Comics Life

The “For Boys” Problem

My girls!

This is my daughter, Mattie (and the back of my other daughter, Eva).  The girls have taken on my love of comics, mostly due to the show Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  M is wearing her new Captain America hoodie which may be her new favorite possession.  Upon seeing it in the store, Eva squealed “Daddy, do they have a THOR ONE???” but a quick check of the racks showed that they did not.  Hey, his last movie came out a while back.  So I did a search for ‘Thor hooded sweatshirt’, and the first link went to the Disney store.  As soon as the link loaded though, I rolled my eyes.  “Thor Costume Hoodie for Boys” it says.  The thing is, for a kid that is under say, 10, hoodies are all pretty much the same.  I had no problem buying that out of the ‘boys’ section, but a lot of people would avoid that.  Online, it shouldn’t even BE a problem.  Just tag it for both and drop the “for boys” out of the name.

It didn’t get any better when I scrolled to the bottom of the page.  Six more related items, all hoodies for Marvel heroes (and R2D2), all “for boys”.  The Thor character page for girls is desolate, with a Mr. Potato Head toy, a set of figurines, and Disney Infinity 2.0.  Last I checked, glasses, wall clings and books work the same for either gender.


I find the lack of Thor stuff for girls particularly funny right now, as Thor in the comics is going to BE a woman in just a few weeks.  Cosplayers of both genders have been dressing as Thor forever.  Women and girls go to comic book movies, they work in comic book stores, they read comics.  Why don’t the companies making this stuff get that?  There are sources for stuff at some of the more niche sites on the web, but most folks aren’t going to WeLoveFine or SuperheroStuff.  The girls who want to wear this now are the ones who will pick up a Spider-Man comic on a whim when they get to be teens, and will be filling Tumblr (or whatever fills that role in 10 years) with GIFs of whoever the next Hugh Jackman, Chris Evans or ScarJo is.

I hope this gets better.  DC and Marvel both have some really great books starring female heroes they could get more gear out there for, but sometimes your daughter just ends up loving Captain America, despite how many times you read Ms. Marvel or Captain Marvel around them.  Let’s support it, okay?

Featured Life Review

How to Train Your Dragon Live!

The fam and I saw the How to Train Your Dragon Live show over the weekend, and we have pictures!  It’s a tough thing to photograph, but these are the best.  And of course, a few pictures of the cutest kids in the world are in there.

Featured Life

Szpara Family Benefit

I try to avoid a lot of this on my blog, keeping it mostly to nerdy stuff, but this is too important to let pass.  A few weeks ago, the Szpara family was in a terrible accident.  The mom, Ana, and her three sons Josh (4), Evan (6), and Tyler (9) were heading to the Boy Scouts store out in Cheektowaga when their car was struck by a pickup truck.  They were rushed to Women and Children’s Hospital here in Buffalo.  Ana and Josh were on the far side of the car and were battered, but came out okay.  Evan (seated in the middle) was worse for it, spending two weeks in ICU, though he’s currently home with his his leg in a cast.  He can’t get back to school yet, but he’s working at it.

Tyler, sitting on the door where the truck hit, had the worst injuries by far.  He was in a coma for a few weeks, with severe head injuries and broken bones.  There was a time when it looked like he might not make it, but he’s pulling through slowly but surely.  He’s still in the hospital now, just beginning some physical therapy to try and get some use of his extremities.  He hasn’t yet been able to speak, but there is hope as he’s only now getting the tubes and everything out of his throat.  There’s a long road ahead, with surgery and Ana and John missing work to try and take care of two boys at home (one wheelchair bound still with one entire leg in a cast).

This is where you can help.  My wife and her friends are setting up a benefit for the Szpara family, which will be held at the V F W Frontiersmen Post 7545 at 110 Elgin St. in Tonawanda.  The date is set as Saturday, June 23 from 2 to 6 pm.  There will be a Chinese auction and theme basket raffle, food, and more.  Donations are on the way in – my wife Jen has done this for other charitable causes – but the need here is greater than she has tackled before.  If you have anything you can donate, whether is goods, a services, or even just your time, please let me know.  If you are friends with me on Facebook, you can reach me there.  I’m on Twitter at HIYLJ, you can DM me there for more info also.  There is an EIN number if you need that, and a flyer I can send you with more contact info (just don’t want to post phone numbers out in the open here).  I’m reachable via the Contact Me page here at the site as well.  If you don’t have the ability to donate (and I completely understand if you don’t) then please share this post around so others can see and help.  Tyler’s a buddy of my son, and the pain and confusion on Thomas’s face when he learned what happened was unbearable.  Thanks for listening, everyone, and a special thanks to those people and business who have already donated (got a signed Sabres yearbook today, thanks Cody McCormick!).

Sabres and Bills fans, there are a LOT of items you should be interested in!  Signed Nathan Gerbe and Ryan Miller sweaters (thanks to Nathan Gerbe for that!), a signed Ryan Fitzpatrick jersey, and some signed French Connection gear (I think it’s a stick).  Please come out and buy some tickets!  It’s a family event, so bring the kids.


Thanksgiving Timeline

It’s time, once again, for what might be the best holiday of them all for grown-ups – Thanksgiving.  That goes double if you aren’t trusted to prepare food by your family.  You get awesome food, and it’s expected that you are going to eat a ton of it.  If you love football, there are some genuinely good matchups this year.  Don’t get me wrong, Christmas is fun, but that usually includes all of the same food prep, plus you are up late assembling/arraying presents around the tree, and if you are church-going folk, you’ve got that too.  It doesn’t mean that turkey day is totally without drama.  Here’s my expected timeline for lunch/dinner tomorrow:

  • 12:30pm – Football!
  • 12:39pm – Children want to play Wii on the same TV.  Intense negotiations ensue.  I make sure the only game they can find is Wii Fit.  They lose interest.
  • 1:58pm – The first call to go to the table to eat goes out.  Since it involves 19 people aged 1 to 91, it takes some time.
  • 2:19pm – An adorable child says Grace.
  • 2:20pm – The other five do so as well, not wanting to be left out.
  • 2:22pm – The food is being passed, and plates are assembled for those sitting at the ‘kids table’.  I take a little bit of everything you eat to be nice to those that brought it.
  • 2:28pm – Nephew knocks over his drink.
  • 2:32pm – Upon taking seconds, I just take the things you really wanted in the first place (turkey, canned cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes with cheese and bacon bits).  Also, the first salvo of crescent rolls are gone.
  • 2:47pm – May or may not have thirds, possibly dependent on more rolls.  Other nephew knocks his drink over.
  • 3:111pm – Stuffed beyond all memory.
  • 3:14pm – Desserts are passed.  Based on the previous note, it is ill-advised to take one at this point.  I take three.

At this point, the evening becomes a blur.  Napping is attempted and thwarted by *gasp* conversation.  More football watching is attempted, but in my sleepy, bloated state I am unable to stop the children from putting in a movie.  Luckily they have good taste and it’s either a Pixar movie or Despicable Me.  The night will end early for me as I’m working really, really early the next morning.

Life Media

NaNoWriMo? Should I subject myself to this again?

Why am I considering this?  Shall I torment myself yet another year?  Yeah, actually, I think so.  Looking at the 10 Types of writer’s block I linked earlier, I think I might have a way past the ones that typically take me down.  I have ideas, and I think I can strangle my inner critic, who is my own worst enemy.  That, and unwittingly reading another book that uses my “can’t miss” story hook.  Thanks a lot, Timothy Zahn.

I know my blog readers and Twitter followers include numerous authors of varying levels of success amongst them.  How many of you are attempting NaNoWriMo this year?  Let me know.

Featured Life Movies Sci/Tech

Friday Finds – Downy Canadian Dinosaurs and Colliding Galaxies

Hey everybody, hope you had a fun week.  Here’s the posts from this week:

Here are the links you may like: 

Scientists found dinosaur feathers from 70 million years ago in a chunk of amber in Canada.  Of course dinosaurs in Canada had feathers, have you been there in the winter?

Galactic collisions caused our galaxy to have spiral arms.  And the rogue galaxy is coming back for us again!  We’d better train up some oilmen to launch into space and take it out, in 10 million years or so.

An alternate theory on how cancer cells get energy could change the way we fight them.  It requires more study but this is fascinating stuff.

And now, for something completely different.  If you’ve ever had to cook corn on the cob for a party or simply a large family, it was probably a pain to either keep a couple of large pots boiling.  So use your cooler instead.

Finally, if you’ve got a LEGO fan who loves Star Wars, and honestly most of them do, the LEGO Star Wars Hoth/Wampa playset is on sale.

Gadgets Life Movies Sci/Tech

Friday Finds – Robot Octopi and Arctic Airships

A light week this week, due to the holidays and not being home much.

But that does leave plenty of room for links!

Star Wars:  Heir to the Empire 20th Anniversary Edition, a fine gift for the SW geek in your family.

A horribly incomplete list of best and worst movie adaptations.  Check the comments for some better choices, and comment here if you have other suggestions.

Happy Birthday Star Trek.

Dolphins may ‘talk’ similar to humans.  Re-analysis of data gathered in the 70s, really cool stuff they can do now.

Diamond Light Source wants your short stories or flash fiction involving their particle accelerator.  I know there are some aspiring (and successful) writers who read, might be fun.

I just love airships, as anyone where I work can tell you, and using them to deliver stuff to the North Pole would be super cool.

Electromagnetic induced transparency, which has to give me my transparent aluminum, right?

 Quite the handshake, there.  Go ahead with your Robot Overlords jokes, if you must.



Raising a Reader

Michael Forbes, whom I follow on Twitter for hockey stuff, linked an article in the New York Times, “Boys and Reading: Is There Any Hope?” by Robert Lipsyte.  The issues brought up in the essay are boiled down to this passage:

If we’re to counter this tendency and encourage reading among boys who may collectively resist it, boys need to be approached individually with books about their fears, choices, possibilities and relationships — the kind of reading that will prick their dormant empathy, involve them with fictional characters and lead them into deeper engagement with their own lives. This is what turns boys into readers.

The differences in the boys around here were driven home to me today as I picked my son up after school from a friend’s house.  Part of their homework (3rd grade by the way) was to read for 20 minutes.  The friend would ONLY read for the requisite 20, even complaining – seriously! – about an extra second of time on the timer set for him.  My son would read every night until he fell asleep face first in a book if I let him.  After catching sight of that article tonight, I sat down to try and think if there was anything I did specifically to encourage his love of reading.  First, I think the biggest thing is this:

On his Web site,, the teacher and author Jon Scieszka writes that boys “don’t feel comfortable exploring the emotions and feelings found in fiction. . . . Boys don’t have enough positive male role models for literacy. Because the majority of adults involved in kids’ reading are women, boys might not see reading as a masculine activity.”

This is something where being a GeekDad comes in handy.  I grew up reading, and the gateway to my love of reading was science fiction and comics.  From there it was an easy branch out to fantasy, and whatever other books my brother bought until I could afford my own.  The next part is having good teachers.  Last year his teacher had a ‘browsing box’ of books you could read in class and take home (outside of their scant library time).  He reads this series of Geronimo Stilton books she had in there (he’s a mouse that runs a newspaper and has adventures), but when he runs out of those, he picks up whatever I have here.  That could be a Narnia book, the Hobbit, Percy Jackson (the movie caught his eye) or my wife’s Harry Potter.

If your kid shows the interest, the next step is to be sure to feed them books regularly.  The library can help, church rummage sales, those discount bookstores that appear in the shopping centers after a big anchor store closes, and the discount shelf at your local B&N.  An e-reader can come in handy as well, as kids love technology nowadays, and I have a hard time prying my Nook away from Thomas.  I’m not saying this stuff will work for every kid, but hopefully this (and the link article and site) give you some ideas on how to nudge your young one on the reading path.  If you have any other tips, share them here.


Growing Older (But Not Up)

Ways I know I still haven’t grown up:

  1. Video games are still fun.
  2. Most of my favorite movies are animated.
  3. Almost all of my t-shirts are either video game or sports team related.
  4. I cheer when watching a sporting event…even if I’m at home alone.
  5. LEGO stuff is awesome (this will never change).
  6. The best cereal has characters on the box.

What else do you have?


Dads get the shaft

 Father’s Day is coming up (June 19th if you’re scoring at home), and even if you decry the commercial aspects of the various parental celebration days, you have to admit that we Dads kind of get shafted with this one.  First, thanks to it’s placement on the calendar, we will never escape the lame ad copy ‘Gifts for Dads and Grads!’.  I don’t know about you, but the things I like nowadays (extra sleep, baby hugs) don’t really overlap with a future college student’s.

It gets even worse when you see displays for the Father’s Day themed items at stores.  Take a look at this display spotted at Wegman.  Sure, some of the options are solid, especially for the little kid set (books you can read with your kids are always fine), but beyond that it’s assumed you like golf, or at least Tiger Woods, are clueless when taking care of your children, and you really love sitting on your butt in the recliner.  If I told you the other side of the rack was filled with books about grilling, would you be surprised?  How pissed would moms be if a ‘Show Mom How’ book was prominently featured on Mother’s day?  (yes, I know that series is tongue-in-cheek) Even though they do have such a book, I don’t remember seeing it trotted out as a legitimate purchase on the Mommy day, you know?  Just another way culture feeds into the ‘haha, Dads are bumbling oafs LOL’ stereotype.  I’m far from perfect, but there’s never been a time where I felt I was somehow behind my wife to any significate degree in the how-tos of parenting.  We both have to figure it out as we go, with help from family, previous life experience, and common sense.

Still, I’m not one to lead a charge against anything, and it really is the thought that counts, so I would say only to enjoy whatever it is that you do for the day.  Smile broadly when you open the grill brush or lawnmower or power washer or drill/driver combo that ads tell your family is really what you want, hug your kids, then stay up all night reading, playing video games, or whatever it is you REALLY like to do.  One rough day at work is totally worth it.


Happy Mother’s Day!

To all the Mommies out there, have a great day!


Things our kids won’t believe

For sports:

  • Baseball was played mostly during the day.
  • The only way to track the stats of your favorite players was through the box scores in the newspaper.
  • There were no Russians in the NHL.
  • The Mets were good and the Red Sox were perpetual losers, often in heart-breaking fashion.

For media:

  • MTV showed music videos.
  • Nobody got famous because of reality shows.
  • UHF/VHF dials on your TV.
  • VCRs with wired remotes.
  • The best cartoons were on Saturday morning.

For video games:

  • You could play all day in an arcade for a couple of dollars, provided you didn’t suck at gaming.
  • Also, arcades.
  • The only handheld gaming device weighed as much as a brick and was black and white.
  • If you wanted to play against a friend, he had to come to your house.

For computers (mostly DOS/Win):

  • Command line and ini file editing.
  • Boot disks and memory managers for specific games (Wing Commander).
  • Sound beyond the PC speaker was a revelation.
  • 5 1/4 in. floppy disks, clipping the other side so you could make them double-sided.
  • 8 character file names.
  • WordPerfect was king.

What else do you have for this?