Comics, Cosplay, LARPs, RPGs, Fiction, and more... all from Chicago

Category: Raising a Nerdling

Back at Anime Midwest!

Trinity and I have made it back to Anime Midwest for another year.  I’m looking forward to the convention as an attendee as opposed to a presenter. I want to see what other people are doing and the information they’re sharing with others:

My first-day schedule looks like:

  • Linkara and the Geek Talk Comics
  • Worbia workshop
  • Cosplay Creeps and How to Handle them
  • Con Parents
  • V is for Villians Concert

Trin and I also brought two costumes each. We’ll be out on the floor getting seen. I promise lots of pictures for the social feeds and future galleries.

If you see a WWI Pilot Batman or Pirate Deathstroke, be sure to say hi!

Introducing Chicago Geek Guy Studios

I just couldn’t find what I was looking for.

I kept looking, without any luck. Sometimes, I just don’t understand how a rule mechanic is supposed to work from reading the rulebook on its own. I didn’t want to watch a video from a whole playthrough of an RPG session in the hopes that it would answer my question. I wanted something that could help me with a table top RPG the way The Rules Girl helped me with board games. I couldn’t find what I needed. Time for Chicago Geek Guy Studios.

While prepping to run a one-shot Eclipse Phase session, I kept puzzling over a concept called Measure of Success. Once an understanding finally sunk in, I realized other people likely suffered from similar issues. As I am planning to deliver a series of one-shots using different systems over the next year, I also needed a way to introduce my players to different rule sets without taking too much time from actual play.

After talking the idea over with a few friends and buying some green fabric, I made the first video in a series I’m calling “That’s How We Roll.”

That first video taught me some important things:

  • Green screens need a lot of light and hate wrinkles. I eventually built a wooden frame and stretched out my background to even out the color.
  • iOS has applications that act like a teleprompter. I can look right into the camera and still read a script.
  • The image shakes a lot when trying to record while holding the camera. Tripods are the way to go.
  • It’s easy to speak too quickly while recording. Speaking at a reasonable speed will seem slow, but it’s much easier to understand.
  • Good lighting takes time to set up (or a ring light)

With these fresh ideas in my head, I bought a ring light, a teleprompting app, and a tripod to start another video. This time, I also roped in a collaborator. Trinity brings a great sense of humor to filming and I hope she’ll join me in more of them.

Here’s some work we did for That’s How We Roll: Tales from the Loop:

Got any tip for video production? Leave them in the comments below! I can sure use the help!

Making a Mallet for Harley Quinn

Making the Perfect Mallet

The character uses a baseball bat in Suicide Squad, but when Trinity decided to cosplay as Harley Quinn for Anime Midwest, she wanted a mallet. Not just any mallet, a big honking mallet that a strong man would swing around with glee and wild abandon.

Unfortunately, Trinity weighs slightly more than a strong man could bench press with one hand. Building this prop required materials that would be large enough to make a statement and light enough for a wisp of teenager to comfortably carry for a few hours around a convention floor.

We searched the Internet for help and found We took it from there ourselves.


Building this prop required:

  • 1&1/2″ PVC pipe cut to a six-foot length
  • Two 1&1/2″ PVC pipe caps
  • 1/2″ wooden dowel cut into two six-inch lengths
  • 12″ cylinder concrete form cut to four feet
  • Box cutter
  • Duct tape
  • Drill with a 1/2″ bit
  • Glue
  • Tape measure
  • Paint and brushes

The Plans

To build the mallet:

  • Drill two 1/2″ holes through the PVC pipe, at one end, just far enough apart to fit inside the concrete form;
  • Cut two 1&1/2″  holes in the center of concrete form, opposite each other;
  • Insert the PVC pipe through the holes in the concrete form;
  • Thread the dowels through the PVC. Secure the dowels to the interior of the concrete form with glue and duct tape;
  • Cover the ends of concrete form with duct  tape;
  • Hammer the PVC caps onto the ends of the pipe; and
  • Paint.

Building the Mallet, in Pictures!


Destination: Woolly Mammoth!

A few weeks ago, Sheri OZ suggested a number of destinations for Nerdling Family Field trips.  One of the suggestions caught my eye and imagination. Woolly Mammoth Antiques and Oddities looked offbeat enough to appeal to my teen geek and close enough to public transportation to not require a car trip.

I didn’t have any trouble getting Trinity up at the crack of 8:30 to catch the train out of the Western Suburbs and head into The City. Nestled in Andersonville, a vibrant community surrounds the shop. I hadn’t been to the neighborhood for probably 20 years. I had forgotten how much good food and cool shops that stretch of Clark Street offered.

We started the day with brunch at Lady Gregory’s.  Trin and I took turns quizzing each other, trying to identify all the music legends that adorn the walls of the mid-scale pub. I greatly enjoyed my Crabcake Eggs Benedict and found the service friendly and attentive.

Down this narrow alley lurks a fun, tiny comic and game shop.

Down this narrow alley lurks a fun, tiny comic and game shop.

Down a narrow passageway, not half a block from Lady Gregory’s, we discovered Alleycat Comics. This tiny shop makes good use of its space, looking clean, well organized, and not cluttered. The store looks out onto a small patio, perfect for reading a few books on a beautiful spring day. I picked up some comics I had missed from my regular subscription before moving back out into the neighborhood.

Not particularly worthy of geek note, Trin and I stopped at resale favorite The Brown Elephant, cruised the local artists at the Andersonville Galleria, and perused the feminist collection of graphic novels at Women and Children First, before heading down to Woolly Mammoth.

Where else could you see a stuffed dog playing the violin?

Where else could you see a stuffed dog playing the violin?

I can safely state that Woolly Mammoth is indeed stocked full of antiques and oddities. Trin and I maneuvered through the small space, stopping every few inches to point out something unusual and likely unique.

We saw a stuffed anaconda, busts of famous classical composers painted as the members of KISS, a two headed calf, shelves filled with the skulls of various small animals, leeches under glass, a clown face that will haunt my dreams for months, and a twelve foot tall Styrofoam sculpture of King Kong.

I’m so glad I decided to actually listen to the suggestions of my editor. Woolly Mammoth did not disappoint and Andersonville gave us enough to do to make a day of it.

Have any more suggestions for geeky outings? We’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Nerdling Family Fieldtrips

With summer on its way and never-ending days of activities to fill, we decided to dig up some new and interesting options that might deserve a visit.

American Science and Surplus

This store has both an online presence as well as brick and mortar stores.  It sells pretty much IMG_1526anything from the absurd to the sublime.  Kids and adults will find all kinds of interesting kitschy tchotchkes, lab supplies and science kits, and arts and crafts.  Today I found tiny finger puppets in the shape of hands for $4.95, velociraptor bones model kit for $24.95, and a $17.50 electromagnet for at-home physics projects.

It’s the kind of place you can stop in a grab something or make it a destination. It’s easy to wander around for hours with your nerdlings looking at all kinds of interesting science stuff.  Also, keep a look out for their free science nights. The last one offered a free evening of hands-on science experiments, interactive demos, telescope and microscope viewing and a science scavenger hunt with a science kit for each child that competed.

IMG_1525American Science and Surplus has two Chicagoland locations, 5316 N. Milwaukee Avenue, 33W361 Roosevelt Road (route 38) – ¼ mile East of Kirk Road in Geneva, and 6901 W. Oklahoma, Milwaukee, WI

Woolly Mammoth Antiques and Oddities

1315 W. Foster Avenue, Chicago

ElkDoes your nerdling enjoy the dinosaur bones and the animal dioramas in the Chicago Museum
of Natural History?  If you’re looking for a change of pace, you might want to check out Woolly Mammoth Antiques and Oddities.  However, this little gem is not for the faint of heart, or kids who are easily grossed out. It’s filled with vintage and antique taxidermy, unusual medical devices, bones and teeth, and all type of other curiosities.  A visit to Woolly Mammoth Antiques and Oddities should prove to be educational and surprising for the whole family!

Robot City Workshop

3326 N. Sheffield Avenue

photo-4-454x270Robotics has become extremely popular with kids. In fact my own son is a member of his high school robotics team.  He happily spends three-to-four afternoons a week designing, building and testing his robot for competition.  If your child’s school doesn’t have a robotics program, it might be fun to visit Robot City Workshop. They offer three levels of beginner workshops for kids as young as 5. The lesson is $35 + the cost of the robot kits and batteries.  If you have more than one child, the cost of each additional child (in a beginner class) is $15 + the cost of the robot kits and batteries.  This store also offers intermediate and advanced level workshops. The advanced workshops seem to focus on teaching specific skill sets that participants can then use to build their own robots at home.  The downside to their programs seems to be the derth of creativity allowed within  in the workshops, but it’s still worth checking out.

Exploring Fractals with ABACABA

Years ago, my three-year-old son asked me, “Why do numbers start at zero but go to infinity?” Much to my bewilderment, his young mind was somehow able to grasp this incongruity. For my reply, I used a number line to show him that for every positive number there is actually a negative number on the “other side” of 0, also to infinity. His response was the first time I heard his particular giggle. A giggle I would hear many times over the years and the sign he’s learned a new concept that tickles his brain. Using another number line for inspiration (a ruler), this post explores some interesting opportunities to explore fractals.


According to Wikipedia, a fractal is a natural phenomenon or a mathematical set that exhibits a repeating pattern that displays at every scale. One well-known fractal pattern called ABACABA, has long been used by artists, musicians and writers for creative inspiration. My own nerdlings have enjoyed exploring this mathematical pattern while gaining a deeper understanding of the potential inter-relationships between mathematical concepts and the arts.

The ABACABA pattern on a ruler demonstrates this pattern in its simplest form. In the space of one inch, the long mark dividing the inch in half represents the letter C (see picture below). The two shorter marks dividing the space on either side of the C in half represents the B’s. Finally, the shortest marks represent all of lines divided in half again, represented by A’s. Spelling out the pattern ABACABA.

Imagine this pattern continuing indefinitely, splitting lines in half until they are too small to see.

ABACABA inspired Art – Sierpinski Gasket



A Sierpinski gasket (above), created by the mathematician Waclaw Sierpinski (1882-1969), uses the ABACABA fractal pattern for the amazing picture above. Ask your nerdling to try zooming in on different parts of the gasket, she will see the same basic shape appearing no matter now far in she zooms, as the pattern continually repeats itself.

Binary Trees

Creating binary trees is a great place to begin playing with the ABACABA pattern. Follow the steps below to create a ABACACA binary tree:
Step 1: Draw a long line (this represents the longest line) in the example this is the complete inch.
binary tree

Step 2: Make two branches coming off of the trunk. These lines represent the C (and should be shorter than the tree trunk).

Step 3: Make two lines coming out of each branch to represent the B’s (also shorter than the previous lines).

Step 4: Draw two shorter lines attached to each of the B branches (these are the A branches)

Step 5: Feel free to continue to make smaller and smaller lines until the lines are too small to draw!

Paper Structures


Source: provides instructions and other information for fractal cutouts needed to make the pop-up above. Another website, also has loads resources, including this pdf (, with instructions to another pop-up structure on the last page (page 13).

Fractal Software

Making fractal art with markers or crayons can be a complicated process, but perhaps worth the effort to make an awesome picture. With modern technology, nerdlings can easily explore the world of fractal pictures with software apps designed for smart phones and computers.

Fractal picture I created with Frax

Fractal picture I created with Frax

I made the fractal picture here with an inexpensive iphone app ($.99) called Frax. It is a straightforward program that folks of any age can use to make inspiring art that can be saved, or even printed and hung on a wall. For a list of additional fractal software apps and a host of other activities visit

ABACABA in Music

Since the Baroque period, musicians have been composing with an ABACABA structure under the name of Rondo. This form of music has a principal recurring theme (often called a refrain) that alternates with different, and usually contrasting sections called episodes, digressions or couplets. Use the links below to play some classical and/or modern ABACABA structured music for your nerdling(s).

“Highway Star” by Deep Purple

“Every Breath you Take” by Sting and the Police

Abacab by Gensis

“March from the Nutcracker” by Tchailkovsky

Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, last movement

“Eine kleine Nachtmusik,” K 525 by Mozart (last movement)


Chicago Geek Guy Game Day!

Socializing is a big part of gaming for me. Over the weekend , my family invited some friends over to play and break in the new table I built. A good time was had by all!

We played:

  • Tsuro
  • Superfight!
  • Citadels
  • Love Letter
  • Easy Come Easy Go
  • Fisticuffs
  • King of Tokyo

Fisticuffs was my favorite game of the day. It’s fast moving, fun, and good for a large group of players.

Surviving Holiday Family Time with Games

With the holidays already here, many of us have to slip into the role of person who completely enjoys time with their family. I love my family and I do like spending time with them, but sometimes it’s good to set up a barrier between you and the next racist outbreak from Uncle Frank. Games offer a great way to pass the time between dinner, dessert, and only figuratively (and not literally) killing each other.

I’ve picked out five games playable with the whole family. None of them contain any questionable content or racy art. My daughter, young nerdling that she is, has play tested all of them as a 12-year-old and gives them all the Tweenager Eye Roll and a Hair Flip of Approval.








All of these games fall into what I’m officially dubbing “The Amanda Brown Parameters.” They take less than 10 minutes to explain the rules, and about 30 minutes to play; perfect for fending off that rant and distracting Uncle Frank.

loveletter-760x1024Love Letter

Published by AEG for 2 to 4 players, ages 10 and up. Plays in 15 ~ 20 minutes.

Try to win the princess’ hand in this card game of deduction and risk. A player’s turn consists of drawing one card, then playing one card. Rules are all printed on handy quick references. Love Letter gets people interacting as they try to maneuver their cards closer to the princess while working to kick other players from the round.

The game doesn’t take much space and is a great way of passing time while waiting in line, if you’re looking to brave the post-holiday crowds.

bangBang! The Dice Game

Published by dV Giochi for 3 to 8 players, ages 8 and up. Plays in 15 ~ 20 minutes.

Take on the role of Sheriff, Deputy, Outlaw, or Renegade in this team based, deductive, push your luck dice game. This revision of the original card game moves more smoothly and quickly. Players roll dice to shoot at their opponents, master the Gatling Gun, dodge the natives, and not get blown up by dynamite. Don’t worry too much if you do. Rolling a frosty mug of beer will heal some damage.

Bang! The Dice Game feels a bit stacked against the sheriff and their deputies, but that’s how things worked in the Old West. There’s even a Walking Dead version for those more inclined towards zombie infestations.


Published by Calliope Games for 2 to 8 players, ages 8 and up. Plays in 15 minutes.

A tile laying game, I can only describe Tsuro as decidedly uncooperative. Build a path to drive the other players off the board while keeping your token safe. The game is dead simple, easy to understand and play.

I prefer the original Tsuro to its follow up, Tsuro of the Seas. Tsuro of the Seas adds a dice mechanic to play that slows down the pace of the game. Tsuro of the Seas does add giant monsters, so it does have that going for it.

kotKing of Tokyo

Published by iello for two to six players, ages 8 and up. Plays in 15 to 30 minutes.

If you really like giant monsters, it’s time to give King of Tokyo a try. Rampage through Japan’s capital fighting other monsters, aliens, or robots, while trying to take over the city. This push your luck dice game allows you to control the damage done to other creatures, your healing, or how your monster mutates. King of Tokyo is a cutthroat game with the last player standing (or the first one to get to 20 victory points) claiming the crown.

Surviving Holiday Family Time with Games

Surviving Holiday Family Time with Games

Shinobi WAT-AAH!

Published by iello for two to four players, ages 10 and up. Plays in 15 to 30 or 30 to 45 minutes depending on game mode.

Build power by collecting sets of warriors and creatures in this beautifully rendered card game. Use the different abilities of the Shinobi clans to confuse and punish your enemies. The game includes two different types of play. The short Grasshopper Mode offers a quick round with players set against each other. The Grandmaster Mode trains the clans over three rounds, eventually facing the big boss!



“It’s not ‘Bandfic’,” she exclaims, her hands raising up and down in that gesture of tweenage exasperation. “It’s Bandom.”

“OK, I got it,” I assure her. “So what’s bandom?

“A type of fandom devoted to bands.”

I raise an eyebrow, waiting for more.

“My bandom is affectionately nicknamed The Emo Quartet. Which consists of….”

“Panic at the Disco, Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, and Twenty-One Pilots?” She nods her head in response. I kind of like the music my daughter plays as she bops around the house.

“Yep. But Twenty-One Pilots fics are really rare. So sometimes it’s the Emo Trinity.”

“Gotcha,” I say with a nod.

“There’s also Halsey, and everyone in my bandom loves her, but she’s not in my group.” The words start falling out of her mouth a little more quickly and she starts pacing by the table. “I’m not sure why she isn’t in my group. I mean everyone thinks she’s wonderful, but I think the reason might be because nobody knows how to say ‘five.'”

“It’s ‘quintet.'”

“Oh,” she plows on, seemingly unsure of any knowledge her father might have just passed on. “There’s also, for example, One Direction and 5 Seconds of Summer bandoms as well,” Trinity continues.

“Most members of a bandom have a Tumblr devoted to their bands. They post pictures of the band, usually. Some write fanfiction.”

“OK, wait a second,” I interject. “Is a bandom the actual band, a group of fans, or an individual fan?”

“It’s a group of fans and sometimes the groups don’t mix. Like, nobody wants to talk to the 5 Seconds of Summer bandom. Most of the 5 Seconds of Summer bandom is like, really stupid.” She takes a breath to calm herself. “They call it Punk. It’s really not Punk.”

Punk means The Sex Pistols, The Clash, and The Ramones, to me. Trinity’s favorite band is Green Day. I trust her judgement about what constitutes Punk. “Tell me about fanfic.”

“There are two types of bandfic,” my blue haired daughter begins to explain.

“Hey! You told me it wasn’t bandfic.”

Trinity smiles, patiently. Apparently explaining this whole thing to someone not in the know resembles trying to teach a dog about physics. “Bandfic is a subsect of bandom. Bandom is the whole thing.” I nod, not willing to say something and risk a dismissive eye roll.

Forecasting the future of one of Trin's favorite bands.

Forecasting the future of one of Trin’s favorite bands.

“There are two types of bandfic,” she continues. “AU and Normal. Most people write AU, or alternate universe, stories. Normal is hard to explain so let’s stick to AU.” Apparently, I’ve exhausted her willingness to explain things to an old guy, hip as I may be.

“In AU, a multiple of things can happen. The stories I see most often are a band 1) in high school or college, 2) as vampires(!), and 3) something called Character X Reader. The high school stories have the members react with each other at that age. Vampires is pretty obvious. Character X Reader is when the author interacts with the band members. It’s not like people write fics for fun. They write it for the ships!”

I fight the urge to interject, to try to regain some measure of cool capital with my daughter by knowing what ‘shipping’ means. I just keep on listening.

“Shipping is when you like the idea of two character in a relationship. It can be a friendly relationship, but really,” she flips her bangs off of her forehead, “who are we kidding? One example and a very, very popular ship in my bandom is Ferard, the shipping of Frank and Gerard from My Chemical Romance.”

Pete looked longingly at Mikey.

Pete looked longingly at Mikey.


I pause for a moment, wondering how much I really want to know about what my daughter is reading online at age twelve. Then I think about what I was reading at that age and get over it.

“Another term around shipping is OTP, One True Pairing, or OT3, with three people. Basically, it’s like your favorite pairing. My personal OTP is Petekey, the shipping of Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz and My Chemical Romance’ Mikey Way.”

I swallow, nod, and smile, thinking that my quota of interesting things I’ve learned about my daughter has been filled for the day.

© 2020 Chicago Geek Guy

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑