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Episode 153 - Farewell 2015 LIVE Hangout

Hey Geeks, 

My apologies that I'm posting this episode so late. I was out of town for most of January and living with very limited DSL... the kind where it's impossible to stream anything or have two computers working online at once. 

I don't think I have ever been so frustrated in my entire life! (So if you even have to guess, I am that person who turns into a monster when the internet is slow.)

So I am just getting our January hangout posted as a podcast episode. We had a great time talking about our favorite geek moments from 2015 and we spent a great deal of time talking about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. There are spoilers galore and a pretty heated discussion (on my part!) about trolls who post spoilers on purpose. Some people suck!

As always, we would love to hear from you about your favorite geek moments of 2015. What was a highlight for you?

Our next hangout is scheduled for February 21st at 2pm Pacific. We would love to have you hang with us or send us topics you would like us to discuss. 


As a teaser, look for some changes coming up in the very near future with the site.... 

Until next time, game on!

Episode 153


STEM And Art Go Together

"Circle Limit III", M. C. Escher

Just like gaming, art has always been a part of my life. As early as I can remember, there were things being painted, stitched, molded, fired, glazed, frosted, sewn, arranged, or built in my house. My mother was the one who taught me, “I can do that.

This past weekend I visited the NC Museum of Modern Art and saw their Escher and Leonardo exhibit — both are very influential artists in my life.


Memories from my childhood are like animated gifs — only a few seconds long, but poignant.

A couple of those gifs come from a 1971, English dubbed, Italian mini-series called The Life of Leonardo da Vinci. It's a four-hour, live action depiction of the life of Leonardo. Thrilled, but not surprised, I found the entirety of the mini-series on YouTube.

The Life of Leonardo da Vinci, part 1, time stamp 01:09:44 shows Leonardo’s fascination with human anatomy.

My father was a history buff so I’m sure that’s why we were watching, but I couldn’t tear myself away. This man was fascinating. And, even though I didn’t realize it at the time, the reason I was drawn to him was because he was also a man of science. This was brilliant — you can be both visual and scientific.

The Life of Leonardo da Vinci, part 2, time stamp 28:38 shows Leonardo’s epic failure at a technique used to quickly dry oil paints

From October 31, 2015 to January 17, 2016, the Codex Leicester was on display at the NCMA. The 500-year old notebook contains Leonardo’s theories and experiments about water as well as astronomy, including inventions to perform many of those experiments.

"Codex Leicester", Leonardo da Vinci

The writing is delicate and economical on the page with a two-inch margin for tiny illustrations. Looking at the pages I was torn between, “he touched these!” to trying to absorb as much about his technique and his thinking process as possible.

When I draw, I prefer the thinnest lines and most delicate details and an economy of space with a lot of planning. I assumed this made me less of an artist because I couldn’t work on giant canvases with broad strokes, yet, here I was looking at one of the greats and I got him.


"Drawing Hands," M.C. Escher, 1948, lithographThe Worlds of M. C. Escher exhibit was more extensive than I expected and contained his most iconic works from several decades of his life (1920-1970). And he continues to be a distinctive standard in both the art and scientific communities.

The exhibit was almost exclusively woodcuts and lithographs in monochrome. Looking at any of his works, you’re mesmerized by his mastery of perspective and pattern. And when you look at art like I do, with my face as close to the picture as the museum staff will let me, you see each image is composed of delicate, precise lines and wonder even more at how a human hand accomplished this.

Again, this artist makes sense to me. I love working in monochrome, creating three dimensions on a two dimensional surface, the printing process, and compositions that are precise and elegant. Escher’s work is the beauty of mathematics, my favorite subject in school.


Over the holidays my family took a trip to Bowling Green, Kentucky to visit the National Corvette Museum. Inspired by our uncle, Corvettes have always been the ultimate automotive plumunique in engineering and design. But as I moved through the exhibit, over and over I found myself saying, “It’s so beautiful.

Designed by Harley Earl in 1953 as a concept car, he created not only a machine of speed, but of beauty. In the automotive industry he was also a forerunner in hiring female designers.


Whether you’re a scientist or artist, go to a museum. It crosses all boundaries. See the architectural genius of Wright, the marketing illustrations of Mucha, the engineering feats of Leonardo... these are our superheroes and they inspire us in the possibilities we can achieve for beauty and good.


When Celebrities Die

I think I was about 12 years old when I first started thinking about what it meant to be part of a celebrity fandom. I had a pretty major crush on Julian Lennon. (In hindsight I'm pretty sure this crush stemmed from my love of The Beatles and the crushing reality that I couldn't for some reason legitimately have a crush on John.)

A cynical friend of mine said, "Why do you like him so much? It's not like you're going to meet him and get married."

She was right, of course, but I hadn't ever really thought I would meet and marry him. I just liked the way I felt thinking about what he might be like as a person and I can still conjure up those feelings when I hear certain songs from his album, Valotte.

My friend's comments didn't stop me from amassing quite a few celebrity crushes in my life, not the least of which is my almost life long crush on Wil Wheaton and my heady girl crush on Felicia Day. Both of those crushes stem from a place of appreciation, for who they are and what they've come to represent to me about myself, and about the power of popular geek culture.

This is what's important to us plebeians about celebrities. It's not often about who they are, really, or even the fact that we don't really know them (although we can't ignore the projection we do into those dark spots of identity that are left out of most public images). Each celebrity crush I've cultivated marks a specific time of my life, part of the evolution of my own identity, and often the identity of the celeb as well.

So I could understand another friend laughing at my crush on Jimmy Fallon because all she could see was his giggling, stoner face from SNL when all I see is the most excited, puppy like face of a new dad hosting The Tonight Show. Watching his excitement at being a new dad, and the love with which he talks about his daughter speaks to some of the same transformations I've gone through becoming a mom. 

Dear reader, you might be asking what does this have to do with celebrities dying? It's easy for me to understand how many people can have strong feelings about a celebrity passing away. It's like you lose a little bit of yourself along with them and that can mark the end of an era of your life as well.

I will forever remember David Bowie when I'm singing the painful harmonies on Rock Band 3 and will still cringe at his piercing stare as the Goblin King when I eventually share Labrynth with my daughter.

Alan Rickman became Snape for me. Never has an actor in a movie based on a book replaced the image I first had of the character until Rickman. His performance and his ownership of that character, transcended the screen and the page. I know I am not alone in this sentiment because the most outstanding internet memorial for him going around is a single lily placed by the potions classroom door at Hogwarts in London. 

And to this day, I still miss Robin Williams.

Oh, Captain, my Captain.


What celebrities hold a special place in your heart or mark a specific time in your life? Have you mourned their loss more intensely? 



Geek Review of 2015

2015 doesn't deserve any redemption from me but, for geekdom, it wasn’t a complete loss.


My reading challenge on GoodReads was 30 books. Killed it!

A great sci-fi story gets bonus points from me over other genres. It’s no surprise, then, that Superposition by David Walton is my fiction selection of 2015. The ‘science’ is physics and the ‘fiction’ is parallel dimensions. Throw in a murder mystery and you practically have my perfect story.

Even though I got a D in physics, Walton explains the science so that I not only followed the story, I was intrigued by the fictional concepts.

"Even if they are alive, they're not my family, are they? They're hers. My double's."1 - Alessandra

The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons has everything – medical history, ground-breaking science, mystery, and horror – what I learned about the brain made me scared of my own head.

Neuroscientists had long neglected the temporal lobes, so when Penfield zapped the temporal lobe of a female patient in 1931... her mind was transported back to... an unusually crisp and specific vision. Penfield, bemused, never followed up on this. (He remembered thinking at the time, "It was never intended that men should undertand [women] completely.")2


It was a great year for comics, as the increase in my subscriptions at Ultimate Comics will evidence. From such a massive, multi-talented market it’s extremely difficult to choose just one star. Forcing my hand, I’d say Descender published by Image, written by Jeff Lemire and drawn by Dustin Nguyen.

Nguyen’s imagery is mesmerizing and emotional. Lemire is a patient story-teller with respect for his reader’s intelligence.

(Other titles include DC’s reboot of Constantine: The Hellblazer, the political and alien sci-fi story, Letter 44, and the juxtaposed retro art work/sci-fi of Bitch Planet.)

Driller: Never trust a Hrrrman little-bot.
Tim-21: ... I am meant to trust my human companions.
Driller: Well, then, little-bot, I'd say the jokes on you.3

Click to read more ...


Game on Mom: Balancing Screen Time

Greetings, Geeks!

Welcome to 2016. To start the new year with a bit of a bang, I am starting a regular column (something completely new to me)! Game on Mom will be the place where I explore some of the challenges I face as a new mom with gaming and technology. I plan to publish a topic here once a month. For my inagural topic, I discuss screen time and young children.

I wasn't even officially a mom when the barrage of information against technology began and since then it has felt like a full frontal assault. For those of you without children, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests children under two be exposed to absolutely no screen time. None. No TV, no smart phones, no tablets. 

Screens are a regular part of the modern, developed life. I made the realization early on that my fascination with my phone and the other screens in my life (like the one I am typing this column on) was going to translate directly to my child. How could I expect her to avoid screens when so much of my life as a gamer, writer, and teacher is devoted to "screen time?" 

I felt like a hypocrite immediately. The phrase, "Do as I say not as I do" kept ringing through my head. I didn't (and still don't) know much as a new parent, but I knew that I didn't want to ask something of my child I could not ask of myself. 

So I cautiously entered the world of limited screen time. A single episode of Mister Roger's Neighborhood a few times a week right around her first birthday. I feel guilty putting that in writing... that is how ingrained it has become to believe screen time is bad. 

I watched a relationship blossom between her and Mister Rogers, a show I remember fondly from my own childhood. Granted, I have the privilege of being able to hand select the media my child is exposed to and starting with one of my favorites as a child was certainly enjoyable on several levels. She looked forward to "chatting" with Mister Rogers and it slowly became part of our routine. She began to show an interest in letters and numbers and farm animals and music. 

Granted, a lot of these interests would likely have emerged without Mister Rogers leading the way, but honestly, seeing her react to the gentle man in the red sweater that I loved as a child was one of the first among many moments, I am sure, of me falling in love with being a parent. The childlike wonder of Mister Rogers is the first of many shared experiences we now have. 

Have I faced challenges with screen time? Absolutely. Finding balance is difficult for adults and nearly impossible for a toddler. But it is a challenge that I am taking great reward in since I see it as a metaphor for much of living in the modern world: actively deciding which distractions are the best for you. 

To discuss:

Are you a parent? What are your thoughts or experiences with screen time? If you're not a parent, what you do think about kids using screens or watching TV?

For next time:

Ugga Mugga and I Love You  Lessons from Daniel Tiger.