Nerd Block Unboxing and Review for May 2015

Okay, so we’re well into the fifth month that I’ve claimed I was going to cancel Nerd Block and then didn’t. The problem is that they keep throwing out themes that sound interesting, and I’m weak! So with that thought in mind, check out the unboxing video for the “Ani-May” Nerd Block:

What did you think? Let’s just say that I’m not terribly disappointed that I stayed on for yet another month. Let’s look at the breakdown:

Mobile Suit Gundam t-shirt: Though I didn’t get this shirt in my size, I’m still pretty impressed with it. It’s a nice, standard design without a bunch of useless flair, and the fact that it’s an older show that I actually used to watch is definitely a plus. My hubby will be the one wearing it, but even so I’m pretty happy with the shirt this month. Giving this item the standard t-shirt value of $15.

“Freiza” Funko Pop: It is terribly unfortunate that they chose to send a Dragonball Z Pop in the anime-themed box, since I already have almost all of them. I can appreciate the fact that it was a good choice for the anime-themed box, but it’s just too bad that they didn’t send something from one of the lines I don’t have. Regardless, I’ll give this item the average value that Funko Pops tend to cost around my neck of the woods, which is approximately $13.

“Cowboy Bebop” Convertible Bandana: Although I’m not really sure how I’m going to use it, I have to admit that this item amuses me a bit, because it’s something different. The fact that it’s Cowboy Bebop helps, because that is definitely one of the greatest anime shows of all time. Maybe I’ll use it to keep my hair back when I’m gardening. 😛 Regardless, based on similar bandana products, this item is worth about $10.

“Neon Genesis Evangeleon” manga #1: Now we’re talking. Although I don’t read manga nearly as much these days, I still appreciate it, and it’s awesome that this is the anime they chose. NGE was one of my favorite ones when I was younger, and yet I don’t have a single one of their manga, so this is a nice book to get for sure. I definitely approve of the choice for this item, and since manga go for about $12 each, it’s a nice value to the box as well.

“My Neighbor Totoro” pins: Yeah yeah, I’ve never seen it. I’m sure there are lots of nerds out there right now screaming internally, because Totoro is supposed to be a classic. Despite my ignorance on these matters, I can appreciate these cute little pins, especially the one with Catbus on it, because I find that ridiculous and funny. Based on similar pins this four-pin set would go for about $6.

“Attack on Titan” drawstring bag: This is another show I haven’t seen, although I’ve heard lots and lots of good things. It’s also an item that I’m not terribly fond of, because I find these vinyl drawstring bags look pretty cheap. That said, it is a bag, and everyone sometimes needs a bag, so I’ll take it. These types of bags retail in at about $10, which – just for the record – I would never pay for one of these.

Total approximate value of box: $66
Total cost to me: $37

So right off the bat, the first thing that I want to point out is that this is the first themed Nerd Block for which every item in the box worked perfectly with the theme. In the previous themed boxes there was at least one item in every one that had absolutely nothing to do with the theme, but for this month’s box every item was definitely anime-themed. That makes me like it automatically, because what’s the point of a theme if you don’t stick to it, right?

The second thing I have to mention, of course, is the fact that the Funko Pop was one that I already have. That sucks – it really does – but it was bound to happen eventually and I can’t really down-rate the box because of it.

The third thingI want to mention is that while I’m not on the up-and-up with Nerd Block’s new desire to put books in all their boxes, I do appreciate the manga that was in this one. For one thing, it’s an excellent story. For another thing, it adheres to the theme, which is something the previous books didn’t really do. So two thumbs up for that one.

In conclusion, it was actually quite a good box. The shirt was a good one, the Funko would have been awesome if I didn’t already have it, the manga was a perfect choice, and the other two little items were cute additions. All in all, I have to say that I was pretty impressed. The overall cost to have a Nerd Block shipped to me is still pretty painful and makes it less worth getting, but it’s nice to see a box that was straight-up good.

The question now, of course – as I mentioend in the video – is whether or not I’m going to continue on for next month. I had planned on cancelling after May’s box anyway, because the cost of it is just not okay with me, but then they threw out that “British Invasion” theme, and I’m torn. What if there’s a super-cool Doctor Who item in there and I miss it because I cancelled? Rawr. This is the problem with these subscription boxes!

So, as I said in the vid, I’m looking to you guys for advice. Do you think I should hold on for another month, or should I finally do what I’ve been saying I was going to do since Christmas and cancel my Nerd Block subscription? There’s only four days left to decide, so vote quick!

Blogging 101, Day Nine: Inspire Yourself

For day nine of the Blogging 101 course, Michelle W. asks us to write a post inspired by your About page or widget. The idea is that your About page (which you should have upgraded on day eight) is just the “beginning of your story”, and that you can use the information you came up with for your About page as a way to speak to the key themes of your blog. Seems straight forward? I didn’t think so. I read through the assignment post several times before I started to write this and I’m still not entirely sure I know exactly what Michelle is going for. It’s not really such a confusing concept, I suppose; I think it’s just that it feels a bit obvious to me…like, since I mentioned in my About page that I’m a writer hoping to become published, chances are that I’m going to write about writing and publishing.

In the end I decided to ignore most of the bulk of Michelle’s post (sorry, Michelle…you’re doing a great job, seriously) and just focus on the actual assignment sentence: write a post inspired by your About page or widget. To that end, I thought I’d reference my About page to write a little more detail about myself, my background, and my intentions:


Growing up I was was always a nerdy kid. I loved school, especially math, and I absolutely loved reading. I used to kick the crap out of any reading challenges the school put on during the summer months, and I’m sure my parents spent upwards of $2000 on Babysitter’s Club books for me, not even to mention all the books they bought me through those Scholastic book fairs. I didn’t have a whole lot of friends, but the ones I had were the best friends in the world and I grew up with a large extended family including several cousins of my age, so I wasn’t exactly lonely.

Some of my favorite things as a kid were RPG video games, Star Wars, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Now that I’m an adult some of my favorite things are RPG video games, Star Wars, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But don’t worry…I’ve expanded my interests. I also now love zombie shoot-’em-up video games, Star Trek, and True Blood. And of course I’m just teasing. I love all of those things, but I have plenty of other favs, including a more-recent obsession with Doctor Who, pretty much anything that happens within the Marvel Universe, and tea in a great variety of options. Mmm. Tea.

Though I was always an intellectual kind of kid growing up, I leaned more and more to the artsy side of things as time went on. I took piano lessons for years before eventually moving on to the guitar. My bedroom walls were often papered in my own drawings, which were mostly of my favorite video game and anime characters. In the third grade, after writing a short story for a project, I decided I wanted to be a writer, professionally. Things went a little sideways in high school when I realized that I also wanted to have some kind of financial security, and so I chose a more technological profession, but I’m still working on that whole writer thing, seriously.

What else is there to know about me? I prefer jeans, t-shirts, and ponytails, but sometimes I get super girly and like to play around with nail polish and cute shoes and whatnot. I love laying in the warm sun, but I also kinda dislike being outdoors in general because I can’t turn off the part of my brain that tells me I should be doing something. Oh, and I’ve got a thing for dragons. McFarlane has made a wee bit of money off of me.

My husband and my three-year-old daughter are the most important people in the world to me, and though it may only be a pipe dream I would love to someday be able to live on my writing so that I wouldn’t have to regularly leave them to work out in the Alberta oil sands. I’m currently in the process of running the final edits on my zombie apocalypse novel, and once that is sent off to the printers I plan to get to work on a project that I’ve been working on for a decade, completely revising it into a YA series. It is my sincere hope that by the time I hit forty (that’s ten years from now) I’ll have at least five self-published books and a healthy following on this blog. So feel free to tell your friends (*hint hint*).

All in all, I blog because it’s fun, I love interacting with readers and writers alike, and it keeps me writing even when I feel like I can’t write. How’s that? Feel like you know me now? 😉

A to Z Challenge Day 25: Yuki Miaka (the Girl from Other World)


Oh hell, we’re back to the anime again. Did I forget to mention that I’m a huge nerd, bordering on being a huge loser?

Yes, the fact of the matter is that although I’ve gravitated away from anime as I’ve gotten older, there are still a few shows in particular that I hold high on my list of best things ever, and a show from the mid 90’s called Fushigi Yuugi is one such show.

I’ll admit something right off the bat. Of all the classic anime shows that are out there that are genuinely amazing and could easily be enjoyed by anyone who is willing to put their doubts aside and force themselves to sit down to watch a subtitled cartoon…Fushigi Yuugi is not one of those. It’s not a classic. A lot of people would not be able to enjoy this show, and a lot of people probably wouldn’t even be able to make it past one or two episodes. The fact is that this show requires a certain kind of taste. It’s about a young school girl named Miaka, who is accidentally drawn into another world through an old, magic book. In that world she is claimed to be the Priestess of Suzaku, who must gather her seven Celestial Warriors in order to summon the God, Suzaku, and be granted three wishes. In her travels she falls in love with one of her seven warriors, and eventually finds herself at war with her best friend, who has also been drawn into the book as the Priestess of Seiryuu.

It’s a strange, convoluted kind of story, but personally I loved it, both in anime form and manga form. It’s a romantic tale that takes place in a feudal version of the world, full of great warriors and damsels in distress. Yuki Miaka herself is a bit of a clumsy, sometimes very whiny little twit, but for some reason that’s what makes me like her. She’s silly and headstrong, but she also goes through a lot over the course of the story, and while I’m not a big fan of intricate love stories with such young characters (she’s supposed to be a middle school student), it is truly quite a lovely love story if you can convince yourself to pretend that she’s a little less jail-bait than you might be comfortable with.

The short story is that I know damn well a lot of people reading this would not be able to enjoy this show, but I personally have a deep love for it, so I think that it’s worth giving it a try just to find out, don’t you?

A to Z Challenge Day 21: Usagi Tsukino (the Sailor Senshi)


I have yet another confession to make: I cheated a little bit on this one. You see, the character in question’s original name does start with “U”, as soon in the title, but I personally grew up watching the translated, Americanized version of the show, in which her name starts with “S” (Serena). That said, the character was an important part of my childhood, and as I grew up and discovered that the show had actually been quite hacked apart and Frankenstiened back together by American sensors I did hunt down the original Japanese version and decided that I liked it much better, so let’s just go with Usagi, shall we?

If you didn’t grow up with anime in the 90’s you probably don’t know that it was pretty huge, but also pretty regularly ridiculed. These days geeks and nerds are actually pretty popular (is that an oxymoron?) but back then they were teased and tormented, and (at least in my experience) only geeks and nerds watched anime. I caught a strange amount of flack for watching this show, let me tell you. But watch it I did, because I loved the concept of it. In the same way that I loved Spider-Man for being a teenage superhero with all the problems that entails, I loved Sailor Moon because it was about a group of super-heroines, all of them school girls. They were dealing with growing up, managing school, dating and falling in love, having fun, and all that stuff that young people deal with, but they also occasionally had to save the world. I lived for those kind of stories.

And my favorite character in the show was the titular “Sailor Moon”, whose real name was Usagi. I loved the other characters as well, but Usagi was my favorite because of how pathetic she was. Does that sound odd? Maybe it is. See, the other characters had so much strength – intelligence, physical power, strategic skills, grace, street smarts – but Usagi was like the counter to all of that. She was flunking most of her classes, was clumsy and quick to burst into tears, and was wavering on the cowardly side of the scale. For the most part she was completely and utterly pathetic.

And yet, when it really came down to it, when her friends or family were in trouble, or when someone was being taken advantage of, or when big bad evil was all set to destroy the world, she bucked up, put on her big girl panties, and saved the day. That’s why I liked her so much more than the other characters. For all intents and purposes she was the weak link, but when it really counted she didn’t let that stop her from doing what was right.

A to Z Challenge Day 18: Ryuk (the Shinigami)


Here’s something you may not know about me: I’m a big manga fan. Growing up I was pretty big into anime, and as I got older I began to be more interested in the original manga series’ than the television shows that were made based on them. I’m not a rabid collector by a long shot, but I have a few full series and am slowly working my way through a few others, and one of the latter is a rather wonderful series called Death Note.

If you’ve never heard of it, the series follows a teenage boy named Light who has come into possession of a “Death Note” notebook which allows him to kill anyone he wants, in any manner he wishes, just so long as he knows the person’s name. He takes it upon himself to use his new-found power to pick off those members of society that he feels deserve to die – murderers, rapists, con-men, criminals of all shapes and sizes – and soon enough finds himself being hunted by the world’s most renowned – if not a little off-center –  detective.

So where does this “Ryuk” character that I’ve named the post for come in? Well the Death Note books are the possessions of creatures called “shinigami”, which translates to “death god”. Basically, shinigami are like grim reapers, whose job it is to take the lives of humans. One shinigami in particular, named Ryuk, becomes bored with the lack of entertainment in the shinigami world and decides to have some fun. He “loses” a Death Note in the human world and then follows around the kid who picks it up to see what happens.

The story in general is just quite brilliant and interesting, and the TV series that was based on it is actually quite good as well, and my favorite part of both is Ryuk. He is one of the strangest creatures of any story that I’ve ever read or watched – a literal death god who loves watching humans and is quite oddly obsessed with apples – and his antics and the way he “mentors” Light add a creepy-yet-goofy feel to the story that make it that much better than it might otherwise have been.

If you’re someone who enjoys the occasional manga or comic, I definitely recommend this series, and if you’re someone who doesn’t feel silly watching cartoons (trust me, this one is NOT for kids!) then I would definitely recommend the TV show as well.


Be Your Kid’s Cheerleader, Not Their Bodyguard

As a kid I was what some people might refer to as a “nerd”, and other people might refer to as a “geek”. Some people may have even classified me as a “loser” or a “dork”. It wouldn’t have been way out there to hear someone call me a “dweeb”. I had all the qualities of these many descriptors: I enjoyed school and was good at it, I loved writing and drawing, I only had one or two good friends, I had no sense of fashion or what was “cool” at any given time, I was fairly shy, and I liked lots of things that were considered to be (at the time) things that only nerds liked, like Star Wars, anime, and RPG video games.

I mean, come on...look at those walls! LOOK AT THOSE WALLS!
I mean, come on…look at those walls! LOOK AT THOSE WALLS!

The thing is, when I look back at my childhood I know that I actually had it pretty good. I got along with kids from all social groups, and though I was often teased and tormented I was actually fairly well-liked overall. And yet, if you had asked 10-year-old me, or 12-year-old me, or 15-year-old me, she would have had a grocery list of complaints to make, because that’s the thing about kids: they see things very differently and react explosively. That’s what we have to remember when dealing with young’uns.

For example, when I was young I was an excellent student, but I was dramatically lacking when it came to things that were important to all the other kids. I remember once when I was in the 5th grade, a couple of kids in my class were talking about “Green Day”. I remember wondering why they were talking about Saint Patrick’s Day in the middle of November. I had absolutely no idea that Green Day was a band and I felt like a total loser when I finally figured it out. I was regularly tormented for not knowing about the “important” bands, TV shows, and celebrities.

I was even pretty pathetic when it came to normal “kid” lingo. I read constantly and had a great vocabulary for my age, but when it came to things that kids say to one another I just didn’t get it. Once, I can remember one of the girls in my class told me that one of the boys in my class thought I was a “fox”. I had absolutely no idea what that meant. I didn’t know whether to be amused or upset. The boy in question was the kind of guy who was friendly enough but also a bit of a torment, so I didn’t know if being a “fox” was a good thing or if he was teasing me. In this particular case my ignorance showed clear through; the girl actually ended up asking me if I knew what a “fox” was because she could see the twitchy confusion on my face. I felt like a complete idiot as I tried to convince her that I did, even though I didn’t. And then even after I was clear on the definition, I didn’t know if the boy was being serious or mean, because I was not the kind of girl that boys liked and I knew it.

These kinds of things were exacerbated by the “normal” kid’s ability to be annoyingly ignorant toward the “nerdy” kid. When I would draw, for instance, I tended to draw in an anime style, and the result was a constant barrage of, “Oooh, is that Sailor Moon?” which is significantly more annoying than it sounds. In this vein everything I did or said was assumed to be related to Sailor Moon or Star Wars, because if a kid happens to like these kinds of things every other kid in the world will assume that that’s all there is to that kid. For a large chuck of my life I was designated to be the “kid who likes Star Wars”, and as far as some were concerned that was my only defining feature.

As I’ve mentioned before, these kinds of things, though they seem meaningless to an adult, are a huge deal to kids. Kids are emotional. Kids are quick to temper. Kids are cruel to each other. Kids are stupid.

The reason I mention all of this is because when you have a bunch of little things slowly building up and niggling at a kid’s mind, eventually it will come to a head and there will be an outburst of some kind. For me, the eventual outburst was a good thing. You see, my two best friends and I were picked on fairly regularly in junior high school. One of those two friends was the biggest target simply because she was the quietest and therefore the easiest (see previous paragraph about kids being cruel). One day in gym class we were going to be playing badminton, and while our teacher was distracted by showing one of the kids the proper swing, some of the “popular” kids were amusing themselves by hitting birdies at my friend. It was the kind of thing that she had endured before, and normally did so by gritting her teeth and trying to ignore them. On this day, however, she cracked, and on the tenth or eleventh birdie to the back of the head she twirled around and chucked her racket at the kids as hard as she could. Her reaction was the straw that broke the camel’s back for the other friend and I. Up until that point we had always been calm, quiet, and soft-spoken, but at that moment we snapped. I don’t even remember half of what either of us said. I do remember that there was an incredible amount of profanity involved, and that I ended up with my finger right in the face of one particular girl who looked, in that moment, like she was absolutely terrified that I was going to beat her face in. And the thing is, I actually may have, if our teacher hadn’t run over at that moment, grabbed my friends and I, and dragged us off to her office. I don’t remember much of that talk either, except for the fact that I was crying while we were trying to defend ourselves and I was so mad that I couldn’t stop.

We three ended up getting sent home for lunch early that day. At my grandmother’s house I explained to my mother and grandmother what had happened and that my two friends had already said that they weren’t going back to school that afternoon. After listening carefully my mother told me that I could stay home too if I wanted, but that she strongly suggested I return for the afternoon classes. She told me that not showing up would just show those kids that they’d won in the end. I hated that so much, you have no idea, but I returned to school that afternoon and spent the entire rest of the day sitting alone, knowing that the entire class was watching me, waiting to see if I’d snap again. Those three or so hours were some of the hardest I’d ever experienced. It was all I could do not to burst into tears every time I saw someone staring at me.

But as I said, in the end, the outburst that my friends and I had turned out to be a good thing for us. No one messed with us after that, and in honesty we seemed to gain quite a bit of respect. Life became a hell of a lot easier from there on out. And I truly believe that those “popular” kids learned something that day…in fact, one of them recently informed me that she’d felt extremely bad about that incident and apologized profusely for being a jerk.

Here’s the thing though…that incident could have gone a hell of a lot differently. For one thing, I could have forgone the screaming and cursing and gone right to bashing a girl’s face in. We could have done nothing at all and instead self-medicated in secret with drugs or self-harm. My friends and I could have let everything build and build and build until we ended up with major depression or anxiety or any other number of things. We could have wound up in a very different place. One of us could have even resorted to suicide. I would never in a million years have said that any of us were ever capable of that, but people often say that of kids who do end up taking the final plunge.

Now, these days we pay a lot of attention to bullying, especially it’s cyber-counterpart. And that’s good, for sure. We definitely don’t want to ignore the problem. But if you want to know my honest opinion, I think we spend way too much time focusing on the cause and not enough time focusing on the effects. Sure, it would be great if we could stop bullying all together and save all our kids from having to deal with that kind of mental, emotional, and sometimes even physical anguish, but we can’t. Not really. We can’t be on top of our kids every hour of every day, and no matter what we do or say to bullies they will continue to do what they do because that’s just the way they are. To reiterate: kids are cruel. They will always be cruel. We as parents and teachers and concerned adults can do what we can, but  some bullies will always work around the systems and thus some kids will always be bullied. Therefore, I suggest focusing more on the effects. Look for the signs. Keep your eyes open for changes in the way your kid acts. Be vigilant, but don’t hover, because kids recognize that kind of thing and they hate it. Don’t be forceful and demanding, but talk to your kids, let them know that they can talk to you. Don’t overreact. Kids won’t tell you that they’re being bullied if they think you’re going to go stomping over to the bully’s house to yell at their parents (hint: no matter how much you think it’s a good idea, that kind of thing results in MORE BULLYING). Your kids want you on their side, but they want you on their side on their terms. Your kids don’t always need you to fix the problem: sometimes they just need you to acknowledge the problem and let them know that you have faith in them to deal with it. Like my mother listened to my story about my breakdown and encouraged me to return to school to show the bullies that they hadn’t won, sometimes all your kid really needs is to know that you believe in their ability to face their own problems head-on.

Being a kid is rarely easy, and lots of horrible things have happened as a result of that, but our kids don’t need us to be their bodyguards; they need us to be their cheerleaders.