Showing posts from July, 2013

Video Explores the Plight of Superhero Depression

Being a superhero is hard: The high expectations. The feeling of having to do the right thing at all times, at all costs. Underestimating your own strength. Being more handsome than the average person.

This poor, lonely superhero just can't catch a break. Which makes for a compelling short for the rest of us.


(Source: Geeks Are Sexy)

Geeks Use Bots To Score Exclusive Restaurant Reservations

What happens when you live in a city with a significant computer-savvy population and a very active social scene? Creative problem solving through tech, is what happens.

Consider: Apparently restaurants in San Francisco can be so popular that it's near impossible to score a reservation. And in fact, that might be more an issue of computer bots than humans. Or, more specifically, bots acting on behalf of humans. It turns out that people have been writing bots to track the reservations websites of more popular restaurants, alerting the bot writers to openings and cancellations.

According to this BBC article, programmer Diogo Monica realized what was going on one day when his own bot alerted him to openings that were scooped up from under him within minutes.
"It quickly became obvious that these were reservation bots at work," he said. This was making it all but impossible for anyone to get a table at SBP which is almost always fully booked, up to 60 days ahead.

In retalia…

Cuusoo Campaign Yields LEGO Back to the Future Set (On Sale August 1!!)

So this is kind of fun: on Thursday (August 1st), Lego will be releasing a Back to the Future line of kits that were designed by two Lego fans!

Masashi Togami and Sakuretsu submitted their idea on Cuusoo, the crowdsourced Lego concept site where members can post ideas for new Lego sets, and the public can vote for their favourites. You might remember some of the other Cuusoo projects I've written about in the past including this one for the Lego Magic Box and more recently, one for science and tech Lego sets designed around female characters (no, not pink and purple Lego Friends; actual female Lego minifigs).

What makes Cuusoo awesome is that 10,000 votes gets your kit evaluated by Lego and the potential to become a real Lego set. It also nets the designer 1% of the net sales of the kit, which can be huge when you consider how ubiquitous Lego is, all around the world. In this case, the designers are donating their take to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.


Teaching Kids To Code: Is Looking For Mentors

There's this fantastic local program in Ottawa called TechU.Me that I've been fangirling ever since I heard about it last year. If you're a regular reader, you've probably picked up on the fact that I'm a strong advocate for early childhood tech education whether that's engineering concepts taught through Lego, robotics and computing taught through hands-on workshops, or creativity and innovation taught by visiting a maker lab.

Bring on the tech and bring it early.

Which is why TechU.Me is right up my alley. They teach high school students to program in a very hands-on, user-driven way: by pairing them up with elementary school student-clients. Basically, the big kids have to solicit requirements from the littles, and then build it. User-centered design and development taught from day one. Oh, and if that's not enough, they also run an AppJam, basically a student hackfest for educational mobile apps.

In their promo video (below), they link together the ent…

Rainy Day Project: Papercraft Plants Vs Zombies

So here's the thing about rainy days: everyone just wants to play videogames all day, which is fine if we're talking about a rare rainy day but let's say it's one of those weeks where it just.won't.stop.raining. (Think way back to June, and you'll remember what I'm talking about.)

You need to get the clan un-glued from the magic box and doing something IRL. What's a nerd to do? How about papercraft? In this case, Plants vs. Zombies Papercraft. Turn that funny, addictive, little Xbox, Facebook, smartphone game into a tabletop competition.

You'll definitely need a printer for this *something I mention because we don't have one* but it should keep the idle hands occupied between the cutting, folding and then zombie-ing. But it'll be worth it. I mean, check out the pics! All of the tutorials and templates are available over on MayainPaper.


(Source: Geek Craft)

Excited for Red Bull Flugtag: This Saturday in Ottawa!

Hubby and I are officially on vacation starting Saturday. And we have decided that the first activity we will do is head to the Museum of Civilization for the Red Bull Flugtag.

It's going to be our first time watching it in person, although we've seen lots of videos online. And apparently hubby's a little bit excited about it because yesterday he sent me an email with actual exclamation points in it declaring that the Flugtag is to be the FIRST ACTIVITY OF OUR VACATION!!! (If you've ever met hubby, you'll know that although he's a neat guy, he's not exactly an exclamation point kind of guy. So clearly, there is some excitement here.)

[Aside: Before you head off to the Twitters to tweet @snookca and tell him his wife is writing about him in her blog today, I'd like to remind you all that Snook and I are of no relation (that we know of). And hubby's last name isn't even Snook. #imJustSaying]

If you've never heard of the Flugtag, it's an en…

Phineas and Ferb and... Star Wars!!! And the Avengers!

Yes, friends.
Phineas and Ferb
And the Avengers
And Star Wars.

This past weekend at San Diego Comicon an announcement was made that is possibly the only good thing to come out of the Disney-bought-Star-Wars-and-made-all-the-nerds-cry-including-me announcement from last year: they will be doing a crossover episode of Phineas and Ferb.

I'm going to type that moar sloooowly so you can let that sink in:

*head explodes*

Here's the kicker: apparently that level of awesomeness takes time so we won't see it till 2014.

Meantime, you can go read the spoilersstoryline over on the Phineas and Ferb Wiki. Or get a feel of what we're in for by taking a look below at the trailer for the Avengers crossover episode that the Disney Channel will air later this summer (somewhere between August 9-23 depending on which channel you get).

The Dude abides.

(Source: Geekosystem)

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Kewl Design Alert: Gorgeous Blinking Solar Circuit Board Jewelry

So here's a think I never knew I wanted but once I saw it became obsessed with it and will need to ask for the next time there is a gift-related holiday upon me. *breathes*

Circuit board jewelry in fantastically fun shapes that actually lights up because it's OMFG solar-powered.

It's like someone saw into my brain, grabbed all the things I like and then waved some magically pixie faerie dust and then actually turned it into something you can wear!

Now before you start rolling your eyes, thinking, um, "I have no intention of wearing a circuit board" let me show you this:

This brooch is gorgeously nerdy, right? Did you notice the blinky lights? Yeah, there are 16 amber lights on both wings that light up and thanks to 12 solar cells. And you can recharge it via USB just in case.

You can recharge your jewelry via USB.
(head explodes)

Just in case you're wondering about the life expectancy of the piece, LumenJewelry states:
It's also sealed in epoxy to protect…

Kewl Design Alert: Keep Calm and Geek On

So it was a tough week at work. Lots of deadlines stacked on top of one another and a ridiculous amount of output required to meet them. (Which is why there was no post yesterday.)

But we did it. And it completely rendered me braindead.

I had to give myself a couple of pep talks to get through it and I think this sign would have been incredibly helpful to have in my office in those particularly stressful moments.

Truth be told, this is a card from Zazzle, but if you do a Google search for "Keep Calm and Geek On" you'll find a plethora of signs, cards and t-shirts bearing this most excellent phrase. One of them might just be the thing to get your through a particularly hectic moment at work. (I'm seriously considering adding one to the collection of sayings and signs in my office, for just that purpose :)

Geek on, friends. It's the weekend!

Adorkable Art: Retro Little Golden Book Wall Hangings Feature Modern Games & Shows

Remember when you were a kid? Been a while so I'll give you a moment.

Remember when you were a kid and you read Little Golden Books? The ones with the black and gold spine? Stories like The Poky Little Puppy, Richard Scarry's Best Little Word Book Ever, or even The Little Red Hen and my fave Scuffy The Tugboat. (I even had a tiny pocket Little Golden Book version of that one.)

Well, here's an adorkable retro piece of artwork inspired by those Little Golden Books and a modern video game: Portal! Yes, The Cake is a Lie has been immortalized in Little Golden Book form and it's totally cute! Look at how happy she is! She makes me smile every time I look at her. I totally want this in my office.

Naturally, it's available on Etsy. If Portal's not your thing (I'm looking at you @nellleo) The maker, JoeBot, has a variety of other pieces, including this one themed after Skyrim:

Or how about Mr. Bubbles from BioShock?

See the JoeBot store on Etsy for a ton of other v…

Designing Microinteractions: Notes from Dan Saffer's Presentation at IxDA Ottawa

Last night I went to a lecture hosted by the Ottawa Interaction Design Association to see Dan Saffer speak about Microinteractions. The event is part of a book tour Dan is doing for his new O'Reilly book by the same name and a quick glance at his site will tell you that this a popular design topic because his talks are selling out one after the other.

Here are some highlights from the talk:
Microinteractions are the "feel" part of look and feel.They are small little actions that live inside your features but alone, don't really qualify as features. For example, the ability to turn off your ringer isn't a reason to buy a phone, but it's an interaction that you may still have with the phone.
Paying attention to these fine details as well as the big picture will permit users to have a great experience using the product. It's the difference between a product you tolerate and a product you love.Microinteractions are good for: accomplishing a single task, adjustin…

Why I Won't Be Buying Gender-Segregating Toys Like Goldieblox and Lego Friends

In the past few weeks, several people have been asking my opinion of Goldieblox, the ridiculously successful Kickstarter project that just got picked up for distribution by Toys R Us, Mastermind Toys and other stores.

Now I admit that the story behind the project is appealing, especially to someone like me who is a strong advocate of teaching tech to kids at an early age: The kit aims to make engineering more palatable to young girls by combining storytelling (Goldieblox and the Spinning Machine) with engineering concepts (making girls build machines using simple washers, pulleys, etc).

Aww, that's nice.

But I don't like Goldieblox. For the same reason I don't like Lego Friends. In fact, I wrote an essay (pretty much an open letter to Lego) back in the Spring, in which I disputed Lego's approach to marketing "regular" Lego as a boys' toy and Lego Friends as a girls' toy:
So, good for you for trying to reach out to both genders specifically. However, …

Share Your UX Story: UXCamp Ottawa 4 Call For Speakers

The UXCamp Ottawa Chairs have been working hard collecting an incredible roster of speakers for this year's Camp!

This year's event is scheduled for Movember 9-10 (again a Saturday and Sunday) and will take place at the gorgeous Canadian Museum of Civilization theatre. A warm, cozy spot that can accommodate our ever-growing numbers and still maintain that community feel.

Right now, we're filling up the schedule and we're almost done! We have dedicated some time this year for community sharing: a series of 10-minute slots where practitioners can tell us stories of great design ideas that have been brought to reality.

So the question is: Are you doing something AMAZING in the world of UX these days? If so, come share it with us!

Here's what makes this awesome: we want both success stories and EPIC failures.
Because, let's face it, we learn from both, right?

Whether you're a total UX n00b or an experienced practitioner, we want you. The only requirement is tha…

Hack A Museum! ROM Game Jam Taking Applications Till Monday!

So here's something I wish more museums were getting into: hacking!

You might have noticed that hacking has been a bit of a recurring theme of mine this year (what with the library seed banks, and my Hacking is a Mindset, Not a Skillsetobsession talks, Ottawa's app contest). It's because I truly believe that bringing together people who work in an industry with un-like-minded people can generate amazing results. Which makes me a huge fan of hackfests and design jams which bring together developers and non-developers to solve problems.

And that's the idea behind the Royal Ontario Museum's Game Jam. The idea is to bring together teams of individuals to jam away at the ROM over the course of a weekend (August 9-11) to build games that animate the ROM exhibits. So that next time you visit the museum, you can gamify your tour.

I can't even begin to express how much I love it, how much I want to go and just soak in the action, and how much I wish some of our more ti…

EPIC (imaginary) HACK: Samsung Pays $1B Fine to Apple in 5 Cent Coins (Updated)

[Update: looks like this is a hoax that got posted on Next Ventured. Damn, I hate getting caught. Regardless, would've been a good one, no? Sorry for the mix up, but I'm going to leave this up as a funny "what if" scenario because I love anything that pits Android vs. Apple, let's face it. Thanks to @CMacQuar for the heads-up and the Snopes link that proves this is pure, yet lovely, fiction.] ---------
Let's recap: Apple sued Samsung for patent violations due to the design of some Samsung tablets and Apple won. Much to the chagrin of designers everywhere since some of the design elements that were defended seemed to be really a little bit far reaching. And Apple was awarded $1 Billion in damages. You know, because they're really hurting for cash and no one can possibly tell their stuff apart from Android. (insert eye roll here)

Well, in what is probably one of my favourite hacks of all time, Samsung got its due delivering its payment to Apple in the form…

Kewl Design Alert: Star Wars Comic Book Patterned Dress is the Ultimate in Geek Chic

I don't know what it's like where you are, but the summer that everyone was lamenting would never arrive is definitely here. As evidenced by my melting self as I sat outside for a meeting at 1pm, overheating in my black pants and thin plaid shirt. Yes, I need to wear a skirt tomorrow. I'd been doing so well dressing for the weather but today's outfit was a total and utter fail.

Now, although I have my share of work-appropriate clothing, I lament that most of my nerdy stuff is weekend wear. My Threadless Ts, my conference shirts, my plaid shoes... Which is why I'm incredibly tempted by this gorgeous (and IMHO work-appropriate) Star Wars comic book patterned dress on, you guessed it, Etsy. And just in case you aren't into Star Wars (blasphemy, I know!), there's an Avengers comic-themed dress as well :)

I love how the style offsets the pure geekiness of the pattern. Hubby says he doesn't see me wearing anything like this but I think it's just too. much…

How To: Geek Up Your Summer Vacation With 6 Kid-Friendly Activities

Summer vacation.
That time of the year when the Dude tries with all his might to cram every single minute of sunlight with activity, as kids do.

But when the play dates start to get stale and the "I'm bored" whining starts, what's a parent to do? Well don't fret, I've got a handful fun geeky ideas to keep the kids busy:
Do a science experiment: Search by area of interest on Science Buddies for outdoor and indoor ideas. (Also bookmark this one for science fair projects :)Join Google's Virtual Maker Camp:Maker Camp is specifically geared to teens with more advanced projects, daily Hangouts and project sharing. Really, it's a thinly veiled attempt to get teens onto Google+ but with science! and DIY! Still a great way to get your teen doing something productive (and dare I say, slightly competitive) over the holidays. Runs July 8-August 16.Try some star gazing: Contact your local library or science museum for activities in your town. In Ottawa, here's…

Community 3D Printers: Ottawa Indiegogo Campaign Raising Funds For Youth Program

If you're interested in teaching kids about tech and encouraging them to DIY, then there's this great little Indiegogo campaign going on for the next few weeks that you need to check out: "Young Makers: Community 3D Printer for Pop-up Demonstrations".

Started by a group of Ottawa makers and community-minded folks, the goal of this Indiegogo is to procure a 3D printer and related accessories to run a series of pop-up 3D demos for youth all over the city.

According to the campaign overview, the campaign is intended to enable the organizers to:
"(showcase) this 21st century tool as a means of empowering youth (especially in disadvantaged communities) so that they can:
help discover their inner talents that can open new pathways to education and employment;develop self-confidence in their ability to learn-by-doing and learn-by-sharing;activate their potential to be creative and transform ideas into reality;become part of a supportive and welcoming community of '…

Recap: Code For Kids HTML and CSS Workshops Today at Shopify

This morning, The Dude and I hung out at another fantastic workshop by Code For Kids. Again held at the Shopify office downtown, this time the Shopify staff had their hands full running two back-to-back sessions for kids aged 7-12.

While last time the workshop introduced kids to the game-building app Scratch, today the kids had an opportunity to learn basic HTML and CSS tags, and build their own site on

Each kid was equipped with a laptop and a set of paper tags to do some prototyping. They learned tiny bits of code and then tried their hands at coding their pages, and then learned a bit more. They even had paper HTML tags and drawing paper so they could mock up their sites and try their hands at paper prototyping. (An early introduction to user experience, WIN!)

By the end of the session, the kids had FTP-ed the files to the servers a few times over, and left with the requisite files and tools on a USB key so they could continue working on their sites at home.

I tal…

Your Next Cast Might Be A 3-D Printed Exoskeleton Like Cortex

If you're my lone a regular reader, first of all: thank you :) Secondly, you probably know that I broke my elbow a year and a half ago during a snowboarding lesson. What you might not know is that I had two casts.

The first one (this one) barely lasted a day before it started flexing; it didn't set properly. And then the nurse who was fitting me with my sling the second time sized it too loose so the cast set in a slightly relaxed position which was passable but somewhat uncomfortable. I was able to rig up my sling to take some of the pressure off my arm and relax it enough to heal properly. Which was great because the last thing I wanted to do was head back to the hospital for a third cast in so many days.

But what if they'd just been able to print me a cast? Wouldn't that have been awesome? They could have scanned my arm (they were already manipulating me for x-rays much to my stomach's chagrin) and then printed out a cast that would be perfectly fitted to me, an…

4 Awesome Videos You. Must. Watch.

Last week I made a little pledge to myself that I was going to take things a bit easier this summer and post quick hits: to fun, simple, short bursts of geeky awesomeness to interrupt your day, make you smile and distract you only momentarily from whatever you were supposed to be doing.

And then the Internets just starting freaking exploding with amazingness.

And I couldn't choose!

So here you are: 4 things I discovered this week that made me smile or cringe or stare at in wonderment. Some you may have seen, but the question is... did you watch them all?

Thing 1: The Lego Prosthetic Leg Ok, maybe you came across this on Facebook or Twitter, but did you watch it all the way through? Did you see how Christina Stephens engineered the piece to work in similar fashion to her original prosthetic? Or more importantly, did you catch her giggling her adorable ass off every time the leg snapped when she tried to walk on it? I've got a total girl crush on her mad Lego skillz, that awesom…

Export Google Reader Feeds With Google Takeout! (Only til July 15)

If you're like me, you might have been a little eensy weensy bit bitter that Google Reader died on Monday.

Grumpy Cat even agrees with me. That was NOT KEWL, GOOGLE. NOT KEWL.

Thankfully, other feed readers have stepped up to the plate and are providing us with the service we deserve.

Unlike the service from someone else we know. That's right, Google. This fangirl is still a bit bitter. Yes, I know I'll forgive you in the long run and this relationship is not quite over, but be prepared for a nice long stay on the couch for now.

On Sunday, I told you how to save your Google Traitor Reader feeds before they died. But let's just say that you had stuff to do. And you forgot to mark Monday as being the fateful day that Google would rip Reader from our hands. In fact, maybe you were too drunk busy celebrating Canada Day and you just plum forgot.

No worries, friends.
I got this.

Or more precisely, (surprisingly?) Google's got this.

See they have this handy little tool c…

What Do Flames Look Like in Space? NASA Explains Space Station Flame Balls (Video)

The folks from Science @ NASA have a new ScienceCast looking at the chemistry of flames and how they behave differently on the ground and in space. And it's really surprising!

According to the voiceover, flames can be hard to understand because they're complicated: they contain thousands of chemical reactions, even in a simple candle flame. In fact, even the shape is complicated. The teardrop shape of the flame is actually caused by gravity. So what happens when you have a flame is space?

It turns out that in microgravity, flames form sphere shapes. Like this:

And they have a great name for these odd flames: "space station flame balls". Love that.

Anyone else think they look a bit like natural gas flames?

If you take a look at the video below, at 2:30 there is a very kewl experiment with heptane where burning happens without flames or, more precisely, with cool flames. These experiments could help us develop cleaner ignition processes (see explanation starting at 3:5…

Happy Canada Day! I'm Heading To Canada Day Barrhaven

Happy Canada Day to you and yours!!!

If you need me, I'll be in my hood: This morning, Canada Day Barrhaven kicks off at 11am and I'll be hanging with up to 20,000 of my closest suburbanites over at Clarke Fields. Hubby is the co-chair of the event, which (by spousal duty) makes me their web and social media grrl. :)

So, the Dude and I have our volunteer shirts and we'll be hanging out all day live tweeting the events on the @CdaDayBarrhaven account and working at the Info tent for part of the day. We've got a midway, kids' zone, a multicultural stage, live bands (including the winners of the 106.9 The Bear Battle of the Bands in Barrhaven and an incredible headlining act), and of course awesome fireworks.

Hope to see you there!