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Past Posts

I'm Going to BlogHer Food '14 in Miami!

Office Ninja: Made With Love By Geeks, For Geeks

If you want to catch my attention, put the word "ninja" in the title of your movie! It's stereotypical for a geek girl, I know, but I can probably hear it from a room away over several ongoing conversations.

So when I heard about Office Ninja from writer and director Bin Lee, I needed to at least find out what it was! He was kind enough to send a review copy in advance of its release on ITunes today. When C-Man heard about the plot he said we should review it. I think something about programmer rivalries and ninjas combined was too much for him to resist.

We laughed so much! This is such a geek movie, y'all.

Here's the setup. Tomas (Jade Carter) is a programmer whose bow-tied boss is still using an overhead projector with those plastic sheets to run meetings. His co-worker Jett (Rob Padgett) is a jerk who steals Tomas's work and gets promoted to a position Tomas really wanted and kind of needs, considering his dad has just been seriously ill and there are bills to pay.

So clearly, the only way to resolve this is dress up like a ninja and run around his office spying on Jett, right? Tomas's goofball co-worker Raheem (Jose Rosete) and new hire Jessica (Jessica Mills) aren't sure what to think of the appearance of an office ninja... and neither is Tomas once he encounters another ninja. What?!

Continue reading Office Ninja: Made With Love By Geeks, For Geeks.

6 Graphic Novels About Magic That You Should Read

Y'all, I have linear feet of graphic novels in our library room downstairs, full of fantastic writing and kick-ass art, and many with diverse casts and strong female characters. But all I've told you about so far is my favorite zombie comics and all-ages comics! Where's the love for everything else?

I am derelict in my blogging duties! So let's get started. You want some comics about magic and magical happenings? Of course you do! Here are six of my absolute favorites.

Phonogram: The Singles Club, written by Kieron Gillen, art and lettering by Jamie McKelvie with help from Julia Scheele, and colors by Matthew Wilson. The Singles Club is technically the second Phonogram book, but don't let that stop you. The first book is one long story and it's pretty good. This second book is related but you don't need any backstory more than the blurb on the back cover: "urban fantasy, where every song is a spell and every gig a chance for magical misadventure."

That's right: in this world, music is magic. One night at a club, seven short stories that all interconnect. Relationships, ends of relationships, magic and pain and love and loss.

McKelvie can tell more of story in two panels than some comic books artists can tell in a whole book, and Gillen's characters are amazing. You need to read this. Really.

Continue reading 6 Graphic Novels About Magic That You Should Read.

Our 4 Favorite Kids' Poetry Books (because April is National Poetry Month!)

I grew up as a bookworm, and now I'm a book-loving mom with a book-loving kid. What can I say, I'm lucky? I've read so many fantastic kids' books with him in the last six years. So far my children's picture book roundup posts have focused on specific topics: friendship, dogs, pirates, bedtime, awesome girls, robots, magic, gardens, cats, superheroes, and love and marriage.

But since April is National Poetry Month, let's switch gears with a roundup of our favorite kids' picture books with poetry as their focus. While a lot of children's books use rhyming text to tell a story, these books are specifically created to showcase poems - whether originally written for a children's audience or not. I love poetry books for kids that believe kids can manage interesting, "advanced" writing and imagery. The variety of language and structure is great for their growing brains and imaginations... and also refreshing for the grownups who read with them!

(Does this post use affiliate links? Yes! More about that if you're not familiar.)

Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems, curated by Paul B. Janeczko and beautifully illustrated by Melissa Sweet who works in mixed media including painting, drawing, and collage. The nice folks at Candlewick Press sent us a review copy of this one, and we are so grateful. It's a delight. It's a collection of tiny poems that capture everything I love about reading poetry with kids - especially the fresh use of language different from prose stories, and the imagination of the authors who often created their poems based on noticing something in the world and seeing it in an unusual way.

I read this with Boy Detective one lazy weekend afternoon and we stopped so many times to discuss our reactions to the poems, and how we each understood them. He was also tickled as he found various little details in the illustrations.

Continue reading Our 4 Favorite Kids' Poetry Books (because April is National Poetry Month!).

Captain America: The Winter Soldier - Eight Things I Loved

The first Captain America movie was fantastic, so I crossed my fingers that Captain America: The Winter Soldier would deliver.

I was not disappointed!

This film starts with Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America (Chris Evans), struggling to find his place within S.H.I.E.L.D., led by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). Missions are not always what they seem, he never gets all the information, and Steve has a hard time fighting for and with people when he can't trust them. Can he fit in? Does he want to? But when Fury is betrayed, Rogers realizes there are bigger problems that need solving.

The plot was tight but balanced, with room for character development as well as action. The humor added to the movie instead of distracting (*cough*Thor*cough*). There was not a single moment or scene wasted! Everything had a purpose. And all the actors did an amazing job with the emotional core of their characters.

Here are the specific things I liked the most, that really struck me while I was watching it Thursday night and have stayed with me.

This is a TEAM movie. Because that's what Steve Rogers does. He's a leader. He finds the best in people and brings it out. His relationships with Black Widow, Falcon, Nick Fury, and Maria Hill are so important, and their teamwork are so important, even though as the title character he's going to face the final challenges alone. I love seeing this man work with people instead of making himself out as a hero above everyone else.

The team's demographics work out to be 1 white man, 2 black men, and 2 white women. I'm still waiting for the filmmakers to stop ignoring women of color, clearly, but compared to the Avengers this team much better reflects the reality of today, and I'm happy about that.

Three strong female characters that put Marvel Films' damsels in distress Pepper Potts and Jane Foster to shame. With Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), and Agent 13 (Emily VanCamp), there is no crying, or getting kidnapped, or getting magically transported to an unknown location alone and reaching out to touch the glowy red malevolent stuff so you can get infected and spend part of the movie after that sleeping. There's just doing what needs to be done. Doing the right thing. Agent 13 doesn't have a big role in this film but I'm hoping to see more of her in future installments.

Continue reading Captain America: The Winter Soldier - Eight Things I Loved.

Need a better way to explain your blog? Look at Kickstarter.

I learned the "elevator speech" or elevator pitch concept working in nonprofits and politics. Simply put, you have the length of an elevator ride between one floor and the next to convince someone to give money or support your issue.

For bloggers, the equivalent is that moment when you introduce yourself and say what you blog about. Those couple of sentences you have to make a clear impression of what you cover and why they should read it... or get a "that's nice" or slightly quizzical look back from the person who has no idea what you're talking about.

Oh, wait. Does that last part only happen to me?

Anyway, if you're going to network with other bloggers or potential sponsors, it's great to have a clear, concise, and compelling explanation of your blog. You have a little more conversational space than just a tagline, but you don't have much longer.

Need some help getting yours right? I recommend looking at Kickstarter to get a feel for what works, and what just doesn't.

Kickstarter is a crowdfunding site where creators ask others for financial backing for a project. On the Kickstarter site, you can browse project "tiles" like you can see in the image above. Each contains one image, a brief bit of text, and info about how much the project needs and has raised. That's all the space a Kickstarter creator gets for their first "elevator speech" to potential backers browsing the site.

The success of a Kickstarter isn't just based on its elevator speech, obviously, as project creators tap into their existing networks in a variety of ways. But I've noticed some patterns of how folks pitch there which are the same type of mistakes people make when introducing their blogs, ideas, or causes in person.

Continue reading Need a better way to explain your blog? Look at Kickstarter..

How to make the pasta we used to buy from Costco

With thanks to Flickr user Christian Cale for the photo, used here under a Creative Commons license.

Instructions for making that pasta, a.k.a. why we no longer buy that pasta:

Start two hours before you would like to eat.

Okay, fine, suit yourself. Wait until half an hour before dinner. I'm sure that will work out beautifully. I'll go read a book.

What? The water's not boiling yet and you're feeling pressed for time? No, I'm not going to say "I told you so."

So now the water is boiling? Great! Put in half as much pasta as you want to cook.

Well, if you'd done what I told you to and started two hours ahead of time, you could have boiled enough water. But now that it's 20 minutes before dinner, you don't have time to start over and boil more water.

You just put in too much pasta. You know that, right?

Don't get frustrated. I'm just trying to help!

Yes, it's been the amount of time the package said you should cook it. What? You're going to test it? Why?

Why are you acting so surprised? Of course it's not done. We go through this every time.

I think setting the timer for another 10 minutes is overly optimistic, but if it makes you feel better, that's fine.

If you're going to add more water now, you should probably microwave it first so it's hot. Just sayin'. And are you sure 1 more cup is enough?

Yes, I'm sure you would eat it at this point. He won't, though. He likes his pasta actually cooked.

Did you set another timer? 'Cause there's not one running. How long ago did you last check it?

Hey, watch your language!

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Thanks to Chris Giarrusso for the title "Planet Jinxatron." Buy his books!

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