought about getting marbles in 6 colours and painting the home bases and safe bases in those colours, but then I remembered I had some large wooden beads… I used the beads and went through my craft supplies at home to find 6 different colours of enamel/paint that I already had! (Yes, some of it was nail polish! I also borrowed some yellow from my mom… Thanks, Mom!)

I am so pleased with the result!

I did kind of a minimalist painting scheme on the home bases, just connecting the holes with lines. Overall, this was a really fun project, and it would be equally fun to make from scratch! I’ve seen aggravation games with 4 home bases or 8, but 6 was good too.

How To Play

Your marbles (or in this case, beads) start at your home, which is on the outside edge of the board. My family plays by rolling a dice, but some people play with cards — that lets you plan your moves. You need to roll a 1 or a 6 to get out of the home base and start playing — that just gets your marble onto that first hole outside your home base. Then, you move around clockwise according to how you roll until you get back to your safe — the part inside the curved areas on my board. In the photo above, you can see there are 2 orange marbles still at home and 2 out and about on the playing board. The copper-coloured player has one in his safe already and one in the shortcut… he or she is probably waiting for a 1 to get out! 🙂 As you go around, if you land on someone else’s marble you get to send them home. You can have all your marbles in play at one time, or just focus on one.

If you want to try your luck on the shortcut, you have to jump into the middle from a special dot. On my game, it is painted sparkly! On other games, it might be painted red or with a yellow circle around it. Can you see the sparkly holes at the top of each arc? You need to roll a 1 to get out, and you can come out onto any sparkly dot you choose… but you’ll probably want the one just before your safe base!

The first person to get all their marbles into their safe wins! At the end, sometimes I get stuck waiting for a small number like a 2 so I can get in the door! 🙂

I hope this inspires you to get a piece of plywood (at least a half inch thick) and start drilling some holes! 🙂 Take care, everybody.

More refurbishing: An Old Drum Carder

Like a Game of Bejewelled

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We can learn so much about ourselves by how we live, work and play. Since I got my new phone, I’ve been playing quite a bit of Bejewelled, and it makes me wonder if how I play indicates something about how I live.

**Oddly Specific Alert!** If you’ve never played Bejewelled, this post is not going to make much sense. Try it free online here first and then you’ll be able to follow me. (another link)

I like to play in the bottom half of the board, and allow the top jewels to fall down as I play, making lots of extra combinations. I love it when the Deep Voice says “excellent, awesome” and “spectacular,” even though all those extra combinations are pure luck. I particularly love how he says “spectacular” as if he really means it! I enjoy benefitting from the bonuses I don’t have to work for. Does this make me lazy? Maybe.

I really don’t like playing in the top half, or playing for specific combinations with a detailed strategy. I find there are too many random things — or jewel-actions I don’t understand — that when I try to line up certain combinations, it doesn’t usually work out very well anyway. I think this just confirms for me that I’m not a major control freak; if you try to plan every move, to get the most combinations of the best special jewels, it is a lot of effort and not always successful, just like in life.

hand playing Bejewelled on an iPhoneThere is one strategy I enjoy using, however. When the jewels are set up so that I have a choice between making a horizontal set of 3 or a vertical set, I prefer to make a horizontal set. Making vertical sets causes a lot of new jewels to fall in from above in such a way that I can’t wrap my brain around. Horizontal sets are nice because the jewels just fall down one space, and I can easily set up a few combination moves, or just enjoy the jewels falling and see what new possibilities arise.

Although the new jewels that appear are random, there is no question that how I move the jewels around to make combinations affects the position of the remaining jewels. What I do greatly affects the board, just as it is in life — what I do greatly affects my surroundings, although in life, what I think about and my overall attitude affect my environment greatly as well, which I haven’t seen to be the case, exactly, in Bejewelled.

I am definitely not one to plan a whole bunch of moves ahead. This is true in life, too. I feel best when I have a short-term plan, for a day or two in advance, but I don’t need or want to have a lot of plans for years from now. In fact, my honey and I have never had any sort of long term plan until this year, and wouldn’t you know it, a couple of months after hatching the plan, it changed anyway! So, we’re back to taking life as it comes — playing the jewels we have, making the best combinations we can without obsessing about the score or the level we achieve.

Of all the variations of Bejewelled, my favourite is the “Zen” mode. I like having no time limit to the levels, and although I could play slowly, I find I usually make combinations quite quickly. I don’t mind Blitz or the Original, but the timelessness of Zen is the best for me. I tried “Diamond Mine” and found it fun, but I had to change my strategy a lot to keep the combinations working along the bottom. There’s considerably more planning and watching what colour of combo is needed.

So, do you play with a similar strategy? Can you learn something about yourself by how you play whatever game you like to play? It’s fun to think about, isn’t it? 🙂

If You’re Happy and You Know it… Grow Some Neurons!

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We’ve all heard and intuitively know that when you’re happier, you’re healthier. Joseph Campbell has been saying for ages — follow your bliss. Abraham-Hicks says it too — the most important thing is that you feel good now. Well, I recently came across a tidbit of research that tells me science is finally catching up!

I read this excellent article recently that explains how scientists have proven that serotonin — the hormone associated with happiness — helps rats grow new brain cells. Specifically, when a certain serotonin-receptor is stimulated, the rats grew new neurons in their Enteric Nervous System (ENS). The ENS is a complex system of about 100 million neurons that inhabit the “gut” which supervise digestion and have intricate ties with the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). This alone is quite revolutionary, that we have neurons, essentially brain tissue, in our gut and not just our brain. In fact, we have two “small brains” — one in our gut and one in our heart, which account for the nervous, fluttery or heart-poundy feelings we can get at times. As a fetus develops, all the neurological tissue starts out in one area, a sort of tube, which extends out to form clusters which eventually become the brain, the heart and the gut. The exact role of these “small brains” is unknown, but I can’t help but wonder if it has something to do with our intuition. This is another excellent article about the heart’s rhythms and how the heart is a “small brain.”

The results of the study on the rats was published in The Journal of Neuroscience in August of 2009. So this isn’t even cutting-edge research (it’s just new to me). Yet so many of us are taught that if you drink too much, you’ll kill brain cells, and that you were only born with a certain number of them and if you kill them, you’ll never get them back. This is only half true — you can kill brain cells but you can also grow them back. If you are happy, your brain is healthier, and you are able to regrow new brain cells and the health of your existing cells is maintained. Plus, you can grow neurons in places other than your brain, and keep your gut and heart healthy.

Rack it up with all the other evidence that being happy is the best way to be! Nourish your playful spirit! Don’t let anything get you down. You are 100% in charge of your happiness and you can never blame circumstances when you’re miserable.

Note: I don’t approve of animal testing in general, but these studies on rats are pretty revolutionary. I hope the rats were treated well.