52 Books – Week 2: The Great Gastby

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The Great Gatsby
By: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Pages: 180
Challenges: Dusty/Classic

Believe or not, The Great Gatsby was not required reading for me at any time during high school or college. The really odd thing is that I’ve never seen any of the movies and only had a vague idea what the plot was about (I knew it was set in the 1920’s and there was a girl names Daisy everyone was obsessed about).

This one was a dusty book challenge for me because I always pick up classics for super cheap, knowing I did want to read more classics, and that someday my daughter will need them for school, and they will already be on the shelves of our home. I always saw The Great Gatsby as the holy grail of classic books.

I wanted to really like this book and for it to become one of my all time favorites, but it fell a little flat for me. Perhaps that’s because, for some reason, I had it in my head that it was set on the west coast (perhaps San Franscico?) rather than the Long Island and NYC, so my expectations were thrown off course from the beginning. Not really sure why I thought that, just a misconception.

I like books with character development, but these character are very flat, and while the book is heavy with background expository near the end of the book, the only character I felt grew into his own was Nick – the narrator.  I wanted to know what happened to him after the book’s timeline, but like an impressionist painting, this book is a unfocused moment in time.

I wanted to fall in love with and root for Jay Gatsby. But for someone who seemed to have such drive to make his fortune, that drive deflated too fast when Gatsby realized it was based on an illusion. And that illusion was a twit of a girl. (Did woman really lay around like that in the 1920’s?). While many of the same situations still happen today, I find reading this as a very independent woman born after the feminist revolution that I could not connect with the female characters in the book.

I get that this is supposed to be about flawed character in a less than moral period of time. I think I just wanted for someone to take responsibility for his or her actions. Or at least a sign of remorse.

In the end, not unlike Gatsby’s dream of Daisy, the reality of reading this book, did not live to the hype I had envisioned around it. It just didn’t seem as epic as I thought it was. Perhaps if I had read it in a different time of my life, I could have related to the characters, but not now.

I just hope that Nick went home and found a real girl to marry, and not the girl he seemed to be writing home to with ambivalence.

Of course, this won’t stop me from going to see the new movie based on this film that is coming out this year, because Baz Luhrmann makes everything epic! and I think Leo will make an excellent Gatsby.

Next up: Wicked

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Fuzzy Dice Bag

No, it’s not a bag for fuzzy dice, but a fuzzy bag for gaming dice. Though, Boo would love to have fuzzy dice, in a fuzzy bag. This is the same child who mismatching socks is a way of life and who is thoroughly disappointed with herself if her clothes accidently match. But I digress…

My daughter, ladies and gentlemen.

My daughter, ladies and gentlemen.

Boo was overjoyed to get gaming dice in her stocking this past holiday. (Mismatching patterns, as requested – no matching pink dice set for this darling.) Spookydad thought it was a rite of passage to give her a Crown Royal bag to hold said dice in, but the kid was not much impressed with this option (just wait until college, sweetie, it will all make sense). So, since I was going to be home for part of winter break, I promised to take her to the fabric store, so that she could make her own bag and practice sewing on the sewing machine to boot. The kid has been very excited about learning to use the sewing machine.

My heart literally groaned when she announced she wanted to make the bag with fuzzy fleece material. Backstory: My sewing machine hates me. It has hated me pretty much from the moment I got it back in 2000 for making historical garb. I don’t know how I hurt its feelings… maybe I insulted its mother or disagree with its politics. But it hates me, and refuses to work on material thicker than muslin or other cotton blend. The needle bars starts chunking and suddenly you have the thread from the bobbin doubling and tripling up on the bottom side and the bobbin thread all stuck around the bobbin compartment. It’s not a pretty sight. Then I start threatening to replace it and it just gets ugly from there.*

So I had to add a disclaimer to the project for Boo: That we will try, but I can’t guarantee that she will be able to sew the bag on the sewing machine, and might have to hand sew the bag, because the machine is a kindred spirit to the Grumpy Cat.

So off to the store we went. The selection for fuzzy fleece was huge, so it took a bit. But Boo knew what she wanted the minute she saw it – a hot pink and black zebra pattern. She also asked if we could make a skirt out of the same material, so we bought extra material and a pattern of skirts.

We got home and dragged out the sewing machine and prepped it, cut out the material for the bag pieces and had at it. Within two seconds I hear the clunking and knew that the machine was laughing at us.

“REALLY? You think I’m going to sew that material?…. um, NO.”

So I pulled out the thread and gave it one more try for Boo’s sake, though I knew it was game over.

Nada.

So I set her up to hand sew the bag, but saw there was going to be a problem for a novice hand sewer like the kid. The pink/black material made it very hard to see the black thread while stitching. So we switched over to thick embroidery thread of a contrasting color. (You can see she choose bright blue.) So the first day she sewed the fold overs for the ribbon casing and the second day she sewed the body of the bag, we added the ribbon (two different colors, of course.) And we had a functional bag!

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The skirt will have to wait until such time that the machine is replaced (I’m thinking maybe as a birthday present.) Any recommendations for a sewing machine that likes materials like broadcloth, girl scout patches and fuzzy fleece?

* I am willing admit that the machine might hate me because of user error. I kinda just went out and bought a machine without any knowledge of how to use said machine and still only am a novice myself. Really should take a class along side Boo.

52 Books in 52 Weeks – Book 1: The Big Over Easy

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The Big Over Easy
By Jasper Fforde
Pages: 383
Challenge: Dusty book

Description: In The Big Over Easy, Fforde takes a break from classic literature and tumbles into the seedy underbelly of nursery crime. Meet Inspector Jack Spratt, family man and head of the Nursery Crime Division. He’s investigating the murder of ovoid D-class nursery celebrity Humpty Dumpty, found shattered to death beneath a wall in a shabby area of town. Yes, the big egg is down, and all those brittle pieces sitting in the morgue point to foul play.

I love Jasper Fforde and his Thursday Next series. I picked this one up a while back when I went looking for The Well of Lost Plots, but my local bookstore kept on insisting not to have it in stock. So I turned to this first installment of his “A Nursery Crime” series.

I loved mysteries when I was a child and teenager and read many a Nancy Drew and The Cat Who….. But got away from them in the last 2 decades.

Mr. Fforde is a master at witty writing and using real literature to create a whole new world full of puns and winks for the reader. You really have to be well read to even begin to catch half the references in his Thursday Next series. In this new series he leaves classic lit behind for nursery rhymes, fairy tales and even mythology.

To be honest, the first chapter or two were a little hard to get through, and I had started this book before, but put it aside, because it did not grab me enough to keep life from distracting me (thus why this fell into the dusty book challenge (which for those who don’t know, this is a book that has been gathering dust on your shelves prior to 2013.)

But I was home for the holidays and wanted something light-hearted to read, so I picked it up again, and I’m glad I did. While I do feel the book was light on character development (The first character you meet is Mary Mary and she definitely could have use more development), the point of the book is a mystery, and in Scooby Doo style it races to the finishing line. I am sure there is a lot of winks an nods to traditional mystery/private detective genre, but I’m not too versed in the Sam Spade, “hard boiled” (pun not intended, but side benefit)  theme, to catch all the references.

I think the highlight of the book for me, though, was the nod to nursery rhymes, fairy tales and mythology. I love reading (and watching) books and shows that take literature and twists or reinvents it.  I love Once Upon a Time, and Wicked, and the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. I like being in on the joke. So I was please with this book, though I would not rate it above The Eyre Affair.

Next up: The Great Gastby

New Year, New Chance

Starting this the first time around did not work out very well for me, so we’re going to try this again, with a little more structure. I’m going to try posting 3 times a week (at least) and each of the three will have a purpose:

A Book of the Week post: I am giving myself a goal of reading 52 books in 52 weeks based on this challenge. Not sure how realistic that is. So maybe I’ll at least post about what I’m reading for 52 weeks, with a personal goal of 12 books being the minimum goal. Added goal of at least 50% of those books being classics, alternating between quality reads and fun reads. I hope that if I read more, it will help to inspire Boo, who is not a reader by nature. I am in the middle of reading HP and the Goblet of Fire aloud to her at the moment, as we have read through the first three books in the past year (with a detour into The Lion, the Witch and Wardrobe). But this doesn’t count towards the challenge.

A Geeky post: We’re really into games at the moment, now that Boo is 8 and can really get into games that have a little meat. We’ve been inspired by Will Wheaton’s Tabletop and have been playing Ticket to Ride, Munchkin, Smallword, Apples to Apples, and got a couple more for Christmas. Hubby has also introduced The Secret World MMO to Boo over Winter Break, and she’s becoming a little expert (almost done with Kingsmouth!) Outside the gaming worked we have been participating in a reenactment group for the past year and my daughter is learning archery and wants to get into the arts projects end of things. So I’ll post about what geeky/artsy-type thing Boo or I did during the week (or didn’t get to).

The third post? I’m not honestly sure what that will yet. At least it will be one of those Wordless Wednesday picture posts. I’m also looking to try to do the 52 Weeks to an Organized Home (you can stop laughing now… breathe). Maybe I’ll write about that to keep me honest. The point is to write a post, and I’ll leave it a little flexible as to not block myself into an impossible box.

So we’ll see how this goes and hopefully 2013 will be a productive year on a personal level.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Boo’s behavior took a downhill slide over Christmas break. To the point that I wasn’t sure if she was going to make it to her 7th birthday. I’ll freely admit that parenting does not come naturally to me. So I have been looking for a behavior system that is effective for Boo and something easy enough that I won’t fall of the bandwagon after a couple days.

There were a couple of things I knew I wanted to incorporate into our system:

1) Boo’s “thing” is watching TV. And recently she has taken to using the computer to watch TV shows – actually one – Fetch with Ruff Ruffman. The system had to limit her screen time to a manageable amount.

2) To that end – the system had to both limit her screen time and reward with it at the same time.

3) I wanted the system to be a positive reward system, but to allow for negative consequences as well, due to the nature of the issues we are having with her.

Seems like a tall order, right? Well, a while back I had looked into starting a token ecomony system, but it seem a little extreme and complex to benefit us. But at the time I had bought poker chips and they were sitting in the cabinet unused.

So how I could I use these chips in a more simplified way? It finally came to me last week. It’s only been in effect for the last three days, but we are amazed how quickly she took to the system and how effective it is for us.

This is our little plan:

1 chip = A half hour of TV or computer time

Daily allowance of chips (red chips)–
2 chips on school days (one hour worth)
4 chips on non-school days (two hour worth)
(Red chips do not carry over to another day if not spent)

White chips can be EARN by:
Doing special chores as requested (not normal daily chores)
Reading for a half hour
White chips are worth the same as red chips but can be saved up and spent when desired.

This system does not require Boo to spend chips during our family movie time – right now we are working our way through the Red Dwarf series every Friday night.

Red chips can be taken away for negative behavior – if she has a red chip taken away, she cannot spend any white chips that day.

Three bags hang on our refrigerator:
“Elisabeth’s” bag of daily and saved white tokens
“Used” bag of tokens used that day.
Up higher I keep another bag of extra white tokens and the two extra red tokens for non-school days.

If has been amazing to watch my couch potato voluntarily turn the TV off and find other things to do. She’s aware of how she wants to spread out her tokens during the day and is willing to not spend them all in one sitting.

This from a child who would have a tantrum meltdown the minute I turned off the TV. But now it seems, by setting limits I have given her more power. Funny how that works.

Have you found a way to limit screen time that works for your kids? Leave a comment and let us know how it’s going!

Redefining Geek for the Next Generation

I figure I should start with my personal vision of what a geek is. This is a two part article on the topic redefining “geek” and how the mainstreaming of the term influences how a geek parent is raising the next generation.

The definition of geek seems to have stemmed from an older word, geck, meaning a simpleton or one who is deceived. From then on, the word has had a checkered past of negative connotations. So why are we now ready to embrace the word and wear it as a badge of honor? What is a geek and is it time for a redefinition of the word?

So what makes a geek, a geek? If you read the long debates in the comments after any List of Geeks in Movies found online, it doesn’t seem like there is a standard definition and everyone has their own personal opinions. Some have a very strict definition, usually involving a specific interest in computers/technology and a large amount of social awkwardness. Others see geeks a little more broadly, over lapping with other tags such as nerd and dweeb and intellectual. Can Hermione Granger and Indiana Jones share the same moniker as David Lightman and Kate Libby?

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “geek” as such:

1: a carnival performer often billed as a wild man whose act usually includes biting the head off a live chicken or snake
2: a person often of an intellectual bent who is disliked
3: an enthusiast or expert especially in a technological field or activity <computer geek>

Obviously the first definition is out of our frame of context, so out it goes. (Though ironically, I read that possibly, the image of superheroes in tights and capes may have been inspired by these circus geeks, who were similarly costumed.)

So it comes down to social abilities (or lack thereof) and intellectual interests. Which is more important in the equation?

I think once upon a time social ability was a big part of the definition. But with the advancement of technology in the last 25 years, I think geeks are coming into their own, socially. Or at least found a hack into the communication network of life. My example would be MMOs – millions of self-proclaimed socially inept humans, manage to pug and join guilds and socialize with the worlds they play in.

So we move over to a geek’s defining interest. Are specific interests required to be a geek or can geeks have a passion for anything outside the general mainstream, or even within if the passion is consuming enough (sports geeks)?

I think to redefine the word geek, it is required to use the word “geek” in a way have I have heard spoken, but yet to find in a dictionary – as a verb – such as “I’m really geeked about that comic” or “I’m going to geek out playing [insert favorite console game here] tonight.”

There is one website I have found that illustrates using the word geek in this manner – geekthelibrary.org. They define the verb geek as:

1: To love, to enjoy, to celebrate, to have an intense passion for.
2: To express interest in.
3: To possess a large amount of knowledge in.
4: To promote.

So perhaps a “geek” can be defined as a person who expresses interest, is knowledgeable and completely passionate about their pursuits and be willing promote it to others. Promote, you ask? Mostly likely optional, but what are fan fictions, blogs and podcasts, except promotions of our interests. What are cons, but large celebrations of shared passions?

Does it really matter what that passion is? Cannot someone be just as geeky about the “dead” languages as someone else might be of computer language? Is there middle ground for the math geek and the cosplay geek? Some geeks have a singular passion, while others have many.

It would be my humble opinion that the redefining and mainstreaming of the word geek has evolved from geeks ourselves, finally finding a community of like minds, developing our own voice and creating our own definitions, rather than allowing others to define who we are. Look how far have we come from the “simpleton” or the 1980’s movie stereotype. We are the geeks, we are the proud, we are the many.

Of course an opinion is only that. Agree? Disagree? Have your own spin on it? Comment and let me know.

Up next, part two, sharing our geekiness with the next generation, bolding going where no geeks have gone before…

The obligatory intro post!

Welcome to my little corner of cyberspace!

I guess the first order of the day is to introduce myself and explain why I have chosen to invade the blog world with my ramblings.

Cast of Characters:

Me (Erin aka geekraisinggeek): Graphic designer by trade, I’m a full-time working mom who is a self-proclaimed “geek of many genres.” As fitting my Gemini nature – I go both ways – Mac and PC. But in all honestly, I have for years thought of myself as “A Mac Girl in a PC World – which explains why my OS does not play well with others.”™

The random things that make my heart pitter patter – books (ah, the smell of antique books in the morning!), theatre, historical reenactment, dance, fine art, sci-fi, history, mystery, romance, musicals, gaming (you name it – board, console, PC, MMO, PnP), graphic novels, digital scrapbooking, time travel and all things Disney.

Boo (my 6 year old daughter): My geeklette-in-training. By day, she is a ornery first grader, who takes dance lessons, is a Girl Scout and is an ICarly fanatic. But the geek force is strong in this one – she loves dressing up for renaissance festivals, playing the Blood Bowl board game and recently rolled her first PnP character. Her loves are science and math and PE, so I’m not entirely sure she’s not a changeling.

Spookydad (my husband): Also a geek, but doesn’t like the label. He’s our resident PC/MMORPG/PnP game guru. Doesn’t venture far from his life source – his computer. But an understanding man who puts up with most anything I throw at him. Oh yes, and he also is on a novice hockey league and loves donuts.

So why are we here?

The purpose of this blog it twofold, one, to document the fun, adventures and tribulations of raising my own little geeklette. To that end, I hope to share all things fun and geeky we find along the way and maybe throw in a little commentary as well.

I would like this to become something more than a vanity blog and actually be an active contributor to the geek and parenting communities. But we’ll see how it all pans out.

I’m going to blog for a month or two before I start telling people IRL, so if you do happen to run into this blog please feel free to introduce yourself, share your story or let me know what I’m doing wrong LOL.

Thanks for visiting!
Erin