Thursday, December 18, 2014

Is Walking with Dinosaurs Scary? Educational? Scientifically Accurate?

Last night our family was invited to see the Seattle-area opening night of Walking with Dinosaurs.   We are a group of cynics, and I expected seven year old Kitty to be the only one truly impressed with the show.  Fourteen year old Nate was mad that we were dragging him away from the house to see the animatronic/puppet dinos, and he was very vocal about his displeasure.  It didn't help that we got caught in hellacious traffic, and the normally 45 minute ride from our home in North Seattle to the Tacoma Dome took two hours (I had planned an extra 45 minutes into our time to account for traffic, but still missed a special behind-the-scenes tour, which was a bummer.  When are we supposed to get those robot cars, again?).

I am pleased to report that everyone left the show with a smile on their face.  Walking with Dinosaurs is a huge spectacle; from the giant teeth surrounding the stage to the whimsy of the inflatable, changing foliage, there is a lot going on on the arena floor.  No where can you see the bulk of this show's $20 Million budget better than on the dinosaurs themselves, though.

The combo animatronic/remote control/human powered puppets were really where we thought they'd lose us.  We were expecting some clunky four wheelers with paper mache dino bodies smacked on top. We were pleasantly surprised to experience very real looking dinosaurs. These are beautifully crafted, expertly puppeteered creatures.  Even after realizing that this was indeed a first-class show, Super-Dad and I joked when they brought out a baby brachiosaurus, explaining that the adults actually grew to the height of a three storey house. "Makes sense, they'd show us a juvenile" I said to SD "how the heck would they make a three storey tall dinosaur puppet?" Guess what walked on stage just then?  A giant, life-sized, adult brachiosaur. It was HUGE, you guys.  SD's jaw dropped, I gasped, both kids had huge smiles on their faces, it was great!

Is Walking with Dinosaurs scary?
I've already have had a few people on Twitter ask if it was too scary for little kids.  I'd say that it was suspenseful, but not really scary.  There are some very loud T-Rex roars, and a sort of scary "comet strike" near the end, but those were the scariest moments. The show has a theatrical score, which was beautiful, but just like in the movies it really punched up the more suspenseful scenes.

Is Walking with Dinosaurs violent?
Well, it's about dinosaurs, who we don't normally think of as warm and cuddly.  The most upsetting part of the show for my 7 year old happened in the first few minutes when a baby dinosaur was snapped up by a predator.  It wasn't scary, and it happened in a quick and matter-of-fact way, but Kit was definitely distraught.  There is also a fight where a Torosaurus loses a horn, and is rammed in the side by another Torosaurus, though (like the few other fights depicted in the show) there is no blood or wounds shown.

Is Walking with Dinosaurs scientifically accurate?
The shows producers insist it is.  And while I'm no Paleontologist, I am a proponent of presenting audiences, especially young audiences, with the most scientifically accurate info.  Everything presented seemed to jive with what *I* understand to be the most up to date scientific information.

Is Walking with Dinosaurs educational?
The show is presented by an actor playing a Paleontologist, who guides us through the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods, introducing us to the geography, flora, and climate of the time, and then bringing out a few dinosaurs for dramatic vignettes.  If your child is dino-obssesed, there may not be a whole lot here they didn't know.  Then again, if your child is dino-obssesed just seeing a life sized Tyrannosaurus Rex  will probably be pretty exciting.

How long is Walking with Dinosaurs?
I've seen a few reviews online where bloggers complain about the short length of the show .  It was two 35 minute acts with a 20 minute intermission in between.  We found it to be the perfect amount of time for our family.  The 35 minute acts were jam-packed and no one got bored or looked at their watch.  The 20 minute intermission allowed us all to have a bathroom break and grab a beverage.

Walking with Dinosaurs plays the Tacoma Dome through December 21, 2014.  Discount codes for select shows can be found here.

For more information and to see when Walking with Dinosaurs is playing in your area visit

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Review: Samsung Galaxy Gear 2

The original Galaxy Gear in smashing rose gold (bottom), and the much improved Galaxy Gear 2 (top, with Pip-Boy watch face)
As we march headlong into 'the future is now!' one of the big new fields is wearable tech. I am all about metrics and data and information, so as soon as the Galaxy Gear became available, I wanted one. Super-Dad got me a Samsung Galaxy Gear (original version, in rose gold of course ) for our anniversary last year - my kind of jewelry! Sometimes being an early adopter has its disappointments. The general concepts are there, answering calls and texts from your wrist, a camera, and a pedometer; they just aren't executed super well. I found the software to be buggy and the hardware to be clunky. The camera is inconveniently placed and constantly brushed against stuff. The charging port was a ridiculous contraption that wrapped around the entire watch face. But, this isn't a review of the Original Galaxy Gear, it’s a review of the far superior follow up attempt, the Galaxy Gear 2.

The Galaxy Gear 2 may only be a second generation device, but in this age of super fast development cycles, that means more than it once did. The interface has improved dramatically, with significantly less bugginess than the original. It has a great list of features including IR (can be used to screw with your friends’ TVs! Or just to change the channel on your own set ) a heart rate monitor, a more accurate pedometer, and a sleep monitor. The Gear 2 also offers a more robust list of apps from which you can get notifications. SD is a constantly on call Systems Engineer, and the ability to check these alerts for urgency without fumbling around for his phone it great. It offers him both quick convenience and subtlety when we are out and about. This has been the true selling point for him. He, like so many of us, had given up on wearing a watch. It’s a relic in a time when everyone has a phone in their pocket. He was reminded of how convenient it is to easily check the time from your wrist, and the Gear 2 has the added bonus of allowing you to also check message and mail. It’s quite the time saver.

The ability to customize the watch has greatly improved since the original Galaxy hit the scene as well. There are a ton of watch faces available whether you want a fancy multiface analog style watch or something a little more geeky, like the Fallout Pip-Boy display.

The hardware has also gone through a major update with the two major design flaws - the obtrusive camera lens and the bulky charger - both being replaced with sleeker more integrated design. The charging port is still a separate piece that snaps onto the back of the watch face, and a downside to it being smaller is that it’s much easier to potentially lose. I’d find a permanent home for it, and just leave it plugged in.

Super-Dad did accidentally “wrist dial” people a few times. Mostly me, but it did lead to at least one awkward conversation with a business associate. SD also found that the icons would rearrange themselves on the home screen, which was annoying. These complaints could be avoided by addressing one of our other complaints and adding a lock screen. The Gear 2’s accelerometer also locked up once during the three weeks he tested it. This went unnoticed for a few days, SD just figured it wasn't tracking sleep for some reason,  but was easily fixed with by restarting.

So what’s the verdict? Well, our Gear 2 is on loan from AT&T for review purposes, and SD really doesn't want to give it back. Guess it’s a good thing that Christmas is just a few short days away. The Gear 2 would make a great gift for any Samsung Galaxy user. I can actually see it being really practical for our teen as well. Phones are supposed to stay in pockets at school, but a watch is a useful tool and a watch that also gives my ADHD kid reminders? I think that could be pretty great.

You can check out AT&T’s collection of wearable devices here:

And you can see the whole family of Galaxy Wearables here:

I was not compensated for this post, I was offered the Galaxy Gear 2, on loan, for reivew purposes from AT&T.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Walking with Dinosaurs - Discount Code

Kitty is seven years old, and like many seven year olds, she is obsessed with dinosaurs.  So I'm really excited that the folks from Walking with Dinosaurs invited us to join them for opening night in the Seattle area!  We haven't yet seen the show, but are looking forward to what the creators bill as a "$20,000,000 spectacular".

I will be posting a review of the show the night of the 17th, so if you're on the fence about seeing it when it comes to your town, keep an eye out!

For more information on the show and for dates near you:

For my Seattle area readers:
For tickets and more info visit:

Discount codes for Parenting Geekly Readers:
$5 off Price Level 2: $44.50 (reg. $49.50)

$3 off Price Level 3: $26.50 (reg. $29.50)
Offer Code: KIDFUN

Valid on all Tacoma Dome shows except Sat 11am/3pm & Sun 1pm

Tips for Buying your Kids a Smartphone this Holiday

I haven't started my Christmas shopping yet. With the exception of one gift for each kid, I have yet to check anything off my list! Nate really wants a new smartphone this year. He has been getting our hand me down phones, so it might be time for a new phone all his own to put under the tree

I'm pretty phone saavy, and I'm sure most of my readers are as well, but this list from AT&T has some great reminders. I know that I want a quad core processor, unlimited data and a durable case, but sometimes I go into the store and have an "Oooh, shiny!"moment and forget all that. I love the idea of bringing a checklist. This is especially helpful if you plan is to buy whatever phone is a good deal. If it's not one of the big two (iPhone or Samsug Galaxy S series) you may not be as familiar with the specs. Keeping a list with you will make sure you get exactly what you want for the best price.

Here are the tips from AT&T:

Smartphone Buying Tips for Parents
When it comes time to buy your child his or her first smartphone, there are several considerations and decisions to make. Determine exactly how your child plans to use the new cell phone. Parents can alleviate confusion and potential disappointment by finding out this key information before buying a phone.

Parents may want to prioritize the features of a wireless device that will be most important to their child, so they can narrow down the choices and make a wise purchase decision. Wireless carrier stores offer a wide variety of options. For example, AT&T stores stock nearly 70 wireless phones. There’s a device that’s just right for everyone; you just need to know what features will be most useful. Consider ranking the child’s mobile wish list using these criteria:
  • Text messaging
  • Send/receive e-mail
  • Social media
  • Take and share photos
  • Games
  • Listen to streaming music and mp3 files of music they already own
  • Watching TV (YouTube or streaming video)
  • Apps
  • Browsing Web
  • Video chat
Bring the list of priorities along when shopping for a wireless phone. A store salesperson can then offer several devices in a variety of price ranges that will meet those needs. If a child enjoys video games and streaming video, a smartphone with larger display screens may be a better choice. It’s also helpful to know how a child will use the phone when selecting the right voice and data plan. Streaming audio and video use more data than email and social media posts, so the mobile data plan you select should match how the phone will be used to avoid any surprises later.

After selecting a wireless phone, mobile protection insurance should also be on the shopping list. Anyone can drop a phone, no matter their age. Another key decision a parent should make is whether to choose a wireless device that requires a contract or not. The latter may be a good option for a parent trying to teach a child financial responsibility—the parent may purchase the device and make the child pay the monthly cost of voice, data and texting. A no-contract option has no activation charge or contract. Choices of prepaid phones range from basic voice phones to quick messaging devices all the way up to smartphones.

I was not compensated for this post, I just think there are some smart considerations here. Thanks, AT&T.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Help Sesame Street Celebrate their 45th Birthday on this Giving Tuesday

Last month Sesame Street celebrated its 45th Birthday!  If you've read this blog before you know that not only am I a huge fan of the show, but I am a big supporter of Sesame Workshop, the non-profit behind the television production. This being Giving Tuesday, I encourage you to make a donation to Sesame Workshop, or any non-profit that you support.

The story of Sesame Street's creation is an amazing one, and lots has been written about it (I recommend Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street and Sesame Street: A Celebration of 40 Years of Life on the Street)  Here are the highlights:

Sesame Street and the Children's Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop) were created by Joan Ganz Cooney, a woman who was compelled to work in educational television as soon as she learned that such a thing existed.  She originally appiled to be a publicist for her local station, but upon being told that they needed producers, she told them that she could do that, despite never having done it before. She's said: "I've never been qualified for any job I've been hired for". This is a woman who heard her calling and went for it.  She's one of my personal heroes, and I hope some day to get to tell her that in person.

Anyway, Cooney had this idea that they could take the addictive properties of television, a concern that was already being expressed by the mid 60's, and turn them into a way to benefit children.  Children's Television Workshop was started and conducted over two years of research on the best ways to prepare children for school through the medium of television.

For many kids, it was the only program on television that showed a street like theirs, in a neighborhood like theirs, with neighbors like theirs.  Sesame Street, the place, was gritty and urban. The people in the neighborhood were white, latino, and black.  They showcased kids and adults who were deaf and in wheelchairs.  Some grownups were hippies, some were preppies (Bob!).  There were women in the fix-it shop and women who were moms.  There have been births, deaths (my surrogate grandfather Mr. Hooper!), divorce and deployment.  Sesame Street showcased the reality of many of its young, urban viewers, something was revolutionary then, and still rare now.

By 1979 (the year *I* started watching Sesame Street) over nine million kids were watching Sesame Street daily.  I watched Sesame Street every single day from about age one until I was probably developmentally way too old to be watching it.  My parents couldn't really afford early childhood education for us, and my mother cites Sesame Street as a big reason that I was an early talker, an early reader, and was educationally ready for kindergarten.

These days Sesame Workshop works around the globe to help young children cope with the issues that affect them. Their current initiatives in the U.S. include fighting childhood obesity, a program to help children grieving the loss of a parent, and a program to help children in families who are experiencing job loss/economic uncertainty.  In Indonesia two thirds of children watch Jalan Sesama, the local version of Sesame Street, which aims to teach children in super diverse Indonesian archipelago about their share cultural identity.  In India, Galli Galli Sim Sim, actually comes to the children.  A repurposed vegetable cart outfitted with a DVD player travels to the Indian slums, giving the children there access to an early childhood education program.

I wholeheartedly believe that if we wish to see great change in our world, we need to educate our children.  All of our children, all over the world.  Sesame Workshop is doing just that,  Happy, happy birthday to my friends at Sesame Street.  And many, many returns.

For more information and to donate to Sesame Workshop visit their website at

Book links are affiliate links through  Any purchase made through those links makes me a few pennies (literally pennies) which help me pay for the upkeep for the site. 
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