Hey, Staffer! Whatcha Geekin’ Out About? (Feat. Torrey Stenmark)

It’s time to get to know another GeekGirlCon staffer! This month, we are talking to Torrey Stenmark, who is an expert in all sorts of geeky endeavors, from gaming to chemistry. Torrey also has some serious skills when it comes to cosplay–she has won numerous awards for her works! Find out about her below.

 

Who are you and what do you do at GeekGirlCon?

I am Torrey Stenmark, the DIY Science Zone Assistant Manager. I’ve also served on the Programming Selection Committee in past years.

What do you do for your day job/when you’re not being awesome as a GGC staffer?

I teach chemistry (introductory, general, and organic) at Shoreline Community College.

Have you always considered yourself a geek?

At least since college. I’m sure I would have been classified as a geeky or nerdy kid, but I owned the term in college. Back in high school I was a theater kid, which is not quite the same thing.

What sort of geeky things do you like to do in your spare time?

I make and wear science fiction and superhero costumes! I’ve won awards in local and national costume contests. I also volunteer with a couple of costumed charities, in which we dress up to raise money for children’s causes or to visit schools and hospitals. There’s a very special joy in demonstrating to young girls that they can be superheroes too, or showing all kids that they can be both superheroes and princesses.

JC Lau
“Rock On!”

For Science! An Interview with Regina Barber DeGraaff on Bellingham’s March

The March in Progress. Image: Regina Barber DeGraaff

The March for Science took place on Earth Day in late April this year. While the main March took place in Washington D.C., there were over 600 satellite marches that took place to support the importance of science is to our health, economies, food security, and safety. One such event took place in Bellingham, WA. I spoke to one of the organizers,  Regina Barber DeGraaff, about her involvement in the March for Science in Bellingham, and the importance of science policy and communication.

Hi Regina! Tell me about yourself.

I teach Physics and Astronomy at Western Washington University (WWU).  I am also the STEM Inclusion and Outreach Specialist which is a position I created a couple of years ago.  The College of Science and Engineering Dean at the time was very supportive of equity and inclusion so she agreed to create my half time position.

I grew up in Lynden, WA which is just south of the Canadian border in the top right tip of Washington State.  I spent my summers in San Diego, CA and attended WWU as an undergrad. After completing a MS in Physics at San Diego State University, I finished my PhD in Physics at Washington State University in 2011 with a focus on Globular Clusters using Hubble Space Telescope images.  I have taught at a high school & two community colleges.  Being a women of color in STEM, my experience as a community college student in running start and teaching at various institutions is the source of my unique perspective when it comes to inclusion in STEM.

I am also very passionate about science communication.  I host and produce Spark Science which is on its 3rd Season.  The goal of the show is to make science accessible by confronting the scientist stereotype.

JC Lau
“Rock On!”

Write for Us!

I started writing for GeekGirlCon about two years ago, after I attended GeekGirlCon ‘14 and was hugely inspired by what I had seen at the panels, Exhibitor Hall, Artists’ Alley, DIY Science Zone, and gaming floor. At first, it was sporadic, with just a few pitches here and there when a brilliant idea for a piece hit me. But writing for GeekGirlCon was fun; it was a way to express and articulate my interests in a way that I couldn’t in my other areas of writing (which were mostly academic journals). I wrote about all sorts of things: what it was like to be an Asian geek, how we could understand fictional worlds, geek taxonomy, and ferrets.

Then, a few months later, a position for a copywriter became open on the volunteer page, I applied for it, and here I am.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that if you’re geeky, have interests that align with our mission or otherwise are passionate about supporting women in games, comics, science, tech, cosplay, and more, consider guest blogging for GeekGirlCon. Or, if there’s content that you’d like to see on the blog that isn’t currently being covered, pitch it as a potential blog post!

Image source: GeekGirlCon Flickr

If you’d like to be a guest blogger, all you have to do is submit a short pitch of about 100 words on the topic you’d like to write about and how you’d write about it to jc@geekgirlcon.com. If your pitch gets accepted, we will work with you on getting your piece published on the blog. Although we will consider all topics, we would especially welcome pitches from members of underrepresented groups, or on the topics of science, cosplay, or comics.

We’d love to get more voices on our blog, so please consider adding yours to our community!

 

JC Lau
“Rock On!”

GeekGirlCon ’17 Hotel Deals for You!

GeekGirlCon‘17 pass sales are underway! While you’re purchasing your super amazing con experience, don’t forget to make your hotel reservations using our group discount! We’re partnering again with Hotel Max in downtown Seattle to bring you an awesome deal on accommodation!

GeekGirlCon has reserved rooms for convention weekend (from Thursday night to Sunday) for $195 per night. With free wi-fi, a craft beer happy hour every night, and free coffee every morning, it’s no wonder that Hotel Max is our favorite boutique hotel in Seattle. You can even get valet parking and pet room service! Plus, we love Hotel Max because it’s such a short trip through the city to get to the Conference Center at WSCC.

Image source: Google Maps

All you need to do is book online at this site (no code needed) or call Hotel Max reservations at 866-986-8087 and reference GeekGirlCon 2017.

Additionally, this year, if you’d like to extend your stay and book for days before or after our booking period–for example, if you wanted to stay on Monday night after the convention to spend more time checking out the city–just contact Hotel Max when you reserve your room to receive the same $195 rate. The current non-discounted rate for reservations is about $300 per night, so think about how much more swag you can buy at the con with those savings.

Image source: Hotel Max

Even if you’re not from out of town, it’s still a great deal to be so close to GeekGirlCon for the weekend. With over two days of amazing panels, video and tabletop games, hands-on science activities, celebrity sightings, after-dark events, you can afford to spend more time learning, laughing, playing and celebrating your geekdom with us!

JC Lau
“Rock On!”

An Interview with Feminist Camp

Feminist Camp is a weekend camp for college-age students that goes beyond classroom or campus activism for networking and learning more about feminism. While Feminist Camp was originally based in New York, it has since expanded to the Seattle area. I had the opportunity to speak to the campers last November, and also got to interview the camp organizers!

 

What are your official roles at Feminist Camp?

KATIE GALLAGHER: I’m one of the Feminist Camp Seattle directors, along with Jody.

JODY JOLDERSMA: I’m the other Seattle director, along with Katie.

CARLY ROMEO: I’m the Feminist Camp Director, I run all the sites!

What is Feminist Camp?

KATIE: Feminist Camp is a transformative experience. I attended the NYC program when I was a senior in college and emerged as an entirely different person by the end of it. Being immersed in a constant exchange of big ideas (from both experts and campers!) shaped who I am as a thinker and an activist. I left camp with a stronger feminist network, a new perspective, and the kind of renewed energy that can only come from spending a week with passionate, driven people.

JODY: I attended the Feminist Intensive program in NYC, which visited many of the same organizations as the week long program but is targeted at professional mid-career women. I was introduced to A.I.R. Gallery (the first women run cooperative art gallery in the United States) during my session. As a professional artist this was a great opportunity to expand my network and was pivotal in my career.

CARLY: Feminist Camp is an intimate week-long conference for folks who want to further explore what feminism looks like beyond theories/campus activism. It’s one part inspirational retreat, one part professional development, and one part launchpad.

JC Lau
“Rock On!”

Seven Indie Games that I played in 2016

2016 was a pretty interesting year for games: with the rise of VR and announcements about new generation consoles, there’s a lot more going on for gaming than in previous years. I didn’t get to play everything that I wanted to (of course), and although I played a lot of AAA games as well, I’m trying to spend more time looking at indie offerings. Here (in no particular order) is a quick list of some of the indie games that I played last year and would recommend:

Inside

Inside is a side-scrolling puzzle/platform game from indie studio Playdead, where you control a boy who, from the first scene, is being chased by soldiers, dogs and scientists. Although the narrative doesn’t do much to explain what’s happening, you do get to wear mind control helmets to move zombies around to solve puzzles, and there’s an underlying commentary about autonomy and ownership. The art is minimal, with the setting being mostly black and gray, except for your character and interactable objects. Likewise, there’s very little soundtrack, with only audio cues, and the sound of your character’s footsteps, which really adds to how eerie the setting is.

This War of Mine

This one came out in 2014 but I only got around to playing it in 2016. There are lots of games about war, but This War of Mine is unique in that you play as non-combatant residents of a war-torn city–all the fighting you do is for your day-to-day survival. I think this one hit home particularly hard because I started playing as the Siege of Aleppo was intensifying at the end of the year, and there are some incredibly heartbreaking choices you have to make. It’s not a game I would say I enjoyed per se, but I think it is definitely one that is worth playing for the lessons in empathy, understanding and acceptance it can teach. (And if that’s not emotionally wrenching enough for you, there’s now an expansion called This War of Mine: The Little Ones where you experience the besieged city through the eyes of a child.)

Overcooked

Overcooked is a great little cooking game where couch cooperation is key to success–it’s not enough to just be good at the game as an individual; where it gets fun (and tricky and frustrating) is playing with a group of up to three other players, where you have to navigate a kitchen without bumping into each other to source, prepare, cook and serve food. With some clever mechanics that focus on teamwork and cooperation, hilarity (and a little bit of rage) ensues.

Unravel

I absolutely love Unravel. It’s probably the most visually stunning game on this list, and it’s a little game with a lot of heart. You play as Yarny, an anthromorphic ball of yarn who—as the name suggests—unravels as he traverses across levels, using his yarn to solve puzzles and move objects around. The mechanics in the game are pretty straightforward, but what ties Unravel together (if you forgive the pun) is how lovely it is. The story is poignant and bittersweet, but it is incredibly clear that the developers really put their love into making it the game that they wanted. Also, you’d never imagine that a ball of red yarn could have so much emotion and personality.

Firewatch

I’m a huge fan of adventure games, but the majority of them that I’ve played are of the point-and-click variety. Firewatch is almost like a grownup version of that, with a mystery that drives the story and a first-person perspective that works surprisingly well for the narrative and the puzzles. You play as Henry, a volunteer lookout for Shoshone National Park, and your only means of connection to the outside world is via a walkie-talkie. As you patrol your part of the park, you discover a whole host of different storylines that interweave. I really enjoyed the way Firewatch set up dialog trees so that your responses in your conversations would drive how your experience in the game evolved.

Salt and Sanctuary

If you like the grindiness of games like Dark Souls, but set in a 2D platformer, where you can play cooperatively with your friends (and not just people who invade your game), Salt and Sanctuary might be worth checking out. It’s a hard game, but there are lots of player customizations, and playing with your friends helps soften the blow of the many, many, times that you’ll die in the game.

The Flame in the Flood

The Flame in the Flood is a roguelike survival game, where you play as Scout, a survivor in a flooded, post-apocalyptic America where the land has been transformed into a series of islands that she has to traverse on a makeshift raft. As she and her dog Aesop travel down the river, Scout has to contend with wild animal attacks, snakebites, hunger, and staying warm and dry, all the while as she uncovers the mystery of where everyone went during the rapture. What keeps the game together is the river, which varies between calm streams to rushing rapids that you have to maneuver through to get to the next destination. Will it take you where you want to go? Or will you be dashed upon rocks? I also highly recommend the soundtrack for The Flame in the Flood; I didn’t stop listening to it for weeks after I finished the campaign.

What did you play in 2016 that you enjoyed? Are there any other indie games that you would recommend? Let us know in the comments below! Happy gaming for 2017!

JC Lau
“Rock On!”

New Year, New You… as a GeekGirlCon Volunteer!

If one of your resolutions for the new year* was to support a nonprofit that supports women and girls in STEAM fields, comics, games, and other geekdoms, now’s the chance to act on it.

GeekGirlCon is looking for volunteers for 2017! With our well-documented convention expansion last year, we were looking to hire more Agents than ever before, and we’ve also brought on more staff to support the organization year-round.

This could be you. (Image source: GeekGirlCon Flickr)

We have even loftier plans for 2017, and bigger plans means a bigger army of dedicated, awesome volunteers. We’d love for you to join us for a whole plethora of reasons. Because we’re an amazing organization and an even better community. Because we’re dedicated to being able to make room for what we love doing. Because the representation of women and girls in all forms of geekery matters. Because we’re going to need all the help we can get.

So, will you be a hero(ine) and answer the call?

*Even if you didn’t make resolutions, or your resolutions didn’t involve GeekGirlCon, we’d still love to hear from you!

JC Lau
“Rock On!”

A Season’s End: Looking Forward, Looking Back at 2016

My original plan for this blog post was to write a review of the events of the past 12 months. But, for a lot of us, 2016 was not the greatest year, for a variety of reasons. A lot of scary political things happened, or are still happening, both at home and abroad. Many figures who were influential when we were growing up passed away. Zika, Brexit, having giraffes added to the endangered species list

It’s no wonder that some people have described this year as a giant dumpster fire.

But I guess that I’m ever the optimist, and even in the face of an uncertain future I look forward to opportunities for changing ourselves for the better. It might not look like much in the grand scheme of things—I mean, what is learning how to crochet really going to do when there are animals on the brink of extinction?—but I believe in progress, even if progress happens to be tiny baby steps that are barely perceivable on a large scale. As long as you keep on moving, you’re still getting somewhere, as it were.

JC Lau
“Rock On!”

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