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The GeekDads Episode #75: Old, Grumpy, and Eccentric

geekdadrobotlogo500xtra1Ken and Matt chat with David Hewlett – geek, dad and actor – about Apple gadgets, Buckaroo Banzai, and the joy of geeky dad-hood. Enjoy!

GeekDad.com is the parenting blog at Wired.com, edited by Ken Denmead, Matt Blum and Chris Anderson. It is a community of like-minded geeky parents writing about our experiences raising our kids in the digital age, and about our obsessions with technology, family-friendly projects, and pop-culture. The GeekDads podcast is a bi-weekly discussion of anything and everything that impacts us as geeks and parents.

You can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

You can subscribe directly with this RSS feed.

You can download or listen to GeekDad Episode 75.mp3.

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The GeekDads Episode #66: It’s a Trap!

geekdadrobotlogo500xtra1

The GeekDads talk about the iPhone/Gizmodo scandal, Ken’s book and (more about) the upcoming Maker Faire. Enjoy!

GeekDad.com is the parenting blog at Wired.com, edited by Ken Denmead, Matt Blum and Chris Anderson. It is a community of like-minded geeky parents writing about our experiences raising our kids in the digital age, and about our obsessions with technology, family-friendly projects, and pop-culture. The GeekDads podcast is a bi-weekly discussion of anything and everything that impacts us as geeks and parents.

You can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

You can subscribe directly with this RSS feed.

You can download or listen to GeekDad Episode 66.mp3.


How to Raise Racist Kids

Telfair Museum, Savannah, Georgia. Photo: UGArdener via Flickr

Telfair Museum, Savannah, Georgia. Photo: UGArdener via Flickr

Step One: Don’t talk about race. Don’t point out skin color. Be “color blind.”

Step Two: Actually, that’s it. There is no Step Two.

Congratulations! Your children are well on their way to believing that <insert your ethnicity here> is better than everybody else.

Surprised? So were authors Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman when they started researching the issue of kids and race for their book NurtureShock. It turns out that a lot of our assumptions about raising our kids to appreciate diversity are entirely wrong:

It is tempting to believe that because their generation is so diverse, today’s children grow up knowing how to get along with people of every race. But numerous studies suggest that this is more of a fantasy than a fact.

Since it’s Black History Month, I thought it would be a good time to talk about race, particularly some of the startling things I found in this particular chapter of NurtureShock. What Bronson and Merryman discovered, through various studies, was that most white parents don’t ever talk to their kids about race. The attitude (at least of those who think racism is wrong) is generally that because we want our kids to be color-blind, we don’t point out skin color. We’ll say things like “everybody’s equal” but find it hard to be more specific than that. If our kids point out somebody who looks different, we shush them and tell them it’s rude to talk about it. We think that simply putting our kids in a diverse environment will teach them that diversity is natural and good.

And what are they learning? Here are a few depressing facts:

  • Only 8% of white American high-schoolers have a best friend of another race. (For blacks, it’s about 15%.)
  • The more diverse a school is, the less likely it is that kids will form cross-race friendships.
  • 75% of white parents never or almost never talk about race with their kids.
  • A child’s attitudes toward race are much harder to alter after third grade, but a lot of parents wait until then (or later) before they feel it’s “safe” to talk frankly about race.

We’re very comfortable now talking to our kids about gender stereotypes: we tell our kids that women can be doctors and lawyers. Heck, Barbie can be a computer engineer! What Bronson and Merryman point out is that we should say the same thing about race: doctors can be any skin color. A (half-)black man can be President. Black people can be very cool geeks.

So, in honor of Black History Month, talk to your kids about race. Need some help? Parenting.com recently posted 5 Tips for Talking About Racism With Kids. I would argue, though, that “most important” should be say something, because simply “being a role model” is apparently not having the effect we think it does. Oh, and also? Make sure if you use that eggs analogy that your kids don’t think you’re encouraging them to crack people open.

Related links:

Top Ten African American Characters in Science Fiction

Buy NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children on Amazon

NurtureShocked and Awed by a Great Book

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ugardener/ / CC BY-NC 2.0


Top 10 Geeky Fonts

There are two sorts of geeky fonts. First there are the ones that appeal to typography nerds because of their creator, history, mathematical beauty or whatnot.

Then there are fonts that appeal to geeks because they play on our geeky nostalgia, reference our hobbies or have a direct pop culture link. These are the ones compiled here.

villageThe #1 Geeky Font has more than just a pop culture link. It was not only part of the logo for one of the greatest geeky shows ever, it was actually part of the show, appearing on signs, maps and everywhere else type was needed. The Village, the seaside resort that was The Prisoner’s prison, was a place under someone’s totalitarian control. So it made sense that whoever was in charge would control not just information, but even the look of the information (Editor’s Note: wonder if Steve Jobs was a Prisoner fan?).

And here are the rest:

fontsgeeky

2) Blade Runner — A hideous, futuristic font from a movie set in a hideous, futuristic culture.

3) Mobile Font — We’ll be nostalgic for these one day soon.

4) o4b_21 — Space Invaders, Pac-Man and it’s hard to say what else in a classic 5×5 pixel grid.

5) eDisplayDemo — Almost unreadable, but legibility isn’t everything.

6) Embroidery — Everything looks better as a cross-stitch sampler.

7) SF Comic Script Shaded — A pulpy adventure font gives anything a little extra awesomeness.

8) KCaps — A great gag, but also mighty useful for instruction manuals.

9) ComicFX — The only non-alphabet font to make out list, but there are more to choose from: trains, nerds, cars, logos.

10) tie

PlanetNS — Hard to beat NASA nostalgia…

Crackman — …unless it’s with arcade nostalgia.

Runners up– Transformers, Blade2, Astron Boy Wonder [sic], Dracula, Captain Podd, Coca-Cola ii

Finding these and other fonts: There are countless free fonts out there and many font sites to help you find them.

Our favorite is searchfreefonts.com because it allows you to type in your own sample text and see how it will look before downloading the font. This is quite a fun activity for the Geeklets.

If you find anything that you think belongs on this list, please add it to the comments.


Minne-Faire: A Twin Cities Mini Maker Faire This Saturday

Minne-Faire.CDR

Twin Cities Maker is going to have a Mini Maker Faire at the Hack Factory on February 13th, 2010! Come one, come all! We’re planning to have the fun start at 2 PM with local makers exhibiting and playing in the newly acquired space. We will also have an Art Show and Party later that night for people to come and experience the space and have some refreshments.

The lineup of makers includes a demonstration by Bill Gurstelle, the music of Tim Kaiser, air cannons, replica movie props, an arduino demonstration, a display by the local Tripoli rocketry club, art cars, a life-sized Operation Game as well as flamethrowers and pulse jets by local engineering firm CazTek.

Interested in attending? The Hack Factory’s address is 3119 E 26th St Minneapolis, MN 55406.


The GeekDad Space Report for February 8, 2010

STS-130 Launch (Image: NASA)

STS-130 Launch (Image: NASA)

Hello all from the Hoth-like D.C. Metro area! We are all digging out here but space exploration marches on!

The launch of a Progress supply ship went off on time this past week and rendezvoused with the ISS on Thursday. Meanwhile, at the Kennedy Space Center, the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour was delayed from Sunday the 7th due to weather and was successfully launched this morning.  Check out last week’s GeekDad Space Report for more information on the mission and the crew of STS-130. Endeavour is scheduled to arrive at the ISS early on Wednesday morning. You can check out a video of the launch on YouTube.

Launches (Sources: Spaceflight Now World Launch Schedule, Wallops Flight Facility Daily Range Schedule)

Monday, February 8-
Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA
Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Endeavour
Launch Pad: Launch Complex 39A (Map View)
Mission: STS-130
Launch Time: 09:14 GMT (04:14 EST)
Notes: Delivery of the Tranquility Module to the ISS and the final scheduled night launch of the Space Shuttle program.

Wednesday, February 10 -
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Launch Vehicle: Atlas V
Launch Pad: SLC-41 (Map View)
Payload: Solar Dynamics Observatory
Launch Window: 15:26-16:26 GMT (10:26-11:26 EST)
Notes: Launch of a new observer of our local star.

Friday, February 12 -
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
Launch Vehicle: Proton
Payload: Intelsat 16
Launch Time: 00:39 GMT
Notes: New communications satellite set to service Latin America.

Interesting Hubble Observations

In many ways, all of the Hubble observations are interesting, but here is a list of some of the standouts in the coming week. A more complete list can be found at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) This Week On HST Website.

The Physical Nature and Age of Lyman Alpha Galaxies

The Nuclear Structure of OH Megamaser Galaxies

The Disks, Accretion, and Outflows (DAO) of T Tau stars

This is a small list of the overall observations. You may also see some of these observations popping up in other weeks as many observation programs consist of several observations over time.

Asteroid Impact Captured

While we are talking about the Hubble Telescope, it appears the orbiting observatory may have captured the first image of an asteroid impact.  Wired Science has a report on the image which was captured by Hubble’s new Wide Field Camera 3.

Snowmaggedon From Space

Finally for this week, as I said at the start, I am among the many buried by a blizzard this past weekend. The MODIS instrument on the TERRA satellite captured a great view of the blanket of snow. Send warm thoughts!

Have a great week everyone!


Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

After the surprise success of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Seth Grahame-Smith is following up his New York Times best-seller with the history/vampire mashup, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Graham-Smith’s publisher sent a galley copy of the book (due for release on March 2, 2010) and we’re pleased to bring you the GeekDad take on this alternative biography of the 16th President of the United States of America. Spoiler alert: I’ll try not to reveal too many specific details, but some plot elements are discussed (although really, the title of the book should be a pretty big reveal).

Cover Art Image Supplied by Grand Central Publishing

Cover Art Image Supplied by Grand Central Publishing

“Some people, Abraham, are just too interesting to kill.” So says the vampire who saves a teenage Abe Lincoln, who’s bitten off a bit more than he expected after ambushing a vampire in the guise of an elderly woman, on board an Ohio river boat. After discovering that his mother was slain by a vampire, the young Abraham Lincoln swears vengeance against the undead, using an axe to begin a campaign of vampire eradication that eventually has him becoming the most skilled and successful vampire hunter in America. All the while, he’s steered by Henry Sturges, the vampire who saved him early on in his career and who is determined to prevent America from being over-run by those of his kind who would destroy the country with their excesses. Sturges uses Lincoln as his assassin, supplying the future President with the name and location of vampires to be disposed of and slowly maneuvering him toward his greatest role.

As a Canadian, I may lack the credentials to comment on the authenticity of Lincoln history, but I do have a basic grasp of the subject matter and I own a copy of Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary (which I’ve watched several times); I have a pretty good idea of the names, places and dates that form the background story. Grahame-Smith does an excellent job of capturing the spirit of this style of story-telling, mixing historically accurate anecdotes with entries from Lincoln’s fictional secret journal, weaving the vampire elements into the story in a manner that’s quite believable. For example, while the real Lincoln’s mother died of Milk Sickness, in the fictional account, she is killed by a vampire-induced illness, with the author noting that it was likely caused by a vampire dripping several drops of blood into her mouth as she slept (resulting in sickness and death without actually causing the victim to transform into a vampire). It’s not a big leap, if one accepts the possibility that vampires existed. Footnotes and sepia photographs (in which vampires or suspected vampires are helpfully circled), complete the authentic feel of the book. While you might think that transforming Abraham Lincoln into a vengeful killer of the undead is the biggest risk the author takes with his premise, I’d suggest that turning slavery into a humans versus vampires cause probably treads on more eggshells. The Civil War itself is transformed into a struggle caused by the machinations of two opposing vampire camps. Nevertheless, it all works and I made excuses to avoid sorting my tax receipts in order to finish up the book instead.

I suspect that many readers of this blog would enjoy Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but is it appropriate for your children? Young kids, definitely not. There is violence and it’s relatively restrained (especially when compared to, say, Stephen King’s Under The Dome, which I was also reading at the time), but it’s definitely too intense for the younger crowd. Parents of tweens and up shouldn’t have too many concerns though- while Lincoln works his way through a series of vampire decapitations, the description of the slayings isn’t particularly gruesome. Descriptions of Civil War injuries are actually the worst part, in terms of disturbing passages, and these are no worse than the accounts you’d find in history texts.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is available for pre-order now, with a March 2 release date.

Wired: Abraham Lincoln absolutely kicking vampire butt, effective interweaving of fiction and historical fact, use of historical photos (complete with subtle vampire elements) adds an air of authenticity.

Tired: Lincoln had many hardships in his life and the deaths of several children at a young age is always disturbing (obviously that’s not the author’s fault), but as a parent, I hate those parts.

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10 Ways to a Geeky Girl’s Heart

Big Heart of Art - 1000 Visual Mashups
Image by qthomasbower via Flickr*

If you’re a geeky guy looking to romance a geeky girl, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been with her forever or if she’s a new interest; realize that conventional romantic overtures won’t always work. Flowers can be construed as boring, since they’ll just die. Chocolates are tasty, but tend to add to our figures. Cards are nice, but unless you’ve written in a fair amount of your own content, they seem like a cop out. For geeky girls, think outside the box. Do something that will pique our interest, engage our minds. Here is a starter list of things to win (or keep) our hearts. Girls, add more ideas in the comments. Guys, list some things that have worked for you!

If you don’t already have your own geeky girl to love, then finding one to woo is the first step. The key is to spend time where geeky girls tend to hang out. Examples are bookstores, comic stores, craft stores, photography clubs or geeky gatherings like cons or Mensa gatherings. Not nearly as many will be hanging out at the local bar. If you look for a girl in a geeky place that you frequent as well, and then you’ll instantly have something in common.

Next, plan your strategy. Here are some ideas.

1. Plan a board game night. Consider the girl’s interests, and round up a few board games that are compatible. Then let her choose which ones to play. Make sure you find ones that work well with two players.

2. Be able to make situationally appropriate science jokes. It’s always especially fun when you and your girl are the only ones in the room who get the joke.

3. Plan a trip to somewhere new and stimulating. On a small budget, go to a museum or nature preserve. If the budget allows, think bigger or more unusual. Go somewhere that generates discussion (though not argument). You’re creating memories that you’ll always be able to share.

4. Design a treasure hunt. Forget the conventional or impersonal gifts. Designing a treasure hunt for your girl with a special note or gift at the end is one way of showing that you care enough to put in a lot of effort. You can make the hunt short or long, easy or hard. If you have known your geeky girl for long enough, use that history for some clue ideas. If the geeky girl is the type that likes to figure things out, she’ll love this idea.

5. Be able to have interesting conversations on any topic. This doesn’t mean that you have to be an expert in everything, but be willing to discuss unusual topics. Know nothing about fossils? Be willing to have her teach you what she knows, and ask relevant questions. If you try to learn something new each day, you’ll always have something new to talk about.

6. Learn to cook a variety of dishes. Some people are able to make one dish that is always a hit, but if you’re going to go on more than one date, or have a long term relationship, knowing how to cook a variety of dishes is important, even if your girl likes to cook also. Staples like spaghetti and meatballs or macaroni and cheese are great for later, but at this point, try for something a little more complicated. You get bonus points for pairing the meal with an appropriate wine or other fancy beverage (sparkling apple cider, sparkling white grape juice or gourmet root beer work very well for the non-drinkers).

7. Give unusual flowers. If your geeky girl loves flowers anyway, don’t go for the conventional roses. Choose something unusual or personal. Choose by color, by source or find something related to your history together.

8. Learn about what she enjoys. Consider her interests. You love shoot-em-up video games, she likes puzzle games. Give her games a try some of the time. She’ll give you points for the attempt. This also holds true for movies, books, restaurants and other activities. Chances are that she’ll reciprocate and try out some of your interests. You both may learn to like some new things.

9. Be able to honestly express how you feel. Showing how you feel is very important, but it is equally important to say the words. Geeky girls are often more introspective than average, and can often articulate how they feel or what they want. It is important to be able to reciprocate.

10. Leave a little mystery. While geeky girls love to learn all about your interesting personality, it always helps to leave a little bit of mystery to keep them wanting more. Just make sure it’s not suspicious mystery; that could backfire.

Throughout it all, remember this: Geeks like to think. They like to be with people who think, especially those that have plenty of thought provoking conversations. Appeal to her intellect by displaying yours, but respect and cultivate her intellect in the process. Your efforts will be rewarded.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Tip of the heart to my husband who helped with this post.

*Image: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

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Chewie Says: “Lots of Snowwwwrrggh!”

Centimeters v. inches? Meters v. feet?

Come on, we’re GeekDads. We measure snow a little differently. May I present the soon-to-be-galactically-adopted Giant Vintage Kenner Chewbacca Scale.

Image: John Booth

Image: John Booth

Chewie reported to his post around 9:00 p.m. EST Friday, Feb. 5, when the above photo was taken. (For the record, there was virtually no snow on the ground Friday morning.)

At 5:45 a.m. EST Saturday, Feb. 6, everybody’s favorite Wookiee was little more than a snowbump on the Hoth plains, thanks to the big storm that moved through overnight.

Image: John Booth

Image: John Booth

“Grrrrrgmph!”

(Translation: “Hey, Han? Next time, YOU be the [Wookiee expletive] decoy.”)


GeekDad Puzzle Of The Week: My Amazing Comic Collection Solution

Image: Flickr user random letters'

Image by Flickr user random letters'

Thanks to everyone who sent in an entry for this week’s puzzle. Zombies, a genetic apocalypse, a vigilante, vikings and a wandering man of the cloth might have frightened some people away, but it didn’t scare Bryce Vander Poel, who got the answer right and won this week’s $50 gift certificate from our favorite friends, those fantastic folks over at Think Geek.

Puzzle:

I have a huge bookcase. It’s stacked with trinkets and framed photos, Photoshop reference books and tons of O’Reilly guides. There are books I’ve read and ones I’m planning on getting to … one day. But the bulk of my bookcase is devoted to my true love: comics.

In the center, are five first editions from some of my most favorite comics, which I’ve had bound in different colors of soft, Corinthian leather. (What can I say? I’m obsessive.) Assigning each book a letter to identify them, the books are of two different heights, with three standing a little shorter - books B, C & E. Then, books A &D are taller than the others. These books are placed in the following order on my shelf: A, B, C, D, E. Need some more info?

1. Y: The Last Man is taller than the one in the red leather, which is next to and left of The Walking Dead.

2. The book in the black leather is farther left than Northlanders, but farther right than Preacher.

3. Punisher has green leather and is a different size than the book in blue leather, which is farther right than Punisher, but farther left than the book with brown leather.

With these hints, can you identify - from A to E - the color and title of each comic book?

Solution:

This is a basic logic puzzle, with variables relating to book title, book color and location on the shelf (with information that relates to book size). By filling in information from the clues provided, we can quickly deduce that book A is Punisher in green leather; B is Preacher in red; C is The Walking Dead in blue; D is Y: The Last Man in black and E is Northlanders in brown. The table I used to work out a solution can be seen below.

comics-solution

Don’t forget to tune in on Sunday when Dave Giancaspro will affront your frontal lobes with another puzzle of GeekDad magnitude!

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