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Paul Banas is a happy married dad of two kids and the editor of GreatDad.com as well as the Publisher of Pregnancy Magazine. He writes for and edits the annual "Pregnant Dad" issue, and also writes about technology and gadgets including baby monitors.

About Paul Banas

Paul Banas is happy married dad of two great kids living in San Francisco. He writes now about kids, new technology and how the two interact for GreatDad.com and for Pregnancy Magazine (pregnancymagazine.com) where he is also the publisher.

Here are my most recent posts

“Dad Support Group” ad from Progressive

Progressive has done a far better job on their new campaign for dads than their weird and insulting attempt last year w In last year’s “Momeostasis,” men became a feminized mom version of themselves as a sign of maturity. In”Dadeostasis” versions, the mom became more masculine like her father.  Both were painful to watch since they seemed to go beyond maturity to imply a changing sexuality after kids appeaar. In this season’s ads however, you may find yourself nodding in agreement as both men and women make common statements like “Are we trying to heat the outdoors here?” or “It works perfectly fine.Why should I replace it?”

In this season’s ads however, you may find yourself nodding in agreement as both men and women make common statements like “Are we trying to heat the outdoors here?” or “It works perfectly fine.Why should I replace it?”

It’s not exactly enobling but it does feel more real and whole lot less insulting.

Powerful video story on daddy-daughter love

The New York Times ran this “OP-DOC” video today. It’s the story of a young woman who leaves her father behind to escape the concentration camps. It doesn’t dwell on her guilt but the impossible situation she found herself in, and the message her father gets to her years later.

Oddly, this didn’t make me cry, but it’s a beautiful piece that manages to communicate all it needs to be without being overly-sentimental about a daugther and dad bond.

When teens want a tattoo

If you have a teen asking you about a piercing, more piercings, or maybe even a tattoo, you’ll be interested in the following from the New York Times. And if your kids are still tweeners and aren’t yet thinking this way, this is a good time to get ahead of the thinking on this one.

High ear piercings are now common, as are nose piercings and other body piercings. A Pew Research Center report cited in the new A.A.P. report said that in 2010, among 18- to 29-year-olds, 38 percent had at least one tattoo and 23 percent had a piercing somewhere other than the earlobe.  Source: When Adolescents Want Tattoos or Piercings – The New York Times

You can pretend this will go away or you can start to put some guidelines around the question immediately.  To start off with, most states have laws requiring parental c0nsent for piercings and tattoos. Some outlaw tattoos entirely for minors under the age of 18. You can find individual state laws at the National Conference of State Legislatures’ tattooing piercing laws page. Since this is both a legal and personal decision, you might consider the following:

  • Communicate early the importance of taking care of your body and the values of your family. Your culture may be pro-piercing which is fine, but it’s easier if kids know early what is commonly accepted.
  • Have early talks about fads and fashion so kids understand that not everything people do in any given era is what will always be in. Use the mullett, shoulder pads or Kim Jong Un’s hair as examples.
  • As you get closer to the teen years, be prepared for what your own standards are. Perhaps two piercings are fine, but not three. Or maybe three but not one in the nose. There is no right answer for what you decide or even if you change your mind, but like a lot of things, you want to avoid being surprised. You don’t want to have a dramatic reaction because it was a surprise, nor do you want to automatically say yes because you were asked at the wrong time.

The New York Times article also has a good summary of the considerations you need to discuss with kids even if you are inclined to be more liberal about piercings or tattoos. For example:

  • health risks for both tattoos and piercings
  • permanance of tattoos and the difficulty of removal (sometimes impossible)
  • fading of tattoos over time
  • tooth chipping with tongue piercings, problems with breastfeeding with nipple rings
  • obstacles to finding employment. The New York Times relays problems some actors have with tattoos that must be covered up or removed so that they can get diffrent parts.

Finally, do not despair if you are adamantly against “body modifications” to your precious baby. Tattoos and piercings have become so mainstream that even the military liberalized its rules against them in 2015. That means what was edgy and hip may soon become old-fashioned. While my 17 year old daughter is anxious to turn 18 so she can decide on a third ear-piercing or a small tattoo, my 14 year old boy thinks the whole thing is silly. He may be an indication of where the tattoo and piercing market is going.

Review: Jack Reacher “Never Go Back” for dads and kids?

Okay, so Rotten Tomatoes is giving the new Jack Reacher movie, now out for digital rental, 37%. Should you skip “Never Go Back” with those ratings? Or is “Never Go Back” for dads and kids?

If you’re looking for a Friday evening diversion and like this sort of thing, this movie might surprise you. Not because it’s a great film, but because for what it is, it’s not as bad as “37%” would indicate.

Of course, this is predicated on a few things. You have to like Tom Cruise. No great plot is going to overcome the Tom Cruise hatred held by more than a few. I’ve never understood that myself. I’ve enjoyed his charm since “Risky Business,” and while the guy does possess more range (see “Tropic Thunder,” “Magnolia”), here you get basic “Few Good Men” intense Tom Cruise with few opportunities for flashy smiles.

You’ll also have to get over some leaden dialogue. Perhaps because I was expecting this to be bad, my ear was particularly attuned to bad writing and I found it in the first half hour. After that, it was classic adventure/thriller stuff. It’s not Raymond Chandler, but it wasn’t grating to the ears.

The love story between Jack Reacher and Major (Susan) Turner doesn’t go beyond the flirting stage, though there is plenty of couple-style squabbling that will bore younger viewers. Not surprisingly, the 20-year gap in age between Cruise and Cobie Smulders (of Avengers fame) isn’t even an issue. I have to wonder though how Cruise, always in great shape, can keep up with her in all their running and leaping. Older married dads will enjoy this fantasy however.

None of the action involves never-seen-before pyrotechnics though we have classic explosions, shoot-em-ups, and 4-on-1 fight scenes. Hollywood can create this type of comic book violence amazingly well compared to television. And if you like to watch this sort of action, you won’t be disappointed.

As for whether, it’s good for kids, there is little that is very shocking versus what you’ll find all over TV. You know your own child and will have a better sense of whether he or she would be affected by the following scenes:

  • brutal murder of someone by hitting their head with a telephone
  • dead bodies with blood sprayed on wall
  • two soldiers shot at point blank range

While the bad guy does get predictably “dead” by the end, I was happy that it wasn’t via one of those really gruesome crushings or disembowelings.

Given the very brutal ending of the first Jack Reacher movie, “Reacher,” I did not let my 12-year-old watch the new “Reacher” with me. In the end, it might have been fine – he’s seen worse – but I like to err on the conservative side.  Commonsense Media gave “Never Go Back” an age 14+ rating (https://www.commonsensemedia.org/search/jack%20reacher)  and the original Jack Reacher 15+ so that should give you a good guide for your own child.


Review: Galaxy Zega

The nice folks at Galaxy sent me a set to play with my son. We had previously reviewed the Anki Drive racing game which is a perfect point of comparison for the Zega.

In several respects, they are more than a bit similar:

  • Cool high-tech racing cars with special powers including missile-launching (AKA “tanks”)
  • Real-life play but controlled using tablet or phone interface
  • Increasing car power, speed, and agility (player-based) tracked by experience/time played

The Galaxy Zega is very different however because it un-tethers the cars from a track (Anki cars drive on tracks with embedded dots so they are always situationally aware and learning).  With Galaxy, you could potentially play throughout the house up to the Bluetooth 4.o range of 200 feet. You aren’t restrained by any sort of track and with strong wheels can even climb over some obstacles. This means you have to steer your car far more but you have to be far more accurate in your shooting.  NOTE: Anki a year ago introduced modular track so that players can set up new courses. However, cars must still stay on this track.

In the Galaxy Zega  starter kit, you get two cars, 10 walls, a rotating wall, and a dozen floorboards. In it’s simplest setup, you can play wholly within a walled rectangle about 29″ x 39.” Like in many video games, you move your car back and forth hoping to find a position to take pot-shots at your enemy. If you played “Tank” on Atari, in the arcade or even the more recent Wii version, you know exactly how this works. Galaxy Zega is the video game brought to life when played in this setting. Like an RC toy, your commands are forward/backward, right/left, and shoot missiles.The revolving wall adds a fun dimension; give it a push and you might suddenly have a clear shot.  You can take down these walls and can race outside of the confines of the small space, hiding behind chairs and furniture.  The real fun, however, is when you add “Base” squares.

The X-base squares,  also Bluetooth,  are easily added from your tablet game interface. Using one X-base, competitors can roll over it to add new powers, or if using two, they can be “capture-the-flag” style targets for gamers to find and attack while opponents are out finding their own. Imagine if you have to go to living room searching for your opponent’s base while he is frantically searching in the kitchen for yours. This is entirely possible using the Galaxy Zega. Nothing like this would work in Anki.

On the other hand, the Zega Galaxy does not have AI. While the cars (based on player ID) gain more powers, they don’t get smarter, nor can you re-run a race based on what the cars “remember.” This, as you may know, is most amazing part of the Anki Drive experience, though obviously not quintessential to game play. While the Galaxy Zega is different, we did not yearn for more AI in our game play.

One thing that disappoints me in these types of games is that players are adding features all the time based on the amount of game play they are doing. Just because my son plays the game more than I do, should he play against me with a “level 5” car versus my level 3? I wish there were a way to equalize the cars so we both start at zero, or perhaps even have a golf-like par setting so that he is actually handicapped to make our competitions more competitive.

For more info or to order, go to GalaxyZega.com. The set without the x-Base is $149.  The x-bases are sold separately for $29.99 and are especially recommended to get the most out of the game. Additional pieces including ramps, extra walls and added swinging gates are available at: galaxyzega.com/battlefield/. Finally, you can make the Zega a 4-person game by adding two more cars for $99.