Doctor Who Inspired Jewelry For The 50th Anniversary

Last year was huge for Whovians as we celebrated fifty years through time and space. Between writing articles, watching reruns, and listening to Big Finish, I found time to make some Doctor Who jewelry.

(Spoilers for recent episodes… assuming you haven’t already been spoilered…)

earrings

The first set: TARDIS earrings. Because I am a Fifth Doctor fangirl, this is Five’s TARDIS. To make these you’ll need some 4mm split rings, wire, beads, two earring hooks, and two square blanks. I printed the images and glued them to the blanks with a bit of Mod Podge. I also spread a thin coat of Podge on the surface, but be careful not to smear the image.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOf course after watching the 50th anniversary special I had to make earrings inspired by Gallifrey Falls No More. These are my favorite so far. I love those blue-purple swirly beads! Again you’ll need split rings, wire, beads, hooks, blanks.

Last, a ponytail holder and a crocheted hair barrette. Here you can see the completed barrette with the TARDIS earrings and ponytail holder. The ponytail holder was also made from a blank with the image glued with Mod Podge.

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For the barrette you’ll need yarn in blue and black, white embroidery floss, black felt and a barrette. The pattern for the rose comes from here. I thought it would be too big for a barrette, so I modified the pattern as follows:

1. Ch19

2. 1dc in 4th ch from hook, ch2 and 2dc in same space. Ch1 and skip 2 ch sps. 2dc, ch2, 2dc in same chain space. Repeat * til end. <6 clusters>

Then skip in the pattern to step 8:

8. Weave tail through embroidery needle and wind up flower. Wrap petals around your finger for even spacing.

The leaves are from this pattern. I made four, two large and two small. For large, work the pattern as specified. For half size leaves, ch7 then (working in back loops) 3dc in 4th ch from hook, 1hdc, 1sc, sl, leaf point, sl, 1sc, 1hdc, 3dc, sl st to top of beginning ch3.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Next, I stitched the immortal words upon the leaves. Probably could have done a better job but I was in a rush to see Day of the Doctor in the theater. It’s almost like I need a time machine.

I glued the rose to the barrette and the leaves underneath with fabric glue. I didn’t like the look of the white thread against the background of the leaves so I glued on some black felt to cover it. Voila, one TARDIS rose barette, guaranteed to look fashionable while running on any alien planet.

Coming soon, more Dragon Age jewelry! Stay tuned.

Have you made any geeky crafts lately? Share links in the comments! I love to see what others have been inspired to make.

 

Discovering Your Favorite Authors Are Misogynists

The harassment of women in geek, tech, science, and other circles has many people taking a closer look at the sexism all around us. Thanks to this newfound awareness, I’m discovering, to my discomfort, that some of my favorite authors are actually misogynists.

tg-bookshelf

Books chez Guidry. Wish I had a misogyny detector, like a Geiger counter.

It’s a disturbing feeling when you realize all those hazy fond memories of curling up in a tree with a book and an apple (because that’s how Jo March reads, dammit, and I didn’t have access to a convenient garret with worn sofa) are contaminated by the fact that those authors, when they were writing those books, touring the con circuits, answering fan mail, were also being what today I’d term total creeper asshats. It’s even more disturbing when you realize this is still going on, and might be getting worse.

Heinlein, I should have known better. It’s right there in his books. But I was a kid and way more fascinated by the computer Mycroft in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress to realize the implications of Time Enough For Love. For the record, I also thought “a man who does not exist” in the Knight Rider opening credits referred to K.I.T.T., not Michael Knight. So I was a teenage idiot, apparently.

But… surely not Asimov. He was shy around women, so I’d heard. There were hardly any in his books and those who were present were almost asexual, like Susan Calvin. And anyway, I was only there for the robots.

Second childhood copy of The Caves Of Steel. I wore the cover off the first one.

And then, quite recently, I find out about this. Oh, no, Isaac, not you too! Can I ever read The Caves Of Steel again without feeling your ghostly hands on my ass?

It’s not fun, doing a web search for “<favorite author> misogynist” but it certainly is illuminating. I’m afraid to know what would happen if I were to type “<favorite author> racist” or “<favorite author> homophobe” or “<favorite author> total creeper asshat who just harassed female author XYZ last week at convention blah-blah-blah”.

I’m not sure I can re-read some of these writers’ books without misogyny leaping out at me like bold italic text. I know I’d have a hard time with Lazarus Long (fist in the face seems appropriate). But is it there in less expected places? Do I want to find out?

And then… there’s my own writing. I recently described my mental crossroads over recent sexist SFWA incidents and what I should do as a fantasy fiction writer. Is the misogyny there, too? Am I secretly a privileged cisgendered idiot who can’t even keep the misogyny out of her own stories? I submitted one recently and afterwards was wracked with guilt that it might be misogynistic. Ugh! I dread getting the rejection: “This thing is a piece of sexist tripe and don’t ever darken our doorstep again.”

I am going to go cry in my Valdemar now.

If you’re interested here are some of the other folks talking about sexism and speculative fiction…

 

 

Should You Risk Your Personal Data Just To Play A Video Game?

tg-might-magicIt had to happen. The manufacturer of software I use was breached and had data stolen. Such is a day in the life of a computer nerd. What ticks me off is that this is for a game I’ve played since 1986 and, up until now, I never had to risk my personal data to do so.

The company is Ubisoft, maker of fine games like Assassin’s Creed. But I’m talking about Might & Magic Heroes 6, a fantasy role-playing game. I have played this game since the very first Might & Magic in 1986, back on my trusty Apple IIe with extended 80-column graphics card and DuoDisk, because THAT’S HOW I ROLL.

Related article: PCMag: Ubisoft Database Hack Exposes Email Addresses, Passwords

Thirty Years Of Gameplay
I have played every iteration of this game to the present day. Every version of Might & Magic, every version of its sibling Heroes of Might & Magic. I’ve played it on the Apple II, on the Mac, on PCs under both DOS and Windows. I have played it off 5.25″ floppies. I’ve played it off CD. I’ve bought the expansion packs. I’ve bought the gold editions with the sexy maps. I have played the hell out of this game, and I have spent a lot of money doing so. Take a look at the picture above. That’s just some of the stuff I’ve collected over the decades of being a loyal Might & Magic customer.

In nearly 30 years of gameplay I never needed to give whatever company owned Might & Magic – New World Computing, in the beginning, then later 3DO and now Ubisoft – any kind of personally identifying information (PII). I bought the disk or CD in the store, installed it, played the game. That was it.

Now I’m A Marketing Drone
But now, my playing the game must be a data point in the vastness that is the modern-day marketing engine. My information must be scrupulously tallied, even if the company hanging onto it doesn’t take care of it. And now, because of their inability to safeguard my data, I have to take all the usual precautions: change passwords, check my computer, monitor my online accounts and my bank accounts for hacktivity. All to play a video game.

Except I Knew The Risks Going In
I knew, before I bought Might & Magic Heroes 6, that it would require me to install uPlay, Ubisoft’s “helper” app which, like other gaming companies’ apps, is basically a required DRM wrapper. So I researched uPlay to find out the scoop about their security (like you do).

I found out they’d had some incidents of bugs and whatnot, no more so than any other company, but nothing on the order of a Sony or a Blizzard. Again, being an infosec nerd, I knew this meant exactly nothing as far as whether Ubisoft might suffer a breach in the future. Of course they might. Anybody might.

But… I really wanna play Might & Magic…

So I Took Precautions To Secure My Gaming Environment
So I decided to buy Heroes 6 and put up with uPlay – with caveats. NOT on my main computer. NOT using a credit card or, heaven forbid, a debit card. Virtual computing and prepaid gift cards. The computer is scrupulously patched, operating system and applications, its antivirus updated before every gameplay, and firewalled to a fare-the-well.

I also use strong passwords that are Unique. On. EVERY. Site. That means the password I was using for uPlay was never used anywhere else and never will be again. Here’s the latest version of my super-duper password article if you want to learn how.

And None Of That Matters Because We’ll All Get Hacked Eventually
And I knew, as you should know, that all of this means exactly nothing as to whether I personally could suffer financial loss or identity theft due to a data breach, from this site or any other. I probably already have. So have you. All this does is mitigate my chances.

So when the word came out – yeah, the company that makes one of my favorite games got breached – I sighed and followed Ubisoft’s instructions for password change, and grumbled about having to divulge my PII just to play a game. But I wasn’t worried about my credit card, or my computer, and that’s peace of mind you can’t get from companies that siphon your data.

Needless to say I have no intention of purchasing the Xbox One – requires an always-on connection, plus camera and voice control which Microsoft pinky-swears you can turn off? Thanks, I’ll pass. And I’m starting to take a much closer look at independent games, where the developers are more interested in your patronage than your marketing data.

Will I play the next version of Might & Magic? I haven’t decided. I suppose it will depend on how DRM-y and data-mine-y it is.

(Also, Ubisoft – can you add back the Sylvan town type? Sanctuary’s fun and all, but I miss my treants and elves. That’d be great, thanks.)

On a related topic, as a geek woman who’s pretty damn done with all the harassment and shenanigans we’ve had to put up with lately, I have another bone to pick with Ubisoft over Might & Magic Heroes 6. But that is a topic for a future post, so stay tuned…

How Being Female Affects My Strategy As A Writer

If you’re in the speculative fiction field you know about the recent controversy surrounding SFWA (Science Fiction Writers Of America). This has me questioning if women are really invited to the professional writers’ table, and if so, whether we get to sit with the grownups.

gabrielle-scroll

Female writer Gabrielle says, “You USED my SCROLL?!?!?!”

Specifically, recent issues of the SFWA Bulletin (their official publication) contained sexist language combined with stereotypical “sexy girl in unrealistic armor” cover art. You can read more about it here:

As a female writer, this has my attention. I write fantasy fiction as well as nonfiction about technology. For the past several years my goal has been to publish at least one story in a venue that would qualify me for minor status in SFWA. Now I wonder if my gender has been killing my chances, and what other women writers are doing about this dilemma.

SFWA is THE professional organization for writers of speculative fiction. Not being in SFWA hinders my ability to succeed in this field (I measure “success” as “get published more than once and develop a healthy readership”).

And it’s not just genre fiction. I have similar problems with tech writing, too. I guess women are supposed to be penning poetry about teacups instead of doling out advice on cloud storage security. Oops, my bad.

How Being Female Affects My Writing Strategy
I try to submit to publications with female editors. Why? Because I hope they will be more likely to take a chance on another woman. I didn’t start doing this consciously, but once I realized it, it became part of my strategy. Of course, you also have to make sure you’re submitting to an appropriate venue, that you understand manuscript format, that you’re following the guidelines… but for me, gender equality has become equally important. I don’t want to submit to (or, heaven forbid, get published by!) a misogynistic publication.

I also look for publishers who publish women writers, and who have women on staff. As in, more than one and allowed to sit in the big chairs. That seems so basic as to be ridiculous, but again, it subconsciously became part of my research process. If they don’t hire women, they’re not likely to publish women. The search for potential misogyny/unfriendliness has become a not insignificant part of my strategy for both fiction and nonfiction.

As you can imagine this takes additional time and effort, not to mention reducing the number of possible places where I could be published. As a freelancer, more overhead + less potential clients = less paying work. (Good thing I’m not expecting to make money as a fantasy writer… but it hurts on the tech side.)

What Can Women Writers Do?
I’m disappointed, but not surprised. It’s a corollary of my experiences as a woman in IT – less raises, less chances for promotion, less opportunities to work on the high-profile projects. For some time I’ve wondered if my obviously-female name alone is hurting my chances. Maybe I should write under a pseudonym? Worked for D.C. Fontana.

But I don’t want to be an androgynous writer. I am a FEMALE writer. I want to be in a group like SFWA because I want to network with like minds, polish my skills, learn new things from new people… but not if they’re deliberately hopping on the misogyny train. I never thought SFWA was like that until this latest debacle. Not being in it, I’m not sure if I was naive or if this is just an aberration.

I’m disinclined to think such things are mere aberrations, however, because holy Captain Grace Hopper in a handbasket, shit has been BAD for geek women lately! Harassment at cons. Harassment on the job. Harassment in online comments. Rape and death threats for any female who speaks out. And apparently a professional organization like SFWA doesn’t have our backs either? What century is this? What the heck is an aspiring female writer to do?

Some female members of SFWA have chosen to leave. Some are giving it another chance. Many are sharing their experiences with sexism in the field. All are doing so knowing that it could permanently affect their professional careers. (That’s food on the table, people.) As a newbie I find myself at a crossroads because, as Ann Aguirre said in her thought-provoking blog on her own experiences with misogyny in speculative fiction:

My professional work shouldn’t be impacted by my gender, my appearance, my religion, my sexuality, my skin tone, or any other factor. The fact that it is? Makes me so very sad.

And as Patty Jansen expressed in her blog about why she’s giving SFWA another year:

Our genre needs and deserves a decent professional organisation, dammit. Since there are no viable alternatives, THIS IS IT.

THANK YOU To The Women Who Continue To Write
I want to give a big shout out to all the women out there, talking about this, putting up with personal attacks, dealing with the utter filth they receive in comments and on social media, all so that they can continue to write the stories that are sitting on my bookshelf. Thank you. A million times. THANK YOU.

Personally I’m not sure I want to be a member of SFWA anymore. (Easy to say – I don’t have the publication credits to qualify, at this point.) But this isn’t specific to SFWA. I’m not sure I want to be a member of ANYTHING if it’s going to turn into a sexist slugfest. And it stinks not knowing whether the rejections I’ve received mean that I need to polish my work more… or that I’m committing the grave error of Writing While Female.

Meanwhile SFWA has an updated announcement which defines their strategy for dealing with this situation – starting with an immediate hiatus of the Bulletin until improvements can be made. This, I like. This tells me somebody’s taking the matter seriously… unlike, for example, when Microsoft does its sexist thang and then shrugs and walks away. But still… once bitten, twice shy…

I would love to hear from other writers. What’s your strategy? Is this SFWA thing just a hiccup? Are there other organizations/publications more friendly to women? Should we just give up and go back to scratching stories in notebooks that get shoved in drawers, as some might prefer? Or should we wait it out and see if the atmosphere becomes friendlier to geek women in the future? And how might we help make that happen?

 

Star Trek Into Darkness: Where Did All The Strong Starfleet Women Go?

uhura-originalStar Trek has always been about achieving your fullest potential no matter your race, gender, creed, or pointiness of ears. Which is why the utter lack of strong women in Star Trek Into Darkness is a slap in the face to all the outstanding female Star Trek characters we’ve met over the years.

Spoiler alert, Captain!

We like Star Trek because it has strong women. Gene Roddenberry’s original pilot had one of the series’ strongest women in Number One, its first officer. Although this was too much in the 1960s for chauvinistic network execs, the series slipped one over with Uhura, whose short skirt belied her intelligence, wit, and talent.

That’s why I’m saddened to see Nu-Uhura reduced to lip quivering and teary eyes as her primary means of communication. In STID she exists solely to express Spock’s emotions for him, so we can see he is a Deeply Troubled Vulcan.

STID-uhuraHer one big chance to shine is when she says, “You brought me here to speak Klingon, so let me speak Klingon.” I’m waiting for her to grab a phaser, because isn’t that how you speak Klingon? No, she’s going to talk to them and offer help. From what I understand, in most Klingon provinces that gets you quickly dead. This scene could have been full of an awesome Uhura kicking some serious ass while still using her brains and her linguistic skills. Instead she acts like it’s her first day on the job.

Even worse, however, is Carol Marcus. In one stroke of a misguided scriptwriter’s pen, this woman has gone from scientific powerhouse to Daddy’s little girl whose only role is to scream as if she’s in a 1950s B-movie.

twok-carol-marcusThe original Carol Marcus battled the Federation and Starfleet for control of her research project. Her team was so dedicated that they willingly underwent Khan’s torture so she could escape with the Genesis Device. (The original suave creepy Khan, not the “I’m too sexy for my coat” Nu-Khan.) She was not a woman to take crap from anybody, least of all Jim Kirk.

STID-carolThis Carol Marcus is supposedly an advanced weapons scientist, but for an advanced weapons scientist she sure doesn’t seem to know much about fighting, or tactics, or… well, much of anything other than how to keep her blonde hair looking perfect in the lens flare. She spends the pivotal moments of the movie either screaming or whining at her Daddy about what a meanypants he is. Or displaying her underwear. Can you picture Bibi Besch doing this?

Didn’t Dr. Marcus go to Starfleet? Don’t they have training on things like torture and not letting a little ol’ shattered kneecap get you down? And why is she helping McCoy at the end? I thought she was an advanced weapons scientist, not a medical doctor. Or is her only function at this point to pass test tubes to McCoy and tell him how brilliant he is, as Jo Grant once described her role as the Third Doctor’s assistant?

(Although… it would have been hilarious to have Uhura and Carol kidnapped by transporter while Quinto’s Spock yells: “THE WOMEN!!!!”)

To me, Uhura and Carol Marcus were the biggest disappointments in this movie. They could have been so much better and instead they were relegated to stereotypical, subordinate roles. What happened to the Starfleet of the future, where women like Janeway and Kira kick as much ass as the men?

This is not a Starfleet that will develop a Borg Queen-defeating Janeway. She’ll be designated some desk job at Starfleet HQ where her talents are wasted while lesser officers are promoted simply for being male. That is the universe we saw in Star Trek Into Darkness: a projection of today’s rampant misogyny codified by girls who sob or scream for help instead of relying on their own talents.

The amusing one-liners, the original series shout-outs, and the special effects weren’t enough for me to like this movie, and I have been to every Trek premiere since Trek IV. I went into STID wanting to like it. I enjoyed the first one, even though I wasn’t happy with some of the directions it took, because at least it was different and didn’t simply copy the original. And, for the first three-fourths of Star Trek Into Darkness, I thought, optimistically, that we would get more of that. Instead it degenerated into a wild-eyed mess that wasn’t even worthy of a second-season TNG montage episode.

Do better, Star Trek. As T’Pol told Hoshi, you’re capable of it.

 

Iron Man 3: Don’t Take Password Advice From Iron Patriot

Iron_PatriotSaw Iron Man 3 over the weekend and it was an enjoyable romp with just the right amount of explosions and mayhem. There’s one little thing that caught my attention, however, and that’s Rhodey’s laughably insecure password.

All those fancy HUD displays and we’re still relying on 1990s AOL-style passwords? Where’s the single sign-on? The two-factor authentication? The retinal scans? The fancy Kree or Shi’ar technology that uses DNA instead of passwords?

Here’s what you can learn about password security from Iron Patriot.

Don’t use common knowledge about yourself as part of your password.
Rhodey’s the superhero formerly known as War Machine and his password is WARMACHINEROX. Yeah, that’s not easily guessable. When he’s forced to change it he’ll probably rotate it with IRONPATRIOTSUX (with an X). And use the same password on Facebook.

Don’t use a password that doesn’t have special characters.
This one didn’t even have numbers. I’m surprised he didn’t put an exclamation point at the end because everyone knows that turns an insecure password into a secure one. Sort of like Silent E.

Don’t use an easily guessable password.
Really, Tony? A totally guessable password and you still had to ask him what it was? I bet Jarvis could have cracked it in about two seconds. On a side note, you didn’t give Jarvis a password cracker? What kind of script kiddie are you?

If that’s the kind of password Rhodey uses I bet he’s no good with security questions either. “What’s your favorite color?” “Red, white, and blue.” Oops, account cracked!

In reality that password conversation should have gone like this:

“Rhodey, what’s your password?”
“Okay, Tony, it’s capital X zero one asterisk lowercase g caret…”
“What the hell is a caret?”
“It’s that upside down V above the 6. Anyway, caret uppercase L uppercase Y seven one nine lowercase j…”
“The HUD in my suit doesn’t have a caret.”
“Yes it does, Tony. Hit the caps lock twice, just like a smart phone.”
“Pepper must have put that there. What’s after the caret?”
“Uppercase L. Then uppercase Y seven one nine lowercase j…”
“Did you say seven one nine or seven nine one? Oh, never mind, just email it to me.”
“But Fury sent a memo saying we’re not supposed to email passwords anymore. It’s not secure.”
“Screw him! Send it to my Gmail.”

By which time the bad guys have incincerated them and the point is moot, not to mention pwned.

The Avengers really need to invest in some better network security. Seriously, Tony, you can’t have Stark Industries buy up RSA or something? I bet Reed Richards has something tucked away in a box. Or you could ask Hank McCoy if he has something up his furry sleeve. Or maybe Spider-Man swiped something from Doc Ock (before Ock became Spidey… oy).

In other words there are ten million better ways to authenticate to that system besides WARMACHINEROX or any other persistent password. I wag my finger at you, Iron Patriot.

And please, don’t anyone use WARMACHINEROX or variations as your real-life password. I hate it when they use actual passwords in movies because then people are all, “I’ll be clever and use that! No one else will think of it!” Except the other billion people who have seen the movie.

(Another thing about Iron Man 3? No obnoxious adoptee jokes - bonus.)

Related Tech Tips article: How To Create Secure Passwords (Revised Edition)

A Grownup Gamer’s Guide To Kids And Video Games

kids-internetAs a tech support specialist I’m often asked about kids and video games. To a non-tech-savvy parent, the world of video games is as confusing as a foreign language. What are they playing? With whom are they playing? Are they safe online?

So I wrote this guide as both a parent and a gamer. And what I’ve learned is that you don’t need to protect your kids from video games – you need to protect them from the violent video game culture.

Are all video games violent?

No, as those of you who play Words With Friends know. Some video games are fine for kids. I would even go so far to say that some video games are good for kids, and I’m one of those annoying parents who won’t let her kids have “screen time” except on weekends.

You may be interested in Seymour Papert’s book The Connected Family which discusses how families can benefit and learn from technology in positive ways. I like the Lego series, for example, because it encourages cooperative play and problem-solving. Little Big Planet does, too. Even good old Sonic has his place – there’s nothing wrong with letting your kids run a little hedgehog around mazes collecting rings. Studies have shown that playing video games has a relaxing quality to it, producing the same sorts of brainwaves as in deep meditation.

But I’m not about to let my kids play Bioshock Infinite or Call of Duty. Just as I would recommend your kids watch Doctor Who (TV-PG) but not Game of Thrones (TV-MA) even though I watch both, I wouldn’t recommend your kids play the more violent video games out there. It’s a matter of appropriate content.

How can I find out if games my kids are playing are appropriate?

Read up on the titles they like. A web search for “(name of game) parent guide” will bring up the info you need.

You can also go by the ESRB rating on the cover. These work just like movie and television ratings. There’s a nice ESRB Ratings Guide you can use as a reference.

How do I tell my kids that I don’t want them to play a particular game?

Don’t be afraid to say no. If you’re not sure if a game is appropriate, watch them play it. You might even play it with them! Your kids may try to tell you “everybody’s playing this” but I assure you, and them, that they can find games that are just as fun to play without the gore and violence. There are some things that simply have to wait until you’re an adult, and mature-rated video games are in that category.

Can kids talk to strangers through video games?

Yes. These games often involve speaking to other players via headset (voice) or in-game chat (text). That other player could be the kid next door, or some creep halfway across the world.

So how can I let them play with friends but not with strangers?

Um… you don’t, not if they’re playing a multiplayer game across the Internet. Most throw all the players into one big electronic arena. That’s why supervision is essential; it’s like letting your kid loose in a big city without a grownup.

You can, however, run your own game by connecting multiple consoles on your own network (called a LAN party; LAN means Local Area Network). That’s much safer because you know exactly who is playing, but you physically have to get together – oh no, human interaction!

What is the “violent video game culture” you mentioned?

You’ve probably heard of rape culture thanks to the recent high-profile cases that have been making the news. There has been a backlash in the geek community over geek women and the inappropriate comments and situations we often have to face. When geek women complain over sexist remarks in professional settings, we are frequently vilified and even harassed both on the Internet and in real life. It’s a sad state of affairs and, while many people are fighting against this, it is still a very real risk.

You can find more here:

As you can see this culture of misogyny and harassment is widespread in certain violent video game circles. In short, there are people out there who get their kicks through cyberbullying and continual harassment. This is not something to which you want to expose your kids.

How can I make playing video games both fun and safe for my kids?

Encourage your kids to play in a safe, supervised environment. Why not set up a rotating Game Night or LAN party with other parents? The kids can play the games that they enjoy, and you know they’re really playing with friends and not random Internet creeps. Who knows… you might even find yourself wanting to join in!

How do I set up parental controls for video games?

All modern gaming consoles have parental control features. Here are instructions for some of the most popular consoles.

On a computer, you can use the built-in parental controls for Windows and Mac, or you can use a third-party service like Norton Online Family (works on PC, Mac, and mobile devices). Bear in mind that parental controls can be bypassed by a savvy kid. If you really want to lock down your network, you can configure your router to block games. You’ll have to look at your specific router’s instructions for that.

How can I make my kids understand the importance of video game safety?

Your kids will probably feel betrayed that you don’t want them to play certain games anymore. They don’t understand why Lego Star Wars is okay but Bioshock is not.

Explain why these changes are necessary for their protection. Visit sites like NetSmartz together. Talk about online dangers and what they can do to avoid them. Explain that you’re going to follow video game ratings just as you do TV and movie ratings. (Put the onus on the ESRB, they won’t mind.)

Meet your kids halfway. Ask to join them in their world of video games so you can see what intrigues them about it. You might be surprised to find you enjoy video games yourself. There’s nothing wrong with Mom or Dad enjoying a game night of their own.

Speaking of which, the number-one question I get about video games is:

Wait… you’re an adult and you play video games? Why would an adult want to do that?

Why do adults like any hobby? Because it’s fun and stimulates the imagination. Many of today’s games are more like novels than arcade shoot-em-ups. You’re missing some good stories by not playing video games. (I’m thinking specifically of Dragon Age and Mass Effect, if you want to know. But there are many others.)

I’ve noticed that, for adults, video games are classified as socially acceptable or not acceptable. If I mention that I play FarmVille (which I don’t, simply because it’s not my cup of tea), that is socially acceptable. If I mention that I play Tales Of Graces (a Japanese fantasy role playing game) that’s not acceptable.

Part of it is that most non-gamers aren’t familiar with the latest titles. But another part of it is that grownups playing anything beyond a select few games is apparently weird. I don’t get that, but I never stopped playing video games. I’ve been gaming continuously since the days of my Atari 2600 and I still do so today.

Do you have questions about kids and video games? Ask in the comments!

How Tech Companies Can Market To Women Without Looking Like Idiots

grumpycat-boothbabesThis year’s CES 2013 didn’t disappoint when it comes to advertising technology via scantily clad women and sexist ads. I’ve composed a handy guide for tech companies on how they can do a better job with TEH LADEEZ.

Don’t talk down to women about technology
We might understand it better than you do. If your spiffy new ultrabook has twelve gigabytes of RAM, say, “Our spiffy new ultrabook has twelve gigabytes of RAM.” Don’t say, “It’s got plenty of room for all your family videos.”

Don’t base your product’s selling point on its looks
I’m not buying your phone because it’s pink. I’m buying it because it does what I want. If you patronize me by covering it in pastels and flowers, I am much more likely to walk out the door and buy your competitor’s plain black phone instead.

Don’t dumb down the technology
Believe it or not, some women actually use the full processing power of their computers. If the only difference between the women’s and men’s version of your product is that one of them is pink with a processor that couldn’t power a toothbrush, go back to the drawing board.

Don’t use booth babes and dancing girls
The only “booth babes” we want to see are female employees of your company, dressed professionally and ready to answer technical questions. You’ll gain far more customers by demonstrating that your company is friendly to women than by associating your product with naked girls in bodypaint. Trust me, your female employees will be REALLY happy that they don’t have to spend yet another expo cringing and apologizing.

Don’t use sexual innuendo in your advertising
It’s not cute. It’s degrading and it implies that your company is full of juvenile twelve-year-olds who still giggle at penis jokes.

Don’t tell us how your product will help us get our shopping done
We’d rather know if it supports NFC and how long the battery charge will last. Oh, and whether or not your system is vulnerable to malware (looking at you, Android).

Do ask us what we want
We’re happy to tell you what technology interests us as women, but you need to ASK US. Don’t assume. Study the mistakes of other companies and put measures in place to avoid similar incidents. Pay attention to what goes on in the world of geek women. Refuse to participate in conferences that don’t include women speakers or anti-harassment policies. Speak up when sexism occurs at conferences or online. Refuse to stand by while women are subjected to online harassment that threatens them with rape and murder. Hire female employees and make sure you’re cultivating a corporate culture where their opinions and efforts are equally valued.

Do you have any tips on how tech companies can market to women without looking like idiots? Share in the comments! (Remember, comments moderated against spambots. Trolls, flamebait, and other shenanigans will not be posted.)

 

How Much Of Our Children’s Narratives Should We Share Online?

Social networks abound with the intimate details of our lives. Family photos, vacation plans, concerns and celebrations – all of it becomes part of our ongoing online identities. It’s one thing when you’re posting about yourself, but what about when you post about your kids?

As I browse various social networks, I’ve come to realize that people are just plain sharing too much stuff. I cringe when I see baby pictures because I know pedophiles steal them. I wince when a friend posts “Greetings from vacation!” because I know burglars use the same social networks to find empty homes to rob. I want to scream when people say, “I only friend people I know” or “I use the same password on Facebook and Twitter” because I know cybercriminals create fake profiles and hijack real ones.

My question is this: How much of our children’s narratives should we share online?

I find myself coming down hard on this issue, as a writer and as an adult adoptee and advocate for adoptee rights. I believe the narratives of minors should be not be shared, or should only be shared minimally, until the minor is of an age to make his or her own decisions. I’ve spoken on my adoptee rights blog 73adoptee about the question of who controls adoptee narratives (here and here, for example). Many adoptive parents and prospective adopters blog intimate details about an adoptee’s origins before that adoptee even has a chance to know for themselves! I know how I’d feel if the personal details of my origins had been spread around in public before I was old enough to voice my opinion. It’s up to me to decide what to share of my story, and how much, and when. (It’s also up to me to decide what I should know about my adoption instead of having agencies or governmental bureaucracies deciding for me, as eloquently described by my friend Amanda over at Declassified Adoptee.)

We can also see this in the furor over Liza Long (the “Anarchist Soccer Mom”) and the intimate details she shared about her son in the wake of the school shooting in Connecticut. Some have lauded her efforts to improve mental health, while others have chastized her for oversharing her son’s story. I have to say I’m leaning toward the latter. How would you like it if you were in that kid’s shoes – unable to share your version of your own story? How would you like it if your parents were telling the universe about your academic problems or physical ailments or mental health?

When you talk about your children online, you’re not making private comments to your Aunt Martha over tea in her parlor. This is the Internet. It is global, and it is permanent. What happens when that child becomes an adult and wants a say over how his or her narrative has been shared? How can they reclaim their narratives later on? Will Facebook take down the posts? Will Twitter and Blogger and Instagram delete that information? Will all the engines that have archived the data also delete that information? The backup tapes? The locally cached copies?

I think we all know the answer to that.

Such information can also be used for cyberbullying. Let’s say you’ve got a kid whose parent posted about a bitter divorce. Don’t you think, when that child is a teen, that other teens might try to dig up as much dirt about them as possible? How is that going to make the kid feel? How would YOU feel knowing the information you shared was later used against your own child?

As an IT expert, my advice to parents has always been: Share minimally. Don’t post family photos on social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – not even with the privacy controls locked down. I don’t care how convenient it is or how many of your friends are doing it. Those privacy controls never stay locked down. Bugs are found or hacks occur or switches get flipped and you suddenly discover that your precious five-year-old’s face has been Photoshopped onto raunchy material and spread around the underbelly of the Internet.

I try not to blog about my kids except in a generic way. I occasionally describe events, like our family Doctor Who cosplay for Halloween, but I don’t share their names or personal narratives. I ask questions, as any parent does. Sometimes I do it on the Internet. But I strive not to badmouth my kids or speak publicly about private information. No, not even in private chat. No, not even in email. It’s basic common sense.

Kids may not be adults, but they are still people, and when they become adults they have to deal with the repercussions of the decisions made for them. So do your kids a favor. You’re the caretaker of their information, not the owner. Safeguard it until they are able to take care of it themselves.

What do you think about the sharing of childrens’ information online?

(Comments welcome but moderated against spambots. And if you’re only here to argue with me over adoptee rights, don’t bother – go over to 73adoptee or other blogs like Declassified Adoptee and Musings Of The Lame and First Mother Forum to learn about the adoption reform movement.)

Image courtesy of pat138241 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Fake Geek Girls? You Think Women WANT This Job?

Apparently the science fiction community is being flooded – FLOODED, I TELL YOU – by fake geek girls: women with insufficient geek cred who are only pretending to be geeks for the attention.

Say what? Being a female geek is a tough job thanks to the cretins who are put out that female geeks won’t, well, put out. Do you really think it’s likely that women are going to volunteer for this?

Do you think women are lining up waiting for their big chance to struggle with an uphill career? Face sexual harassment at cons? Get stalked online? Be treated like a maidservant or a cuddlebunny or an NPC instead of a peer of equal knowledge and experience?

Women aren’t supposed to be able to fix computers or name all 79 original episodes of Star Trek. It goes against the natural order of geekdom. The genre that prides itself in being “strange and unusual” thinks it’s too strange and unusual to include women.

What’s interesting is how certain levels of female geekdom, over time, have become reluctantly tolerated. I can remember when being a female Doctor Who fan was considered weird. Today, girls are allowed to be Whovians because it’s assumed they’re only doing so to watch David Tennant’s rear. (Clearly ridiculous. We’re ALL in it to watch David Tennant’s rear. Matt Smith’s, too.)

Similarly, girls are permitted to like comic books, but only if they emit the pre-requisite cooing over Loki and dress in provocative superhero cosplay for the benefit of the men around them.

As a geek woman, I like what I like and it just so happens that most of it is geeky. I didn’t start reading Hitchhiker’s Guide so I could impress my boyfriend. I haven’t spent 20+ years in technology because Windows is soooo cute when it crashes.

The idea that women would willingly subject themselves to the misogynistic crap that comes standard with female geekdom seems unlikely at best. Somehow I can’t picture a woman secretly fine-tuning her knowledge of python or Cerebus just so she can bask in the attention. Because the attention she’s likely to get is going to be negative – “You can’t like that, it’s for GUYS!”

Most female geeks I’ve met don’t want male geeks to know the extent of their geekdom. They hide it, because once people find out you’re a female geek, you’re never good enough.

Like when a male geek finds out that you, a female geek, like something he likes. Then you get subjected to the big interrogation – Which episode did this happen in? Who guest starred in season 2? How many spaceships are in the background in such-and-such scene? You have to prove that you REALLY know your geek in order to be accepted as a geek, and even then you’re never truly accepted.

It’s the same in IT. Women in technology are constantly having to prove we know our stuff even better than the men do. Yet we still have to put up with the doubt expressed by those around us: Why are you here? What makes you think you belong?

Geekdom is the love of something you’ve found, the adoration that makes you cry out to everyone around you, “YES! This is an AWESOME THING and you must experience it!” Why is that okay for men and not for women? And why are female geeks so threatening that some feel the need to invent the idea of “fake geek girls” so that any women who claim geekdom can be readily dismissed as Not Geek Enough?

Here are some blogs from people who are talking about fake geek girl syndrome and what it represents. Food for thought.

What do you think of the fake geek girl phenomenon?

image via I Can Haz Cheezburger