Star Wars Excitement Building To Critical Mass

VR-TechyDadIt’s no secret that our family loves Star Wars. I’ve been a Star Wars geek for as long as I can remember. Some of my first actions, upon discovering the Internet, was to join a Star Wars Usenet group.

NHL is a fan also, but JSL is a super-fan. He will often break into Yoda speak and demanded to see the film immediately after seeing the trailer back in February. (Sadly, I doubted I’d have been able to contact JJ Abrams, much less convince him to show us the movie early.

Still, our wait is almost over. We’ve been whetting our appetites with the trailers, but in two weeks the main course will arrive.

Some might fear that the new movies will repeat the mistakes that the prequels made. If Yoda taught us anything, though, it’s that fear is the Dark Side and should be avoided. Still, I’ve been secretly praying that the movie will be more Empire Strikes Back and less A Phantom Menace.

Besides the trailers, I’ve indulged my Star Wars appetite by reading some fan theories about the movies. My favorite involves the much despised character, Jar-Jar Binks.

According to the theory, Jar-Jar was originally supposed to be an evil figure hiding in plain sight. He would have been a mirror image to Yoda’s first appearance as a crazy hermit. All of his "dumb luck" moments would really have been subtle uses of the Force. The theory actually is week thought out and I could see this having been the original plan before Lucas chickened out and kept Jar-Jar as pure comic relief.

Our latest Star Wars indulgence involves a piece of cardboard. Google Cardboard, to be exact. Google Cardboard is a virtual reality headset that is made of (you guessed it) cardboard as well as lenses and Velcro.  You can ride virtual rollercoasters, travel to distant lands, and dive under the water to swim with virtual fish.

I picked up a Star Wars/Verizon Wireless branded Google Cardboard viewer on Wednesday.  After downloading the Google Cardboard app, I launched the Star Wars app.  I’ve previously used the app to take selfies of myself with Vader and Yoda.  I even got frozen in Carbonite and tried on Leia’s locks.  With Google Cardboard, however, I was able to launch the Jakko Spy feature which transported me to a desert world.  The Millennium Falcon flew right overhead pursued by two TIE fighters.  After I stopped ducking, BB-8 rolled up to deliver a message.  Needless to say, I enjoyed this immensely.  Being able to be immersed into a Star Wars planet was amazing.  The boys fought over who went next and thoroughly enjoyed their off world trips.  Even B got into the act, cheerfully saying "Oh, hello there!" as BB-8 approached her.

More Star Wars Google Cardboard features are due to be released leading up to the movie itself.  If you didn’t get a Google Cardboard from Verizon Wireless, you could always buy one from Amazon or build your own.  Either way, one thing is for sure: Star Wars excitement is just going to build more and more here until we see the new movie.  A Jedi might not crave adventure and excitement, but we’re sure looking forward to those two things on the big screen when we see The Force Awakens.

It’s Palindrome Week!

I’ve been a math geek for as long as I can remember.  When I was in school, I would devise complex mathematical equations and then solve them.  That was my idea of fun.  I couldn’t imagine why anyone would hate math.

You might think that, as I got older, my math geekery died out.  It didn’t.  If anything, it grew as it found more areas of my life to work into.  I’ll read an article, blog post, or comment, and suddenly be overcome with the urge to solve a related problem.  That’s how many of my Extreme Geekery posts begin.  (I have another one on tap.)

My math geekery isn’t just limited to solving equations, though.  I also love certain kinds of numbers.  If I have a blog post with 495 words, I feel compelled to bring that total up to 500.  A few years back, on December 12th, 2012, I loved seeing the date turn to 12/12/12.  Few numbers fill me with delight, though, as palindromes.

In case you’ve forgotten the grade school lessons, palindromes are strings that read the same backwards as forwards.  For example, "A man, a plan, a canal, Panama" reads the same both ways.  You can have palindromes using numbers as well.  If you read 10,401 backwards, you get 10,401.

This week is a palindrome week.  It began with 5/10/15 (i.e. 51015), continued on with 5/11/15 (51115), then 5/12/15 (51215), etc.  Palindrome week will actually continue through to this coming Tuesday with 5/19/15 (51915).  It will end on the 20th since 5/20/15 isn’t a palindrome.

I was even happier when, on Palindrome Week, my car’s odometer read:


That’s palindrome mileage on palindrome week!

By the way, this post is 313 words long so this post itself is a palindrome.  I’m also posting it at 8:38 AM.  The math geek in me is very happy!

Meeting Heroes and Villains At Free Comic Day

On Saturday, the boys and I went to a comic book store for Free Comic Book Day.  Besides free comics, a big draw for my boys I seeing superheroes or other "geeky celebrities."  One year, the boys got their photo with Spider-Man, a Tusken Raider (from Star Wars), and a Stormtrooper.  Another year, they met the infamous Doctor Doom.  Last year, my boys got to meet Black Widow and the Joker.  A couple of days before Free Comic Book Day, I had read on the shop’s web page that Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy were going to be there.  Needless to say, my boys were really excited.

We lined up waiting outside of Zombie Planet in Albany, NY.  It was a beautiful day and though there was a crowd, they were doing a great job managing it.  While waiting in line, we saw a dad leave with his daughter.  She was dressed as Robin complete with cape, mask, and tutu.  It’s always wonderful to see parents getting their kids interested in geeky pursuits from a young age.  (I would have taken a photo, but people seem to get weirded out when random strangers take photos of their kids.  Go figure.)

NHL did have a mini-melt down at one point.  Waiting in lines isn’t always easy for those on the spectrum.  Especially pre-teens on the spectrum who hate having their photo taken and whose dad loves taking photos of everything.  Luckily, I was able to keep my cool and try to help NHL keep his.  (All too often, my Autistic fixations and NHL’s will clash and the results aren’t pretty.)

As we approached the front of the line, out trotted the Penguin.  My boys loved seeing him, but unfortunately we couldn’t get a photo of him right then.  It was time to walk up the stairs and get some comic books.

There was a limit of four comics each and three of us, so we were able to choose twelve total.  (A thirteenth came from a stop by a local library which was having a Free Comic Book Day event also.)




As we were picking our comics, we didn’t see any sign of Harley Quinn or Poison Ivy, but we did spot Black Widow again.  It was great seeing her again.  This year, it probably meant more to them meeting her as my boys have now seen all of the Marvel movies and so really know just what a great superhero Black Widow is.  Even if she doesn’t have any super powers, she can hold her own against any foe.  Just when you think you’ve got the upper hand on her, she reveals that she let you think that so you’d drop your guard.  She’s sneaky, strong, and very smart.


We were done getting our comics so we headed back downstairs and were about to walk out when HE walked in.  Slade Wilson.  Now, my boys know him from the Teen Titans cartoon show.  Pre-Teen Titans Go!, that is, though JSL is a huge fan of that show now.  JSL was so excited to get a Slade WIlson Imaginext toy from his brother on Chanukah.  (He loves playing with those and will spend hours coming up with story lines and running his characters through various routines.)  We just HAD to get a photo with him – but decided to leave quickly afterwards as it looked like he was itching to draw that sword.


Outside, we approached the Penguin.  Despite his reputation as a dangerous criminal, the Penguin seemed like a great guy.  We was waddling around waving to cars and greeting the crowds who showed up to the store.  That umbrella could have been really handy to get some shade.  (I think my body is still in "winter cold" mode and doesn’t know how to handle the sudden influx of warmth.)


And, yes, JSL has an Imaginext Penguin figure also.

We were about to leave and yet we still hadn’t seen Harley Quinn or Poison Ivy, but then we spotted Ivy.  She was walking through the crowd asking questions for a podcast she was running.  She graciously stopped so I could get a photo of her with my boys.  (Shhh… Nobody tell JSL but he’s getting an Imaginext of Ivy for his birthday next week.)


It was a disappointment to not see Harley Quinn.  She’s been a favorite of mine ever since Batman: The Animated Series (Mistah Jay!), but we definitely can’t complain having seen such wonderful heroes and villains.

Did you go to your local comic book store for Free Comic Book Day?  If so, what was your favorite part of it?

Note:  I did a little Internet digging to see if I could credit who played all of these great characters, but turned up empty until I looked up Poison Ivy.  It looks like she’s Amanda from  Thanks for helping to make our Free Comic Book Day memorable, Amanda, and hope that we didn’t interrupt your podcast too much!

Foam Lightsaber Games For Star Wars Day (Or Any Day For That Matter)!

lightsabersToday is Star Wars Day, also known as May The Fourth.  (May The Fourth as in May The Force Be With You.)  Unlike last year, we don’t have any particularly geeky activities planned.  It helped that May 4th landed on a Saturday last year.  Mondays don’t lend themselves to elaborate celebrations.

Still, we might battle using our foam lightsabers.  Here’s how to make foam lightsabers.  The parts only cost about $1 per saber and I can attest that they last.  After a year of some serious use (we get really into our lightsaber battles), they are frayed but definitely still usable.   Sure, foam might fly off when our sabers clash, but that just adds a bit more realism, right?

The boys and I have come up with a few lightsaber related games.  The first involves having two lightsabers per person.  You do battle and any hit on a person results in them dropping a saber.  Once they have all sabers down, a final strike kills them off.   Last player standing wins.  On Sunday, we came up with a variation.  There’s still the two lightsabers per person and dropping as you get hit.  However, we designated a spot as "out."  When a player was killed, they retrieved their sabers, went to the out zone, and waiting for someone to tag them in (by touching sabers with them).  Then they could return for battle.  Since it was just my boys and me, our loyalties wavered.  With a big enough group, though, you could have teams.  The last team to have member(s) still "alive" wins.

Another game we developed was lightsaber tag.  For this, each player is armed with a lightsaber.  One player is designated "it."  Perhaps, they get a special color of saber to show people who is "it."  The person who is "it" chases everyone else.  "It" tries to tag the other players with his lightsaber.  Instead of a simple tag-and-run, though, players can choose to stand and fight.  Of course, you can’t kill the "out" player and neither can they be killed.  But perhaps they can deflect blows that would have been tags and keep "it" at bay long enough until they can make their escape.

Then, there’s bubble slashing.  This is especially good for the younger players, but older players might enjoy it too.  First, get an automatic bubble blowing machine.  You can do this by blowing bubbles yourself, but the bubble machine can blow more bubbles on a more regular basis.  Have the players slash as many bubbles as they can.  You can call the bubbles incoming droid fighters or enemy blaster fire to give it a more Star Wars feel.  There is no scoring here.  Just the joy of destroying bubbles using foam lightsabers.

It’s amazing how much running around kids (and adults) can do with just some foam pool noodles and duct/electrical tape.  With the summer approaching and parents "looking forward" to the kids being out of school all day, having an activity where you could either sit on the sidelines having the kids tire themselves out without you getting exhausted or jump into the fray is essential.  If it’s a geeky, Star Wars related activity then that’s all the better!

Working Together To Beat The #Tabletop Pandemic

pandemicIt’s no secret that I love playing tabletop games. However, at times, my oldest has a tough time with them. When dealing with Autism, social skills can be tricky to navigate. Simple things like winning a game gracefully or accepting when you lose can spiral out of control.

During the second Passover Seder, a family member brought Pandemic for us to play. I had heard of it before but never really to look closely at it much less play it. When we realized it was a cooperative game, my boys and I got excited. Instead of trying to best each other to the goal, we would be working together to win the game.

Unfortunately, our first game got cut short by the Seder, but we loved that small taste so much that we ordered it a few days later.

disease-spreadingIn Pandemic, each player controls a medical professional working to stop four plagues afflicting the world. You collect city cards to come up with a cure while trying to battle the diseases back. As the game progresses, more cities become infected, some so much that they infect neighboring cities. If this happens too many times before you find all four cures, the game is over and you lose.

Each player’s character has a special trait. The scientist can find a cure with four city cards instead of five. The researcher can pass city cards to other players without needing to be in that particular city. The medic can cure all of the disease in a city in one move before a cure is found. Only by working together can you find the cures before time runs out.

So far, we’ve played the game quite a few times. We’ve won every time, but some of those games were pretty close. We were also playing at the easiest level. We might ramp it up next time.

I’d recommend this game for anyone looking to work together as a family. The game says it is for two to four players age 8 and up. My eight year old had little trouble picking up the rules. Younger kids can play but might need help understanding what moves they can make. Since Pandemic is such a great cooperative game, I could even see it being used as a casual office team building tool.

Pandemic is a great game that encourages cooperation. Instead of fostering an "everyone for themselves" attitude, it encourages players to work together towards a common goal. This can lead to not only a fun time, but some great life lessons be they to a child learning appropriate social actions or coworkers trying to pool their strengths to succeed.

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