Thursday, July 29, 2021

SMART MIRROR: A FUN WEEKEND ACTIVITY WITH THE KIDS


Here is a fun weekend activity that will challenge tech savvy children in an entertaining way . You can help them to make a smart mirror, which will display all kinds of information on a blank screen. Of course, this ‘mirror’ is really just a screen or monitor. It can display dates, calendar days, the music you’re playing, a welcome message, etc. This is project that may sound like an expensive endeavor but us actually relatively cheap to do; as you’re only using a raspberry pi which costs about $30 to $50. All you need is a little bit of know-how on to use it and the kind of software you’ll need to download to make the smart mirror.

   

Get the raspberry pi 

You can buy the raspberry pi from almost anywhere. But go with the official website if you can. It's a tiny computer which has the basics, but it performs very well. The pi is so small that it can fit within your own hand. 

It's easy to set up. All you need are a few basics such as USB cables, an SD card and a few power wires which you get with a raspberry pi when you purchase one. There are lots of variations, some of them are small and simple, costing about $5 and there are larger more complex pis that cost anywhere from $30 - $100. The pi was developed by a British company, mainly to challenge and inspire children, as well as parents, who want to create smart tech around their homes.

The smart mirror 

First, download Magic Mirror software as well as Belena Etcher which will help you to set the functions of your smart mirror and display the kind of information you want. You will need a keyboard and a mouse, a USB-C to hook up to the pi, an SD card and adaptor, a micro-HDMI for the display, and a Pi-4 computer

You can use a case for the computer to prevent the parts from being damaged, especially since you will be keeping the computer close by to the screen or TV. You can buy these Raspberry Pi cases online for next to nothing. 

Why? 

So why make a smart mirror in the first place? Other than being an easy educational project for the kids it can be interacted with by your other tech around the house. For example, if you install an API in the Raspberry Pi’s smart mirror, you can use your laptop to change the information on the screen and or find out what is on the screen anywhere you are. Here is the API definition if you don’t know what this is. It's simple a messenger software that interacts with requests and brings forth the information desired. 

This STEM focused project can be done within an hour or so if an adult was to do it but if you let your children take over it could keep them occupied for a good part of an afternoon. Not to mention, turning their boring computer screen into a smart mirror is pretty fun.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

5 ACTIVITIES TO GET KIDS OUTSIDE PLAYING

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Over the past year, it has been quite difficult to go outside. Why? Well, the answer is pretty obvious. The coronavirus pandemic took a lot away from us. As a result, many were cooped up in their house for almost half a year. Some even longer while the world watched as thousands upon thousands of people, unfortunately, get really sick or die due to contracting COVID-19. This is not to say that the virus is over and done with, but people have gradually started to go back outside and have some fun with one another. Whether that is going to the beach, playing sports, or gathering together to grab a bite to eat, people have been chomping at the bit to get back out there and assimilate back into society. 

One of the most pressing issues that has come with COVID-19 is the effect that it will have on children. Being a parent can be extremely tough, but adding in a pandemic? Talk about a challenge. 

Most parents were not ready for their children to not be going to school. They had to prepare for what was somewhat unthinkable; their kids would be doing virtual learning at home. This required some parents to get babysitters or nannies while they worked to put food on the table. 

However hard that issue was/is, another problem that impacted kids was that they could no longer interact with their friends and other children. For growing brains like elementary and middle schoolers, seeing and interacting with people on a daily basis is essential in teaching basic social skills. 

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Thankfully many schools have come back, but there is still time to be made up regarding the development of your kids. Now, this isn’t a piece trying to teach you how to raise your kids, but after a year of sitting inside playing video games and watching TV, it is important for kids to get out and do outside activities. 

Seriously, even before the pandemic, video games were on the rise. For example, according to Healthline, the, “. . .average daily video game play among kids ages 8 to 18 rose from 26 minutes per day in 1999 to almost 110 minutes (nearly two hours) per day by 2009.” 

And yes, video games are fun. There is a reason they have become so popular. At the same time, they are not the end all be all. Kids should not be stuck in front of a screen all day instead of outside playing around the neighborhood. 

But what activities could get kids out of the house and into the yard? Below is a list of five outdoor activities that will get your kid excited to hop off the couch and go outside: 

Soccer 

Soccer is the most popular sport around the world. Kids everywhere play soccer; one of the reasons that is the case is the fact that you really only need a ball to start playing. Regulation sized goals would be great to have, but not everyone has access to them. Instead, all you really need is to just toss down a pair of shoes and make your own little space for a goal. 

Additionally, soccer is great because you can play with however many people you want. If your child has one friend, they can just dribble around, play one versus one, or come up with their very own new game. On the flip side, if your kid comes home with nine other preteens, a five-on-five match is a big consideration. 

dad tips

Still, before your child gets to playing soccer, you should remind them how dangerous heading the ball can be. If your kid were to smack the ball with their ear trying to head the ball in a given direction, you may have to go out and find a local audiologist

Wiffle Ball 

 Another classic, Wiffle ball, is a fantastic way to get your kids out of the house. Wiffle ball is essentially baseball on the go and can be a really awesome time. Whether that is through a home run derby or playing a nine-inning game, wiffle ball is a great way to be outdoors and have fun while doing it. And, just like soccer, all you really need is two things: a ball and bat (that are almost always purchased together). 
 
Bike Riding 

This may be another obvious activity option, but bike riding is another fun activity for kids. They get to race, go adventure around town, go off ramps, whatever. That may sound a little dangerous to you, and if that is the case, make sure your loved one is fit up with a good helmet. 

It is also worth mentioning that biking is not the only thing to scoot (pun intended) around town in. Scooters, skateboards, RipStiks, and longboards are all options. Whatever gets your kid to open the door and get outside. 

Capture The Flag 

A personal favorite, capture the flag is just straight up awesome. Team versus team fighting to be the first to get the opponent’s flag on their side. There is a lot of running, a lot of strategy, and a ton of fun. Now, the rules may differ based on the location of the game, but regardless of that, it is hard not to have a fun time playing capture the flag. That is unless one were to get caught in enemy jail for the entirety of the game. 

Pickle 

No, not the food. This is the game pickle. Never heard of it? Well, you can find the rules here. But all in all, pickle is a fun way for your child to develop some of those communication and cooperation skills that were previously talked about. Deciding whether or not to run is a risky business decision, but that is what makes it such a good time and a great way to get your kids back out into the neighborhood to prevent them from watching eight hours of TV.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

GREAT GAMES GEEK DADS SHOULD PLAY WITH THEIR KIDS


As a father, it is important that you spend time with your children. But, sometimes it may be difficult finding something to do, especially on those rainy days when everyone is bored and acting up. Well, this may be just the chance you were looking for to pull out a game that has been gathering dust on a closet shelf that the whole family can enjoy playing together. Turn off the electronics and spend some fun time interacting with one another with a board or card game. 

As you are probably already aware, there are copious amounts of games out there to choose from and it is impossible to have them all. Look for elements of game play that are enticing to your family and friends. Is strategy and skill important or is your crowd less serious and looking for games that involve luck and chance to win? Do you want battle royal matches where only one person is the victor or cooperative games where everyone teams together and you only win if everyone contributes together to reach an outcome. Here are a few suggestions of some games my own family has had some good times with: 


Can you monopolize the best transportation routes on a map to create the best transportation company? There are a variety of different versions of this game like the original where players compete for train routes across the country or my kids' favorite version where you battle for cab fares around New York City. An amusing way to learn about landmarks and geography while engaging in some competitive fun. I love games that combine educational content while also being entertaining. Ticket to Ride does just that!




In this game, you compete to build cities, roads, churches, and farms from tiles you select at random. There is a starter piece to get you going, and you have to attach the piece you pick somewhere on the board, obviously where it fits. To earn points, you lay a miniature person, known as a Meeple on the city or road, and once the structure is complete, you earn the points. You can lay as many Meeples on a structure as you like, and so can your opponent. The player with the most Meeple on a structure wins the points once it is completed. It is a game of both strategy and of luck. 


No games blog worth its salt would miss Pandemic while we are living through a Pandemic. This is a strategy game where you work together to cure diseases that are ravaging every corner of the globe. There are epidemic cards that supercharge the infection rate and make the pandemic worse. You are fighting against time and the board to win. It is a great game for thinking out loud and working together. 


Every father should have a set of cards at home. There are so many different games you can play with them. There are memory games where you play the cards face down and pick two trying to find pairs. Slapjack where the clue is in the name, you deal until there is a Jack and you all try to slap it, the winner picks up the cards. You also have the more complicated games such as Poker and Rummy. You could even teach the kids a lesson by using marked cards to show your kids how card sharks and magicians trick people. 


What are some of the favorite games your family plays together?

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Tuesday, July 13, 2021

SPONGE ON THE RUN

Paramount Home Entertainment provided this dad blogger with a complimentary Blu-ray of THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE ON THE RUN

spongebob movie

Dive into a new SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS adventure as the Bikini Bottom crew makes a splash in a family-friendly film that is sure to provide some summer fun. Available now on Blu-ray and DVD is THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE ON THE LOOSE. Not leaving town for a summer vacation this weekend? Then enjoy the hilarious journey depicted in this animated flick for an amusing movie night as part of a family summer staycation.

When SpongeBob's beloved pet, Gary, goes missing, a path or clues lead SpongeBob and his best friend, Patrick, to the powerful King of the Sea, Poseidon, who has the snail held captive in the lost kingdom of Atlantic City. On their mission to save the pet snail Gary, SpongeBob and his pals team up for a heroic trek where they discover nothing is stronger than the power of friendship. 

THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE ON THE LOOSE is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for rude humor, mild language and thematic elements. If you pick up the movie from Best Buy using one of the Geek Daddy affiliate links contained in this post, this dad blog will receive a small commission at no extra expense to your purchase price. Giddy-up!

In addition to the feature presentation, the Blu-ray and DVD home entertainment releases of THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE ON THE RUN are overflowing with an ocean of fun-filled bonus content. Look back in time at SpongeBob and Patrick in a mini-movie showing them during their youthful years being sent off to Kamp Koral for summer camp. Learn to draw young SpongeBob and Gary with step-by-step illustration lessons in an included featurette. Plus check out deleted storyboard scenes, sing-along and dance to the movie soundtrack, explore behind-the-scenes with the film's cast and crew, and get in the groove with music videos from Snoop Dogg & Monsta X and Tainy & J. Balvin. 

new spongebob movie

The extra's included in home entertainment releases are such a great reason to get Blu-rays or DVDs instead of just watching movies on a streaming service instead. Along with the feature presentation of SPONGE ON THE RUN and the mini-movie I'm Urchin You To Leave, bonus features on Blu-ray and DVD include campfire stories, camp coral buddies, camp arts and crafts, and s'mores.

THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE ON THE RUN is the third movie in a trilogy of films featuring this Nickelodeon cartoon character. If you haven't seen any of the films, the whole trilogy is bundled together in a 3-Movie Collection from Best Buy. While kids may be excited about this, I can imagine a number of parents exclaiming Oh Barnacles!

spongebob movies

Monday, July 12, 2021

ANNAPOLIS MARYLAND ROAD TRIP

Naval Academy Chapel

Rising above the skyline of Maryland's capital city is the landmark defining shape of the United State's Naval Academy's chapel. Its recently restored dome now has a bright copper tone, after decades of weathering had left it with an aged green patina look to it, which can be seen from miles away. Fifty years ago my parents were married here and a few years later I joined the picture.

To mark their 50th wedding anniversary, my parents decided to have a vow renewal ceremony where their marriage started. I wasn't going to miss that so the wife and kids piled into our car with me and we had a summer road trip from Michigan cutting through Ohio and Pennsylvania to Maryland. The weekend turned into not just a celebration of my parent's milestone anniversary but a fun reunion spent with aunts, uncles and cousins from both sides of the family tree that we don't see as much as we'd like to.

United States Naval Academy

The Naval Academy Chapel was a wonderful backdrop for my parents' fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration. I'm sure they were wondering how time flew by so fast as it probably seemed like just yesterday when they made their original vows to one another here. It was nice that the building sported its new cooper coloring giving the chapel a brand new look showing that the structure, like my parents' marriage, has stood the test of time.

Though my wife and I have been married for seventeen years, that seems like a drop in the bucket compared to fifty years. What great role models for demonstrating commitment and cooperation in a relationship. So glad we were able to make the trek to Annapolis to be a part of the celebration.

Parents Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary

Construction of the Naval Academy Chapel began in 1904 with its cornerstone laid by Admiral George Dewey, the only officer in the country's military history to hold the rank of Admiral of the Navy, and the building was completed in 1908. Designed by architect Ernest Flagg, who also created the Singer Building in New York City which for a period of time was the tallest skyscraper in the world, the Naval Academy Chapel, was constructed in the Beaux-Arts style that Flagg's work is renowned for. While midshipmen attending the Naval Academy were required to attend weekly mass at the chapel from 1908 - 1972, which included the time period my father was training to be an ensign there, the structure now is mainly used for weddings and funerals. At 210 feet high, the United States Naval Academy Chapel is a focal point for both the campus grounds as well as the city of Annapolis.

In addition to the United States Naval Academy (established in 1845), Annapolis is home to St. John's College (founded in 1645) and the Maryland State House (built in 1772). Not only has Annapolis been the state capital of Maryland but the city also served for a brief time as the nation's capital at the conclusion of the Revolutionary War. Congress under the Articles of Confederation was seated in the Maryland capitol building from 1783-1784. During this Session of Congress, George Washington personally appeared before the legislature to withdraw his commission as Commander and Chief of the army at the conclusion of the Revolutionary War to dispel concerns about his potentially creating a military dictatorship and the United States ratified the Treaty of Paris which formally ended a state of war with Great Britain and confirmed the independence of this newly formed nation. Much of the 18th and 19th century era architecture still remains in the historic downtown of Annapolis letting visitors step back in time when walking along its streets and through the buildings.

Annapolis Maryland
Annapolis Maryland

In addition to spending time on the grounds of the Naval Academy, we also had a great time spending a weekend hanging out with friends and family in its historic district neighborhoods. The quaint seaside town atmosphere of this place makes it a relaxing spot to get away from the normal hustle and bustle of life. We had a wonderful time stay in Annapolis!

Sunday, July 11, 2021

FANARTI STUDIOS FANTASTIC PORTRAITS


The talented Matt Farra created a customized portrait for this Geek Daddy to demonstrate the impressive works available through his Fanarti Studios online store on Etsy.com. Ever imagined what you would look like as a Star Wars Jedi, Star Trek Captain or student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry? Submit a photograph of yourself, a family member or friend to Fanarti Studios and Matt will customize a hand drawn illustration with the face from your submitted picture incorporated into one of a number of templates you can choose from. What a great way to immerse yourself in your fanship of Harry Potter, Star Wars or Star Trek.

I am one with the Force and the Force is with me. I choose a Star Wars template depicting the prequal era Obi-Wan Kenobi for my Fanarti Studios portrait that shows me as a Jedi. Attempting to do my best to replicate the look on the face of Obi-Wan, my wife snapped a picture of me to send over to Matt. He then replaced Kenobi's face with a hand drawn sketch of my own. 

Voila! I have a nice piece of artwork depicting me as one of the last Jedi preparing to take on the villainous Darth Vader in an effort to save the Galaxy from the Sith. I was so geeked for the opportunity to be portrayed as a Jedi in a quality piece of artwork!

You can purchase just a digital image to be sent to your or pay a bit extra to have Matt send you the image printed on High Quality Lustre Paper. Framing isn't included so you'll need to pick out one on your own. If you are interested in seeing yourself as a Jedi, head over to Fanarti Studios on Etsy and use code JEDI30 to get a 30% discount off your order. Let Matt know you saw his artwork on ageekdaddy.com


Templates you can choose from include a Star Wars Jedi like in my portrait or a Luke Skywalker inspired Rebel pilot suit; Harry Potter inspired images including Hogwarts' school uniforms and quiddich robes; and a variety of Star Trek scenes depicting the Captain's Chair on a number of different starships. Which of these custom portraits would you like to see yourself in? There is also the option to have Star Trek or the Wizarding World of Harry Potter personalized caricatures drafted up. There is even an option to have a cartoon of your pet sketched into a caricature with you. 



With so many impressive options to choose from it may be hard to select just one. With the reasonable pricing for this artwork it is reasonable and affordable to order a number of customized personal caricatures and portraits from Fanarti Studios. I'm thinking of getting portraits done of myself as a Star Trek Captain and my daughter as a Hogwarts student as well as a caricature of my son as Harry Potter. So many awesome templates to choose from!

Matt Farra has absolutely earned a Geek Daddy nod of approval for the hands on approach to catering to his cliental, excellent customer service and impressive art. Head over to Etsy and check out his portfolio for yourself. His work is FAN-tastic!

Saturday, July 10, 2021

SPACE JAM 2 A NEW LEGACY


It is Game 2 of the Space Jam movie franchise with basketball superstar Lebron James now leading a team of Looney Tunes characters in a sequel to the 1996 pop culture beloved film which starred NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan and Bug Bunny. While the original movie had the Tune Squad playing against monstrous aliens in a game of basketball to avoid Bugs Bunny and his friends being abducted to be used as attractions for an outer space theme park, the new movie has the Tune Squad helping Lebron James and his son Dom escape from being held hostage in a TRON-esque scenario within the Warner Bros computer network. A rouge artificial intelligence (AI) program known as Al-G Rhythm wants to control the basketball player's digital likeness for use in the company's entertainment properties. This time around, the basketball match will determine is Lebron and Dom win their freedom back or will they be trapped forever as digital entities inside computer servers under the control of Al-G Rhythm.

Space Jam: A New Legacy arrives July 16 at movie theaters and on HBO Max. I was geeked to be able to participate in a round table discussion with actor Don Cheadle, who plays the role of the out of control algorithm Al-G Rhythm that serves as the film's main antagonist, and some of the best dad bloggers in cyber space during Space Jam 2's publicity press junket. We delved into dad tips revolving around themes from the movie and discussed insights about the film:

The major dynamic of the film revolves around Lebron James pushing his 12 year old son towards following in his footsteps as a pro basketball player while the boy is more interested in pursuing a career as a computer programmer. This conflict comes to a breaking point when the family has to decide whether Dom is going to attend an important basketball training camp or a prestigious coding and video game development educational clinic. This father-son dynamic contributes to the duo being sucked into a digital universe filled with Warner Bros characters ranging from Harry Potter to Scooby Doo as part of an Al-G Rhythm scheme.

I asked Don Cheadle during the movie's press junket what his dad tips were for dealing with real world father-son conflicts like the scenario in the movie. Here is what he had to say:

In Space Jam: A New Legacy it is Al-G Rhythm vs King James in a looney b-ball match that is a fun family movie night flick. Space Jam 2 is rated PG for language and cartoon violence. For more information about the film go to spacejam.com.