Thursday, January 26, 2012

Amazing video from the ISS over a stormy Africa.

Have you seen this amazing video of images the ISS captured while passing over a stormy Africa?

 The blog Lights in the Dark has this to say about some of the phenomenon that can be glimpsed in the timpe-lapse video (which is actually made up of still-photographs)

One of the latest uploads to the Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth site, this short-but-oh-so-sweet video shows the view from the Space Station as it passes over Africa, Madagascar and the southern Indian Ocean at night on December 29, 2011. Multiple lightning storms flash over Africa while the Milky Way rises majestically behind the thin line of Earth’s atmosphere, capped by a greenish layer of airglow. Also making an appearance is Comet Lovejoy, at the time two weeks after its near-fatal sunburn. It can be made out rising near the Milky Way’s right side, its faint tail vertical.

There is more information, including some FAQs over at  Lights in the Dark.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Help fight hunger and DC Entertainment will match your donation 100%

In an amazing use of their brand, DC Entertainment is using the Justice League to increase awareness of the famine in Africa's horn. 

The "We Can be Heroes" campaign is soliciting donations which will go to Save the Children, International Rescue Committee and Mercy Corps.  The best part? DC Entertainment will match 100% of your donation.  If your employer also matches contributions, this would be a great way for you to get the most bang out of your charitable buck. is also selling special "We Can be Heroes" merchandise featuring the Justice League and 50% of the merchandise proceeds will also go to the aforementioned charities. I'm ordering a shirt right now!

Even Stormtroppers need cheesy family photos.

This is making the rounds on Facebook this morning.
I can't find any credible information on what genius photographer made this, but it made me laugh.  I'll bet many of us have a series of similar photographs with our kids.  I'm really impressed with how much life he/she was able to convey using action figures, what a great eye they have!

Know who created this masterpiece?  Send the info to sharon(at)parentinggeekly(dot)com so I can give proper credit!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ready for Lego Minecraft?

You really can't help but compare Minecraft to it's real-world work-alike, Lego.  Both activities involve building items out of blocks.  Well pretty soon you will be able to build Minecraft creations with Lego.

The idea for a Minecraft Lego set was submitted by Mojang (Minecraft's publisher) to CUUSSO, Lego's crowd sourced submission site.  In CUUSSO a user submits the idea for a set and the public votes on them. Any sets that receive 10,000 votes is submitted to a Lego Jury who determine wether or not a project is feasible.  The Minecarft concept broke Lego CUUSSO records, reaching the 10,000 vote mark in less than 48 hours.  Today the Lego CUUSO blog published the news that Minecraft fans had been waiting to hear:

We're happy to announce that the Minecraft project on LEGO CUUSOO has passed the LEGO review and we are now developing a concept that celebrates the best aspects of building with the LEGO system and in Minecraft. We can’t wait to show it to you—but it isn't ready just yet. These things take time, so we appreciate your patience. More details are to come.

Since this was the official Mojang endorsed effort, they will be able to work with Lego to secure licensing.  As the "owner" of the project Mojang will receive 1% of sales, which they have pledged to donate to charity. I'm assuming they will also receive licensing fees, but due to the weird nature of the collaboration it's hard to say.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The importance of an RSVP

My friend, the awesome Geeky Hostess has a new column on manners for geeks that she is publishing every Monday.   You really should visit her every Monday for easy to apply advice, but today she hit on a topic that is particularly relevant to parents - the RSVP.

For things like gymnastics centers, indoor play areas, bounce centers, etc. parties are many times charged a flat rate.  For example, a party may cost $200 for up to 10 kids.  The parent planning the party is going to get charged $200 even if only five children attend.  In this case it's imperative to RSVP if you can't make it because the space that was intended for you can be offered to someone else.

We frequently do birthday dinners at family friendly restaurants.  If I make a reservation for 20 people are 10 show up, the restaurant has planned to staff for 20 they're going to be annoyed.  If 30 people show up and they have to smush into a space for 20 everyone is going to be annoyed.

As far as the etiquette of the manner of RSVP'ing, I don't really think it matters how you do it as long as you do it.  Recently, due to vacation and craziness at our house we neglected to RSVP for a wedding This is bad*.  I know how annoyed I get planning an five year old's birthday party, I can't imagine how much stress a bride goes through when she has RSVPs floating out there with no reply (sorry Anne!).  So as soon as I recognized what we had forgotten - only a few days had passed.  I texted the groom and let him know.  He was cool.  And now everyone is happy.  Just RSVP.

*I would like to point out that this isn't even the first time something like this happened.  I actually sent my RSVP to another wedding years ago, and the couple never received it.  Again, all was remedied with a phone call.  Just communicate!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The case for pink.

I think it's fair to say that geeks treasure being different.  We relish in our weirdness and take great pride in the fact that we're different, that we aren't average. Being a geek is a source of pride for me, and when we found out we were having a girl we decided that our daughter wouldn't look up to damsels-in-distress, our daughter would be told she was "good" or "smart" or "brave" -  not "pretty" and no one would call our daughter "Princess".

And then Princess Kitty was born, and that all flew out the window.

You see, kids are little people.  As much as we'd like to think that it's through our gentle molding that they become who they are (and a lot of it is) there is a whole person in there with their own ideas about what is cool that has nothing to do with what mom and dad planned.

Kitty has access to Lego, lots of Lego.  She has a microscope and her own computer.  She has superhero action figures and Matchbox cars, and she loves them all.   But she doesn't nearly love them as much as she loves Tikka Tikka, her baby doll.  Or as much as she loves to dress her American Girl Doll in frilly dresses, or as much as she loves to BEG me to paint her nails.

She loves superhero movies, and we have a DVD library full of them.  If you asked her what she wanted to watch though, she's more likely to tell you "Beauty and the Beast".  She plays her Disney Princess video game in a hand me down blue Nintendo DS, but she has told me on multiple occasions that she wishes they made a pink one (she is unaware that they do).

You may think a lot of this resistance to the things we have steered her towards is due to the media.  That may be partially true, there's no escaping that.  But we don't have broadcast TV, she never sees commercials and the programs that she does watch are closely vetted by SD and I to make sure that they fit our criteria, one of which is the way the show handles gender-issues.

I tell you all of this because I have come to the following conclusion:  some girls just like pink, and that's okay.

I think this is harder for geeks to accept than the general public.  Many girl geeks were shunned for their lack of interest in the girly pursuits of their peers.  My guess is that most of the geeky moms reading this were the only girl who played DnD with a group of boys, or the only girl on the block who could beat Mortal Kombat 3. I was there, too and it was a lonely place.  Now as moms our job is to protect our girls from those mean girls, to let them know that it's okay to like math and to want to be an astronaut instead of a fashion designer.  But what we really need to be doing is telling our girls that it's okay to like whatever you like. That it doesn't matter if you like Barbies or video games or princesses or Pokemon or all of those things. That it is important to be comfortable with whoever you are, and to respectfully and compassionately let other people be who they are.

How did I get on this tirade?  Because some people on the internet have their undies in a bunch about Lego putting out a line of  building sets that are targeted specifically to girls.  The opponents of Lego's "Friends" line seem to think that somehow by making a line that is being marketed directly to girls they are negating that girls can play with their other lines.

They are LOTS of girls out there who like the Lego sets that are currently available. They aren't suddenly going to be banned from continuing to buy Lego City or Star Wars or Harry Potter because Friends has come out.  The girls who don't care about things being pink and "girly" are already Lego customers.  But they realized that there are some girls (and boys) who do care about things being pink and pretty.  There are some girls who would rather play house than act out a podrace. There was a market that they were missing out on.  It was a sound business decision as evidenced by the fact that Friends has been sold out at all the stores I've been to since it was released.

If the Friends line gets one girl interested in Lego who wasn't before and that girl goes on to discover a love of architecture or design or engineering, that's a great thing.

In the little fantasy world I had before Kitty was born she looked more like the little girl in the great ad that Lego published two decades ago:

But in reality this is Kitty:

To be fair one of her favorite things to do in this outfit was a "Zombie Ballet".

And I couldn't love her more.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Talking to your kids about SOPA as it appears today Jan. 18, 2012 in protest of SOPA and PIPA

Your kids may have noticed (especially if they are home on a snow day like mine are) that both Wikipedia and Minecraft are blacked out today to protest SOPA.  Nate was pretty angry that Minecraft was down, but once we explained why, he was on board. do you explain to your kids why their favorite game is down?

We explained that there are already rules about copyright.  There are many ways for someone who owns a copyright to enforce those laws.  Some people (mostly big corporations) who hold copyrights don't feel that those rules are strong enough.  They want to make sure that EVERYONE on the internet, even kids like you, have to obey very strict copyright rules.

Then, we used Justin Beiber as an example (thanks, Colbert Report!).  If SOPA had been in place Justin Beiber wouldn't be the big star he is today, in fact his mom might be in jail.  When he sang other people's songs - which are copyrighted - and uploaded them to YouTube, he would have gotten in trouble- just for singing a copyrighted song and putting it on the internet! Since his mom was the one who uploaded those videos she could have been sent to jail for up to five years.  YouTube would also have gotten into trouble, and could be shut down for allowing Justin Beiber to upload his performance videos.  Because of how much trouble YouTube could get into, they may stop allowing people like you and me (and Justin Beiber) to upload videos, and would only be able to get videos from major corporations and other verified copyright holders.

SOPA also asks internet providers to deny access to any international site that violates these rules.  So even if Justin Beiber DID make his video, and put it up in Canada, with SOPA Comcast would block your computer (and any computer in the U.S.) from being able to view the entire site that had the video.

Now think about all the user created content that makes the internet so great.  Videos of you and your friends lip-synching or dancing to popular music could get you or your parents thrown in jail.  If you post a picture that you didn't take on Twitter, you could go to jail.  If you write a story featuring Disney Princesses or Transformers and post it on Facebook you could go to jail.  And YouTube and Twitter and Facebook would be so worried that they would get in trouble, that they would stop allowing you to post anything, effectively changing the internet.

So what can  a kid do?  A kid can write or call your legislators and encourage them to protect the internet for the future.  Both kids and parents can click this link to look up their representatives.  Call, email or write and do it today!

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