Half-Way Through Next Generation

Image By Jeanne Masar
Image By Jeanne Masar

Star Trek With Kids Update…

We are about to begin Season Five of The Next Generation and it’s been good, real good. The journey began with an idea to share Voyager with my kids. It’s a series that means a lot to me. But then I realized they should have some background before we got into that part of the timeline. But to begin at the beginning would take soooo long. So I asked for help from readers like you. I compiled the suggestions into a big list, and we began our Star Trek watching adventure.

Half-way through the Original Series, I was surprised at the quality. We finished the series and I even wrote some bad poetry about it. We took a month off from starting the next series because…well, we really liked the old one. It was hard to say good-bye. We watched The Wrath of Khan just to linger more in that world. They got so old! But we finally started The Next Generation.

It was great to see their reaction to the line, “…to boldly go where no one has gone before.” They were both thrilled with the change.

It took a few episodes to warm up to the new cast, but we are in deep now. We just watched “The Host” and were impressed with Jonathan_Frakes‘ acting. Soon we’ll go back and forth between TNG and Deep Space Nine since they aired at the same times.

The kids like Data (of course.) Troi is completely underutilized. Picard is awesome. And they think it’s so weird to see Wesley as the kid from Stand By Me, and the “old” guy that is part of their mom’s geeky online culture stuff.

We continue…

What It Means to Be Geeky

Photo: Judy Berna
Photo: Judy Berna

I have to be perfectly honest with you. When my writer’s group friend approached me after one of our monthly meetings, and asked me if I’d ever be interested in writing for the GeekMom blog, I immediately had my doubts. GeekMom? Wouldn’t a Geek Mom be someone who understood a whole lot more about electronics, computer programming, and , um…math, than I ever would? I was an English person in high school and college. Math and the sciences were not my strengths.

But my friend, who is an editor for the blog, wouldn’t let me off so easily. She was on a mission to gather a group of women who were passionate about a lot of topics. I quickly came to see that the term ‘geek’ in the world of GeekMom actually stood for more than just a love of science. Now that I’ve been around the block a few times as a core writer for GeekMom, I’ve fallen in love with the concept.

GeekMom Laura Grace introduced us, as we branched away from the GeekDad forum, in this way – “Every day GeekMom.com demonstrates that fostering our own passions requires us to value them. Give them a little space. Hoist up our geek flags and let them fly.”

Here at GeekMom, when we say you ‘geek out’ about something, it doesn’t matter the topic. Anything that makes you happy, keeps you engaged, makes you squeal when you get to participate in it, can be considered geeky. Some of us geek out about science related topics. But beyond that, many of us geek out about so many other things.

Through this adventure I’ve met some of the most amazing people. Well, I use the word ‘met’ quite loosely. Most of the smart, funny women I’ve learned from and grown with, as we’ve discussed a huge variety of topics on this blog, I’ve only met online. We’ve had long email exchanges and encouraged each other in our individual passions. I’ve learned about conventions and hobbies I’d never known about before. I have come to understand huge areas of interest that were always foreign to me before. That’s not to say I adopted their hobbies. But I’ve loved learning about them, and understanding in a much deeper way, how we are all amazing women because we are all made up of a unique variety of passions.

I decided it might be time to show our readers just how diverse our group is. If you think you can’t relate to a website called GeekMom, read on. I almost guarantee that somewhere on this list you’ll see yourself. When I put the question out to our GeekMom writers, “what makes you geek out”, these were some of the answers I got back. Who do you relate to the most?

GeekMom Jules –

Academia and learning (specially STEM, some history)


World religions

Star Trek

WordPress Design (seriously, if I can find an excuse to buy another domain and design another website, I’ll do it)

GeekMom Rebecca –

Tea. Check out her tea blog!  

Science literacy and creative arts


Making a labyrinth for a history camp for kids

Sexy fictional men

FONTS! I am a total geek about fonts!

GeekMom Dakster – 

Comic books – I read pretty much anything that doesn’t involve sex or drugs. Batman and Booster Gold are my favorite characters in DC and the X-Men and Avengers are my favorite in the Marvel Universe.

Cosplay – I already own three professional grade costumes and hope to make some more.

Photo: Dakster Sullivan
Photo: Dakster Sullivan

Retelling’s of classic stories such as Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella.

Music – I love all types of music. Soundtracks and Taylor Swift are my current favorites.

Dancing – I allow myself one hour a night to pop on my headphones and dance to my hearts content

Justice League, Batman and Superman animated series

IBC Root Beer – My happy hour drink of choice
Computers – I’m a notwork admin after all
New Tech
Shiny objects
Writing – I love to write stories, especially comic book stories.

GeekMom Ariane –




Casual gaming

DIY/Crafts (though I’m terrible at them!)


Playing music (saxophone)


New experiences (I am easily bored, so I tend to obsess over a topic and then move on. You should have seen me in my saltwater aquarium days! Ah, back in the good ol’ days when I had no kids and unlimited time and money to pour into random hobbies! I also love seeing new sights, trying new foods, and making an adventure out of everything.)

GeekMom Laura  –

Subversive cooking,

Open source and collaborative solutions to social ills

Small scale sustainable farming

DIY, particularly pushing myself to learn new things

Mediation, peace-making, history and current application of non-violence

Neuroscience and other research as it pertains to learning

Natural learning and homeschooling

Body-mind health, lately focused on healing from/preventing trauma

Anthropology, particularly relating to hunter-gatherer lifestyles

Foreign films

All things pertaining to reading including libraries, book-related art, writing, and most of all, reading itself

Outsider art

Strange maps

All things bookish

GeekMom Brigid –

Music (indie,punk and Yann Tiersen)


Food – husband and I are gourmands of the local and sustainable but wholly decadent variety

Wine – wait thats also food

Cheese – oh wait thats food too

Art – nouveau, pre-raphaelite and some contemporary



Books – both for their contents and their value as artful objects

Mythic & Magic

Squirrels! (Yes, you read that right. Some day I’ll get her to write a post about why she loves squirrels)


 GeekMom Corrina –

Also a tea geek. Loose tea all the way.

Comic books, especially superheroes.

English royal history. Yes, I have the entire royal line of English Kings from William the Conquerer to Prince William memorized.
Sherlock Holmes

GeekMom Patricia

College sports

Star Wars

Books, books and more books (which is why I got my knickers in a knot about my oldest son not loving books as much as the rest of our family, but that seems to have resolved itself now, phew!)

Military: history and current affairs

Running, fitness

STEM, especially when it comes to seeing youngsters develop a love for STEM

Gadgets and gizmos <– this is part of what I LOVE about GM!

Gardening geekery

GeekMom Andrea

Scifi (not so much fantasy, though I’ll read anything with a dragon or King Arthur on the cover).

Emotional health/mental health/how the brain works/what drives behavior.

Special education/how we learn.

Contemporary music–anything recorded since the 40’s. Classical: not so much.


How things work. Especially things with knobs or screws or wires.

Learning new stuff.

 GeekMom Natania –

Rock music

Ukuleles, guitars, amps, gear

Romantic poetry

Middle English romances


Thrift stores/antique stores/old stuff/vintage stuff

Pre-Raphaelite art/William Morris/furniture

Cooking (especially making complicated things, like beer)


Social media/the web/analytics/data

GeekMom Kriss –

Growing things. You should see my collection of seeds.

A beautiful bounty. Photo: Kris Bordessa
A beautiful bounty. Photo: Kris Bordessa

Real food.

Vintage fabric.

Treasure hunting (thrifting/garage sales)

Hawaiiana/‘ukulele music.


GeekMom Mandy

Fantasy and Sci-Fi (I like fantasy a little better)


Disney (just found out that my in-laws might start being snowbirds in Orlando, which means more Disney trips for us)

Movies in general – my husband and I see a lot of movies in the theater and have a huge collection of Blu-Rays. We rank our favorite movies throughout the year.

 GeekMom Rachel –


Cooking (baking and making bread)

Gadgets (tech and cooking gadgets)

Home Entertainment (movies and TV)

circuits with without soldering)

GeekMom Melissa

Books, books, books, especially children’s books, and especially especially the work of L.M. Montgomery, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Noel Streatfeild, and Maud Hart Lovelace. I’m a card-carrying member (literally, it’s in my wallet) of the Betsy-Tacy Society.

Bee-and-butterfly gardening. We’ve planted milkweed everywhere we’ve lived.

Gardening literature, especially the work of Katharine S. White and Elizabeth Lawrence. And Allen Lacy. I could read nothing but horticultural lit and be happy.

Japanese candy. Fortunately I have Kristen in my life to keep me supplied. :)

Fiber and fabric, all the fiber arts. I haven’t *made* much since my kids came along–my old loom is gathering dust in the garage–but anything to do with yarn makes my heart go pitty-pat.

British period dramas. Helloooo, Downton Abbey. And Lark Rise, Cranford, Garrow’s Law, Berkeley Square, all that stuff.

Education & homeschooling philosophy. Charlotte Mason, John Holt, the works.

I get very excited when I have a new social media platform to figure out.

GeekMom Amy –

– Kids’ books, especially the picture book variety

– Kids’ games and apps

– Kids’ TV

– Animated films

I guess I have a few grown-up things, too:

– Design

– Movies (particularly the libraries of directors like Tarantino, Wes Anderson, and the Coen Brothers)

– Violent or otherwise adult TV (play really well in contrast to the kids’ stuff: The Wire, Lost, Breaking Bad, etc.)


GeekMom Sarah – I’ve really learned a lot from reading the posts on GeekMoms and I now get excited about things that I wouldn’t have before, like the space program, STEM and Firefly which I just started to watch last week.

I geek out over amigugrumi and knitted goods. For example, I just created a Jayne Cobb hat for a friend and am working on some Amigurumi patterns of the Octonauts for my son. I avidly follow several amigurumi blogs and am constantly trying to come up with my own. I will spend a fortune on Red Heart Yarn and get high looking at the colors!

I also geek out over books. Old books, new books, vintage books, paperback books, hard cover books, pre-release editions, first editions, foreign language editions. I love to judge a book by it’s cover, as long as I can savor it for a while!

I geek out over Disney, that is my life long passion. I wrote my Bachelors thesis about how Disney represents foreign cultures to America.

I’m a big TV geek, some sci-fi, some not. X-files, Star Trek (TNG), Buffy and the life. I am currently devouring Heroes, having missed it the first time around. But I also have an obsession with Mash, The Good Life (Good Neighbors in the US) and anything from old school British comedians. Old cartoons, new cartoons. Okay this list could be endless!

GeekMom Sophie

Well obviously X-Files is my number one geek out, I can literally talk for hours about even the tiniest detail of the show. I cosplay Scully, have two shelves of books, another shelf of the VHS tapes, the complete DVD collection plus other DVDs and random collectibles. I’m now building a collection of art pieces based on the show, got a private commission and a limited edition show piece in there already along with an original sketch drawn by the actor who played Langley. A friend’s old boyfriend did some graphic design and made her and some friends (including myself) these adorable cartoon badge sets, they’re like XF for kids so Mulder’s shooting an alien with a water pistol and the Cigarette Smoking Man has a lollipop instead. So freaking cute and there’s only three or four sets in the world.

As you might be able to tell, geek art is another huge geek out of mine. I wish I’d had time to keep Geek Art going but I couldn’t manage it alone alongside GeekMom and life.

Disney theme parks is a biggie, I’m not especially bothered about the films although I own most of the classics, for me it’s the parks. I have a whole shelf of books on the architecture, conceptual history and behind the scenes information. It’s why I was so thrilled to interview Len Testa last year, he’s an idol of mine for really getting into the nitty gritty of how the parks run. I’m hoping to get the Poster Art of the Disney Theme Parks book at some point.

Scores/sountracks from film/TV. I have dozens of them and look forward to their releases almost as much as the film itself. I’m so excited at the prospect of Volume 2 of The X-Files scores, more Hobbit and Hunger Games this year. I’m also hoping that the Room on The Broom score by Rene Aubry will be released and dream of a Castle score one day. The first X-Files autograph I collected was Mark Snow, I have a limited edition signed CD sleeves from the Vol one box set, the demand was so high the site crashed minutes after I got through!

GeekMom Kelly –

Video games, in particular the creation/development and game soundtracks

Comic books

Star Wars

Harry Potter


A long time ago I used to geek out about anime big time. I wrote something like 100 reviews for an anime review site, and I watched every series completely before I reviewed them. I shudder to think how much time that adds up to. It later turned into love for Japanese dramas, which I still enjoy.

Oh this is a weird one, dancing shows. I love So You Think You Can Dance and America’s Best Dance Crew. I even figured out the choreographer for a random commercial and geeked out that I got it right. Dancing With the Stars isn’t my thing because I don’t think it’s fair to the stars to be judged.

 GeekMom Helene  –


New advances in science

Science education




Doctor Who

BBC shows

My Little Pony

Cake decorating


Girl Scouts

GLBTQ equality activism

Breast and Ovarian Cancer Info

And that leaves me, GeekMom Judy –

Reading/books (I have a library card from the NYC Public Library System, because I couldn’t resist, even though we lived in Upstate and just visited New York City 3 or 4 times a year)

More specifically, Memoirs. (after having written my own, and having spent decades reading others, I am still fascinated to see how a person goes from childhood to adulthood and becomes who she’s supposed to be. It’s twice as fascinating to me as a story someone made up)

My newest 'baby'.
My newest ‘baby’. Photo: Judy Berna

Prosthetics and Amputees (I love telling you about the amazing products and professionals that have blessed my life, and the athletes who have inspired me)

The new Revolimb
The new Revolimb. Photo: Joe Mahon

Lego anything, including learning about the behind the scenes action. (with three sons, and having collected sets for almost 20 years,at each holiday and birthday, we have about as many bricks as Legoland)

Travel/Exploring new places (with an archaeologist husband, we’ve seen some pretty amazing places, following his job around the country)

Winter Sports, including skiing, snowboarding, sledding and snowman creating. It was a huge treat for us to attend the Winter X Games, just up the road from our house, for the past two years. Those athletes are our rock stars.

Super Pipe Practice. Photo: Judy Berna

And speaking of rock stars, in the past few decades I’ve come to really appreciate and love small indie bands. You know, the chicks and dudes who play because they love to? Check out this amazing song, “Not Born to Beauty” that says it so well (track 8).  We have a fantastic local venue in my hometown, and I have an old artificial leg that has the whole Bacon Brothers Band’s signatures on it. I’ve met the most amazing people, who also happen to be talented musicians.

The whole band signed it!
The whole band signed it! Photo: Judy Berna

So that’s our list. What would be on your list? What topics would you like us to write about more, or cover less? We’d love to hear what you love to read about. Welcome to the new, independent GeekMom. Welcome to your GeekMom.com.






How To Teleport From Your Android Phone

I mentioned the Teleport Transporter-Beta app in yesterday’s April Fool’s roundup, and I couldn’t resist downloading it and giving it a shot. For all you iOS users (or party poopers who won’t bother to download it), here’s what you missed.

The app’s description tells us:

The Teleport Transporter, as seen on Star Trek™, finally, beaming available on mobile!
Based on lost original blue prints from the Series. After 4 years of extensive research and development, finally, free and instant transportation in the palm of your hands. Android only (due to Apple limitations on iOS 6).

How handy would that be? How can you not want to try it? Just… in… case.

At first use, it warns you–this is still in beta. Things might go wrong. But hey. All that you’re doing is letting your phone dematerialize you. No big. I do wonder what’s going to happen to the phone. I hope it comes with me so that I can get back.

Screencaps by Ruth Suehle

Now it’s time to go! OK. Middle of the room. Got it. Stand still. I can handle that.


On the next screen, all you have to do is choose where you’d like to go from a predetermined list of destinations and click “Teleport.” Easy peasy science squeezy!




I totally took a shower this morning. Look, people, I’m a busy mom. So I might have missed the ears. But it’s spring break, and the kids are home, and… fine. I’m going to take another shower and try again.


Beta. It’s in beta. Must keep reminding myself.


Aw, thanks! I love me some Shat, too.




Yes, yes, I did! I told you, busy mom, but seriously. This thing is a mess. I’m going to try One. More Time.

And eventually, you’re taken to your destination… in Google Street View. But at least you didn’t end up with transporter psychosis or crossing with an evil alternate universe. Enjoy!


The April Fool’s Roundup: Jokes Around The Web

April Fool's Day, Google prank
Google Nose!

There are a few you always know to expect, starting with Google and ThinkGeek. Here are those, along with a few others we’ve seen this morning. Happy Don’t Believe The Internet Day! (Except the GeekMoms–we really have moved to this new site. What do you think?)

This Week With the GeekMoms

GeekMom News

United Federation of Planets
United Federation of Planets

Jules Sherred has been busy designing and launching another website: United Federation of Planets. It is a website all about Star Trek, curated by members of Jules’ G+ Star Trek community. Jules is also still busy planning for yet another trip, a child’s graduation, and a wedding in just over three short months.

Brigid is reveling in a clean studio this week and a fresh shiny new website. She’s looking forward to getting her hands dirty with some special projects in April.

Laura’s toe is a lovely bluish purple, thanks to intersecting with furniture while ambulating Ministry of Silly Walks style. Despite her giant multi-hued toe she’s going full speed in her campaign to help out a neighboring eco-friendly farmer. He is trying to hang on to his cows and his land despite some difficulties.

Rachel is trying to nurse her family back to health in time for Easter Sunday. She’s going to spend the weekend using natural dyes on her eggs and stuffing the plastic ones with toxic candy. Does that seem wrong at all?

This week Patricia has been in Biloxi, Mississippi, where her husband has just received photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) laser eye surgery at Keesler Air Force Base. It’s been a trip down memory lane, seeing the base where she did her initial Air Force weather officer training in summer 1996, and it’s also been very educational learning about the devastation that the base and community experienced from Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. It was heartbreaking to visit Beauvoir, Jefferson Davis’s home, this week and learn that over 40% of the property’s presidential library and museum collection were lost during Katrina. She looks forward to being back home this weekend to celebrate Easter with her kids and mother-in-law, who have been holding down the fort back home.

Rebecca Angel is busy getting ready for a gig on Friday with her daughter who plays drumset and steel drums. It is really fun having a kid that not only has the talent, but the joy of music, AND wants to perform with her mom!

This weekend, Dakster Sullivan is going to be creating colored eggs with Kool-Aid with her husband and son. They don’t have any troops lined up, so maybe they will take some time and just hang out and enjoy the weekend. Brandon’s been begging to go bowling again, so they might hit up the alleys for some family fun.

Can Your Fridge Make Hot Water? The GE Café Fridge Does

GE Cafe Fridge
Image courtesy GE

That settles it. I definitely need a new fridge. Not because my old fridge is broken, but because there are now way too many cool fridges out there. Remember when I told you about Samsung’s new soda making fridge? Well, GE wrote me to tell me that their Café fridge makes hot water. I now have a fantasy of Patrick Stewart standing in front of one demanding some tea. Earl Grey, hot. 

Just how much power is it going to suck out of your kitchen to have a fridge dispensing hot water where it also dispenses ice? Well, they managed to solve the engineering problem well enough to earn the fridge Energy Star status.

This is a French door style fridge with separate evaporators to keep your frozen foods frozen and your chilled foods chilled. (If  you don’t have separate evaporators, opening the fridge door actually lowers the temp in the whole fridge just a bit, leading to freezer burn and melty ice cream.) It’s also got a multi-purpose drawer, with color coded LED indicators to let you know if you’ve got it set to store meat, soda, citrus, or cheese.

I asked them to walk me through the hot water process. I can’t get my Earl Grey as fast as Jean-Luc Picard, but I can get it within a few minutes. I could also get oatmeal or hot cocoa that isn’t scalding.

First step is to tell the fridge dispenser that you want hot water and just how hot you want it. You can pick any temp from 90-185 degrees Fahrenheit.  (It does not make boiling water.) Or, you can choose from one of four pre-set temp settings, so you can have hot tea or warm baby formula. Sadly, you have to use buttons instead of your voice.

Once your water is the correct temperature, you’ll hear an alert. You then have to turn a knob and then push to dispense (so nobody gets a hot water surprise when they wanted ice water), and you’ll get up to 10 ounces of heated water (about a mug’s worth). I’m told that the process should take somewhere between one and six minutes, depending on the temperature setting and how cold your source water is, and that most of the time it would be in the one-two minute range.

If you’re ready to get out your Bodum cups and replicate yourself a cup of Earl Grey, the GE Café fridge will sell for a suggested retail of $3,199 sometime this spring.

Twelve Fictional Characters With Officially Registered Tartans

Kilted from birth. Photo by Ruth Suehle

The National Archives of Scotland maintains the official register of plaid patterns known as “tartan” and their associated clans or groups in The Scottish Register of Tartans. Their mission is both to preserve history as well as to register newly designed tartans. This registry was formed as the official one in 2008, merging two unofficial registries, the Scottish Tartans World Register and the Scottish Tartans Authority. There are many tartans that are designated not for a clan, as commonly thought, but also for organizations, areas of land, and even companies. In that last category are an assortment of tartans that have been registered for fictional characters. Click on the character’s name in bold to see the picture of the fabric at The Scottish Register of Tartans.

Brave‘s DunBroch clan. For this year’s animated film Brave, Disney/Pixar registered the royal family’s tartan, which uses “the ocean blue of the North Sea” and “deep scarlet [that] represents the family’s reverence for its own history and the blood shed during battles between the clans. Deep green shows a love for Scotland’s majestic highlands.” The navy blue represents the forging of the clans, and the grey “imbues a sense of respect for the inner soul of the strong Scottish people.”

K-9 from Doctor Who. This pre-1977 design’s notes state that K-9’s dog collar from the Tom Baker years (!977-1981) was sent to the Scottish Tartans Authority for identification, but they were unable to do so and call it “possibly a fashion tartan of the period.” Continue reading Twelve Fictional Characters With Officially Registered Tartans

On Explaining Wheaton’s Law

PAX East 2010 with Wil Wheaton, Image: Nicole Wakelin

The day you have kids, you have to change your language. I don’t mean you have to learn a new one, but that you have to start eliminating all the words you don’t want them to use once they’re old enough to talk. This is not an easy task. Once you try to stop saying the words that got you in trouble back in grade school, you’ll suddenly become very aware of just how much they sneak into your vocabulary. It may be okay for adults, but not when it’s your toddler who has latched onto a word and is gleefully saying “Sh*t! Sh*t! Sh*t!” as you do your grocery shopping. It’s awful. Trust me.

Thankfully, my kids are now old enough to know better, and they know that if they say something they shouldn’t, then there are going to be consequences. This doesn’t mean I don’t slip up, particularly when I’m driving. It’s hard to spontaneously say “Oh, sugar!” when someone cuts you off because what comes to mind is considerably more colorful. Like most kids, mine surely know a few choice words but don’t dare use them, yet.

Of all the places not to swear, the worst one, the one where you have to be the most careful, is at a school. I accidentally said damn in my daughter’s first grade class and I felt lucky that I wasn’t reported and escorted from the building. They take this stuff seriously. The worst part is that you’re likely to get that look from the teacher, the one that made you want to hide under your desk when you were a kid. The only problem is that those desks are small and if you hide under one as an adult you risk flipping it over and that would probably be worse.

I am very, very careful to use only proper English anytime I’m at the school. I’m kinda proud, truthfully, and a little amazed that I haven’t slipped since that one time in first grade. You try to keep your cool when a kid accidentally squirts you with grape juice, or gets paint on your new shoes. I’m telling you, it is not easy.

One day last week I started chatting with a bunch of moms as we waited for our kids in the foyer at the end of the schoolday. The conversation turned to someone who was being a pain in the butt. (See, I said butt, not something more colorful. I can do this.) We were all in agreement that this person was being awful, and annoying and making things difficult for the rest of us. I shook my head and said the first thing that came to mind, Wheaton’s Law, and the minute that those two little words left my lips I knew I was in trouble.

These moms were not geeks. Not even close. They didn’t know Star Trek from Star Wars, Hobbits from Ewoks, or that Han shot at all, much less first. And they most definitely didn’t know Wheaton’s Law. It became one of those moments when the whole world slowed as they turned to look at me with that unmistakable expression of utter confusion and suspicion.

I tried to explain. Wil Wheaton? The guy who played Wesley on Star Trek? Sheldon’s nemesis on The Big Bang Theory? Nothing. They looked at me like I had a few screws loose. I tried to save myself by explaining that he’s this big-time geek and he has a blog and he has this idea that people should be nice to each other and not nasty and he summed it all up with Wheaton’s Law. I desperately tried to avoid saying the actual law.

So, of course, one mom asked what it actually was and I wanted to go hide under a desk again. Saying it meant saying a word that was clearly not acceptable in a grade school. The kind of word that will make kids giggle, and parents cast disapproving looks, but I was out of options. “Don’t be a dick.”, I said, and at that moment two girls exited the bathroom not three feet away, heard me, and giggled and whispered their way back to class. I am not even kidding.

What went through my head was a string of words that I didn’t say. I smiled and laughed it off as the other moms mostly smiled back. Although I did get a few shocked and disapproving looks. I couldn’t help but feel that it wasn’t my fault this time. I tried not to say it, I really, really did, and it’s not my fault those little girls walked out of the bathroom at exactly that moment. I didn’t even know they were in there and, ugh. Darn you, Wil Wheaton, you’re gonna get me in trouble!

EDITOR’S NOTE: For geeky alternatives to bad words, see Brigid Ashwood’s post on “creative cursing!”

“Boldly Go” to the St. Louis Science Center

Photo Credit: Kelly Knox

I love science centers. Not only are they a fantastic resource for our kiddo to discover more about science and the world, I’ve also had great experiences with the exhibitions that come to visit for a short time. Our local science center, the Pacific Science Center, hosted both Star Wars and Harry Potter exhibits this past year. Geek heaven!

We were in St. Louis recently to visit family, and while we were there we had the opportunity to stop by the St. Louis Science Center. My jaw dropped when I saw their current exhibit: Star Trek: The Exhibition. The science center is presently housing costumes, props, and models from all films and series, as well as hosting special contests, programs, and lecture series related to the exhibit.

I am the biggest Star Trek fan in my family, so I tried to hide my excitement, but they all saw right through me. They offered to babysit our toddler and show her around the science center while I walked through the Star Trek halls. I dashed off to the ticket counter faster than they could say “tribble.”

The exhibit has fun photo opportunities for fans who have always wanted to sit in the captain’s chair or get beamed on board the Enterprise. You can’t take any of your own photos inside, so these pictures are your only chance to prove that you actually stood on the bridge of the Enterprise-D. I visited Star Trek: The Experience in Las Vegas before it closed, and the bridge at the St. Louis Science Center was much nicer and cleaner.

Other parts of the exhibit are also similar to the Las Vegas show, although with new props and costumes from the latest Star Trek movie. I loved seeing all of the uniforms and costumes–especially Leonard Nimoy’s robe from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Seeing costumes in person gives you a new point of view of the actors: Spock is really tall! The prosthetic alien head gallery is also striking.

My favorite part of the exhibit, hands down, was the re-creation of Captain Picard’s quarters. I wanted to walk inside and touch everything. Seeing his flute from the “Inner Light” episode almost made me burst into tears right there in the science center!

After wandering the halls of Star Trek: The Exhibition for a while, I headed back to my family with a big grin on my face. The other exhibits at the St. Louis Science Center were just as entertaining to explore. The “Structures” area of the science center is a lot of fun, and inspired both big kids and adults in our family to build bridges together. Our two-year-old enjoyed the “Cyberville” area, which is a great resource for learning about computers and how the Internet works.

While general admission to the St. Louis Science Center is free (which is phenomenal), Star Trek: The Exhibition ticket price is a bit steep at $17.50 for adults and $13.50 for children ages five to twelve. If you visit in costume or take advantage of online coupons, such as the one available by clicking on the ad here on GeekMom, you can get a small discount to bring the cost down. The exhibit is in St. Louis until May, and I recommend it for any Star Trek fan.

Coffee: The Intergalactic Mommy Vice

I’m a sucker for latte art. This is a set from a competition, posted to Flickr by CairnsDining.

This morning as I clutched my steaming cup of java on the first sub-freezing morning of the season, I pondered how I went from being a non-coffee-drinker to considering getting a hotel-style one-cup coffee maker to put on my bedside table. I travel pretty regularly, and one of the things I love about hotel stays (other than a solid night’s sleep with no danger of a snoring husband or dark-fearing child) is waking up with a cup of coffee just feet from the bed.

Every coffee drinker has a story of how she came to be one. After all, very few of us spent our pre-K years with Folgers in our sippy cups. My parents weren’t coffee drinkers, so it wasn’t a habit I saw firsthand very often, although my grandparents did percolate a pot on the stovetop each morning. And they drank it hot and black, which is how I take my coffee now.

When I was in college, some brilliant mind who saw the opportunity to hook young adenosine receptors and dopamine production centers put a Starbucks in the cafeteria, which accepted the “free” bonus dollars that came with a school meal plan. Let me simplify that into 18-year-old college student language: Free Starbucks before 8 a.m. classes. Still, I thought of my beloved mochas more as a breakfast option (ha!) or a snack/treat, not as a daily morning ritual.

In adulthood, I was more of a tea drinker. Earl Grey, hot, as Captain Picard would say. But even my favorite 24th century starship commander, known for his tea, has coffee and a croissant for breakfast each day (see “The Perfect Mate”). An eight-ounce cuppa joe has as much as 240 milligrams of caffeine, compared to the same cup of tea’s paltry 130 milligrams or so. That extra 110-milligram jolt could mean the difference between saving the day for the Federation and being conquered by the Borg.

It’s an intergalactic dependence indeed. Whether you drink coffeine, kaf, synthi-caff, or raktajino, coffee is the universal language for, “I could use a nap, but this drink will do.”

I remember before I had children, a friend who did have a young daughter said he didn’t start drinking coffee until after she was born. I thought that was a bit silly–picking up this addictive habit fairly late into adulthood. It seemed a lot less silly when I had a kid of my own. Caffeine never affected me much before I became a mommy, but after I gave up caffeine for the pregnancy and breastfeeding years, I noticed a huge difference when I started drinking it again. And then I found myself turning that “bug” into a “feature.” A quick cuppa actually wakes me up, which comes in handy when you’ve only slept three hours at a time for months or years on end. Now I know why my friend didn’t start drinking until after his kid was born. I found that my tea habit started transitioning to a coffee habit for the starship-captain-worthy caffeine boost. But now if I drink one too many cups, I have to walk a lap around the office before I can get any work done!

As Sookie Stackhouse says of her tanning habit, “It’s my vice. Everybody gets one.” Looks like I’m taking coffee as my vice. I could do worse.

Seeking Major Tom: Yet Another Reason To Love William Shatner

Earlier this week my local radio started my morning with William Shatner singing “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I almost crashed the car. I love William Shatner, I think he’s wonderful, and even though the man cannot sing, I love his music. It’s William Shatner! Singing! It doesn’t get to me in the same way that Paul McCartney or Don McLean do, don’t get me wrong, but I love it anyway.

Released this week, Seeking Major Tom is Shatner’s exploration of many spaced-themed popular songs — oh, and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Based on the idea that so many songs stem from David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,”  Shatner goes in search of Major Tom. He is aided in this by the likes of Lyle Lovett, Brad Paisley, Peter Frampton and Sheryl Crow. I think we can certainly expect a good deal of variety from this disc. In his Rex Harrison-like manner, Shatner weaves his way through the narrative that “Space Oddity” has embedded in popular culture over the years.

You can even watch Bill talk about the project in a promotional documentary:

Alas, I did not receive a copy of this to review, it’s just currently on my Amazon wish list. My big decision now is formatting. The album is available on iTunes, CDor 12-inch vinyl. Everything in me screams to get the vinyl, but the last new vinyl I bought was “Expecting to Fly” by The Bluetones in 1996, and I exchanged that for a CD. My vinyl collection thus far consists of old musicals and Christmas music; dare I add Shatner to that collection? Regardless, this looks set to be an absolute hoot, and I think fondly on the day we were gifted with the exuberant talent of Mr. William Shatner.

Forum Discussion of the Week: I Can’t Get Behind the New Star Trek Ongoing Comic

Image: IDW Publishing

Today, IDW Publishing has released a new Star Trek comic called Star Trek Ongoing. As much as I’d like to, I can’t get behind that. As I shared the other week, Star Trek played a huge role in my life and shaped much of who I am today. It is all I can do to contain my nerd rage in order to explain why this comic has me so angry. But I am going to try my best to channel my inner Spock and explain why this latest move by the Abramsverse has me so enraged.

If you have yet to read this news, let me share the description of this new comic:

The adventures of the Starship Enterprise continue in this new ongoing series that picks up where the blockbuster 2009 film left off! Featuring the new cast of the film, these missions re-imagine the stories from the original series in the alternate timeline created by the film, along with new threats and characters never seen before! With creative collaboration from STAR TREK writer/producer Roberto Orci, this new series begins the countdown to the much-anticipated movie sequel premiering in 2012. Join Kirk, Spock and the crew as they boldly go into a new future! Up first, a drastic new envisioning of “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”

If you are a hardcore fan such as myself, then you know Where No Man Has Gone Before was the second pilot for Star Trek: The Original Series.

My brain is currently stuck in the following thoughts, “So… once upon a time, there was this man. His name was JJ Abrams. He had this idea to reboot Star Trek and give it new life. He had this idea to create a brand new universe and timeline, one that would attract new fans, whilst keeping Roddenberry’s original vision intact and untouched. THEN WHY IS HE BEHIND REWRITING THE SECOND PILOT AND STICKING IT IN A COMIC!? What on earth happened to the new universe not touching the original?!”

I will admit, I have a lot of issues with the reboot. So many, if I were to write them out, it would be a novel in itself. However, despite my issues with the new Star Trek, I was able to accept it as valid as it used an existing device from within cannon: Alternate timeline. Using this device, Prime was still there and untouched. The Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, etc., that I grew up with were still there, waiting for someone to carry on their story. Because of this, I could accept, even if only, this new Star Trek, one that lacked the substance and the human story that I grew-up with.

I think that if the Abramsverse wants to create a new comic, based off of the rebooted characters and set within this alternate timeline, then they can fill their boots. My issue is that this isn’t new. He had said that he wanted to respect Roddenberry’s original creation. If that is true, then why is the original series being butchered rewritten? Why are they not taking full advantage of this new timeline? They have this great opportunity to do something that makes Star Trek what it is: To explore strange new worlds… to seek out new life and civilisations… to boldly go where no-one has gone before! Instead, they are going where they’ve gone before and no new words, life or civilisations are being sought out.

With Star Trek, Abrams has a lot of opportunities for brand new stories. Like, what if the Klingons and the Federation never went to war? What if the Orions went to war with the Federation and tried to enslave them? There is so much to explore in a fun, new way, whilst still telling the human stories that make Trek what it is. If this new franchise is already out of new ideas, it is in serious trouble.

I watch Star Trek because it challenges my perceptions of the world and forces me to think, whilst entertaining me. I can sit down with my children and watch pretty much any episode, from any series, and have a real discussion with them about humanity, our place in the world, social woes and so much more.

In the last GeekMom podcast, they had an interesting discussion about the things added to Star Wars and how a new generation will grow up thinking that Han did not shoot first and they may never learn to know the difference. I had one person on Twitter ask me, when I was raging about this new comic, “Does George Lucas have his hands on Star Trek now too?” I see that as a serious problem. Not because of the changes in of itself, but because the original universe was suppose to remain intact. My children will know the difference and I’m not sure they’ll be able to accept them either; not if the re-imagined Trek is using a good portion of the original Trek.

If Abrams wants to introduce new mythology and create new cannon, great. I only wish he didn’t do it at the expense of the original series. Roddenberry tackled a lot of very tough and sensitive issues. Those messages and issues need to be preserved. Many of them are still issues to be talked about it; some of which were tackled in Where No Man Has Gone Before. I do not see this branch of the reboot as being an honour to Gene’s memory but, instead, a real dishonour.

To restate: If you are going to make Star Trek new, then please make sure that it is, in fact, new. Why create a whole new universe if you are not going to explore it?

You can see a preview of the new comic below.

How do you feel about this? Come join the forum discussion!

Happy 45th Anniversary, Star Trek

Once upon a time, there lived a man. This man was a dreamer. This man had hopes and visions of a better future, a future built upon true equality and mutual respect. This man’s name was Gene Roddenberry.

Gene had an idea. He wanted to share his dream and his ideals. The way he did this was through a television series called Star Trek. However, many people at the time did not want Gene to share his dream. He was told that it was too cerebral, too liberal, too unbelievable.  It took a lot of work for him to find someone willing to embark on this dream with Gene. But Gene did not give up. After five years of a lot of hard work and dedication, on September 8, 1966, Star Trek aired for the first time.

What aired for the first time was not Gene’s original vision. The original pilot, titled The Cage, which Gene started to create in 1964 and was completed in 1965, was rejected for a variety of reasons. Among the reasons was that, even among feminists of the time, the idea of a female first officer was simply unbelievable and insulting. Gene was also told to get rid of the character of Mr. Spock, among other things. However, the network was still impressed enough to order a second pilot. After a lot of negotiations and recasting, including negotiations to keep the character of Mr. Spock, the second pilot, Where No Man Has Gone Before, is what audiences saw for the first time.

Today is an important date to me—aside from the fact that today my oldest is 16. The reasons why today is important to me are extremely difficult to articulate.

Out of every thing that has influenced the geeky nerd I’ve grown-up to be, Star Trek played the biggest and most important role. This role was so important, that it received its own short story in my book.

As this day started to approach, I tried my best to figure out how I would relay all the ways in which Gene’s vision shaped me, all the ways that Gene’s vision helped to save my life. Originally, I thought I would share the story from my book. But without the context of the rest of my book and the fact the story was written two years ago, I feel it doesn’t have the impact that I think is deserving of such a day.

Growing up, I did not have the best life. In fact, it was as far from ideal as one could get. Growing up, I was told, “Don’t be silly, you can’t do that”, instead of, “Give it shot”. Star Trek taught me that I was capable of anything as long as I held on to my dreams. Star Trek taught me that I have unlimited potential and possibility laying before me, that there is no obstacle or barrier to stop me except for myself, that my imagination is something to be cultivated and nurtured, not subdued. Star Trek helped shape the nerd I am today, giving me a love for both science and art.

These messages were further ingrained within me when Star Trek: The Next Generation first aired in 1987. The character of Wesley Crusher was a life-saver. It is because I was and continue to be Wesley Crusher. Even though I was never teased by my peers for being a geek and a nerd, I had a hard time growing up because of my above-average intelligence. I received straight As without ever studying. I have an almost eidetic memory. Socially, I was very awkward. I found it extremely difficult—and still do to this day—to relate to people my own age. I had a habit of correcting adults, all the time, because they were wrong. I skipped grade 7. I felt alone. Star Trek and specifically Star Trek: The Next Generation and the character of Wesley Crusher allowed me to feel as if I belonged to something. I was not alone. And I am certain others relate to this.

Star Trek has a place for every one, regardless of sex, gender, colour, sexual orientation, disability, religion, age and background. Star Trek challenged social norms of the time and forced viewers to think. Star Trek allows people to dream of the possibilities. Star Trek allows us to believe that, as a species, we can overcome great obstacles and become united as one. Star Trek inspires many to pursue jobs in science and space. Star Trek gives us hope. Star Trek has given me more gifts than I could ever articulate.

From the day I was born, I watched Star Trek. From the day my boys were born, they watched Star Trek. One thing that makes me quite sad is that my boys do not have a Star Trek, one filled with Gene’s vision of the future, that speaks to their generation. When the original Star Trek first aired, my dad was 12. When The Next Generation first aired, I was 11. My boys are now 12 and 16. There is talk of a new series, one that is supposedly going to be true to Roddenberry’s original concept. I hope this becomes a reality.

I tried to find a 45th Anniversary tribute video that really spoke to me. However, I’ve yet to find one that even comes close to doing the series justice like the following 40th Anniversary tribute video does. Watching it never fails to put something in my eyes.

On October 24, 1991, Gene Roddenberry passed away, leaving behind a legacy not soon forgotten. May his dreams and hopes for a better future live long and prosper.

What gifts has Star Trek given you?

Game Review: Star Trek Fleet Captains

Star Trek Fleet Captains by WizKids

One of the benefits of attending GenCon is that you can pick up copies of games before they’re scheduled to be in retail stores. I walk through the aisles very carefully, trying not to be lured in by something that I can simply buy as soon as I get home. Star Trek Fleet Captains, by WizKids, is not due on store shelves for at least 6 more weeks so it fit my requirements and was therefore carefully transported back with me at the end of the convention. Yesterday, I was thrilled to have a chance to play it through for the first time.

Starfleet Ships with Reference Cards

What struck me about it just while watching the demos was that ships and characters from different shows and movies were on the table together.  Star Trek Fleet Captains lets you create a fleet made up of the Enterprise A, Voyager and even the Enterprise E, which is just plain fun if you’re a Trekkie.  In all, you’ll get 12 Federation and 12 Klingon ships, each with a Clix dial on the base that let’s you adjust shields, weapons, sensors and engines as you battle each other to accomplish your missions.

You can choose to bump up your shields in anticipation of your opponent’s attack, but that may also cause a huge reduction in your engines or weapons.  The choice is up to you and will be completely dependent on the cards you draw and the battles you fight.  There’s also a reference card for each ship, so you can see exactly what you sacrifice and gain with each turn of the dial, as well as showing your limited options after minor damage (Yellow Alert) or major damage (Red Alert).

The hexagonal tiles of the game board

The board itself is made up of hexagonal tiles that are shuffled and then placed face down to create the space between the two factions.  As you move across the board, tiles are flipped revealing the details of that location.  It could be a Class-M planet that you choose to control so you can build an Outpost and have a place to repair damaged ships.  It might be a Class J Nebula or even just Empty Space which also comes with the quote “Space….the final frontier.”  Depending on the speed of your ship, you can move several tiles a turn, but be wary.  There are unfriendly tiles out there that will cause damage to your ship if you remain on them at the end of your turn.

Tribbles Encounter Card

As each tile is flipped, a die is rolled to determine if you must draw an Encounter card. If you do draw a card and win the encounter you earn precious Victory Points which are needed to win the game, but if you fail then there’s trouble.  I ended up with tribbles on one ship after a failed Encounter.  Silly things disabled two of my systems and wreaked havoc on my ability to complete my missions.  I got rid of them by increasing powers to my sensors, playing a Masterful Bluff card to avoid a Klingon ship, and then transporting the tribbles over to the unwitting Klingons before warping out of that sector.  That kind of moment, when you get to do things that feel like they’re right out of the show, makes this game a heck of a lot of fun.

An incredible number of cards and tokens along with the twenty-four ships in this box make this game infinitely replayable.  You get 76 mission cards, some revealed so you have a chance to thwart your opponent but others a secret so you’re left guessing.  There are also 50 Encounter cards and 200 Command cards that can enhance the abilities of your ship.  Each is perfectly themed to the people and items they represent.

Wesley Crusher and Captain Kirk

Command cards give you crew members like Wesley Crusher enhancing engines and shields, Quark adding influence, Spock increasing sensor power and Kirk letting you do the impossible.  It’s exactly what you’d expect of these characters!  Then there are the Encounter cards with the tribbles I mentioned earlier, as well as Dilithium crystals to increase engine speed, Tachyon Pulses to mess with cloaking and Ferengi traders that offer you deals you can’t, but should, refuse.

The gameplay is fun and really gets moving once you’ve had a chance to run through the rules which can be downloaded direct from WizKids before you even make the purchase.  The box says it takes ninety minutes to play and we went just over that on our first time out. It can be played with 2 or 4 players, ages 14 and up, who form up into teams and retails for $100.  Yes, that’s a steep price, but consider the number of ships alone, then add in all the cards and tokens, and it’s not unreasonable.  Also, the huge number of card combinations means this is a different game every time you play and won’t sit in your closet neglected after a few tries.  The replayability and spot-on theming make Star Trek Fleet Captains a great game to add to your collection.


William Shatner’s The Captains Screening in NYC

This past weekend I drove from Florida up to New York to pick up my two sons who had been spending a couple weeks with my husband’s parents on Long Island.  Yes, it’s a rather long drive, but since my family has a Toyota Prius, the 2600-mile round trip still cost 1/3 the price of flying the kids back and forth.  I enjoy listening to New York’s Z100 radio as soon as I get into range (somewhere on the NJ Turnpike)…call it nostalgia from my college days, even though I’ve outgrown much of the music, the spirit of the station seems to knock 20 years from me!

On Z100 I heard a commercial advertising a free screening of William Shatner’s documentary The Captains, which is due to theaters on October 1st.  William Shatner himself hosted the event.  The screening was on July 30th at the Interpid Air and Space Museum. People were invited to dress up for the event and free posters and prizes were awarded to the best cosplayers!  Enjoy some pictures of the costumed attendees.

I’m not the biggest Trekkie out there — by a long shot — but I still enjoy Star Trek and I would have been excited to get a chance to see a preview of this film.  Alas, I was driving south out of New York last Saturday and didn’t get a chance.

Adam Hadhazy at Space.com had a chance to attend the screening and wrote up the event on Sunday. It sounds like it was a fun event and based on his interviews with spectators, I can’t wait to see The Captains this October!

How Star Trek Moms Give Their Kids The Look

Klingon Moms’ Day Out

Last night, nearly six years after giving birth to my first child, I finally became a Real Mom.

I declare this the moment because I have finally mastered the Mom Look. The one where you just look at your kid, and she drops what she’s doing, her eyes get big, and now she’s listening. I wasn’t sure I’d ever get Mom Look. I had a feeling it might be tied to the threat of spankings, and since I’m not even sure my kids know what the word “spanking” means, I don’t know what fear my Mom Look carries. But it works. I will use my new power responsibly.

Thanks to the recent influx of Star Trek on Netflix, I’ve been reliving all the old favorites. So this morning when I was reflecting on the Mom Look, it converged with the assorted alien species dancing in my head. I got to wondering… how does the Mom Look work for them?

Klingon mothers come with an assortment of Looks built in to their ridged faces, and none of those Looks are good. While I imagine there must be some Klingon version of Mom Look they could bring forth, it comes with a risk. It seems to me that a particularly petulant Klingon child would probably just bust out his baby bat’leth and commit matricide.

The Ferengi kids, though–they’re culturally rewarded for selling their mothers to the highest bidder. Since they’re also candidates for the galaxy’s most misogynist culture, I imagine Ferengi moms spend most of their time looking for nice, non-Ferengi second husbands while they conjure up ways to get out of oo-mox tonight. They join the Klingon moms in looking a little terrifying (plus a little ridiculous) to begin with, so conjuring Mom Look is probably a tough job. Their one chance at exerting some power comes from their responsibility for pre-chewing their families’ food. That means when Ferengi-Mommy does give you her look, you know you’d better be careful when you swallow at dinner.

Pakleds were the next that came to mind since I just re-watched “Samaritan Snare” two nights ago. On the down side, it’s tough to seem threatening as a mom when you look like a potato with flaming caterpillars for eyebrows. I envision Little Pakled during potty training, leaving a puddle in the corner after being asked twenty times if he needed to use the Pakled potty. He looks up with his big potato eyes and says, “I looked for things. Things to make me go!” Mama Pakled’s heart melts. Mama Pakled cannot make Mom Look. It’s just not an option for a giant potato.

At the complete opposite end of the mom spectrum are the Betazoids. We’ve seen the Daughter of the Fifth House, Holder of the Sacred Chalice of Riix, and Heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed. We know what happens when your mom can hear your thoughts and feelings, even if she should be minding her own business. When that’s the way the world works, you don’t develop a Mom Look. You develop a Mom Thought, or even more simply, a Mom Emotion. Baby Betazoid’s brain hears that one coming, and she straightens right up.

At the end of the universe, I think we can all learn something about Mom Look from the Vulcans. Spock has Mom Look, and he’s a man! (I really must learn how to do that eyebrow thing.) They love their children as much as humans, but any mother who can send her child out into the desert for the Kahs-wan is a mama you don’t want to mess with.

Transformers 3: Why It’s the Best Movie I’ve Seen This Summer

Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon

I did what any red-blooded American did over our holiday weekend. That’s right, I went to see a movie. This was after consuming roughly my own body weight in hamburgers and hot dogs while hanging out with friends all afternoon. I almost didn’t go to see Transformers 3 because it was getting a love it/hate it response from people and I was desperately afraid I’d fall into the hate it camp. There’s nothing as disappointing as walking in to a movie thinking it will be fantastic, but wandering out a few hours later wishing you could get a refund.

We didn’t leave terribly early for this one so when we arrived I was just hoping we’d get seats that weren’t in the very first row. No problem. Ten minutes before it was due to start there were only four other people in the theater. Four. This may have increased my anxiety just a tad since a big movie and an empty theater is generally not a good sign. By the time the movie started there were maybe two dozen of us, clutching our sodas and turning off our phones as the previews started.

Despite all my anxiety, all my worries that I would be terribly disappointed, this is officially the best movie I’ve seen this summer.

Now, now, now before you get all bent out of shape and call me crazy, let me explain. I wanted action. Unrealistic, completely over-the-top, not possible, unsurvivable by mere mortals action. I wanted fighting robots. I wanted fun one-liners and corny comic relief. Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon had all of these things.

I’ve heard complaints that Shia LaBeouf was mopey and didn’t do much for the first half of the movie. Okay, I’ll agree he was a bit mopey but it made sense for his character and there was so much happening around him, so much crazy, that I could forgive the mopey. Also, there is a fantastic car chase where our hero is about to die and Bumblebee morphs from car to bot to car again all while Shia flies through the air letting out a scream worthy of a twelve year old girl. I love him for pulling that off perfectly and making me and everyone else in the theater laugh and will forgive the mopey for that scene alone.

There are also complaints that the action is too drawn out and completely unrealistic. Really? So when you went in for a movie about alien robots that transform into cars and help save our world from destruction, were you really expecting a film firmly rooted in reality? That there’s your problem. This is, at its heart, a Transformers movie. Half the fun of seeing this is watching stuff you know would never work, not even a little, and seeing it, well, work. Sure, the chances you’d survive sliding through the shattered glass of a giant skyscraper without being sliced to bits are very small. It doesn’t matter. They survived and it was awesome.

I’m critical of movies that don’t live up to my expectations, especially when they advertise themselves as one thing but turn out to be something else. That makes me walkaway angry. But Transformers was exactly what it was billed…action, explosions, robots, action and action. My expectations were firmly met and I just held on for the ride. It wasn’t a serious, hard-hitting commentary on the world and the human condition. It was the Transformers doing what they do best. Oh, and one last thing. The voice of Sentinel Prime is Leonard Nimoy. If you happen to be a Star Trek fan, pay close attention to this little fact. LLAP, enjoy the movie, and let me know what you thought of this actionfest.

Book Expo’s Books for Geeks

Take a convention center, fill it with books and the people who love them, and you’re bound to make a geek happy. Book Expo America is such an event, and it’s one of my favorites each year. Though it’s largely about publishers letting book buyers and librarians know what’s new in their catalogues, Book Expo is great for fans, chocked with author and illustrator appearances and signings.

I saw many books that I’m excited about, including these particularly geeky titles:

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the average kid’s first graphic novel is something in the Dav Pilkey oeuvre. My daughter has recently discovered Captain Underpants and its various spinoffs, so of all the books that I came home with, she was most excited about an advance copy of Super Diaper Baby 2: The Invasion of the Potty Snatchers. Spoiler alert: it’s even more hilarious than the first, with a pitch-perfect parody of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

The title of The LEGO Ideas Book is misleading. It’s not about different ways to use the blocks you have, rather it’s an amazing look at the different sets, themes, and minifigs that Lego has released in its history.

Have you seen this delightful video from Saturday Night Live’s Jenny Slate called Marcel the Shell With Shoes On? Well, Penguin is coming out with the book Marcel the Shell With Shoes On: Things About Me.

Geeky science kids like mine will enjoy the Basher Science line from Basher Books, including The Periodic Table: Elements with Style. Each element is represented by a character. Look how adorable Tungsten is!

I picked up a copy of the parody Nancy Drew, Vampire Slayer. Co-author Stefan Petrucha said that when he watched Buffy, it always seemed like Nancy Drew to him, so the parody was a natural fit.

Chronicle Books showed a wonderful assortment of Geeky books, including The Boy Who Loved Batman: A Memoir by Michael E. Uslan, producer of all of the modern Batman films. Chronicle also had the upcoming The Art of Pixar, The Pirate Handbook, and Obsessed With Star Trek, featuring 2,500 questions about the Star Trek universe.

I’m a sucker for Medusa, and this first spread I opened of Encyclopedia Mythologica: Dragons and Monsters was this one.

The Candlewick Press booth also had another great pop-up book, Super Science: Feel the Force, “full of pop-up physics fun!” My daughter will love this.

Speaking of The Force, Book Expo is paradise for Star Wars fans. The geekiest booth award goes to Abrams during Tom Angleberger’s signing of his new book, Horton Halfpott: Or, The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor; or, The Loosening of M’Lady Luggertuck’s Corset.

Tom Angleberger is also the author of the bestselling The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, and a hipster Darth Vadar was there to hand out little, awesome origami Darths to warn of the sequel, Darth Paper Strikes Back.

Mini Star Wars fans can chew on Star Wars board books from Scholastic, like Star Wars: Heroes, though I prefer the villains.

Hardcore fans with deep pockets are going to want Star Wars: The Blueprints from Epic Ink, a gigantic limited edition that’s going to retail at around $500 a pop. Epic, indeed.

That’s all just the tip of the iceberg. You can read more about upcoming kids’ books I’m excited about on Media Macaroni, and keep your eyes peeled for book reviews when these titles are released.

My Top Ten Tear-Jerking Moments in Science Fiction

Traditionally, science-fiction revolves around action rather than drama, humour rather than tragedy. Whilst deaths are commonplace in a genre filled with space battles and horrifying creatures, truly emotional moments are much harder to come by, but that’s not to say they do not exist: far from it. Below is my personal top ten tear-jerking moments in science-fiction, I’ve had to cut many more out as this could easily have been a top fifty.

Warning: big spoilers contained herein.


Five Ways to Teach Science With Star Trek

Model of USS Enterprise from The Star Trek Experience, by Flickr user El Miali

When I was in tenth grade, my interest in astronomy collided with a boyfriend who was into Star Trek, just as The Next Generation was ending and Voyager was beginning. Two years later, I decided that I’d taken all the calculus any person needed, but I felt a little guilty not taking any math at all. So I made things even on the cosmic scales of STEM education by signing up for an astronomy class.

That class was taught by a man with a magical cabinet. Behind its doors were rows and rows of VHS tapes holding every episode of every season of every Star Trek series that had aired to date. And they weren’t just for rewards after a tough test or days we had a substitute–he used them to teach science.

At the time, this technique astounded me. A teacher using a TV show to actually teach? But the first half of science fiction is science, and many scientists today point to Star Trek as having inspired them to go into their fields. If I were to list technologies from the show that don’t actually exist, this post would be instantly out of date when somebody invented them tomorrow.

This is not to say, by any stretch, that Star Trek always got the science right. For the most recent movie’s rights and wrongs, read Bad Astronomer Phil Plait’s play-by-play. And NASA has a section of their site devoted to Star Trek. You can read up on technologies from the show and to what extent they exist in reality.

You can pick just about any episode and look for the science on your own. But here are a few to get you started.

  1. Medicine: “Angel One” (TNG)
    If someone asked me the one Star Trek invention I’d like to see in real life, it would probably be the replicator. But easily in second place is the hypospray–I really hate needles. Six years ago, I thought I got my wish when geek news was abuzz with the SonoPrep. Unfortunately, despite that FDA approval, my flu shot this year still came the old-fashioned way. Read more about jet injectors, which are actually older than Star Trek.
  2. Botany: “Parallax” (VOY)
    You’ll sometimes hear someone refer to the hydroponics lab on one of the ships. Deep Space 9 had its own hydroponic garden and an episode that mentioned a conference on the topic. Try building your own hydroponics system.
  3. Stellar cartography: “Lessons” (TNG) or just about any episode of Voyager
    The real-world word for what Star Trek calls “stellar cartography” is “uranography.” Unfortunately, most of us now live in areas with too much light pollution to see the stars well. But even if you can’t see much at night, you have other options. Use SKY-MAP.ORG to find sky objects that you would see, or that someone on the other side of the world is seeing. You can also help astronomers at Zooniverse by identifying galaxies, spotting solar explosions, exploring the moon, and looking for supernovae.
  4. Chemistry: “Rascals” (TNG) and “Cardassians” (DS9)
    Star Trek, like many shows and movies, was full of in-jokes and side humor. One of the best examples is the periodic table visible in these two episodes. They differ slightly from one another but quite a bit from the periodic table we learn about in real-world science class. Scroll through the elements in the Star Trek version of the periodic table and identify the fake elements. It’s also fun to try to guess the joke that led to the name. (Click any in that list to read more about them.) If your budding chemist has already memorized the real periodic table, see if she can spot the different atomic weights on the real elements.
  5. Nanotechnology: “Evolution” (TNG)
    Nanotech has come a long way since Wesley Crusher accidentally terrorized the Enterprise with his lost nanites. At the Project for Emerging Nanotechnologies, you can browse a list of where you’re encountering nanotech every day, from your sunscreen to your washing machine. If you aren’t lucky enough to be a student in Danville, IL classes experimenting with nanotech, try one of these experiments from Science in School.