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Get It Right, People

2 May

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letter A few weeks ago the most recent issue of one of my office’s magazine subscriptions made it to the coffee table of our reception room. Rarely do I even notice the People Magazines my patients are flipping through before they come back, but there was something about this one that just didn’t sit right with me. I would walk through the lobby, head back to the procedure, and something would stick in my mind — as if someone had moved a piece of furniture just slightly askew, or maybe a light was out in the room somewhere. I couldn’t put my finger on it.

Eventually I figured out the problem. You might remember from a few years ago a grievous error People Magazine made on the cover of one of their issues. I wrote a very nice letter to their editorial staff explaining the error, even proposing an appropriate fix. And now here we are, three years later and the editorial staff over at People Magazine has made the EXACT SAME MISTAKE!

So once again DorkDaddy has to swoop in to the rescue and save the long-running publication from public humiliation. Below you can see the error and how I have re-engineered their cover to better reflect reality.

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I have a message for the editorial staff over at people magazine:

This is the second time I have noticed the exact same mistake in your otherwise respectable periodical. I am happy to fix it for you… again… but this is the last time I’m going to be cordial about it. If it happens again I am going to have to take a much more aggressive stance. Consider yourselves warned.

To UnDorkMommy I have this message:

You mentioned how you’d like to improve your Photoshop skills. Here’s an image you can use for practice. I’m sure you can figure out something to do with it.

reynolds

 

-Dork Dad

Science For Giggles

7 Apr

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Letter Knowledge. Understanding. Reason. Critical thinking. Problem solving. These are inextricable parts of my DNA as much as any gene sequence. I am a scientist (amongst other things) at the very core of my soul. I taught science to middle schoolers, and indeed at every chance I get today. I’m a practitioner of science in my professional life. I’m an advocate for science in the lives of my children.

I wince at the idea of “science” as a religion. Instead I think of the scientific method as the best way to approach problem solving. It doesn’t require brute-logic. Quite the contrary. It requires creative, outside-the-box thinking. It’s a methodology that is applicable to every problem life can throw at you, and when properly applied, can never fail.

My daughter with her heroes... and her dorky dad.

My daughter with her heroes… and her dorky dad.

On the social side of things, the Socratic Method, which dovetails nicely into the scientific method, is a way of relating to other people of different backgrounds and understandings. It eschews adherence to dogmatic thinking and values back and forth dialogue to eventually, rationally, resolve a difference of opinion.

Showing "The Hyneman" her Mythbusters-inspired science fair project.

Showing “The Hyneman” her Mythbusters-inspired science fair project.

Lace all of that with a hearty distaste for self-righteousness, add a steady diet of silliness with a generous helping of the dork-factor, and these are the values I am passing along to my children.

Distil those ingredients down to its purest essence, infuse it into pop-culture, let it marinate for 14 years and out of the oven comes a piping-hot helping of “Mythbusters” – my enthusiasm for which has been well documented in this blog. Yes, the show reached its finale’ some time ago but its host Adam Savage continues to be the standard bearer for fun-loving advocacy of scientific thought, creative thinking, and all things dorky.

Episode V got to go to the show the next year.

Episode V got to go to the show the next year.

In the post-Mythbusters world Adam has shifted his professional attentions to the website Tested.com where all the above-mentioned values are on full display. The site regularly produces content aimed directly at people like me. In their regular podcasts Adam has even talked (among other things) about his perspective on parenting and fatherhood which is, frankly, profound, insightful and eloquent. (In fact I have been trying like hell for the past year and a half to get an interview with him on just that topic… to no avail.)

A very gracious Adam taking time for a very tired boy after a Tested.com event.

A very gracious Adam taking time for a very tired boy after a Tested.com event.

In any case, today Tested.com offered up a delightful video that embodies everything I’ve outlined above, so much so that I felt compelled to share it. It’s as much a video about DIY problem solving as it is utterly ridiculous silliness. Scientific thought doesn’t always have to be applied to world-changing problems. Sometimes it can just be about making yourself giggle. If I was still teaching middle school this video would be my lesson for the day.

Watch it. Watch it with your kids. When they’re done watching, if they’re anything like my kids I bet any money they’re going to head straight to the toolbox and start building…

…I hope you let them.

 

-DorkDad

Promise Delivered

4 Apr

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letter A few weeks ago the people behind the marketing efforts for STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS contacted me. They said they’d like to send me a package of Star Wars goodies, including a copy of the Blu-Ray, in exchange for me hosting and blogging about a viewing party. HAH! The joke was on them – as if I needed to be bribed to host a Star Wars viewing party. The plan was for the goodies to arrive the Thursday before the digital download release of the movie (Friday, April 1st), host the party and write a blog post about it before the hardcopy release (today).

What my house would look like if I was single.

What my house would look like if I was single.

So naturally I tapped into the local dorky-dad network, inviting a few friends and their kids over for a Saturday afternoon viewing party. The date was cleared with UnDorkMommy. The invitations were sent. RSVP’s were received. The only thing left was the receipt of the magic package from the Star Wars people themselves.

Parties need pillows

Parties need pillows

As these things go, when bloggers are part of a big promotional campaign like this one, the typical pattern is that the east coast dads get the packages before the west coast dads do. It’s sort of fun to watch in real time over social media the packages work their way west as they arrive on the doorsteps of my colleagues. Fandads.com out of Chicago and Dadncharge.com out of Pensylvania respectively posted these pictures early on the 2nd, letting the rest of us know what we could expect when the box arrived.

Rumored treasure

Rumored treasure

So it was with great anticipation that I rushed home from work on Thursday, the expected day of delivery, to find waiting for me on my front porch…

…absolutely nothing.

Some light reading material

Some light reading material

That’s OK. I’m on the west coast and it takes a little longer for these things to get out here. The party wasn’t until Saturday. Plenty of time. Friday came and went exactly the same, and after the mail lady sadly shook her head at me on Saturday morning “Nope. Sorry, still no package for you” it was clear that Star Wars Santa wasn’t going to visit before the appointed party time.

Choose your weapon at the door

Choose your weapon at the door

Lunchboxdad.com, also from California, reported that the Star Wars goodie box he was expecting never materialized either, and it looked like his viewing party was off.

Everyone's here!

Everyone’s here!

But I am DorkDaddy after all. I have a reputation to uphold. I couldn’t let a little thing like no Blu-Ray get between me, my fellow dorks, our kids and Star Wars viewing amazingness!! So up in the attic I went to pull down all the stuff UnDorkMommy typically won’t allow in the house otherwise. The boys had a ball helping me decorate the living room into what it would probably look like if I was a swinging bachelor. A veggie platter from the store and a pizza delivery took care of the snacks. All we needed was the movie itself. One digital download later and BAM! It was party time.

Where's Ray? There she is.

Where’s Ray? There she is.

Needless to say, as you can see from the pictures, the party was amazing!

The Force is indeed strong in my family.

The Force is indeed strong in my family.

An Email from my contact at the marketing group came through later on Sunday. She apologized, confirming that there was a problem with the shipping to us west coast dads. But I’m not mad. I’m just grateful that they even thought of me in the first place. Because after all, this was the weekend STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS was released on Blu-Ray and digital download…

…and that makes us all winners.

 

-Dork Dad

To Hell With Normal

24 Mar

To Hell With Normal

 

letter OOoh, the adventures we had this past weekend. Not to put too fine a point on it, I took the big kids to the inaugural Silicon Valley Comic Con. On balance, the experience was not a new one for them. Last year I took them to the Star Wars Celebration (and have yet to blog about it. Can you believe it?) where they got a full dose of what it means to do a convention. The only thing that could have been bigger would be the San Diego Comic Con, and that’s still a few years off for them.

Prepare Yourselves

After posting pictures of our shenanigans on Facebook, my old Jr. High English teacher and life-long mentor, Kitty, left the comment: “YOU S#@$$%! How will your kids ever turn out “normal”? That’s right, they won’t. They’ll be extraordinary! Love ya.”

The kids got to meet Kitty earlier this year. "How did you like her, kids?" "She's super cool, but she has a potty mouth." "Yes. Yes she does."

The kids got to meet Kitty earlier this year. “How did you like her, kids?” “She’s super cool, but she has a potty mouth.” “Yes. Yes she does.”

Let’s just say Kitty shares my distain for all things “normal”.

Sharing vodka on the rocks with the woman who, 28 years ago, taught me a healthy disdain for authority.

Sharing vodka on the rocks with the woman who, 28 years ago, taught me a healthy disdain for authority.

I have no intention of giving my kids a “normal” childhood. I want their childhood to be AMAZING. This entire blog is dedicated to chronicling the pursuit of “amazing” while infusing them with a firm grasp of perspective and social-competence which, to my thinking, is the only really valuable component of “normal”.

Meeting The Shat

Meeting The Shat

When I learned that William Shatner was going to be signing autographs at the convention, I knew that it would be an experience my classic Star Trek-loving daughter would appreciate. Add that to the fact that Stan Lee would be making one of his last-ever public appearances (the guy is 94 after all) and I knew I would regret it if I passed up the opportunity.

OMG! Stan Lee!!

OMG! Stan Lee!!

So this past Saturday I loaded Episodes IV and V into the car and drove them to the San Jose Convention Center for a day of geek-tasticness. The show did not disappoint. The cosplayers were in full-force. The kids got to play with some virtual reality rigs, talk to the local R2D2 Builders Club chapter, spend their allowance money on super-nerdy collectables and on and on…

VRIV

R2s

There was even a bonus that we weren’t expecting. For the past few weeks my 7yo Episode V has been working his way through the book “The Martian” (because you can’t watch the movie unless you’ve read the book first). As we were waiting in line to meet The Shat(ner), Episode V was flipping through the convention program. Suddenly he went white and started shaking, pointing to a picture in the program, “Daddy! Daddy! Look! Andy Weir is here. Andy Weir is here!!”

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Andy Weir is the author of “The Martain”… the book that my 7yo has proclaimed as his favorite book of all time. So of course we had to make sure that connection was made. I tell you, Episode V was more excited to meet Andy Weir than he was for Captain freakin’ Kirk – and props to him for realizing early that authors are cooler than television/movie actors.

Got it

So here’s to all the parents out there doing everything they can to make their kids’ childhoods amazing. Say it with me now:

 

To hell with “normal”!

 

-Dork Dad

TREBUCHET!!

15 Mar

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letter There are times to be subtle and there are times to be awesome. There are times to sit inside and play video games and there are times to get outside and howl at the moon. There are times to be careful and there are times to scare the neighbors just a little bit. For those of you who feel the need to inject a little “awesome” into your life, who think the neighbors have become a bit too complacent, who need to take a step or two closer to the edge, I have the prescription for you:

 

Build a trebuchet.

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I have long been an advocate of getting power tools into the hands of children, and I make no secret of my love for augmenting the science curriculum at my kids’ elementary school. You might ask “How do you cap off a 2nd grade lesson on levers?” Simple. Construct a medieval siege engine/war machine, bring it on campus and fire projectiles at a couple dozen 8 year olds.

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As cool as the science-factor is, the real benefit of a project like this is the time you get to spend with your kids. It’s about learning how to use power tools. It’s about countless trips to Home Depot (and the amazing hotdogs from the cart outside). It’s about researching and planning. It’s about learning from your failures and adjusting your strategy accordingly.

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I will happily admit I’m not cool enough to engineer a trebuchet on my own, from scratch. But I am cool enough to go on the internet, find a well-made tutorial (which you are welcome to use yourself here) and adapt/modify it to meet my needs. Remember, the value here is not in having a functioning war machine in your garage (cool as that may be). The value is in FAILING along the way, and in learning from those failures. As you can see, we had to go back to the drawing board more than once on this little project.


 

 

 

 

You don’t have to have scientific super powers. You don’t have to be world-renowned in your field. You don’t even have to like other people’s kids. In whatever way possible, in whatever capacity you can, help out in your kid’s classroom. Kids spell “love” T.I.M.E. and there is nothing like the pride on your kid’s face when they see you there in front of all their peers. It’s like they’re saying without words “See? That’s my daddy and he’s the most awesome daddy in the universe.”

 

 

…of course it helps if you can bring a trebuchet to class with you.

 

-Dork Dad

Trading Spaces

17 Aug trading header

trading header

 


letter I recently had to come to terms with saying goodbye to a project I poured my heart and soul into. Seven years ago we moved into our house. At the time we had one 2.5yo girl and a brand new baby boy. I poured all my creative juices into painting (no decals) their new bedrooms, my daughter in the larger room, the baby in the smaller, and these were the results:

The Girl's "Old" Room

The Girl’s “Old” Room

 

The Old Batman/Superman Room

The Old Batman/Superman Room

They lived happily there for 3 ½ years, but then another little boy was born. Furniture was shuffled, the crib was set up in the smaller “boys’ room” and 3 ½ more years passed without complaint. But you can’t keep a kid in his crib until he’s 18. When we noticed that Episode VI had to put his feet through the rails of the crib to stretch his legs out completely, we knew it was time to get him a “big-boy bed”. But with no more space in the smaller “boys’ room”, there weren’t many options option beyond a complete boy/girl bedroom swap. That meant turning a “boy room” into a “girl room” and turning a “girl room” into a “boy room”, and that meant saying goodbye to the murals I’d poured my soul into seven years earlier.

Thankfully Episode IV was gung-ho. We gave her some creative control over her new living space and (with a little guidance from UnDorkMommy) she ran with it. Here, converted from what used to be a Batman/Superman “boy” room, is the beautiful final result. It turned out great.

Episode IV's New Room (converted from Batman/Superman)

Episode IV’s New Room (converted from Batman/Superman)

 

The real challenge for this DorkDaddy though, was what to do with the boys’ new room. The Batman/Superman thing was already done. We needed something that would appeal to both boys, something a little more grown up that would carry them at least into high school. Let’s just say they accepted my first suggestion with boisterous enthusiasm. The theme was selected. The target was set. I was up to the challenge.

We were making a Star Wars room!

The Holy Trilogy

The Holy Trilogy

I’ll admit, I was secretly (not so secretly) planning for this moment my entire life. I’ve got boxes and boxes in the attic filled to the brim with carded Star Wars action figures, spaceships, playsets, posters… on and on.

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When Episode VI was born Pottery Barn Kids was selling a special Star Wars bedding set (they sold so well they have since become a regular staple in the catalogue). I snatched them up *just* in case and saved them in the attic along with all my other treasures, knowing (hoping) this day would come.

Camouflage

Camouflage

Suffice it to say there were 12-party, multi-national negotiations between me and my profoundly less-dorky wife as to what *exactly* would go into the “Star Wars room”. Her sensibilities demand that everything looks like it came straight out of a Pottery Barn catalogue. I, on the other hand, had a lifetime of wild ideas pent up and waiting to explode in a tidal wave of obnoxiousness (think fiber-optic star field on the ceiling or moving my working stand-up 1983 Star Wars arcade game into the room).

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Eventually though, we came to terms. Sure, I snuck a few little details under her radar (like a Bluetooth Death Star speaker on their nightstand so I could startle them awake from a deep slumber with Darth Vader’s Theme), but ultimately we were able to find a middle ground.

WAKE UP!!

WAKE UP!!

I could go into details about the specifics of the room (Yes, that is a 4-foot decal of the Death Star on the ceiling. Yes, those are personalized autographs the kids got in person when they went to the Star Wars Celebration earlier this year) but truly, the pictures speak for themselves.

Look Overhead!

Look Overhead!

At the dawn of a new age in Star Wars history, my kids are about to get a trilogy to define their childhoods just as I had mine. Doubtless over the years there will be additions to the room that have not yet been dreamed up in the Lucasfilm imaginarium. But for now I’m just happy I was able to give them the bedroom of their (my) dreams.

Converted From "Girl's Room"

Converted From “Girl’s Room”

 

-Dork Dad

What Dad REALLY Wanted For Father’s Day

7 Jul

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letter So now that Father’s Day is firmly in the rear-view mirror and Dad has had a chance to drink coffee in his new kid-painted coffee mug, or perhaps even wear the new tie(s) he got, it’s time to let the world in on a little secret.

As much as we appreciate the little tchotchkes, and we really do, we dads secretly hold out hope that the Father’s Day Fairy will bring something just a little different next year. These are things we’ve likely tripped over on the internet and inadvertently slipped into an hours-long “dude, how cool would that be?” daydream while we pretend to work.

So the next time Father’s Day (or a birthday, or an anniversary, or Christmas) rolls around and you want to do something completely irresponsible for the DorkDad in your life, consider one of the following gifts. I guarantee you you’ll get the wide-eyed “Oh my GAWD! That is SO FREAKING COOL!!!” reaction. When it happens, be sure to get a video and share it on Facebook.

Without further ado, here are three things he REALLY wants for Father’s Day:

 The DL44-Blaster from Episode IV.

The “Maker’s Movement” has seen a huge rise in hobbyists crafting their own fandom. If you want that movie-accurate iron man armor there are countless tutorials on YouTube to show you exactly how to make it in your own garage. You want to make a classic Star Trek communicator, no problem. Here’s where to get the parts and how to put them together.

In that vein I recently came across DL44blaster’s Instagram page and instantly I knew “I must have one.” There he showcases photos of the most movie-accurate replicas of Han Solo’s original blaster from the original Star Wars film you will ever come across. This prop replica may not mean anything to you, but a true Star Wars enthusiast will know it immediately.

han-solo-with-blaster

As opposed to the toys you can buy in the store these are cast metal, so they have some real heft to give them authenticity. They also have a locking hammer and functioning trigger and they feel damn real. Rest assured, they are only cast from the original Mauser pistols, so the external detailing is exquisite, but the barrels aren’t even hollow. They don’t shoot bullets, but I can personally guarantee that the *pew pew* works perfect.

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DL44blaster himself is a hotel hospitality worker, who builds these things as a hobby in his spare time, and what you realize very early on is that more than quality parts, these prop replicas are made with pure love. Mine sits on my desk at work (I really need to figure out a display stand/case) and it gives me joy every time I look at it.

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Head on over to DL44Blaster’s ETSY page to see what sort of awesomeness you can get Dad next Father’s Day. And if you’re really interested about how crazy the “Maker’s Movement” can be, take a look at Adam Savage’s one-day-build for the same prop.

The Hat

Let’s be clear. We dads wouldn’t change anything about our lives. We love our families desperately. They are our dream come true. But parenthood can be taxing and you can’t blame us for remembering with fondness the wild-stallion days of years (decades) gone past. If we were wild stallions in our youth, sometimes the drudgery of parenthood can make you feel like that moth-eaten pony at the carnival who keeps going around and around in circles, walking in his own poop. If the DorkDaddy in your life needs an infusion of bad-assness, I’ve got the prescription.

The success of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and its sequels suddenly made the fedora relevant again. Fanboys could try to get a little of the Indiana Jones swagger by donning a replica brown fedora. But replicas are just that – replicas. Even the ones they sell at Disneyland just never looked right.

hat

As it was, the company in England that made Indiana Jones’s original fedora closed down shortly after the release of the original move. There were enough copies of the hat made to get through the two sequels, but the original templates and techniques used for his iconic hat were lost for all time. Over the years one hat maker, Steve Delk of the AdventureBilt Hat Company, became known as the best at replicating Indie’s iconic look. He used tradecraft from 100 years ago (who knew beaver felt was even a thing?) to make an Indie fedora that was without peer. When it came time to select a hat maker for Indiana Jones IV, Steve’s hat was chosen and his hats went from being the best Indie replicas to being the *ACTUAL* hat.

indianajones2

Steve lives in Missouri and is still making hats. Each one is custom fit and hand-made for the wearer. In a world filled with assembly-line, factory made, mass produced junk, there is something very magical about putting on something of this quality – even without the connection to Indiana Jones. If you think the DorkDaddy in your life would appreciate *THE* Indiana Jones fedora, head on over to Steve’s Website.

The Hat

I promise the Father in your life can’t help but feel like a badass when he puts this hat on.

A Galaxy Far, Far Away

Almost two years ago, in anticipation of my 40th birthday, I wrote this blog post about a group of fans who restored one of the original, most iconic set pieces of the original Star Wars movie way out in the wilderness of Tunisia. I the piece I quipped about how I needed to see these places before I died, how my 40th birthday was the perfect excuse, and lamented about how I had nobody to go with me and actually make it happen. Then my amazing cousin sent me a text message and long story short, 10 months later she and I were walking in the real sands of Tatooine (or Tataouine as the actual Tunisian city is spelled).

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Simply put, if the DorkDad in your life is a Star Wars nerd, there is no holier ground than South West Tunisia.

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Yes, the American media has given a lot of air time to Middle East unrest spreading into the largely Westernized, primarily Mediterranean Tunisia. In conversations with my contact there the question was asked “Would you tell someone not to visit France because of what happened to Charlie Hebdo? Would you tell them not to go to church in the United States because of what’s been happening in The South of your country?”

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I can’t speak to any of that. All I can say is that Tunisia is an amazing place. The people there are generous, and friendly and my experience there was nothing short of life-changing.


Now think about the DorkDad in your life. You have nearly 6 months until Christmas… a year before next Father’s Day. Imagine the look on his face when he opens his present to find a shiny new DL-44 Blaster, authentic Indiana Jones fedora, or plane ticket to Tunisia.

-Dork Dad

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