Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Science Fiction Curriculum

Cover of the Glinda of OzImage via Wikipedia
on our big big list
Getting back to the originally promised topic. The girls. Due to some county school board issues, mostly zoning, we're going to start up the home school wagon this fall.

Having crazy-awesome kids is a blessing that I'm proud to share about. I'm looking forward to being a huge part of their education. I know it's something most parents don't get to do.

I do promise not drone on about all the details unless they pertain to my Science Fiction Daddy topics. And because I'm me; some of it will.

Red1 and I have already started planning out her reading lists for the year. We are making a plan to include a unit on all the Wizard of Oz books, play, films, etc. and another unit on Science Fiction. We're going to look for some award winning sci-fi standards but are open to suggestions. Remember we're in the fifth grade but at a very high reading level. Her favorites right now are the Rick Riordan novels about that Percy guy.

A couple of articles that we wanted to keep track of here:

Red2 who is going into second grade, is excited about the Paul Bunyan phenomena. I say phenomena, because after doing some research his story is pretty amazing. He's got it all. Humor and stories mostly, but look at all the geography packed in there. This is going to be fun.
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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Box of Clouds

  • This post was originally scheduled for May, but fell off the schedule. A lot has changed in the cloud, as it is known to do. {Insert your own aside as to how you feel about Google+ now that it's opening and Google's plans to rebrand Blogger. Does any of it matter?}

If anything's magical, it's the cloud.

.MacImage via Wikipedia

In Start Trek, you simply asked the computer to answer a question and it would compute the answer.

In Star Wars, you'd enter coordinates for you jump to light speed and the Navi computer would get you there.

We're getting there. Google borrowed the name "Wave" from Joss Wedon's Firefly universe. The Wave was a lot like the internet and broadcast networks rolled up together.  {Now, the wave is still waning, but working it's way into Google Docs... very nicely done.}

Our Google + Hulu + Cable television + Wikipedia, etc. is all content, but what about online storage? There you have your YouTube for videos, Flickr for photos {Picasa/Google Photos}, but how do you put your other files in the cloud?

Macintosh people like Apple's MobileMe or ( and I suppose Windows people like the Microsoft version of that. But there are other very cool online storage and backup tools, but don't confuse the two.

The online back up tools scan your files and quietly in the background back them all up for you. There are a ton of competing services that I'm currently investigating. Which ones do you use?

Millennium Falcon approaches Bespin Cloud CityImage by futursimple via Flickr
Is everything going to 'the cloud'?
Will we live in the clouds?
The online or cloud storage services are like extra hard drive space that you can access from any internet connection. You can access the files from your desktop, laptop, tablet or smart phone.

I really like the free-ish service. We've been using if for several months now and it's very handy for a small company and coworkers sharing files between mismatched computers. {If you don't have an account, clicking the link and signing up will expand my storage capacity.  I will be magically granted a few more megabitxels of storage.}

Amazon is bursting with innovations in cloud storage and hosting features for the ubertechy, but they're starting to play with us regular people again now too. When you purchase music from, you now have the ability to store in your CloudPlayer.

Explore that and tell me that it's not cool. Not only are they cool, but a lot are free and they have some really worth-while albums for only $5.00

They allow you to upload your music library to stream from anywhere... at work, from the laptop that you don't want to copy all the music to, from your parent's house when you're visiting on vacation.

Apple is also doing their version of this with iCloud. But that's a whole other post.

You may be spending a lot of time online. Does that mean that you are already in the cloud? Is your head in the clouds along with your files, videos and music? Will they charge us extra to store our heads there? Would that be a flat rate or recurring fee?
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Monday, June 06, 2011

It's all a game to me - Blogfest

Mouse Trap (board game)Image via Wikipedia
$10 dollars at the toy store (circa 1981)
My favorite games of all time:

1. Mousetrap - the boardgame. This is the game I remember loving as a kid because I had to save up and buy it myself when I was about 10 years old.

ShadowrunImage via Wikipedia
2. Shadowrun - a roll-playing game we played in the early nighties for a few weeks. We had used up our enthusiasm for Dungeons and Dragons. Shadowrun, in a few words, is Blade Runner meets Dungeons and Dragons. Very cool. Requires your full attention and creativity.

3. Crazy 8's - the card game my mom taught me and my kids are learning. Best thing: No batteries.

READ Favorite Games in the "It’s All Fun & Games Blogfest"

My family chimes in:

Red1 - Howrse, Spore, and Sims 3

Red2 - Howrse, Zoo Tycoon, Spore Galactic Adverture

Mrs. SFDada - Solitaire, Gin Rummy, Sorry
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Monday, May 09, 2011

Why Y? Why? #atozchallenge

IEEE 1394 interfaceImage via Wikipedia
Oops,  Here's the post for Y. I had it in draft for a bit while looking for the video clip.

Why Y? Because it looks like the firewire symbol. Wanna see what the SFDaddy blog was going to be in the beginning?

This one's cute, but was a test to see what we might have been doing a long time ago when everyone thought they should create a VLOG.

Oh, my.

This was recorded in 2004, so it's too late to continue teaching my babies how to use a computer. Red2's video debut.

[[Note to re-upload 10-year-old video correctly this time.]]

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

X - as consensus and defining your destination #atozchallenge

Capital Letter X on Glass (Silver Spring, MD)Image by takomabibelot via Flickr

The X is not just two lines crossing in the middle
or two angles touching at the point.

Imagine four beaks, lines or ideas that meet at the same point in space,
in agreement.

The shape of the letter is the idea. The Intersection is the agreement of location or concept. Yes, X marks the spot.

Imagine four people coming to a consensus on one point in conversation. If you work in an office and see this often, I'm a little jealous. "This project has many flaws. How do we solve the problems our users face every day?" There are too many possible solutions. No one meeting point or consensus, but an endless mess of points like a storage room full of tribbles. (There they are, Alex!)

A conversation at the dinner table rarely focuses on one single point in space, but if the four of us sit around the table like we occasionally do, we all meet in one spot in time and space.

If we can't agree on the idea or topic, that's okay. It's more interesting and diplomatic.

Falling into hyperspaceImage by stuant63 via Flickr
Where are we going with this? Lines and points.

It's a little lesson in charting. Plotting your goal or destination.

If you find yourself in a fictional space ship, you may enter a destination into your Navigation Computer. The system establishes a route to avoid galactic obstacles like planets, other ships and asteroids. When you hit 'go' in Star Wars, all the pinpoint stars streak past you like lines as you are whisked away to your desired point in space. Not an X, but a burst of points around you, like they are ideas getting out of your way.

This clip illustrates a complicated mode of travel reimagined and investigates the ability to apply it to our real lives. Lines and points.

Hopefully, the destination is still at the same address and no giant space stations have blown up your vacation destination. I bet your travel insurance doesn't cover Imperial entanglements. Mars in 90 days? Sabbatical anyone?

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wizarding World of Harry Potter #atozchallenge

Taken June 13th outside the attraction "H...Image via Wikipedia
As promised, here's a snippet about our trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Red1's tenth birthday she received this letter that must have come by owl.
February 18, 2011
Miss J***

First Bedroom on the Left
***** United States of America

Dear Miss J***
I am so terribly sorry to have to send you this by owl, but your parents’ Muggle fireplace is not connected to the floo network. I have a matter I need your help to resolve.
Rest assured that this letter is enchanted to protect our secret from the Muggle world. Even reading it out loud is safe to do, as they would only hear you humming. To a Muggle this page would appear to be a blank piece of paper.
I send you this letter firstly to wish you a very happy birthday. It isn’t every day someone turns ten years old…unless that is, if you happen to have a Time-Turner, then it might be possible to turn ten as often as you like, I suppose. 
That brings me to the second purpose of this letter. A student at our school returned a Time-Turner to me, but the rest of them were destroyed in the Battle of the Ministry, and now mine has gone missing. I fear someone may have mistaken it for a keychain or a bit of ordinary clock works and sold it in a Muggle store called Ebius Bay. Have you ever heard of such a place? Mr. Weasley describes it is a place in a cloud where Muggles buy and sell precious objects. I am not sure how Muggles get into clouds, it sounds much too magical to me, but there are so many things I do not understand when it comes to matters of the Muggle word. Perhaps your mother has heard of such a place.
Professor Snape and I have completed a tracking spell and believe we have located our precious artifact in your very own house. This artifact is very precious and I fear that it is being hunted. It will be protected only if it is accompanied by three young witches. Please look for two other witches to help you return it to my office at Hogwarts.
I have asked one of our house elves to deliver an article of clothing in your foyer cupboard. If you put this article of clothing on while your father is holding the Time-Turner, you will trigger a series of events in which he will instantly travel back in time to plan a trip to the Muggle version Hogwarts. Please let his poor Muggle mind believe that this was all his idea.
Once you are in my office, hold it up that I may see it. It must only be near me so that I may collect some of its charm to have more created. I will say, “follow your heart” and tap my wand on the balcony to collect the charm without the Muggles knowing a thing. After doing so, you may keep the Time-Turner as long as you wish. 
Sincerely yours and happiest of birthdays,
Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore

P.S. Please do hurry.

She managed to figure out the clues, find the shirt, the Time Turner and grabbed my arm. As soon as the spell was cast, we were off to finish packing the car. All three little witches had a blast and the park was terrific. The ride in the castle was the most incredible, non-roller coaster I've ever been on. Read the reviews, go, enjoy.
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Video! #atozchallenge

IMovieImage via Wikipedia
Yeah, for video. It's what I do for a living. I wonder how many people really do any video editing of their home movies at all. I'm an editor for a living and I find it completely over whelming to get in their and start cutting the video down.

I have hard drives now brimming full of ballet and interviews in front of statues of Walt Disney.

I don't share too many videos of my kids online, (silent thanks heard from around the room), I don't understand all the people who do. I wonder what we'll be doing with it all in 20 years.
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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Uruguay and They Might be Giants - TODAY is TMBG Awareness Day. #TMBGAwarenessDay #AtoZChallenge

TMBG @ LPRImage by Kethera via Flickr
They Might Be Giants
Good Music
TODAY is TMBG Awareness Day in which I write about  Uruguay.  Okay, I'm not going to write about Uruguay, but they did, or they wrote a song called the Alphabet of Nations and it lists Uruguay.

I have grown up with the two Johns of They Might Be Giants, and for several years now, they've also been writing albums for my kids. We go way back to "Ana Ng" and "don't let's start" songs.

Enjoy exploring They Might Be Giants, pull up a video or two, buy an album, see a show. You may find that you've loved them for a long time already.

TMBG release four new songs on iTunes and on for mp3 AND flac downloads.

Alphabet of nations!
Algeria, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Dominica, Egypt, France, The Gambia
Hungary, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Libya and Mongolia
Norway, Oman, Pakistan
Qatar, Russia, Suriname
Turkey, Uruguay, Vietnam
West Xylophone, Yemen, Zimbabwe
Algeria, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Dominica, Egypt, France, The Gambia
Hungary, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Libya and Mongolia
Norway, Oman, Pakistan
Qatar, Russia, Suriname
Turkey, Uruguay, Vietnam
West Xylophone, Yemen, Zimbabwe
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Monday, April 25, 2011

Grumpy at my #Tivo / Gift of Time #atozchallenge

Image representing TiVo as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBase
Last year we upgraded the Tivo to HD and then the Tivo people came out with their new snappier Premiere model. I'm grumpy with them for that, but do you know what else they did? The new one can completely be controlled over your network with your iPad, but not the Series 3, which is what we have.

The "old" HD version can still be controlled in many ways from the network and your computer and even via the internet... so some limited controls via ye old iPad, but not like the Remote app from Apple. That experience for swipping through your music and movies on the AppleTV is absolutely beautiful.

The Tivo interface is still light years beyond most of the other DVRs offered by the cable and satellite people. I haven't seen anything I like better, except Netflix's instant browsing features on the NEW AppleTV.

Here's the parenting part: the girls will watch a program and then when it's over they turn the set off if there's nothing else recorded in the Kid's Zone. Since the machine is typically recording something most of the time, they don't channel surf.

It's a gift of Time for them. Do you DVR?
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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Star Wars - Surprise, it's a #Lego universe! #atozchallenge

A pile of Lego blocks, of assorted colours and...Image via Wikipedia
S day is saved for Star Wars, of course. But not just another Wookieepedia link.

Have another look at the brilliance the artists at Lego have given us this year.

We've enjoyed these Lego Star Wars titles for a while now and this new one is 'wizard-cool'. It's another super quick post, but it's also Saturday. Go turn off the computer. 

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R - A Pirate's Favorite Letter #atozchallenge

A stereotypical caricature of a pirate.Image via Wikipedia
What does a pirate use for dental floss?
A rope for the few teeth he has left.

R, pronounced, AARH! It's a pirate's favorite letter.

What kind of socks does a pirate wear? AARHgile.

What's a pirate's favorite subject in school? AARH-T.

Okay, these AARH corny, but the kids, Red1 and Red2 loved them over and over.  Does anyone really need a link to more pirate jokes, really? (okay then.)

Our love of pirates and the pirate movies (or was it just Johnny Depp) spilled over into the Pirates of the Caribean Online. It's a mostly free romp through the haunted pirate world inspired by the rides at Disney and recent films.

We like pirates because they don't have manners or brush their teeth and they take what they want.  They love playing pirate, but they don't really want to be pirates.
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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Quarrels with Quarren #atozchallenge

Tessek's Senior PortraitImage by ChrisM70 via Flickr
These lovely creatures, the Quarren, were called Squidheads when they were just extras in The Return of the Jedi and mere action figures, but their backstories are quite elaborate these days.

Better late than on the bottom of the sea.

Another romp in the Wookieepedia.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Parenting in Space #atozchallenge

Anakin Skywalker & Shmi SkywalkerImage by r9M via Flickr
I'm not sure that I would have let my kid go to another planet with a stranger even if he was a Jedi.

What was Shmi thinking?
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Monday, April 18, 2011

Organa - #AtoZchallenge

Initial rough concept sketch of Princess LeiaImage via Wikipedia
Concept sketch for Leia.
No labels for the letter O, so let's start a new topic.


Yes, this is the family name Princess Leia Organa. If you remember from the classic Episode IV, her home planet, Alderaan was destroyed by the Death Star.

Who were the Organa's? Bail and his wife, Queen Breha, had no children when Bail accepted the mission to hide away the girl twin child of Anakin Skywalker when all heck broke loose in Episode III. Was his wife happy about that? Of course not! There are all sorts of intrigue waiting to be discovered.

What are the back stories of the Extended Universe for the young Leia?  Like doing your own family's genealogy, you learn a lot by investigating the parents.

The daughter of Jedi General Anakin Skywalker and Senator Padmé Amidala of Naboo, Leia was the younger twin sister of Luke Skywalker, and shortly after her birth she became the adopted daughter of Bail Organa and Queen Breha of Alderaan, making her a Princess of Alderaan.  From the Wookieepedia.

The Death Star in A New HopeImage via Wikipedia

Bonus points if you know whose order it was to press the button... or throw the switch. Your clue is that it was not Darth Vader.

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Not just another Nerd post #atozchallenge

Real D glassesImage via Wikipedia
Everyone's got their 'nerd' on. Love it.
The A to Z Challenge has me looking at my post labels for inspiration. Every day for a month we post based on the day's letter of the English alphabet. Today was the letter N and my only tag was "nerd" it had a few posts tucked away in that label that were pretty inspiring.

I've had a huge problem with the n-word all my life. It all started in the middle school cafeteria and really stopped there, but in my mind it never stopped. That's a whole other story too that we don't need to go to, but if you want one, there's always the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. My daughter loves them and the first movie was tolerable for what it was.

The real nerd part of the message today is that despite all the crap they (we) go through, nerds are your best hope at surviving a war, seeing a 3D movie, using a computer at all, enjoying a live broadcast of your favorite sport and having food on your table.

So just shut up and stop calling me (uh, them) names!

{Thanks. I just had to get that out.}

Here's what some awesome PEOPLE are up to these days...

I love these TED Talks, by the way. They show up, invited into in my Tivo every day.

Most of my heroes (see the TED) are real life nerds.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Movies with Ebert - #AtoZchallenge

CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 15:  Film critic Roger Eb...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
I love me some Roger Ebert.

I am one of his fans that grew up listening to him argue and discuss films with Gene Siskel and then several other extremely great film reviewers.

I share this TED talk today to catch anyone up with the latest Ebert news because his voice has been reinvented in a few remarkable ways through technology.

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His words celebrate the human voice and how every day YOU and I are part of this new dynamic conversation. How are you sharing your voice?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lemur Tell you Something

Ring-tailed Lemur (Lemur catta) holding twins ...Image via Wikipedia
What's your favorite animal?

Cincinnati Zoo - check.
Ft. Worth, TX Zoo - check.
Zoo Atlanta - check.

Busch Gardens, Tampa - check.
Disney's Animal Kingdom - check.

Zoos are really keeping up with the times. The Cincinnati Zoo has installed a series of solar panel roofs for the the parking lot. They look like the structures found at gas stations that protect you from the raid when you are filling your tank.

Wouldn't it be cool if "they" installed the same panels at the gas stations?

Geonosian Solarsailer. From
Here's your sci-fi: Have you seen Count Dooku's ship? Solar sails. 
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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K-3PO, Where 4 art thou?

K-3PO at the Echo Base command centerImage by via Flickr
Back into some science fiction. K-3PO is a droid character from Star Wars who appeared in The Empire Strikes Back. He's the white droid on Hoth who looks just like C-3PO.

Red1 and Red2 and I had the chance to watch A New Hope last week and they immediately noticed the 3PO droid walking behind C-3PO at the beginning of the film. They only barely get it that the droids aren't one of a kind individuals, but one of many. When the Jawas had their yard sale for Luke and Uncle Owen, they kind of got it. The red R2-D2, which is actually R5-D4, blows his top and Luke gets the blue one instead. The Clone Wars are full of other R2 units.

C-3PO complains that K-3PO is a dullard because he has no personality, but K got that way by never having his memory wiped. Reading the Wookipedia entries is really enlightening and confusing. I thought C-3PO had a personality BECAUSE he had so few wipes. I would assume a droid would have less personality if it had more wipes.

Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker in Star...Image via Wikipedia
C-3PO: "Thank The Maker"
Remember, C-3PO did have at least one wipe after Revenge of the Sith. I suppose more easing is needed to get a full picture of K's characterization.

Me? I'd buy an R2 unit in a heartbeat if it could do chores like the Roomba.

What sci-fi droid would you want in your house?
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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Julia Wolcott Kiene

Bette and her mother, Julia Kiene, 1939.
J is for Julia.

Julia, my daughter is named after Julia Wolcott Kiene. Doing a quick search spawns a respectable amount of information about this woman which is pretty amazing to me. I never expected to be connected to such cool people, but you just start talking about your family with your elders (which I have started to become one, but this is "J" for Julia, not "O" for old or "G" for geezer).

Who was Julia Wolcott? She is best known for her work for Westinghouse in the 1940's and 1950's.

She wrote several cookbooks for Betty Furness and many Victory Garden booklets for families during WWII.

She has a patent or two and a scholarship fund in her name.

She was photographed and written about in Life Magazine.

She was a force to recon with and made huge contributions to society.

Just wait until we start talking about her mother.

Do you have amazing people in your family who have surprised you with amazing accomplishments?

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Monday, April 11, 2011

THE Ice Cream

Graeter's Ice Cream location in Hyde Park - Ci...Image via Wikipedia
I'm late to the A to Z party today, but ice cream coma was just too much.

Today, just stop some where and have a cone. If you're in Ohio, stop at Graeter's. I just had my first 3 visits last week and I'm in love.

They deliver.

I had the Blackberry Chip twice, and can't remember the third one. It must have been good.
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Saturday, April 09, 2011

Harry and Hermione

Jacket art of Scholastic (US) edition.Image via Wikipedia
I've been talking about Harry Potter for a good bit and of course, with good reason. As a parent and a lover of fantasy, HP is home run.

Our girls have been "reading" the books for years via the audiobooks. They can't get enough of them. Now they're working on the Sisters Grim series with the same veracity.

We decided to make Red1 (4th grade with a 14th grade reading level) wait to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows until it was on DVD. We screened it first and even we wished we had a pause button at some points.
Hermione GrangerImage via Wikipedia

It made me cry before the titles came on. Seeing Hermione erase herself from her parents' home and life was pretty disturbing for this dad.

We'll wait for the DVD for the family viewing, but it was very tempting when Harry showed up at our favorite dollar theater.

Speaking of Harry, we also were able to finally make our pilgrimage to the Muggle Hogwarts this spring. That's a post all to itself and maybe we'll save it for another letter in the A to Z Blog Challenge
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