GeekGirlCon Blog

GeekGirlCon ’13 Programming Round-Up: Edible Astronomy

Written by Sarah Grant, Copy Writer

I worked quite a bit on the program book for GeekGirlCon ‘13, especially in beefing up or cutting down panel descriptions. One of the most intriguing–and the one that most often made me giggle a little bit–was titled Edible Astronomy. The thing that came to mind most often was something about Earth’s moon and Swiss cheese; I was really hoping that wasn’t going to happen.

 

Image from GeekGirlCon Flickr Account

Image from GeekGirlCon Flickr Account

Presenters Nicole Gugliucci, Nancy Graziano, and Amy DaviS Roth started the panel with several packages of Oreo cookies in front of them, along with what looked like fruit, nuts, a bag of rice, and a beach ball. Amy’s first job was to distribute the Oreos to the audience members, who were expected to *gasp* do science! All of the experiments done can be found right here.

The first experiment was called Oreo Moon Phases, which is accompanied with the Moon Phases song in the PDF version of the experiment. Everyone carefully twisted apart an Oreo, trying to make sure all the vanilla filling stuck to one side. Nicole proceeded to demonstrate how, using a fork, spoon, or popsicle stick you can remove the cream to simulate different moon phases. Since she was traveling from the east coast and couldn’t bring a bunch of silverware with us, she showed us how to use our teeth instead. The vanilla cream represented the moon at full; nibbling just part of one side of the cream corresponded to a waning gibbous moon, which means the moon is starting to shrink as the shadow of the earth began to block the sun’s light. Half of the cream left is a quarter moon, and just a curve left on one side is the waning gibbous.

The second demonstration wasn’t so much astronomy per se: Plate Tectonics! This also used Oreos, which meant that Amy ate more Oreos as she distributed them.

Amy Davis Roth. Courtesy of Amy Davis Roth.

Amy Davis Roth. Courtesy of Amy Davis Roth.

Using cracked Oreos, we ground the “plates” together as though they were different tectonic plates throughout the world. Some of these produced “lava”–vanilla cream squirting up between the two shifting plates–while others produced a multitude of crumbs. The crumbs represented the land at the top of the plates moving and shifting and making a general mess–kind of like a real earthquake.

There was much munching of Oreos, of course, and many giggles throughout the room.

Beach Ball

Beach Ball. Photo credit.

The final experiment was the most interesting to me personally: the Edible Solar System. Nicole had a volunteer hold an inflatable beach ball above her head at the very front of the room. Generally Nicole uses a pumpkin for the sun, but she said she hadn’t wanted to attempt to get a pumpkin through airport security.

The first distance measured from the sun was Mercury; a grit–as in the dry material used in making the southern dish grits–was roughly the size of Mercury as compared to the sun, and it was about 3 feet from the sun. The second distance–Venus–was represented by a Strawberry Nerd–the candy!

Nerds

Nerds. Photo Credit.

Not as small as a grit, but still fairly dinky next to the sun, which was about 5.5 feet from the sun. Earth was the third distance at about 7.6 feet from the sun, and it was represented by a Grape Nerd! Mars–also known as a candy sprinkle often found on cupcakes–was 11.6 feet from the sun.

Sprinkles on a cupcake. Photo credit.

Sprinkles on a cupcake. Photo credit.

The next measurement would have been Jupiter, represented by a small apple. Unfortunately, we couldn’t do that measurement; the room was too short by about 4 feet! This was a simple and yummy way to demonstrate relative distances between our sun and its various orbiting planets.

This panel was a bunch of fun, and thankfully there was no Swiss cheese in evidence. I can’t wait to see if these presenters, or others like them, come up with more tasty scientific experiments for us at GeekGirlCon ‘14. Subscribe to our newsletter to find out when YOU can submit ideas like this for GeekGirlCon ‘14!

Have you ever seen or done a scientific experiment with food? Tell us; we want to know!

Sarah Grant
“Rock On!”

GEEKGIRLCON ’13 PROGRAMMING ROUND-UP: Bullying in Cosplay

GeekGirlCon ‘13 celebrated the cosplaying community and our participants were the stars! We also had multiple panels on different aspects of cosplay. One such panel was A Community Divided: Bullying Within the Cosplay Community and How to Solve the Problem. Erin Burke, Katie Murphy, Lauren Crosson, Christopher Vance, and Son Young Yu appeared on the panel to discuss this issue.

Katie Murphy aka UviBee Cosplay kindly wrote up the Bullying in Cosplay panel from GeekGirlCon ‘13 for us.

Image courtesy of UviBee Cosplay.

“Our goal for the panel was to first acknowledge that there is a problem and then how we can start to solve it. The major take-away from our panel was that we as a community are much closer and much more connected to each other than the world around us, and because of that we have an even greater responsibility to stand up for each other. As it has been said many times, we are all just nerds in costume. However with more and more people discovering the wonder and joy that is cosplay, we have started to see the problem of bullying, gate keeping, and harassment. It was something we discovered in our prep for the panel, that the problem is much more complicated than just name calling. But the name calling hurts more in cosplay. Cosplayers tend to take what they are doing personally, we see it as a reflection on ourselves and our skills.  When we are looked down upon by others out side the community it is easier to shrug if off as them not knowing what we are doing.

But when other cosplayers look down on us, it hurts. You know that they know what you are doing, they understand all the effort and hard work that is needed to put together a costume and to have them belittle your work it is like them belittling you. When this looking down is taken to the online world it quickly becomes them belittling you and insulting your looks, your weight, your skin color.  The internet allows for a kind of insulation from the real work consequences of our actions. We see it on 4chan and YouTube, tumblr and Facebook. They can say horrible things about a person because they don’t have to deal with the emotional consequences of a face-to-face confrontation. The nerd and cosplay communities are unique in they are more connected than most, we have Facebook pages and tumblrs that have hundreds and sometimes thousands of followers. We have a reach that far exceeds what we personally think of when we talk.

The message that we came up with, from our own experiences of online harassment, in person name calling, online name calling and trolling, that if we are not the ones to stand up for our fellow cosplayers, who is going to stand up for us? If we let ourselves be talked down too and allow ourselves to be the victim, who will take the time to stand up for us? It is a two way street in that sense. We have to love ourselves enough to not allow it to happen, and we have to be strong enough to stand up for not only other people but ourselves as well.

One of our audience members had a great way to start, and that was to stop saying that you hate something.  Replace hate with dislike, hate is such a hard and final word, while dislike leads to discussion and steers the discussion towards understanding rather than defense.  It was another audience member who asked us if it was even possible to change our communities views on bullying when the greater world around us cannot seem to do it.  Our response after some, a bit brief, thinking was that we have to start, because no one else is going to do it for us.  Be the change you want to see in the world, right? If we are not taking the time and the effort to stand up and say that this behavior is not ok, inside the cosplay community, how can we expect it to change outside of it?  Another audience member was very fired up about wanting to put a face and a start an anti-cosplay bullying campaign. “

Thanks for the summary of your panel, Katie!

Watch this space for more programming related to the GeekGirlCon annual convention. And don’t forget to buy your GeekGirlCon ‘14 passes now!

Adrienne Roehrich
“Rock On!”

GeekGirlCon ’13 Programming Round-Up: Geeks With Disabilities

Written by Adrienne M. Roehrich, Manager of Editorial Services

Not too many weeks ago, GeekGirlCon ‘13 was held in Seattle, WA. ‘Geeks With Disabilities’ was a late addition to the programming at GeekGirlCon ‘13. Half-blind and half-deaf geek Elsa Sjunneson-Henry led the panel with ally Stevi Costa, a graduate student in literature who’s work focuses on disability in literature.

In case you missed the panel description on the Fresh Sheet: “From cosplay to comics to literature to superheroines, Geeks with Disabilities explores both the real life experiences of persons with disabilities (both visible and invisible) and their fictional media counterparts.”

Elsa Sjunneson-Henry in cosplay at GeekGirlCon ‘13. Image courtesy of Elsa Sjunneson-Henry.

Elsa Sjunneson-Henry in cosplay at GeekGirlCon ‘13. Image courtesy of Elsa Sjunneson-Henry.

First up, they tackled, “Why we should be talking about disability in pop culture. Why is it important to us, why is it important to have at a con like this.”

The use of disability in mainstream media is often used as a narrative crutch or as inspiration porn, and is usually something that happens to a character, not as a birth trait (unless the character is supernatural or a superhero.) And then the focus is on overcoming the disability. Stevi points out that an able-bodied viewer then reads that as an inspiration for overcoming obstacles. Elsa says as a person with a disability, she “dreams about things I want to do, not the things I can’t do.”

This led into a discussion about Glee, a show they love to “hate-watch.” Glee was chosen as a place to start because it is promoting a neo-liberal, multi-diversity, body-positive, all-inclusive environment. Critiques included having an able-bodied person play the wheelchair using character, who, in one episode, gets out of his wheelchair and dances. The episode is doubly unfortunate because it completely obliterates the previous effort of the show up until that point of normalizing this situation.

In another episode, an outrageously expensive piece of equipment, the ReWalk, appears. This is an amazing tool that creates an odd juxtaposition that it is never seen in the series again. Elsa says, “If someone gave me a bionic eye for Christmas, you can be sure as hell I’d be wearing it every single day.”

Yet, they later do other things right. For instance, two paralyzed characters get together and crack what Stevi calls “a great joke afterwards that nobody gets unless they were a person with a disability or an ally in that community.”

Elsa points out the episode in The Glee Project where a music video about bullying was being made, and the cane of the blind character was taken away as a bullying moment. This moment was painful to Elsa, who has experienced the same situation where bullies have taken her cane away in order to make fun of her. In addition, the show handled it very poorly by not admonishing the actor who made this decision, which could have hurt his scene partner.

They moved onto the character Becky Jackson, a character with Down Syndrome played by an actor with Downs. Stevi particularly likes her sassiness. Her character was well-developed, and then inexplicably she becomes a school-shooter. Her action and motivation are inconsistent with the character. Her motivation is given as she is afraid to graduate, which implies there is no life for those with disabilities after they leave the support of high school. Elsa points out “I survived, I went to college, I did all of the things I wanted to do, and now I’m sitting in front of you because I actually have a profession.” She clarifies that she was afraid to leave her very supportive high school where she was given tools to excel, but that she went out into the world, and it didn’t require blowing fear out of proportion into harming those around her.

Comics were delved into, with specific mentions of Oracle, a character that had been paralyzed and then was cured in the reboot of her storyline. She is the most high profile woman in comics with a visible disability, and the creators took that away. Not only was she in a wheelchair, she was drawn correctly, which got a thumbs up. Daredevil was well-liked because he was blind and used a cane and was super awesome and had some extra-sensory stuff going on. Unfortunately, he never used his cane while in his superhero costume. Elsa wanted to see a superhero’s cane, so she had someone make her one. Notwithstanding, the movie, with its Braille credits, didn’t even keep Elsa viewing for more than the first couple minutes.

Photo by Tyler Pruitt.

Photo by Tyler Pruitt.

 

This brought the panel into a discussion of disability and cosplay. “People with disabilities should be able to cosplay. We should be able to cosplay as whoever we want. And I believe we should not be told, ‘you cannot play that character because you are blind’,” says Elsa. When cosplaying, able-bodied people can fall into some issues. One of which is asking those with disabilties where they got their props – such as a cataracted eyeball. Elsa has been asked exactly this about her blind eye which she has from birth as a Rubella baby.

Another issue becomes that of cultural appropriation. While cosplay in cultures involving race and ethnicity has a voice, one that is still silent is that of disability. Disability does have a culture. So, when able-bodied people put on a disability, such as an eye patch, a cane, a wheelchair, as a costume, when they disable themselves for fashion or costuming, it makes Elsa and many of her friends very frustrated. They need legitimacy. They need to be recognized and read as people with disabilities. The more that able-bodied people use disability as a costume and fictionalize it, the more the disabled have to explain themselves. Elsa says, “Also, I really like it when people treat me like a human being and not like a fictional character.”

From there, the discussion moved onto what happens when able-bodied actors play disabled characters and then are rewarded for doing so. It intensifies the fictionalization problem. Examples include Daniel Day Lewis playing Christy Brown in My Left Foot, Al Pacino’s oscar for playing a blind man (badly), and Tom Hanks who is rewarded for both Forrest Gump and Philadelphia.It is pointed out that there are many actors who have the disabilities these able-bodied actors are wearing, that directors could be using. When The Miracle Worker appeared on Broadway a few years ago, a call went out for visually impaired actresses to play Helen Keller. Unfortunately, they were slated to be an understudy for an able-bodied actress. This is problematic. An attendee mentioned that name recognition is a part of that cycle. Stevi says that the ‘cult of personality’ that arises around actors doesn’t happen with disabled actors because it is seen as a limitation.

The panel asks, Can we shift from seeing disability as a limitation to seeing what we can do with people of various bodies?

The panel moved onto discussing conventions (cons) and accessible spaces. GeekGirlCon got some kudos for having Introvert Alley, a place for people to go to relax and find some peace away from the crowds, and also because the community of GeekGirlCon is respectful. Elsa mentions seeing many people with disabilities present who seem pretty comfortable. She relates the story that someone recognized her SteamCane as a White Cane and moved someone out of the way for her, which was a novel experience for her at a con. Other cons were called out for a lack of accessibility. Cons can do well to think about things like how to get around, having ASL interpreters, having the hearing aid link into the sound system available, and including panels that discuss these things.

A question arose about how to read if a disability exists and if the tool that is being used is necessary. This discussion did spark a bit of ire in the attending group. Generally it came down to trust. It’s inappropriate to request someone disclose their disability – visible or invisible. Unfortunately, there is enough stigma surrounding having a disability requiring a tool, such as having a therapy dog present, that people are highly uncomfortable self-identifying with those disabilities. There becomes a line where someone who is trying to be an ally can cross into policing. Again, trusting people to be using a tool to take care of their own (likely invisible) disability, of which there are many, rather than abusing such a tool or putting on the tool as a way to get something they want, is necessary.

This transitioned into the topic of policing. We moved a little out of the realm of geek culture into life in general. Stevi brings up the topic of able-bodied people becoming angry at someone for using a handicap parking space who doesn’t appear to need it, but it isn’t really the place of an able-bodied person to take on that issue. There are those who don’t need their cane every single day. Just because Elsa can wear glasses and read her smart phone does not mean she isn’t blind. She is blind and having an able-bodied person ask her if she is really blind or pick up her white cane because he is curious infringes on her person. She says, “It isn’t okay.” It isn’t okay for any person to investigate her disability and inquire as to how she became disabled. (Disabled cred, anyone?) Generally, socially, people with disabilities are seen as public property, and not as the human beings they are.

Bringing it back into media, Stevi points out that much of the viewpoint of people with disabilities being investigated comes from the narrative of the able-bodied become disabled through some event is the dominant paradigm. So therefore people who are unaware of this cultural conditioning feel free to ask about this life event, regardless of if there is one or if it is appropriate to ask.

About this time, the panel opened the discussion up to the floor. While this post doesn’t cover all of the topics brought up by the floor, here are a few highlights:

  • Covert Affairs” is mentioned, not as a good show, but because the character is blind and has a sexual storyline, which is rare and happens to be done correctly.
  • Yes, people with disabilities are sexy. Yes, they know they are sexy. How? As Stevi points out, Elsa has hands.
  • Recommendations for shows, media, comic series where characters have disabilities but they aren’t focused on as an issue: Switched at Birth, The Michael J. Fox Show,
  • The actor who plays the forensic doctor on CSI gets a mention.
  • Hawkeye having lost 80% of his hearing in a storyline in the 1980s (estimated.) Fan culture embracing it both problematic and also excellent.
  • Flynn/Walt Jr. on Breaking Bad.
  • Back to cosplay – there’s no issue with those who have a disability cosplaying able-bodied characters. However, able-bodied people cosplaying characters with disabilities need to find a way to cosplay without using the character’s assistive devices, says Elsa. While Stevi says that intention and respect is important. She feels that one can use assistive devices in a respectful way, and a way that actually makes the device clearly not real. E.g., Jordi LaForge’s visor gets a pass because it isn’t a real assistive device.
  • Mental illness being married to violence in the media. Some good representations are “The West Wing” with PTSD flashbacks, Ellen Fourney’s Marbles, Mercy, Orange is the New Black wheelchair moment.
  • Elsa does video game reviews from a disability standpoint at Feminist Sonar.
  • The more narratives we see where someone’s physicality is treated like the color of their hair, a t-shirt they are wearing, and just normal, the better.

 

Did you attend the Geeks with Disabilities panel at GeekGirlCon ’13? Tell us about your experience in the comments here.

What do you want to see at GeekGirlCon ‘14? Subscribe to the Newsletter to find out when programming calls open to put your ideas in.

 

Adrienne Roehrich
“Rock On!”

Optimystical Studios Heroes and Inspirations: Ladies of Science

Written by Adrienne M. Roehrich, Manager of Editorial Services

55a514032eea46e4187e70c0ab595c9f_largeThe Exhibitors Hall of GeekGirlCon ‘13 was full of geeky merchandise, as one might expect. As a chemist, anything chemistry related caught my eye. So you can imagine how excited I was to see some elemental jewelry—that is, jewelry with the chemical elements.

My delight was observed by the self-proclaimed “two giant nerds” of Optimystical Studios,  a business that specializes in hand-crafted geek & fandom jewelry that incorporates everything from Doctor Who to comics to icons of the nerd world. They introduced me to their latest endeavor—a project called Heroes & Inspirations: Ladies of Science. Of course, I was intrigued.

The project is rooted in Optimystical Studios’ Adrian Keith’s childhood:

Growing up all of my heroes and idols were women. I wanted to be like these women, they showed me what I could do. I loved baseball, but I never looked up to baseball players like I looked up to women like Eleanor Roosevelt. When I wanted to be an astronaut, I knew I could, because Sally Ride did it.

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As our world has changed, as I’ve grown, one thing has stayed strong for me, the desire to honor the amazing women who have been my core inspiration. This project is our very nerdy way to do that.


Items coming out of this project include Ladies of Science postcards, Periodic Element Pendant, Copper Pendant, Formula Pendant, Scientific Lady Pendant, Noble Gas Crystal Earrings, Periodic Element Earrings, Copper Earrings, Silver Pendant, Periodic Element Set, Silver Earrings, Formula Set, Scientist Set, Diloolie Custom Portrait & Pendant Combo, Whitney J. Brown Custom Portrait & Pendant Combo, Isabelle Melançon Custom Portrait & Pendant Combo, Full Lady Scientist Pendant Set, Gold Pendant, and Gold Earrings. Some of these are limited edition and only available to those supporting a Kickstarter of this project.

LoSintroInterested in ladies of other fields? Optimystical Studios has you covered. If they can, they’ve lined up:

  • Ladies of Literature pendants featuring the likes of Mary Shelley (inventor of western science fiction) to honor the writers who have inspired us to new worlds.
  • Historical Ladies, women who lived amazing lives and have helped shape us, but we probably didn’t learn about in history class (Wilma Mankiller, Chief of the Cherokee Nation, for example).

Visit Optimystical Studios for more information about this project and how you can help make it succeed.

Adrienne Roehrich
“Rock On!”

GeekGirlCon ’13 Wrap-Up!

photo by Danny Ngan

photo by Danny Ngan

Dear GeekGirlCon Community,

What an amazing weekend! While we must part ways for the time being, we had such a good time at our third annual convention. Thank you to all those who participated by attending, presenting panels and workshops, volunteering, through Facebook and Twitter, and reading our blog posts. We sold out online prior to doors open and of physical passes at the door and in stores during the convention. All weekend we trended at the top of the local Seattle Twitter!

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photo by Danny Ngan

photo by Sayed Alamy

photo by Sayed Alamy

We enjoyed your cosplay and the Costume Contest was made fantastic through your contributions!  Choosing the top contestants was a difficult decision, but it came down to the Snow White for True-To-Form, Best Group included the Hook characters, and Nariko received the Best Use of Materials. And those of you who went out of the box for the cosplay were a marvelous addition, such as Gears of War Kitty, who was selected as Best Individual Cosplay. The children really stole the show! I saw Darth McKenna roving the floor this year and being the star of many photos. As always, we are appreciative of the 501st Legion attending for attendees’ photographs.

photo by Ryan Roehrich

photo by Ryan Roehrich

photo by Danny Ngan

photo by Danny Ngan

photo by Danny Ngan

photo by Danny Ngan

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photo by Ryan Roehrich

photo by Danny Ngan

photo by Danny Ngan

Our gaming floor and DIY Science Zone were both huge hits! The DIY Science Zone had so many cool things to do for kids of all ages. We hope you were able to discuss acids and bases or make your own slime or complete any of the other of the activities in the Zone that attendees said MUST RETURN!

photo by Ryan Roehrich

photo by Ryan Roehrich

photo by Danny Ngan

photo by Danny Ngan

 The GeekGirlConnections room enjoyed a lot of visitors, the Artist Alley was constantly doing business, and the Exhibitors Hall flowed with people. The Gaming floor was hopping!

photo by Ryan Roehrich

photo by Ryan Roehrich

photo by Danny Ngan

photo by Danny Ngan

photo by Danny Ngan

photo by Danny Ngan

 

photo by Ryan Roehrich

photo by Ryan Roehrich

In case anybody thinks those of us stuck in the Agents room to man the internets and provide behind-the-scenes support don’t have any fun, never fear! We are privy to such statements as “There’s someone stuck in a Dalek!? Do we need a giraffe?!” Our Reaction Team was attired in giraffe ears. They were there to help you have a safe con. If you didn’t notice them or need them, that was great, but if you did feel their presence, thank you for using the resource we provided. If you needed a place to decompress for a bit, the Introvert Alley was the place for you, and many took advantage of this room.

photo by Sayed Alamy

photo by Sayed Alamy

To support you during the con, the staff drank gallons upon gallons of coffee and consumed pounds upon pounds of kale.

photo by Sayed Alamy

photo by Sayed Alamy

If I say so myself (I’m in Marketing not in Programming, so I should be absolved of self-interest), all of our panels were super unique and wonderful. Attendees expressed excitement about our panels. The time flew by and so many could have easily gone on another hour! It ranged from the very academic ‘The Study of Fandom’ to the fun ‘Craft Wars’. Rob Salkowitz appeared on a panel ‘Changing Culture in Mainstream and Alternative Spaces’ which got a lot of chatter. #1ReasonWhy panel also made trending in Seattle. I was “simultaneously heartbroken and radically inspired by these stories” said @suizilla. Keep your eye on the blog in the coming months to learn more about panels presented at GeekGirlCon ‘13.

photo by Ryan Roehrich

photo by Ryan Roehrich

photo by Danny Ngan

photo by Danny Ngan

Not only did we have the awesomeness of four opportunities to gather with geeks on Friday night, we had our annual GeekGirlCONcert with Unwoman, Bri Pruett, and Marian Call. The Doubleclicks and Molly Lewis set up ninja concerts on the first floor of the conference center on Sunday. The activity continued on Sunday with Unwoman and a number of other musicians.

photo by Sayed Alamy

photo by Sayed Alamy

photo by Sayed Alamy

photo by Sayed Alamy

 

photo by Sayed Alamy

photo by Sayed Alamy

photo by Ryan Roehrich

photo by Ryan Roehrich

photo by Ryan Roehrich

photo by Ryan Roehrich

Did you get to attend the Spotlight on Karen Prell and Red Fraggle? The photo op with them on the 2nd floor on Sunday was a fan favorite. Laughs and ‘awws’ were heard all around the floor.

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Sunday evening closed out with the Ladies of the 80s Sing-A-Long. Clinton McClung, a program programmer who plans film and event screenings for SIFF Cinema and has worked with GeekGirlCon events in the past, planned an hour long We Got the Beat event for us! We started out strong with Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper. Eleven songs later, a dance party started in the room to Dee-Lite’s Groove is in the Heart, and the last song played was Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler.

Our closing celebration was simple – Jennifer K. Stuller, Director of Programming and Events, introduced our Executive Director, Amanda Powter, who spoke briefly, thanking our community for your support. Then, the Double Clicks played Nothing to Prove.

photo by Adrienne Roehrich

photo by Adrienne Roehrich

We are thrilled you enjoyed our convention. We will have another one next year.

Please share your experience at GeekGirlCon ‘13. Use #GGC13 on Twitter and Instagram, on Facebook tag photos with GeekGirlCon, and peruse our flickr group to post your photos and share your thoughts and experiences here in the comments section.

What were your favorite parts of our convention? What did you like, and what can we improve? Don’t forget to complete the post-con survey because we want to hear from you!

Written by Adrienne M. Roehrich, Manager of Editorial Services

 

Adrienne Roehrich
“Rock On!”

Highway to the Science Zone

By GeekGirlCon Copy Writer Erin Doherty

When my fellow copy writers and I decided that I—as a non-sciency person*—would be the one to cover the DIY Science Zone at GeekGirlCon ‘13, I had no idea how much fun I would have. I figured I’d check out a few of the experiments, talk to a few scientists and a few participants, and be done in less than an hour.

Two hours later, I’d made liquids change color with the power of my breath, I created some Gak-like goo using common household items, and I got up close and personal with the DNA of some strawberries, to name just a few of the experiments I conducted with the guidance and encouragement from the friendly scientists on hand.

KLE_5988First up was the goo, with Raychelle Burks, aka Dr. Rubidium, aka the driving force behind the DIY Science Zone! Joining me for the sliminess were two awesome girls, friends Dana and Chloe. Their enthusiasm was contagious as we poured substances like Borax, food coloring, and glue into plastic baggies and squished and squished and squished. Eventually, the familiar substance began forming and we were able to take it out of the baggie and play with it. It had the sort of wet, squishy texture of Gak, but way less stinky. Dr. Burks did a great job explaining the science behind the substance’s properties, but I was having too much fun to take notes. Oops!

I said good-bye to my science buddies and moved on to making craters with Dr. Matthew Francis. I used rubber balls, marbles, and cake-sized tins full of cocoa powder to create mini-craters. When meteorites crash into the cocoa earth, and create craters, they leave behind traces that help us work backward and recreate geological history. But the coolest part was when he showed off a tiny piece of the famous meteor that crashed down in Russia last winter.

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I couldn’t resist stopping at the table promising a CSI-like experience. Professional chemist Chemjobber led me through the process that uses the molecule ninhydrin to reveal fingerprints. Fingerprints are colorless, and ninhydrin (suspended in acetone) is colorless, but when you heat it up (we used a clothing iron), it speeds up a chemical reaction that results in the fingerprints turning a purplish color. I had an “a-ha” moment when he started explaining that ninhydrin’s molecular structure is similar to that of indigo dye: I’d never before thought about how molecular structure plays a big part in color!

Next up, Dr. Charity Lovitt (who teaches chemistry at Seattle University) helped me remember some of that long-forgotten high school science: acids and bases. Basically (she punned), red cabbage juice is a base and the CO2 in your breath (or club soda) acts as an acid. We started with a pale purple cabbage juice (science is stinky!), which I blew into using a straw. After a minute or so, the color changed noticeably to a darker purple. A few squirts of lemon juice —citric acid—rendered the liquid suddenly pink! Getting back to basics (okay, that pun was mine), we added baking soda to the mixture and ended up with a blue-green concoction. If memory serves, she said that what we were doing was adding and subtracting hydrogen ions, which resulted in all these color changes. Again: molecules and color in close relationship.

Moving on, I met Dr. Stephen Granade—a physicist by trade, he was helping out today in the field of genetics. Two delightful co-experimenters joined me this time: Moire and her mom Holly. We covered some basics of genetics (DNA makes up genes which make up chromosomes), and he used an analogy that captured my mind: if DNA are letters, then genes are a sentence. And alleles are the different kind of sentences you can have.

To illustrate, we tested one gene (out of over 20,000 that humans have) by placing small paper strips on our tongues for a few seconds. Immediately, Moire and Holly (related biologically) made noises of disgust and spit out the paper. They said it kind of tasted like earwax, bitter and icky. I was puzzled because I didn’t taste anything whatsoever. It turns out that the strips were loaded with phenylthiocarbaminde (PTC). Being able to taste PTC is a dominant trait, which explains why mother and daughter both picked up the taste. Because I could not taste it, that means both my birth father and my birth mother also could not taste it. As an adoptee, I tend to find things like genetics especially fascinating—I had no idea when I woke up this morning that I would be making a discovery about my biological family!

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Finally, I landed at the strawberry table. Lali DeRosier, member of the rad Curly Hair Mafia and high school biology teacher, came all the way from Florida to show GeekGirlCon attendees how to extract DNA from strawberries. First, we smashed the strawberries inside a baggie to help the wall around the DNA come down. Next we added detergent to get rid of the membrane. Why detergent? Well, membranes are made of lipids. Lipids are oil and grease. And what does detergent do? Cuts through oil and grease! Bam! We then poured the extraction into a test tube and added alcohol. And suddenly, there was DNA. Cloudy, stringy DNA, visible to the naked eye. We were able to pull strands of it out of the test tube using a small stick. I was totally fascinated by this process, and DeRosier was an excellent teacher, encouraging my tablemates and I to think about what we already knew and apply it to what we were doing.

I can honestly say that this was the unexpected highlight of my first GeekGirlCon, and I hope it becomes a regular fixture for years to come. More than one adult I talked to said that they wished something like this had existed when they were younger but were so glad to have it now to encourage kids’ (especially girls) interest in science. The opportunity to get hands-on and to meet actual scientists of all genders and ethnicities and disciplines was more than just educational—it was inspiring and heartwarming.

All the scientists were so friendly and down-to-earth; any fears I had about being intimidated by the science were completely quelled as we chatted. They all talked about the importance of introducing folks to science, and, as Dr. Granade said, taking science down off the pedestal and making it accessible to everyone. If the consistently packed DIY Science Zone and the laughs and looks of wonder of the participants of all ages are any indication, they succeeded and then some. They’ll still be going strong until mid-afternoon on Sunday, the last day of GeekGirlCon, so while you’re checking out all the merch options on Level 3, stop in at the Zone!

*Please note that any scientific errors here are my own and feel free to correct me in the comments if needed!

Winter Downs
“Rock On!”

Get Your Game On At GeekGirlCon ’13!

by GeekGirlCon Staff Copy Writer AJ Dent

It’s official: GeekGirlCon ’13 is on like Donkey Kong! Feeling lucky? Traverse down to the lower level of the Seattle Conference Center. There you’ll find a den of gaming wonder all weekend.

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Are you exploring GeekGirlCon with a child or two? Family favorites like Connect Four and Jenga can be found here. Bring the little ones on by for endless entertainment.

Do tabletops littered with cards make your competitive streak come out? From Munchkin to Revolution! to Magic: The Gathering, you can shuffle, play, and deal all day.

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Of course, no gaming section is complete without Pathfinder and Dungeons and Dragons. Classic role-playing games will bring longtime fans and new learners together for optimal fun.

Geeks needing a video game fix can kick back for a bit with controllers in hand, too. Who wouldn’t like a minute of Peggle to top off this nerdtastic event?

Whether you had to miss Saturday’s sessions or you’ll be returning on Sunday for more, be sure to hit up GeekGirlCon’s awesome game-related panels tomorrow! Starting at 10:00 a.m., “Writing for Role-Playing Games” will get you in touch with your inner author.

Next up at 11:00 a.m. is “How to Build Inclusive and Welcoming Game Communities,” where you can learn tips on expanding your gaming circle.

The “Gaming and Comics Panel” at noon is sure to be bursting with color and comedy as panelists discuss connecting role-playing techniques with cartoon story building.

Multi-generational gamer families will appreciate the 2:00 p.m. panel, “The Family Who Games Together.” Parents and their offspring of all ages can share their passion for playing games, and discuss the triumphs and tribulations of growing together through these unique bonding experiences.

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Round out your weekend at 4:00 p.m. by catching “QUEER GEEK!: Women in Gaymer Communities.” This important discussion will touch on establishing, growing, and keeping gamer communities safe for queer girls, women, and more. Anyone interested in fostering a respectful, safe, and fantastic community for gay gamers should be sure to attend!

We hope your first day at GeekGirlCon ’13 has been filled with laughter, learning, and lots of playtime! If you haven’t been able to join us yet, we hope to see you tomorrow, at GeekGirlCon ‘14, or at any of our geeky events throughout the next year. Game on!

AJ Dent
“Rock On!”

Night Before GeekGirlCon ‘13

by GeekGirlCon Copy Writer Sarah “SG-1” Grant

I had my night all planned out, in the way I plan almost everything: make a list of things to do, and assume it will all work out. First: the GeekGirlCon ‘13 Kickoff Event, co-hosted by GeekGirlCon and the Seattle Browncoats Charities at the Taphouse Grill. Second: head down the street to Re-Bar to watch the Bechdel Test Burlesque, a nerdy burlesque show.

My night didn’t turn out quite the way I planned. Or rather, hadn’t.

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She made the shot!

The Kickoff Event at the Taphouse Grill started at 6 p.m. I tend to be a little bit shy around groups of people I don’t know, so I was relieved to see my friend Andrea from the Seattle Browncoats among the early arrivals. More people showed up, and the room began to fill quickly. Some of my fellow GeekGirlCon staffers showed up, people ordered fantastic food from the Taphouse Grill kitchen, and things started rolling! There was a line at the bar, and friends new and old grouped up to play free pool at the tables.

A young woman from Portland introduced herself to me, and we instantly bonded because we share first names: Sarah. She and I chatted for a bit; I met some friends of hers, and then I took her over to meet Jen, another GeekGirlCon staffer. Jen introduced Sarah and me to yet another Sarah, which we decided could only be an excellent omen for the coming weekend. I also met a former GeekGirlCon copywriter, Adrienne, and I have a feeling she and I are going to be good friends.

My next step was the Bechdel Test Burlesque at Re-Bar for the 8 p.m. show. The only problem? It was sold out! I could have gotten a ticket for the 11 p.m. show, but let’s be honest: I would have fallen asleep waiting for the show to start. Also, I had to get up for GeekGirlCon ‘13 in the morning!

I packed it in and decided to drive over to Wayward Coffeehouse, where Molly Lewis and the Doubleclicks were performing as another part of the GeekGirlCon ‘13 Kickoff. I got there just after Molly Lewis started, playing her ukulele and singing her brand of quiet, sweet geek songs. I should have known: it was standing room only!

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From behind the counter at Wayward

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The gajillion coffee orders are how you know this is in Seattle.

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That’s Molly Lewis with her head in the Independents flag (Firefly) way at the back of the room!

Even with the sold-out burlesque event and the packed, slightly sweaty coffeehouse, it was an amazing night filled with music, meeting new friends, and getting set for the amazing weekend that is GeekGirlCon ‘13.

Check us out here on the GeekGirlCon website, on Twitter (#GGC13), and on our Facebook page for live blogs, reactions, comments, and pictures from our photographers and friends. We wish you were here!

Sarah Grant
“Rock On!”

Welcome to GeekGirlCon ’13!

Written by GeekGirlCon Manager of Editorial Services Adrienne Roehrich

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It’s been 14 months since our last GeekGirlCon and today is the day! W00t!

Start your GeekGirlCon weekend off by grabbing your badge early on Friday afternoon at the Conference Center from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., so you can walk right in on Saturday morning. Then pop on over to the kickoff party at Tap House Grill running from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., co-hosted by Seattle Browncoats charities. There will be pool and fun people to meet, as well as food and drink available for purchase.

Not enough geeky fun for you yet? Check out the amazing Bechdel Test Burlesque just up the hill at Re-Bar at 8 p.m. or 11 p.m. or wander over to the geekiest cafe around, Wayward Coffeehouse, for some games and music with The Doubleclicks and Molly Lewis starting at 8 p.m.

Head back to your hotels for an evening of rest so you can be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the rest of the weekend! Our volunteer staff has worked long and hard to bring our awesome GeekGirlCon community fantastic programming! Get a load of what’s in store for you!

Saturday: The Conference Center doors open at 9:00 a.m. If you haven’t gotten your passes, get in line early so you can head off for an exciting day including:

  • Panels start at 10:00 a.m. and continue until nearly 11:00 p.m.!

  • GeekGirlConnections booths are open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. for all your professional networking needs. Don’t miss the panels running from 10:30 a.m.

  • The DIY Science Zone that’s been getting so much buzz is open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on the third floor. Get your Exploration Tracker started!

  • The Gaming floor on the lower level  is open for 12 hours, from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

  • Don’t forget to get your swag and souvenirs! Travel the Exhibitor Hall on the third floor from 9:00 a.m. ’til 6:00 p.m.

  • Grab a photo op or find your new favorite artist on the second floor with the Wicked Witch’s hat and the Artist Alley starting when doors open at 9:00 a.m. and closing at 6:00 p.m.

Top the evening off with the GeekGirlCONcert! Guarantee yourself entry by purchasing your passes through Brown Paper Tickets OR head over to the info booth first thing Saturday to get your FREE pass!


Unable to attend? We’ve got blog coverage on the programming coming your way over the weekend, don’t miss videos and images that will post on Facebook, and follow #GGC13 on Twitter and Instagram. There will be enthusiastic photographers uploading to our Flickr group all weekend.


Sunday is chock-full of more awesome programming and activities! Consult your Strategy Guide for details.

  • Panels begin at 10:00 a.m. and go until about 5:00 p.m.

    • We’ve got spotlights on Denise Crosby, and Karen Prell & Red Fraggle!

  • GeekGirlConnections room is open from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., with talks beginning at 10:30 a.m.

  • The DIY Science Zone will keep your hands and brain engaged, 9:00 a.m. through 2:00 p.m.

  • Gaming starts at 9:00 a.m.—and you can play until the wrap-up party at 5:30 p.m.

  • It’s your last chance to get your swag and souvenirs! Travel the Exhibitor Hall on the third floor from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

  • Don’t miss the Wicked Witch’s Hat and our Artist Alley on the second floor from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

We’ll wrap-up GeekGirlCon ‘13 with a Ladies of the 80s Sing-Along starting at 4:30 p.m. in Room 301/302, followed by our Closing Celebration at 5:30 p.m. Don’t miss a single minute!

Please enjoy yourselves at our convention and through all the social media with contributions from GeekGirlCon and attendees alike!

Adrienne Roehrich
“Rock On!”

Stories and Signings: Books Abound at GeekGirlCon ’13

Written by AJ Dent, GeekGirlCon Staff Copy Writer 

Bookworms beware! GeekGirlCon ‘13 will spotlight so many absorbing books to pick up, you may not emerge from your favorite reading spot until next year’s convention. From feminist anthologies to young adult novels, we’ve got geeks of all kinds covered.

Want to collect some awesome autographs? Be sure to bring copies of your favorite authors’ works—or support them by purchasing a few at the big event!

Dia Calhoun - After the River the Sun smFantasy fans, take note: several authors will be discussing strong female characters—both in general and ones they’ve created—at the panel “The New Female Fantasy Hero.” Sit in to soak up examples from Cat Rambo’s Eyes Like Sky and Coal and Moonlight, Dia Calhoun’s After the River, the Sun, and Danika Dinsmore’s Brigitta of the White Forest. Sci-fi enthusiasts will also be treated at “Toward A Universe of Equals: The Past, Present and Future of Gender Equality in Science Fiction.” Danielle Myers, author of The Last Burning of New London, and Michael Shean, writer of The Wonderland Cycle series, will speak on these imperative issues in sci-fi worlds and our own.

Faith McKay - Prophecy GirlWe can’t forget children when analyzing and crafting well-rounded personalities! “Strong Female Characters in Young Adult Lit” is a not-to-be-missed panel for kids, parents, and YA novel fans of all ages. Writer of Prophecy Girl, Faith McKay will examine how to build and exemplify positive role models for young (and not-so-young) readers.

Corrina Lawson - Phoenix LegacyFor mature-only audiences comes “Romance Is A Feminist Genre,” where writer Corrina Lawson will explore the concept that romance novels contain more substantial women than just damsels in distress. Lawson certainly knows her stuff, having been recognized multiple times by the association Romance Writers of America.

Hope Larson - Who Is ACFor book fans of the comic variety, we’ve even got panels on books about comic books. How meta! The panel “All The Real Girls—Creating Real Girls in Comics” will also explore this topic with multiple authors who have crafted fully-formed personalities in their books’ female characters. Sit in to soak up examples from Hope Larson’s Who Is AC?, Mariah Huehner’s Womanthology: Space, Kel McDonald’s As We Were/Strange Someone, and Rachel Edidin’s Adventure Time scripts.

Jennifer K Stuller - Ink-Stained AmazonsFor an informative, fun, and frank look at how geekery is changing the world, be sure to take in GeekGirlCon co-founder Jennifer K. Stuller’s panel, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Fan Phenomena”. Author of Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology, and editor of Fan Phenomena and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she will participate in talks tackling such scholarly work being done on fan communities, and how these studies’ findings affect both geek and mainstream culture.

Oodles of books and authors will be bouncing around at GeekGirlCon ‘13! Pick up your passes in advance so you can nab the best seat at each panel, and be first in line for each author signing session. See you this weekend!

AJ Dent
“Rock On!”

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