Is It Okay to Put Mummies on Display?

The exhibit begins with an ethical statement, reminding visitors to be respectful of the dead. But it begs the question: can an exhibit of mummies ever be respectful of the dead? Is it respectful to put the dead in glass cases without their permission and allow visitors to gawk at them in the name of science? Are displays of mummies unethical? Or if there are no living descendants to offend, is it okay to put someone’s ancestor on display?

Continue Reading

Are You Teaching Your Daughter to Wait for Her Geek?

As I was brushing my teeth one morning, I realized what I was doing. I was waiting — like Snow White and her prince — for my geek to come. My subconscious game plan was to leave this task until last minute and then ask my husband to take care of it. It’s a strategy that has worked well for me in the past. I often hand over pieces of technology to Josh and say, “please fix this” even though he technically has less technological knowledge than I do. What he lacks in capabilities he makes up for with confidence and a willingness to try things out until he figures out what works.

Continue Reading

Hour of Code, Coming in December

Wait, why are you sitting here, still reading this post? Don’t you know you’re supposed to be over on Code.org, registering your child’s school for Hour of Code? Or talking with other parents on how to get this program up and running? Fine, if you’re going to keep reading, you might as well know what I’m cooking up for my children’s school.

Continue Reading

The Geek Immigrant's Guide to Learning Coding (aka Learn Like a Kid)

Being a Geek Immigrant mother to two Geek Native children, I set off to learn coding so I could turn around and help my kids learn coding. And I learned some valuable things along the way. Enough to construct this guide in case you are like me and coming to Geekhood in middle age. It will help you learn coding as an adult so that you can turn around and teach coding to kids. It’s for every teacher, every Coderdojo organizer, every parent, every person who wants-to-learn-coding-for-whatever-reason-but-knows-nothing-about-computers.

Continue Reading

What if You Don't Fall in Love with iOS7?

An hour later, he came into my room, his lip quivering. “I hate the new operating system.” He could get used to the new look, the new set-up, but he couldn’t get accustomed to a new sound. Siri’s voice had changed ever so slightly; it was less robotic, less hesitant. The fluidity of sound made him feel as if it wasn’t his Siri anyone.

Continue Reading

No, Kids, We Don't Need Every New Gadget (Even Though I Secretly Want Them Too)

There is always a newer, shinier gadget on the horizon, especially at this time of year when manufacturers want to get your Christmas dollars. As an adult, it’s hard not to get swept up in believing that you need a new iPhone 5S (or even an iPhone 5C… in blue… since it’s pretty) when you hear all the cool things it can do that your current phone cannot. As a kid, it’s impossible not to believe that life will be magically different, as wonderful as those adults at Apple make it sound.

Continue Reading

The Hardest Level of Candy Crush

The geek in me can’t just play Candy Crush. Instead of merely wasting my evening, lining up pieces of brightly colored candy on the iPad, I also spend an inordinate amount of time thinking through the construction of the different levels. What makes a level frustrating vs. challenging? Which is more dreaded: multiplying chocolate pieces or multi-layered jellies? I threw these questions out there to the vast Internet, trying to figure out what was the hardest level of Candy Crush.

Continue Reading

Request Rejected: No, You're Not Getting That Video Game

There isn’t enough time to research games thoroughly before download. I work a full time job, and I can’t keep up with the game request research. We have fairly strict rules about violence in games since I know my kids will end up in our bedroom with their nightmares. Of course every child is different, and what rolls off one child’s vinegary brain like a blob of oil will emulsify in another child’s imagination. So we can’t always go with popularity or another parent’s vetting of a game since every child is different. There are plenty of times when I have to say no not because there is anything wrong with the game, but because I don’t have the time to explore the reviews and look at screenshots. By the time I can get around to looking at the game, that game is already on its way out with the elementary school set. If you want to keep up with the video game talk, you need to pretty much download and start playing instantly.

Continue Reading

Real Female Superheroes Wouldn't Dress Like That

“Real female superheroes wouldn’t dress like that,” my daughter decided.

“It doesn’t seem very likely,” I agreed.

“They’d wear a t-shirt and shorts,” she decided. “So they could move around easily.”

“And they’d probably wear knee pads and elbow pads to protect themselves,” I added.

She shrugged at the idea of protective gear but she laughed when I leaned down and whispered, “It’s almost like men think that we like to fight crime by whacking bad guys with our boobs.”

Continue Reading

Fitting Coding Into an Already Stuffed Schedule

It’s the same problem schools are facing. Everyone recognizes the need for computer classes in schools, but what do you drop in order to fit them in to an already packed school day? No subject seems expendable, and that includes the fine arts and physical education, which often get the shaft when it comes to fitting in more subjects. Cut out recess? Then students lose valuable time to learn how to socialize with their peers.

Continue Reading

Have Geeklets, Will Travel: Intel Museum

…I mean, sure, we’d swing by the Company Store at Apple Headquarters and stock up on t-shirts. Even if we couldn’t get into the actual office space, I’m fairly certain that it would blow my son’s mind just to stand on the campus. And we’d go to the HP garage just to see the outside. In other words, we’d swing by all the landmarks that make up Silicon Valley. But the Intel Museum in Santa Clara sounds like the perfect factory tour.

Continue Reading

Have Geeklets, Will Travel: Museum of Mathematics

If you’re lucky enough to be in New York, you can visit the museum itself and play with numbers. Hands-on exhibits teach concepts such as fractions, dimensionality, and geometry, making math interesting for everyone from kindergarteners to adults alike. If you don’t live in New York, you still have a chance to try out many of the math games as they crisscross the country in a traveling exhibit called Math Midway. We were fortunate that it came to our local science center prior to the opening of the museum, and the kids loved walking the maze (never making a left turn!), playing with the harmonograph, and trying to figure out the organ function grinder.

Continue Reading

Have Geeklets, Will Travel: Martin Guitars Factory

The Martin Guitars factory is like paradise for musical geeks. Our family took a tour of the 180-year-old guitar business, seeing the process of how their guitars start as blocks of wood and turn into instruments played by the likes of Eric Clapton. There are 300 steps, some completed by people and others completed by robots, that go into making a guitar, and you’ll marvel just as much at the skilled labor as you will at the numerous machines that dot the tour path.

Continue Reading

Have Geeklets, Will Travel: Apple Store Field Trip

Ever since my twins were two years old, they have loved to visit the Apple store and touch all the equipment. There is little possible damage a child can do considering the machines are programmed to reset and erase any changes at the end of the day. The more fragile iPods and iPads are tethered so there is no possibility of dropping them on the floor. There are even children’s computers loaded with their favorite games on low tables at the back of the store.

Continue Reading

Have Geeklets, Will Travel: Science Centers

Last week, we renewed our science center membership. It’s one of our favorite day trips: to conduct experiments in Newton’s Alley and watch a planetarium show or two (our current favorite is We Are Aliens) and dig for dinosaur bones. It’s one of those day trips that has an element of familiarity built into it: we know our way around the museum and have scouted out good restaurants in the area. But it’s also a day trip that changes every single visit. This last time, the curators were running an Egg-bot. The time before that, we got to examine a turtle. The traveling exhibits change, special events dot the calendar, and we sometimes bring friends along to boot.

Continue Reading

Have Geeklets, Will Travel: Storybook Vacations

Actively going to where a story is set opens a fantastic starting point for discussing a book: Why here? Location can become an integral part of a story, as important as the characters themselves. Harry Potter simply wouldn’t be Harry Potter without Hogwarts. (And yes, you can go to Scotland and ride the Hogwarts Express right now!) Eloise couldn’t be Eloise anywhere other than New York. And yes, you can even sort of visit Middle Earth if your goal is to get inside Tolkien’s head and see how environment can influence the plot line (even if… uh… Mr. Tolkien wrote those books in Oxford, England and not New Zealand).

Continue Reading

Have Geeklets, Will Travel: Geocaching

Okay, so maybe treasure is too strong a word since the buried items range from a guest book with a pencil stub to plastic toys courtesy of McDonald’s. The thrill isn’t in the collecting but in the find. We were late joiners to the geocaching craze, but in case you haven’t started yet or haven’t gone out searching in a while, it’s a great idea to use in order to build day trips into your summer plans.

Continue Reading

Have Geeklets, Will Travel: Exploring Conventions

There are gatherings for every imaginable fandom — from Minecraft to anime to Doctor Who. You can hit a comic convention and see a plethora of characters, or zero in on a particular television show, such as Star Trek. We’ve rounded up a few that will take place in various parts of the US this summer, but start Googling to find out if people are gathering to discuss and celebrate your favorite things. Or better yet, throw together your own informal convention at home by trying to get a critical mass together to discuss a particular show, movie, superhero, or video game.

Continue Reading

What is the Best Age for Star Trek?

And then we started rethinking the no-violence rule. It wasn’t because we wanted our kids to fit in — I mean, we did, but there was only so far we were willing to go on that end — but we realized that we didn’t have a firm reason for the rule. We couldn’t explain it to others because we couldn’t explain it to ourselves. It wasn’t enough to ban violence in all forms simply because we didn’t like violence — I mean, truly, who likes violence? We needed a reason for why we lumped all violence into one big pile and stamped a NO across it.

Continue Reading

Zooreka and the Odds of Winning

I thought about that this week when I made a bet with the twins as we played Zooreka. If either of them won, they could both stay up 15 minutes later that night. If I won, they would go to bed five minutes earlier. The odds were in their favor as there were two of them and only one of me, but they still agonized over whether to accept the bet. Simple math, I explained to them: they could win more than they could ever lose.

Continue Reading
Lost Treasures of Infocom

Rediscovering Infocom Games With My Kids

To solve my spelling problem, my father brought home an Infocom game called Zork. He explained how it worked. I would be placed inside a story, much like my Choose Your Adventure Books, only this time, instead of being contained to two choices, I would have open possibilities. The only catch was that I needed to spell things correctly in order to have the game recognize my commands. It only took a single night to fall in love with the underground world of Zork; fall in love enough to learn how to spell in order to explore.

Continue Reading