Showing posts from August, 2013

Plants vs. Zombies Lawn Ornaments Won't Last Long (On Your Lawn)

Well, this is it, then.
The end of summer.
The Labour Day weekend signifies that school is in, (most) vacations are over and it's time to wear dark colours again (put away those whites!).

But in a last ditch effort to hold on to some of that summery goodness, and because I am such a staunch defender of summer not being over until September 21st, for today's post I bring you... lawn ornaments. And not just any lawn ornaments: Plants vs. Zombies lawn ornaments!

Yes, these are a thing! And they're adorkable!

So, if you're planning to hold onto the last vestiges of summer, you might as well do it with zombies, right? And pea shooters. Definitely need pea shooters.

[Aside: if you're thoroughly confused, you probably don't have a kid under the age of 10 or have never gotten addicted to the slow-moving-at-first easy-to-play Plants vs. Zombies. The premise is to use defenses such as lawn mowers and pea shooter plants to thwart attacks on your house by zombies.]

Be warn…

This Weekend: Ottawa Mini Maker Faire

Remember earlier this year when I told you about all the amazing DIY-ers I met at Artengine's 3D Print-a-thon? And all the amazing things they were doing with 3D printers? Well, if you missed out on all that awesomeness then (or even if you caught it), you can take in a whole new batch of DIY goodness this weekend at the Ottawa Mini Maker Faire!

Let me just start by saying that I have a bone to pick with the name. Mini is quite the misnomer. I count 47 makers who will be exhibiting. So, this is much bigger than the 3d print-a-thon although a few of the same exhibitors will be present and you just *have* to check them out, including Fabrika3D and ClothBot Designs. And there are so many others! Including the Carleton U Human Computer Interaction department who do some pretty great work in usability and design.

Not only is the faire a "fair", but they are also offering a variety of workshops. I'll be checking it out with the Dude, so we'll be spending our Sunday af…

Most Bada$$ Lego Set Ever: Breaking Bad Meth Lab (Yes, you can buy it!!)

We've been watching a heck of a lot of Breaking Bad over the past month. Chatting with friends, it would seem to be one of those polarizing shows; people absolutely love it or they seem to completely loathe it. I can't figure out why. Sure, it's violent and a bit slow moving at first, but it's amazing to watch Walter White spiral into the hell that is taking over his life.

Well, if you're a fan you might be interested in getting your addicted little hands on this...

Introducing the most bada$$ Lego set ever built.
Nay, not built. Available for purchase!

The three-sided set was built by CitizenBrick and is available for only $250. According to the Internets, that's the same price as 2.5 grams of meth! And way more fun!

Obviously it's not a sanctioned set from Lego, but who cares? It's completely awesome. Can't you I can just imagine the commercials:
Hey kids! Want to cook your own meth? Introducing... the Breaking Bad Meth Lab! Now you too can be li…

CYOD: A Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Approach to Mobile Work Devices

Bring Your Own Device (aka BYOD) is many a company's IT headache right now. Employees (like, um, well, me) are bringing their own devices into the workplace and using them to find work-arounds for internal IT-related problems, like:
limited network access (including blocked sites), lack of tools, apps or software they need to do their jobs,systems that promote printing which may counteract their desire to be more streamlined (read: virtual) in their approach to work, old or outdated hardware that can be frustrating and slow to use,admin restrictions that prevent downloading of apps and add-ons, (insert your own personal rant about the tech provided to you in your workplace here). Consider: I decided 18 months ago that paper notebooks were slowing me down. I like to have info at my fingertips, so I always need the ability to search through my notes. You can't CTRL+F a notebook. So I bought my ASUS Transformer Prime tablet, paid for Evernote and Docs to Go, and ditched paper at …

Incredibly Intimate Portrait of Lego Minifigs

I love this picture.

Now, maybe it's because it stars Lego minifigs.
Or maybe it's because hubby and I will be celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary this Sunday.
Or maybe it's because of the emotion and intimacy in the shot. Which is pretty incredible considering it consists of two minifigs and some lighting.
Or maybe it's all of those things wrapped into one.
But I really do love this picture.

I stumbled on it on FatCatImages' Etsy store and while he does have some other pretty great compositions that use Lego, this is by far the most compelling image IMHO. In fact, I would love to see this hanging on my wall at some point. (or something like it, considering there is only one available.)

Hmmm, honey? (hint hint ;)

So. Much. Like.

App Update: Why I Ditched Swiftkey for Swype

A few months ago, I got the latest Android OS upgrade for my Samsung Galaxy S II X and along with many fellow Android users out there, I immediately began lamenting the new built-in keyboard. At the time, I took to Google to start researching alternatives and after some searching I decided to give Swiftkey a try.

I fell in love.

Swiftkey was great: it used Swype, the keyboard layouts were slick, it was way more reactive than the new default Android keyboard, it had built-in autocorrect and this incredible predictive text feature which learned your most common sentence formations and would try to predict your next word, and it had a multi-lingual feature that could decipher the language you were writing, and switch dictionaries accordingly, on the fly. Fancy!

So I used it for the entire month of the free trial and then... I was over it.
The more I used it, the less responsive it felt.
The autocorrect was often wrong, but I would only notice after I hit "Send".
The constant swi…

Kewl Video Alert: Librarians Remake Beastie Boys' Sabotage

Apologies if you've already caught this. I was traveling for work this week and only came upon the video yesterday. If you haven't seen it, you absolutely MUST take a look.

A few librarians from the Chicago Library have remade the video for Beastie Boys' Sabotage. Now, Sabotage is my absolute favourite Beastie Boys song (a very close second is Intergalactic). And the thought of a bunch of librarians doing a remake got me pretty excited.

You see, for the last 5 years, I've been working with new-gen librarians (anywhere from their mid-20s to mid-40s), and they are quite a fun bunch. They look for ways to hack their libraries to keep them relevant to the community, they create pop-up reading gardens, they lead codefests and participate in design jams. And you wouldn't even know they're librarians from their job titles in policy, comms and a variety of other fields. So I had all these ideas in my head of a kick-awesome bunch of spunky young librarians throwing them…

Star Wars Weather Forecast: Making Your Mornings More Fun

Weather. We're obsessed with it. It's right there outside your door when you head to work and it seems to be a point of obsession. It is the subject of so many of our conversations.

Earlier this year, I had my first (and only) significant Twitter moment in which a tweet I posted was retweeted more than 75 times. (Not huge compared to actual Twitter celebs, but more RTs than I ever had on a single post.) The topic? The weather.

[Aside: No matter what kind or what volume of geeky goodness I share with the world on a given day, a glib remark about how cold it was outside is the one that strikes a chord. Why do I even...? LOL]

So if you're going to check the weather every morning, why not change things up? Chris Pirillo tweeted a link to a site that turns this daily chore into a sooper nerdy experience: The Star Wars Weather Forecast.

Unlike the name implies, it doesn't tell you what the weather would be on a given planet, it actually tells you which planet today's we…

Girls Learning Code Workshops: Is Gender-Segregated Tech Learning Necessary?

One of my contacts at Code For Kids and Ladies Learning Code sent me a note about an upcoming workshop on August 24th, called Girls Learning Code.
In similar fashion to Code For Kids, the workshop aims to teach kids basic coding skills, design thinking and building things with computers. There are two key differences with Girls Learning Code:
The workshops are specifically targeted for girls, andThe sessions focus on building confidence and self-expression. I'm torn.

I love promoting childhood tech education and I think that these types of opportunities provide kids with a behind-the-scenes look into the tech they use every day.
I believe that boys are being left behind in schools because the format caters more to stucture and order than flexibility and openness.
I believe that any time we promote gender segregation, for example by targeting toys or activities to one gender or another rather than letting kids choose for themselves, we promote the idea that boys and girls are not eq…

How Would You Drink a Cup of Coffee in Space?

Because they're awesome, NASA has greated a video to explain the effects of being in low gravity using a very simple example: how would you drink a cup of coffee on the ISS?

First of all, they address the fact that you'd never get it in the cup to begin with but putting that aside, they give several explanations about fluid dynamics in low gravity.

Remember when Hadfield tried to wring out a washcloth in space? Now imagine trying to get your coffee out of a cup. Not sure I would want to float around trying to catch bubbles of hot liquid into my mouth, especially before my first cup. I'm barely that coordinated after my first coffeine of the day. LOL

This is just part of the fluid dynamics research NASA is doing. One of the astronauts has even developed a low-gravity coffee cup which permits drinking and even toasting one another on the ISS. Check it out!

Launch Some Good: A Weekend Jam to Foster Social Entrepreneurs

How do you build a generation of social entrepreneurs? You get them hacking.

What is Launch Some Good? This weekend, at Hub Ottawa, a group of participants and mentors will get together to develop start-up ideas for social good. Developers, designers, communicators, and generally anyone with "a social impact itch that isn't being scratched in their work or schooling. People who are action oriented and want to start doing something," according to David Rust-Smith of SME (Socially Minded Endeavours) who is hosting the event in hopes of encouraging the next generation to come up with, and action, business ideas with a positive social or environmental impact.

A Design Jam? How does it work? The event kicks off tonight with networking, idea pitches and team creation. Then teams will spend the weekend working feverishly to put together 10 minute pitches, to be presented to a panel of judges on Sunday. Mentors will be on-hand all weekend to answer questions and assist them thr…

Princess Leia Hijab Tutorial is My Favourite Thing On The Internet (This Week)

[Apologies if you caught this on Huffpost the other day, but I just had to share. Too. Much. Fun.]

So here's something different. (And yet totally predictable, coming from me.)

YouTube User Nye Armstrong posted a hijab tutorial (stay with me) that completely knocked my Star Wars loving socks off. Can you guess why? Because she geeked out her hijab to look like Leia's bun hair from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

Not only does she look awesome, but she's totally geekdorable. Probably one of my favourite things on the Internet right now. If you don't want to watch the whole tutorial, here are some key moments:
the beginning, because she shows the technique (well, I found it interesting)6:36 where you see the final product7:30 where she flashes her pink lightsaber 7:50 her Outtakes (including Liz Lemon's jury duty Leia and Help Me, Obiwan ;) Seriously. I totally love her. Check it out:

(Source: BuzzFeed)

Zombie Apocalypse Ad Campaign Makes Me Wonder: Does Gore Actually Sell Phones?

I recently received an email from Kindling Media, a "social influence marketing" firm. [Aside: Can we talk about their their tag for a second? The line sounds like it means "we (try to) make viral videos". It makes me think of people who put "social media guru" in their Twitter bios. Nuf sed.]

Anyway, the short message pointed me to an online campaign by Boost Mobile which features a (very trendy) zombie apocalypse story line. Basically it consists of a series of short films starring attractive people killing zombies and using cel phones at some point during the story line.

Another zombie apocalypse ad campaign. Ho hum, right?

Maybe not. I was intrigued by the following line in the email:
"Click here to watch censored version if easily offended."Easily offended.
Not, if offended by graphic violence.
Not, prefer a version without graphic violence.
Easily offended.

They're judging you!

Now, let's be honest, these ads are clearly aimed at …

I Am An RSS Feed Redux: One Step Closer to Owning Your Entire Web Presence

Back in 2011, I wrote a rant explaining that I want to be an RSS feed. It was a response to the launch for Google+, a reaction to the creation of yet. another. social. networking. platform. Another place among the dozens I already publish content, another account to further fragment my online presence.

And I had a better plan: if I could just publish content in one place using syndication (much like an RSS feed), then other people could subscribe to receive it in whatever platform or tool they choose. Publish once, use many. And if I wanted to edit or kill my feed, I would just need to do it from my end and it would impact what everyone else receives. No copies; but true real-time access to the presence I want to have on the web.

[Aside: this could also help kids get rid of everything that was posted about them by their parents, before they were officially online in their own capacity. Finally, a way to rid themselves of all the embarrassing photos and posts their parents have posted…

The Maker: The Dark Short Film With The Incredibly Powerful Plot

[Aside: Apologies if you caught this a year ago when it first came out. The Maker has been largely lauded in the short-film industry, but somehow it never made it onto my Internet radar until now. Let's face it though, isn't it awesome enough to be worth another look?]

This short film is only 5 minutes long it felt longer to me because it was so damned gripping.

From the dark gothic feel to the dramatic music, the whole tone of the film implied that the story (and ending) would not be expected. And so I found myself wondering how would it end? from the first moment I realized what he was making. Then, with the completely mind-boggling twist at the end, I was left with a ton of thoughts and ideas about the cycle that came before the little bunny man and after the final scene.

Yeah, I`m being vague.
Not fair, you say!
Ok, here's what I can tell you without spoiling it:
The animation is incredible.The music is completely aligned with the story during each moment of the piece.E…

WxT Codefest Today: Keep Calm and Hack the Government

Today's post is a little shoutout to my colleagues and friends in the user experience (UX) community who are participating in WxT Codefest today.

Wxt or the Web Experience Toolkit is a framework that can be used to build accessible, usable websites. It was originally intended as a dynamic, iterative development project to evolve the Government of Canada's websites. After the govvies working on it released the code online and started working collaboratively through GitHub, it became a private-public joint project and the framework has been used to build a bunch of non-Government of Canada sites, like the Canadian Paralympic Committee site and the City of Ottawa.

At today's Codefest, govvie and non-govvie developers and UX-ers (my people!) will be hacking the toolkit to make improvements and learn about new tools and processes for dev and UX.

I will only be there for a short time, to help launch the Design Jam (a learning activity for folks interested in learning UX practice…

Lego Launches Steampunk Kit for Master Builder Academy

Lego has a building program called Master Builder Academy (MBA) and they just launched a new kit with a Steampunk theme.

MBA kits are part of a program that is intended to teach kids of various ages advanced building techniques. The kits feature detailed instructions books and can be used to build a number of models (instead of one, as is usual with Lego sets). MBA kits also come with access codes for the online MBA Academy which has videos, instructions and other activities.

This month, Lego launched an MBA set called "Invention Designer" which includes 3 sets of bricks plus instructions to build 13 models. And they are very kewl.

One of the additional models you can build with Invention Designer:

[Aside: Incidentally, the Dude just surprised me by figuring out what the second image was, just by looking at it. "Is that Leonardo's machine?"]

Isn't that awesome? We try to build steampunk stuff with our Lego all the time, but it would be fun to have detailed i…

This Friday: Party with Star Wars at the Museum of Nature

Did you know that the Museum of Nature hosts dance parties for the 19+ crowd every so often, under the name Nature Nocturne? I had absolutely no idea until my friend @cabotyu sent me a link to this month's event.

The next Nature Nocturne party is this Friday, put on as a partnership with the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum in honour of the Star Wars: Identities exhibit.

That's right: a Star Wars Dance Party. In a museum. For grown-ups!

Beyond the dancing, you can:
Check out the Capital City Garrison of the 501st Legion cosplayers
Get your hair & makeup done like your favourite Star Wars characterBuild something at the Star Wars Lego stationChallenge yourself with movie-related trivia The action starts at 9pm on Friday. Tickets are available online. Who knew Ottawa could be so darned nerdriffic?
[Aside: BTW, thinking of taking in Star Wars: Identities? Check out my (very detailed) review.]
(Source: @cabotyu)

It's Geek Week on YouTube and Here's the Scoop

Yes. Geek Week. It's a thing.

Yesterday, YouTube launched a week-long geekfest dedicated to superheroes, gaming, comics and science fiction. According to this post on the YouTube blog, more than half of the top non-music channels on YouTube pertain to geek culture. The point of Geek Week is to showcase 100+ of those channels, and their content. Sure, it's a giant ad for geek content on YouTube, let's be honest. But, then again, it's a giant ad for geek content on YouTube!

Every day has a different theme and a different host including Machinima and the lovely Felicia Day. Here's a quick look at your Geek Week forecast:
Blockbuster Sunday: iconic characters, movies and shows Global Geekery Monday: Geek culture from around the world including anime from Tokyo, comic book heroes from Delhi, and a celebration of "Doctor Who." Brainiac Tuesday: Science, education and knowledge channels  Super Wednesday: superheroes, the supernatural and the super-weird. Gaming T…

Cute Star Wars Plush Toys: The Cuddliest Toys in the Galaxy

Last week, I received the latest ThinkGeek newsletter and, naturally, I was completely taken with one of the items. (Seriously, I need to have a little talk with myself; I mean, other than the odd Christmas purchase, I find it hard to convince myself to actually purchase stuff from over the border what with all the duties and customs, and all. But I just can't unsubscribe. Let's call it research for the blog. Although we both know it's more about coveting the toys and shirts.)

Um, where was I? Right. Coveting.

Ok, here's what I saw that made me sooper dooper happy: STAR WARS PLUSHIES!!!

Don't you roll your eyes at me! These are good! Check them out:

Batch 1 - The Monsters

Batch 2: The Characters
All I can think of when I look at Chewie is this:

Right?! Which one would you choose?

Iron Man 3 Trailer: The 16-bit Video Game Edition

File this one under: "Some Geeks Have Way Too Much Time on Their Hands, And We Love Them For It."

One of the best things about superhero movies is that the storylines are pretty simple and straightforward. Kind of like old school video games (think: Super Mario and Space Invaders). Which is why this mashup is so great: Someone re-imagined the trailer for Iron Man 3 as a 16-bit video game. There's not a lot of info in the description, other than to say that it started as an art project.

But I think we can all agree that it boasts all the features of a good retro game:
Pixelated images,
Choppy movement,
2-D perspective,
Simple animations,
MIDI soundrack.
The result is pure fun. Check it out!

(Source: Geeks Are Sexy)