Pokemon: 20 Years of Taking My Money

For 20 years, Pokemon has been taking my money. 20 YEARS!! Holy crispy Charmander! The calculations are sound: My younger brothers were in the first wave of fans; the Spawnlings are in the current wave. And with the latest money-sucker game now available on my iPhone (Pokemon Go)… well, that’s a lot of money to pay-out over such a sustained period of time. What could possibly appeal to two separate generations and maintain such high levels of fandom?Pokemon-20Bday-Cake-1

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The Normality Of ‘In-Between’

There no longer seems to be a grey area. No ‘kind-of’.

No ‘In-Between’.

You are expected to be either completely for the cause, or completely against it.

Mediocre - Featured

Sometimes, this makes sense. For example:

  • Domestic Violence – completely against
  • Equal Marriage Rights – completely for
  • Secular education – absolutely and completely secular
  • Lycra in my cosplay – no way, uh-uh, not for me

But there are some things that are not life/death, or even moralistic in their conundrum-drumming.

Today’s example of “Taking your advocacy for a First World Issue too far” is gender-specific clothing.

I’m talking pink for girls, and blue for boys.

Now, before you get all defensive and start muttering for Thor’s sake, woman – can’t we just let kids wear what they wantthat’s my frackin’ point!!

We don’t do gender specific clothing in EG Inc. The spawnlings can wear whatever they want (outside of school uniform requirements). I seriously cannot be stuffed arguing this point with them. Pick your battles, minions.

But it amazes me how often complete strangers will point out how confused poor Zaltu will be because I have dressed her in blue today. Or if she is wearing torn jeans and a Batman t-shirt, then I at least saved the day by adding a pretty yellow bow.

Zaltu-Batman

Apparently, unless she is wearing a skirt she must automatically be in the extreme Tom-Boy camp. But if she happens to wear a t-shirt with a pink flower on it, then clearly she is in the extreme Pretty Girl camp.

I have this one particular shopping centre Zaltu and I frequent about once a month – we buy the requirements, and then stop to watch the ice-skating with a milkshake and a doughnut.

And every time, every time, I am admonished by some absolute stranger on my parenting. More often, it is about Zaltu’s outfit. Apparently, this week I was lucky I had remembered to put the pretty bow/clip in her hair to stop from confusing her gender identity. Poor Zaltu was only wearing her favourite jeans and blue dolphin shirt.

Over the last year, my responses have been progressing from “Thankyou for noticing her favourite hair clip WITH her favourite-colour shirt” to “At what point between your table and ours, did you think it was okay to come over and pass judgement on a two-year-old?”

EG Dad says I’m doing it all wrong.

He thinks I should be submitting all comments to scientific evaluation:
TPB-Posterity

“Now, for this survey, on a scale of 1 to 10 – how much do you think I should care about your opinion on my daughter’s outfit?

Okay, now on a scale of 1 to 10 – how much do you think you can @#$% off?

And remember, this is for posterity, so please – be honest.”

Whatever happened to simply being a kid who likes clothes?

Why do we have to join any extreme group on this issue, or any issue that doesn’t involve basic human rights and equality? I don’t think Zaltu (or her brothers, for that matter) care about whether she is wearing a pink shirt for all pretty girls out there.

 

She is simply wearing a shirt because I told her she has to wear a shirt to play in the park next door. It’s a little cold outside.

I am all for encouraging children to wear whatever they want. However, this should not then make them the pin-up poster for the cause. It should not be their social uniform every day, to the point they are interrogated if they wear something else the next day.

It has become so prevalent, where even though I picked up a wicked pair of boots today, I cannot talk about it to anyone without the awkward feeling of explaining myself.

I’m not a Tomboy. I’m not a Pretty Girl. Neither is Zaltu. Nor are most other females I know.

Zaltu-TARDIS

We are not walking talking stereotypes for you to label for your marketing or judgemental pleasure. We are not dressing to fit the category you are trying to shove us into. Just because we are female does not mean we have to be the same as all females all the time. If I bought a pair of shoes today, that does not make me a ‘girl’. If Zaltu plays with Lego Friends today, that does not mean we are abandoning all equal rights in play. If I choose not to take the spawnlings to see the new Ghostbusters, it does not mean I am spitting in the face of ‘girl power’ (thank you Lisa, for a damn good article about this).

We are somewhere ‘In-Between’ and we shouldn’t have to justify, defend, or explain that to anybody.

 

Safe School Bullies

Yesterday was Australia’s National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence.

So… the Australian Federal Government commemorated the day by removing almost anything of strength or substance from the national Safe School program.

The Safe School program was set up to provide free resources and support to schools around Australia. The program is meant to give staff and students the skills to combat ignorance towards sexuality, gender, identity, and anything else.

Sounds like the type of program that should be introduced to the Federal Parliament.

There’s a bunch of conservative scared backbenchers who aren’t happy about such open-minded policy. 

They ordered a review.

It came back praising the program for its strength and positivity, predicting great change to come from it.

Well, the Conservatives couldn’t have that.

So they ordered their own review of the review.

I don’t know whether to compare this to Blackadder or Yes, Minister. Either way, this crap should be kept in fiction, not polluting the real world.

And how does the Prime Minister respond to these fearful bullying tactics?

He ‘guts the program’.

  • It will now only be offered to High Schools;
  • Any third-party groups or links (including support or counsel groups) will be removed;
  • Removal of role-playing activities (despite child psychologists approving the initial programs); 
  • Parents have say on resources used in school (whether or not they support the program as a whole).

Hmmmmm.

Maybe… Just maybe… We should take a minute to think about what this program is meant to achieve. Who it is meant to help.

Let me share a story with you:

(Copy of letter sent by parent to school principal – shared with permission)

First, let me just say that I apologize for overwhelming you with what is a lengthy email. I want to be clear that I recognize all sides of the issue, lay no blame on the school, but I have concerns I need to share and am willing to work with all of you to address them somehow. 

I know kids will be kids. I totally own that L is not perfect. However, whatever is going on at school is really bothering him, and it’s starting to feel as though it’s endemic in the population. 

L is different. I get that. He’s not the norm in various ways. However, for the past two years, he’s had to deal with the gender confines at school. Today, while he was in class, someone he doesn’t know laughed at him for singing “Let It Go” with the girls. Or he perceived someone to be laughing at him because it has happened so many times that when he is singing with girls and kids are laughing that is his internalization. Several times in the last year, he has come home upset because his pink shirt or his pink lunchbox or his pink shoes or his Elsa shirt or his My Little Pony shirt has been mocked by other students for being girlie (both boys and girls, and all grades). As much as I recognize that boys calling others boys “girlie” as an epithet is how it has always been, I feel responsible to L, and whoever he chooses to be, to teach him to be better and to expect better.

We have talked at home about being yourself. We share videos of guys singing “Let It Go” or girls liking Star Wars. We have done everything we can at home to reinforce that it is ok to be yourself. We have tried very hard to take care of our concerns at home. 

However, today, L came home saying things like “I’d like to move to a desert or forest to be alone where no one can tease me.” When I suggested the forest since it has water and you need water to live, I got “I want the desert because then I’d die. I wish I was dead because then no one could make fun of me.” 

Perhaps some kind of awareness program would benefit all of the students. I can’t imagine L is the only non-conforming child, and he isn’t even particularly outside the norm. I know he is sometimes mean to other kids, but this has been very specific to being slightly outside the gender norm over the past two years. I cannot imagine he is the only one. 

No, dear minion. Your son is not the only non-conforming child. 

But his child-voice is small in comparison to the fearful conservatives who cannot face that which they cannot control.

Australia’s Safe School program was supposed to protect and enable kids like L, to defeat the bullying in schools. It is not about ‘sexually liberating children’; it is about giving children a safe environment to be themselves. 

Hey Conservatives! If you’re worried about the kids being liberated, it’s only because you recognise the poor mites are already restrained by your narrow views. 

The Safe Schools Program was meant to empower children against bullying.

Instead, all we have done is show them how the bullies win again. 
If you or someone you know is being bullied at school, there are some good tips shared at GeekDad – the organisations mentioned ARE US based, so speak to your local school about the equivalent departments in your jurisdiction.

Not sponsored or endorsed – just frustrated with the fearmongering politicians everywhere.

Coding Kids are Computer Gods

You’ve heard the saying. In fact, you may have even said it yourself:

“We live in a technological age.”

Well, you’re wrong. So unbelievably wrong.

We don’t live in a technological age – sure there is plenty of technological stuff happening around here, but the level of resistance amongst general minions is overwhelming.

In fact, most minions don’t like technology. Most don’t even like science. Heathens.

However, if there is money in it – oh yeah, we’re all for that. Pay someone else to create the convenience for us.

Unfortunately, it is starting to reflect in our school systems as well. A recent study by the Australian National Assessment Program (NAP) compared computer skills of students from 2010 to students from 2014. They discovered the average computer technology literacy of students in both year levels had dropped. Significantly.

Curious to know the skills they tested? Year 6 students were asked to search for information on a website, format a document, crop an image, and create a slideshow.

Year 10 students designed an online survey, used software to add new levels to an online game, and created an animated video.

Now, of course, there are pockets of computing genius all around the world, so you need to remember this report shows the average. Some schools are pretty awesome – encouraging their students to use tablets and computers wherever possible. Every now and then you find a teacher who has included web development as part of the Year 4 HSIE assessment (remember: it does not have to be separate from the usual class topics; computer skills should be part of the bigger picture).

But you would also be justified in wondering why the hell computer skills are so dependent on the interest of the teacher and not the damn curriculum?!?

For example, Hour of Code is coming up (check out my contribution over at GeekMom for some details). Of course, I asked our school if they were participating – thinking, ‘Hey, it’s end of year and reports are already done. It’s not like it would be interrupting anything, besides teachers moving rooms.’

Apparently yes, it would be interrupting (what exactly, was never clarified for me) and no, they are not interested in a free and readily available resource to introduce coding to our spawnlings. It is not part of the set curriculum so it depends on whether the teacher is interested or not.

So what’s a poor geeky family to do amongst all this digitized doom and gloom?

Climb up on the backs of those lowly minions and rise above them all!

From what I can gather, you have two options. Choose wisely, young minion.

  1. Outsource it

No, you do not have to send your little spawnling to some off-site call centre (no matter how enticing that may sound…)

There are many organisations, both private run and non-profit, offering after school coding workshops.

I recently talked with Nicola O’Brien, owner of Code Rangers (Sydney-based). The reason I singled her out is because one of Sinister’s school mates goes to Code Rangers after school and raves about it. He thinks it is awesome to be coding his own games in Scratch, talking about Robotics, and even looking at a bit of App design.

Code Ranger 01

Photo courtesy of Code Rangers

Code Rangers is fairly new in the scheme of things – started in late 2014, but is now running classes across the city of Sydney. Apparently, many potential EG parents are aware of the discrepancy in computer skills in the schools. Instead of fighting the schools, they opt for workshops like Code Rangers to fill the gaps. And business is good.

Here’s the good stuff – The ratio boy:girl is about 60:40, and there is no “special focus” for girls or ‘pretty pink keyboards’ and the like. The workshops are very matter-of-fact about presenting computer skills as they are to everybody. In fact, they recently had a team of four (4) girls make it through to the finals in the Australian Search for the Next Tech Girl Superhero comp.

 

Code Ranger 02

Photo courtesy of Code Rangers

Oh frack, that sounds so kitschy. But it was a really good program teaching the girls the many steps it takes to build an app (and not just coding). Next year, they are looking at more programs for all the spawnlings: like the Australian National STEM Video Game Challenge. But more on that another day.

The thing I like about Code Rangers is their workshop style, rather than basic tutorial style. They use programs like Scratch and Python, with a bit of HTML CSS and Javascript when the need arises. Yes, when it arises – because they run their workshops with the initiative of the kids. They look at what the kids want to work on as part of their projects and run with the inspiration from there. Less ‘working’; More ‘supervising’. A sandbox style of learning.

Code Ranger 05

Photo courtesy of Code Rangers

If you want to have a taste of Code Rangers, check out their Open Workshops in Chatswood as part of Hour of Code. Not in Sydney? Check out the Hour of Code registrations list on their website. It will show you any of the schools and private organisations participating in Hour of Code anywhere in the world.

  1. Teach the kids yourself

Don’t have anyone in your area. Then DIY, minion!!

If you have totally rad computer skills, go for it.

If you have rudimentary computer skills, you can probably still get away with some basics. Start with Hour of Code, and some Scratch. Learn with your spawnling. Show them self-directed learning and they will be ahead of you in no time. Hour of Code has both Star Wars and Minecraft tutorials this year. Check them both.

 

HOC_Student_Progress_Screen_Shot_coding_level_Solution_11-09-15

Image courtesy of Disney Interactive

I recently spoke to one minion who homeschools her kids, and includes a lot of computer based learning. Nicci’s two kids started to learn code and animation this year and love it. They started with Scratch, adding Hopscotch and Mindstorms as they progressed. The kids are 7 and 11, but already they are showing strong interest in robotics and game development. They’re not too bad with the videos either.

So what does Nicci think about all of this? She loves how the kids think they are just playing games, like Minecraft, and yet they are developing some amazing basic coding skills. Skills that open up whole new levels of communication in our digital world.  How’s that for EG Parenting?

So where does this leave us? Well, to be honest, you need to go away and do some research. Yes, YOU. I’m not doing everything for you, remember you’re the minion. I’m just sowing the seed of curiosity in your mind – a very evil thing to do, but what did you think this was? The Rainbows and Unicorns Fan Club?

 

Batman unicorn

Image by Rosewine / Available for purchase on Etsy

Seriously though, you need to decide to what extent your spawnlings are interested. And let’s face it – they need to know some basic computer skills. Be honest about your own capabilities, and then source out some fantastic support programs online. Check out Scratch, Minecraft, and Hour of Code.

Over the next couple of weeks, I am going to post more stuff about resources available for kids to learn coding in their own time. I’m also going to outline all the elements of coding and program development – you do realise that it is not just coding a shoot-em-up game, right? There are a whole heap of different styles and elements to consider when asking if your spawnling is interested in computer technology. It might be art. It might be fashion. It might be comparative mythology. That’s why we need to focus more on STEAM and not just STEM.

We do not live in a technological age – we have a small minority focused on the progress of technology. But the majority are still too busy shifting off the responsibility to others; be it through laziness or fear of the unknown. If we, as a society, want to rely on the convenience of technology we cannot continue to rely on others to design and develop it for us.

As evil genius parents, we need to encourage our spawnlings to take us out of the Commercial Age of Convenience and in to the Technological Age of which we all dream. One day, robots are going to rise up and take over the world from the piddly little minions. And when that happens, it will be the spawnlings who can design and build the technology who will be Leaders. Gods.

They will be Evil Genius.

EG Parent Award #58 – It’s Just a Patch

A little while ago, I came across an awesome woman, Rebecca Millar from Geek Grrls. A humble mum in Australia, who is studying and working while being … well, an awesome mum.

dolls

Photo courtesy Geek Grrls (Facebook Page)

At first, I shared her Facebook Page, aimed purely at her ability to transform the most horrid of Bratz or Monster High dolls in to beautiful offerings to many SF/F goddesses.

BTW: This project started out from the frustration in the lack of female dolls in geeky merchandise. An ongoing issue that is gradually changing as seen in the new DC Superhero Girls series. Gradual change.

But did Rebecca stop there? Hell no.

Recently her daughter has been diagnosed with a ‘lazy eye’; treatment being a patch over one eye during day (to encourage the lazy one to get its act together).

As with most young spawnlings, Rebecca’s daughter wasn’t exactly thrilled on this idea. Not in the slightest.

So Rebecca appealed to her daughter’s geeky-interests. “You get to be Nick Fury!!”

YEAH BABY!

And then her daughter said, Mum gets to be an Avenger too!!

nick fury patch

Photos courtesy Geek Grrls (Facebook Page)

How awesome is this?!? Cosplay to help medical treatment AND the love between parent and spawnling to share the cosplay!!

You, my dear lady, are an awesome parent. Evil Genius Parent – for finding a way to encourage the medical treatment, and encouraging your daughter to include you in her fun. Double points.

Forensic Friday #7 – Archaeology

Life skills. It’s all about the life skills.

And with spawnlings, it’s all about how you SELL those life skills.

Today, let’s focus on cleaning.

*that choking, warbling sound you may hear in the background is EG Dad as he cracks up laughing, then stumbles across the EG Lair, stepping on the many carefully placed Lego mines before collapsing in a fit of disbelief, mumbling “reality has finally imploded”*

Obviously, cleaning is not an easy life skill to sell to spawnlings … until now. 😀

Introducing Archaeology 101 – Toddler edition

IMG_8192[1]

Curious George’s Dinosaur Discovery – Zaltu’s 2nd favourite cosplay

Even if you are new here, surely the moustached lady would indicate to you how much we like to cosplay.

Either that, or I’m Maltese. Which I am – about 1/4. But I digress.

So it should come as no surprise that the spawnlings love to dress up, almost every chance they can. Zaltu (the 2yo) is currently enamoured with Curious George. Loves the monkey – loves the mischief. Good fit really. Her current favourite is Curious George’s Dinosaur Discovery.

For today’s Forensic Friday (because I really want to get back into this particular theme), I decided to give Zaltu her own mini Dino Dig Site. Problem being, I don’t have any real sand or dirt to use. And she has her 2yo-molars playing around, so we still have a “mouth-obsession” thing going on.

While I was thinking around the supplies in the Lair, Zaltu decided she wanted to bake a cake… and pulled out one of the bags of flour. All over the kitchen floor. Followed by a toppled bottle of Canola Oil.

Now, clearly I am a bad blogger. I cleaned up the mess before realising the photo opportunity. BUT as I was cleaning up the mess (*yes, EG Dad is still giggling about me cleaning*) I noticed the change to the flour.

IMG_8184[1]

When the oil and flour mixed to together, it didn’t clump disastrously. It sort of smoothed the flour a bit. Like a silky coating. So I mixed some in a container. And added a little powdered colouring (the colouring you would use for chocolates or other oily based things).

And look at that! I made some lovely soft “sandy” flour!

Next step, adding a few dinosaurs in. Then, give it another shake around to cover the dinosaurs and we have our own mini dinosaur dig.

Before you go “that’s not very forensic”, you need to realise it doesn’t stop there. In fact, all of this is preparation work. Any true EG Parent or Mad Scientist (or both, if you’re really special) will tell you the hardest work is in the preparation.IMG_8193[1]

And any archaeologist will tell you their job is 90% cleaning up, 8% saying “I think I found something!!” and about 2% being something worth finding.

“Oh , well,” the scientist said. “It’s not a bone. Just a rock.”

The lesson that comes out of this little Dino Dig Set is to teach the spawnlings about the attention to detail required in this area of science (being both archaeology and paleontology). It involves: digging; sifting; brushing; cleaning; analysing; cataloging. It is a painstaking process and can be quite boring for a long period of time. But when you DO find something, it is amazing, exhilarating, and down-right awesome.

IMG_8189[1]With a few extra pieces of equipment (like a brush, mini-scoop and a notebook filled with dinosaur stickers to tick off her finds), Zaltu has already started learning about this process. At the same time, she has been learning the life skills of cleaning every nook and cranny of her dinosaurs. She has been loving the cosplay of this particular book. We even catalogued the dinosaurs she found.

Now I’m just waiting for Nefarious and Sinister to come home and tell me off for putting Jurassic dinosaurs (like Stegosaurus) with Cretaceous dinosaurs (like Triceratops). That’s fine – this is where the Paleontology is going to kick in. Way to give yourself more work, spawnlings.

All in all, I was able to clean up a mess, start my “Forensic Friday” posts again, give Zaltu a lesson in how to work a dig-site/crime scene AND teach her how to clean up.

I think I’ll go and eat some chocolate now.

Ingredient List

  • About 4 cups of flour (I used Self-Raising Flour because it was spilt over the floor at the time, but any flour will do. I don’t think the SR Flour will create zombie dinosaurs, but one can hope)
  • About 1/2 cup of oil
  • About teaspoon of powdered colouring
  • Small dinosaur toys to bury

Mix it together. Really well. That’s it.