Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Star Wars family decals are way cooler than the stick figure ones most families have.

At this point I think I just need to sign my paychecks right over to Think Geek.

I am not a fan of car window family decals.  I just don't get the point of wanting weird stick figure representations of the members of your family (really only identifying their gender) on the back of your car.

I am however, seriously considering buying some of these Officially Licensed Star Wars Decals.  for $14.99 you get 50 decals, with 19 separate characters to choose from.  So Mom's truck can have Han+Leia= Yoda and R2-D2  and Dad's car can have Darth Vader + Padme = Kid Luke and Leia.   The set comes with 12 Stormtrooper Kid decals, so even the largest geek families can represent!

Star Wars Family Car Decals $14.99 at Think Geek.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Superhero kid prints, perfect for a geeky nursery

These charming illustrations of kids using the power of imagination to become their favorite superheroes would be fantastic in a nursery or kid's room.  I am actually going to order a few to hang in Nate and Kitty's shared bedroom.  It's been a challenge to find artwork that would appeal to both them with their different styles and large age difference.  These are just perfect.

They can be found on deviantART user Andy Fairhurst's shop by clicking here.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sponsored Post: T-Mobile's tools for summer safety

11 year old Nate has a cell phone.  Are you aghast? Some people are when they hear that he's had his own phone since age nine, and that he was upgraded to a smartphone late last year.  I'm guessing that many of the readers of this particular blog are not as shocked.

As geeks, technology plays a huge role in daily life for many of us and that extends to our geeklings. I am a firm believer in educating my children in the role technology should (and shouldn't) play in their lives.  I'm trying to raise savvy, educated citizens here and cutting them off from the technology they'll soon use every day isn't practical.

Photo courtesy of T-Mobile. Nate wouldn't be caught dead with that haircut.
I'm a T-Mobile customer, and one of the ways they have continued to keep me impressed is with their tools for families.  They seem to be one of the few technology companies out there that really "gets" it. They understand that many of our kids have access to technology and provide their users with tools to manage that.

I personally love that I can use features on the Family Allowances dashboard to prevent my insomniac 11 year old from texting his friends after a certain hour at night.  The ability to cut off paid downloads after a certain dollar amount teaches him how to manage his allowance, while offering me (and my bank account) peace of mind.

T-Mobile also offers FamilyWhere which allows you to locate a phone (and potentially a child) precisely on a map.  I was a bit creeped out by the potential for misuse here, but when I went to pick up Nate from school the other day and we had a misunderstanding about where on the campus we were to meet, I sure wished I would have had it. This program also allows kids to quickly an discreetly check in via text message, and can automatically send you a text a message if a kid isn't where they're supposed to be at a certain time. This is great peace of mind for the parents of kids who come home from school to an empty house.  You can know that they got there when they were supposed to.

Even with all the cool technology available to T-Mobile customers, there are additional steps that all families should take regardless of their carrier. Anyone can follow these tips from T-Mobile:

ICE: Save important contact numbers into your child’s phone; add ICE (In Case of Emergency) so responders or others can reach you if your child is in trouble, e.g. ICE Daddy Cell; ICE Home.

Check-in Text: Encourage kids to send a quick, discreet text as an alternative to an “embarrassing” check-in call when they arrive or leave somewhere.

911: Teach your child how to call 911 on a cell phone in case of emergency, including how to place the call if the phone is locked.

Memorize: Though numbers may be programmed into a child’s phone, teach them to memorize family/emergency contact phone numbers in case they get separated from their phone.

Current Photos: Keep current photos of your kids on your cell phone, updating each family member’s photo every six months.

Charge It: Ensure your child understands cell phones must be turned on while away from home. Make sure the phone is charged at night and buy a spare charger for his/her backpack.

Cell Phone-Ready? Giving your child a cell phone can help increase safety. If your child walks home alone, babysits, or participates in afterschool activities, it may be the right time. Summer is a great time for parents and children to practice having this new responsibility.

Family Contract: Discuss the rules your child must obey to have a cell phone and create a family contract for responsible use with must-dos like answering your calls/texts, keeping the phone on when away from home, not using it during school, not responding to unknown numbers, and more.
Another favorite feature that is available to all cell phone users, but has extras for T-Mobile customers is the Lookout App, which is available on Google Play and the iTunes store.  I use this app almost daily because I am constantly putting my phone down and forgetting where I left it.  Because of the button placement on my phone I almost always set it on silent mode...Lookout can make it beep anyway!  Lookout also backups your files and checks your phone for malicious files/viruses.  Premium features even allow you to lock your phone and wipe it clear of all data if it's lost or stolen.

For more information about these services and the other family-friendly products that T-Mobile offers visit family.t-mobile.com

Monday, June 18, 2012

Reminder: Take the Parenting Geekly Reader Survey!

I'd love to know your thoughts on how I can make Parenting Geekly the best it can possibly be.  I'd also like to get some independent advertising on the site, as opposed to the generic stuff Google serves up.  To do that I need some demographic info. 

Click here to take the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ParentingGeekly
The survey is less than 20 questions and should only take a few minutes.  After you fill it out head to this page for a chance to win an Amazon Gift Card.

Happy Father's Day to all the hardcore dads out there

A Twitter follower shared this with me, and it made me chuckle.  Happy belated Father's Day to all dad's with "dozens of dollaz" out there

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

EMP ICONS of Science Fiction

On Friday night I had the opportunity to preview the new ICONS of Science Fiction exhibit at the EMP Museum here in Seattle.

The new exhibit was celebrated with an fantastic opening party.  Brooks Peck, the curator opened the party by telling the geeks in attendance that they were letting him down.  "When is the last time you told the bus driver to live long and prosper?"  And suggested that the watered down vampire stories and romance novels were turning SciFi readers into...well, romance readers. He suggested that we get back to our Science Fiction roots and that checking out the new exhibit was a good first step.

The party was great.  Geek Girl Con was in attendance playing "Dr. Guess Who", the folks from Star Trek: Phoenix were enlisting guests into Starfleet, Geeks who Drink ran trivia, BJ Shea's Geek Nation podcast was sketching bacon and DABooth had a fantastic Dr. Who themed photo booth set up.

I think I'd make a good Companion.

Are you a fan of both Dr. Who and Star Trek?  Well, then you need to get a giant screen like the one set up in the EMP's Sky Church.  It showed all of the tweets coming in with the hashtag #EMPIcons while playing  a show on each side.  If you look carefully you can see that I tweeted "Shatner's head looks almost life sized over there ---->" because I'm hilarious like that.

How many parties do you go to where you are harassed by Klingons?

"Okay, Sharon, you got to go to an awesome party, we get it.  What's in the actual exhibit? Can I bring my kids?"  That's what I'm imagining you're saying right now, so...

The exhibit was broken up into a series of questions.  Each had corresponding books, props and information that tied into the question being asked.

"What if you were the chosen one?" 
This showcases props and info from Dune, The Matrix (Neo's coat), Star Wars, and Battlestar Galactica  

"What if you had superpowers?"
This part of the exhibit explores what it would be like to be super-human.  Here you can see Christopher Reeve's Superman IV costume, info about The Watchmen, and (adorably) an animation cell from The Powerpuff Girls

"What if we fought a war with aliens?"
This part of the exhibit showcases guns from Men in Black, the Anubis headdress from the Stargate film, and a toy spaceship used as a model in Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space.

"What if we were enslaved by our machines?"
Featured two of my favorite artifacts, the T-800 skull used in Terminator 2 and a Dalek from the Dr. Who episode "Rememberance of the Daleks".

"What if we could design our own children?"
Here, you can see the creepy teddy bear from A.I. and Data's uniform from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Because of the way the exhibit is grouped by question and not chronology or subject, the exhibit is really engaging, and would be interesting to those who are not necessarily fans of the genre.

It's worth mentioning that Peck mentioned that one of his "dream items" for the exhibit would be a screen-used prop or costume from Joss Whedon's Firefly because he feels that with it's limited run and cult-following it really embodies sci-fi culture.  So if you have such an item, or know where to get one and would like to display it for the world to see contact the EMP.

It's a really, really fun exhibit.  I think most older kids (10+) who are fans of science fiction would enjoy it.  While you're at EMP you can also check out the very interactive exhibit based on James Cameron's Avatar, and the rest of the EMP which is dedicated to rock memorabilia.

One caveat: The EMP is currently hosting an exhibit called "Can't Look Away: The Lure of Horror Film"  There is a small section of crossover with a small gallery between the two exhibits showcasing artifacts that span both the horror and science fiction genres.  Here you can see a facehugger and Alien from Aliens, Buffy's stake "Mr. Pointy", and the axe from The Shining.  The items in this space border on scary (the Alien model pictured at right is taller than I am.  I was convinced it was going to burst out of it's metal cage at any moment), and the adjacent "Can't Look Away" is definitely a PG-13 experience.  If you go, look for a picture of me on the "scream wall".  I posed for one, but didn't see it in the short time I was there.  The first reader to spot it and snap a photo will get a prize!

For more information and to buy tickets: http://www.empmuseum.org

Monday, June 11, 2012

Parent's Guide: Brave

Last night we had the chance to see Disney Pixar's Brave as part of the Seattle International Film Festival.  I sit on the SIFF Parent Committee and we were so thrilled a few months ago when SIFF programmers told us that they would be screening it a full twelve days before its release.

Brave tells the story of Scottish Princess Merida as she fights her mother's wish to marry her off to a member of an allied clan.  Obsessed with destiny, Merida turns to the supernatural to try and change hers with disastrous effect.  To fix what went wrong, she must take her mother on an adventure where they learn the importance of listening and compromise.

There's been a lot of talk about what a strong character Merida is.  And indeed, seeing a princess who is not only proficient in combat arts but actively fights against being paired up with "Prince Charming" was refreshing.  The only love story in the film was the one between Merida and her mother.  The mother/daughter relationship was so well written and some of the aforementioned tears were the result of being reminded of my own teenage interactions with my mother.  Teenagers can be cruel, parents can be angry and unyielding. 

At times it was laugh out loud funny, other times it was scary, and I spent about 25 of the 90 minute running time sobbing.  It had adventure, suspense, and sentimentality.  It was Pixar's doing its best at everything Pixar does best.

So..."Can I take my five year old to see Brave?"  I'd say "yes", with a few caveats.  There are some scary scenes with vicious bears (there are also plenty of cute scenes with bears).  Kitty was scared and grabbed my arm, but didn't get so upset that we had to leave.  There was a younger child in the theater who cried during some of the more intense scenes. There are a few a lot of animated bottoms shown. There is a scene involving a cleavage joke.  There was a real fear at the end (even for me) that the main conflict was not going to be resolved in a tidy way.  It's pretty typically Pixar in that there is genuine suspense.  I'd say it's fine for most kids 5 and up.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Facebook now charging to show you posts.

If you "like" Parenting Geekly on Facebook  you may have noticed that you aren't seeing as many posts from me lately.  Facebook has recently changed the way that posts from your "liked" pages show up.  They only show the posts to those of you that recently (or often) interact with the page by "liking" the posts, posting on the wall, etc. For Parenting Geekly that is 13 of you right now.  That's understandable, I don't interact with most of the Facebook pages I like, but I sure do enjoy seeing them in my feed.  It's why I "liked" them in the first place. They have recently given me the option of paying per post so that you can all see the stuff you already thought you were seeing, but paying for each post isn't really an option for me, most small businesses, other blogs, non-profits and grassroots organizations.

I believe that Facebook should make money, and I understand that as a publicly traded company they have investors to keep happy.  I have paid money to advertise the blog, but paying per post is just cost prohibitive.  Unfortunately it's also going to make Facebook pointless for many small organizations.

In my day job I am PR/social media consultant (plug: you can learn more/hire me here).  I specialize in helping small businesses and non-profits learn how to utilize social media.  Facebook was such a great tool for them because it was a free, easy way for them to interact with their supporters and customers.  My two-person dog walker client can't afford to pay $15 each time they want their customers to see a post.  I do all the social media for the Skagit Valley Festival of Family Farms, a non-profit dedicated to preserving family farms and farmland.  It's a worthy cause, and Facebook was our cost-effective way of letting people know about our event and how they can help throughout the year.  We operate on a teeny-tiny budget, there's no way we can afford to promote our posts, not even once.

I don't usually go into a ton of "behind the scenes" stuff, but I wanted you to know why Parenting Geekly's Facebook feed may seem a bit more quiet.  I also wanted to share this article with you that explains how you can fix this in your feed.  It's a bit of a pain in the butt, but I encourage you to go through the pages you like and at least make sure you are seeing posts from non-profits/causes you support.  Alternatively you can interact more with the pages you like by finding them and "liking" their most recent post or otherwise interacting with them.

Thanks to super-cool Geeky Songstress Marian Call for sharing the article on Twitter.

If you're reading this, you should take the Parenting Geekly reader survey!

Be prepared for an emergency.

Nate just completed his fifth grade project.  He goes to an alternative school and this project has been part of the 5th grade promotion requirements since before the school was part of the school district, when it was *really* alternative.  There is no structure, no guidelines, no grading rubric; the teacher told them "pick a subject and make a project". 

Nate originally wanted to do his project on wilderness survival, but figured that with the amount of time he had (and with his camping-phobic mother) he wouldn't be able to do anything that people would want to learn about.  So then it morphed into survival kits for camping trips kids his age would take - survival for kids.  That was pretty narrow in scope so I suggested that he work on family emergency kits.  He liked the idea and got started researching on the web and making lists.

The sites he referenced were 3days3ways.org which is a resource from the King County (where Seattle is) office of Emergency Management.  He recommends this one because it has a calculator.  You can plug in the number of family members you have and the number of days you'd like to be prepared for and it will give you the specific amounts of food and water you should have.  When developing our family's kit, he used the list at redcross.org for non-food emergency items like first aid items.

When he was done we were left with a pretty complete kit.  Nate's advice to the parents at the presentation night was "an imperfect kit is better than no kit".  If you have some of the stuff gather it up in a box or back pack, keep a copy of your list with you and add and item to it each time you shop.  It's also suggested that you keep at least $200 in small bills with your kit.  This is easy to accumulate if you put aside a few dollars a week.  Thanks to his advice, I empty all of the singles from my wallet each night and put them with the emergency supplies.  It may not be the full amount that is recommended, but if there were an emergency tomorrow I'm better off than I was yesterday.

As part of the project Nate and I wrote a survey.  We wanted to know who had a kit, and what types of disasters people had survived.  It was really, really interesting to read the responses and they really emphasized that being prepared for an emergency is important.

The survey was more popular than we thought, and due to the large number of responses we wound up having to pay to access them.  So, since I have access to that account for a month, I created a Parenting Geekly reader survey.  I'd love to know what you think about the site so that I can tailor the posts to things that interest my audience the most.  I'd also like to start handling my own advertising soon (to hopefully ditch the giant Google ads) and some of the demographic info I ask for will help me secure quality, independent advertisers who fit the interests of this group. 

More info and a link to the survey is on the Survey! tab at the top of the site.  You can also click here to get to it.

And since I'm not above bribery...two respondents will each win an Amazon gift card.  Once you fill out the survey return to the Survey! page and enter using the Rafflecopter widget.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

First look at Disney's Wreck-It Ralph

The internet is abuzz over the first trailer for Disney's Wreck-It Ralph.  The first preview debuted online yesterday.

Check it out:

I love the concept of a vintage video game baddie wanting to try his hand at being the hero.  The voice cast (John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer and Jane Lynch) is A-list, and the preview shows cameos from Bowser, Dr. Robotnik from Sonic. and other vintage video game bad guys.  I just don't see how this could be bad.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

In Memoriam: Ray Bradbury

Ray and his wife Maggie in 1970. (Los Angeles Times / June 6, 2012)
The world lost science fiction luminary Ray Bradbury today. At 91 years old, Bradbury had a career that spanned over 70 years and included over 500 stories, 40 plus books and many TV and movie screenplays and adaptations.

Bradbury was one of my first exposures to Science Fiction and Fantasy.  When I was in elementary school, my mother managed a college bookstore.  I was a voracious reader and she would frequently bring in books students had returned that were in no condition to resell and the store's overstock.  The books were frequently science fiction yearbooks/anthologies and Bradbury was almost always included.  While he was known primarily for the dystopian Fahrenheit 451 (Nerd shame: I haven't read it) I devoured his short stories, some of which had been adapted in to episodes of The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock presents.  I always felt such a sense of pride while, when watching a Bradbury inspired story, I recognized the source material.

Bradbury didn't really consider himself a sci-fi writer. If you look at the breadth of his work you will see that he actually wrote a lot of Americana and fantasy.

First of all, I don't write science fiction. I've only done one science fiction book and that's Fahrenheit 451, based on reality. It was named so to represent the temperature at which paper ignites. Science fiction is a depiction of the real. Fantasy is a depiction of the unreal. So Martian Chronicles is not science fiction, it's fantasy. It couldn't happen, you see? That's the reason it's going to be around a long time—because it's a Greek myth, and myths have staying power

-Ray Bradbury
Regardless of how he thought he should be classified, Bradbury was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in Seattle in 2004, and is considered an icon in the genre.

Thank you Ray Bradbury, for introducing so many of us to other worlds, other times, other frames of mind.  The world is a better place for having had you in it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Beach towels for Geeks

We are preparing for our annual trip to Ocean City, NJ.  Since we fly cross country to get there we pack as lightly as possible.  The kids get to bring one towel for the beach, which we hang out every night.  Because they only get one, we let them pick out a new one every year.  The ones from previous years live in a closet where they come out for pool parties and Seattle-based beach picnics.  It's pretty neat because we can see how the interests of the kids have changed over the years.  Nate's set includes Bob the Builder and Blue's Clues towels from his preschool years (both of which were actually hand-me-downs from my young siblings). His collection also includes The Incredibles and several Sipderman towels, though last year he went for a polka dot design (boring!).  Kitty's collection just began two years ago and she chose a Tinkerbell towel both times.  Hopefully she will get a little more creative this go around.

Super-dad and I haven't had a need for new towels with all of the previous year's towels around.  This year though, with the plethora of geeky towel options it may be time for us to get some new ones.

This Spider-Man towel from the Disney store is personalizable. When we hit the beach we have about 40 (no exaggeration) family members with us, a name on the towel is a good way to make sure it gets back with its rightful owner.

 Spider-man towel: 11.99 from the Disney Store

Got a Trekkie in your life?  They'd love one of these Star Trek towels from ThinkGeek.  Available in Command, Security or Sciences.

Star Trek Towels $29.99 from ThinkGeek.

This Dalek towel is pretty sweet:

Dr. Who Dalek towel $24.99 available at Amazon.com

I love this Star Wars towel from Pottery Barn Kids because of it's cool vintage graphics.  So often things designed for kids are super bright and overly stylized.  I have had to say "no" to so many superhero shirts for my kids because the designs were just too gaudy.  This towel, while on the PB Kids website would work just as well for an adult.
Star Wars Towel $26.00 from Pottery Barn Kids.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Team USA Qudditch Jerseys, just in time for the Summer Olympics

People really do (kinda) play Quidditch, the flying-broomstick sport of Harry Potter.  It was adapted in 2005 by students at Middlebury College and according to the International Quidditch Association (IQA) it is now played by over 300 Universities and High Schools worldwide.

The IQA is hosting a World Quidditch Exposition to coincide with the London Summer Olympics and is offering official Team USA Jerseys. You can show your support of  your home country Qudditch Team, use it for cosplay, or just wear it for fun. 

Team USA Quidditch Jersey $49.99 ($74.99 for a personalized version) from the International Quidditch Association.  Also available for France, UK and Australia.

Via FashionablyGeek.
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