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On hiatus!

Should have posted this ages ago, sorry. Due to health, personal, and work-related reasons, this blog is on temporary hold until summer 2017. I will post again when I have a rough idea of when it’s returning and what the new posting schedule will look like. Take care and stay Geeky!

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Thankful

Today I’m thankful that:

  • I have a computer, internet access, and freedom of speech that lets me write this blog.
  • I am able to read and write, and have been able to get a very good education.
  • I have a comfortable place to live and loving family members to share it with.
  • I am gainfully employed in a job that pays me the same as my male counterparts.
  • I have the skills to cook yummy food.
  • I excel in multiple male-dominated fields.
  • I have a wonderful spouse who helps me do the job I do without too much worry about what’s going on at home.
  • I have a daughter who lights up my world, with an exciting future ahead of her.
  • I live in an exciting time.  For better or worse, the world keeps changing – technology, societies, cultures.  I just have to keep hoping that the better will outweigh the worse.

What are you thankful for this year?

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Costume is not consent – or a free pass to behave badly

San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) happening this week has reminded me of something I’ve wanted to write about for a while.  There has been a lot more dialogue in recent years about harassment of cosplayers and the wonderful campaigns to stop that, such as the “Costumes/Cosplay are not Consent” movement – the idea that just because someone is dressed as ‘slave Leia’ or a short-skirted Sailor Moon does not mean that it is ok to ogle or touch him or her.   And more cons are taking measures to enforce safe environments.

There have been some very high profile incidents of harassment of cosplayers in the last couple years, and all too often some even nastier backlash against those who stood up for themselves.  Fandom has seen several new (and growing) movements in recent years to combat discrimination and harassment of many kinds that happens at cons, within professional and fan organizations, and online.  The conversation to date is overall good, and progress is slow but gaining momentum as far as I can tell.

Another, less visible issue, though, is that of certain cosplayers themselves behaving badly towards their fellows – the idea that a costume allows the wearer to get away with things for the sake of ‘being in character’ that are actually unacceptable.  Costumes, especially those that allow some bit of anonymity due to a mask or other covering, can sometimes embolden the wearer and result in behavior ranging from annoying to absolutely reprehensible.

For example, someone dressed as Iron Man might have a bit more swagger than usual, and think it’s ok to actually act like Tony Stark in real life – that’s the minor end of the scale.  On the uglier end, though, the costume is an excuse to harass someone from the same world/book/show/movie/comic.  An Eleventh Doctor cosplayer feels entitled to walk up and kiss a stranger dressed as River Song, for example.  Or a Han Solo thinks he gets to grab and grope anyone dressed as Leia.

In each case she didn’t remotely consent to that, but for some reason a lot of people think it’s ok – both the offender and frequently the bystanders as well.  I even heard a tale this week of a woman who was thrown to the ground and assaulted on stage during a masquerade by a fellow cosplayer, whose excuse was that he was “just re-enacting a scene from the book so the cosplay would be more authentic.”  Except it was without her consent or prior knowledge.  Costume is not consent, and cosplay is also not permission.

Those who use their costumes as an excuse to behave badly or as something to hide behind while they harass or even assault others are cowards.  They need to be held accountable for their actions while they are dressed up – yes, for things they do even while they are ‘in character.’

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Departing Detroit and #DetCon1

DetCon1 is over and the Con Crud has caught up with me at last. The recap of the last couple days of the con is unfortunately going to have to wait a bit.

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My Favorite Webcomics

Playing off of yesterday’s post, there are a lot of very popular – and extremely geeky – webcomics out there.  Here are my favorites.  Please note for those with kids/youth that comics marked with an asterisk (*) sometimes have adult themes/content or profanity.

The Oatmeal*

Cyanide and Happiness*

XKCD

Questionable Content*

Girls With Slingshots*

Surviving the World

 

No longer coming out with new comics but worth reading from the beginning anyway:

Absurd Notions 

User Friendly (arguably the geekiest webcomic of all time)

 

What are your favorite webcomics?  Can you recommend any that are better geared towards kids?

Also, if you have never read the complete Calvin & Hobbes, do it.  Do it now.  With your kids, if applicable.

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Fun with Dissolvable Packing Peanuts

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If you ever get a box with the packing peanuts made from cornstarch, don’t throw them away.  Instead, save them for a rainy day activity.  If you’re not sure if they’re the right kind, toss one in the sink and get it wet.  It will either dissolve very quickly, or remain a lump of standard styrofoam.  Question answered.

I have three favorite activities to do with these peanuts.  All can be a little messy, but cleanup is very quick/easy.  And it’s a good lesson in the importance of recycling – you get rid of the peanuts, and get to highlight how much cooler the dissolvable ones than those lame, no-fun, last-forever styrofoam ones.  Although if you get styrofoam ones, don’t throw those away, either – you can save them up and then use them to stuff a beanbag chair later.  Which is way better than letting them sit in a landfill.

Here are the crafts we’ve tried so far:

1) Just make them into goo.  This is good for pretty much all ages.  I give my daughter a large mixing bowl with a few inches of water in the bottom.  I let her dump the peanuts in and squish them with her hands until they dissolve into slimy goo.  I let her play with the goo.  When she gets bored, the whole thing can safely go down the sink.  Be sure to use a LOT of water to rinse them down, though, just to make sure you don’t leave any big clumps of cornstarch in your drain.  Also, someone did this with an entire bathtub full of peanuts, and it looks really fun.

2) “Cotton ball” art.  Did you ever make cotton ball sheep as a kid?  You know, where you glued cotton balls to a piece of construction paper to form a sheep, then gave it some stick legs and a face?  Or maybe you made a snowman out of the cotton balls as a Christmas present to take home from school for some lucky parent or grandparent. Well, you can do the same kind of thing with these peanuts, but without having to bother with the glue.

Use a small bowl of water or wet sponge to lightly dampen the end of a peanut, and stick it to paper to make a sheep, abominable snowman, cloud, or your choice of fluffy 3-D art thing.  Or you can use some styrofoam peanuts and actual glue, if you don’t have dissolvable peanuts.

3) Sculpture.  Same idea as #2, but definitely use a sponge or wet cloth and go light on the water.  Stick the packing peanuts to each other and build with them.  Start little ones with easy things like snakes, and then work your way up to cats, aardvarks, orangutans, or whatever floats your boat.

Speaking of boats, it’s also fun to build packing peanut boats and then go float them somewhere (pond, puddle, kitchen sink, wherever) and watch them dissolve.  I suppose you could watch your aardvark dissolve, too.  You be the judge of how your kid will respond to his or her creation melting away on the water, though – some kids will find this fascinating, others will bawl their little hearts out to see their beloved artwork destroyed.  A great, detailed blog post with instructions for this can be found here.

What am I missing here?  Do you have any other fun activities for dissolvable packing peanuts?

If you are concerned about the safety of working with these, this site has a good FAQ section about the peanuts.

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My DetCon1 Preliminary Schedule!

If you’ll be in the Detroit area in mid-July, consider stopping by the North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFIC).  The NASFIC is a special con that’s only held in years that the WorldCon is outside North America.  This is mainly for those of us who can’t afford to go to the really cool WorldCon location (London this year) somewhere to go and still do all the wonderful things we usually do at a WorldCon, just a little closer to home.

I’ve just received my preliminary schedule for panels.  I’m really excited about the panels I’ve been selected for, although I’m a little disappointed that, once again, I haven’t managed to make it onto their military sci-fi panel or anything closely related to that topic.  If the military sci-fi panel is yet again comprised exclusively of a bunch of older white males who have never been in the military (and no, the guy who made it through two weeks of boot camp doesn’t count), I’m going to tear my hear out.  At least the last one I went to had some people who had actually been in the military!

The whole reason I got involved in panels at cons in the first place was after two straight years of a certain unnamed local con having a “Women Warriors” panel made up of old white men who had never been in the military, and a “Military Sci Fi” panel also made up of old white men who had never been in the military.  I figured the best way to try to get the panel representation to mirror real life a little better was to throw my name in the hat.  I hasn’t really worked yet, but I’ll keep trying.  And trying.

But for now, I am on some very awesome-sounding panels, with some amazing-sounding people who I look forward to meeting and panel-ing with (and please note these schedules are pretty much guaranteed to change in the next few weeks).  Also, I am very open to reader suggestions for the Balonium panel!

Fri 4:00:00 PM Mackinac East – Designing Fictional Spacecraft
If your story or artwork includes spacecraft, it’s a whole other kettle of fish.
Our panelists discuss aspects of designing non-existent spacecraft, such as
applying current and historic shipbuilding and spacecraft-building practices
to future designs, keeping designs realistic, making the ship suit its mission,
and considerations beyond engines and weapons.

Sat 2:00:00 PM Mackinac West – Women in Science and STEM

What are the unique challenges for women in STEM fields, how can they be
addressed, how can we get more women interested in these fields, what can
you do to prepare

Sun 10:00:00 AM Ambassador Salon 2 – Balonium!!
Our panelist indulge their penchant for “Oh, come ON!” in discussing the
science, pseudo-science, and outright balonium in recent SF, whether in
print, media, comics, or wherever!

Sun 1:00:00 PM Ambassador Salon 2 – Ask a Scientist
Audience members ask questions they’d like scientists to answer. Carl
Sagan once said: “There are naive questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased
questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every question is a cry to understand the world. There is no such thing as a dumb question.

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Life on Other Planets?

What was the stuff of science fiction stories when I was a kid seems more and more likely to be reality now.  At least in terms of life on other planets.  While many of us born in the early 80s are still wondering how we got to our thirties without flying skateboards and Mars colonies, some technology and scientific discoveries in our lifetimes have been beyond anyone’s wildest childhood imagination.  Computers and medical advances, for example, have come farther, faster, than I would have thought possible as a kid.  But space exploration really seems to have stalled.

Instead of moon bases, missions to Mars, and maybe someone working on how to manage insterstellar travel, we have to bum rides from the Russians to our (shared) space station.  Commercial flights may be available by the end of this year on Virgin Galactic, but we definitely didn’t have Pan Am flights to a space station in 2001.  So there are things that would have grossly disappointed my eight-year-old self, but also some things that would have blown my mind – like my current smart phone.

One thing that is definitely beyond my wildest expectation is the number of planets out there that potentially have life.  It seems like at least once a week we hear about another new planet (or several planets) that has been discovered and has the potential to host life.  Just last month, NASA’s Kepler mission found an Earth-size planet within its sun’s habitable zone a mere 500 light years from us.

Artist’s concept of Kepler-186f Image Credit: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech

It’s now almost certain that there’s life of some kind on other planets.  What that life could look like and whether it could be intelligent is currently subject to wild speculation.  Really, really exciting and spectacularly wild speculation.  And I’m willing to bet that life, in some form, will be discovered in my lifetime.

I will say, though, that I doubt intelligent life will be found anytime soon.  I’m in the camp where other intelligent life is either not advanced enough for us to find each other yet, or so far beyond us that they would pay us about as much attention as we would an amoeba.  But I think the most likely thing we will find first is very primitive life.

I could, though, be as completely wrong about all of this as I was at age eight about how I would definitely have a jet pack in my twenties.  The one thing I can say for certain is that the discoveries are only going to keep getting more exciting.

What do you think we will find out there?  What do you hope we will find?

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A PSA for Memorial Day

Memorial Day is the holiday in which we remember the sacrifices of those who perished in our country’s wars.  Veteran’s Day is the day where we remember all who have served, both living and dead.  Thanking Veterans is always appreciated, but when someone thanks me for my service on Memorial Day, I always think in my head, “But I’m not dead yet!

Also, if you really want to do something for Memorial Day or really any day… then actually go do something.  Don’t just say thanks and slap a ‘support our troops’ magnet on your car or watch a parade.  Offer to babysit for someone whose spouse is deployed (and remember that many of those spouses are male, they aren’t all wives!); go visit some lonely folks in the VA hospital; volunteer to beautify a Veterans cemetery or memorial that’s fallen into disrepair; write to your congresspeople about your feelings on the ongoing wars, or the outrageous disaster that is the VA medical system.  Don’t just pay lip service.

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Arthroscopy: better living through science!

So two weeks out from my wrist surgery my incisions are just about healed shut, and I’ve regained about 20% of my range of motion.  That’s really incredible.  How is this possible?  Because the surgery was arthroscopic – it involved just two tiny incisions (about 1/3 of an inch each), some tools, and a camera.  They could see inside the joint, fix it up, and do everything they needed without slicing my entire wrist open.  This is truly one of the marvels of modern medicine.

This was my second arthroscopic surgery – the first was to repair a meniscus tear and inflamed plica in my knee back in 2001, and I was walking (well, limping) on that leg within 3 days.  In fact, the Doctors encourage rapid use of the limb you’ve had operated on to avoid loss of range of motion and atrophy of muscles.

Again, this is just amazing.  A few decades ago, none of this would have been possible.  Surgery for minor issues wasn’t usually a viable option, and surgery for major issues essentially involved major opening up of limbs.  Long recovery times.  Huge scars.  Arthroscopy is really, really cool.  I’m grateful to have such short recover times and expect to have pretty much full use of my wrist again within two months with a little physical therapy.  Already I’m using it for everyday things (carefully, and with a brace, but using it).

The surgery was a procedure called  abridement, used to try to fix the damage/inflammation from the initial injury incurred about 7 months ago.  Even with marvelous arthroscopy, surgery is always a last resort – we had tried everything else already: physical therapy, rest and splinting, steroid shots, etc.  So here’s hoping this finally fixes the problem so I can get back to some of my favorite activities that had been limited by the hurt wrist.  Looking forward to things like swimming, bicycling, yoga, baking, playing piano, and lifting.

What marvels of modern medicine have made your life better?  Has your life been improved or even saved by medications, implants, prosthetics, or surgical procedures?

And if you have a strong stomach, I found a cool video of a similar procedure to mine on YouTube:

 

 

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