GeekDad http://geekdad.com Raising Geek Generation 2.0 Sun, 23 Nov 2014 13:48:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 Here Comes the Christmas Dalek http://geekdad.com/2014/11/christmas-dalek/ http://geekdad.com/2014/11/christmas-dalek/#comments Sun, 23 Nov 2014 13:00:40 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=67729 Over the weekend our own Matt Blum discovered this delightful oddity at the Tysons Corner Mall in Northern Virginia. Continue reading

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Over the weekend our own Matt Blum discovered this delightful oddity at the Tysons Corner Mall in Northern Virginia. Is the image below that of a festive Dalek or merely a yuletide observatory? Only The Doctor (and possibly Santa) knows for sure!

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Kickstarter Reminder — Ingocraft 3D Printable Construction Set http://geekdad.com/2014/11/kickstarter-reminder-ingocraft-3d-printable-construction-set/ http://geekdad.com/2014/11/kickstarter-reminder-ingocraft-3d-printable-construction-set/#comments Sat, 22 Nov 2014 14:45:18 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=67691 Ingocraft is offering up a kit of parts that allows young makers to not only create parts that stay put, but more parts can be printed on a 3D printer... and both my boys are completely fascinated by my 3D printer and the things I print out. Add the Ingos (the name for the Ingocraft parts) to that list as well as the app that well let my sons first design on the screen and then convert their designs to real-world objects with physical parts they snap and bolt together. Continue reading

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Ingocraft

With less than 7 days left, if you’ve got a young maker in your household you’re going to want to check out the Ingocraft Kickstarter project. My 4-year-old enjoys making things, but tools like screwdrivers and nuts and bolts are just too complex for his little hands. He likes LEGO and Tinkertoy pieces, but he does get frustrated when his little designs fall apart.

Ingocraft is offering up a kit of parts that allows young makers to not only create parts that stay put, but more parts can be printed on a 3D printer… and both my boys are completely fascinated by my 3D printer and the things I print out. Add the Ingos (the name for the Ingocraft parts) to that list as well as the app that well let my sons first design on the screen and then convert their designs to real-world objects with physical parts they snap and bolt together.

You can read my initial review of Ingocraft here. And if you think you have a child who would enjoy it, please go back it. The Ingocraft team is very close to its funding goal, but it still needs help. If you’ve got grandparents asking what they can get your child for Christmas, remember that the team is stating a December 2014 deliverable date.

Here’s a link to the actual Kickstarter… and best of luck to the team!

 

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Stack Overflow: It’s the End of the World as We Know It… http://geekdad.com/2014/11/stack-overflow-end-world/ http://geekdad.com/2014/11/stack-overflow-end-world/#comments Sat, 22 Nov 2014 14:15:02 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=67609 Some say the world will end in fire, some say with sentient robots turning against their human masters. I've always been fond of dystopian and apocalyptic fiction for some odd reason. Here are several titles I've been reading lately that play with world-ending, evil robots, and more. Continue reading

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Some say the world will end in fire, some say with sentient robots turning against their human masters. I’ve always been fond of dystopian and apocalyptic fiction for some odd reason. Here are several titles I’ve been reading lately that play with world-ending, evil robots, and more.

Robot Uprisings cover

Robot Uprisings

If you haven’t already been reading Daniel H. Wilson’s Robopocalypse series, get thee to a bookstore or library and get started! It’s a great, action-packed series (written by a roboticist, no less!). Wilson and John Joseph Adams edited this anthology of short stories all about intelligent machines, smart houses, and other things that can become self-aware and make your life miserable. Robot Uprisings has seventeen stories from some fantastic authors. (Just to be safe, better opt for the dead-tree version.)

Apocalypse Triptych

The Apocalypse Triptych

John Joseph Adams teamed up with best-selling author Hugh Howey to edit the Apocalypse Triptych, three anthologies filled with stories about the end of the world. The first, The End Is Nigh, is all about the impending disasters: ecological, technological, psychological, you name it. Book Two, The End Is Now, focuses on stories during the apocalypse. And, of course, the triptych wraps up with The End Has Come (due out in March 2015—assuming the world is still standing), which will be filled with post-apocalyptic tales.

Help Fund My Robot Army

Help Fund My Robot Army!!! and Other Improbable Crowdfunding Projects

And, hey, while we’re on the subject of cool anthologies by John Joseph Adams, here’s one more. Funded (of course) through a Kickstarter project, Help Fund My Robot Army is a collection of stories framed as crowdfunding projects, from the titular robot army to time travel to a device that helps you avoid spoilers. If you’re a Kickstarter junkie like me, you’ll love these tales, which range from wacky to heartbreaking.

Scatter Adapt and Remember

Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction

The end of the world isn’t all fun and games, of course, and Annalee Newitz (editor of io9.com) is here to help us plan. In Scatter, Adapt, and Remember, she takes us through a history of global disasters and gives her prescription for survival of our species. You know, kind of like Interstellar, only without relying on wormholes. Bonus: The Doubleclicks have a music video about it! (While you’re at it, have a listen to another relevant song by The Doubleclicks: Can’t You See the World Is Ending?)

Existence

Existence

For a great fictional treatment of this Scatter, Adapt, and Remember strategy, I recommend David Brin’s Existence, a fairly sizable tome. It’s a sci-fi story about first contact with an alien artifact—but it’s also a wide-ranging tale that touches on global warming, artificial intelligence, telepresence, politics … you’ll be surprised by how much Brin manages to fit into this book while still telling a compelling—and surprising—story.

Vivian Apple at the End of the World

Vivian Apple at the End of the World

This one’s not out until January, but I couldn’t resist adding it to the list—you can pre-order it now, though. Vivian Apple at the End of the World is about a post-Rapture world. At least, that’s what it looks like. Despite three years of Reverend Frick’s predictions that the world was going to end, Vivian hadn’t expected anything to happen—until she returns home to find her parents gone and two parent-shaped holes in the roof above their bed. What really happened? Guess we’ll have to wait until January to find out.

Disclosure: GeekDad received review copys of Robot Uprisings and Scatter, Adapt, and Remember.

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Shotguns & Sorcery RPG Blasts into Kickstarter http://geekdad.com/2014/11/shotguns-sorcery-kickstarter/ http://geekdad.com/2014/11/shotguns-sorcery-kickstarter/#comments Sat, 22 Nov 2014 13:45:37 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=67638 Like your goblins with a little gunpowder? Your orcs with a little ordnance? Then immerse yourself in the dark and gritty world of hardboiled nor fantasy with the Shotguns & Sorcery RPG Kickstarter. Continue reading

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I always find it interesting when two classic genres are blended together. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but one that really works for me is Matt Forbeck’s Shotguns & Sorcery series.

shotguns-sorcery-logo

Described by Forbeck as Lord of the Rings combined with Raymond Chandler, Shotguns & Sorcery pairs wand-wielding private investigators with shotgun-toting orcs in a rough-and-tumble noir fantasy setting. Call it whatever you want—fantasy noir, flintlock fantasy, gumshoes & goblins—the books are a lot of fun to read.

Prior to being a series of short novels Forbeck wrote as part of his ambitious 12 for ’12 project (where he wrote a novel a month in 2012), he had developed Shotguns & Sorcery as a role playing game—until that plan got derailed by the imminent arrival of quadruplets (news that would derail most anything).

But now, thanks to Jeremy Mohler and a team of dedicated game designers at Outland Entertainment, you’ll soon be able to immerse yourself in the dark and gritty world of hardboiled fantasy with the Shotguns & Sorcery RPG—you can even help bring it to life with the just-launched Shotguns & Sorcery RPG Kickstarter.

shotguns-sorcery-cover

The game, like the novels, is set in Dragon City, a great walled fortress in the center of a wasteland, ruled by the Dragon Emperor. The denizens of Dragon City are protected from a horde of ravaging zombies (commanded by the mysterious Ruler of the Dead) that endlessly try to penetrate the city’s walls.

This means venturing outside the safety of the Great Circle is a dangerous proposition, but there’s a fortune to be made out there for those brave or foolish enough to try. Trouble is, such an undertaking is not only dangerous, it’s also illegal. But trying to earn some honest coin inside the walls without attracting the attention of the Imperial Dragon Guard, getting in over your head down in Goblintown,  or running afoul of the Dwarven gangs isn’t all that easy, either.

shotguns-sorcery-character-1

Jeremy Mohler’s character designs for the Shotguns & Sorcery RPG.

Shotguns & Sorcery is being built on the Cypher System, the game engine behind popular games The Strange and Numenera from Monte Cook Games (John Booth describes how the Cypher System works in his GenCon 2014 RPG recap post here on Geekdad).

Forbeck himself will be writing the bulk of the core rulebook, which is planned to weigh in at a hefty 300 pages, and Mohler will be doing all of the artwork, including 20 full-color pages.

The Kickstarter includes all the usual rewards, such as a PDF and hardcopy editions of the core rulebook, as well as digital editions of Forbeck’s books that inspired the game (available to all backers at all levels in all major ebook formats), Kickstarter-only editions of the core rulebook, a special Art of Shotguns & Sorcery book, and opportunities for original editions of Mohler’s artwork (including you as a Shotguns & Sorcery character). Plus there are special, retailer-specific rewards as well.

shotguns-sorcery-character-2

The team is committed to a goal of having a limited release by GenCon 2015 (which begins on July 30, 2015) and has plans for additional supplemental adventures, so if you like your goblins with a little gunpowder and your orcs with a  little ordnance, then don’t miss the Shotguns & Sorcery RPG Kickstarter. It’s already off to a great start—with only 42 days to go (as of this writing), the campaign has passed the half-way point.

And, just to give you a taste of what can happen to your characters in the dark, magically ill-lit alleys of Dragon City, Forbeck is offering Goblintown Justice, the first book in the series for free on his website.

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Gravlander Episode 5, a New Serial Story by Erik Wecks http://geekdad.com/2014/11/gravlander-episode-5/ http://geekdad.com/2014/11/gravlander-episode-5/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 17:00:07 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=67668 And here we are... halfway through Erik Weck's 10-part serial story, Gravlander. Jo is definitely in a tight situation, and if you read last week's post then you know she is completely unwelcome in her new locale.

Are you just discovering this story? The good news is you've only got four episodes to read to catch up. Continue reading

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Gravlander

And here we are… halfway through Erik Weck’s 10-part serial story, Gravlander. Jo is definitely in a tight situation, and if you read last week’s post then you know she is completely unwelcome in her new locale.

Are you just discovering this story? The good news is you’ve only got four episodes to read to catch up, so just click on the links below to load up any episodes you’ve missed:

Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4

Gravlander is a story that takes place after the events of The Far Banks of the Rubicon, Erik’s latest novel in his Pax Imperium universe. Erik and I have been having some fun conversations in a new video series we record each week… Novel Ideas. We’re up to episode 17 where we discussed this serial story and how Erik is plotting it out and developing an A and B storyline. You can check out the video here if you’d like to hear some backstory for Gravlander, but be aware it might have a few spoilers from Episodes 1 to 4.

Okay, so let’s get to Episode 5. As I’m writing this post, I haven’t yet read the story and I’m curious about what’s going on with these Timcree. I guess we’re about to find out…

—–

Gravlander
Episode 5: Kree Pa

Six weeks into her apparently futile efforts to train Ardo Tanith in the basics of using nanites to heal, Jo’s hands started to shake. She was desperately lonely, and she chided herself as she and Tanith sat invisibly in the corner of an ancient med bay, watching a Timcree healer. The healer worked on a young, male patient who groaned, while leaning on the Timcree who had brought him into the examining room. What did I think was going to happen? Was I going to waltz in here and become the pirate queen of the Timcree? The unquenchable loneliness of the last six weeks had given Jo time to think—perhaps too much time. Reminiscent of the void outside, her thoughts were dark and vacant, with only the smallest pinpricks of light. Jo shifted uncomfortably in her seat. In her most difficult moments of lucidity, Jo recognized that when she agreed to this trip, she had dreamed of coming to the Timcree as a conquering savior who would provide the answers to their every medical need. It hadn’t exactly worked out that way.

Tanith seemed to be an eager student—although even that was hard to determine for Jo. He certainly made an effort, but the language barriers between them drove Jo to distraction. They seemed to have made little progress on teaching him anything medical, and Jo had no hope things would improve anytime soon. Most of their time was wasted on trying to help Tanith understand the basics of English. If Jo were honest, he was making good progress, but it was slower than she would have liked. The work exhausted her.

After her violent and chilly reception, Jo had been kept confined to the derelict freighter on which she had lived for almost four weeks.

As soon as he had healed enough to walk, Commander Kolas had returned to his ship and departed on his next voyage of trade and discovery. He had yet to return. No one else in his clan spoke effective English. That left Jo with Tanith, six weeks of frustration, and unbearable isolation. All she wanted was a simple, easy conversation. Finally, two weeks ago, after Jo had completely melted down during a particularly frustrating attempt to communicate, Tanith had finally begun to take her outside the confines of her new home.

At first, Jo had worried about some kind of dramatic response to her presence in the public spaces of the mashed-together ball of Timcree ships that they called Korg Haran, but she had been completely mistaken. At least on the surface, no one threatened her at all, and as far as she could tell, no one threatened Tanith, either. Whatever had happened when she first came aboard had apparently been left behind. Now she just felt invisible, as most of the Timcree ignored her completely. Those few who did acknowledge her existence examined her with brazen curiosity, staring openly. She had yet to dare to talk to any of them.

As far as Jo could tell, the Timcree had little government of any kind—there was certainly no ruling authority who could have given Kolas orders. Of course, that didn’t mean there weren’t rules. The Timcree followed a strict code of conduct that was one part religion, one part superstition, and one part implicit social contract. Men like Kolas gathered to themselves other junior men—and their associated women—to form a clan. Within the clan, the head male acted as the ‘lord and master,’ dispensing justice and favors to all. The Kolas clan seemed to consist of nearly thirty Timcree.

In general, Timcree life appeared highly gendered to Jo. The women made the food and ‘kept house,’ such as it was. This only added to her frustration. She was never allowed to participate in such things, and never allowed to be alone with the women. Unless she were bathing or relieving herself, she always had some sort of male escort. The best she could tell, she was considered some kind of male outsider, not fit for women’s work and not a true Timcree man, either. Uncomfortable with the Timcree distinctions between men and women, Jo was surprised to find herself frustrated with her lack of acceptance by the females of the clan. She would have happily made food just to be able to feel not so alien—and even this realization irritated her more as she recognized in it a complete compromise of some of her core values.

It didn’t help that Kolas’ pregnant wife seemed to rule in his stead, and she clearly had no use for the newest member of her home. Hers was a reign of terror. Even Tanith, who appeared to be Kolas’ chief lieutenant, seemed cowed by her. It took Jo several weeks to even figure out her truly Timcree name, as it was spoken so infrequently by the clan. Zonezeh Gehgik was still a mouthful for Jo.

The generosity of the Timcree toward Jo belied the coldness of their reception. The Timcree clan plied her with gifts, and kept her comfortable and well fed. Tanith had moved out of his quarters and given them to her. At first it felt small to Jo, but then she saw the spaces others inhabited, and she recognized it as palatial by comparison. Tanith insisted on paying for his English lessons and nurse’s training. At first, Jo hadn’t objected because of her conversation with Kolas about Timcree taboos. A gift from a Gravlander—like English lessons or nurse’s training—brought with it a curse of dependence on the outsider, a taboo the Timcree couldn’t accept. However, as the gifts piled up on a daily basis, Jo worried that she was taking far more than was fair, considering the poor circumstances of the Timcree’s existence. Once she had tried to object. It was the only moment where she had seen Tanith visibly angry. Leaving his gift behind, he had stormed out of her quarters early and didn’t come back until the next morning, when the event seemed totally forgotten. Jo didn’t make that mistake again.

In front of Jo, the Timcree healer threw funny-shaped dice on the table. He picked through them, muttering to himself before prescribing a treatment for what looked like a painful but obvious burn, which he then treated with a comparatively modern dermal regenerator. In any contemporary hospital, the device would have been shunned, but compared to the chanting, it seemed cutting edge.

As she watched this display of superstition mixed with reasonable medicine, Jo wasn’t sure how much further she could go in her attempts to train Tanith, but even as she faced an inevitable defeat, her will hardened. Long ago, when she was four, her mother had been killed. She had watched her die. Jo had survived then, and she knew that she would survive now. She would make sure she survived, no matter what it cost her. She would help the Timcree babies. No mother deserved to lose a child, and certainly not to some rogue nanite.

The Timcree healer’s chant broke Jo’s dour trance. One thing that she had learned from her six weeks in Korg Haran was that the Timcree loved their chanted prayers. They had a chant for every occurrence. When done, the healer pronounced his judgement and treatment plan—at least that’s what Jo suspected from the few words she could comprehend. Then he reached over and took the hand of the caregiver and placed it on the raw newly grafted skin created by the generator. The burned Timcree winced but held his cry, as the caregiver was admonished by the healer. The caregiver nodded respectfully then answered with a short, “Pa.

Jo leaned over to ask a whispered question to Tanith when he quietly stood, even as the healer continued to admonish the patient and caregiver. Tanith signaled for her to follow.

Half an hour later, Tanith and Jo sat together over a broth-filled bowl of noodles, which had been served to them by a young Timcree woman whom Jo suspected as having a thing for Tanith—a guess further supported by the dark look she gave Jo as she left the room.

As Jo twirled her noodles around her chopsticks, she tried carefully to articulate her question so as not to offend Tanith. “If your healers use Gravlander medicine to do the work of healing, why do they cast lots and pray?”

Tanith looked at her with his usual blank look for a moment. Then he purposely turned his eyes to the broth in his bowl. Lifting the vessel to his lips, he said, “Life is more than the psychics.”

At first, Jo wasn’t sure what Tanith meant, but then she had a guess. “Life is more than physics?” she asked.

“Yes, yes, physics.” Tanith nodded at her correction of his word.

Jo had no desire to argue metaphysics with Tanith, but with the Timcree, something other than the physical world seemed to lurk around every corner. So far, Jo had done her best to avoid those dark corners, to keep her opinions to herself, but this time, she couldn’t help herself. She decided to draw Tanith out. “Wasn’t it physics that healed that Timcree’s arm?”

Tanith put down his bowl. A slight widening of his eyes told Jo that she had intrigued him with this conversation. “Can you say this? Physics healed? Physics or healer, who is to say?”

Jo warmed a little and ventured an opinion of her own. “I think I can say for sure that physics regenerated the skin on that man’s arm.”

“This is a difference besides Gravlander and Kree. Life is not so for Kree. We do not experience life as only physics. Life is the…” Here Tanith struggled for words. He thought for a moment and then shrugged his shoulders just a little. “For Kree, life is the Kree pa—the altogether, the everything. Life is physics—Yes. Life is healer—Yes. Life is Kree—Yes. Life is Korg Haran—Yes.”

Clearly, Tanith desperately wanted Jo to understand what he was trying to communicate. She had never seen him so animated, and Jo thought she understood what he was trying to say—she just didn’t buy it. “I don’t know, Tanith. I’m not sure that I agree with the Kree way. It seems to me that everything we experience and feel has a physical explanation. All of it comes back to physics.”

The comment seemed to deflate Tanith, and Jo regretted it almost immediately. He picked up his rapidly cooling noodles with his chopsticks and said, “You miss your Ghost Fleet, pa?”

Jo nodded, acknowledging her ever-present loneliness. As difficult as it had been, Jo had to admit that right now she would even be grateful to see some of her fellow nurses again.

“This not physics. With physics, Gravlander think she no longer need trust and hope. She think that physics and her all she need. Gravlander need Kree pa—physics, yes, and healer, yes. You see?”

Jo thought about explaining to Tanith that both the Timcree and the humans had little circuits wired in the ancient parts of their brains that rewarded and punished them. Her loneliness was only a byproduct of her brain deciding that her life with the Timcree wasn’t nearly as safe and beneficial than if she were with her own people, thus it punished her for her choice to be here instead of there. If she went home, the same circuitry would reward her for her choice. She decided better of it. Feelings and emotions were physics, after all.

Since she didn’t speak, an animated Tanith went on. “For Kree, Pa means more than ‘yes’. Pa means ‘trust.’ Pa means ‘hope.’ Kree pa. You see?”

Jo didn’t quite yet understand what he was driving at, so she didn’t answer at all, and Tanith went silently back to his noodles.

Nanite treatment for Zonezah Gehgik began shortly after Kolas arrived back on Korg Haran. Jo had her doubts that Tanith was ready, but the birth was approaching rapidly, and if the infant were to survive, it needed treatment. The infant decided to make its appearance in the world only four weeks thereafter. Jo wasn’t at all sure of its chances. It had lived such a difficult life in the womb, and while Tanith’s treatment had been adequate, it needed more time to be optimal. Without an imager, there was really no way to tell how healthy the child would be, except to wait and see.

The birth itself was a community affair with large numbers of people in and out of the room until things began to get serious toward the end. Then Jo was shunted out with the men, and they waited, while Zonezah wailed her distress. This didn’t seem to faze the men at all, except perhaps Kolas, who appeared even more stoic than usual, if that were possible. One of the younger men even commented on the strength of her cry. Every cry made Jo wince. She couldn’t share the men’s apparent laissez faire attitude. Quietly, she slipped out for a walk.

Jo’s steps eventually carried her down to the market near Kolas’ berth for his freighter. Recently she’d taken to walking without one of her ever-present minders. She’d been to the market a few times and even purchased a thing or two from one of the stalls that would do business with her. She wouldn’t exactly call her reception warm, and she had no doubt she paid a Gravlander tax on everything she bought, but no matter what, it felt good to be on her own doing what she could for herself.

Today she wandered in part of the market she hadn’t yet visited—racks of used clothing mixed with brightly colored cloth. Around her, a few women haggled with sleepy vendors. She was just about to turn around and walk out of the area when something caught her eye—a bright, white jumpsuit with all its patches missing hung in the back of one of the stalls, and Jo noticed several of her personal items lay in trays on the counter. All of it had been left behind on the ship at her arrival. In the weeks that followed, she hadn’t been able to go back for any of it.

How her things had ended up here she wasn’t sure, but she doubted that Kolas would have sold it to the vendor. First, that didn’t strike her as something Kolas would do, and second, it would have meant that Kolas would have taken something of hers without payment. Jo thought that in the context of their relationship that would have been a problem. However, theft among the Timcree was a funny thing. She had no doubt that a Timcree wouldn’t consider it theft if they took something from a Gravlander they didn’t know. That would simply be good business—and a great story to tell when you arrived back in your clan.

Looking up from her seat in the stall, the Timcree vendor momentarily recoiled when she saw Jo looking at her own things. Jo savored her discomfort while she considered whether or not she would begin haggling to purchase back her personal effects. The injustice of that idea frustrated her, but seeing her sealed personal beacon still lying in the tray, she decided she would do what she needed to do in order to recover it. She was just about to ask for a price on the object when she hit upon an idea.

Feigning disinterest, she asked casually in halting Kree, “How much for the jumpsuit?” At least she hoped that was what she had said.

Here, the Timcree vendor had a choice. She could by all rights pretend not to have heard Josephine, but Jo had noticed that speaking Kree made this a much more difficult ruse for many of the Timcree to maintain.

The vendor chose to negotiate. “Six hundred Jen.”

Even Jo knew the price she offered was ridiculous, and she scoffed openly.

Jo started the slow process of wearing her down to something reasonable. It was a dance she had by no means mastered. The vendor always had the upper hand on Jo.

Casually, she asked, “Where did you get these?”

The vendor lied brazenly. “My brother brought them in on his ship.”

Jo reached down and picked up the personal beacon. “This looks interesting. What is it?”

The vendor stammered. “Oh, that? That’s nothing. It’s not worth much.”

Josephine put the beacon back down and suddenly looked the vendor in the eye, an action she knew made the Timcree uncomfortable. “Actually, it’s worth more than your whole booth, and I give it to you. Tell your brother, it’s a gift to you from the Gravlander. In fact, all the things he stole from me—I give them to you.” Allowing her no time to react, Jo turned and started to walk away from the stall.

She knew her words had achieved their desired effect when from behind her she heard the vendor exclaim, “Gravlander, no. Take them. They are your things. Take them.”

Jo smiled to herself.

Several of the other vendors who had been feigning disinterest stopped pretending to be straightening the clothes in their stalls.

Jo was just about to turn around and go back to collect her belongings when a hand upon her shoulder caught her attention.

Tanith stood there looking down at her, something of a grin on his face. He spoke loudly enough for all to hear. “Gravlander, Zonezah has given birth to a girl, and she is healthy.”

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Donate to Worldbuilders, Feel Good About Yourself, Get a Chance to Win Some Really Cool Stuff http://geekdad.com/2014/11/donate-worldbuilders-win-stuff/ http://geekdad.com/2014/11/donate-worldbuilders-win-stuff/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 16:00:13 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=67655 Patrick Rothfuss's charity, Worldbuilders, is hosting its annual fundraiser. Here's your chance to make a difference and maybe get some really cool stuff at the same time. Continue reading

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WB-Prize-Wall

Let’s pretend you don’t know anything about Patrick Rothfuss. That’s OK, there are a lot of people in the world and he’s just one of them. Plus, he does live kind of out of the way, in the middle of Wisconsin, so you can be forgiven.

The good news is there are really only two things you have to know about the man. First, besides being an alpha geek, he is a fantastically talented writer. His books in The Kingkiller Chronicle have won awards and sat atop the New York Times bestseller list. Recently, he wrote a novella about one of his trilogy’s characters that is an epically poetic tale and showcases his beautiful mastery of language.

The second is that he is an incredibly good human being. This is a statement that needs some justification, so consider this: his store, The Tinker’s Packs donates all of its proceeds to a charity he started, Worldbuilders. Worldbuilders directly benefits Heifer International, an organization built on sustainable agriculture and commerce as a way of ending world hunger and poverty.

Yes, there is definitely more to Pat Rothfuss than these two things, but that’s all you need to know to understand the rest of this post. You see, each year, Worldbuilders has a fundraiser to raise more money for Heifer International. The fundraiser runs for just a month this year and has just a few more weeks to go. With a goal of $250,000, they have already raised about 75% of their goal.

But goals are made to be broken and there are a lot of incentives for you to give a little (or a lot) to support Worldbuilders and Heifer International. I’m not talking about tote bags or bumper stickers, I’m talking about really fantastic, one-of-a-kind stuff that is available via an awesome lottery.

Details, you ask? OK. First, there’s the Three Threes, which recalls last year’s fundraiser where a sub-lottery was announced for donations ending in thirty-three cents. This time around, people anticipated it and started donating with amounts ending in $ ##.33. So, this year, well, I’ll just let Pat tell you:

Or you can just read about it here. You have to admit, that’s pretty darn cool.

Second, there’s the usual lottery where hundreds of books and author-donated (and signed) books are available via a lottery system. Every $10 you donate buys you a chance at one of these books. Additionally, there are a lot of cool things at auction over on eBay… and, all told, that’s an awful lot of cool stuff.

The bottom line is there are lots of reasons to donate. You could win a book. Or get your name in a future Rothfuss novel. Or score some rare Kingkiller treasure.

But you also have to ask yourself, is there a reason not to donate? At this time of year, when we give thanks for the things we have, it’s worth remembering there’s no shortage of people who don’t have much, if anything. And for people who don’t have much, a flock of chickens or a goat can mean everything. Please donate today.

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GeekDad Review: Google Nexus 9 Tablet http://geekdad.com/2014/11/google-nexus-9-tablet/ http://geekdad.com/2014/11/google-nexus-9-tablet/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 14:00:54 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=67630 It's that time of year when holiday gift lists are being checked, and there's a good chance a tablet is on many of those. Once again Google is offering a Nexus tablet, which means pure Android with no third party UI nonsense to get in the way. But while the Nexus 7 was a real bargain last year at $199, it's been replaced by the larger Nexus 9 and the price has jumped to $399. Is the newest Nexus tablet a worthy choice for Android fans? Will its unusual 8.9-inch display size make it a good choice for kids? HTC — the company that manufactures the Nexus 9 — sent me one to try out. Continue reading

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The Google Nexus 9 tablet

Google’s new Nexus 9 Android tablet (photo by Brad Moon)

It’s that time of year when holiday gift lists are being checked, and there’s a good chance a tablet is on many of those. Once again Google is offering a new Nexus tablet, which means pure Android with no third party UI nonsense to get in the way. But while the Nexus 7 was a real bargain last year at $199, it’s been replaced by the larger Nexus 9 and the price has jumped to $399. Is the newest Nexus tablet a worthy choice for Android fans? Will its unusual 8.9-inch display size make it a good choice for kids? HTC — the company that manufactures the Nexus 9 — sent me one to try out.

The Size
The Nexus 9 is the replacement for the 7-inch Nexus 7, but Google also discontinued its full-sized Nexus 10 tablet. The Nexus 9 is slotted between the two in size, but it also switched up the aspect ratio, going from a 16:10 display to a 4:3.

The net result is an Android tablet that looks more than a little like an iPad in form factor. It’s smaller than an iPad Air, but larger than an iPad Mini.

The Nexus 9 compared to iPad Mini 2

Nexus 9 (L) compared to iPad Mini (photo by Brad Moon)

I use an iPad Mini extensively, especially for gaming, reading the news every morning and checking e-mail. I find 7-inch tablets (with their 16:10 aspect ratio) too narrow for web browsing, but the Nexus 9 works well in this capacity. It’s still small enough to hold in one hand, but big enough that there’s less text zooming than with the iPad Mini.

If you’re looking for a full-sized, high performance tablet for a child, the Nexus 9 could fill that need. It’s smaller than most and the grippy back plastic case is easier to hold on to than many. However, the Nexus 9 is a bit heftier than the competition at nearly 15 ounces.

Performance
The Nexus 9 was a snappy performer, never lagging. The Nvidia Tegra K1 CPU drove Android Lollipop nicely and it was more than able to handle any apps I threw at it.

The display is a 2048 x 1536 IPS LCD with Gorilla Glass 3 protection. It’s sharp, but the iPad Air 2 has better color reproduction and contrast, while the 8.4-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab S blows it away in color accuracy, contrast and resolution. Overall, the Nexus 9’s display is good, but not outstanding.

I was forcing the tablet to do all sorts of battery-draining things like streaming HD movies at high volume (with its front-facing BoomSound speakers, it can get quite loud) but still managed nine hours or so on a charge.

Nexus 9 can be a one-handed tablet

The Nexus 9 is still small enough to hold in one hand (photo Brad Moon)

The Price
One of the reasons the Nexus 7 sold like gangbusters — besides the pure Android experience — was its bargain $199 price tag. That seriously undercut anything Apple was selling and beat most mainstream Android tablet makers too.

At $399, The Nexus 9 is priced competitively, but it’s no longer a steal. Tablets it will be comparison shopped against like Apple’s iPad Mini 3, the Galaxy Tab S 8.4 and Amazon’s 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDX are priced identically. You can buy last year’s iPad Mini 2 (still a great tablet) for $100 less

The Verdict
If you want an Android tablet, the iPad and the Kindle Fire are out, obviously.

Compared to other Android tablets in its price range, the Nexus 9 is a good all-round choice. It’s plenty fast, has a good display, design and build quality are decent and you get Android Lollipop before anyone else, plus the promise to keep receiving Android upgrades to keep the Nexus 9 current.

If I was considering a new Android tablet for myself, I’d certainly have the Nexus 9 near the top of my list. It’s a solid performer and I like that in-between size.

For my kids, not so much.

It’s not just no longer being the $199 steal that might make you a little less cautious about giving a fragile glass slab to a young child. The Nexus is still a little large, too — an iPad Mini is thinner, lighter, smaller and easier to hold. And if breakage is a concern, Amazon will sell you a Kindle tablet for under $200 with a 2-year “no questions asked” free replacement period.

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Explore Your Inner Victorian With The Steampunk User’s Manual http://geekdad.com/2014/11/steampunk-users-manual/ http://geekdad.com/2014/11/steampunk-users-manual/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 13:00:42 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=67608 Back in 2011, The Steampunk Bible provided an "illustrated guide to the world of imaginary airships, corsets and goggles, mad scientists, and strange literature." It was one of the more comprehensive books that tried to tackle the larger definition of the steampunk movement. Jump forward three years, and Jeff VanderMeer has returned along with Desirina Boskovich (a fellow Atlanta resident!) to offer up a sequel of sorts -- The Steampunk User's Manual. As with its predecessor, this full-color hardback reference provides dozens and dozens of essays, photos, interviews, and more... but this time around with a slightly different intention. Continue reading

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User's Guide

Back in 2011, The Steampunk Bible provided an “illustrated guide to the world of imaginary airships, corsets and goggles, mad scientists, and strange literature.” It was one of the more comprehensive books that tried to tackle the larger definition of the steampunk movement, and I’ve actually loaned it out to a few folks who responded that it really helped them understand the lifestyle, music, art, and literature associated with the word steampunk. Written by Jeff VanderMeer with S.J. Chambers, it’s one of those reference books that all steampunk fans should have on a shelf. (My original review can be found here.)

Steampunk Bible

Jump forward three years, and Jeff VanderMeer has returned along with Desirina Boskovich (a fellow Atlanta resident!) to offer up a sequel of sorts — The Steampunk User’s Manual. As with its predecessor, this full-color hardback reference provides dozens and dozens of essays, photos, interviews, and more… but this time around with a slightly different intention.

Whereas The Steampunk Bible attempted to explore as many aspects of steampunk as possible, The Steampunk User’s Guide is all about offering advice to artists, writers, musicians, and anyone else desiring to live and/or create (re-create?) in this fictional Victorian-esque world.

Whether you’re considering writing a novel, painting a landscape, sewing up a vest, or casting some jewelry, the book opens by suggesting a four-part creative process to keep in mind as you explore the rest of the book. The book is broken into five chapters:

Chapter 1: Steampunk Art and Making
Chapter 2: Steampunk Design: Fashion, Architecture, and Interiors
Chapter 3: Steampunk Storytelling
Chapter 4: Steampunk Music and Performance
Chapter 5: Retro-Future Fantasies and Steampunk Dreams

Each chapter focuses on its title concept(s) and with discussions focusing on the actual hands-on activities and planning involved. There are interviews with all sorts of individuals who not only work and play in a steam-driven world, but who also continue to push the genre in new and unique directions. If you’re looking for instructions on making a pair of goggles and where to buy a suitable vest, this isn’t that book. While there are actual hands-on projects you can follow, I believe what you’ll find most useful are the six sections that are consistent across all chapters, with headers such as “Past and Future: Steering Clear of Clichés,” “Finding Inspiration: Where Do You Get Your Ideas?” and “Seven Pieces of Advice.” If you’re like me, you’ll quickly find your favorite section — mine is “The Working Process” that offers up very personal looks at steampunk makers, writers, and artisans and how they make stuff happen.

The Steampunk User’s Manual is a beautifully-designed and well-written book, and it’s got so much eye-candy that you’ll be forgiven for ignoring the text initially and just thumbing through all 250+ pages to stare at all the wonder. However, the book is ultimately about encouraging creators interested in this culture to help grow it and keep it alive. I cannot imagine a true steampunk fan not finishing this book and feeling inspired to do so… I’ll be marching down to my workshop this weekend with a few ideas already in development in my head…

In New York City this weekend? Abrams Image, publisher of The Steampunk Bible and The Steampunk User’s Guide, is partnering with Barnes & Noble and inviting you to a panel discussion on The Steampunk User’s Manual: An Illustrated Practical and Whimsical Guide to Creating Retro Futurist Dreams on Sunday, November 23rd at 2pm EDT. VanderMeer and Boscovich, along with a few other contributors to the book, will be on hand to sign copies. Attendees are also welcome to join the authors and contributors at Madame X bar (94 W Houston St, New York, NY 10012) from 5-8pm (cash bar) for a chance to mingle and chat with other Steampunk enthusiasts. I wish I could be there to attend!

Author Gathering

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Get Ready for Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire With New Pokémon Animation http://geekdad.com/2014/11/new-pokemon-animation/ http://geekdad.com/2014/11/new-pokemon-animation/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 12:00:24 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=67603 The Pokémon Company International has just released a sweet new animated video to introduce some of the Mega Evolved Pokémon you'll encounter in Pokémon Omega Ruby and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire. Continue reading

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The Pokémon Company International has just released a sweet new animated video to introduce some of the Mega Evolved Pokémon you’ll encounter in Pokémon Omega Ruby and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire, available right now for the Nintendo 3DS. It’s a great rundown of all the Mega Evolutions announced in the months leading up to today’s release, not to mention a wonderful way to whet your appetite for your return to the Hoenn region.

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Thermos Brand and the #OvernightCoffee Challenge http://geekdad.com/2014/11/thermos-brand-overnightcoffee/ http://geekdad.com/2014/11/thermos-brand-overnightcoffee/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 11:00:38 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=67599 Yesterday I started my morning with a smooth, rich, piping hot cup of coffee. Of course, it's important to note that said coffee had been freshly brewed hours earlier some 1500 miles away. Continue reading

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thermos

Yesterday I started my morning with a smooth, rich, piping hot cup of coffee. Of course, it’s important to note that said coffee had been freshly brewed hours earlier some 1500 miles away.

So how did coffee prepared by Denver’s Boxcar Coffee Roasters arrive at my humble Carolina home still hot and delicious? The secret is a Genuine Thermos Brand vacuum-insulated bottle. They’re designed to keep hot liquids hot and cold liquids cold for 24 hours, and I can certainly attest to the former.

In recent months, Thermos Brand has been delivering some of the nation’s best coffee to lucky fans around the country – world-class joe from the likes of Ritual Coffee Roasters (San Francisco), Spyhouse Coffee (Minneapolis) and Octane Coffee (Atlanta) – as a part of their Overnight Coffee Challenge promotion. Thus far Thermos and its coffee shop partners have brewed and shipped more than 3,640 ounces of coffee in nearly 100 Thermos Brand bottles to more than 65 different cities, traveling a total distance of more than 155,000 miles.

If you’d care to toss your name into the wholly metaphorical hat for a chance to win some of your own, head to Facebook.com/Thermos for more info, and share your thoughts via Twitter/Facebook by using #OvernightCoffee. It’s just one more way to stay warm and energized during the hectic holiday season, compliments of your friends at Thermos Brand.

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Say Happy Holidays With Brickwarrior (Giveaway!) http://geekdad.com/2014/11/say-happy-holidays-brickwarrior-giveaway/ http://geekdad.com/2014/11/say-happy-holidays-brickwarrior-giveaway/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 11:00:14 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=67672 LEGO fans have to check out Brickwarriors, and enter to win a gift code! Continue reading

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geek dad - main pic
BrickWarriors designs and produces custom Lego compatible helmets,armor, weapons, and accessories. All BrickWarriors toys fit seamlessly with your LEGO minifigures. They offer accessories in a variety of themes, from Greek mythology to sci-fi, and there are new product releases every month.

geek dad - toys for tots

geek dad - riddle of regicide

These accessories are great stocking stuffers. Plus, from November 1st through November 30th, BrickWarriors will be donating 5% of all sales to Toys for Tots, a non-profit organization that collects and delivers toys as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the community.

On top of that, Brickwarriors is branching out into print! Riddle of Regicide, the enticing new thriller by BrickWarriors’ founder, Ryan Hauge, is now available on Amazon! This novel has twists and turns that will have you guessing until the very last line. You won’t want to skip this incredible read. The special launch price for the eBook is $2.99.

And best of all, we’re giving away a copy of Riddle of Regicide and a $25 gift code for BrickWarriors! Just enter below for your chance to win!

Or click here to find the form online.

[Brickwarriors sponsored this post, but we really think their stuff is cool!]

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Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer… Psych http://geekdad.com/2014/11/barbie-can-computer-engineer-psyke/ http://geekdad.com/2014/11/barbie-can-computer-engineer-psyke/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 11:30:45 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=67589 Offended in more ways than one, GeekMom Samantha Cook takes a look at the "Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer" problem. Continue reading

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This week, the Internet went (rightfully) crazy because Barbie released a book (and we are just noticing now?) called Barbie: I Can Be A Computer Engineer. Unfortunately, there isn’t one thing about it that could possibly go over well with the female tech community, or the entire tech community, really.

barbie2

image courtesy of Mattel

In the book, Barbie is creating a game. Some have taken umbrage with the fact that it is the stereotypical sort of game with cute fluffy animals that typifies what society thinks girls are into. This didn’t bother me so much. While I may be the Halo master in my house, my daughter certainly likes the cute fluffy animal games, so whatever. People also nitpicked about the heart-shaped flash drive but I have something similar, so stop judging.

It was the part of the book where Barbie giggles and explains that she is only designing the game and she needs the boys to come in and actually do the work. I could go on about the stupidity of the information presented, or the offensive idea that girls only care about design, music collections, and pillow fights, but plenty of others have dissected this book online.

The real issue is that Barbie had an opportunity here. Mattel has extraordinary resources, both financial and collaborative, and could have partnered with a myriad of women in tech who know what they are talking about to produce a book that would have sold out. It would have been a best seller. It could have made a huge impact. It could have been as socially responsible and empowering as Barbie says they are. It was the perfect chance to create  a catalyst between computer engineering and Barbie fans, showing that technology and femininity are not mutually exclusive. And they failed. They failed at something that should have been obvious and achievable.

On Wednesday, Barbie issued this apology:

The Barbie I Can Be A Computer Engineer book was published in 2010. Since that time we have reworked our Barbie books. The portrayal of Barbie in this specific story doesn’t reflect the Brand’s vision for what Barbie stands for. We believe girls should be empowered to understand that anything is possible and believe they live in a world without limits. We apologize that this book didn’t reflect that belief. All Barbie titles moving forward will be written to inspire girls imaginations and portray an empowered Barbie character.

In my opinion, PR Barbie and Product Design Barbie should be ashamed. 2010 is NOT THAT LONG AGO. While it’s doubtful they will pull the book, the Internet ( as usual) is fixing it or remixing it.

Whether or not Barbie is able to repair the damage they have done to public trust, there are other options for girls to express their interest in programming like through the workbooks from Hello Ruby, playing with Robot Girl Lottie, and participating in The Hour of Code.

There are so many programs, toys, experiences, and mentors available. My hope is that Barbie will take this situation and do what women actually do when they are faced with a challenge. Instead of handing it off to the boys, they will apologize, learn from their mistake, and then rise to evolve and adapt.

[Read more great geeky stories on our companion site, GeekMom.com]

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Get Your Kids Into Coding with Disney’s Frozen and Code.org http://geekdad.com/2014/11/get-kids-coding-disneys-frozen-code-org/ http://geekdad.com/2014/11/get-kids-coding-disneys-frozen-code-org/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 11:00:05 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=67585 The fine folks at Code.org have partnered with Disney to produce a coding tutorial that features the characters Anna and Elsa from the hit movie Frozen. Continue reading

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frozencode
The fine folks at Code.org have partnered with Disney to produce a coding tutorial that features the characters Anna and Elsa from the hit movie Frozen. The goal, of course, is to get kids exciting about coding. The extended tutorial has you utilizing standard coding concepts to build up a Frozen-themed game, which in a way is a game in and of itself. It’s a great hook, and a wonderful way to introduce kids to the fundamentals of coding. Or maybe you just want to try it out for yourself…
frozencode2

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Teaching Your Kids To Give http://geekdad.com/2014/11/teaching-kids-give/ http://geekdad.com/2014/11/teaching-kids-give/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 10:30:13 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=67593 Ideas for establishing the mentality of life-long giving. Continue reading

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Chroma Cubes gifts

Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

While raising kids has never been easy, it can be one of the most rewarding things that some people do–especially when children grow up to be productive, contributing members to society, and that includes knowing how to give back and enrich the communities in which they live.

When should children start participating in the giving process? As early as possible. Even if they’re still toddlers; observing charitable acts that happen regularly and eventually understanding them, will leave a big impression. Learning how to give and developing that skillset is a lifelong journey.

Giving is more than a task; it’s a mindset. A way of life, a way of looking at the world and asking, how can I help? How can I make connections between needs and time and resources? How can I bring awareness to specific needs and evoke action?

1. Ask Your Kids How They Would Like to Help.
If giving to a cause is new to your household, involve your kids as early as possible; tell them that your family has the chance to give back. Then, engage them in a conversation about the types of causes they may feel strongly about and ways they think they can help.

This could involve helping families, working to save open spaces, caring for nature or a community garden, helping to save an endangered species, or helping those in need.

Once you’ve identified key topics that your family is interested in, (make a list, as this helps visualize everything), start researching specific local organizations (add them to the list).

  1. Food kitchen
  2. Pet shelters and animal rescues
  3. Nature conservation efforts
  4. Fundraising for various activities for low-income kids, like camp
  5. Zoos, museums, and aquariums
  6. Schools and local libraries (these days, even they need as much help as they can get)
  7. Visitation of patients in hospitals
  8. Visitation of the elderly in nursing homes

2. Make a Game Plan.
Get creative about how your family can help the organization(s) you choose. Bake sales are traditional, but there are other ways to help. Talk it through with your family, map it out, and post the results somewhere in the home that is highly visible.

Gamify it to some degree with tasks that turn into goals that turn into accomplishment, that result in stickers.

3. Quick Tasks and Ideas That Can Make a Big Difference

• Clear the clutter. Every 6 to 12 months, have a household closet cleaning day (that includes the toy chest, and maybe even the garage). Get everyone in the family to help.

• Make a donate box. Put it out where your kids can add to it. Donate often, even if it’s small.

• Make Detours to Giving. When shopping, make a trip down the canned foods isle. Ask your kids to pick a can of food to put in your donate box at home.

• Find ways to raise money for donations. Hold a yard sale and give all or a portion of it to a selected charity. Do the same with a bake sale, an art sale, etc. Involve our kids at all stages.

• Associate getting with giving. For birthdays and holidays, aside from their other gifts, give your kids a hand-written gift “certificate of giving” with a specified amount of money that they can gift to their favorite charity. Take your child to the charity to donate that money in person if you can. For non-local organizations, write a check, and have your child include a letter.

• Volunteer time in your local community. From public gardens that need weeding, to historic buildings that need painting, or food banks that need help, find something age-appropriate that can engage your family.

4. Growing the Mindset

• Tell stories. There are lots of real-life stories about kids or groups of kids who have found creative ways to give back. Encourage empathy. Share appropriate stories of struggle. Ask kids; what would you do in this situation? How would you want people to help you?

• Walk them through the cycle. If your kids are very young, say, “We’re going to give this can of food/winter coat/gift to ______. (Then explain the results.) “It will give them something to eat/keep them warm this winter/help them __________.”

• Explain why you are doing it and what you’re looking for. “We don’t need to store all this stuff, when someone else could really use it.” Or, “I bet there is a kid out there who would really enjoy playing with that toy. I know you used to love it but how about if you pass it along to someone else, so they can enjoy it as much as you have?” Keep the focus on the people in need and your child’s ability to share an experience through an item. Establishing an impermanent relationship to “things” can help kids better understand the important of relationships over acquiring goods.

• Develop a language of giving in your household. Find creative opportunities to incorporate it into regular conversation. Nothing is permanent. We are stewards of the planet, and the things we think we own. Everything is in change, and it is our duty to help those in need when we have abundance. If ever there is a time when we are without, we hope that others will think of us and help us.

Teaching children about the struggles of others not only develops a lifelong giving mindset, it also helps children understand how their words and actions impact those around them–a lesson that bears repeating.

About the Authors:
Jennifer L. Jacobson is the founder of Jacobson Communication and an advocate for organizations looking to make a positive difference in the world. She currently serves on the board of several influential nonprofits and organizations focused on conservation, education, and community. For more, visit www.jacobsoncommunication.com

Gretchen Barry is the Director of marketing and Communications for NonProfitEasy; the all-in-one data management software, created by nonprofits for nonprofits. From CRM and database management, to events, donor engagement, fundraising, and more, NonProfitEasy offers a one-stop, affordable, integrated software solution that is changing the status quo for the greater good. For more, visit www.nonprofiteasy.com

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7 Things Parents Should Know About The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 http://geekdad.com/2014/11/things-parents-know-hunger-games-mockingjay/ http://geekdad.com/2014/11/things-parents-know-hunger-games-mockingjay/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 10:00:34 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=67577 GeekDad takes a quick look at what parents should know about The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. The short answers are that you and your kids will like it, you need to have seen the prior movies, and it is very PG-13. Read on for more. Continue reading

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Mockingjay_Part1

1. Will I like it?

Yes. If you have enjoyed the last two movies, then you will indeed like this one. I think all of the actors did a great job with few minor exceptions. The movie is full of amazing scenery, believable characters and a great deal of emotion. The reviews are barely rolling in, but Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 79% so far. I expect it will stay right around 80%.

2. Will my kids like it?

If they are fans of the series, and not disturbed by violence, most definitely yes. Katniss is a very strong character and that comes out well. While I might hesitate to call her a role model, she has many traits that would be worth emulating.

3. Do I need to have seen the previous Hunger Games movies?

Again, this is a yes. Without the backstory of who Katniss is and what the games are about you will have some difficulty following the story. That isn’t to say you wouldn’t enjoy the movie, only that some of the emotion and reasoning may be lost on you.

4. Do I need to have read the books?

Absolutely not. I have yet to read any of the books and I’ve enjoyed all three movies. I’ll also have to skip the next obvious question: “How true to the book is the movie?” I will come back and answer that in the comments after I see the movie with my wife and daughter and discussed the major differences with them.

5. When is the best time for a restroom break?

I managed to make it through the film without a break. There isn’t really a great spot to break, but there are a couple points, that slow down. When Katniss finds the cat, or a little later when she wakes to a nightmare may work best, but make it quick.

6. With all those kids killing kids, how PG-13 is it?

I don’t really think this is a spoiler, but you may want to skip this next paragraph if you don’t want any hint of spoilage.

Mockingjay moves beyond the games, and has graduated from kids killing kids to the capitol killing everyone. There are a few very emotional scenes with a lot of dead, mostly incinerated bodies, one with a detailed narration of what happened there. Another scene in a makeshift hospital shows dead and decaying bodies stored not far from injured patients in squalid conditions. There are many scenes of people being shot, and some explosions. The MPAA rating is PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and thematic material.

7. How was the ending, did it drop a cliff-hanger, or break nicely?

Well, there is a “Part 1″ in the title, so it is obvious this is not the entire story. Still, the movie breaks on a near perfect note and leaves you to ponder what the future hold. It certainly makes you eager for part 2 which hits theaters in about a year.

If you need to catch up, Netflix and Amazon Prime are streaming Catching Fire and Amazon is streaming Hunger Games for $4.

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10 Things Parents Should Know About Super Smash Bros. for Wii U http://geekdad.com/2014/11/10-things-smash-bros-wii-u/ http://geekdad.com/2014/11/10-things-smash-bros-wii-u/#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 17:00:35 +0000 http://geekdad.com/?p=67568 Now that you're up to speed on the latest Pokémon titles, let's move along to this week's other massive release from Nintendo: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. You're excited, right? Of course you're excited! Continue reading

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ssb wii u

Now that you’re up to speed on the latest Pokémon titles, let’s move along to this week’s other massive release from Nintendo: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U.

You’re excited, right? Of course you’re excited!

So this is it, huh? Yes it is; it’s the triumphant return of Nintendo’s massive first-party fighting title to consoles. If it seems like I’m making a big deal of it, it’s only because it’s a big deal.

But I already have the 3DS version… So do I, and it’s a fine handheld iteration of our beloved brawler, but Smash Bros. is first and foremost a console game. This experience is, appropriately enough, bigger and (I dare say) better. Oh, and you can actually use that portable copy to turn you 3DS into yet another SSB Wii U controller.

Really? What other kinda controller options does it have? What isn’t a controller option?! You’ve got the Gamepad, obviously, as well as the aforementioned 3DS. There’s also Wii Remote Plus (held sideways), Wii Remote Plus and Nunchuk, Wii Remote Plus and Classic Controller Pro and Wii U Pro Controller. Then you have the GameCube controller, which is a personal favorite, but also requires the GameCube Controller Adapter. Now this option can get pricey, especially when you already have Wii Remotes and whatnot lying around, but I found my classic GameCube controllers to be just as responsive as the new SSB-branded hotness; if you still have access to GameCube controllers, ponying up for the Adapter certainly makes sense. Bottom line: if you can, go for controllers with two proper analog sticks – it offers an additional level of finesse that makes the titular smashing feel that much more rewarding.

Alright, so I’ve got the controller thing under control; what about those amiibos? Do I need them? No, but they’re a pretty cool little add-on if you’re at all interested. In Super Smash Bros. the amiibo figures don’t unlock characters or content, instead they manifest in-game as computer-controlled characters that can fight alongside (or, if you prefer, against) you. Your amiibos can level up and learn new tactics, and you can customize their looks, names and abilities to your liking. You can even feed them extra equipment to supplement their Attack, Defense and Speed stats. Plus amiibos can be used outside of SSB – my Mario, for example, unlocked an additional Mii racing suit in Mario Kart 8.

So how does it look? Great! This is the first time we’ve ever experienced Smash Bros. in high-definition, and it doesn’t disappoint. On the larger stages, particularly when playing against multiple competitors, things can get a little hard to keep up with, but that particular brand of madness is part of what makes Smash Bros. Smash Bros.

What about gameplay modes? I cannot stress enough how much stuff there is to do in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. There’s all the standard Classic and Stadium content, not to mention the much-lauded 8-fighter multiplayer matches. For me, though, the most fun was had exploring Events, themed challenges that unlock even more challenges (arranged in a branching “skill-tree” formation) upon successful completion, and the Mario Party-esque Smash Tour, a hybrid dice/board game that tasks players with collecting power-ups and additional characters to use in its big game-ending brawl. And I haven’t even mentioned all the collectable Trophies, expanded music selections, unlockable art and the Stage Builder!

How’s the online? Currently unavailable, I’m sad to say. A patch drops tomorrow that’ll enable Online Smash, and I’ll be sure to update you if it fails to impress. That being said, between SSB for 3DS and Mario Kart 8, Nintendo’s proven it has a solid enough handle on online multiplayer – and given that Smash Bros. for Wii U also supports the For Fun/For Glory system established on the 3DS, it should be simple enough to connect with other gamers who share your play style.

Will I enjoy it? Yes. While Super Smash Bros. has a solid fanbase of hardcore fighting game aficionados, it’s also perfectly accessible to button-mashers. Hell, I don’t even like fighting games, but I love SSB. This new Wii U version is no exception.

What about the kids? Smash Bros. is sort of the magic bullet of family gaming. Parents love it because it harkens back to their youthful gaming heyday, older kids dig it because of its vibrant and competitive nature and youngsters enjoy seeing all their favorite first-party characters in a single title. Between all those great Nintendo fighters, customizable Miis, a dizzying array of stages and a myriad of modes, it’s rather hard not to love it.

But will this be the Wii U’s “system seller?” I certainly think so. In fact, if you don’t yet have a Wii U of your own – or if you’re eying it as a potential holiday gift for your family – I’d recommend picking one up, as well as copies of Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart 8. Those two titles make excellent use of the hardware while also offering a staggering amount of content on both the single- and multiplayer ends.

Review materials provided by: Nintendo of America

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