Sunday, August 20, 2017

Streaming the Solar Eclipse

NASA
Natural phenomenons can be a wonder to behold.  Especially remarkable ones like the total eclipse of the sun that is taking place on Monday, August 21st.  The last time this occurrence was visible from the United States I was just six years old.  So a total solar eclipse is obviously a rare sight that you don't want to miss out on if you can witness one.

For those people who don't have the special glasses to gaze directly at the event, may be stuck inside for work or other obligations, or the weather isn't cooperating with cloudy skies don't fret.  Live video of the event is going to be broadcast from a variety of sources.  Here are a few options to stream coverage of the solar eclipse to your television, computer or mobile device:

NASA

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration will be providing numerous perspectives of the solar eclipse from unique vantage points including the International Space Station, NASA aircraft, astronomical observatories across the United States and more than 50 high-altitude balloons.  The NASA TV Public Channel is streaming TOTAL ECLIPSE programming online throughout the phenomenon.  Alternate streaming feeds that will have live coverage and commentary from NASA include Facebook Live, Twitch TV, Ustream, and YouTube.  The TOTAL ECLIPSE coverage will feature expert commentary from astronomers, academics, astronauts and scientists in addition to what promise to be some spectacular visual images.  NASA will also be providing a live raw video feed without any commentary for those who just want to enjoy viewing the solar eclipse.

THE EXPLORATORIUM

The Exploratorium, a science learning laboratory and museum in San Francisco, is hosting 5 live feeds of the solar eclipse.  They will be available to watch through the organization's free Total Solar Eclipse App or its web page.  The video being streamed will include (1) telescope imagery from Casper, Wyoming, (2) telescope views from Madras, Oregon, (3) a one-hour educational eclipse program with scientific experts from Explorium and NASA in English (4) the educational program also broadcast in Spanish, and (5) a live musical perfomance by Kronos Quartet.

SLOOH

This streaming service focuses on working with observatories around the world in sharing the imagery of astronomical events with each other and the public.  Slooh does a nice job of supplementing the visuals component of their broadcasts with commentary by experts who explain things in a manner relatable to the average person. You do need to sign up for a free account to access Slooh's broadcast but covering these type of events is their cup of tea so they are well worth checking out.  You can also watch Slooh's webcast without registering for an account by viewing their video feed on space.com.

STREAM.LIVE

Working in partnership with NASA, Stream's coverage will focus on footage from the high-altitude balloons being launched throughout the United States within the eclipses path of totality (where the moon will completely obstruct the sun).  Visitors to eclipse.stream.live will have the option of the video feed from specific balloons via an online interactive map feature.

WESTERN SOL

Here's an entertaining way to watch the eclipse.  A film maker is shooting a Western movie with the solar eclipse as part of the plot and viewers can watch it all unfold live on Facebook.  Western Sol will begin around 12:25 ET and if all goes well you'll be able to witness the real eclipse live within this fictional story about a rancher who is force to rob a bank.

Remember, if you are going out to watch the eclipse outside even though it is shaded by the moon looking directly at the sun is dangerous for your eyes.  Don't gaze at this celestial event without the proper safety gear covering your eyes.  Watching one of these streaming channels may thus be your best option for enjoying this moment in time if you don't have the recommended NASA-approved safety glasses on hand.

Friday, August 18, 2017

DO SPORTS COUNT AS PLAY?

 ** Thank you to The Toy Association for sponsoring this post **
play

Some of the best memories from my youth involve playing sports.  Between first and eighth grade, I played on a number of teams with basketball and soccer being two of my favorite activities.  It seemed like all the neighborhood kids were involved in sports playing together on city rec league and school teams during that time in my life.  So from my own inclusive, fun experiences as a kid,  I have to admit being caught off guard twenty years later as a parent as my own young children have become involved in youth sports.  The atmosphere now appears to be so much more commercialized and exclusive then from when I was my kids' age.

Now children as young as first grade are competing in try outs to be on "travel teams" that cost parents thousands of dollars for the privilege of having their kids be a member of the squad.  Instead of promoting the fun of a game, many adults are now using youth sports as a way of getting an edge towards obtaining college athletic scholarships or have even bigger dreams of their child earning a big pay day by being drafted with a professional team.  Coaching in the "recreation" division for a local soccer club, I've noticed the try out teams depleting talent making it harder to field teams that average kids can play on.  Often times too the kids on the rec teams are treated as inferior by the organization's management, coaches, parents and other players compared to the ones who make the try out teams which can be demoralizing for youngsters.

I've also noticed classmates of my kids declining to even give sports a try because they're worried about not being good enough or having to try out.  I do believe that earning a spot on a team and being competitive has an important role in sports as kids get older, but we're talking about first, second and third graders here!  This should be an age where kids are trying out all sorts of new things not being told they are too inexperienced or not good enough to take part in a sport.  This isn't just soccer; it goes on in baseball, basketball, hockey and all sorts of other sports too.

The Genius of Play campaign, sponsored by The Toy Association, recently posed the question "do sports count as play" or have athletics just become a business component within the entertainment industry now?  Check out the responses in this video:



So what do you think?  In my opinion youth sports still are essentially opportunities for children to play together.  My kids aren't on try out teams but they still enjoy being involved in sports for the love of the activities and spending time with friends.  My daughter is really into basketball, dance, swimming, and soccer.  My son avidly plays baseball, golf and ultimate frisbee.  Neither will turn down a chance to join in a pick up game of touch football at the playground with friends or play a game of catch with dad in the backyard.  For our family sports is all about getting exercise in an enjoyable way as part of a healthy lifestyle.

baseball
I believe children shouldn't be encouraged to participate in sports at an early age primarily for the hope of landing a scholarship for school or desiring them to be good enough to get rich from playing a sport; but rather to assist them in gaining the lifelong skills that can be developed through play.  I personally don't coach with the goal of grooming players to be super stars but rather teach fundamentals while encouraging all the kids to be having fun and appreciating getting some exercise rather than being cooped up inside watching television and playing video games all the time.  For my children and the kids that I coach it is all about healthy living and enjoying the fun of play.

play

Despite the increased commercialization and exclusiveness of youth athletics that I've witnessed, sports to me still count as play.  If a program seems too ultra competitive for your child don't be dissuaded from being involved in the sport, but rather look for another option that is a better fit for your family.   Being involved in sports provides children with valuable opportunities to interact with others and develop social skills. Sports also incorporates six positive attributes of play that The Genius of Play acknowledges contribute an important role in raising healthy, well-rounded children:

PHYSICAL
Active play helps kids with coordination, balance, motor skills, and exhausting their natural energy.

EMOTIONAL
During play, kids learn to cope with emotions like fear, frustration, anger, and aggression.

SOCIAL
Playing with others helps kids negotiate group dynamics, collaborate, compromise and share.

COGNITIVE
Children learn to think, read, remember, reason and pay attention through play.

CREATIVE
Play promotes kids forming unique ideas and solutions to challenges.

COMMUNICATION
Play lets kids exchange thoughts and information through speech, signals and actions.

The Genius of Play is providing a forum for addressing a variety of questions involving the value of play in children's lives.  Other topics being debated over at thegeniusofplay.org include "should kids play unsupervised," "how much screen time should kids be allowed to have," and "should there be more recess time provided at schools?"  A panel of experts weigh in on these and other issues plus answer questions submitted by parents to the forum.   

The Genius of Play also provides a variety of ideas to promote positive and imaginative play situations and tips for purchasing age appropriate toys.  You can access this information through their website as well as on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.  Also don't forget to sign-up for their useful e-mail newsletter while visiting thegeniusofplay.org.

So do you think sports count as play? Join The Genius of Play conversation!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

COMET TV SOLAR ECLIPSE GUIDE + GIVEAWAY

solar eclipse information

On Monday, August 21, 2017 there will be a stellar event taking place in the sky over much of the continental United States when a solar eclipse will occur.  My friends at COMET TV don't want A Geek Daddy's readers to be left in the dark about this incredible occurrence so they've create a special solar eclipse resource guide on their website for us to share with you.  WHEN THE MOON THROWS SHADE -- AN ULTIMATE GUIDE TO ECLIPSING describes what a solar eclipse is and provides instructions on how to view it safely.  There really is some great information here!

While visiting the COMET TV website check out what new movies they are airing in August.  They are always broadcasting different rotations of classic horror and science fiction films.  This month's films for example include An American Werewolf in London and Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

An American Werewolf in London 



One of the greatest horror films of all time is headed to COMET! Check out John Landis’ often imitated but never duplicated 1981 classic, An American Werewolf in London, and discover why it’s always a good idea to “stay off the moors.” The film airs on COMET on August 18 at 8pm ET/PT, and again the following night  (Friday, August 18) at the same time.  Check COMET TV's schedule for additional broadcasts.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers 



 Most of the time, we’re not big fans of remakes. But once in a while, a remake comes along that vastly outshines its inspiration. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the 1978 reboot of the 1956 sci-fi thriller, is one of those remakes. Not only that, it’s maybe the best remake ever made, and with stars like Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum, and Leonard Nimoy, it’s not hard to see why. The invasion begins on August 25 at 8P/7C, with an encore airing at 8P/7C on August 26.

GIVEAWAY

Also don't miss out on the COMET TV solar eclipse themed giveaway A Geek Daddy is hosting.  The prize pack contains:

1 - “Total Solar Eclipse” Collectible First Day Issue Stamp - Straight from the USPS this is the official commemorative first day issue stamp.

1 - Comet USB Charging Bank - Do you want to snap a selfie and oh no, you only have 10% power left? Fear not, Comet has you covered. This awesome charger is the perfect save for any emergency situation!

1 - Comet Embroidered Hat - An official Comet TV hat is perfect for any ensamble. It will protect you from the sun, while you look more stylish and awesome than you already are!

 1 - Comet Cooler Bag - This fun portable travel cooler is the go-to gear for your sodas, snacks and anything else you want to put it in. Take it to the park when you’re about to watch the eclipse and let your beverages stall chill and frosty, just like you!

 1 - Limited Edition Comet SPF 30 Sunscreen Squeeze Pouch - We can’t let you get toasty out in the sun! This limited edition SPF 30 sunscreen pouch can go in your travel bag and let you avoid a nasty burn!

For a chance to win it please follow @Geekdad248 on Twitter and retweet the embedded message below before 11:59 pm ET on August 22, 2017.  Must be a US resident over 18 years old to participate in this promotion.



COMET TV is an overair broadcast network that can be tuned in with a digital antenna that specializes in science fiction and horror programming.  You can watch COMET TV in the Metro Detroit area of Michigan via digital antenna on Channel 19-7.  CLICK HERE to see if COMET TV is broadcasting in your area.  If not, COMET TV can also be viewed for free by utilizing its app on Apple TV and Roku or watching its live website stream at CometTV.com.

If it is cloudy or rainy on August 21st or you just can't get outside to view the solar eclipse NASA will be live streaming video from the international space station and prominent locations across the United States.  CLICK HERE to view their live eclipse feed.  Or of course you could always watch what is airing on COMET TV instead!

solar eclipse tips
Disclaimer & Rules:  A Geek Daddy has not been financially compensated for this endorsement or hosting the giveaway but was provided the same items being provided as a prize for personal use. The prize is provided by COMET TV and A Geek Daddy is hosting the promotion as a benefit to our readers. Must be a US resident over the age of 18 to participate.  One entry per mailing address and winner will be randomly selected from all eligible entries.  If you have already won this prize through another blog participating in this promotion, your entry will be disqualified.  By participating in this promotion you waive any liability of any kind against the publisher of this blog. Winner is subject to eligibility verification. No P.O. Boxes allowed for delivery of the prize. COMET TV will be responsible for shipping the prize to the selected winner.  A Geek Daddy is not responsible for delivery of the prize.

STAR TREK II THE WRATH OF KHAN RETURNS TO THE SILVER SCREEN FOR ITS 35TH ANNIVERSARY

The original crew of the starship Enterprise is returning to the silver screen as Fathom Events and Paramount Pictures will be celebrating the 35th anniversary of STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN with special showings at movie theaters across the United States.  The movie will be presented in a digitally remastered Director's Cut and, as an added bonus for Star Trek fans, William Shatner will appear in a newly produced in-depth interview that will play before each screening.  STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN 35th ANNIVERSARY DIRECTOR'S CUT will be shown at movie theaters for two days only:  Sunday, September 10 and Wednesday, September 13 at 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm local time each day.

Nicholas Meyer’s STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KAHN was a box-office hit upon its release – the sixth highest-grossing film of 1982 – and continues to be revered and quoted by fans. The film, a continuation of the original Star Trek series episode “The Space Seed,” finds longtime Starfleet nemesis Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban) alive and well, marooned on a seemingly lifeless planet. When he’s discovered by Chekov (Walter Koenig), Khan will stop at nothing to exact revenge against the man who exiled him on the barren world: Admiral James T. Kirk.



Tickets for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan can be purchased online at fathomevents.com or by visiting or at participating theater box offices. Moviegoers throughout the U.S. will be able to enjoy this event in more than 600 select movie theaters.  For a complete list of theater locations visit the Fathom Events website (theaters and participants are subject to change). 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

ENTERTAINING DISTRACTIONS FOR KIDS ON A LONG CAR RIDE

** A Geek Daddy received the featured products for free to review **
Family Road Trips

Are we there yet?!  The dreaded phrase by kids that can grate on any parents nerves like the sound of fingernails down a chalkboard during a long car ride.  We embarked on a very long road trip from Michigan to Florida and back and I wanted to do my best to keep my kids entertained so we could have a peaceful car ride.  Spending a total of four days in the car driving more than 8 hours per day was going to make that a challenge but thanks to these great items we brought along with us to amuse the kids the traveling was relatively enjoyable for everyone.

road trip with kids
MAGIC SKETCH from Boogie Board

Both of my kids spent a lot of time doodling and playing games on this digital art pad.  It's liquid crystal screen lets you write and draw with a stylus on a screen just like pen on paper.  When you're all done simply press a button and the screen erases.  The twins spent a lot of time creating some artistic masterpieces.  It comes with 4 styluses, 3 stamps, and a roller to provide kids with a variety of options in crafting their artwork.  The Magic Sketch has a 7 year battery life so users can feel comfortable resetting the screen over and over again for creative endeavors, learning and game playing.

family road trip

Magic Sketch has a see through screen that allows kids to easily trace things when they don't want to go free style.  60 stencils come along with it that include pictures to trace as well as educational tools such as math problems to solve and handwriting skills to practice.  I really appreciate that the Magic Sketch is both entertaining and educational promoting kids learning while having fun.  Speaking of fun, it also has stencils for activities such as hang man, mazes, tic tac toe, and word searches.  There were a lot of tic tac toe duels during the car ride!  



What was especially nice about Magic Sketch is that it doesn't need to be charged.  The kids could constantly play with it and it never needed to be plugged in to be re-energized.  The battery inside doesn't need to be recharged during its lifetime.  Plus Magic Sketch is water resistant and  durably made making it very kid-friendly!

road trip essentials


DISNEY MOVIES ANYWHERE

It really is convenient to be able to download a digital copies of a movies to a phone or tablet to entertain children during a long road trip.  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was just released on Digital HD as we were leaving and the kids were thrilled to watch it in the car.  My daughter hadn't seen it yet so she was really excited and absolutely LOVED Baby Groot.  We redeemed the motion picture from our Disney Movies Anywhere which allows us to stream or download for viewing films from Walt Disney Studios (Disneynature, Pixar, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, and Walt Disney Pictures) over the web or its mobile app as well as connect its content to our iTunes, GooglePlay and Vudu accounts.  This flexibility is nice because depending on devices and locations sometimes one option may be more ideal than another.  For example we don't have an AppleTV so we stream our Disney Movies Anywhere content to our family's big screen television via Vudu.  Since we were traveling with iPads with no Internet connection while we drove, the kids watched Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 through downloading it through iTunes.

Disney Movies Anywhere


Q*bert

My son has been infatuated with Q*bert since he saw the movie PIXELS.  So I surprised him on the trip by giving him a mini-arcade version of the game from The Bridge Direct.  It featured an old-school arcade cabinet that was the perfect size to play in the car that featured music, sound effects and graphics from the original game.  They also have a Frogger version as well!

classic arcade games


The kids got a real kick out of using a joy stick to control the characters instead of key pads or finger motions like they use on most of today's apps and video games.  Plus they thought the "retro" graphics were really cool!  The miniature arcade games also have volume controls so if the noise became a bit too distracting while my wife and I were driving we could have them mute or turn down the sound.  These games captured their attention for a decent amount of time during the car ride and my kids really enjoyed them.  You can find these games along with Centipede at Walmart.

video games


Cricket Media

We made sure our kids got some reading in during the trip by bringing along some magazines from Cricket Media.  It can be challenging balancing screen time with reading when so many publications are moving to digital formats.  There are times I want my kids to just put the tech away and read so Cricket Media is very helpful for that.  They publish 11 print magazines for kids that range in content for audiences varying from babies to teens.  These magazines do a nice job of being entertaining for kids to peruse while also being full of informative material on topics such as art, literature, history, and science.

middle grade reading

The twins had issues of ASK and SPIDER magazines along with them on the trip.  These two magazines are aimed for children between 6 to 9 years old and are 100% ad-free filled with interesting articles and activities for kids in this age range.  ASK Magazine is meant for curious kids and is filled with fun facts and trivia about animals, geography, outer space as well as numerous other STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) related topics.   SPIDER Magazine is filled with content to encourage kids to get excited about reading on their own.  It is filled with fantasy and adventure stories, folk tales, poems,nonfiction works and illustrations by reputable children's artists and authors.  Both of these magazines were Parents' Choice Gold Award winners this year!  They provided some quiet down time away from movies and games during the ride and generated some nice family conversations with the kids asking questions and chatting about the content they'd read which was a nice way to spend some time as we traveled together.

MIGHTY JACK

Of course we brought some comic books along with us!  This trip my son and daughter spent a lot of time reading the graphic novels Mighty Jack and Mighty Jack and the Goblin King which were written and illustrated by Ben Hatke.  These stories are a reinvention of the classic fable Jack and the Beanstalk in a contemporary setting.

graphic novel

In Mighty Jack, the garden behind Jack's house has become filled with amazing creatures that have gone wild in his backyard after being set loose by magic beans that he and his little sister Maddy planted.  That graphic novel concludes with Maddy being taken by one of the creatures to a place located at the top of a gigantic beanstalk inhabited by giants that grind the bones of human children to feed a beast within their castle in the sky.  Mighty Jack and the Goblin King starts off with Jack and his neighbor Lilly in fast pursuit up the beanstalk.

My son was so immersed in these stories he couldn't put them down when we stopped to eat and brought them into the restaurants with him to continue reading.  He also loves to draw and really relished Hatke's illustrations.  During the trip he doodled images of many of the characters from these comics on his Magic Sketch.  My daughter also really enjoyed reading these stories when she could pry them away from her brother.

graphic novel

All in all it was a safe journey that was made a lot more peaceful than some of our past road trips thanks to making sure the kids had plenty of distractions to keep them entertained during the car ride.  In fact, I rarely was asked "are we there yet?" which made the drive really nice for me. So I give all the items listed above A Geek Daddy nod of approval!  Are there any must have items that you always take with you when traveling with kids to keep them amused during the trip?

Monday, August 14, 2017

KIDS WILL GO BANANAS FOR FINGERLINGS

** A Geek Daddy received the featured product for free to review **
WowWee

My daughter went BANANAS when she saw the newest toy from WowWee -- Fingerlings!  Some of her favorite toys have come from WowWee including MiPosaur and CHiP the robot dog. It looks like the toy company has impressed her again with these adorable robotic baby monkeys.  Fingerlings will cling to your finger and are small enough you can take them with you wherever you go. Not only are they cute though but they'll actually interact with you!  She's been playing with the Fingerling that WowWee provided A Geek Daddy to review nonstop since it arrived in the mail.

These cuddly baby monkeys actually come to life within your hands.  Fingerlings can interact with you through more than 40 sounds and animations.  Tap on a Fingerling's head to trigger a variety of different reactions.  Hang them upside down by their tail and see what happens.  They'll show affection when you pet them and fall asleep when rocked in the palm of your hand.  Cup your hand in just the right spots and your Fingerling will even burp or fart! Clap your hands to get your robotic pet to sing or whistle to you.



Fingerlings Baby Monkeys debuted at stores this week and there are six to choose from.  Each one is a different color and has its own unique personality: Bella (pink), Mia (purple), Sophie (white), Boris (blue), Zoe (turquoise) and Finn (black).  Inspired by the rare finger monkey species that are placed at-risk whenever removed from their natural habitat, WowWee found a way to create a safe and playful way to provide every child with their own special fingertip hugging friend.  To help preserve the real life monkeys, WowWee will be donating $1.00 for each of the robotic ones they sell in their first week of sales to WildAid, a nonprofit conservation group that aims to protect wildlife and end illegal animal poaching.

Baby Monkeys

Based upon the reaction my daughter has had to Fingerlings Baby Monkeys and that they are reasonably priced at under $20 these are sure to be a hot toy this year for holiday gifts.  These 5.5" tall toys are designed for children 5 years old and older and feature blinking eyes, turning heads, curly hanging tails, hands that grip and happy monkey sounds that I'm sure will delight kids.  My daughter has been thrilled to play with Mia! Grab one now while you can find them on store shelves!  They're available nationwide in the United States at Kmart, Toys R Us, Target, Walmart and other major toy retailers as well as on Amazon.com.


Baby Monkeys

Sunday, August 6, 2017

MURDER BALLADS

Indie publisher Z2 Comics provided a sneak peak of its upcoming graphic novel MURDER BALLADS to comic book fans at Free Comic Book Day last May by distributing a prequel story that sets up this tale of rock'n'roll noir.  Now the graphic novel that prequel was hyping is arriving on store shelves!  Written by Gabe Soria with Paul Reinwand's artwork follows Nate Theodore, a dead-broke and deadbeat owner of a failing record label, who is on a cross-country drive fleeing the wreckage of his business and trying to save a crumbling marriage.  He finds himself with an unexpected chance to reverse his fortunes when, during a stop in a desolate rust belt town, he "discovers" Donny and Marvell Fontweathers, two African-American brothers who play a raucous brand of doom-laden country blues. You'll find MURDER BALLADS at your favorite book stores and comic shops beginning Tuesday, August 8, 2017.  It is priced at $24.99.

While the story is appealing for its gritty supernatural tale there is also a very interesting twist to this publication that is a real bonus for people who pick it up.  It will include a sound track of authentic blues music tied to the story that can be downloaded online from a code printed within the graphic novel.  Grammy-Award winner Dan Auerbach, singer/guitarist of the rock band Black Keys, and bluesman Robert Finley have come together to record the music for the MURDER BALLADS soundtrack which includes a cover of the classic Leadbelly song "In the Pines" along with four original songs inspired by the graphic novel's story ("Bang Bang," "Butter Sandwich," "The Empty Arms," and "Three Jumpers").

This graphic novel combines two of my favorite indulgences; relaxing to blues music and reading comic books.  I'm really looking forward to checking out MURDER BALLADS illustrations and listening to its tunes.  This is a great read for those hot Autumn dog days of summer.  Pour yourself your favorite drink, relax in a comfortable chair, flip on the soundtrack, and enjoy reading an interesting story.  Combining the blues with a story told through comic strips really is a novel idea!