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Monday News: Teen invents body-heat powered flashlight; Lego strikes gold with...

It’s July.  Can you believe it? Me neither.  I’ll have the giveaway post for the new ebook device up later today. If you folks want something other than a Kindle, let me know. I’m open.  The nook tablets are cheap and you can load Google Play on them. Would anyone be interested?  I’m pretty conflicted about it, but it’s you, the DA Readership, who get to use it.

Now the business is shifting. Somali piracy has dropped off; there have been no documented successful hijackings since May 2012. And although the number of attacks in the Gulf of Guinea overtook those of the East Africa in 2012, quieter shipping lanes there mean fewer potential customers. Yet new markets are opening up. In Africa, India and Latin America the middle class has been growing—and so has the worry about being snatched. For instance, “express” kidnappings are on the rise, negotiators report. Unlike the protracted wrangling more familiar to movie goers, this quicker version involves fast, targeted grabs, followed by shorter periods of detention and smaller ransoms.

Heartlake Stables

My daughter is a big fan of Legos and despises the Lego Friends’ sets. Obviously she is in the minority. But you have to wonder if girls are responding to Lego Friends because they feel inclusive. In most Lego sets there is often no females or there will be only one female in a set with 5 or 6 male minifies. The females in these other sets, like the Castles, are princesses and queens, never knights, vagrants, or criminals. The males play all those roles.

Sure, a girl can pop off the head of a mini fig and switch it around (as my daughter often does) but Lego seems to make a conscious effort to exclude women from many of its non Lego Friends sets. Why? Who knows.

We came home with the four headed Ninjago dragon a few weeks ago and my daughter informed me that the dragon and The Great Devourer were both girls. I asked her if they were girls in the television show and she told me that it was her Lego set and she could assign them whatever gender she wanted. Indeed.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. library addict
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 05:34:45

    I loved playing with my older brother’s Legos when I was younger (the rare times he actually let me :p) I don’t understand why they can’t just include more colored Legos in the regular sets and make the marketing more inclusive.

    The main problem with Lego Friends figures is they don’t have the attachment prongs on their rear end and they slide off when you set them on things. Or so my 7 year old niece informs me.

    The flashlight sounds cool.

  2. Ren
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 06:37:04

    My first thought upon learning about K&R insurance was that the insurers are doing most of the kidnapping to make potential customers believe there’s a need to purchase their product.

    My second thought was that my first thought was correct. Kidnapping is a really inefficient use of resources with a low possibility of yield for anybody who isn’t getting monthly payments in perpetuity and referrals out of the deal.

    Not that I spend a lot of time in contemplation of criminal enterprises or anything…

  3. Angela
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 06:37:18

    I don’t understand why they can’t just include more girl characters, and even more colors, in the regular Legos. I used to love playing with Legos as a kid. Why the need for special “girl” Lego sets?

    I think it’s less about the girls and more about them not wanting to “contaminate” boy’s toys. That’s incredibly cynical of me.

  4. Angela
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 06:41:35

    @Ren: Yeah, that was my first thought too. I don’t understand kidnapping as a means for revenue. It’s a lot of work, and risk, and a body you have to keep track of, for an unlikely, uncertain payout.

    It doesn’t seem worth it – unless you’re (general you here) are kidnapping and ransoming the one-percenters. Cost/Benefit ratio just seems off to me.

  5. Christine
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 07:53:18


    I think you are 100% correct. It’s understood that girls will play with “boy’s toys” but heaven forbid a little boy comes across a pink or purple lego in his kit. Look at all the books that are mandatory reading up until high school years- how many of them have female protagonists? It’s not until Jane Eyre or Pride and Prejudice are read that young girls see a main female character in any “serious” fiction. Up until then it’s all Huckleberry Finn and Lord Of The Flies.

  6. Carolyne
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 08:07:28

    Don’t even get me started on Lord of the Flies. My junior high English teacher didn’t appreciate my counter argument that it wasn’t about how all humans would behave, but about how a bunch of boys would behave. (If you wanted to get the good grade, you had to accept it as a reflection of how you and your friends would also handle being Lost…) My attempt to write “Lady of the Flies” didn’t get far, though. Hmm…my early fanfic tendency rearing its head again…

  7. Rosario
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 08:31:32

    @Ren & @Angela: Whether it’s worth it for you depends on the alternatives. Sure, in most developed countries, it’s probably not worth it. If you’re in a very poor country and you’re targetting a foreigner from a rich country, even when you take into account the risks, the expected value of the payoff is probably significant. Plus, sometimes we’re also talking about hostage-taking (such as the Algerian gas plant mentioned in the article), and that won’t always be about the money. In a lot of the world, there really is a need for that kind of ‘service’, without the insurers having to run kidnapping rings themselves!

  8. SAO
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 08:40:38

    Lego has figured out that their most devoted customers will buy sets for the minifigs. Therefore, they dole out desirable minifigs (like main chars of movie sets) sparsely across sets. I suspect that the boys who do this will probably think a set with a decent portion of girl minifigs is not a good deal. My son certainly pays a lot of attention to what minifigs he’ll get in a set and he has a gazillion sets of lego. He usually spends most of his allowance at the Lego store. Lego has become more intensely male over time and the minifigs more aggressive looking, scowls instead of smiles.

    It maybe that catering to boys who spend all their allowance at the Lego store and only ask for Lego for their birthdays is more profitable than selling a decent number of sets to girls and boys. Or it may just be that as Lego has become more male dominated, fewer girls are interested and they cater to their customers, who are male.

    I hated Lord of the Flies, as did my daughter. What HS English taught me was that I hated English. I avoided it in college, when I could only to discover that I enjoyed reading my friends’ assigned classics that they viewed as a chore.

  9. Ana
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 08:47:05


    I was against the Lego friends sets when they first came out, my girls have tubs of the regular Legos, and lots of Star Wars related sets. But my girls loved the Lego Friends, and while I have real problems with the lack of compatibility between the Lego Minifigs and the LegoFriends Minifigs, for my girls it was about having girl characters to play with and having building sets that they could play in. I think they would have loved them with out the pink and purple, and with fully rotational wrists and legs. It is great to have Amidala and Leia, but there just not enough girl mini-figs in their main sets. I am so annoyed they haven’t released Arwen, Eowyn or Galadriel minifigs in any of the LOTR sets, my girls love playing as them in the LOTR Lego games but they can’t own actual minifig!

    I do think Lego is right that my girls like building things to play in vs. building things as background set pieces. Their favorite Star Wars sets were ones they could play in.

  10. Patricia Eimer
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 09:44:07

    Why Lego? Why? Girls can like legos just as much as boys they don’t need special sets.
    And your daughter? All kinds of awesome.

  11. Kristi Lea
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 09:47:52

    I played with Legos as a kid, and either they weren’t yet making all the specialty sets or else my parents weren’t cool enough to buy them for use. I just remember the plain primary-colored blocks with occasional yellow-headed people (which rarely had anything resembling clothes, just primary-colored bodies). We built boxy houses and squarish cars and rarely had all the pieces to anything fancier.

    I think all the new building sets that give exactly the right pieces plus instructions for building cool ships and vehicles and things are neat. My 6-year old boy loves them. But the girl-y Legos aren’t nearly as complicated. They are more people and trees and decorations and less construction. My 8-year old girl doesn’t care for them (there’s not much to build and she doesn’t get that into doll-role-play sorts of things that often), but she also (unfortunately) buys into the whole black/green/blue= boy and pink/purple=girl idea, so she doesn’t play with her brother’s sets either. (BTW, the reason the sets are hers vs his is usually because they came that way from a birthday or Christmas gift, not because we tell them to divide their toys based on supposed gender).

    I don’t know why they don’t put pink and purple and other pastel colors in the regular Lego sets. I know my 6-year old boy loves all colors, “pretty pretty butterflies”, art, etc, and would happily build with lavender if offered the option. And my Mythbusters and Clone Wars-loving girl would be happy to build a spaceship if she wasn’t turned off by the decor on the box. (why not a pink spaceship??? Why must sci fi be black and gray? Who says that flying ships would be made out of silver-toned metal anyway? Isn’t the space shuttle covered with white ceramic rather than heat-transferring steel?)

  12. Christine
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 10:10:52


    I would totally read “Lady Of The Flies!” Is it available for the Kindle? Lol. Sounds like it would have been fantastic. And I agree 100% with the premise. They should make the kids read “Island Of The Blue Dolphins” back to back with L.O.T.F. as a compare/contrast.

    I don’t really know much about the Lego sets and how they are packaged so it was interesting to read the comments. Is it playmobile that sells the figures separately and just the structures on their own?

    I also don’t understand the perceived need to split everything down gender lines. As a young girl (oh so long ago) I loved “girly” things and played with my Barbies endlessly but I also loved “boy” things like Star Wars (and the now politically incorrect cap guns etc). My Barbies inherited my older brothers leftover G.I. Joe accessories (at least the stuff they didn’t destroy or melt) so my very fashionable dolls also had flamethrowers and other badass stuff. It’s one reason I hate to hear some feminists Barbie bashing. My Barbies were never just the persona pictured on the box. They were superheros, warriors, T.V. stars and yes, sometimes models or princesses totally depending on my mood. Why toy makers cannot understand this I don’t know.

  13. Cady
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 10:34:41

    My kids love LEGOs, but my daughter never asked for any of her own until LEGO Friends came out. However, unlike her brother who gets into the construction more than anything else, she does role play with them. She has friends who are mainly into construction, but they get both the Friends and the other sets. Truthfully, it doesn’t bother me. I figure kids will figure out what they like no matter what marketers try and sell.

  14. Lammie
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 11:17:50

    I am reading this while suffering through a hot flash, wondering how many flashlights I could power up.

  15. leslie
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 11:49:09

    @Lammie: Too Funny!

  16. Jenna
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 12:32:49

    Your daughter sounds fabulous! Good for her.

  17. Lindsay
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 14:01:12

    Good for your daughter!

    Feminist Frequency had an article about the Lego Friends set a while back and it still holds very true — my favourite quote was “Well girls, let’s go bake some cookies for the firefighters while the house burns down” as the only sets available at the time were targeted at extremely domestic tasks. Now there are better ones — karate, vet, etc — but they’re still pretty clearly not the same lego as LOTR and Star Wars and everything else that is so heavily advertised and prominently featured in-store.

    I grew up with lego when it was a toy for kids, not for girls or boys — but companies make SO much money dividing things by gender, and if you look across the toy spectrum, anything “pink” or targeted towards girls tends to have fewer features for the same price. It’s disheartening and a lot of my (guy) friends are just now starting to see it as they have kids and go to the toy store and realize that the toys THEY loved growing up are marketed as off-limits to their little girls.

  18. Kate Pearce
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 15:19:59

    My daughter loves lego and also scorns the girl sets because she’d rather be building the more complex sets from Star Wars or Ninjago (she has 3 older brothers she is sort of a boy). I was really pissed off when last time we were in the lego store as the employee tried to lead us to the girl section. I told him that was not very pc and he looked at me as if I was nuts. LOL
    My daughter does the same thing, she just uses her imagination to make the characters whatever sex she wants. And isn’t that the point of lego?

  19. Christina Auret
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 16:15:20

    The lego sets everyone mentions confuse me a bit. We (I have two sisters and one brother) use to have a big tub of the basic blocks that we all played with. Any sets my parents bought us (whether it was for one or all off us) found it’s way into the tub pretty fast. I get that there are more specialized kits now, but do people really keep the sets segregated? Once it is all mixed together how on earth do you divvy it back up into girl and boy sets?

  20. RebeccaJ
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 21:33:06

    They need to make “girl legos” because clearly us females cant do everything the males can do. *Excuse me while I fan muhself I have the vapors* I did have to laugh at the blatant use of pink, though.

    I used to get a kick out of sneaking into the little cubby hole underneath my aunt’s stairs and playing with my cousin’s tinker toys (no, that’s not something dirty;), which my mother refused to buy for us girls. God forbid that we should ‘create’ something! Then again she also told me girls should never play the drums…oy:)

  21. Jo
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 21:57:04


    I did the same thing! I read it for a college class and got inspired to write an all female version.

    Btw the author himself said that it would be different if it were girls in this video here:

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