Category Archives: Geek parenting resources

Things to help raise our geeklings

Makers Season 2

A while back I wrote about the first three episodes of Makers: Women Who Make America.  Thankfully, the show is back for a second season on PBS.  You can watch it for free on the PBS website (check  your local station’s website).  So far this season they have run episodes titled Women in Comedy, Women in Hollywood and — my favorite — this week they ran Women in Space.

My preschooler found the Women in Space episode just as riveting as I did, so these are mostly good for family viewing and all ages.  There are a few fairly rough moments in the Season 1 episodes detailing the history of the women’s movement, and the comedy episode doesn’t bleep out everything completely, so parents should be the judge of what very young ones see.

I just can’t get enough of the women in this country who blazed the trail into space and will probably watch the latest episode at least a couple more times.  Up next is Women in War, which is another topic that is very close to home.  Can’t wait to see it.

If you haven’t watched any of the episodes yet, they can each be watched alone, but I recommend watching Season 1 in chronological order, and season 2 in any order that strikes your fancy.  Enjoy, and let me know what you thought of them in the comments!

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Filed under Geek parenting resources, Movie & TV Reviews, Role Models

Abuse, Assault, Personal Safety, and What Everyone Can do to Fight Rape Culture. Part 1: Statistics

Trigger warning: sexual abuse, sexual assault.  This is an important but difficult topic.

I spent the past week in training to become a sexual assault victim advocate.  It’s something I have gradually been getting more involved with over the years – last year I did a ‘train the trainer’ program and learned how to train my coworkers on sexual assault prevention and response, as well as prevention of sexual harassment.  This year I volunteered to get even more involved.

The week of training was tough, but so very important.  It made me angry, sad, and exhausted.  There is an awful lot of evil in this world.  But I also feel empowered now, knowing I have some tools to help people – if only just a little bit.  Even if I’m never called on to be an advocate, I at least want to continue with outreach and education.  Caveat: I am not a professional.  I am a lightly-trained volunteer.  But I will check and provide sources/links for everything I post.

Since there is so much information to share here, I will split this into a series of posts intended to give readers some tools and resources for both preventing assaults and how, if the worst should happen, to help yourself or your loved one.

First, since I am a STEM-oriented person, I’ll share some highly disturbing statistics about sexual assault in this country (source: Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) website):

  • 1 in 6 women in the United States will be the victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime.  Only 40% – less than half – will report it.  When you add in the other forms of sexual assault (groping, unwanted touching, molestation), this number doubles – about one in three. 
  • 44% of victims are under age 18, and 80% are under age 30.
  • Approximately 1 in 33 men in the United States will be raped and somewhere between 1 in 6 and 1 in 10 will be in some way sexually assaulted in their lifetime.  Very, very few of them report because of various stigmas and social pressures, so we don’t have a terribly good idea of the actual numbers.
  • Three percent of rapists ever get jail time.  That means for every three rapists in jail, ninety-seven rapists are out there, free to rape again.  Most of them are not convicted, and therefore not registered sex offenders, so you won’t know who they are.  Of those who do see jail time, half are arrested again within 3 years of being released.
  • Someone is sexually assaulted in the U.S. every two minutes.  So in the time it took you to read this post, at least one person was assaulted.
  • The ‘stranger in an alley’ or ‘masked man jumping out from a bush’ thing is a myth – most rape victims (about 2/3!) know their attacker.  And more than 50% of rapes occur within a mile of (or in!) the victim’s home.

This is a rough subject.  So why am I telling you all this?  Well, this is a blog with a lot of info about parenting, equality for women, and pushing for a better future.  I can’t really think of anything that is more applicable right now.

We live in a rape culture.  It makes me angry, and pretty terrified.  It ought to make you angry, too.  The odds say you personally know several people who have been raped, including someone very close to you (remember, 1 in 6, and probably even more than that since so few report!).  Most likely those friends and loved ones have never told anyone what happened to them.

As we go through this series of posts, I’ll include resources for educating kids both on respecting other people’s bodies, and how to respect and protect their own bodies.  If we are going to change this culture and reduce those painfully, ridiculously high numbers, it has to start with today’s parents.  I hope you’ll help me in the fight to wipe out sexual assault and abuse.

 

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Filed under Equality, Geek parenting resources, Opinion pieces

This Year’s Flame Challenge Winners for “What is Color?”

I have really, really badly neglected the blog lately.  I am very sorry to anyone who actually looks forward to reading this on a regular basis for that neglect.  My lame excuse is some incredibly crappy personal stuff and much craziness at work… which all means I haven’t found much awesome stuff to share here lately, or had the energy to write about what I have found!

I hope you’ll bear with me and keep reading here, though, and I promise some good things are coming this week.  Those good things will be in the form of a new STEM female role model post, a book review, and today’s topic: the latest Flame Challenge winners.

If you missed my first post about Alan Alda’s flame challenge you can read it here, but in a nutshell he started this great annual competition a few years ago to explain a specific concept in terms an eleven-year-old can easily understand.

The entries in written and video categories are vetted by scientists and judged by actual 11-year-olds.  The challenges are questions that on the surface seem easy, and you think to yourself, “Oh, everyone knows what that is.”  But when you try to actually explain them using words in any kind of coherent manner, they are hard.

Previous years’ challenges included What is a flame?  What is color? and What is time?

This year, the question was What is Color?  The winners this year, both amazing women who work in STEM fields, are science communicator Melanie Golob for the written category, and physicist Dianna Cowern in the video category.  Here are the winning explanations:

Winning “What is a Color” entry by Melanie Golob

And now I’m totally hooked watching Dianna Cowern’s other awesome science videos.  You should check out the rest of her down-to-earth, quirky, and highly accurate science videos at her Physics Girl channel on YouTube.

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Two Wins for Women Today

First, the Lego “research institute” set is so awesome, it sold out in three days.  I’m glad I ordered mine the second they came out, because my daughter is completely enthralled.  We’re stretching it out and building one of the sets each night as a treat after dinner.  Toy manufacturers just got a very clear message that there is huge demand for better toys for girls.  I’ll bet the pink and purple “Lego Friends” sets made to sell on the “pink aisle” didn’t sell out in three days!

The set is marked “10 and up” but like most toys, it’s probably over-estimated to keep them safe from lawsuits.  I would say a much younger kid could build this alone.  There are a lot of the absurdly tiny Lego pieces in the set, so it’s actually a good activity for a parent and a four-year-old to build together.  I read the directions and act as coach/director, and she uses her better-sized little fingers to put the tiny pieces together.  

Second, if you didn’t see it in the news, a woman won the Fields Medal today for the first time in history.  The Fields Medal is awarded every four years, and only to mathematicians under 40.  Today it was announced that this year Stanford’s Maryam Mirzakhani won.  From what I understand, for mathematicians it’s sort of like winning the Nobel Prize and the Olympics rolled into one. 

So, yeah… it’s a great day, ladies!

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New Stephen Hawking Movie!

I don’t care if it’s overly dramatized.  I can’t wait to see this movie.  I adore Stephen Hawking.  I love his books, and I love that he hasn’t just beaten the odds in his life, he has smashed them to itty bitty smithereens.

He is one of those rare people who is not only brilliant, but also able to bring his ideas to the masses.  He has been quite the controversial figure in the last few decades, though, so I’m also interested in how they treat all that in the movie as well.

Watch the trailer.  Try not to cry.

As to other Stephen Hawking-related things, I highly recommend:

For teens and adults: A Brief History of Time (The classic!  There’s also a movie, but the book is better)

For kids: George’s Secret Key to the Universe

And for adults and kids around 10 and older, the Masters of Science Fiction TV series where Hawking does the intro is really fun.  It consists of six episodes made from some classic, well-known and loved, science fiction short stories.

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Lego Research Institute scientist set is now available

Yay, they are finally here!  The Lego set that has a female paleontologist, chemist, and astronomer is now on the Lego website.  I wrote about them a while back and I’m happy to say that less than two months later they are already on the market.

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More to follow when my set arrives.  It says age 10 and up, so apparently I will have to assist my kiddo with building these… oh, darn, I have to play with Legos!

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Rocks rock

Long day on the road, so I’ll just say this: road trips that go through Utah and Wyoming on I-80 are great for pointing out different types of rocks, talking about how mountains form, etc.  Some beautiful scenery plus a curious kid equals some good road trip conversations about geology.  

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My Little Aspiring Astronaut

Tonight my daughter asked me one of the inevitable questions of childhood: how do you go to the bathroom in space?  To answer, I naturally turned to… ok, this is embarrassing for someone with three space-related  technical degrees to admit – I turned to YouTube.  I thought about getting out some books, making explanations, drawing pictures.  But I figured the internet would not fail to provide a video, which would do a much better job of explaining than I possibly could.

The internet did not fail me.  The first thing to come up in the search was a marvelous video of astronaut Sunita Williams giving a tour of the International Space Station.  The video had not only a tour of the bathroom facilities, but also all the rest of the living facilities.

This was a double win, as my daughter and I got to see the kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping areas on the ISS and we also reinforced the whole “if she can see it, she can be it” concept by watching an excellent female STEM role model in action.

Here’s where the story gets really great.  After watching the whole video with wide-eyed enthrallment, she looked at me and said, “Mommy, will you buckle me in and take me to the space station now?”  Oh, kiddo.  Would I ever love to do just that.

So it turns out explaining how astronauts go to the bathroom in space is pretty easy.  Explaining to a four-year-old that we can’t just head off to visit space right now is hard.  I think I lost her somewhere in between “do well in school” and “work hard” but the spark is there, at least.  I have definitely passed the ‘space fever’ on to my kid!

Oh, and here’s the video:

Tomorrow I think we’ll look for some good Chris Hadfield videos as well.

Guess it’s time to start saving up for that first trip to Space Camp?

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Resources for Road Trippin’

Soon we will be embarking on a summer road trip, complete with our first completely kid-free con (kiddo will be camping with the grandparents while we go to NASFiC). So lots of new experiences coming up for all of us.

Since we have approximately 80 hours of driving spread out over a couple weeks, I am doing a lot of prep work for entertaining a small child in the car. I don’t consider these efforts ‘spoiling,’ but rather ‘preservation of the sanity of the drivers.’

First step was to raid the dollar rack at Target and hit up the local Dollar Tree store. This, combined with one of those $5 cleaning gear totes, combined to make a well-stocked kit for ‘analog’ entertainment. Coloring books, stickers, small toys, and crayons joined some educational items and thinner books to make a nice tub of things to do that can sit next to her on the seat.

I also broke down and will buy her Frozen, which she will watch only with headphones on.  So I don’t go berserk by day two of the trip.

Today we finally spent all our stacked-up Audible credits on six new audiobooks to entertain the grownups. Our favorites to listen to in the car are usually Malcolm Gladwell’s books and Maisie Dobbs mysteries from author Jacqueline Winspear – these are narrated by the most pleasant-voiced British woman imaginable.  We also like to throw in some good, solid sci-fi.

This trip we will be listening to the two newest from Gladwell (What the Dog Saw and David & Goliath), the newest from Winspear (Leaving Everything Most Loved), and Redshirts by John Scalzi.

If we run out after listening to all of that, we also have some promising non-fiction downloaded: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking and Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon.

If you like audiobooks, the Audible monthly membership is a great deal. For $15 a month you get a credit a month for a single audiobook. If you’ve seen what audiobooks usually cost, this is a very good deal. And you can get some good discounts/special offers on the memberships if you sign up through an existing Amazon account.

You can also often add on the Kindle print version of the book (or if you have the Kindle version already, add on the audiobook), for just a few dollars more.  Audible has other special promotions and discounts pretty frequently as well.

Next, I need to shop for some new kid apps for the iPad, preferably of the educational and free variety. Anyone have recommendations?  I’ll share what we come up with for that in another post, so appreciate your inputs.

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Girl Genius – webcomics, comic books, and novels

As a follow-up to last week’s list of favorite webcomics, I checked out one of my brother’s recommendations, Girl Genius by Phil and Kaja Foglio.  I had seen their (Hugo-winning) books on display in the dealer’s room at various cons but had never gotten around to actually reading any – and I had no idea that they now have a free online webcomic to read in addition to the print books.

Today I checked out Girl Genius, and it’s awesome.  The storyline sucked me in right away.  The art is lovely, with diverse characters shaped mostly like real people, not creepy disproportionate stereotypical comic book people.  The storyline is fun, and chock full of mad genius-y goodness, terribly dastardly villains, and a bona fide Girl Genius.  The authors describe it as ‘gaslamp fantasy’ rather than Steampunk, which I think is a very fitting description.

I would definitely recommend this for the tween-and-up crowd, and perhaps even for kids as young as ten if your kid is already into reading comics or very precocious.   I’m looking forward to working my way through the archives and catching up on Agatha’s adventures.  It’s good reading for adults, and shows a solid strong female character for younger kids looking for good (and unusual) role models.

You can read it online as a webcomic, or purchase the comic books and novels.  There are also apps (I love the paper doll app) and other fun merchandise.  Check all of the goodness out here.

Are you a Girl Genius fan?  Do you have other recommendations for great comics with strong female characters or that show how cool science is?

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