Monthly Archives: September 2014

Movie of the week – Tracks

An inspiring and wonderful adventure.

I’d like to think an ordinary person is capable of anything”
Robyn Davidson



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LEGO for girls

10592918_10152233890467056_6935595889796093891_nIn the first 6 months of this year LEGO’s revenue and profit surpassed Mattel’s (Barbie) making it the world’s biggest toy company. In a world increasingly enchanted by tablets, video games and electronic entertainment LEGO is managing to keep children interested in its bricks. LEGO is successfully integrating the physical with the electronic by entering into super hero franchise deals, video games and with its own LEGO movie.

It might be surprising then how disappointed i am with its product lineup.

This coming Christmas I’ve decided to make a single, joint present to my sister’s daughters (S6.7 and E3.6). A shared gift which they would build and own together for all the benefits that it could (hopefully) lead to. Naturally the first idea that came to mind is LEGO.

On it’s website LEGO has 30 possible product ranges to choose from. These include video games and a couple of other non-physical products. The rest consist of the standard bricks.  A lot of them are Super Heroes, Lord of the Rings and other franshises. These are targeted to boys for the most part with the occasional female character. Out of all these products i soon realised that my options were quite narrow for the girls.

I basically have 3 options.

The Disney range, which includes princesses and castles, all in pink. The girls (which is something i noticed happening  around me in general) are already being bombarded enough as it is with this theme and i don’t want to add to it. A boy is encouraged to dream of being an astronaut while a girl is supposed to dream of being a princess or just marrying a prince?  This seems to be the bottom line here.

Then there is second possibility with Friends. This one is not pink. It’s an all purple range….. It seems girls are being trained from an early age to focus on pink and purple. As if these are the colours they are meant to choose. Anyway, this is not just a LEGO problem. There is a wider variety in the Friends range with sets such as the Summer Caravan, Mountain Hut, Shopping Mall, Lemonade Stand, Beach House, Juice Bar, Sports Car. Once again though, i don’t find the themes here appealing. There are slightly better options which are more promising such as the Jungle Rescue Base, Jungle Tree Sanctuary, First Aid Rescue, Lifeguard post. They actually involve something which is not stereo typically “girly”. However, it seems that all the jobs available for girls involve animals and are in the jungle for some reason. Also it’s a range that only includes girl characters. There does not seem to be a representation of the other gender in this Friends universe. I think the only boy is in the shopping mall set and in the video he is the only one depicted as working. He is either making pizzas or as a dj. The girls are there to shop.

Then we go the final option which was actually my first option to consider. The City. The City range revolves around occupations that are mostly performed outdoors and/or might be considered exciting by children. Police and Fire Brigade stations. Garbage and Cargo trucks. Mining and Logging. This is basically the idea. I understand that in real life most of these physically demanding jobs are indeed taken by men.

However, the female gender is basically non-existent in this LEGO City. There is the Town Square set with 8 figures with only one being female. Then there is the Arctic range, which is the one i have my eye on. In the base camp set, there are 7 figures with only 1 being a female character. There is a scientist and a research assistant and they are both male whereas at least one of them could easily have been represented by the other gender.

I don’t understand this at all. It’s clear that LEGO are targeted, for one reason or another, mostly to boys. For any girls interested in LEGO they have their “own” distinct ranges. The pink and purple ones. With princesses and shopping malls. In principle, i don’t like the idea of toys for girls and toys for boys.

With LEGO i also don’t agree with its representation of The City. There are plenty of opportunities to establish the presence of both genders but they simple don’t do that. Another example is with this Helicopter rescue base which has 4 figures. There’s 1 female who is the ambulance woman. The doctor is male when again the opportunity is there to have a more equal representation.

Even if these LEGO sets are targeted towards boys what’s so wrong about boys building and creating them with female scientists and doctors? Would that be so bad? I also don’t want the girls to see doctors, scientists and a City with only men.  I don’t want them to see a LEGO world where they are only represented when it’s all about princesses and shopping malls with everything and everyone dressed up in pink or purple.


I still intend to get them a LEGO set because i still see the benefits of a child playing with LEGO. In fact, i’m planning to buy the Arctic Base camp. However, i’m also getting a few extra LEGO figures so that both genders can have an equal representation. Maybe the girls will dream of being scientists working in the Arctic after Christmas. Maybe they won’t. At least they’ll know that they can.

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Posted by on September 10, 2014 in Family, Toys


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The Secret Garden (children books)

SecretGarden8Two weeks ago we (finally) managed to start reading The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnet, together with S6.7. After 2 chapters the book is proving to be quite demanding for the both of us.

When S6.7 has a query about a word it’s actually difficult for me to provide her with a good answer due to my own limitations in the greek language. My first instinct is to simply translate the word to english which of course is not very helpful to S6.7….

Also, she has a lot of questions of the “Why” and “What” nature. Normally, i don’t really mind those but the questions here are about things i don’t feel i’m equipped to answer. It’s quite a dense book and even after only 2 chapters there’s a lot going on.

For example, Mary’s parents are neglecting their daughter and several times it’s mentioned that nobody loves her while she did not love anyone and treated people badly.

“Why did her mother neglect her?” asks S6.7. “Why doesn’t anyone love her?”

For the latter i could scrape an answer such as,

“….because she did not feel loved by her parents, she reacted and treated everyone else badly. She grew up being spoiled and only caring about herself. You need to love and treat people well in order for others to love you.”

That still leaves question number 1, the source of Mary’s early loveless childhood, unanswered. Simply tell her that some people are too selfish and prefer to party than take an interest in their children? That just because you have children it does not necessarily mean that you are a good parent? Is that something she can understand?

Then her parents die of cholera.

S6.7: “What is cholera?”

Me: “It’s a disease. They died because of an illness.”

However, to her cholera is too abstract, like a word i made up and to be perfectly honest a disease i don’t know that much about apart from that it’s no longer as great of a threat as it used to be. I could not answer her next question, “What does it do to you?”. But this only motivates me to find out and tell her which is what i promised her i would do (and i did).

This only sidesteps another issue of the next question which i simply cannot give her a good enough answer.

“Why did both her parents die?”.

Is she finding it difficult to understand that someone can grow up with no parents and experience so much grief? I don’t know. The death question shows its face again in Chapter 2 as we learn about Mr Craven’s history (her widowed uncle).

I want to give her answers. There aren’t any that are universally absolute of course. However, the idea is that they are enough to provoke and stimulate her thinking in order to do her own “research” and reach her own conclusions. The thinking process is much more important  to me than the actual conclusions.

I don’t feel that i’m doing that well at the moment and it’s because i don’t know how. I never really thought about things in that way before. Adults have more or less settled on their thinking of things and discussions between us are usually of one trying to impose his own beliefs on another person. With S6.7, we are talking about someone who simply doesn’t know the world but actually wants to know more about it and she has not already decided on what and how she is supposed to think.

When we started reading books with S6.7 i thought it would be a way for us to spend time together and entertain ourselves but in a way that we would both feel engaged. However, due to the nature of this book it seems that it can’t be as simple as that. No, it’s much more.


Posted by on September 8, 2014 in Books


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Movie of the week – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

An entertaining pop corn movie but all these superhero movies are all starting to feel, look and sound the same….



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New Year’s Resolutions 2014/15

I was having a discussion with a close friend of mine a few weeks ago and he said,

“Every year you make all these resolutions. The reality is that there’s only one resolution you should have. Just one.”

He was half right.There are actually two.

Unfortunately this is one of those times when i wish the blog was anonymous. But it’s not. So i’m keeping both resolutions secret this year. I’m still going to try and set objectives and self-improvement projects which i will post about during the year.

Secret resolution (ongoing for the past two years)

Secret resolution (new)

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Posted by on September 1, 2014 in New Year's Resolutions



New Year’s Resolutions 2013/14 (review)

It’s September again and time for me to review how i fared with last year’s resolutions.

Cooking – This is one of my successes this year. I’m now adding a dish every month or so to my “portfolio”. The latest additions are two potato salad variants. Over the year i have added a few more including broccoli soup and baked salmon. I still need to master these dishes and so far the cooking has mostly been for personal enjoyment. This last Sunday i cooked salmon with vegetables for the family and it was great! The potato salad on the other hand was a disaster…. I enjoy cooking for others which is something i want to do more often and i’m also considering taking cooking lessons this year.  Achieved

Reading – To some extent this has been achieved. For example I read a couple of articles and books on WWI (fiction and non-fiction). I also read fiction books written by the same authors or with settings of the same period and area (Asia). In truth however my interests are more general. I don’t want to go too in-depth even though in theory i like the idea. I prefer to read about new things even if this keeps my knowledge to a more superficial level. Partially Achieved

Teaching – Unfortunately i did not do anything related to this. Fail

Emotional/Short-tempered – I’d like to believe that I’ve shown some improvement. Board games have helped to this end as the social aspect forces me to behave better and control my emotions. Also a person whom i consider to be the most recent addition to my circle of friends has also helped me to see things and people differently. More positively. Finally, spending time with my nieces has helped me relax more and at the same time be more patient. There’s still room for improvement though. Partially Achieved.

Events – I attended a few events (same number as last year probably) but i’m very proud for the International Tabletop Day i helped organise. One of the highlights of my year. I need to do this kind of stuff more often. Partially Achieved.

Secret Resolution – No improvement and carried over to 2014/15. Fail

Health – There’s been a deterioration compared to last year. Both mentally and physically. One of the effects of this is that i had to reduce my exercise time from 40 mins to 20 mins a day. Headaches have also become common whereas i never used to have them. I’m hoping that by focusing on the important issues and the source of the stress in my life this year i can improve on this. Fail

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Posted by on September 1, 2014 in New Year's Resolutions