GeekMom Smart. Savvy. Social. Sat, 19 Apr 2014 11:00:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Zombicide: Can You Survive? Sat, 19 Apr 2014 11:00:07 +0000 Zombicide allows you and your friends to work together to achieve objectives in a customizable world filled with the undead.

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Zombicide © Guillotine Games

Zombicide © Guillotine Games

The zombie apocalypse. It’s a rare geek who hasn’t at least thought about it and what their plans would be. Personally I have my eye on the convenience store in my village; solid concrete block construction, metal shutters across the doors and windows, and enough tinned and dried foods to keep us going a good six months. Of course we all believe that we’d be the ones who could survive when the dead walk the Earth, but how can you be sure? Zombicide allows you and your friends to work together to achieve objectives in a customizable world filled with the undead.

Zombicide began life as a Kickstarter campaign from Cool Mini or Not and has already gone on to spawn an expansion (Toxic City Mall) and Zombicide Season Two: Prison Outbreak. Designed for one to six players in a cooperative team, the game is highly customizable and can be played at a range of difficulties. The game boards are built from a set of nine reversible numbered tiles which are laid out together to form city blocks. Beginners can start out with small two tile missions while experts can play advanced missions from the rule book, online, or constructing their own.

Zombicide set up for an "easy" mission in the rule book © Sophie Brown

Zombicide set up for an “easy” mission in the rule book © Sophie Brown

The aim of each game is to achieve the mission objectives. This can be as simple as entering the room containing the objective token and picking it up or involve gathering multiple tokens, locating food & water, neutralizing zombie spawn zones, and escaping the board. The flexibility of the game allows for endless play and no two missions will ever be alike. To achieve your objectives you will depend on what you can find by searching buildings. Basic weapons like frying pans can be upgraded for rifles and pistols but beware, noise attracts zombies so sometimes a quiet crowbar might be a better option than a noisy chainsaw. Combat takes place whenever zombies and hunters come together and is dice-based. Weapons are logically ranged with rifles able to shoot out targets down the street while frying pans are only available when the zombie is right on top of you. Hey, given a frying pan over nothing I’m taking it—it worked for Rapunzel right?

Throughout the game you play as a number of named characters, the number you control based on how many players are participating in your game. Each character has their own unique abilities that change as the game goes on and they rack up more zombie kills. As the characters experience grows, the number and type of zombies spawning onto the board increases in difficulty. At the beginning a blue level spawning might only produce a single new walker. Once a character has reached maximum (red) experience that same spawn card can produce up to seven walkers, multiple runners, or other zombie types such as the dreaded abominations. It’s another example of how the game grows with the players. Oh, and the difficulty of the spawn session is determined by the single character with the most experience so you might wanna try and not have one guy leveling up too much ahead of the others.

Controlling a character in the Zombicide app © Sophie Brown

Controlling a character in the Zombicide app © Sophie Brown

A number of additional sets are available to enhance your games. You can add dogs as companions or as canine zombies and even add to the arsenal of zombies looking to take you down. Soon to be released is the first Zombicide Compendium, a large book containing missions designed both by Guillotine Games and by fans. The compendium gathers together the many missions released online and several new ones including Boomtown, a seven-mission campaign to nuke a zombie town off the map. The official website is filled with resources to help gamers customize their games such as hi-res blank character and weapon cards. There’s also a free app for both iPad & Android that works as a digital character card, helping you keep track of your experience points and simplifying combat through digital rolling.

I love the freedom and flexibility of Zombicide. I can play a short mini game by myself or I can set up a three hour epic with a bunch of friends. The minifigures included (and you get a lot of them—72  in the base game alone) are nicely designed. I haven’t attempted painting mine so far; that’s a skill I’ve not yet tried so I dread to think how they’d turn out, but a quick Google search reveals some beautiful paint jobs by other game owners. The game is enough of a blank canvas to be adaptable to various different franchise variants too. I’ve seen custom fan-mods for The Walking Dead and The Last Of Us, and the Kickstarter perks included additional characters based on Shaun of The Dead, the Hannibal Lecter series, and The Shining. Basically, this game can become whatever you want it to be. The possibilities are endless.

Zombicide's storage leaves a lot to be desired when this is the best you can achieve © Sophie Brown

Zombicide’s storage leaves a lot to be desired when this is the best you can achieve © Sophie Brown

Of course nothing is perfect. My biggest gripe with the game is the box itself. Unlike many other games I own, Small World being a rather wonderful example, the inside of the box is something of a let down. There are no nice storage trays, instead the figures are held inside cheap plastic trays within cardboard boxes and the plastic tub for the extra pieces isn’t big enough to hold everything, meaning bits are constantly getting loose. It’s frustrating and makes it difficult to pack everything back inside in a way that allows the lid to sit on the box properly. There’s some lovely trays available at Battlefoam that are especially designed to hold all the pieces, but after spending $90 on the game I’d feel more than a little ticked off at having to add another $40 just to store it so the lid actually goes on and without risk of damage. Not when other companies are giving me that for free.

However storage is at best a minor gripe. Zombicide is an awesome game with limitless potential and with more seasons coming (season three was announced in 2013) the game will just continue to grow. I do wish there was an option to buy a version of the game with pre-painted miniatures for those of us without the time and skill to paint them ourselves, but I’m content enough to play with monotone plastic for the time being. Now if you’ll forgive me there’s a horde of zombies in my office that I should really be dealing with, wherever did I put that shotgun…?

GeekMom received this item for review purposes. 

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The Cliffs of Insanity: Internet Bullying Fri, 18 Apr 2014 17:00:25 +0000 Why is the most vile segment of humanity allowed to set the tone in so many public internet spaces?

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Wonder Woman #25 cover by Aaron Lopresti, copyright DC Comics

Wonder Woman #25 cover by Aaron Lopresti, copyright DC Comics

Welcome to this week’s adventures climbing the cliffs of insanity. This week was a banner one for the internet, as a former DC editor who happened to be female had the unmitigated gall to criticize the composition of an upcoming DC cover and received rape threats for her professional opinion.

That brought out defenders and yet another talk about the sexual harassment women face in comics and on the internet. Why do we keep having this discussion? Because even now, some men still ask, “Do men really talk to women on the internet this way?” (Warning: Some obscene language in that thread, some of it by me.)

But the talk got me thinking about message boards and comment threads. And I kept running one question over and over in my mind—why are bullying and general harassment, especially toward anyone non-straight, non-white, non-male—allowed in many internet public spaces?

We’ve all seen it. Don’t Read the Comments! people say. And I’m wondering two things:

1. Why are we allowing those kinds of comments to be published in a public space in the first place?

2. If we want to allow those comments so as to bring the attitudes into the light, why are we allowing them to go unchallenged? If the trolls take over the comment threads, pushing out any reasonable discussion, doesn’t that let the bullies win? So why do we let them?

To backtrack, I want to define “public space” not as a space run NOT by the government but a space where the general public is allowed to comment, especially on spaces run as commercial enterprises to allow public discourse. If a private individual wants to run their site and allow whatever they want, that’s one thing.

Teen Titans #1 Cover by George Perez, copyright DC Comics

Teen Titans #1 Cover by George Perez, copyright DC Comics, which we can all agree is awesome.

But if, a commercial website, opens forums to allow discussion, that’s another.

Because in the latter case, I’m saying that website has a responsibility to not allow the inmates to run the asylum.

When I worked for daily and weekly newspapers, we used to get letters to the editor. Those letters wouldn’t be published in the newspaper if they were obviously insulting, profane, or anonymous. There were standards for letters to the editor. In some case, we published anonymous letters but only if we knew and had vetted the identity of the letter writer.

Basically, the newspapers had standards. Those standards were in place because the paper was giving a public forum to someone and felt a responsibility to keep that forum a civil place. (To say nothing of vetting facts so the newspaper couldn’t be sued.) All that went by the wayside with the rise of the internet. Even comments on reputable newspaper websites aren’t held to that high standard.

In some ways, this is a good thing, because people can now talk directly to each other without getting approval from a third party.

In some ways, this is a bad thing because people can now talk directly to each other.


And with that ability to hide, the horrible side of some humans take hold and we get rape threats over an opinion about a comic book cover. Or we get a small group of people who can basically drive women away from whole sites that talk about comics. I’d love to go back to or even over to to talk comics. But my experience at CBR ended badly, with an entire forum being moved, and the comment threads at Bleeding Cool are basically a cesspool, especially if one has the gall to point out that maybe women or minorities or gays in comics or movies are not portrayed as well as they could be.

Why should I have to avoid these sites? Why should this small subset of humanity basically drive all the reasonable people away? Why should I have to risk sexual harassment on those boards in order to talk about comics?

Answer: I shouldn’t. No one should.

Which brings us back to our two choices. Either moderation that drives away the bullies violating Wheaton’s Law—Don’t Be a Dick—or taking on the bullies head on until they’re the ones feeling unsafe in that space. Ban them. Require them to put their name behind their words. Call them out. Something.

Because silence equals assent, as was made clear in this column, “Fake Geek Guys” at Comics Alliance by Andy Khouri.

Guys out there reading this column, if a women or LGBT individual or a non-white person is picked on in a public forum for who they are and you do nothing to defend them, the targeted individual is going to think they have no allies, that they’re alone, that no one basically gives a crap. And I can’t argue with that reasoning.

Women and others in these groups are used to having each other’s backs. But we get tired of always having to do it. If you really think this kind of thing is vile and want to stamp it out, if you really do give a damn, step up, not back.

Speak up instead of shrugging. Suggest the person doing the harassing go away instead of telling the target not to read and get worked up over that stuff.

And websites, unless you want others to naturally assume those people doing the harassing represent your website and what it’s all about, do something.

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Lottie Dolls Is Running a Super(hero) Costume Contest! Fri, 18 Apr 2014 13:00:38 +0000 The nice people at Lottie Dolls are holding a superhero outfit design competition in order to get girls believing that they can be superheroes, too! #girlsuperhero

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Girls can be superheroes, too! Photo credit: @Lottie_Dolls

Here at GeekMom we’ve had some spirited behind-the-scenes debates on whether or not Barbie’s unrealistic dimensions affect a little girl’s self-image. Some, like me, wonder if women’s tendency toward perfectionism isn’t perhaps the result of the barrage of idealized feminine images children receive through their toys and the media. Others at the blog take a softer approach, claiming, “I played with Barbies as a kid and I turned out happy and confident.”

What we have agreed upon, though, is that Arklu’s Lottie Dolls are wonderful toys—many of us have bought them for our children or for friends. Whether you appreciate the fact that Lottie has a “childlike” body (she doesn’t wear makeup, jewelry, or high heels either), or just enjoy her for her hobbies (including robotics, ballet, karate) and accessories (puppies, picnic baskets, pirate queen ensembles), there is no getting around the fact that this is a fun, well-constructed, charmingly-conceived toy. Also: affordable.

And now, as it turns out, your family could win the entire Lottie collection—dolls, accessories, clothing, and animal friends. Lottie Dolls is teaming up with the non-profit organization “Brave Girls Want” to launch a global competition to get kids aged 10 and under to design a superhero outfit—the first “crowdsourced doll outfit design by a child” for the Lottie™  doll.

With the release of a whole slew of superhero movies on the way, we know that there is an acknowledged lack of strong female superheroes out there, so this is why we thought a competition and campaign with the message that girls can be superheroes too is very much needed.

Want to enter the contest? Here are the details…

The prize:

  • One lucky child will see their superhero outfit design manufactured and made commercially available in Autumn 2014.
  • The winning child will see their original artwork design, first name, age, city, and country on the back of the outfit packaging.
  • The winning child will also win the entire range of Lottie dolls, accessories, and outfits.

How to enter:

  • Parents: Go to the Superhero Contest app on the Lottie Facebook page; like the page and download and print out the Superhero Outfit Design template.
  • Kids: Start coloring and create a superhero outfit design for Lottie.
  • Parents: Take a photo of your child’s design and upload it on the Lottie Facebook app, and fill in a form to allow your child to enter.

Terms and Conditions:

  • Competition open to kids aged 10 and under only.
  • Parental permission required to enter the competition.
  • Competition closing date 7th May 2014.
  • A winner will be selected by jury and confidentially notified in May 2014.
  • Multiple entries permitted.

Full terms and conditions available here.

PS: A selection of entries is shown on Pinterest—and if you have ever enjoyed the company of a little person with a vivid imagination you will need to immediately head over there and check out some of the superpowers that the contestants have imagined for Lottie:

  • “She can touch animals wounds and they go away. She shoots bandages over their wounds.”
  • “She can fly into whirlwinds in air and water. She can make rainbows.”
  • “She shoots love hearts from her hands to make sick children better.”
  • “Her cape shoots out [watermelon] seeds to grow for all the children [so that they] never go hungry again. No one will ever die from hunger or thirst again!”
  • “She can fly with her jet pack and protect dinosaurs.”
  • “She shoots rainbow colored hearts from her hands. When she hits a villain it makes them turn nice/good instantly. If she was real there would be no wars.”

This is good stuff; you won’t want to miss it!

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Ministry of Supply: Men’s Office Wear With Tech Cred Fri, 18 Apr 2014 12:00:03 +0000 Ministry of Supply has reinvented men's clothes. Think dress shirts made from NASA heat-regulating material and socks infused with odor-absorbing carbonized coffee. Style as well as tech cred for guys on the move.

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Ministry of Supply, high tech office wear, sweat-free clothes,

Clothes for the guy going places. (

The guys in my life are more comfortable in jeans and tees than office wear. That is, until they started wearing high tech clothes from Ministry of Supply. This company is reinventing men’s clothes. Think dress shirts made from NASA heat-regulating material and dress socks infused with odor-absorbing carbonized coffee. It’s work-appropriate wear with style as well as tech cred.

Wearing Ministry of Supply habiliments, as the engineer in my family says, feels like working in pajamas while looking professional. He likes a tailored fit and found these clothes met his specifications exactly.

The Apollo dress shirt is thermoregulatory, made of phase-change materials that pull heat from the body and store it. A steamy commute to an air-conditioned office? No sweat. Fibers wick moisture away from the body and an anti-microbial coating plus silver threads resists odors. The shirt is designed with motion in mind, so it moves with your body rather than blousing out like other dress shirts. On top of all that it’s washable and wrinkle-free, with none of the toxic coatings typically found on other wrinkle-free clothes.

Ministry of Supply, high tech clothing, NASA gear,

Go ahead, jump. These pants keep your shirt tucked in. (

Aviator chinos are comfortable enough for a workout. They’re made of durable, moisture-wicking fabric with four way stretch. They’re also wrinkle free, water repellent, wind resistant, and even feature an internal phone holster. But the best feature on these pants may be the urethane seam tape sewn inside the waistband, keeping your pants in place and shirt tucked in.

Ministry of Supply was dreamed up by MIT engineers Kit Hickey, Gihan Amarasiriwardena, and Aman Advani. Active outdoor enthusiasts, they wanted to apply the best of athletic wear to business apparel. Their passion for high-performance, low-maintenance office clothing was eagerly supported by Kickstarter backers, who pledged $400,000 more than their original goal.

We’re amazed by the performance of these smart, stylish clothes. There’s no other office wear out there that compares to Ministry of Supply gear. Next thing my guys want are the company’s coffee-infused dress socks, perhaps the only socks best explained by a science lecture.

Oh, and some final geek cred. The inspiration for the character Q in James Bond was drawn from a real person—Charles Frasier-Smith—a designer of gadgetry for the WWII British Special Ops. His cover? The Ministry of Supply.

GeekMom received products for review purposes.

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Scribblenauts Unmasked: A Crisis of Imagination: Chapter 10 Exclusive Preview Fri, 18 Apr 2014 11:00:33 +0000 An exclusive preview of the digital chapter ten of the Scribblenauts/DC Comics crossover.

The post Scribblenauts Unmasked: A Crisis of Imagination: Chapter 10 Exclusive Preview appeared first on GeekMom.

Click to view slideshow.

Scribblenauts Unmasked: A Crisis of Imagination is an all-ages digital first comic from DC Comics. The series stars Maxwell and Lily, characters from the popular video game and regular DC characters, including a who’s who of heroes and villains. The young Scribblenauts appear to be the only hope in opposing a plan to conquer all the DC universes.

A tall order for two kids with imagination. I’ve read the first few segments and they’re cute and perfect for kids who either love the game or love seeing kids work with heroes to fight the villains.

This segment is written by Josh Elder, art by Adam Archer. It will be available Sunday via all digital outlets, including

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Why Librarians Matter Thu, 17 Apr 2014 12:00:35 +0000 If you think librarians are all prim women, shushing loud children, you need to visit your local library and update your thinking. Librarians are the gateway to knowledge, defenders of freedom, and more!

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Photo on 4-15-14 at 2.24 PM

Image By Rebecca Angel

Picture a librarian. Is this person a woman? Gray hair in a prim outfit? Stern?

Now imagine this librarian at work. Are they checking out books? Shushing children? Recommending old fiction because they are in love with Mr. Darcy?

If this is what you think of librarians and their job, you obviously haven’t been into a library for decades. Not all librarians are women, prim, or mean.

You probably can’t imagine needing a librarian anymore with that magic device in your pocket that connects to our human collective knowledge, and the sphinx known as Google that answers all questions—sans the riddles.

In fact, even regular library patrons rarely speak to a librarian, instead using the online catalog to order books and pick them up at leisure, being checked out by a clerk (no, the person at the desk scanning your books is rarely a librarian) and returning them in the convenient slot outside the building.

Although, the part about Mr. Darcy might be true, the rest is an outdated stereotype about a much underutilized and important job in our communities: my hero—The Librarian.

First let’s talk about the language. Librarians are part of the Information Science field, and it is the single most important field to be aware of in our world that has a glut of information that our computers CANNOT yet process, organize, and make available to those who need it most, now. Search engines are getting better everyday, algorithms are being written, but the human mind still has no equal to understanding relevance in data.

Information scientists are publishing papers on a range of topics because they find connections in seemingly disparate sets of data. These connections lead to original theories and discoveries that would otherwise be lost in the ever increasing mound of research. You can read more about this information overload in my interview post, The Half-Life of Facts.

Second, you should know that librarians aren’t just in your local community library doing story time. Businesses, law firms, research centers, all need someone to help make sure their data is collected and organized in a way so their workers can get access to the information they need quickly and efficiently. The IT person isn’t trained for that. The secretary isn’t trained for that. A librarian is.

Librarians have master’s degrees in Information Science—GASP! Yes, they are more than just lovers of books (although that is usually the initial drive to get into the field). Besides learning about the latest technology, the archival skills to keep the original sources intact is a huge importance. It’s great that the film of Goddard’s test flights for rocketry have been put on YouTube, but the original footage MUST be preserved! Why? Who knows what is coming next in technology? Will we be always able to access the formats of our current computers? Right now you can’t access old webpages because of outdated technology. To keep this vast collection of knowledge, the genuine articles must be preserved by trained archivists—AKA: librarians.

Librarians are keepers of freedom. In America, we hold our freedoms quite highly, but there is constant pressure to restrict access to what random groups considered wrong, corrupting, or evil. Most people can agree that burning all books but those approved by Hitler altered German society to create a state of hate. But what about banning The Wizard of Oz because it depicts women in strong leadership roles? Where is your line? Librarians keep access to all books, believing everyone has a right to information and to our history. There’s even a banned book week.

When the Patriot Act was passed back in 2001, there was a part that allowed the government to search through the library’s files on patron’s book choices. To protest this, my local libraries did the only thing they could—stopped keeping the files. Now no one can see (including me) what books I have been reading. It is only in light of the recent NSA scandal that the rest of the nation has woken up to this freedom of privacy issue that librarians protested from the very beginning.

Librarians give you access. You may believe you can get your hands on any information if you look hard enough, but that is not true. My husband is a geneticist and talked to me about how his graduate students in the lab were struggling to find relevant published articles for research. They all needed the university librarians’ help. First of all, the students didn’t even know how to begin. The librarians found out their topics and could point them to the correct science journals (there are many, many, specialized journals you’ve never heard of). And then, most importantly, they granted the students’ access.

Many scholarly journals have no public access. This means they will not appear on any searches, so you have to know they exist, and then get permission to read them. Whether you agree or not with this practice, librarians are the gatekeepers to higher education research.

Media Literacy is sorely needed right now, and librarians are the ones to teach it. It may seem normal that our little ones aren’t good at finding the right search words, but older students have poor research skills as well. Mostly this is because true research is not about looking up information and spitting it back out “in your own words.” Instead, research is finding various kinds of information and drawing connections to form original theories and creating something entirely new with it. How do you figure out how to do this? Hopefully from your school librarian at the early stages of learning. Unfortunately, this is a much under-appreciated position in schools today.

There was an interesting exercise by Karen Gross, President of Southern Vermont college, with high school students. She concluded, “Information is not the problem—it is how to think about the information that counts.”

But let’s go back to your local, friendly, community librarian. What the heck do they do everyday? And why do you care? Just watch your child try to do a web research on any topic and be aghast at how terrible they are at coming up with relevant (and correctly spelled!) search words or phrases, going beyond the first one or two hits they find, actually looking at the whole page they are given, how easily they accept what is on any website, etc. It’s enough to make you want to bang your head against the wall. That’s how librarians feel about most people making life decisions based on poor research. All you have to do is ask for help! But you don’t know you need help.

When I asked Allison, a librarian friend, what is the most important and under-appreciated aspect of her job, she said, “Three words: The reference interview.” This is when you go ask a librarian in real time (in-person or online) for help with a search. A good, trained librarian can then ask you the right questions to tease out exactly what you need, which is often not what you originally asked. A machine can’t (yet) understand shyness, embarrassment, common misconceptions, low-education issues, and anything else that gets in the way of asking the right questions. But with a simple chat, a librarian can help you find what you truly are looking for. Use them!

My son had a similar comment about this post, “I want to talk to a nice, real person about books. Then after awhile, they know me, and can recommend things I wouldn’t have thought to try.” And that’s why I believe (and Neil Gaiman too) that librarians matter!


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Warehouse 13 Recaps: Episode One “Endless Terror” Thu, 17 Apr 2014 11:00:27 +0000 Warehouse 13 is back for its fifth and final season, although not for long. We’re posting episode recaps and reactions so please join us to discuss this brilliant show.

The post Warehouse 13 Recaps: Episode One “Endless Terror” appeared first on GeekMom.

Claudia faces off against Paracelsus in a battle to control the Warehouse © SyFy

Claudia faces off against Paracelsus in a battle to control the Warehouse © SyFy

Warehouse 13 is back for its fifth and final season, although not for long. With only six episodes due to air the show will be over for good before we know it, and all of us fans will have to bid a sad farewell to Pete, Myka, Artie, Claudia, Jinksy, HG, and the rest of the team. Until that day we’ll be posting episode recaps and reactions so please join us to discuss this brilliant show.

Highlights of this week’s episode:

  • The artifact-fueled battle between Paracelsus and Claudia as the Warehouse itself attempts to protect her.
  • “You’re wasting your time, Voldemort.”
  • Artie & Jinks’ increasingly dangerous attempts to break through the barrier.
  • Myka’s exasperation on being the only Agent that reads the addendums to the manual.
  • “Claudia! Claudia, wait! Do you think there’s a snack bar?”
  • Unintentional Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. crossover with Centipede soldiers.
  • “Oh, man. They have Borgs here?”
  • Claudia and Artie’s constant bickering on matters of trust.
  • Myka’s cyst was benign; or at least that’s what they’ve told us.
  • Giant purple CGI bird!
  • “I am still the same man that has loved you like a father since the day you put me in electrified handcuffs and kidnapped me.”
  • Valda’s back; but is he the man we once knew?

Rumors are rife that the network execs have pushed a Pete/Myka romance plot on this season, much to the vocal disappointment of fans who hoped to see the strongly hinted Myka/HG relationship becoming canon. It was hard to tell from this episode what will happen between the two, because although there were certainly hints of a deepening relationship, Myka’s angry “I’m not your girlfriend, Pete” certainly suggests the opposite.

It was great to see the return of Mark Sheppard as Benedict Valda, and getting to see how the Warehouse could turn out under the influence of Paracelsus (his obsession with experimentation was as frightening as you might imagine). Hopefully next week will see the return of HG, more from Mrs. Frederic, and some answers about Claudia’s family.

Did you enjoy the season premiere? Should Pyka happen or should Bering & Wells become canon? Let us know what you think below! If you’ve not watched yet, catch up over at the SyFy website.

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Writing Bone Dust: Learning to Love Process With Evernote and Post-it Brand Wed, 16 Apr 2014 15:00:54 +0000 When a disorganized mom meets the magic of Post-it Brand and Evernote, amazing things can happen.

The post Writing Bone Dust: Learning to Love Process With Evernote and Post-it Brand appeared first on GeekMom.

Writing a book is hard.

Writing many books is harder.

Writing books while raising two kids, working full time, acting as editor at GeekMom, writing songs, playing ukulele, and crafting anything I can get my hands on? Pretty much impossible.

I came to a strange realization a few months ago, after a very difficult run on Watcher of the Skies, the follow-up to my novel Pilgrim of the Sky. It took forever. I felt like I could never give it the time it needed, and every time I got stuck, I’d be out for days.

Now, there are a thousand pieces of writing advice out there. But I didn’t have to look far. It was my longtime friend and critique partner Jonathan Wood’s posts on story process that really got me thinking about how I go about writing my novels. About narrative and thought and character and… planning.


Yeah. See. I’ve always written the same way. As a pantser. I just get an idea, with some other random ideas sprinkled throughout, and sort of barrel through from beginning to end like a steam train. I have no idea what’s on the track, let alone if there are tunnels or bridges along the way. It’s totally fun, exciting. But absolutely impractical when life itself is complex enough to make me lose sleep.

So how do I keep track of my ideas? How do I keep inspired when I’m too tired to get up and take a shower, let alone figure out what my characters are doing next?

I digitize. I think outside the box. I take it in small chunks, and I keep it visual as much as I can—all with help from the Post-it Brand Evernote Collection.

We’ve been using Evernote here in the Harrison-Barron household for a while now and we are big fans of using Post-it Products to really enhance the whole experience—bringing two things we already use together in one perfect way is just too good an opportunity to pass up.  Writers rooms have used Post-it Products for decades, and geeks like me need Evernote to keep me organized. Makes sense to put them together, doesn’t it? And while I’ve been using Scrivener as my novel writing software of choice, I decided to give Evernote a try this time, using Evernote in conjunction with special Post-it Notes from the Post-it Brand Evernote Collection. My first step was character profiles. The novel I’m working on now is called Bone Dust, and it’s basically Men In Black meets The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in the old west. It’s alternate history with some paranormal, some gunslinging, and lots and lots of fun (and explosions… as you do).

My first step was to write out little character sketches for each of my main characters. What they look like, what their motivations are, how they got to Bodie, CA, where the story starts.  Sometimes this part starts by itself—other times, I’m working and I get an idea for a scene or a character. So I draw it down on a Post-it Note from the Post-it Brand Evernote Collection—and here’s where it gets fun.

It’s so simple – with one tap of Evernote’s Post-it Note Camera feature,  my Post-it Notes are captured, digitally enhanced and saved in my my Bone Dust folder within Evernote. Now I have my notes with me wherever I am. That means if I’m waiting in line at the cash register, or at the doctor’s office, or at my desk.


Adding a new note in the iPhone app.

Adding a Post-it Note to my Bone Dust file. I click on the plus sign to add a note, select the camera, and then swipe to select Post-it Note format.


Taking a picture in Post-it mode.

Snap the picture and it automatically converts to a scanned image.  Now my Post-it Notes can be automatically organized by color, flagged with a reminder and tagged with a keyword for future reference.

Over the last few weeks I’ve managed these little mini snapshots of each of my main characters. You can see what Araby’s looks like below.  I like sharing these with my friends and followers, too, which I can do straight from the app. It keeps them in the loop with what I’m working on, and looks pretty badass, too.

Also I love doodling. Did I mention that? It’s super sweet that I put that hobby to good use.


The fully integrated image and text!

I like to think that the process really lights up all parts of my brain. It allows me to keep that tide of creativity going no matter where I am. Part of the reason that I love the flexibility of the Evernote app so much is that it really allows me full creativity to scribble and capture, even if my schedule is insanely full.

But there’s more! Stay tuned for another look at how the Post-it Brand Evernote Collection is keeping this scattered author organized! How about you writers out there—fiction and non-fiction alike? What do you use to stay organized and on-track?

Learn more about the Post-it Brand Evernote Collection by visiting your local office supply store or by visiting, Post-it Brand on Twitter, or Facebook.

 This post is brought to you by Post-it Brand.

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Star Trek Boldly Goes On Tour Wed, 16 Apr 2014 12:00:21 +0000 J.J. Abrams' Star Trek films are the latest sci-fi franchise to get the live orchestra treatment.

The post Star Trek Boldly Goes On Tour appeared first on GeekMom.

Star Trek Live

CBS Studios Inc. © 2013 Paramount Pictures Corporation

When J.J. Abrams relaunched the Star Trek franchise, composer Michael Giacchino added his musical talents to the mix with his scores for 2009′s Star Trek and 2013′s Star Trek Into Darkness.

Starting in May, these films will be presented in high definition, with live orchestra accompaniment as part of the Star Trek: Live in Concert experience. The tour kicks off May 24 at KKL Concert Hall in Lucerne, Switzerland, home to the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. The group presents around 45 concerts of symphonic music worldwide each year.

Some of the tour’s highlight performances include three nights with the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra and Chorus at London’s Royal Albert Hall from May 29 to May 31, and with the San Diego Symphony in July at Embarcadero Marina Park, coinciding with Comic-Con International.  The show will also be presented in conjunction with official 2014 Star Trek Convention events in Las Vegas, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, and Cherry Hill, N.J.

Star Trek: Live in Concert is the latest of live music performances to put the “pop culture” into “pops concerts,” bringing the world of classical music to more generations.

This is a concept that appeals to me as well, as I learned when I took my then 3-year-old daughter to a young people’s concert comparing Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 5″ to John Williams’ Darth Vader “Imperial March.” She politely, albeit impatiently, sat through the former piece, but when the orchestra started in on that familiar “Dum, dum, dum, dum dum, dum, dum dum dum,” she was hooked. I then realized the key to opening young minds to the orchestra: Sith Lords.

live tours

Science-fiction and fantasy-themed live music events have included Star Wars: In Concert, Video Games Live and the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular.

Since then, I have always been on the hunt to find similar ways to introduce my own kids and their friends to the beauty of orchestral music, especially when played live.

One of the more recent live orchestra performances with a science fiction or fantasy edge was Star Wars: In Concert. Hosted by Anthony Daniels, this show toured world wide for more than two years and included an extensive prop and costume exhibit at many venues. The live tours stopped in 2012, but fans can still catch clips of the show on YouTube and the event’s official website. A similar, Lord of the Rings In Concert event (not affiliated with Star Wars: In Concert) also toured around the same time.

In 2013, Doctor Who fans celebrated the series’ 50th anniversary with a one-time concert, Doctor Who Prom (short for promenade concert). Held at Royal Albert Hall in London, the show included the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the London Philharmonic performing the music of Murray Gold, who composed the score for the series since its 2005 return. The London event included special guests Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman, among others, and was so well-received that the follow-up Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular concerts were held in January and February this year in Australia and New Zealand, complete with plenty of visuals, aliens, and monsters. There are no additional tours scheduled at this time, but fans can still enjoy highlights online.

Still touring is Video Games Live, which has been selling out venues worldwide since 2005 and is still making its way around the United States and beyond. This too is an immersive production with full orchestra, choir, and big screen visuals, as well as audience participation. This covers everything from the “old school” classics like Space Invaders and Tetris to today’s big sellers like Halo, Portal, BioShock, Medal of Honor, Zelda, Warcraft, and tons more. Find upcoming dates on via their official site, or find out about their latest studio album from our recent GeekMom post.

Star Trek: Live in Concert will host concerts in the United States and Europe this year, with a Canadian tour beginning in 2015. Tickets and tour schedule information can be found at

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GeekMom: Comic Book Corner — Batman: Eternal, Avatar: The Search, The X-Files, and More! Wed, 16 Apr 2014 12:00:09 +0000 This week, we look at Runaways, Avatar, Batman: Eternal, Tomb Raider, The X-Files, and Moon Knight.

The post GeekMom: Comic Book Corner — Batman: Eternal, Avatar: The Search, The X-Files, and More! appeared first on GeekMom.

batman eternal

From the cover of Batman: Eternal #2, copyright DC Comics

Happy Comic Release Day! Welcome to another installment of GeekMom Comic Book Corner, where we recap our adventures in comics for the week. This week, I read about six kids who learn their parents are literally evil. Corrina journeys through Avatar, Batman: Eternal, and Tomb Raider, while Lisa takes us into the world of Moon Knight, and Sophie vents some of her frustration with The X-Files Annual issue.

Dakster Sullivan — Runaways Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona

Runaways Vol. 1 \ Image: Marvel

Runaways Vol. 1 \ Image: Marvel

The Pride is an evil super-villain group made up of six couples, who get together once a year to talk “business.” Their children are unaware of their illegal activities until they stumble on their meeting by accident. Understandably spooked, the kids take off in the middle of the night on a quest to bring their parents to justice. Along the way, each one of them learns something special about themselves that brings new meaning to “teenage troubles.”

After picking this title up on a whim when Amazon and ComiXology had it on sale for $1.99, I’m hooked! Brian K. Vaughan does a wonderful job making this kids relatable (with the exception of having evil parents) and makes you feel for what they are going through. The art by Adrian Alphona is very young at heart and colorful, even in the darker moments of the series.

I’ve read some spoilers about the volumes that follow, and for now, I’m not happy with what is to come. I’m sure that mindset will change once I actually read what happens in the series though.

Runaways is recommended for ages 12 and up and is available digitally and in trade on ComiXology and Amazon.

Curious to know what I’m pulling this week? Check out my pull list on Comixology.

Corrina — Avatar: The Last Airbender: The SearchCreators: Bryan KonietzkoMichael Dante DiMartinoGene Luen Yang, and Gurihiru (Artist)

avatar the search

cover copyright Dark Horse Comics

Before I have anything to say about the contents, I have to gush about how gorgeous this book is. It’s a coffee table-sized hardcover with pages that are heavy and crisp in your hands. And the contents definitely match up to the wrappings. For Avatar: The Last Airbender fans, this is the story of Zuko’s search for the truth about his mother, who mysteriously disappeared the night that his grandfather was killed. He’s accompanied on that search by his friends, including Ang the Avatar, and by his enemy, his mad sister Azula.  Azula somewhat steals the shows, at turns threatening, heartbreaking, and sometimes just plain insane. The results of the search are satisfying to all.

The bonus of this oversize edition are the comments from the creators on the margins of each page. The book can be read twice, first for the story, then for the background behind the story. Not only is this fun information for readers but for writers looking to create comics, this is incredible information on how to craft a story.

Absolutely worth the full price of $39.99.

Batman: Eternal #1 and #2 art by Jason Fabok, written by Tim SeeleyRay FawkesJohn Layman,James T Tynion IV, and Scott Snyder

I was going to say I planned to skip this event, as my reaction to issue #1 was a shrug. But then I read issue #2.

Eternal is a new multi-issue event in the Gotham-verse. Primarily, I was interested in the story for the return of fan-favorite Stephanie Brown. This first issue shows how Gotham begins to fall apart as Commissioner Gordon is obviously the victim of a set-up in which it appears he caused the deaths of a trainload of people. Getting Gordon out of the way and off the force is generally the first step in any master plan to take over Gotham, as an honest police force is a serious impediment to a hostile takeover. I loved the spotlight on Gordon, I’m glad Stephanie Brown is coming back, and I was happy to see Jason Bard return, Bat-geek that I am.

But despite all this, I wasn’t feeling this story at all. I suspect the problem is that I’ve read “Gotham falls apart” several times already. Gotham is falling apart in “Year Zero” that’s running in the current Bat-books. Gotham is falling apart as part of the big Forever Evil crossover. Gotham fell apart during No Man’s Land some years back. At this point, it’s a more dangerous place than Paradise Island, which is periodically getting destroyed, blown up or turned evil. Maybe I just need to give up on the Bat-books for a while, I thought.

The second issue, however, showed me something new. The plot moved past whether Gordon was at fault or not and right into who set him up. And that question is answered, at least partially, at the end of the story.  But something else is going on than just a mob scheme to takeover Gotham, something supernatural, and that’s clear from the appearance of a supernatural character associated with Gotham.

And now I’m hooked by the story.

Tomb Raider #3, written by Gail Simone, art by Nicolás Daniel Selma and Juan Gedeon

I’m reminded of what Gail Simone did with a younger Barbara Gordon in Batgirl in this comic featuring a young and inexperienced Lara Croft. Babs fought past a horrific trauma to become a hero again. Younger Lara is fighting past survivor’s guilt without the skills she’ll have later in life. This Lara isn’t a powerhouse but she’s learning and she’s getting better every issue, and I’m enjoying her story of survival more every issue.

Sophie Brown — The X-Files Annual 2014 

The X-Files Annual 2014 \ Image: IDW Publishing

The X-Files Annual 2014 \ Image: IDW Publishing

You wouldn’t believe the excitement that began rippling through the X-Files fandom several months ago when The X-Files Annual 2014 was first mentioned. “Frank Spotnitz!” people cried, “Uncle Frank is coming back!” Frank is one of the X-Files old guard. He was one of the show’s most prolific writers and spent four years as executive producer so news of him writing for the franchise again in any way was welcome news. That’s why I was so excited to finally get my hands on the annual, a standalone book containing two stories.

The first is penned by Frank, Gabe Rotter (production and writer’s assistant on the show), and Shannon Denton (X-Files comics editor and creator of Community’s recent G.I. Joe episode) and the second by Cerebus creator Dave Sim. It’s probably also why I was so disappointed by what I finally read.

The first story is actually OK. My problem with it is that it simply didn’t feel all that new. A man is killed in a hit and run whilst on the phone to his pregnant wife. Somehow the phone line remains open and he is able to call her from the afterlife as he runs around trying to stop some nasty types coming after her and their unborn child. It’s all a bit Ghost and a bit The Crow and not really that inspiring. I’d simply expected so much more from this and that’s before we even get to the artwork. As someone whose pull list is 95% adaptations of TV shows I’m very used to my favorite characters looking a bit wrong.

Depicting a real person as a two-dimensional comic book character is hard and comic artists are generally rushing to meet their deadlines like the rest of us; they simply don’t have time to spend days on each panel to make sure every expression is a perfect match to the actors they’re trying to imitate. It’s totally normal and totally forgivable. However there’s bad and there’s bad, and this is the latter. When I can barely concentrate on the story because I’m too busy being horrified by the images in front of me, you know it needed a rework.

Moving onto the second story in the book and we do something of an about turn. The artwork here is beautiful, if a little hard to place. The stories are set during the show’s TV run and the locations and general situation bears that out, however Scully looks older and much more I Want to Believe era which is a little odd.

There are a few more poor choices here too (such as her choice of nightwear). That might not seem like a big deal but Dana Scully’s collection of all-covering silk pajamas in a range of hues is legendary within the fandom; depicting her in a skimpy little vest and shorts is just wrong—painfully so. However these niggles are nothing compared to the plotline. Described in the previews as “a nightmarish tale starring a sleeping Dana Scully” I was so excited at the possibilities. Scully-in-peril is my X-Files guilty pleasure and this seemed an ample opportunity for some seriously freaky goings on.

Instead I found myself reading eleven pages of Scully having a semi-dream sequence heart-to-heart with her high school sweetheart Adam who, by the way, is appearing to her as a disembodied floating mutant hand (NB Scully’s high school sweetheart was mentioned by name on the show and was called Marcus, but I’ll let that slide in light of bigger issues).

Why is he coming to visit her in the middle of the night in such a guise? Because she made him that way in her head so she didn’t have to accept that deep down, she’s still in love with him, of course. Right… Adam the disembodied, floating, mutant hand even shows her an image of the daughter they will have together when she wakes up, quits the FBI, and comes running back to him. A beautiful little girl that looks eerily like Renesmee from the Twilight saga.

The whole thing is so bafflingly insane that you spend the entire story gaping open-mouthed and wondering what you missed. I didn’t even notice the first few times around that in one panel Adam the disembodied, floating, mutant hand actually has hearts in his eyes when he looks at Scully. Everything is going to be perfect and they’re going to live happily ever after. Unless they don’t, in which case he’ll meet someone else in twelve hours time and go on to live another wonderfully happy life with her instead. It’s Scully’s last chance to realize that she really loves him, you see? It’s also my last chance to sob over bad characterization and wonder how on Earth this ever made it to publication.

Lisa Tate — Moon Knight #1 and #2 by Warren Ellis, art by Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire

Moon-Knight #1 \ Image: Marvel

Moon-Knight #1 \ Image: Marvel

It seems to be a prerequisite for all Marvel mercenaries to be both insane and bitingly witty. Meet Marc Spector (aka Moon Knight), whose latest solo comic delves into this fringe character’s deeper personal demons, and there are plenty. Suffering from DID (dissociative identity disorder), not to mention having been recently resurrected by an ancient Egyptian deity, Spector is back in New York helping police run down a killer murdering victims for spare body parts.

If I were to oversimplify Spector, Moon Knight is what happens when you take a Bruce Wayne type, give him Sherlock Holmes’ personality and deductive skills, and Deadpool’s skills and sense of compassion, with a couple of extra personalities as baggage. However, there is so much more to this man. He is mentally unstable, but he isn’t “insane.” He’s effective and helpful with crime fighting, but he isn’t the textbook definition of a hero.

Unlike many “darker” vigilantes, Spector’s glowingly white fashion sense allows his targets to see him coming, because, as he says, “That’s the part I like.”

Ellis (“Planetary,” “The Authority”) is a great match for Moon Knight, as he deals well with the gritty, ugly side of the superhero world. Moon Knight is certainly gritty and graphic, but it’s also a clever, sleek, and noirish crime comic.

After the first two issues, it’s hard to say in which weird direction Ellis will take the character — and the reader — next, but like Spector said, “That’s the part I like.”

Looking for something else, readers? Check out this week’s listed books:

DC-Comics-Old.jpg marvel-logo1.jpg

Adventures Of Superman Vol. 1 TP
American Vampire Second Cycle #2
Batman #30
Batman And Wonder Woman #30
Batman Eternal #2
Batwoman #30
Birds Of Prey #30
Daytripper Deluxe Edition HC
Final Crisis TP (New Edition)
Green Lantern New Guardians #30
Harley Quinn #5
Joker Death Of The Family TP
Justice League #29
Justice League Of America Omnibus Vol. 1 HC
Red Hood And The Outlaws #30
Sinestro #1
Smallville Season 11 Lantern #1 (Of 4)
Supergirl #30
Trinity Of Sin Pandora #10
Unwritten Vol. 2 Apocalypse #4
Wonder Woman #30
Amazing X-Men #6
Daredevil By Mark Waid Vol. 7 HC
Deadpool Vs Carnage #2 (Of 4)
Hulk #1
Ms. Marvel #3
Nova #16
Spider-Man Newspaper Strips Vol. 1 TP
Superior Spider-Man #31
Superior Spider-Man Vol. 5 The Superior Venom TP
Thor Epic Collection Vol. 11 A Kingdom Lost TP
Thor God Of Thunder #21
Ultimate FF #1
Uncanny X-Men #20
Uncanny X-Men Omnibus Vol. 2 HC
Uncanny X-Men Omnibus Vol. 2 HC
What If Age Of Ultron #3 (Of 5)
Winter Soldier The Bitter March #3 (Of 5)
Wolverine #4
Wolverine And The X-Men #3
X-Force #3
X-Men #13
idw-logo.jpg Dark-Horse-Logo-2.jpg

24 Omnibus TP
Crow Pestilence #2 (Of 4)
Frankenstein Alive Alive #3
Frankenstein Alive Alive Reanimated Edition
Ghostbusters Vol. 7 Happy Horror Days TP
Godzilla History’s Greatest Monster TP
Godzilla Rulers Of Earth Vol. 2 TP
Haunted Horror #10
Powerpuff Girls Vol. 1 TP Kid Friendly
Star Mage #1 (Of 6)
Star Slammers Re-Mastered #2
Superman The Silver Age Newspaper Dailies Vol. 2 1961-1963 HC
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #7
Transformers Dark Cybertron Vol. 1 TP
Transformers Windblade #1 (Of 4)
X-Files Annual 2014
B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth #118
B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth Vol. 8 Lake Of Fire TP
Brain Boy Vol. 1 Psy Vs Psy TP
Chronicles Of Conan Vol. 26 Legion Of The Dead And Other Stories TP
Crime Does Not Pay Archives Vol. 7 HC
Dark Horse Presents #35
Game Of Thrones Weirwood Snow Globe
Ghost #3
Ghost Omnibus Vol. 5 TP
Itty Bitty Hellboy TP
Skyman #4 (Of 4)
Star Wars #7 (Of 8)(Lucas Draft)
Star Wars Darth Vader And The Cry Of Shadows #5 (Of 5)
Star Wars Vol. 2 From The Ruins Of Alderaan TP
Trekker The Train To Avalon Bay TP
White Suits #3 (Of 4)

Acronym Key: VC = Variant Cover / HC = Hard Cover / TP = Trade Paperback / GM = GeekMom Recommended Reading

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