The holidays are a great time to bond with your kids—decorating the tree, making cookies, and revisiting favorite story books.
In this exclusive guest blog post by author Ken Denmead—Wired.com’s popular Geek Dad blogger—you’ll learn how to make a very 21st century decoration with your kids: The Geeky Wreath. Ken’s new book The Geek Dad Book for Aspiring Mad Scientists, is available now for NOOK.
You may have heard that "geek culture" is "in" right now. Great. Wonderful. But what does that really mean?
I'm not entirely sure. And I'm the guy they call "GeekDad!"
Geek is a rather subjective term. After all, at one point it merely referred to certain circus performers. Then it was a schoolyard pejorative applied to those of a certain nerdish tendency. Indeed, nerd and geek are somewhat inseparable terms, and often get interchanged depending upon region or context. I don't think there's any right answer to what the difference is between them, but I like to think about nerds as being the more focused math/science type of geek, where geek itself is the more general state of being passionate about a pursuit to such a degree that it may cause you social detriment. Therefore there can be sports geeks (those who can cite stats on players from seasons that ended in the last century), or car geeks, or movie geeks, and so on. You may never have been popular in high school, but you loved playing Dungeons & Dragons, or marching in the band, or acting as president of the origami club. You geek, you!
Now we are "grown-ups," with jobs and families and disposable incomes, and our likes and dislikes help to shape the cultural (and retail) landscape. So we get 9-hour fantasy film epics, and hit TV shows, and computer company CEOs who are idolized like rock stars. Geek culture is in because we are in. And that's a good thing.
The holidays are a great time to be a geek, too. Halloween is, perhaps, the best geek holiday, because we love to play pretend (yes, even at our age!). But you can pull your geek nature into the whole season. I especially love adding little geeky touches to our holiday decorations. Be it the complete collection of Star Trek Christmas Tree ornaments, to building the biggest computer-controlled holiday light display on the block, being a geek at the holidays is fun.
Which is why I'd like to offer you a great, geeky holiday decorating project:
Make Your Own Geeky Wreath
(Originally featured in Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects and Activities for Dads and Kids to Share)
One very common decoration, whether it be Christmas or its cultural predecessor, the winter solstice, is the wreath. From the Wikipedia entry under “Advent Wreath”:
The ring or wheel of evergreens decorated with candles was a symbol in northern Europe long before the arrival of Christianity. The circle symbolized the eternal cycle of the seasons while the evergreens and lighted candles signified the persistence of life in the midst of winter.
While these were horizontal wreaths (which eventually became the Advent wreath), at some point they also went vertical and were hung on walls or doors as decoration. These days, there’s quite a lively business around the design of decorative wreaths.
For our wreath, however, rather than evergreen branches and flowers, we’re going to be a little more environmentally sensitive and repurpose some materials all of us good techie geeks have lying around.
Somewhere in your house, there is a box or basket or plastic tub, and in that tub are cords. They may be extra USB cords, or Fire Wire, or serial, or even parallel. They may be AC adapters or power cords from old computers or monitors or the proprietary data cord that the 2-megapixel camera you bought eight years ago used to connect to your TV to display pictures. There is probably even a handsome selection of component, composite, DVI, and other AV cords, all piled together for that day when you KNOW you’ll need them. Which is why you’ve kept them all.
The first step toward healing is admitting you have a problem.
The next step is to take them all out and braid them into a holiday wreath.
Depending upon how adroit you are at actually braiding odd-size cords, you may wish to cheat a little by going to your local crafts store and purchasing a wire or wood frame that you can braid the cords around. You can use zip ties or even just plain tape to keep them on (an artistic application of electrical tape could provide just the right look).
The important thing is not to make it look organized and evenly assembled; a bit of chaos is good in this case. And if you really want to go that extra step, don’t stop at cords. Just as pretty front door wreaths can have ornaments or other decorations on them, you can do the same with the random technical detritus accumulating around your house: old hard drives, computer mice, webcams, routers, fans, speakers, whatever. Hang them from the wreath and spread the geeky spirit. Add one string of real holiday lights to bring it to life, then hang it on your door and impress the neighbors.
A free sample excerpt from Geek Dad is available for download on the product page now!
NOOK owners: go to shop and search “Ken Denmead” to download his book of fun family projects.
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