Star Trek Discovery: Born Afraid

Star Trek Discovery - Saru 01

Last night, Evil Genius Dad and I caught up on Star Trek: Discovery with episode 8, “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum”. Now, I don’t understand the hate some people have for ST:DSC. I am really enjoying it. Both EG Dad and I feel it has the same spirit as previous Star Trek series, from the view of capturing the curiousity of exploration AND its ability to elicit discussion. Sure, it’s a little darker and honest—much in the same vein as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, a VERY underrated Star Trek series.

Last night was another one of those conversation starters. The thing is, it’s never just one conversation. We end up talking a lot; sometimes afterwards, sometimes during. EG Dad and I really are the worst people to watch anything with. Good thing we have each other.

Episode 8 is split over a few stories, one of them focused on three characters visiting the planet Pahvo. Burnham, Tyler, and Saru find a sentient life-force of some shape, manner, or form, who seems to communicate with Saru. If you want a full re-cap, my colleague Jules over at GeekDad has a pretty good run down. I’m not summarising it here, nor am I giving spoilers. Instead, I have an example of how ST:DSC is keeping the magic of relevance that is so inherent in the Star Trek franchise.

Star Trek Discovery - Saru 02

My focus is on Saru, a character of the species Kelpians. His species have been hunted for generations, becoming a product of their evolutionary growth as prey. As a species, they are constantly in a state of hypervigilance.

“We are born afraid, we Kelpians. It’s how we survive.” – Saru, ST:DSC (ep8)

At first, there is a really easy way to compare Saru’s situation to our real world. There are thousands… no, millions of refugees in the same situation. There are children born in war-torn countries who have never known what it is like to NOT be in a war zone. There are third-generations now living in refugee camps, with children developing the same evolutionary patterns of hypervigilance as displayed with Saru (not with a heightened sense, but definitely with the same awareness and stress levels). What Saru is experiencing is not unknown in our world. But it is slowly being ignored. Partly because it is too easy for our Western ‘all-consuming’ society to see it once on the TV, sigh with an “oh, that’s awful” and then move on to the next media highlight.

AHMAD2

Taken from Magnus Wennman’s photo essay, “Where the children sleep”. This is Ahmad, 7yo. He is one of the too many children, sleeping on the streets at Hungary’s closed border. They were forced to flee their home, and now know even sleep is not a free zone. Follow the link to see more of the essay and learn how you can help. – http://darbarnensover.aftonbladet.se/chapter/english-version/

I get it. Sometimes the global problems can be a bit much for us to deal with it. We can feel overwhelmed with this horrible news and be uncomfortable with the feelings of inadequacy from not knowing what to do. I GET it. I feel the same way. Not everything is geeky in our Lair. We still want to take over the world because it seems like the only way to learn how to FIX this.

But Saru is not just about the refugee crisis. ST:DSC is not just about war zones and military conditioning. In fact, when Saru explained how he was born afraid, I didn’t even compare it with war.

It made me think of a situation I had seen earlier the same day, in my very own street.

I was walking with Zaltu to pick up Sinister and Nefarious from school. In a short distance up the hill, I could see a couple walking towards us, holding hands. The only thought to cross my mind was, “I need to move over so we can all fit on the footpath.”

About a minute later, as we were about to cross paths, I noticed one of the couple abruptly let go and throw down the other’s hand. And this action filled me with sadness.

The couple were two men.

The look on one man’s face was a little fearful like he was nervous or afraid of what *I* might say or do because he was holding hands with a man.

There was nothing I could say or do, without making everyone feel even more uncomfortable. What I wanted to do was tap them on the shoulder and say, “If you want to hold hands, do it. I have no issue. It shouldn’t matter if I did. Love is love.”

It hit me when I was watching Saru, how this must feel in a relationship.

Imagine having your relationship, every relationship, born in fear. Imagine the beautiful, ‘new love’ high you feel with a fresh relationship…but it is tempered with the born-fear of not being able to share your love with the world. Imagine feeling that EVERY TIME you start a new relationship.

Imagine that hypervigilance with an everyday activity like starting a relationship.

This is why I love Star Trek.

Because the characters, the stories, the whole damn franchise, is presented in a way where anything is relatable. Everything is a conversation starter. There is always something that triggers my thinking on issues in my every day.

I want to see more. I want to see more social commentary. I want to see more discussion about the dark side of wartimes, even in Utopian settings like Star Trek. I want to see more of Saru, overcoming his genetic preconditions (or at least learning how to use them better).

I especially want to see more ST:DSC to encourage me to look at my immediate world in a new way. I have a lot of respect for a show able to provoke my thoughts on how to make it a better place.

That’s my Star Trek.

Star Trek Discovery - title

 

PAX Aust 2017: Refuel

PAX is huge. Not just as a global convention, but in Melbourne it takes up every corner of the Convention Centre. A three-day-pass feels essential to be able to see everything.

That level of “walking” takes some serious refuelling. And you don’t want to gorge yourself on any convention-centre-collection. You are in The Zone; The Geeky-Gaming Zone. Respect the zone.

Melbourne has an amazing array of food options. Downstairs from my accomodation is a 24-hour pizza shop that tastes a LOT better than I expected. Two blocks up is a beautiful health store with a plethora of muesli choices for breakfast. But none of these really feed my geeky mood. So I went a-hunting!!

Dinner: 8Bit

Geek burgers for PAX

231 Swanson Street, Melbourne

This is a corner-store burger joint, with all the atmosphere of quaint burger joint and the bonus points for geeky references.

Geek burgers for pax
Every burger is gaming related. It’s PAX-paradise!! The prices are a little daunting at first but these burgers are high value. I ordered the 1Up mushroom (with added bacon), with a side of sweet potato chips and a Nutella milkshake. It filled me from early dinner right through to late breakfast the next morning.

Geek burger for pax in Melbourne

Dessert: Nitro Lab

188 Bourke Street, Melbourne


Around the corner from 8Bit, Nitro Lab is located on Bourke Street. A small store front with street-side seating, the real highlight comes from watching them make it.

They use liquid nitrogen to chill the ice cream!!

Geek dessert for PAX in Melbourne
They have a very friendly selection from the menu: gluten-free, dairy-free, and chocolate-free… Wait. Why would you even DO that?!?

The added charm comes from the syringe of sauce you can add. A syringe! This place was made for me!! I ordered the passionfruit cheesecake with chocolate syringe.

Geek dessert for PAX in Melbourne
It was soooooooo good. I am fighting the urge to go back.

Geek dessert for PAX in Melbourne
Let me know of other geeky haunts around Melbourne, or your local geek-meet. We all need to refuel for these events.

BTW: my PAX Highlights will be over on GeekMom in a week or so. Stay tuned for updates!

Tram travel around Melbourne for PAX

Essential tram travel around Melbourne: The EG Mum Special

Cooperative Influenza

We have a rule in this family.

(*Well, to be honest… I have a rule and a 50/50 chance of it being obeyed*)

“Thou shall have one and only one parent sick at any given time. One shall be the number thou shalt have and the number of sick parents will be one. Two shalt thou NOT have. Two is right out.”

I’ll give Evil Genius Inc full credit—we have only had one parent sick at any time over the last month. For almost two weeks, it was me.

And to be fair, it was the spawnlings who ganged up on me. Usually, two kids out of three sick at home at the same time, with late nights played out in a twisted sense of tandem-comforting needs. So I pulled out the only arsenal I have to stop them from attacking me: Cooperative Tabletop Games.

Worked like a charm.

Cooperative Influenza Title

Family Friendly Cooperative Games

When spawnlings are sick, the competitive drive sharpens to the point of snarkiness. A little snark is okay (I consider it healthy) but a lot of snark when you are already really sick… Well, that’s just mean.

Cooperative games are so much better for sick kids. By ‘cooperative games’, I mean the tabletop games where you play with other people and gang-up on the ‘Game’ and not the parents. There is usually a common goal to achieve as a team, and The Game will create a bunch of problems to prevent you.

Cooperative games come in a range of styles and age-groups. Here’s our Top Three:

 

Orchard (Haba) – 3-6yo

Orchard is a go-to favourite for Zaltu (who just turned 4yo last week), and a happy choice for the older two. It’s not their favourite but they will often suggest playing it with Zaltu and keep her entertained for a solid half-hour or so.

Orchard 02

The Aim of the Game is: to collect the fruit from the trees before the Raven steals it all. Each player takes a turn rolling the single six-sided die; there are four colours representing the fruit, plus a picture of a basket and a raven. If the die lands on a colour, you collect a piece of fruit: green/apple; yellow/pear; blue/plum; red/cherry. If it lands on a basket, you collect any two of your choice.

If it lands on the Raven, you have to place a piece of the Raven puzzle in the middle of the board. Everyone is working together to collect all the fruit as a team BEFORE the Raven puzzle is completed.

I also reviewed this game in a bit more detail over at GeekMom. The game is beautiful in its simplicity and intuitive for younger spawnlings. The physical make of the game is equally beautiful with wooden carved pieces for the fruit in the trees, lots of bright bold colours, and cute baskets for collection. It packs away easily, a particularly attractive feature when playing with young spawnlings.

Orchard 01.jpg

The best part is how willing the older two are to play. Orchard is a fairly quick game to play, so they are willing to set up a game or two with Zaltu before we head over to their preferred choice.

Forbidden Island (GameWright) – 10yo+

We originally had this game on the iPad—and then the iPad died. *insert sad panda face* It was a brilliant cooperative game to play during our campervan travels around New Zealand a couple of years ago. This and our digital copy of Ticket to Ride have both been sorely missed.

And then EG Dad scored a hard copy of Forbidden Island and the spawnlings rejoiced!! Seriously, this game is so popular with Sinister and Nefarious, they were reading the blurb of the game early today…instead of comics. They have already planned out this coming weekend with gameplay time.

Forbidden Island 01

The Aim of the Game is: to escape the island with your treasures and ALL members of the team before the waters rise up and swallow the island whole. Once again you are a team, each player having a specific role with specific skills. You might be the pilot, who can transport players all over the island AND off the island when you complete your goals. You might be the diver (Sinister’s favourite), allowing you to move through flooded channels around the island. You might be the engineer, able to save more areas of the island. No matter who you are, you are all working together.

Each player’s turn is followed by The Game’s Turn. That’s right, minions: The Game draws cards and floods various areas of the Island while you are taking turns to explore. The game ends when your team collects all the treasures and escapes, win…or the Island floods, lose.

This is a genuine cooperative game where you have to communicate with the team and work together when planning out your next move. If you run off ahead without your teammates, you will miss the opportunity to capture the treasure or miss the rescue helicopter. This game rewards those who can communicate with others. That’s why it works so well when you’re sick: it forces everyone to slow down and make time for every member of the group.

The age recommendation for this is 10yo but Nefarious has been playing with little guidance since he was 6yo. If you have spawnlings who can read, who can talk through ideas, and who genuinely want to give it a go working with the rest of the family then this game will be fine for you.

Pandemic (Z-Man Games) – 8yo+

Interestingly enough, Pandemic comes with a lower age recommendation and yet I would put it slightly higher on the complexity. Nefarious and Sinister have been playing this with us for a few years, and often require a little guidance. If I were to make suggestions on age: I would be fine with the spawnlings taking Pandemic to school for the Year 5 classes and above; Forbidden Island possibly year 3 or year 4.

Pandemic is really the perfect game for playing when you’re sick. There is nothing more satisfying than knowing you can take a whole continent down on this influenza trip with you. It is also a great lesson for teaching the spawnlings how easy it is for a virus (like influenza) to travel around the world. They have a healthy new respect for the World Health Organisation and vaccinations.

Pandemic 01

The Aim of the Game is: to spread your team across the world to treat and cure diseases. Like Forbidden Island, each player has a separate role with their own unique skills aiding the team. As you meet up, you can exchange cards to discover cures and set up treatment/research centres. If your team can cure all four diseases, you win! However, once again The Game is out to stop you. For each player’s turn, The Game also has a turn, spreading infections and outbreaks across any country.

It’s a real shock to the mind as you watch the ‘virus tokens’ slowly build up across the board and then suddenly burst into an epidemic. At one point, I was tempted to simply pour a bottle of Panadol all over ‘The World’ and walk away, like some bad-ass pseudo-pharmacist pretending to stop the spread of disease (and really just hoping that sucker will disappear during my next nap).

If it sounds a little similar to Forbidden Island, then you may recognise the same game designer Matt Leacock. He is a game-guru when it comes to designing cooperative games. The difference between Forbidden Island and Pandemic is in the mechanics of the player movements. You are still limited to where you can go and subsequently how much you can do, however, Pandemic has clearer paths to plan with. There is also a greater sense of “big picture” with Pandemic, while Forbidden Island has a more isolated story-line to it. I know of some parents who also use Pandemic as a geography learning-tool. I can definitely see how that works.

 

The good news is we have survived the Evil Genius Influenza of 2017. The better news is we maintained our sanity and camaraderie, with the help of some nifty tabletop games. All three age groups entertained equally and without electronics and bloodshed—if that’s not an EG Parenting win, I don’t know what is!

Orchard was provided to me for review purposes, both here and on GeekMom. Forbidden Island and Pandemic are our own copies. All games can be purchased through Good Games, both online and in-store. I do not receive any financial benefit or sponsoring from Good Games for this article, though I will not deny that my local store knows me by name and credit card number…

Marriage Rights v Marriage Rites: Why Marriage Equality is Overdue in Australia

 

Same-sex_marriage_cartoon_(18634736453)

If anyone knows the original artist of this cartoon, tell me in the comments.

 

 

Fun fact: EG Dad and I were never originally sold on the idea of marriage. To be perfectly honest, the biggest selling point was the party.

We spent months planning “The Reception” (almost as much time as we spent planning the honeymoon). We were going to have a marquee with a string trio playing variations of modern classics; fire-dancers would entertain outside; offerings would be given to the trees in the park; guests would arrive by ferry across the river. All four pagan elements would be invited for what would have been a night of absolute celebration. We had the venue (park) picked out, the savings plan underway, the entertainment was booked. The celebrant wasn’t organised yet, because … well, we weren’t really thinking about the legalities.

We kind of took it for granted our de facto relationship had the same legal rights as married couples. We had been living together for around five years…

Then I fell pregnant with Sinister. And being the good little legal professional I was back then, I learnt how wrong we were.

In fact, this is when we learnt that de facto relationships (and especially same-sex relationships) do NOT have equal rights to married couples. For example: When travelling overseas (eg. for a honeymoon), we would need to take the extra paperwork to prove both of us are parents. In most countries (including Australia) married couples travelling together with kids are automatically assumed to be the parents.

The thing is, the legal rights of our de facto relationship were always a little more vulnerable than a married couple. We just didn’t realise it until we factored in children.

Same-sex couples? They realise it from DAY 1.

They have added issues of proving their relationship when one of them is in the hospital. They have added issues of proving legal parent status. And I have heard from one family, passports to travel overseas are a paperwork nightmare.

Now, there is NOTHING in my sexuality or EG Dad’s sexuality that makes us better parents than those in same-sex relationships. So why should same-sex relationships be denied the same legal rights and simplification?

Equal marriage rights will NOT change any existing married couple. Hell, they won’t even change the marriage rites except for one small statement: instead of being between ‘man and woman’, it will be between ‘two people who love each other, to the exclusion of all others’. Isn’t’ that essentially what it is supposed to be anyway?

This will not change YOUR existing marriage. This will not devalue or demean ANY existing marriage. If you’re already married, then here’s a tip: This has NOTHING to do with you.

But it does change the rights of same-sex couples. It is about equal recognition and equal rights. It is about validating their relationship in the eyes of their loved ones AND most importantly, in the eyes of The Law.

And this should NOT be settled by a plebiscite or postal vote. It should be done by the politicians in the parliament where they are supposed to be doing their job. You know, like so many other nations have done already.

But here we are. And now we have an obligation… nay, a duty to equal the legal rights. If you still want to vote no, then recognise you do not believe in equal rights. Own it. Be honest with yourself and others. Because once you tick that box, it is a slippery slope trying to differentiate between which human rights you think are acceptable and which are not.

If you vote yes, then you are a part of protecting ALL rights. Because we cannot ask for rights to protect us if we do not offer the same protection to all.

Equal Marriage Rights will mean Equal Marriage Rites. That’s all any of us want.

That and the huge fabulous party I will be invited to the next day.

480px-Equal_Marriage_Wedding_Cake.jpg

 

International Friends and National Trees

There are so many ‘official’ days or ‘recognised celebrations’; it is hard to keep up with them. Pizza Day. Tiger Day. Red Shoe Day. This social responsibility with my geek calendar is exhausting.  Believe me, I try.

And then one day, when the planets are aligned and you stick your tongue out to the side at the correct angle… BAM! You score a two-for-one you can work with.

tree hug

Sunday 30 July is International Day of Friendship, as recognised by the United Nations. It’s a day to promote solidarity of the human spirit.

Buddy. Bro. Mate.

That network of people who listen when you rave about the last Doctor Who episode, whinge about the Australian Senator with the tin-foil hat, and cry about the state of the Great Barrier Reef.

Sometimes they are fellow-parents you catch up with for a coffee every month or so. Sometimes they are the lovely ladies you meet with to talk about comic books and superhero movies and chocolate brownie recipes. Sometimes they are a roughly-thrown-together bunch of scruffy looking nerf-herders who are trying to convince you to travel all the way over to the United States of America to join their cosplay. BTW: I’m totally in.

And this is where I love the internet. I’ve said it before: the internet is awesome for friendship. Not just for me, but for the spawnlings too. Take Zaltu, for example. She has this amazing friendship with the daughter of a minion over in the States. Let’s call our spawnlings Z1 and Z2.

International Day of Friendship

 

These girls chat about everything over Facebook Chat. They show each other their Super Hero Girls, they give tours of their bedrooms, they talk about dance moves. When my phone starts having a long series of buzzing fits, I know Z2 is sending Z1 a bunch of stickers and GIFs through Facebook Chat. And I know my bundle of joy is returning the favour to her friend… usually at 2am in the US morning, thanks to time zones (we have finally figured out how to use this to our advantage – teaching the girls about day/night and summer/winter… see, we’re educational and stuff).

Zaltu has friends at preschool and in the neighbourhood, but not all of them have the same interests. And not all of them want to talk about Wonder Woman for the umpteenth time. Yeah, I don’t understand that either. But this is where the technology works so well because I can show her a real person, just like her, who DOES want to talk Wonder Woman. It’s a bit like those pen pals ever so popular during my childhood. Except Zaltu can SEE her friend and talk with her in real time. For Zaltu, that’s what makes a true friend: support, connecting, and availability. It really doesn’t change much as we grow up older.

Now, before you get all excited about celebrating your friendships all over the internet I have a bonus for the Australian readers.

Sunday 30 July is also National Tree Day. Which means you can look twice as savvy by combining the two! Take your friend out for a picnic under a tree. Or plant a tree in honour of a special friend. If your special friend is far away, go and hug a tree instead.

tree-friend-day.jpg

Don’t be overwhelmed with the social calendar of the internet. Choose your days wisely. Look for overlaps to instantly double your cool geek status. But most importantly, stick with the ones that mean something to you as well. There’s no point in celebrating a day if you aren’t doing the celebrating part.

This one is easy. Friends + Trees. Zaltu is already heading over to the tree with my phone for some Facebook Chat… wait, that’s MY phone… DAMN IT!!

And The House of Pun

My grandmother is always telling me:

“Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.”

Yeaaaaahhhhhh… that doesn’t fit our household.

We pretty much live in a cyclone of sarcasm, dry wit, and punishing puns. 

Seriously. We have pun wars. At the dinner table. Regularly. Sometimes they are really really bad. And those are often the best ones. 

It’s like a garden of puns. And none of us can leave it alone. 

… hehehe …

There are rules: 

  • Nothing personal, especially no name calling;
  • Must be contextual, stick with the theme of what’s happening right now;
  • Must be with good intent, encouraging others to join in. Nobody wants to excluded or ostracised.

It’s all fun and games until the spawnlings throw it back at me.
Tonight I had to go and remind the two older spawnlings to quiet it down. Zaltu was already asleep and I said “I swear… if you wake her … I’ll … make your holidays …”

Yeah. Lame. And it really sucks because I know that they know I’m pathetic at empty threats. Especially since they replied, with pitch-perfect sarcasm:

“And remind us again, exactly what that would involve? Like, step by step details…”

Damn. Them. 

They kept to the rules. And they called my bluff. I don’t usually bluff. I suck at lying so if I say something, you know it’s going to happen.

There is nothing as frustrating as the anger at your spawnlings throwing your own words back at you… and the pride of them doing it in the best way possible.

Go on. Share stories of your kids using your own words against you. We’re all friends here. I won’t tell…