Planet Systers GSoC

November 11, 2014

Terri

Book reviews: more brief than usual

Hawkeye, Vol. 2: Little Hits by Matt…
Hawkeye, Vol. 2: Little Hits
by Matt Fraction, David Aja (Illustrator), Javier Pulido (Illustrator), Steve Lieber (Illustrator), Francesco Francavilla (Illustrator)1 more, Jesse Hamm (Illustrator)

This was decent, but I found it a lot more confusing than the last volume and was starting to wonder if it was overhyped the way some movies are when people don't understand them and don't want to admit it.

X-Men, Vol. 1: Primer by Brian Wood
X-Men, Vol. 1: Primer
by Brian Wood, Olivier Coipel (Illustrator)
X-Men Volume 2: Muertas by Brian Wood
X-Men Volume 2: Muertas
by Brian Wood, Terry Dodson (Illustrator), Kris Anka (Illustrator)
X-Men. Vol. 1, Primer and X-Men. Vol. 2, Muertas

My goodness, it's much nicer to read these in collected volumes instead of single issues full of ads interspersed every few pages. Seriously, I don't think I'm ever buying single issues in this series again.

Other than that... it's X-men. This series made a minor splash because it's really the x-women -- the main team is pretty female dominated, just because that's the way it happened to be. But they don't make a big deal out of it. I liked the first volume quite a bit, but I think I was missing some key backstory to really feel for the characters in the 2nd. This is unfortunate because I'd thought this was supposed to be a pretty good starting point for new readers, but I'm not sure it really is... and I'm not even a really *new* reader. Still, if you don't mind feeling like there's some history you haven't seen, the art is great and the story is interesting even if it feels a little all climax no backstory without knowing the characters better.

Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 8 by Kiiro…
Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 8
by Kiiro Yumi, Kiiro Yumi (Illustrator)
Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 9 by Kiiro…
Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 9
by Kiiro Yumi, Kiiro Yumi (Illustrator)
Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 10 by Kiiro…
Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 10
by Kiiro Yumi
Library wars : love & war. 8-10

I can't remember if I reviewed this series before, but it's set in a future japan where censorship has run rampant and only public libraries stand in the way of the censors. We're following the story of a young woman who is the first woman on her library's Special Defence Forces, a paramilitary organization that protects the libraries, the books, and the patrons. These volumes dive more into the politics and machinations around the library, and I'm really enjoying the series.

Late Eclipses (October Daye) by Seanan…
Late Eclipses (October Daye)
by Seanan McGuire

After the previous novel in the series, which I found good but incredibly disturbing, I needed a break from the October Daye series. But I was reminded of it when I encountered a short story from the author on tumblr that gave a sweet little happy ending to part of this story, and realized I wanted to know what else had happened. The series is great, but dark, however, this was less nightmare inducing than the last book, and left me eager for more. Maybe it's time to finally get caught up again!

Due or Die (A Library Lover's Mystery)…
Due or Die (A Library Lover's Mystery)
by Jenn McKinlay

The second in the series of library mysteries. It's a pleasant little cozy set in a town with our main character as a librarian and periodic sleuth. It's got pretty much everything I want from a cozy: fun characters, mystery, a nice backdrop and now even a cute dog. I've already gotten the 3rd one out of the library!

Chosen (Alex Verus) by Benedict Jacka
Chosen (Alex Verus)
by Benedict Jacka

In this 3rd book in the series, we're starting to delve more deeply into Alex's (disturbing) past in order to figure out what's going on in his present. I'm a bit worried that this will go all grimdark (my problem with the Dresden Files, which this series clearly and even explicitly was inspired by), but the book is ultimately as much about friendship as it is about dark pasts. Looking forwards to the next in the series.

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November 11, 2014 07:09 AM

October 21, 2014

Terri

Buttons!

This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

Buttons buttons, rah rah rah


The first time I got to use a button machine, I was a kid. It was at the Ex (a fair with livestock, music, and a midway, not unlike state fairs in the US only with fewer deep-fried things), and I was kind of astounded by this giant button press because I’d never really thought about how a button was put together, let alone that this might be done by a human-powered machine.


Fast forward, years later, and one day it just occurs to me that as an adult with some income (not much; I was still a student) there was absolutely no reason I couldn’t just buy a button machine and make silly one-off buttons whenever I wanted.


Buttons! (Push button; receive bacon)


I’ve used them for costumes, for befriending random people off the internet who like snarky kitten commentary, for hanging out at abq maker faire and helping people make their own, and for anything else that might amuse me.


Since I sometimes bring the whole machine with me to places like quelab or abq mini maker faire, I often get asked about where I got it and how much it costs, so I figured I’d make myself a post that contained all the info so I can find it easily. This is that post!


The button machine


Here’s what my personal machine looks like:


The button machine


I have a 1.5 inch button machine. It has a visible “top” area of around 1.37 inches, with a bit more visible space wrapping around the edge of the button. The circles I cut are 1.87 inches wide.


Although I realize this listing won’t stay live forever, here’s a current listing equivalent package I bought. It’s the Tecre model 150 1.5inch button machine with 1000 button blanks, and as of this writing it costs $264 (although I think it might have been a bit less when I got it).


For when that link no longer works: The vendor is called “button boy” and goes by the username “politicsstinks” on ebay. Here’s a link to the ButtonBoy ebay store. The latest stuff I bought from them also recommended the ButtonBoy etsy store.


It’s a small machine although very heavy, but I did a lot of research and the Tecre machine seemed to be the best type of machine for my needs: It’s physically easy to use, hard to damage, reasonably well designed so that with a bit of adult supervision kids can make their own buttons. I went with the 1.5 inch size because it was large enough to have reasonably legible text or enough space to colour, but small enough to be cuter and easy to fit on a bag strap.


If I were to buy a second machine I’d probably go with the 1″ because I’d love to try the magnetic jewelery stuff they have now, but I expect I’d still want my 1.5 inch because visible text is important a lot of the time!


Recommended Accessories


Button punch


My number one recommendation is that if you’re going to do any larger runs of buttons, it’s worth investing in one of the button hole punches. Especially if you’re letting people colour their own buttons, it’s annoying to colour a teensy piece of paper, so I find it’s more pleasant to punch things out on the spot after the colouring is done rather than cutting the circles in advance. The punch is also great for using magazines or wrapping paper, like I did for these Christmas buttons (although I didn’t have the punch at the time so these were done by tracing circles with the mylar and cutting them out with scissors):


Christmas Buttons


Alternatives:


Scissors work just fine. Invest in a comfortable pair rather than doing like my sister and I did on our first big button run where we gave ourselves bruises cutting out 200 buttons by hand, though.


I do *not* recommend trying to use a a cheaper adjustable circular cutter from the craft store. I have one, and there’s a couple of problems with it:


1. The center has a point, which makes a teensy but noticeable hole in your design. I can feel this through the mylar cover on the finished button and it annoys me. I stuck a piece of rubber on it to compensate, but that just makes it more finicky.


2. It’s very hard to line up the design nicely (at least compared to a hole punch or scissors)


Basically, it turned out to be more annoying than drawing circles and cutting them out with scissors. The punch, however, is way better.


Some folk at my former hackerspace have pointed out that a cricut machine would be excellent for this, and probably the laser cutter would work as well. Both of these are a lot more expensive than a punch, but if you’ve got them, why not? The only downside is that neither is as convenient for on-the-fly button making using magazines or quite as convenient for maker faire purposes.


Paper Guillotine


If you’re printing 8.5×11 sheets of buttons to cut out, you may also want to invest in a paper guillotine. This is handy if you want to hand out smaller segments for kids to colour, and great if you’re using a button punch that can’t punch holes in the middle of a piece of paper.


Again, scissors work just as well, but when you’re spending all day making buttons, little things that make life easier like that are worth it. So once again, I recommend it if you find you’re doing a lot of buttons, but it’s not needed for small runs.


Inkscape


I’ve found inkscape to be the most consistently good tool for making buttons because it’s so easy to whip up a template (1.85in circle with inner 1.375in circle) and import things into it. It lets you do things like fit text to a path, trace bitmaps so they can be converted to fewer, easier to read colours, etc. It’s fast for duplicating buttons and laying them out as a sheet for printing, too. And it’s free software that runs on linux, mac, and windows, all of which I occasionally use to make buttons. http://inkscape.org/


Really, any drawing program will do, but I think Inkscape is particularly nice for letting you set sizes and fix alignments quickly and easily, so although I’m also reasonably capable a few other art tools (I use photoshop, for example, to do photography work), Inkscape is my tool of choice for buttons.


DSC_6775.JPG


Non-button things!


If you look through the Tecre catalog, you’ll notice that depending on the size of machine you have, you can make a few things that aren’t buttons. Not all of them are available for my size of machine; for example, some of the larger machines can be used for small hand mirrors and some of the smaller machines can be used for jewelery-buttons.


I’ve thus far tried the flat-backed magnets (the magnet goes inside the button) and the smaller split-ring keychains. Unfortunately, neither came with instructions so here’s some notes on what did and didn’t work for me:


Flat-backed Magnet instructions


The way the button machine works, you crimp the top half together, then you crimp the top onto the bottom. In the case of these magnet blanks, the magnet part goes with the bottom half (because the machine doesn’t have space for it in the top half die). It’s a nice strong magnet… which unfortunately means that it can pull the top half down if you’re too slow when you flip the machine around and crimp it the second time, and if it gets pulled out of alignment you get a messed up button. I messed up two before I figured out what was going on, and since then it’s been pretty easy to avoid the problem, but hopefully I can save someone else some annoyance.


I don’t know if this is true with other magnet backs, which may have less strong magnets, but if you’re having trouble it’s worth trying to go faster and see if it helps!


I am *very* pleased with the feel of the flat-backed magnets. They’re smooth and strangely pleasant to hold in a way that I was not expecting.


Short split key-ring instructions


In this case, the bottom half of the blank has a small hole in one side. You crimp the top and bottom together, then insert the keychain clip into this hole (note to self: take some pictures of this later).


Things to note:

1. The instructions I found online implied that you had to be super careful about how much you crimp. It seems like the version I have is pretty well designed to avoid this problem, because the bottom half has a slightly raised edge over where the hole is, and clamping the machine all the way down does not seem to squash the hole, so don’t be *too* nervous about getting it right.


2. While the clip can be inserted either way, if you insert it so the sticking up part of the clip faces the front of the bottom, the piece sits more flat relative to the back of the button.


All in all, I found the magnets harder than expected and the keychains easier.


Button jars, overflowing


Conclusion


When I bought the button machine, I really wasn’t sure how much I’d use it, but it’s turned out to be even more fun than I hoped. The highlight was probably that first big giveaway my sister and I did at the Cute With Chris show. When we walked down to the front to give out buttons before the show started, people actually cheered for us! And then we went around talking to each person at the show while they chose their designs, which was pretty neat.


But there’s been lots of fun stuff since then. In the past year alone, I’ve made buttons for open source projects (real and most desirable), given out slightly subversive buttons at defcon, made silly buttons for one-off jokes and IRC bots, watched literally hundreds of kids and adults make buttons with my machine, even wound up making some blank ones to serve as a temporary whiteboard-style expression-changing doll face for a friend’s guerrilla photography and crafting project!


It’s a bit of a weird hobby, but each button is so cheap that it’s one you can share with a lot of people! (At the current rate of blanks, each button costs me under 10 cents) And as someone who always enjoyed getting free stuff, it’s fun to be on the side of designing and giving! :)



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October 21, 2014 05:01 PM

October 09, 2014

Terri

Back from France!

I was in France last week for work, but I've been home for a few days now.

I am pleased to report that my French was adequate for basic stuff like getting directions and translating menus into English for my Polish colleagues. My French colleagues were highly amused that I spoke the language at all, since I guess no one warned them that I was moderately fluent. No one was offended by my weird accent, or even seemed to have much trouble understanding me. I couldn't handle full on eavesdropping on the train, but I could get the gist of a lot of conversations when I had some idea of the subject.

I didn't try to carry too much stuff because my ankle is still sore from hurting it after my trip to Poland, but I was able to walk quite a bit even if I had to do it carefully and a bit slowly. 100k steps! It's especially impressive given that my leg still hurts all the time. Walking, as always, is much easier than standing still, so the 30 minute walk to the office was easier than standing in line at the airport. I am sore, but it seems to be mostly the usual chronic constant thing plus some bonus knots from sleeping on planes and trains and strange beds.

They stole my knife-free Leatherman at the Charles de Gaulle airport. It was especially frustrating because several of the agents pointed out to the guy who took it that it was absolutely fine under their rules, but he decided it wasn't despite their best efforts. The thing's under $20 and I sort of assumed I'd lose it eventually, but I was still upset because it was just so unnecessary and wasteful. Have ordered a new one. I may give up on traveling with it outside north america, though, as I expect I'm going to have to fly through France again. (Amsterdam, mind, had no problem with it.)

Jetlag is hitting me hard this time, with the headaches and all. I miss when this wasn't a guaranteed thing, but at least I have Serious Painkillers and coworkers who are pretty understanding about travel miasma. I did not donate blood this week because I was not well enough and not because I am miffed at the red cross for phone harassing me all week (seriously, I think they called 7 times without ever leaving a message) and then after I told them I was unwilling to schedule an appointment because I often get sick when I travel, they gave me two days of silence then called me at 4am while I was adjusting to the time zone in France. So now they're a blocked number, and I'm not sure I'm going to unblock them, although I'll probably donate again when I'm not cranky about it.

Anyhow, recovery will go better with more sleep, so I'm going to do that now!

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October 09, 2014 07:24 AM

October 06, 2014

Anne

WorkLight Flashlight App for Android

A Free Flashlight App for Android

That doesn’t collect or share your data


Get WorkLight at Google Play

Does the world need another free flashlight app?

We didn’t particularly think so either. But then you find out many flashlight apps are designed not as flashlights but as user information gathering devices so that your data can be resold to marketers. You also find a bunch of apps named dumb things like “World’s Brightest Ever Flashlight App!*”–as if the brightness didn’t depend on the phone’s hardware, but on the software…Gee…”marketing,” I guess…We were starting to think maybe the world did need a flashlight app.

So please join us in welcoming our latest app-bundle of joy into the world: WorkLight, a free flashlight app for Android.

It’s a light. That simple.

The WorkLight free flashlight app toggles your camera flash / lamp. You can also use the light from a (mostly) white, red, or blue screen as your flashlight. There are no settings or bells and whistles besides the choice of screen color.

Hang it from the hood to work on your Chevy. Bring it out to find the right @(#$* door key at night. Use it to hail spaceships while adrift in interstellar space. We don’t care. That’s what it’s for: makin’ light.

There’s only one permission required. Google requires you grant WorkLight permission to use the camera and/or microphone at install. But WorkLight doesn’t actually take photos or record sound–we’re not that kind of app. We just need it to use the flash.

There are no other permissions required and we collect no data through the app. It’s just a flashlight app. That’s all. And it’s free.

Oh, and there are no ads! Not one!

* “World’s Brightest Ever Flashlight App” does not appear to be an actual trademark at the time of this writing. We don’t want to point fingers here.

Related Posts

by Bret Norwood at October 06, 2014 08:22 PM

September 24, 2014

Terri

Birchbox August 2014

You might have thought I'd given up on my subscription boxes, but no, I just take pictures and forget to post them, like usual. And then I write posts and save them and forget to post those too.

Here's August's box, though!

Birchbox August 2014

5 samples, 4 of which were random and the 5th of which I actually chose.

Let's start with the one I was least excited about:

Birchbox August 2014


Harvey Prince Ageless Body Cream

This is perfectly reasonable body cream, not terribly-strongly scented once applied, although I think it's still a bit too volatile to be a good choice for me to take to work where it might irk others. And frankly, it smells like grapefruit (not my favourite scent) and it's hideously pink. But it *does* contain shea butter, so it's pretty pleasantly rich. So it's fine, and I'll use it, but I don't think I'll be ordering more.

Actually, one weird thing to note is that unlike a lot of the birchbox samples I received, this one had a little tinfoil "sealed for your protection" thing. which wouldn't be that notable, except the darned thing left a glue film that became a flap that blocked all flow of product. Inconvenient, and something I've not seen in many of my boxes. But then I saw exactly the same separating-glue problem with the next product in my box:

nügg Beauty Revitalizing Face Mask

Birchbox August 2014

So yeah, I'm sort of wondering if their warehouse got a bit dry or something.

Anyhow, here's what it looked like before that:

Birchbox August 2014

This is an absurdly minty face mask, enough to make your face tingle and your eyes water when you first apply it. I find this amusing and kind of fun, and enjoyed sitting around with it on (unlike some face masks I could mention...).

Unfortunately, I'd be lying to myself if I said I thought it did anything for my face. Here's three shots:

Before:
20140907-IMG_8024.jpg

With face mask applied (mm, slimy and minty...):
Wearing face mask

After:
20140907-IMG_8029.jpg

(Aside: this is one of those series of pictures where I wonder what the heck is wrong with the people who say I don't look very Asian. Even if you don't recognize the facial structure of my awesomely mixed genetics, have you *seen* my eyes? Really?)

The redness in the after picture is mostly from washing it off my face (note abq sun damage pattern showing when I'm warm), not from a bad reaction to the face mask. No particularly noticeable difference in my skin to an outside viewer, but my face felt slightly slimy for hours thereafter, even after I had a shower that evening. It was a bit better the second time when I applied a bit less. I want to say that maybe this would be nice in the winter when I could use a bit more moisture... but honestly, I'm not sure if I'm just making excuses for it because I thought it was fun to apply.

Bottom line: if you want to play around with a fun minty face mask treatment, thumbs up to this! If you want it to be useful and not feel like you applied face lube afterwards, maybe not so much. I am actually more in the former category with face masks ("was this an excuse to lie around for a while with goop on my face? score!") so I'm pleased by the product, but probably not enough to buy more unless I was hosting a girl-style sleepover and wanted something I'd tested and not hated to share.

Birchbox August 2014

Neil George Shampoo 3.38 oz
Neil George Conditioner 3.38 oz

This is supposed to be gooseberry scented, but I don't know where Neil George gets his gooseberries because it doesn't smell much like any gooseberry I've ever noticed. I like to imagine that this is the concentrated attempt at a weaponized version of gooseberry scent. I actually quite liked it: it's sort of a spicy and less fruity scent, and while it's much stronger than real gooseberries, it's still gentle enough that it doesn't linger once my hair dries or overwhelm me in the shower. It feels a bit more masculine while still being not overly gendered, and I like it. I actually sort of wish it lingered a bit more because I enjoy it so much.

As products, these are both nice but not overly remarkable:

- The shampoo is a bit thin and does not lather much, but it cleans quite well.
- The conditioner is a bit thicker and leaves just enough slickness on my hair to make combing it out after a shower easier, but not so much that it feels weighty.

All in all, pleasantly effective product with an unusual scent. I might actually consider buying this again!

Birchbox August 2014

Laura Geller Beauty Cool Lids Cream Eyeshadow

I'd never tried cream eyeshadow, and if this sample is representative, I have been missing out. Goes on smoothly, lovely colour, lasts better than most on my eyes (that's not saying much actually as I've never had much luck with eye makeup).

I haven't taken pictures of myself wearing it on account of my insane "let's travel every few weeks and eat all your weekends" schedule, but perhaps I'll do that later.

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September 24, 2014 04:21 AM

September 22, 2014

Anne

The Print-on-Demand Cover vs the Ebook Cover

Publishing Print-on-Demand and Ebook Simultaneously

Lessons Learned for Book Cover Design

Cool in Tucson First Edition

The cover of the original Severn House edition (2008).

Mystery writer Elizabeth Gunn’s Cool in Tucson has been out of print for a few years, and we are in the galley proof stage of reissuing this first Sarah Burke mystery in both print and ebook formats.

We’ve been working with ebooks for several years now, but this marks the second time we’ve utilized print-on-demand services concurrently with producing an ebook. (The first was the similar relaunch of Elizabeth’s Jake Hines series with Triple Play.) Below are some lessons learned from the process regarding the print-on-demand cover and its relationship to the ebook cover.

1. Prepare Your Book Interior First

The Print-on-Demand cover will be easier if you already know the book’s specifications. In particular, knowing the spine size from the start will prevent the need for alterations later in the game. More fundamentally, you should commit to your book dimensions (e.g. 5.5″ x 8.5″ vs 6″x9″), whether the cover will be glossy or matte, your paper weight, and your page count before getting too deep in cover design. Not only do you need the cover dimensions, paper stock, and page count to calculate the spine width, but aesthetic decisions such as glossy or matte can be a factor in the basic artistic decisions you make for your cover.

Also, you will need to have book metadata set in stone (title, author, and publisher, obviously, but also the list price) before you submit your final cover design.

2. Design Your Print-on-Demand Cover Before the Ebook

(See our previous posts on Ebook Covers–1) Requirements, and 2) Design)

Takeaway: It is much easier to crop down and reduce a full-resolution print cover to create a smaller ebook cover than to take a mid-res ebook cover and transform it into something print-ready.

Elizabeth Gunn Triple Play Print-on-demand CoverWhen we republished Elizabeth Gunn’s first Jake Hines Mystery, Triple Play, the plan was initially only for an ebook release. So I designed the ebook cover before anything else. However, we finally ended up looking at print-on-demand through Createspace. I had no idea, until I actually sat down to prepare the print cover from the ebook cover, just how much rejiggering it entailed.

A good ebook cover is laid out at least 1400 px wide. But a useable print cover for a 5.5″ x 8.5″ book at a minimum of 300 dpi works out to at least 1650 wide (front only). Of course, I discovered I’d elected the bare passable minimum for my ebook cover, 1400 px. I either had to enlarge the graphic (losing quality) or rebuild it from the original stock at a higher res. I did the latter.

Also–obviously–an ebook cover is only the front. The print cover must include the spine and back cover. This is a consideration and labor expense I expected, but I wasn’t thinking about bleed and safe zones when I originally did the ebook cover. That proved to be a bit of a problem, and it also was a factor that led to rebuilding the cover from the stock.

So for the reprint of Cool in Tucson, I knew I had to do the print cover first, even though for the content I was starting with the ebook. Then when I had all the requirements for the print cover fulfilled, it was easy to adapt for ebook.

The Print-on-Demand Cover

Createspace provides you with templates you can include as a layer in your Photoshop composition. These show the required bleed, the cut line, the safe zone, the spine width, and the barcode placement. Click the thumbnail to see the Createspace cover template superimposed on Triple Play. I would show you Cool in Tucson, but I changed the spine late in the game, causing it to stray from the template I have.

Elizabeth Gunn Triple Play Cover showing Createspace template

 

Createspace is very transparent with print cover requirements. You only need understand the terminology to use the template.

  • Bleed, or extension of background elements beyond the cutting line to allow for variation in cutting.
  • Trim line, or where the blade ideally does its thing, but it’s not a perfect world, is it?
  • Safe zone, or where foreground elements are definitely safe from getting chopped or folded.

Createspace print-on-demand covers can be submitted in RGB as well as CMYK, and, as I have the results in hand, I can tell you their conversion of RGB to CMYK is very good. This is great because if you don’t have professional graphic design software, you may not be able to work in CMYK. (And, in other words, if you are not a graphics person and don’t know what I’m talking about, my point is you don’t need to worry about it–just hit save and take what it gives you.)

Create Your Ebook Cover from the Print Cover

Elizabeth Gunn Cool in Tucson Print-on-Demand Cover

Elizabeth Gunn Cool in Tucson Ebook Cover

Creating the ebook cover (right) from the print-on-demand cover (above) was relatively easy. It was a little more than a simple crop and resize, only because the ebook standard ratio of 2:3 is different from the 5.5″ x 8.5″ dimensions we chose for the print editions. As a result, I cropped some dead space from the top and bottom to attain 2:3. Fortunately, the layout allowed me to get away with this and I did not need to tweak the placement of any elements.

My process here was

  1. Crop out the spine and back cover
  2. Find out which dimension was going be too long for 2:3
  3. Scale so that the other dimension became the desired width for the final cover
  4. Change canvas size to crop out dead space on the too-long dimension. (I did this in multiple steps so I could take more from the top than the bottom.)

Of course, that would have been unnecessary if we picked 6×9 for the print. But even so, it was a heckuva lot easier than my experience going the other direction.

 

by Bret Norwood at September 22, 2014 06:42 PM

September 17, 2014

Terri

Winking Microview

This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

With my travel and work schedules, I haven’t had time to hack my original MicroView, but the replacement ones arrived while I was out at ABQ Mini Maker Faire! So of course, I had to try *something* now that I can actually flash things to it.


Here’s my current very simple program: a smile with a wink!


microview_wink


Although it’s probably better with video



And of course, it’s more fun if you can also check out the code so I dumped it into my git repository. Here it is in case you’re not feeling like clicking through:



/* 
 * microview_wink: a simple winking face animation for the MicroView
 * 
 * Created by: Terri Oda 


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September 17, 2014 07:10 AM

September 09, 2014

Terri

Project for Albuquerque Mini Maker Faire

This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

In that way that we have, John and I are working together on a last-minute project for our next event, the Albuquerque Mini Maker Faire. I’m too tired to write a whole lot of text, so I took some photos instead. With no explanation, can you tell what is starting to take shape in our house?


20140909-IMG_4790.jpg20140909-IMG_4792.jpg20140909-IMG_4798.jpg

20140909-IMG_4799.jpg20140909-IMG_4800.jpg20140909-IMG_4806.jpg20140909-IMG_4809.jpg

20140909-IMG_4810.jpg20140909-IMG_4812.jpg

20140909-IMG_4813.jpg20140909-IMG_4816.jpg



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September 09, 2014 04:31 PM

August 27, 2014

Terri

Experiments in Starry Sky Photography

This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

I’m not much of a night photographer for a variety of reasons, such as “wandering around in dark, isolated places with expensive gear and when you are a smallish woman is not recommended” and “I never carry my tripod because it’s awkward and extra weight” but thankfully I have friends who mitigate the first and cars that mitigate the second, so then it all works out.


My photographer excursion to Crater Lake is one of those rare times it worked out. We had a “wait, it’s too nice to go to bed” bit of folly, given that our plan was to get up at 4am to catch the sunrise. Alas, the lake was in cloud at sunrise, so those photos never happened, but the night ones totally did.


Here they are before editing:

The view from our "hotel" at Crater Lake (original)Our "hotel" at crater lake (original)


This was 30s exposure at ISO 3200, which is still rather noisy for my tastes, even with some post-processing to clean it up a bit. I think in future I might have to try cranking that down a fair bit.


Below is my first attempt at processing the photos base on what I knew to do off the top of my head. They’re not bad, but as I said, I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to practice night photography, and that includes processing as well as the physical taking of photos. You can definitely see some more colour and definition even in the small versions I’ve put here so you can see them all at once:


The view from our "hotel" at Crater LakeOur "hotel" at crater lake


So I read through a night photography tutorial and these are the images that resulted:


Our "hotel" at crater lake


The view from our "hotel" at Crater Lake


The first one’s maybe not that different from my own attempt, but the second one really pops, no? I guess I need to spend more time reading photo processing tutorials. Processing has been my weak point in terms of just getting it done, but it’s pretty impressive to see how much more I got out of that last image with a little help, I think.


[Note: I somehow failed to schedule this post when I was written, so that's why you're getting it so late after the photos were uploaded, in case anyone who follows my flickr stream was wondering, but I doubt anyone actually pays that much attention.]



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August 27, 2014 04:15 PM

August 25, 2014

Terri

The WTF necklace

This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

This one barely counts as a maker-y thing, in that all I really did was string some letters onto a faux-leather strap, but I think it’s hilarious and needed to be shared:


Necklace with the letters WTF on it. WTF Necklace


Actually, this was much harder than it should have been. The necklace strap came pre-assembled and had to be disassembled so I could thread the letters on, which normally wouldn’t be too hard but I can’t find the relevant jewelry pliers so I wound up using these round ones which were totally unsuited. And then once I got it off, it turns out the darned letters have holes that aren’t quite big enough to easily thread the pleather through (or equally, the pleather was a bit too sticky for the length of threading required), so then I had to MacGyver this threading implement with a piece of wire that had been originally used to hold the bead in the package. My original plan of wrapping the wire around the pleather didn’t work because the wire was too thick, and then I wound up accidentally stripping half the wire inside the bead when I tried, and finally I had to find a needle and poke a hole in the end of the pleather and convince the wire to get into this much smaller hole so that I could hook it around and finally get the darned beads on the strap.


So, um, yeah. Totally easy, of course!


I can’t really take credit for the idea exactly: I saw a gal at defcon with a beautiful monogrammed purse that said WTF all classy-like (in as much as one can) and then beads were on sale when I went in to get stuff at the craft store and I was going to get my initials (which are funny enough in and of themselves) but then I decided I needed this too, because I am such a classy individual.


The instagram-clone filters prove it:


Necklace with the letters WTF on it. WTF Necklace


The thing that bugs me about this is that the holes in the beads aren’t exactly at the same height, so my necklace has a kerning problem. Can you see it? I really can, but I suppose I don’t actually have to look at my own necklace all day, and everyone at work is much too polite to stare randomly at someone else’s chest, so I figure it’s only the font geeks who’ll catch it.



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August 25, 2014 04:02 PM

August 21, 2014

Terri

MicroView: the bad, the good, and the awesome

This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

I backed this cute little thing on kickstarter called the Microview, which is basically a teensy arduino with an oled display attached. It was too adorable to pass up: I’ve wanted a little programmable necklace for a while, and this meant that project would be really easy to build.


My MicroView (Adorable Arduino with OLED display) My MicroView (Adorable Arduino with OLED display)


I’ve been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the MicroView and it finally came today. So I popped open the instructions page and the first thing I see is a big apology. Uh oh…


So I check my email and sure enough, there’s an email about a big problem. Short version: they sent out a whole pile of units without bootloaders, so it runs the demo but won’t run any new code. Both of my MicroViews, it seems, are in the affected batches. More details here:


https://www.sparkfun.com/news/1575

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1516846343/microview-chip-sized-arduino-with-built-in-oled-di/posts/959475


So that’s disappointing, but they’re shipping out replacement units, and I suppose I can wait a bit longer to play. It’s not like I don’t have other toys to play with.


But here’s the super awesome news: it’s possible to dissect the unit and fix it!


So… with a bit of hacking, and assuming I don’t break anything, I may have double the number of MicroViews by the time this is done, and I’ll have had an excuse to dissect my new toys.


I’ve never been so pleased about receiving a defective product. :)


In the meantime, I guess I can play the tutorial game:


MicroView running the tutorial "game": Connect a jumper between pins 5 and 8 MicroView running the tutorial “game”: Connect a jumper between pins 5 and 8



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August 21, 2014 07:17 AM

August 19, 2014

Terri

Book review: Stormdancer

I haven't really kept up on reviewing much of anything lately, even though I still read lots of books and try makeup and stuff, but life is busy and I'm pretty sure I'm less likely to regret missed reviews than I will other things, so I don't feel that guilty.

That said, here's a book review:

Stormdancer (The Lotus War Book One) by Jay…
Stormdancer (The Lotus War Book One)
by Jay Kristoff

It was a snippet describing this book as "Japanese Steampunk" that made me curious enough to request this from the library. I'd personally describe it more as "feudal Japanese dystopia" than steampunk, but I seem to have a penchant dystopian young adult stuff, so that works out ok for me. There are some robot-suits and flying machines so it fits the bill if you're looking for steampunk rooted in something other than victorian England culture. Frankly, it's worth a read just for that cultural quirk, although the technical-cultural aspects are barely touched upon in this volume.

Stormdance is mostly the tale of Yukiko, daughter of the famed "Black Fox" -- a hunter whom the shogun has sent on what seems a fool's errand: he is to find and bring back a "thunder tiger" (griffon) in a land that is so polluted and poisoned that there are barely any animals left. As Yukiko accompanies the hunters on their quest, the way she sees her father, other people, and the world winds up irrevocably changed, and she soon finds herself on a quest of her own...

I admit, I found this one a bit hard to get into: it starts with lengthy descriptions and more Japanese-style pacing than I'm used to in my young adult novels, and I found having to learn terminology sent me on enough tangential trips to the glossary that I had trouble immersing myself. But once I did, it's a great story with a few great characters and a fascinating world.

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August 19, 2014 04:53 AM

August 15, 2014

Terri

Back from defcon!

Back from defcon. Almost recovered from con crud.

Defcon is a con that doesn't have a great rep among women, so I'd given it a miss despite being curious until I'd collected a posse. It worked out well.

I was expecting the exhaustion, the chaos, but I wasn't expecting to feel artistically inspired.

I spent hours searching for a robot army and, when I found it, the robots danced with me.

I went to an elevator talk which wasn't about pitching to CEOs but was rather about hacking elevators. All other elevator talks are going to be disappointing now, but elevators are going to be more interesting.

I played a game that started with soldering a badge and meeting strangers that somehow plunged me into a little augmented reality that I was desperate to see more of.

I designed a t-shirt that a whole bunch of people wore, and more people asked me where to buy one.

I discovered that casinos are pretty much all the migraine triggers at once and that as a result it was sometimes more relaxing being on the con floor than leaving it.

I talked about teaching and learning through games. I learned a few things through a game, including that there are still times where my desire to make games is much greater than my desire to play them.

I wish I'd gone sooner, but suspect I also made the right choice by waiting until I had backup.

I came home with a head full of things I wanted to build... and also full of congestion and mucus so it hurt too much to do anything.

... but I got back to building a game today, so maybe I'll get some of these other grand plans in motion too.

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August 15, 2014 07:37 AM

August 01, 2014

Anne

Sheridan Commute: Buffalo Family Portrait

Sheridan Town BuffaloA few days ago, I was biking to work through Kendrick Park and found our town buffalo all lined up as if for a family portrait. So, I obliged them. They have many acres in which to wander and are rarely found all together like this down by the red barn.

by ag at August 01, 2014 01:58 PM

July 14, 2014

Terri

WAT

I can't tell if this is a real message or some sort of spam trolling...


Hello Ms.Terri

My name is $NAME,

i just start to learn linux and i visit ur website http://terri.toybox.ca/me/resume/

could please help me to learn and improve myself about sysadmin

Thank you

$DIFFERENT_NAME


What's up at that url is a modern, fairly recent version of my resume, one that includes no mention whatsoever of my sordid sysadmin past. I guess I mention Linux in there, but that's about it.

Also, if you read my resume and still address me as Ms. instead of Dr., you get an automatic -10 points. Just saying.

I'm probably just jetlagged and tired and cranky, but I don't think I'll bother answering that one. What would I have to say, anyhow? "Run now, sysadminning is rapidly becoming the unpleasant janitorial work of the tech world?"

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July 14, 2014 11:08 PM

June 25, 2014

Anne

Android app development cross pollination

SnapToMe Plus iconToday I had the pleasure of pushing the new generation of our SnapTo apps to the Google Play Store. Our three apps, SnapToMe, SnapToMe Plus, and MyDumbBoard are all variations on a theme: give the new or very busy phone user the simplest possible way to snap a picture straight to his or her email inbox. The new Version 2.0 editions are a great demonstration of how the retail products of an Android app developer can benefit from custom app development projects and vice versa.

Frankly, it doesn’t take a lot of key strokes to email yourself a picture from your Android photo gallery. But if you are a novice user, that process is just one-more-thing-to-master. Or, if you are a busy retailer or seminar leader or real estate agent and you routinely need to send yourself pictures to document a problem or record a whiteboard or take note of an opportunity, any extra steps can turn should-be-easy into never-quite-got-it-done. Especially if you don’t always have connectivity and need to remember to do the mailing later when you get back in cell range.

The SnapTo apps all make taking one picture straight to your email inbox a two-click operation. And all but the free app make that work even if you don’t have connectivity when you take the picture.

The new versions of our three apps were inspired by contract Android app development we did this spring for CaptureBites, a Belgian company. One of the real downsides of being an Android app developer is that you get very little feedback on your apps through the Google Play store. A very small percentage of users will give you ratings, even fewer will bother to write a review. We have had a few users, over the years, who actually took the trouble to contact us via email and give us detailed suggestions, but they are rare birds indeed.

So when an experienced professional, such as JD Moons, who heads up CaptureBites, comes to me with a shared vision of what is right about my apps but strong opinions about where they could be better, I sit up and listen. JD had a very specific use case, truck drivers delivering packages, but a very broad sense of how the UI could be improved. Our partnership has been both cordial and productive, a real model for contract Android development.

Features we developed first for CaptureBites that we have since moved into our own apps:

  • The ability to take and send multiple pictures in one email
  • A more intuitive, more global user interface
  • Improvements in the body of the email including the geolocation tag presented as an active link to Google Maps.
  • Improved logic for resizing the photos to help control file sizes.

Before and after screenshots of the main app; small changes but a big difference.

Screenshot of SnapToMePlus Version 1

SnapToMe Plus Version 2

 

by ag at June 25, 2014 12:12 AM

June 23, 2014

Terri

Three generations of women, one hat

This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

Here’s a project that’s been sitting in my queue of things-to-post for a while!


Cabled Hat


This is a hat I made for my grandmother. It was a post-Christmas present, a project that I brought up so I’d have something to do over the holidays.


Pattern


The pattern is the Cup of Tea Cabled Touque by Jessica Dekker. It’s a pretty neat little pattern with a bunch of different types of cables. You can see the cables in slightly more detail here:


Cable Knit Hat


Incidentally, SLR selfies are silly, as you can see.


I adjusted the pattern to add a crocheted faux-fur edging, in part because I thought it would look cute, and in part because I’d made my grandmother a scarf with the same yarn and thought they’d make a pretty matching set that way. I believe my pattern for that went something like this:


0: Take finished hat brim and fluffy eyelash yarn, sc around picking up stitches as you go.

1: triple-crochet around to make something very fluffy.

2: wrap the crocheted brim up on the front of the hat, and single crochet around pausing every few stichtes to crochet through the hat so that the brim will stay up.


Cable Knit Hat and with fluffy crochet edging


More Photos


So you’ve seen me wearing the hat… what about the other two generations of women?


Here’s my mom, who graciously agreed to pose since I wasn’t sure I’d be able to convince my grandmother to do so:

Cable Knit Hat and with fluffy crochet edging


And my grandmother, who was kind enough to pose with the hat and scarf:

Cable Knit Hat and Scarf


She loves the colour purple, and it certainly complements her nicely! I kind of wish I’d inherited or learned her apparently innate sense of colour and style; she often finds these beautiful jewel-toned jackets and things that are amazing.


And here’s one more photo:

Cable Knit Hat and Scarf


I’m not great with flash photography, but I like how the flash picked up the shininess of the scarf!


While I may not have my grandmother’s sense of style, one thing we do have in common is a penchant for altering existing patterns and creating new ones. She used to make so many stuffed animals for me, including ones based on characters in shows that I loved as a kid (Muffy the mouse!). I grew up wearing winter tuques and scarves she crocheted for us grandkids every winter to match the snowsuit we fit into that year, so it’s been fun to return the favour with knitted gifts myself!



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June 23, 2014 05:11 PM

June 19, 2014

Terri

Butterfly Baby Sweater (simplified top-down one piece cardigan for self-striping sock yarn)

This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

Remember my post about pictures of knitting in sunlight? I think it’s about time I post a few finished photos to go with that, isn’t it?


The project was a baby sweater, again for baby V, who probably qualifies as a toddler now that she’s, well, toddling!


Pretty Purple Baby Cardigan


My pattern is based off Eyelet Baby Cardigan pattern from Looking Glass Knits.


Which was in turn based off this baby cardigan pattern from DROPS Design


I’d originally intended to just do the Eyelet Baby Cardigan pattern as written, but I thought it was too busy to have the eyelets with the self-striping yarn, and then on top of that I found the way the pattern was written had me doing too much math as I knit which broke my flow of creating. I must have knit and unknit this 3 times before I gave up and just wrote out my own pattern:


Pattern


Size: 9 months

Gauge: 8 st = 1 inch


inc – k front and back?


In my case, that was knitpicks felici and size 3 needles.


Yarn:


Main colour: One ball of knitpicks felici (sock yarn). If I’d had more, though, I would have used one-and-a-bit-more.

Edging colour: some fluffy baby yarn that I’ve long since lost the label for. It is probably sport weight, not sock yarn weight.


0: CO 84 st.

1-3: k across (garter stitch)

4: make buttonhole (k2, yo, k2tog), k to end

5-8: k across (garter stitch)

9: k4, p to last 4 stitches, then k4

(We’ll do this for all odd rows, really)

10: k, increasing by EIGHT spaced evenly [92]

eg: k4 (border), k3, inc (k10, inc) * 7, k3, k4 (border)

12: k, increasing by EIGHT spaced evenly [100]

eg: k4 (border), k4, inc (k11, inc) * 7, k3, k4 (border)

14: k, increasing by SEVEN spaced evenly [107]

eg: k4, k1, inc (k15, inc) * 6, k1, k4

** In original, pattern row was here **

(See “additional lace details” below if you want to know my embellishments)

16: k

**

18: buttonhole, increasing by SIXTEEN spaced evenly [123]

eg: (k2, yo, k2tog), k5, inc (k6, inc) * 15, k4, k4

20: k, increasing by EIGHT spaced evenly [131]

eg: k4, k1, inc, (k16, inc) * 7, k2, k4

22: k, increasing by EIGHT spaced evenly [139]

eg: k4, k2, inc, (k17, inc) * 7, k2, k4

24: k, increasing by EIGHT spaced evenly [147]

eg: k4, k3, inc (k18, inc) *7, k2 k4

26: k, increasing by EIGHT spaced evenly [155]

eg: k4, k4, inc (k19, inc) * 7, k2, k4

**

28: k

30: k

32: buttonhole (k2, yo, k2tog), k

***

34:k increasing by SIXTEEN spaced evenly [171]

eg k4, k6, inc, (k9, inc) * 15, k6, k4

36: k4, k increasing by SIXTEEN spaced evenly [187]

eg k4, k7, inc, (k10, inc) * 15, k6, k4

38: k4, k increasing by EIGHT spaced evenly [195]

eg k4, k2, inc, (k25, inc) * 7 , k2, k4

40: k4, k increasing by EIGHT spaced evenly [203]

eg k4, k3, inc, (k26, inc) * 7 , k2, k4

42: k4, k increasing by EIGHT spaced evenly [211]

eg k4, k4, inc, (k27, inc) * 7 , k2, k4

**

44: k

**

46: buttonhole, k increasing by TWENTY FOUR spaced evenly [235]

eg (k2, yo, k2tog), k10, inc, (k8, inc) * 23 , k9, k4

48: k4, k increasing by NINE spaced evenly [244]

eg k4, k1, inc, (k28, inc) * 8, k2, k4

50: k4, k increasing by NINE spaced evenly [253]

eg k4, k2, inc, (k29, inc) * 8, k2, k4


Buttonholes: continue every 14 rows (at 60, 74, 88, 102…)


Divide stitches for arms:

Row 52: k39, slip 51 st to holder, k 73 [back], slip 51 st to holder, k39.


Work body (151 st):


Work in stockinette until… well, in my case it was until I was almost out of yarn, but in theory the original pattern said 10″.


Work edging:


Swap to edging yarn. In my case, this was a white baby yarn that was actually a bit thicker than the sock yarn used for the main body.


Work feather and fan as per original pattern, repeating this three times:

Row 1: knit.

Row 2: k4, p to last 4 stitches, k4.

Row 3: k5, (yo, k1) three times, (k2tog 6 times), *(yo, k1) six times, (k2tog 6 times); rep from * until last 7 stitches, (yo, k1) three times, k4.

Row 4: knit.


Work two rows of garter stitch and bind off.


Work sleeves:


Pretty Purple Baby Cardigan: sleeve detail


Put 51 arm stitches on a needle.


Knit in stockinette until desired length is reach. I wanted short sleeves, so that was 4 rows for me. Note that this will make intentionally wide sleeves. I hear dressing babies is hard.


Swap to edging colour, and add an eyelet edging to suggest the lace of the feather and fan in the bottom:


1 (RS): k all the way across

2-3: k across

4: repeat (p2tog, yo)

5-7: k across

bind off


Additional lace details


And one final photo:

Pretty Purple Baby Cardigan


As you can see, I actually didn’t use the most basic pattern. I added in lace details in the sections marked with ** above.


In the two one-row sections (rows 18, 44), this was


repeat: (k2 tog, y0)


And in the larger section, I used the following pattern, with appropriate padding to make it line up nicely (i.e. a few extra k stitches at beginning/end).


28: repeat (k1, yo, sl1 k1 psso, k3, k2tog, yo)

30: repeat (k2, yo, sl1 k1 psso, k1, k2tog, yo, k1)

32: repeat (k3, yo, sl1, k2tog, psso, yo k2)


(purl on the odd rows as per rest of pattern).


To be honest, I wasn’t sure if the lace details were necessary on this particular self-striping yarn, but they do look cute enough.


Wrap-up


This one actually lasted for a couple of wearings, helped along no doubt by the fact that I chose colours that matched better with baby V’s existing wardrobe. (A lesson learned about trying for subversively non-pink clothes in the past… alas!) I even managed to see her wearing it when I was in town after PyCon!


I used one ball of felici because that’s what I had (I’d bought it when she was much tinier!) but I probably could have used a little bit more so it wouldn’t be so short. Even with the fluffier, larger lace edging, it was still a bit short. Not so bad since it wound up being a spring sweater, but not ideal!



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June 19, 2014 05:02 PM

June 16, 2014

Terri

Sheep Hat

This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

Another baby gift! This one I made just because I thought the pattern was adorable:


Sheep Hat


My picture isn’t great, but…

1. Little sheep feet in the grass!

2. Adorable sheepy texture!

3. 3-D sheep head!

4. Perky sheep ears!


And my favourite:

5. Puffy little tail!


Sheep Hat


Pattern


This one came from a book called 60 Quick Baby Knits put out to show the glory of Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash. Alas, I didn’t have any on hand, so I used Caron Simply Soft. I don’t really recommend acrylic for this project since it made the stranded colourwork for the feet a bit harder to do. However, I like the yarn for amigurumi (it’s cheap, soft, washable, comes in many colours, and can withstand babies), so that’s why I have it on hand.


60 Quick Baby Knits: Blankets, Booties,…
60 Quick Baby Knits: Blankets, Booties, Sweaters & More in Cascade…
by Sixth&Spring Books


Ravelry Pattern Link:

Sheep Hat by Renee Lorion



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June 16, 2014 05:14 PM

June 09, 2014

Terri

Pi Baby Sweater

This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

My first degree is in mathematics, so MathSoc wound up being the focus of my university social life and an important sanity outlet valve for the duration of my undergrad. A couple of the lovely friends I met through Mathsoc announced they were expecting a child, and I knew immediately what I wanted to send to the shower. I mean, these are the friends who mounted their framed diplomas at right angles to each other due to mis-adjusted frames and laughed when we made mathy jokes about it looking perfectly normal.


Since math nerd baby clothes aren’t exactly the sort of thing one picks up at toys-r-us, I spent a lot of time at PyCon knitting up a gift. After not too long, the theme of I was making started to get obvious to the people around me…


Pi baby sweater (half complete front)


I found the idea of knitting a pi sweater at pycon pretty funny. Alas, since PyCon was later this year, it was not also pi day!


Here’s the sweater front and the back design viewed together before it was finished in case your imagination hasn’t already done the rest:


Pi Baby Sweater (front and back viewed together)


The pattern for the sweater comes from a book called Style Your Own Kids’ Knits by Kate Buller, which gives you basic sweater patterns in a variety of sizes with a huge number of options. I used her font for the numbers on the bottom and my own hand-drawn pi symbol for the chest motif.


Style Your Own Kids' Knits: Simply…
Style Your Own Kids’ Knits: Simply Choose a Pattern and Select a…
by Kate Buller


I also made up a simple ribbing variation for the hem and cuffs that went something like this:


1-3: k stockinette with purl facing RS

4-6: 2×2 rib (k2, p2 on RS; p2, k2 on WS)

1-3: k stockinette with purl facing RS


I’m not going to write out all of the sweater instructions in here since I imagine the author would rather you buy her book if you want more details about sleeve variations and edgings and whatnot, but I do want to provide my charts for the front and back in case any other math nerds need a baby sweater!


Back chart:

Pi Baby Sweater: back chart


And unblocked back piece:

Pi Baby Sweater


Front chart:

Pi Baby Sweater: front chart


And unblocked front piece:

Pi Baby Sweater: front, unblocked


Note that it’s all rumply because it hasn’t been blocked. While the mercerized cotton I chose was lovely to knit with and had great bright colours, it does look a bit lumpy in part due to my lack of experience with stranded knitting and in part due to the lack of blocking to set the stitches straighter.


I don’t have post-blocking pictures because I actually didn’t do the blocking, because I ran out of time before my flight home and I left the sweater in Ottawa with my sister so that she could bring it to the baby shower. She (apparently with some instructional help from my grandmother) did the blocking and sewed the buttons on, and was kind enough to send me a picture of the mom-to-be holding the finished sweater:


M-with-babysweater


I amused myself greatly with this project, and I hope it’ll amuse my math friends and their new baby.



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June 09, 2014 03:22 PM

May 31, 2014

Terri

You can leave academia, but you can't get the academic spam out of your inbox

When I used to do research on spam, I wound up spending a lot of time listening to people's little pet theories. One that came up plenty was "oh, I just never post my email address on the internet" which is fine enough as a strategy depending on what you do, but is rather infeasible for academics who want to publish, as custom says we've got to put our email addresses on the paper. This leads to a lot of really awesome contacts with other researchers around the world, but sometimes it leads to stuff like the email I got today:


Dear Terri,

As stated by the Carleton University's electronic repository, you authored the work entitled "Simple Security Policy for the Web" in the framework of your postgraduate degree.

We are currently planning publications in this subject field, and we would be glad to know whether you would be interested in publishing the above mentioned work with us.

LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing is a member of an international publishing group, which has almost 10 years of experience in the publication of high-quality research works from well-known institutions across the globe.

Besides producing printed scientific books, we also market them actively through more than 80,000 booksellers.

Kindly confirm your interest in receiving more detailed information in this respect.

I am looking forward to hearing from you.


Best regards,
Sarah Lynch
Acquisition Editor

LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing is a trademark of OmniScriptum
GmbH & Co. KG

Heinrich-Böcking-Str. 6-8, 66121, Saarbrücken, Germany
s.lynch(at)lap-publishing.com / www. lap-publishing .com

Handelsregister Amtsgericht Saarbrücken HRA 10356
Identification Number (Verkehrsnummer): 13955
Partner with unlimited liability: VDM Management GmbH
Handelsregister Amtsgericht Saarbrücken HRB 18918
Managing director: Thorsten Ohm (CEO)


Well, I guess it's better than the many mispelled emails I get offering to let me buy a degree (I am *so* not the target audience for that, thanks), and at least it's not incredibly crappy conference spam. In fact, I'd never heard of this before, so I did a bit of searching.

Let's just post a few of the summaries from that search:

From wikipedia:
The Australian Higher Education Research Data Collection (HERDC) explicitly excludes the books by VDM Verlag and Lambert Academic Publishing from ...


From the well-titled Lambert Academic Publishing (or How Not to Publish Your Thesis):
Lambert Academic Publishing (LAP) is an imprint of Verlag Dr Muller (VDM), a publisher infamous for selling cobbled-together "books" made ...


And most amusingly, the reason I've included the phrase "academic spam" in the title:
I was contacted today by a representative of Lambert Academic Publishing requesting that I change the title of my blog post "Academic Spam", ...


So yeah, no. My thesis is already published, thanks, and Simple Security Policy for the Web is freely available on the web for probably obvious reasons. I never did convert the darned thing to html, though, which is mildly unfortunate in context!

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May 31, 2014 05:19 AM

PlanetPlanet vs iPython Notebook [RESOLVED: see below]

Short version:

I'd like some help figuring out why RSS feeds that include iPython notebook contents (or more specifically, the CSS from iPython notebooks) are showing up as really messed up in the PythonPython blog aggregator. See the Python summer of code aggregator and search for a MNE-Python post to see an example of what's going wrong.

Bigger context:

One of the things we ask of Python's Google Summer of Code students is regular blog posts. This is a way of encouraging them to be public about their discoveries and share their process and thoughts with the wider Python community. It's also very helpful to me as an org admin, since it makes it easier for me to share and promote the students' work. It also helps me keep track of everyone's projects without burning myself out trying to keep up with a huge number of mailing lists for each "sub-org" under the Python umbrella. Python sponsors not only students to work on the language itself, but also for projects that make heavy use of Python. In 2014, we have around 20 sub-orgs, so that's a lot of mailing lists!

One of the tools I use is PythonPython, software often used for making free software "planets" or blog aggregators. It's easy to use and run, and while it's old, it doesn't require me to install and run an entire larger framework which I would then have to keep up to date. It's basically making a static page using a shell script run by a cron job. From a security perspective, all I have to worry about is that my students will post something terrible that then gets aggregated, but I'd have to worry about that no matter what blogroll software I used.

But for some reason, this year we've had some problems with some feeds, and it *looks* like the problem is specifically that PlanetPlanet can't handle iPython notebook formatted stuff in a blog post. This is pretty awkward, as iPython notebook is an awesome tool that I think we should be encouraging students to use for experimenting in Python, and it really irks me that it's not working. It looks like Chrome and Firefox parse the feed reasonably, which makes me think that somehow PlanetPlanet is the thing that's losing a <style> tag somewhere. The blogs in question seem to be on blogger, so it's also possible that it's google that's munging the stylesheet in a way that planetplanet doesn't parse.

I don't suppose this bug sounds familiar to anyone? I did some quick googling, but unfortunately the terms are all sufficiently popular when used together that I didn't find any reference to this bug. I was hoping for a quick fix from someone else, but I don't mind hacking PlanetPlanet myself if that's what it takes.

Anyone got a suggestion of where to start on a fix?

Edit: Just because I saw someone linking this on twitter, I'll update in the main post: tried Mary's suggestion of Planet Venus (see comments below) out on Monday and it seems to have done the trick, so hurrah!

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May 31, 2014 03:53 AM

May 21, 2014

Anne

Wyoming Team Earns First Place in Google GovDev Challenge

Our GovDev Challenge Prototype

Update:

Google’s own post about the challenge, with video, is now up on their Enterprise blog.

The GovDev Challenge

This past weekend, I had the fun and honor of participating in the first-ever Google GovDev Challenge. The 24-hour coding competition was created to explore ways modern technology could be used to transform government’s interaction with its citizens. It was a blast. And, oh BTW, my team earned first place in one of the challenges!

The competition was co-sponsored by the states of Wyoming and Colorado, both of which have active partnerships with Google in many areas. In fact, the state of Wyoming was the first state to ever convert its whole IT infrastructure to Google Apps. The three challenges focused on state-specific issues. Two were posed by Colorado, seeking better ways to help citizens in the event of another disaster of the magnitude of last fall’s Boulder floods.

Wyoming posed a Budget Transparency challenge. The state wants to make state budgeting and spending data available to all citizens and, in fact, has existing web interfaces available that do just that. But the current interfaces generally share the problem that the data is available but not very consumable — that is, the resulting grid-of-rows is hard to understand and digest.

Our Team
L to R: Kail, Gunn, Thoney, Fagan

L to R: Kail, Gunn, Thoney, Fagan

I was privileged to be on a team that drew from across the state and across three companies: Mark Thoney (Sheridan / Wyolution, LLC), Jared Kail, (Lander / Wyolution, LLC),  Tighe Fagan (Cheyenne / Gannett Peak Technical Services, and me, Anne Gunn, (Sheridan /Sheridan Programmers Guild). We had 24 hours to craft our solution and 3 minutes to present it to a panel of judges and our fellow developers. Guess which part was less fun.

It was easy for us to select the Budget Transparency project to work on. Governmental transparency is critical for for government accountability and citizen oversight, but, as data gets more complex, that transparency gets harder to achieve. Our solution was intended to help solve one part of the problem by letting users quickly visualize where state vendor dollars actually get spent. After all, the money comes from all of us and we should know where it goes.

We came together as a team for the first time just for this event and were really, really pleased with the results. We knew, starting out, that we would not be the fastest coders in the room. But we did hope that the strengths we bring to our clients in our day jobs would turn out to be helpful in the Challenge and they were. We tried to demonstrate: a laser focus on the goal at hand, a pragmatic approach to the trade-offs we needed to make as we went along, the technical chops to make great things happen in a short amount of time, no ego, and a sense of humor that can turn even the tense moments into an opportunity for a laugh.

We each brought specific skills and background knowledge to our team. Each of us had to let go, at least once, of some technical feature we were trying to pull into the project, in order to work on something else and keep the whole team moving forward. Each of us had a couple of moments where we got to turn to a teammate and say, “Really? You can do that and it’s that easy?” For programmers, who learn for a living, that is the definition of a good time.

I was proud of Wyoming this weekend. We were joined by a handful of other energetic, engaged Wyoming teams, all there to solve difficult technical problems facing Wyoming and Colorado. In the end, Wyoming teams earned one first, one second, and one third across two different challenges.

The importance of showing up

I also think the great results produced by the teams from both states demonstrates one of the core principals of success: sometimes the most important thing you can do is put your heart in your hands, stuff your ego in your pocket, show up, and concentrate on finding out what you have to contribute.

by ag at May 21, 2014 04:48 PM

Terri

Photos of Portland

This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

I take a lot of photos, but haven’t been sharing them much because I never seem to get time to process them. But my friend K is out visiting the area for a photo expedition, so we did some meandering around. He’s much more disciplined as a photographer than I am, so he sensibly carved some time out of the weekend to process some photos, and made me do the same. Thank you!


I reduced my original 230 photos to a much more manageable 37, but that’s still a bit much for a post and I haven’t got my greasemonkey script that gives me a thumbnail photo gallery from flickr working again, so here’s just a few:


<Portland's Hawthorne Bridge

Portland’s Hawthorne Bridge


Something about this bridge and the pattern of clouds in the sky was just calling to me. We were wondering how heavy those counterweights are, and thankfully it turns out there’s a whole information page about Hawthorne Bridge. The answer is 450 tons! The bridge also opens a lot more frequently than I would have guessed: they claim 200 times per month. It doesn’t answer the last question I had, though, which is “why would they put the control hut on top of the part of the bridge that moves?” I’m guessing it makes it easier to see the clearance, but that seems like a bunch of extra weight to lift!


Portland central library

Portland Central Library


Since moving out of the desert, I find myself constantly amazed by trees, but actually, we were there to take a gander at the library:


Public Library (Portland Central Library)

Public Library (Portland Central Library)


Alas, it was closed by the time we went by, but still photogenic! There’s lots of cute details like the author names on each bench:


Ken on the Charles Dickens bench

K on the Charles Dickens bench


From there, we visited Washington Park. Alas, it turns out the bus doesn’t run very late, so we wound up at Hoyt Arboretum instead of the rose garden, but turns out holly is pretty fun to photograph. The holly garden has some really lovely varieties — much prettier than I’d seen prior to moving here, so I was glad to get some pictures. Look at those tricolour leaves!


Holly

Tricolor Holly


… although some of it is a bit terrifying at macro distances:

Very Spiky Holly

Very Spiky Holly


I got to try out one of K’s extension tubes, which were something I’d never really thought about using. They’re much lighter than carrying my actual macro lens, and while I’ve been managing ok with carrying heavy gear and not pinching that nerve in my leg again, it’s definitely a nicer lightweight option for me to consider. I’m trying to force myself to work on better processing habits before I start buying more equipment, though.


It was pretty cool, though it makes my focal distance so very short that I was a tad concerned about how far I was sticking my face into those spikes. I definitely got my hair stuck on some holly a few times.


Dandelion seeds, half gone with the wind

Dandelion seeds, half gone with the wind


Dandelions are much safer.


And finally, one photo that I don’t think is technically very good, but I love the way bokeh makes the flowers look like they’re sparkling:


White Blossoms & Bokeh

White Blossoms & Bokeh


Want to see the rest? They’re in my “Portlandia” gallery here, along with a couple of older photos.


We did eventually make it to the rose garden on Monday after work, but I haven’t even pulled those ones off the camera yet. I’d better start working on those tomorrow!



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May 21, 2014 05:55 AM

Book review: Half-Off Ragnarok

Half-Off Ragnarok (InCryptid) by Seanan…
Half-Off Ragnarok (InCryptid)
by Seanan McGuire

I admit, I was disappointed when I first heard that this would follow Alex rather than his sister Verity, who was the heroine of the previous two books in the series. But the minute I opened my new paperback, I realized how very wrong I was.

From the opening scene, I found myself totally enchanted with crypid herpetology and of course Alex. As an amateur field-naturalist who used to be one of those teenaged volunteers wandering around the bog for the annual turtle count, I could identify with Alex right from the get-go. On top of that, as one might expect for the InCryptid series, it's still a fast paced story of magic, family, love and biological science. And, oh, it's also a murder mystery where people are being turned to stone.

To avoid any further spoilers, I'll just say that I loved it. Highly recommended if you enjoy urban fantasy... or field biology!

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May 21, 2014 02:16 AM

May 09, 2014

Anne

How to Code Math in HTML / CSS

A Labor of Love

Seeing HTML was developed by some nerds at CERN, it’s kinda weird that there’s no obvious and simple way to make pretty math with it, right? In developing math learning games for our project Study Putty (“Where the Cool Kids Go to Scrape by on Tests”), I found myself face-to-face with this issue: just how does one code complex math in html?

Math in HTML--Test shot at Study Putty

First, a little background. For those who don’t know, HTML stands for “hat and taco markup language,” because of all the ‘<‘ and ‘>’ you need to use, being that they look like pointy hats or taco shells getting folded. Hence the technical name for this language.

While many fine publishers of Internet content opt to use images to represent expressions, it was my belief that with a little creative HTMLing/CSSing, I could do it in less time than if I had produced static images of the math formulas I needed. Plus, this way the formulas would be guaranteed to match the font and general styling of the page in which they would be displayed, even if that styling should subsequently change. But what about LaTeX, you say? MathJax? Man, ain’t nobody got time to learn that. I’m a web designer, not some nerd or something. Oh, wait. Wait. Yes, I am being informed being a web designer qualifies me.

And also that it is highly suspicious that I know to pronounce LaTeX like LAY-TECH.

The Distance Formula: A Square Root in HTML

My first specific problem was how to draw a radical in HTML, especially one where the bar would cover several terms. Getting the root of the radical (translate that into Latin for linguistic recursion fun, Mr. Chomsky!) is easy: the HTML character entity reference &radic; will do the trick.

&radic;

Simple enough. But the bar? I Googled “radical html.” If you are thinking that’s silly–all html is totally radical, right you are. But it led me to this guy who had a startlingly simple answer to get me on my way.

(Δx)2+(Δy)2
<span style="text-decoration: overline">

After assuring myself “Well, duh I knew that” a couple of times, I moved on. The next problem is that if you just use <sup> for the exponents with the overline, the overline gets broken up. You’ll probably see it below with Chrome or Safari, but maybe not Firefox. Apparently some browswers’ <sup>s are more suped-up than others.

(Δx)2+(Δy)2

But then to fix this you can do the following in lieu of <soup> tags:

<span style="font-size: 12px;vertical-align:25%;">

The best size and alignment will vary by font and the CSS for the page where you’re going to implement your math. So trial and error, my friend; there is no golden number in math.

Oh, wait, I’m being told there is.

φ

&phi;

But I digress.

In addition to manually styling the exponents, I used the same vertical-align attribute to nudge “the hook” of the radical up 10% of a line. (I’m sorry if you can’t follow my technical lingo here–“the hook” is what mathematicians call it, I believe.) You can probably see the slight difference between the first and second version of the expression above. Again, the contrast may be more…radical…in different browsers.

The Midpoint Formula: Fracking Fractions and Parentheses

So what I learned here is that I should think of math in html like painting. For each element you need to place in your mathematical expression, you should think, where do I want to paint this character, and how big? Look at the example below. This philosophy is why there is a <span> for almost every character. The giant parentheses perhaps illustrate the idea best. If you think of each character as its own, moveable element, and you know a little HTML/CSS, you can solve all sorts of problems.

You can create all sorts too, but I’m trying to be an optimist here.

(x1+x2y1+y2)
     2        2
<span style="font-size:1.25em;">
    <span style="font-size: 1.5em; position:relative; bottom:-0.4em;">
    (
    </span>
    <span style="text-decoration: underline">
    x
        <span style="font-size: 9px;">
        1
        </span>
    +x
       <span style="font-size: 9px;">
       2
       </span>
    </span>
    ,&nbsp;
    <span style="text-decoration: underline">
    y
        <span style="font-size: 9px;">
        1
        </span>
    +y
        <span style="font-size: 9px;">
        2
        </span>
    </span>
    <span style="font-size: 1.5em; position:relative; bottom:-0.4em;">
    )
    </span>
    <br />
    &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;2&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;2
</span>

The lim of Love

lim ƒ(love) love→exasperation

If you haven’t left off reading in favor of Googling MathJax instead, you may be thinking “Boy, that looks laborious.” Well, maybe. Maybe it’s a labor of love, but if you have the blood of a layout designer in you, your whole work is a labor of love, and unlike specialized math markup systems, with html, you can control every aspect of the appearance, and if you’re into visual layouts as I am, I know there is one thing you like and that is minute control over EVERYTHING.

The main limitation here is browser-dependency. Even with a specific font embedded and specific styling attributes for my text, I find Chrome tends to display my vertically-aligned characters a little differently than Firefox and Safari. I also find that “the browser that shall not be named” (hiss!) displays the legend of the limit above indented a bit. But so far I’m finding the appearances are close enough not to trouble me too badly.

The second limitation is–I’ll admit it–efficiency. I had a set of <20 basic geometry formulas to render in html. If I were writing an academic paper that was ~50% mathematical proofs, I’d still be rolling the stone on that Sisyphean task. But if you’re just looking for a way to post some maths on a website, math in html is not too tricky and may be preferable to learning a new markup language or doing a ton of image work just to get the job done.

 

by Bret Norwood at May 09, 2014 08:20 PM

May 06, 2014

Anne

SnapToMail App by CaptureBites: Automated Image Forwarding for Android

Sheridan Programmers Guild recently collaborated with CaptureBites of Belgium to produce their SnapToMail app for Android, now a free download on Google Play Apps.

SnapToMail

SnapToMail App for AndroidThe core of CaptureBites’ SnapToMail, much like Sherprog’s own SnapTo product line, is the ability to take photos with a mobile device directly to an email address of your choice without using the device’s preloaded camera and email apps. It reduces the process to as few as two steps: 1) snap picture, 2) hit send.

This creates the opportunity for a streamlined, automated document flow for transport/shipping, warehouses, real estate, insurance claim adjustment, home inspection reporting, construction auditing, and crime scene investigation among other applications. SnapToMail can be a solution for any Android user who needs to email photos regularly, repeatedly, or in bulk.

This is how CaptureBites describes the app:

SnapToMail is designed to take a collection of pictures of received goods in a warehouse or delivered goods and send them as JPG attachments to a predefined email address for further processing.

But it can also be used to transmit picture collections in the real estate, construction or insurance business.

The app is extremely easy to use and requires zero training. Deploy the SnapToMail app on your remote staff’s smart phones and receive pictures from throughout the country.

The SnapToMail app allows the user to select the destination email, a from email, the picture quality, email body content, and other features. Each email sent can contain multiple images, and the email body and JPEG filenames include a timestamp and geolocation for each image by default (linking directly to Google Maps as well). Advanced users can set up their own SMTP host.

unnamed-1

SnapToMail is designed to integrate with CaptureBites’ other document management products including the CaptureBites MetaServer, allowing images to be archived and indexed automatically according to barcodes (in shipping photos) or email metadata, but SnapToMail can also be used independently as a stand-alone solution.

About CaptureBites

CaptureBites™ is specialized in developing software for document capture. A document can be an email, attachment, picture or a scanned document image. CaptureBites software processes these documents, extracts and formats key data from them and exports them in a system of choice. The CaptureBites product suite is designed to add functionality to Kofax Express and Kofax Capture software.  But we also have products that can work independently such as our upcoming CaptureBites MetaServer.

Screenshot and logo courtesy of CaptureBites.

by Bret Norwood at May 06, 2014 07:53 PM

April 26, 2014

Terri

Mailman 3.0 Suite Beta!

I'm happy to say that...


Mailman logo

Mailman 3.0 suite is now in beta!

As many of you know, Mailman's been my open source project of choice for a good many years. It's the most popular open source mailing list manager with millions of users worldwide, and it's been quietly undergoing a complete re-write and re-working for version 3.0 over the past few years. I'm super excited to have it at the point where more people can really start trying it out. We've divided it into several pieces: the core, which sends the mails, the web interface that handles web-based subscriptions and settings, and the new web archiver, plus there's a set of scripts to bundle them all together. (Announcement post with all the links.)

While I've done more work on the web interface and a little on the core, I'm most excited for the world to see the archiver, which is a really huge and beautiful change from the older pipermail. The new archiver is called Hyperkitty, and it's a huge change for Mailman.

You can take a look at hyperkitty live on the fedora mailing list archives if you're curious! I'll bet it'll make you want your other open source lists to convert to Mailman 3 sooner rather than later. Plus, on top of being already cool, it's much easier to work with and extend than the old pipermail, so if you've always wanted to view your lists in some new and cool way, you can dust off your django skills and join the team!

Hyperkitty logo

Do remember that the suite is in beta, so there's still some bugs to fix and probably a few features to add, but we do know that people are running Mailman 3 live on some lists, so it's reasonably safe to use if you want to try it out on some smaller lists. In theory, it can co-exist with Mailman 2, but I admit I haven't tried that out yet. I will be trying it, though: I'm hoping to switch some of my own lists over soon, but probably not for a couple of weeks due to other life commitments.

So yeah, that's what I did at the PyCon sprints this year. Pretty cool, eh?

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April 26, 2014 06:58 PM

April 24, 2014

Terri

Book Reviews: Straight Punch by Monique Polak

Straight Punch by Monique Polak
Straight Punch
by Monique Polak

When Tessa gets caught leaving one too many graffiti tags, she finds herself kicked out of school and sent to "New Directions" a last-chance school for troubled teens with an impressive boxing program. Unfortunately, Tessa hates violence and isn't sure how she'll ever fit in given that most of the kids have situations much more dire than her own, but she's not getting out of this.

The backdrop of Montréal (a city with more than a little street art) works well for this coming of age story. I chose to read this while visiting the city, so the setting felt rich to me in ways that it might not have if I'd read it at another time. I was expecting more boxing out of Straight Punch, but actually the thing that struck me most about this were the moments you were seeing the world through Tessa's artist eyes.

I agree that it does feel a little "after school special with troubled teens" but the messages about standing up for what's right and what matters aren't any less true for having been told a thousand times. This book is perhaps better for teens than jaded adult readers, but it's still a nice little story about a teenager finding her inner strengths.

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April 24, 2014 12:57 AM

March 29, 2014

Terri

Sparkfun's Arduino Day Sale: looking for inspriation!


Arduino Day 2014


Sparkfun has a bunch of Arduinos on crazy sale today, and they're allowing backorders. It's a one day sale, ending just before midnight US mountain time, so you've still got time to buy your own! Those $3 minis are amazing.

I wound up buying the maximum amount I could, since I figure if I don't use them myself, they'll make nice presents. I have plans for two of the mini ones already, as part of one of my rainy day projects that's only a little past drawing board and into "let's practice arduino coding and reading sensor data" stage. But the rest are waiting for new plans!

I feel a teensy bit guilty about buying so many arduinos when I haven't even found a good use for the Raspberry Pi I got at PyCon last year. I did buy it a pretty rainbow case and a cable, but my original plan to use it as the brains for a homemade cnc machine got scuttled when John went and bought a nice handybot cnc router.

disassembled pibow case
A pretty picture of the pibow rainbow raspberry pi case from this most excellent post about it. They're on sale today too if you order through pimoroni

I've got a few arty projects with light that might be fun, but I kind of wanted to do something a bit more useful with it. Besides, I've got some arty blinky-light etextile projects that are going to happen first and by the time I'm done those I think I'll want something different.

And then there's the Galileo, which obviously is a big deal at work right now. One of the unexpected perks of my job is the maker community -- I've been hearing all about the cool things people have tried with their dev boards and seeing cool projects, and for a while we even had a biweekly meet-up going to chat with some of the local Hillsboro makers. I joined too late to get a chance at a board from the internal program, but I'll likely be picking one up up on my own dime once I've figured out how I'm going to use it! (John already has one and the case he made for it came off the 3d printer this morning and I'm jealous!)

So... I'm looking for inspiration: what's the neatest arduino/raspberry pi/galileo/etc. project you've seen lately?

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March 29, 2014 07:45 PM

March 11, 2014

Terri

Birchbox Beauty Box February 2014

This box was oscars-themed, I guess. Not really my thing, but better than valentine's, and probably more appropriate for birchbox than olympics, I guess.

Birchbox Beauty Box February 2014

I was mostly just irked because that juicy couture stinky sample really messes up the colour scheme. ;)

Actually, if I had to describe this box in one word, that word would be stinky.

Let's start with the perfume:

Juicy Couture Couture La La Malibu - 2.5 oz



The outer package:
Juicy Couture Malibu Eau de Toilette Spray

And the inside:
Juicy Couture Malibu Eau de Toilette Spray

Does pink sugar actually smell different from other sugar? I'm not sure I can tell, since this also claims to smell like mandarins and that seems more like wishful thinking than truth to me. I find the resulting scent strangely generic, like that lingering smell of all the combined perfumes in a shopping mall. It smells a bit familiar, but not really in a good way, more in that "I think I smelled a candle like this once, in the dollar store" kind of way.

To me, this smell immediately evoked the image of a teen girl you get stuck next to on the bus on a hot day, where you spent the whole trip wishing she had a better idea of how much perfume is appropriate or at least had better taste in scents. Combine this with the marketing, and I feel like this is a scent for people who wish they were self-centered so-cal teens. I gather perfumes are more based on image and brand than actual scent, and I'm disturbed that "horribly entitled so-cal teen brat with dubious taste" was ever considered a marketing win. I want to say something vaguely positive like "maybe ok if you're trying for something youthful..." but let's be honest: I hate it.

And, on top of that, a light spritz on one wrist was enough to make my eyes slightly itchy for hours afterwards, whereupon I finally gave up and scrubbed it off as best I could. Definitely not for me, and bad enough for me that I hope it's not for *anyone*.

I'm not sure what to do with the rest of the sample -- if anyone wants it, let me know, otherwise I might dump it down the drain to do something more fun with the teensy glass spritzer bottle.

That disappointment aside, let's move on.


In fact, let's evolve through me putting on a bunch of face goop, because I took these pictures so I could compare as I went, and I might as well use them for more than one purpose.

First, the bare-faced selfie, me with no makeup whatsoever:
Me, No makeup whatsover

In case anyone's wondering, the curling of my normally straight hair is a side-effect of the way I've been coiling it up out of my way while it's wet. There's actually nothing in my hair except maybe some lingering leave-in conditioner from my shower ages before.

Also, see that camisole? Totally bought from PACT, in the same style as the cami I liked so much from my Wantable box. This subscription thing is working!

I have just picked up the smashbox try-it kit thanks to my birchbox points and a nice 20% coupon they gave me for sticking with it for 6 months.

Some underwhelming packaging:
Smashbox Try It Kit
And products inside:
Smashbox Try It Kit

So first step was primer and BB cream plus a little bit of colour corrector:
Me with primer and bb cream on

This was also my first time trying the Beautyblender sponge, also bought from Birchbox thanks to points and coupon. This is an expensive, hot pink sponge applicator that is supposedly God's gift to makeup, and I decided I wanted to try it. I think I didn't quite pat enough water out of it, so my makeup is a bit thinner than it might have been. Probably just as well, it's not like I really needed it today.

So let's look at product #2 now:

ElevenSkin Perfection Eye Creme + Concealer



Perfection Eye creme + Concealer by Eleven Skin

Can you tell I had fun photographing it?

Here it is on my face:
Now adding the eye concealer...

It's a bit hard to tell from the bad lighting, but it has a distinct but not-too-obvious effect. It came in a tube with one of those diagonal-with-a-hole applicators that I see mostly in lip balms, but since I was trying the beautyblender makeup sponge already, I used the sponge to apply it. It may have been a mistake, as I think I would have benefited from a slightly thicker application than I managed.

I like this concealer/lotion a lot, since I was having problems with my existing concealer (it went on fine, but by the end of the day it would often highlight or deepen the lines around my eyes). It seems a little wimpy as a concealer, but subtle is sometimes the order of the day for my work makeup and the smooth application and nicer all-day wear has me convinced.

That said, I haven't tried a lot of different concealers yet, so my enthusiasm might be just due to having used an incredibly bad product in the past.

I'm not sure yet if I'll buy more, because I think I'd like to test a few more before making a decision. This isn't likely to be the sort of category where I bother with more than one product long-term, and since I usually leave my eyes bare, it may take me a while to use the sample. But as of right now, this is the top of the list.

Continuing with the makeup, here's the next layer, where I added blush/lip stain and finishing powder:
Closeup on the blush and finishing powder

This is using the benetint (from my previous birchbox) as both a cheek and lip stain. And then patting my new smashbox finishing powder over it on my cheeks because it was too much. The finishing powder container is my new favourite thing, because it has little holes and then you turn it and a small amount of product comes out, allowing you to get just a bit of loose powder. I'm sure this is a totally common way to do it, but since I know jack-all about makeup, I'd never seen one before.

It's the weekend and I just bought a wet and wild eyeshadow palette that reminds me of Twilight Sparkle, and my next stop is the library, so for my own amusement I thought I'd try some eyeshadow:

Eyeshadow.  I'll go with "subtle" rather than "ineffective"

I think the eyeshadow is rather too subtle, just a hint of pink-to-purple across my eyelids, but I wasn't in the mood for eyeshadow heroics.

And that brings us to product # 3 in this review:

Beauty Protector Protect & Oil


Beauty Protector hair oil

Before we talk about the actual product, let me say that (once again) I feel like the graphic design of this product sample was not very well thought out. The clear vial of hair oil has a logo on one side and printing on the other, meaning (as you can see from the photograph) that even when I did my best to carefully position it (and even provide a strong distracting background element), it looks kind of messy. They really missed the boat here, as I think the little sample vial could have been really elegant if they'd put some thought into it. They could have removed the back printing (which really doesn't say anything useful; I got the application instructions off the birchbox card) or reduced the number of words and put it below the logo, or maybe they could have done a two-colour printing to increase legibility.

Here it is applied in my hair, a few drops into the ends while it was dry:
Now with hair oil!

In case you forgot, here's what that original bare faced picture looked like so you can compare it as a before image:
Me, No makeup whatsover

Aside from the lips, I'm not sure you see much difference for all that work, but I'm now coated in sunscreen, which is really the only part of my "makeup routine" that I consider important.

I don't think the effects of the hair oil are particularly visible on first application (although perhaps after I've been using it a week I'll feel like it's had an impact), but it's still very noticeable in person because you can *really* smell it. It smells quite strongly like all the other beauty protector things, so now I most definitely have an odor. While I generally like the scent they use, I found the hair oil a bit more stinky (err, strongly scented) than most of their products.

As a result, I feel like this is really more of a hair perfume than a hair oil (and that any oil effects may be secondary to their aim of getting their scent in your hair), so if you like the beauty protector smell and want to have it floating around your face, this might appeal to you. For me? I think the scent is too strong, and while I'll use up the sample because my ends are looking a bit frizzy from winter, I'm not even slightly tempted to buy more. Admittedly, that might be because I accidentally bought two bottles of their detangler due to not paying attention when I placed by birchbox order, so I'm currently feeling like I may OD on beauty protector scent.



So let's move on to the last two products...

Juara Candlenut Body Creme


Candlenut body creme

First, a packaging note: this was a really annoying sample to open. Although the top is perforated, it ripped off without leaving enough hole to get any product out, and I wound up having to find scissors. Even once it was open, the harder foil-lined cardboard was not a great feeling for squishing it out. It reminds me of a lube sample of the kind that kills the mood due to annoying packaging. On the bottom of the sample is says "Xela Pack &trademark" so this is apparently a package used by others.

As a body lotion, this seems pretty decent. It's a bit thicker but not overly greasy, and did a nice but not mind-blowing job on my rough, winter-dry elbows.

However, this is so strongly scented that I'd feel uncomfortable wearing it in public, let alone in places like concert venues, public spaces, and workplaces that discourage use of heavy scents. Just a small dab on my elbows was enough to make me feel like I'd overdone it on the scent. So this isn't really viable for me as a regular use thing, and I don't love the scent enough to use it on my "days off" either. It would have to have some crazy exceptional results if I were going to use it at all, and it really doesn't. Not for me!

Also, while it doesn't make my eyes itch the way the Juicy Couture perfume stinkbomb did, it's smelly enough that it made me anxious to be wearing it, wondering how long before I started having some sort of reaction. As is, it makes my nose feel a bit raw, but probably just due to the volume of scent rather than the specific elements of it.


AYRES Bar Soap


Ayres bar soap in Patagonia

This smells like something my grandmother might like. I don't mean that in a derogatory way -- she's a woman of distinct taste and much better fashion sense than I -- but she and I don't love the same scents.

The jasmine & lavender give this a slightly floral bouquet, but the fir (and possibly the ylang ylang?) gives it a slighly more husky scent that makes it kind of interesting.

But mostly, it just smells too strongly for me. I haven't really used this yet because after the array of other products, I couldn't stand any more stupid scents so I'm detoxing a bit before I try it out.


Here's one last picture to show you the size of all the samples in context:
Birchbox Beauty Box February 2014

These are all pretty small samples, which would bother me a lot more if I didn't dislike most of them anyhow.

In summary: The eye concealer is the only one of these products I'm excited about, as it replaces an eye concealer that wasn't working for me. Everything else... pretty much stank too much, even the one where I like the scent they use, and most of them I did not like.

I'm pretty disappointed with this box, because I feel like there's a clear "I dislike stronger scents" theme to all the problems I had with this one, and thus it's the sort of thing that maybe could have been captured if they'd ever asked my preferences. (Sending me perfumes was a waste of time, as I not only won't wear them but socially can't.)

Obviously, I knew the risks when I signed up and one bad box isn't going to make me cancel given that I'm usually pretty happy with the subscription, but it's still sad.

That said, I once again had a lot of fun photographing this box, so at least I feel like I had some fun with it!

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March 11, 2014 08:11 AM

March 08, 2014

Terri

Birchbox Beauty Box January 2014

For the new year, Birchbox went with an inspirational theme to their add-ins, if not so much for the products themselves.

Hello 2014

Inside is a book of inspirational cards.

Quite often, I find this sort of inspirational stuff a little vapid, and given that I regularly question the intelligence of the folk who write the copy about the products I've received, I wouldn't have been too surprised if I hated the series of inspirational cards they produced. But I don't. In fact, they've paired some cute typography with some of those "get yourself out of a rut" type tips that aren't entirely awful if you're just needing a little kick. I like these enough that I may hit up the dollar store for some cheap frames and put some of the cards out on display.

Here's the happy one, front:
happy happy happy happy

And back:
5 ways to get happier

(Sorry about my overzealously narrow depth of field there, but you can probably read some of it.)


So, let's talk products!

Klorane Gentle Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk



Klorane dry shampoo

I was quite curious to try this, as I'd heard about dry shampoos ages ago thanks to women's mags, but since I never actually bought any of the products advertised within, I'd never tried it. It's basically talcum powder you put in your hair to absorb oils so you can go a day without washing it. Birchbox put up a gif tutorial for using dry shampoo that is fairly amusing because their model has great expressions. My only complaint is "second-day = dirty" (and thus needing a product) implication seems like edging into unnecessary products based on shame marketing for a lot of adult women. My long hair, for example, does better with a day between washings lest the ends get totally dried out.

The first time I tried this product, I had terrible sneezing fits all morning and wondered if it was related. I didn't have as much trouble the second time, though. Here's some pictures:

Before:
Dry Shampoo Before
After:
Dry Shampoo After

As you can see, it's not a huge difference, possibly because I was hesitant to use too much lest I have sneezing fits at work. But it does get rid of enough unwanted shine up top that I could go to work without feeling like an unwashed teenager.

There are two problems for me here:
1. This leaves product in your hair. As someone who rarely puts more than a miniscule dab of leave-in conditioner in, I find this makes me feel like my hair is really dirty, even if it looks cleaner.
2. Also, while it does absorb oil, it also clumps up all those dead skin cells coming off your scalp. This makes me just a little itchy. And also makes me feel gross.

As a result, I was desperate to wash my hair when I got home both times I used this product. I suspect those both might be general issues with dry shampoo and not bugs in this particular formula, so it's possible that dry shampoo is just not for me. I'll probably use the rest of this, because even though I don't love it, sometimes you're just in a hurry. Here's an "appropriate" card:

20140210-IMG_1029.jpg

End result: This totally helps me run out the door looking less greasy in a pinch. However, it's not even slightly as good as having remembered to wash my darned hair the night before.


Whish Three Whishes Body Butter



Whish body butter in pomegranate

This claims to smell like pomegranate, but makes me think I smell kind of like a toddler has drooled red lollipop onto me somewhere. It's reasonably effective as a moisturizer I guess, but it smells like really cheap awful candy that's partially digested. It's $0.16/ml, which maybe doesn't sound so bad, but for $0.03/ml I could just use lubriderm and be moisturized and *not* smell like I might attract ants at any moment. (For those who prefer US fl oz: Whish is $4.73/oz to Lubriderm's $0.82/oz)

I'm probably over-stating it: the smell isn't *that* bad and sometimes it's fun to smell like candy. Just, maybe not candy that was abused by a 2 year old and smeared all over your pant leg with sticky fingers. What I'm getting at is it's really not the sort of scent that would inspire me personally to spend 5x as much on an otherwise equivalent product.


ORIGINS Smarty Plants™ CC SPF 20 Skin Complexion Corrector



ORIGINS Smarty Plants™ CC SPF 20 Skin Complexion Corrector

The card reads as follows
Smarty Plants CC
SPF 20 Skin complexion corrector

Instantly: Color corrects and visibly perfects so you look radiant and flawless.
On demand: Antioxidant infused formula helps neutralize skin damaging effects of city smog and pollution.
Over time: helps recycle environmental stressors into vial hydration so you keep your youthful good looks longer.



WTH does recycling environmental stressors into hydration even mean? I'm pretty sure they just told me this thing will make acid rain, fog, and also random pollutants stick to my face Or possibly that it will keep my sweat in if I stress out. Gross.

Discard the product nonsense. Here are the things you actually need to know about Smarty Plants:

1. This product smells like plants. Maybe sort of like a freshly-picked something-from-the-mint-family? I like it, since I like plant-y smells. But I was surprised about the smell since every other product I've tried in this category seems to avoid having much scent at all. (And I approve of the trend of having unscented stuff on your face!)

2. It is very sheer. So sheer that I have serious doubts about its ability to provide the stated 20 SPF in a normal application. But if you want to tone down a bit of redness without, say, covering up your freckles, that's handy. (S -- you might want to try it?)

I have no idea if the sheerness a feature of CC creams since no one seems to know if there's any difference between them and BB creams, really.

3. The people who write their product descriptions were smoking behind the bleachers instead of going to science class.

Anyhow as far as the product goes, it's nice, light, and smells like plants. I generally approve of this, but I'm not entirely sure it fits a very solid beauty niche. It is nice if you don't want to look like you've got foundation on. Here's a photo of me wearing it:

Smarty Plants CC on the human face



Their marketing, however... the best I can say is that the product detaches from the card of stupid that came with it:

ORIGINS Smarty Plants™ CC SPF 20 Skin Complexion Corrector

Although actually, they used some serious glue on that sucker, so it's not *easy* to detach.

And now, for the most inappropriate of the inspirational cards:
20140210-IMG_1028.jpg


Benefit Benetint



The benefit sample had much better packaging:
Benefit Benetint sample box

And then, inside, it tells you how to use the product:
Benefit Benetint sample box: put this product on your face

This can be summarized as "put this product on your face and smear it around artistically" but they make me feel like I have a nice internationalized Ikea makeup package. In a nice way.

For context, this sample is really tiny:
Benefit Benetint size comparison

But given that you use a couple of drops, it's still a decent amount to use.

Benetint is a product I actually had already gone out of my way to try, since I'd been curious as to what other subtle lip stains were available after I tried Staniac in my first box.

Benetint is a teensy vial of coloured, rose-scented water. I wasn't really expecting it to be outright liquid. I find it fairly nice if I want a subtle cheek colour, because it's easy to blend in with my BB cream, doesn't dry super fast, and is not too darkly pigmented so it's hard to be heavy handed. On the other hand, sometimes I'm pretty sure I'm getting more colour from the friction on my cheeks than I am on the product.

Although the instructions suggest that you should dab it on your lips, doing so resulted in it dripping into my mouth sometimes. Gross. Instead, spread it along your lips and get a nice subtle colour change. Definitely nice if you want to hide the fact that you're wearing any makeup at all, as the water doesn't leave any of the tell-tale signs a cream lipstick would. That said, it also doesn't hydrate or protect your lips.

I like it, but I don't know that it excites me enough to go out of my to get more. However, it does come in some reasonably fun box sets, so I expect I'll wind up with more eventually. I got it with a Benefit set called "sugarbomb" which maybe sometime I'll review for you if I'm ever actually caught up on my subscription stuff.

Ahmad Teas Assorted Teas



Ahmad Tea samples

I think that these were better than the average bagged tea. The scents were really lovely, but there was a faint but noticeable bitter aftertaste that just didn't appeal to me. However, I'm particularly sensitive to bitter (as in, I'm one of those people with bonus taste buds), so it's likely that these will be perfectly lovely to someone without my sensitivities. (This isn't self-diagnosed; I took the test in high school biology. It was terribly disgusting.)

That said, rather than buying this tea, do yourself a favour and head over to Captea and get some nice loose leaf instead. (If you're near Denver, go visit the shop! The baked goods are amazing, the place is very down to earth, and the tea is absolutely lovely.)

Ahmad Tea retails at 20 teabags for $3.50. Each teabag, according to my scale, is around 2g, so that's 40g or 1.4oz of tea, or $2.5/oz. My favourite Masala Chai from Captea is $5.25/2oz or a very comparable $2.62/oz.

Since I have a pretty comprehensive tea stash and a friend in Denver who's apt to bring more when he visits, I won't be buying any more of this, but I am totally happy to have gotten this in my box, because I like trying new tea, and it really did smell nice.

Before we end this, I've saved my favourite card for last:
20140210-IMG_1030.jpg

In summary, I enjoyed trying all these products, and was particularly glad to have finally given dry shampoo a shot even though it turns out it's not a thing I love. (But now I know, without having invested in a full-sized bottle!) I don't think any of these are things I'll be rushing out to buy, but since most of my goal in trying out a makeup box is to try new things, I feel like I got my $10 worth of entertainment out of this one.

On top of the actual time spent trying the products, I'm enjoying the time I spend doing product photography for these reviews. It's really forcing me to think about lighting in different ways, as well as getting to experiment with some new tools and new backdrops. And that actually is awesome.

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March 08, 2014 08:29 PM

March 02, 2014

Terri

Google Summer of Code: What do I do next?

Python's in as a mentoring organization again this year, and I'm running the show again this year. Exciting and exhausting!

In an attempt to cut down on the student questions that go directly to me, I made a flow chart of "what to do next" :

gsoc

(there's also a more accessible version posted at the bottom of our ideas page)

I am amused to tell you all that it's already cut down significantly on the amount of "what do I do next?" emails I've gotten as an org admin compared to this time last year. I'm not sure if it's because it's more eye-catching or better placed or what makes it more effective, since those instructions could be found in the section for students before. We'll see its magical powers hold once the student application period opens, though!

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March 02, 2014 06:45 AM

February 24, 2014

Terri

Wantable Intimates Box, January 2014

This is my favourite wantable box so far!

Let's start with the boring and work our way up:

Wantable Socks - Color: Black



Wantable Socks
Wantable, your system isn't so good with colour, is it? Pretty sure that's not black.

These are a cheaped out part of the box, for me. I could buy these at the drug store for probably $3.99 or less, so the claimed $6 by stamping a wantable brand on the tag is pushing it.

That said, they're kind of cute neon socks. I'm not a huge fan of short socks since I've moved out of the desert and have discovered that short socks often result in damp ankles, and I hate damp ankles, but I'll enjoy these when I'm not leaving the house, anyhow.

Hiding the more intimate parts for those who might not want panties showing up on their feeds... )

PACT Navy Bandana Camisole



PACT camisole

I love love love this piece. It fits me perfectly, has a bit of runching in the front so it sits properly on my boobs, goes down to my hips, it's soft, and it even claims that profits of the sale went towards urban garden projects. How cool is that?

My only complaint is their flavour text about the organic cotton, which I'm too lazy to look up right now but it included something like "it's certified organic, which means no harsh pesticides" FAIL. Certified organic means a restricted set of organic pesticides, not no pesticides, and many of those organic pesticides are plenty harsh and dangerous.

20140210-IMG_0937.jpg

Mis-information aside, PACT seems like a pretty cool company. They're a bit hippy-dippy, but they claim to be sweatshop-free and their prices are reasonable, so I'm willing to give them a bunch of money. The hard part is in deciding what I want and how many tank tops I can justify buying at once...

Claimed value: $28 (Actual value: Originally $30 on PACT's website, but currently marked down to $12)

Summary


Lots of winners in this box, and only one pair of panties that was annoying. I discovered a new brand which I like, even if they don't understand what certified organic means. I am pleased!

... which is just as well, because February's box is so underwhelming that I may return it entirely. Stay tuned for pictures!

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February 24, 2014 10:16 AM

February 18, 2014

Terri

Book review: Cress

Cress (Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer
Cress (Lunar Chronicles)
by Marissa Meyer

This is book 3 of the Lunar Chronicles, which started with Cinder and continued with Scarlet.

This is a sci-fi series with characters inspired from fairy tales. Some of the big moments are there, and the motivations (Scarlet, for example, is looking for her missing grandmother), but for the most part the characters are their own. If you like princesses who also fix androids and get covered in grease, this is a series you should be reading.

Cress is a Rapunzel who's trapped in a communications satellite being forced to hack spaceships and newsfeeds as a spy for the evil queen. I was horribly disappointed, given her repeatedly demonstrated computer skills, that unlike the other girls, she had to be the one who's sitting around dreaming of a dashing hero to rescue her from her "tower" in space. But in many ways, having her start there is giving Cress (and even the man she casts as her hero, much to his disbelief) a fair bit of room to grow. I quickly got so caught up in the adventure story that it didn't seem to matter so much that I thought she was a bit too traditional a princess.

It's hard to tell you much about the book without spoilers, but there's adventure and politics and daring rescues (more than one!) and spaceships and hacking and opera. (There's also violence, mind control, and torture. The latter is definitely not described in great detail, but it's definitely worth warning about.) If you liked the Vorkosigan series but wanted it to be mostly about women and less about women-that-Miles-totally-has-a-crush-on, this might tickle your fancy. If you like fairy tale retellings and also space ships, ditto. If you're looking for a book for your kids that isn't too heavy handed about feminism and social justice but it's still there *and* with romantic subplots, this is not the best in the series, but it's still there.

I continue to love the series, and despite my initial misgivings about Cress, I found myself caring about her along with the motley crew that's being assembled here. I am eagerly awaiting the next book!

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February 18, 2014 05:31 AM

Audiobook Review: A Wounded Name

This is a review of an audiobook I got free-in-exchange-for-review from Librarything. Flipping through reviews, it seems I'm of the minority opinion in that I thought this was brilliant despite being hard to read/listen through:


A Wounded Name by Dot Hutchison
A Wounded Name
by Dot Hutchison

When I heard about this retelling of Hamlet set in a semi-modern private high school and told from the point of view of Ophelia, I was worried that it would be like the dubious graphic novel retellings I've seen of other classic literature.

This, however, is different. It's more like a fairy tale retelling, haunting and odd, where the fairies are as terrifying as they are magical. It's a picture of madness and depression told with a modern psychology eye but in almost classical prose.

I though the audiobook narrator did an excellent job of rendering Ophelia, mad and sane at once, filled with the passions of a teenager who you know is never going to see the end of the story.

It's a beautiful rendering of the classical tale from another perspective, shining light into different smaller tragedies within the whole. It's not an easy thing to read, watching the characters spiral into oblivion, but it's definitely a unique take on the tragedy.

Note: this book is likely very triggering for depression, self-harm, suicide -- some of it is as one might expect from the source, some goes beyond.

Edit: Those local to me, feel free to ask to borrow this!

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February 18, 2014 04:31 AM

Book Review: Mara

I've been reading a lot of stuff that didn't grab me quite enough to recommend or not-recommend, but my sister's careful reviews of the novels she reads has made me feel guilty about my lazy evaluation strategy. ;)

So, here's a graphic novel I finished yesterday:

Mara TP by Brian Wood
Mara TP
by Brian Wood, Ming Doyle (Illustrator)

A quick flip through the book told me that it was dystopian sci-fi volleyball, and that was enough reason to take it home from the library. I recognized Brian Wood's name, because I've liked him on some things, but not so much on others.

The story starts by grounding title character Mara into a world of expensively-sponsored high-stakes sports in a world that drafts children for sports and war, but Mara herself seems to care more about her brother and her friend and teammate than she cares about the politics of sponsorship. I guess it's because of this solid grounding that I found the second half of the book was a bit too emotionally adrift. It's a great concept, and I can see the bones of a story in there that I would have loved, but it didn't quite come together for me.

Would I recommend it despite the ending? Yes. But I still mourn for the story it maybe could have been.

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February 18, 2014 04:02 AM

February 17, 2014

Terri

Photogenic Mailbox in Snow

The snow is gone at this point (now it's all "risk of flooding" and "high winds" out here), but I thought I'd share a photo from last weekend:

Photogenic Mailbox in snow

This mailbox has a little spotlight above it (presumably so people don't drive into it or so that the mail carrier can find it), which always amuses me. I personally refer to it as "photogenic mailbox" because of the spotlight. Photogenic mailbox is apparently also photogenic in the snow, not just the dark.

I imagine I'll use photogenic mailbox in a presentation about GNU Mailman, someday!

Note: you can actually see the spotlight, or evidence of it, if you look at the photo carefully. I should have photoshopped that out, but it turns out photoshop was installed on the hard drive that died, so I haven't sorted that out and gotten it re-installed yet.

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February 17, 2014 06:55 AM

February 11, 2014

Anne

Facebook for marketers and other humans

Late last year I signed up to get email updates from the Pew Research Center. I get an email a week from them with 4-5 quick summaries. I usually find at least one item to click on and learn more about. This week, it was Facebook, which I am continually trying to understand and use better.

Demonstrating that even the Pew folks are always trying to increase readership, the title of the piece includes a number, which is said to boost click-throughs substantially: 6 New Facts About Facebook 

It’s a quick read, so I encourage you to scan it yourself. A few of the ‘facts’ struck me to me as having implications for marketers:

  • The extent to which Facebook users prefer to see photos and videos instead of straight text updates. (Fact #2)
  • The increased network effect when using Facebook to reach younger people versus older people. At the bottom of Fact #3, there is a remarkable stat: “Younger users tend to have significantly larger friend networks than older users: 27% of 18-29 year old Facebook users have more than 500 friends in their network, while 72% of users age 65+ have 100 friends or fewer.”
  • How people prefer to like or comment-on someone else’s content versus updating their own status or, even, wanting feedback on the content they do post. Even in a Facebook world, the majority of us are still lurkers at heart. (Fact #5)

And, perhaps not useful, but certainly interesting, Fact #6: “Half of internet users who do not use Facebook themselves live with someone who does.”

by ag at February 11, 2014 04:33 PM

February 10, 2014

Terri

Wondering about the review brain-dump?

We're snowed in.

It's awesome. :)

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February 10, 2014 03:32 AM

Birchbox December 2013 Beauty Box

Birchbox really went out of their way to make the December box thematic:

Birchbox December 2013

And then you opened the outer layer....

Birchbox December 2013


As you can tell, I have a terribly feminine aesthetic, with the rose petal and the utility knife. The latter is holding the box open for the purpose of showing the inside. I'd intended to cut it out but once I started taking photos I figured I should just go all out. :)

Inside the box:

Beauty Protector Protect & Detangle



Beauty Protector Leave-in conditioner
(Sewing machine spindle for scale)

After trying a similar product in a previous box, I wasn't too excited to see this.

However, it turns out to be a really lovely leave-in conditioner. I would even say it's a slightly better detangler/conditioner than my existing brand.

Incidentally, it smells pretty much the same as the other products in the line, which is sort of plant-fresh. I like it, but I'm not sure I'd go so far as to suggest that this stuff is an effective perfume.

The one thing I don't like about it is the packaging. The logo looks great and is legible in red-on-white, but I find it looks unappealing, cheaper, and is hard to read on the red plastic. Here's the comparison:

Beauty Protector packaging: I don't love the black on red effect.

Price check: My existing brand is Herbal Essences split end protector something something, which I remember paying around $6.99 for 6oz ($1.16/oz) and currently retails on Amazon for either $1.65/oz or $1.46/oz depending on how much you buy. Anyhow, Beauty Protector retails for $21.95 for 8 oz, which is $2.74/oz. Probably around double the price, maybe even more since you can get the drugstore brand on sale.

That's a pretty big difference for a fairly minor upgrade, but given that this will probably last me years and save me a little bit of detangling time every time I use it, it might be worth it to me. Definitely within the "acceptable personal splurge" range, especially since I can use birchbox points to get it.

PS - I presume that this is vegan like their other products, but I didn't actually see that mentioned.

The Honest Company Winter Wellness Exclusive Kit



Honest healing balm

When I heard that this was made by some actress who, upon spawning, felt a need to protect her children from evil chemicals or something I was frankly pretty skeptical. But despite the whole company inception story, I actually like the product!

This is a slightly thick moisturizer. How thick? Let me show you!

Honest healing balm

Not close enough?

Honest healing balm

Okay, maybe we're getting gross here.

It's not as thick as the more intense glycerine creams, but it's definitely leaving a residue all over your hands. I don't mind this as long as the product is effective, and it totally is.

It's got a scent that reminds me of the weird herbal medicines my German neighbour was always recommending (many of which worked; he was actually a pretty skilled herbalist), so I actually like it. It strangely reminds me of juniper, which is not on the ingredients list. The scent also not too strong to use around other people, and the packaging is cute, so it will probably be my new work moisturizer this winter. Woo!

It's basically a bunch of plant oils and beeswax. That doesn't mean it's safe, of course, but none of the plants in the ingredients list set off warnings in my brain at least, and they weren't making any outrageous claims on the package I received. Even their website seems to make fairly reasonable claims about it, which is basically "this is a moisturizer that moisturizes." Incidentally, birchbox did not tout the diaper rash prevention properties. ;)

How expensive is it? It retails from the company for $12.95/3 oz ($4.32/oz). For comparison, our giant bottle of moisturizer runs around $0.73/oz according to Amazon, but that's probably not too fair because this is a much thicker moisturizer of a different stripe. My favourite thick hand creme is O'Keeffe's Working Hands Cream (or as I call it "manly hand creme" since it's so clearly marketed at men), which retails for $2.42/oz on Amazon and less in home depot the last time I checked. Either way, Honest Healing Balm is expensive compared to my existing alternatives.

Manly, manly hand cream:


However, Honest Healing Balm is a little less thick, making it more reasonable to use at work or when I'm planning to touch things fairly shortly after applying it, so it may hit a useful sweet spot of "effective when my skin is actually damaged but not inconvenient to use." I would consider picking up more, although realistically birchbox seems to be meeting my "small tubes of moisturizer" needs pretty well.

Also, this is organic if that matters to you. And it will totally help with your diaper rash, or so I'm told.

LA FRESH® Travel Lite® Makeup Remover Wipes



20140210-IMG_0942.jpg

I haven't actually tried these, because I'm saving them for travel purposes as they are in nice little packages.

That said, I'm going to mention there that baby wipes are generally much cheaper per wipe than makeup wipes, probably much better tested/safer, plus it's easier to find in unscented varieties. Of course, a washcloth is probably better (and more exfoliating!) but there are times I don't want to have all my washcloths stained with weird lip products.

twistband™ Speciality Pack



Twistband's niche seems to be in making hair elastics don't share any of my priorities for hair ties:

My biggest concerns in hair elastics are as follows:
1. Does is stretch enough to go around my hair?
2. Does it hold my hair up for hours?
3. Does it get stuck when I try to take it out / does it pull my hair out?
4. Does it last for more than a few uses?
5. Is it cheap enough that I won't be sad when I inevitably lose it?

Twistband's big selling points seem to be:
1. This won't dent your hair.
2. It's pretty enough to wear around your wrist!

I suspect that this whole hair dent thing is a conspiracy to make people self conscious about stupid things so they will buy more stuff (see: shame marketing), but I suppose maybe this is a problem for someone? But if it was, why did I never hear people say that scrunchies were good for this in the 80's and 90's?

As for #2:

Twistband

Really?

This isn't a bracelet, it's a sparkly bit of elastic you tied a knot in. Don't kid yourself. Also, it itches, so I didn't leave it on.

This is reasonably effective as a hair tie, as far as I've noticed. (It's winter so I'm not ponytailing my hair for nearly as long as I would in summer.)

Did you know it's really annoying to take a selfie of the back of your head using an SLR? I tried anyhow, just for you:

Back of head selfies with an SLR are hard.

So... yeah. Twistbands run $12 for 6 on Birchbox, or $2.00/each. My regular metal-free elastics run around $0.10/each at the grocery store, and you can often find them at the dollar store for much much less. I'm pretty sure it's not worth 20 times the price to me (let alone more), at the rate I lose or them, so unless this proves to be indestructible and somehow never gets lost it's not going to win. Plus, I'm pretty sure I can get decorative elastic and tie it in a knot myself if I liked that aesthetic.

Oh well, at least it's a thing I can use.

EDIT: I originally listed these as $0.50 each, because I guess my brain couldn't believe that these were actually $2 hair ties.

LAQA & Co. Fat Lip Pencil



Laqa & co Lil' lip

I believe the colour I received is called "Ring of Fire" which is at least awesome. The colour itself is a nice bright red. It seems to have a little bit of a fuscia undertone in this photo, but I suspect that's due to a combination of the lighting (sunlight-off-snow because Portlandia is snowed under right now in a little freak of mother nature experience) and my very chapped lips:

Laqa & co Lil' lip on the human face

Yes, I realize I am not the bestest at applying lipstick. Also, faces look weird that close. And SLR selfies are not a good idea. Whatever, I didn't feel like spending hours setting up lipstick photos today 'cause I was trying to get photos for for All The Reviews.

It applies fairly smoothly. I found it rubbed off pretty easily on glasses, my hands, etc, which was kind of annoying. It more or less feels like a lip gloss in that respect, and it might even a bit more moisturizing than most since it feels like it provides an actual barrier on my skin.

Laqa & co Lil' lip

Apparently this small size (see with sewing machine spindle above) is available as a lipstick duo. Normally I am a huge fan of small lip products since I can stick them in my pocket and re-apply when I feel like it. Unfortunately, carrying this in my pocket has a bit of a problem. I was worried the issue would be in knocking off the cap, but that seems pretty good. However, what does happen is that the product gets rolled up and squashed against the top of the lid repeatedly:

Laqa & co Lil' lip

As you can see, there's a giant smear on the top and the product is already listing to one side from being squashed all the way at the top.

So yeah, not a pocket tool for me. Perhaps LAQA & Co. needs to do a bit of testing on their packaging, as this happens every time I have put this product in my pocket, and it even happens in my bag sometimes. In contrast, I have probably half a dozen different lip balms that get the same treatment and it's fairly rare to see them smashed up against the top of the cap. Perhaps it might be time to consider the classic square lipstick base designed to not turn when the cap is closed or something:

20140210-IMG_0978.jpg

(No, that's not lipstick, but I only started buying lipstick recently so it's the only thing I've got in that type of packaging).

I'm not going to bother pricing this out because I'm not really considering buying it. I enjoyed receiving it, but when it comes to buying there are probably better formulae out there, definitely better packaging possibilities, and bright reds aren't that hard to find.

In summary...



One last look at the box:
Birchbox December 2013

I love the conditioner, I like the hand cream, I enjoyed trying the lip pencil and hair tie even though I will purchase neither, and I imagine the makeup wipes will be fine but I haven't tried them yet. Acceptable for $10!

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February 10, 2014 02:03 AM

February 09, 2014

Terri

Wantable December 2013 intimates box

This month, the box was half the size, but apparently packed with just as much stuff!

Subscription box stuff

I approve of smaller shipping boxes in an environmental sort of way, so I like the change. Plus, I'm hoping that this means they're thinking about their shipping and won't screw it up so I owe shipping when the box arrives, because that was unclassy. (However, it hasn't happened since that first box and I've received 5 now, so it seems they've fixed the problem!)

A thing I don't love about wantable's website: Not only do they not have product links easily available (you'd think this would be something the product providers would want!), but sometimes they don't even tell me the brand of the item. Which is relevant in the December intimates box:

Short Sleeve Tee- Amethyst Heather



This is a Bella t-shirt. You know, the ones that are one of the cheap options for women's cut shirts if you want to get shirts printed? I realize these retail for something ridiculous like $30 on Bella's website (presumably to match the printed markup cost?), but if you get them blank in bulk for printing they're like $7. Threadless-type stores seem to sell them printed for $10 pretty regularly. So I feel like Wantable's claim that this is $22.00 worth of value may be sort of disingenuous.

I actually like the shirt, though. It's a nice dark maroon-purple heathered colour, and Bella shirts actually fit me reasonably well, which I know because I have a few from conferences and stuff. Here's this particular one:

Subscription box stuff: Bella t-shirt

It's a bit tight but comfy and something I will in fact actually wear. So I guess I'm pleased with the shirt itself, but feel like maybe wantable cheaped out a bit on this?

Claimed value: $22. Actual value, probably closer to $7.

Betsey Johnson Intimates Bikini Hot Pink



Subscription box stuff

Like the last time, this item demonstrates an appalling sense of taste. It looks especially bad next to the socks in this month's package. But not nearly as bad as when you look at it more closely....

20140210-IMG_0920.jpg

Yup, leopard-print crotch on the inside of those suckers.

At this point, I have to conclude that Betsey Johnson has a brand dedicated to people with incredibly terrible taste. Or perhaps people who like to pretend to have terrible taste in a hipster-ironically sort of way? Which frankly, is just a different type of terrible taste.

But, I find these so hilariously bad that I will wear them, so what does that say about me?

As undies, they are actually pretty comfy. They are low in the front and fully cover your butt in the back, which I find a very weird choice because it basically means every time I lean over these panties are all "hi there!" which would be I guess kind of fun way to avoid showing butt-crack if they were attractive. Unfortunately, they're really not, so when I lean over you get "OMG YELLOW-ORANGE LACE" like the white "blind the dangerous thing" signal of the white tailed deer.

I leave this to your imagination.

These are hilarious in the same way that bad thrift shop clothes are hilarious, but they're not a win with me, Wantable.

Claimed value: $12, or 3 for $27. Since I can get victoria's secret panties that I know fit me for around $6, this is not a terrible bulk price, but if I chose my own panties I would never have chosen these.

OZONE Socks Basket Weave



These socks are probably actually the neatest part of the December box. I'm not in love with the colours, but they're kind of handknit-style and comfortable.

Socks from Wantable's December intimates box

There's a few textures in play here: a smooth stockinette bottom/toe/heel, textured top, and differently textured cuff. I presume from the name that the top cuff is "basket weave" stitch although it doesn't look much like it when stretch out on my strong walker calves. I don't really know my knitting stitch names well enough to tell you what the stitch on top of the sock is called. More experienced knitters, feel free to chime in.

Socks from Wantable's December intimates box

One thing that I did find interesting, especially in light of the "so strong it bruises" elastic from November's socks, is the elastic in these, which goes below the very large cuff, where the colour change starts:

Socks from December's Wantable Intimates Box

Claimed value: $13. Which is probably around what it would cost me in yarn to handknit socks, so not terribly unreasonable.

Luster Bralette Black



Last and most definitely least is the Bralette:

Subscription box stuff: Soft bra

It's not a bad shape. The cross-back straps mean it's unlikely to fall down, and I like the shaping in the front.


Their "M/L" is basically a compression bra on me. This has some usefulness for me as far as breast-binding for costumes go, and it's stretchy enough that it's comfy.

That said, it's undeniably not really my size. Unfortunately, while wantable touts that you can return individual products, it's not really worth it because of how they handle it. I have to return enough product to get my wantable-assigned value below the $36 I paid for the box. Since I actually like the shirt ($22) and the socks ($13), I'm going to get a maximum refund of $36-$35 = $1. That's not worth my time.

Oh well. I'll either keep it for crossplay costuming, or I'll see if my sister wants it, I guess.

Claimed value: $38.00. Not horrible if it were the right size, I guess. To me, actual value is around $5 to replace tensor bandages for breast binding.


----

Total claimed value: $85
Actual value to me: maybe $25-30

So for a $36 box, that's pretty darned disappointing, even though I liked the items.

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February 09, 2014 08:50 PM

Wantable November 2013 Intimates Box

I'm really behind on the Wantable box descriptions, which is a side-effect of really being behind on photo processing in general. But on the bright side, I can tell you how much things actually got used!


V-neck Bra Heavenly Pink



This is actually the least used of the bunch: it's a little light pink soft bra in the same style as the coobie camisole I loved in my first box. I like it, but just not quite as much as my existing soft bras, which are of this crossover style, which I find stays in place better the way I move.

It's almost identical to the cami, except shorter and pink, so it was actually kind of disappointing in that it wasn't a new thing to me. It's moderately useful since I have relatively few light-coloured bras, at least.

If I took a picture of these, I can't find it, but basically imagine the pink of the bandeau in my previous box, but the shape of the beige cami, only missing everything below the bra band. Yeah, this felt like a repeat in box 2.

Emerald Bay Socks



These are mid-length argyle socks, from the same company as the pink knee-highs I got in the first box. Here I am on box #2 and I'm already starting to wonder if Wantable actually has the deals in place to pull off this intimates box thing long-term or if I'm just going to get the same things over and over again.

I like these socks aesthetically, but they have such strong elastic at the top that they leave basically wounds on my calves after I've been wearing them all day. Good if I don't want my socks to slip while walking, but if I don't remember to shove them down to my ankles during the day, they nearly bruise. I wear them because it is awesome to have walking socks that don't slouch, but I have mixed feelings about them and look forwards to the elastic starting to stretch. Having noticed the excessive elastic problem in these, I realize that it also happens with the knee-high ones, but since they go over top of my calves, it's not so noticeable.

If I took a picture of these, I can't find it, but basically imagine the pink socks in my previous box, only green and shorter. Can you say repeat?

Betsey Johnson Intimates Sleep Shorts Houndstooth



Subscription box stuff

I actually wore this for the first time this weekend, because it's a bit too cold for shorts in the house (seriously: not a great choice for a November box, Wantable). They look... hilariously bad on me. Like cheap, ill-fitting booty shorts. I'll use them anyhow because this amuses me and they're more comfy than my existing sleep shorts, but definitely not a thing I would have bought myself.

Subscription box stuff

Seriously? Houndstooth, hot pink lace, rosettes? Teensy little ass-pocket? That is comedy gold right there, in some sort of bad taste blog. You'll understand if I don't photograph myself wearing these for those aesthetic reasons alone, but I'll tell you that they also are weirdly saggy in the front, too tight in the back, and while I'm sure J's going to appreciate the rear view because he thinks I look great no matter what, they do not make me feel attractive at all.

Edit: Nope, even he thought they looked weird on me.

Snowflaked Slipper Sock- Grey



First: I am *so* glad that wantable has put in a review system so that I can see what they'd sent me without having to pretend I want to return the package.

Second: I really wish they'd made it so there were links to places to buy the products/get more info, because I like to have such links on my own blog.

Third: The slipper socks I received weren't grey.

Subscription box stuff

That meta-discussion done, I want to say that this was the real winner of the whole box! I absolutely love these, and I have from the moment I got them:




They're warm, they're thick, they're comfy. They don't even seem to make me generate excessive amounts of static (my existing socks combine with the crappy carpeting in our house to make me zap every metal surface in the house this winter). My only complaint is that they do slide around a bit on my feet (though they have grippy bits for the floor), so I have to be careful on stairs.

I love these so much that they completely made up for the rest of the box, with its repeats and its dubious booty shorts. But I can already tell that this whole wantable intimates thing might not last for me unless they step up on the supplier front.

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February 09, 2014 07:14 PM

The naming of things

My former hackerspace, in fundraising for the new space, offered up a reward tier that let you name one of the rooms, which was a pretty fun perk. "My" room is going to be #16 on this map, the larger of the two electronics labs:

680_Haines_NW-Floorplans_numbered_mods_marked

Being the sort of person I am, I named it the "Pink Fluffy Unicorn Dancing on Rainbows Laboratory" thanks to this earwormy video. (Original song here, punk version here.)



They can call it PFUDOR labs for short or something. I actually proposed it as a joke when the campaign first was getting set up, but it got so many laughs that I decided it was actually kind of fun to have a name that really didn't take itself too seriously.

A few days after I made the official declaration, I got an email from an adult male friend there, bemoaning my choice of names in a gentle, joking, but also a little bit sincere way.

He is a friend and I don't want to mock his words in public, but I saw the email and thought THIS IS HOW I KNOW I HAVE CHOSEN THE RIGHT NAME. If this even a little hurts the manhood of even someone who knows me and my sense of humour, then you know that the anti-girly sentiment often prevalent in hacklabs is going to be rankled by this for as long as the space lasts. So now not only do I get to earworm my friends, but I run the risk of affronting people who haven't quite dealt with their own minor misogyny? And maybe give the hacklab an excuse to fill a space with rainbows, with all the connotations thereof? That actually kind of sounds like a bigger social win than I was intending, but maybe, just maybe, it'll combine with the already excellent people at Quelab to help keep the space as friendly and fun as it can be.

So next up I'm going to be buying a friend's pony patterns, a bunch of stuff from adafruit, some fabric, and I'll be making a hilarious e-textile pony with glowing rainbow neopixels to go in the space. Because I am not very subtle. ;)

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February 09, 2014 06:22 PM

February 03, 2014

Terri

Pictures of knitting in sunlight (a work in progress)

This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

I don’t tend to share work-in-progress shots for a few reasons:


1. I knit a lot on the go, where it’s not too convenient to take pictures.

2. I am really really bad at processing all my photos, and more of them just adds to the laod.

3. I just don’t think of it.


But I did think of it today, and it’s gotten me thinking a bit about useful general photography tips I need to remember when knitting:


Knit photography #1: Be careful of focus and depth of field


I love small depths of field in general photography and beautiful bokeh (aka the blurry bits) and all, but when taking pictures of my knitting, I need to make sure that the focus is where I want to be, and covers enough of the area around where I’m trying to draw the eye:


My very sparkly stitch marker


So here, I’m taking a picture of my pretty little stitch marker, and I’ve only left a small row of knitting in focus.


Since this is a maker blog, I’ll say that I made the stitch marker myself, for values of “made” that include “I bought a bunch of beads that had rings through them and separated them then re-closed the circles.” My project *sparkles* in the sun right now thanks to the beads, which is fun when I’m actually knitting in the sunbeam.


The narrow depth of field actually works well for something that small, but when I’m showing a series of stitches, I have to remember to adjust my photography style so that people can see the stitches well.


That can mean making sure the section is really flat:


Triangle lace stitch thing


Or it can mean just making sure the depth of field is big enough for the area in question:


Sweater Neckline with simple lace holes


Knit photography #2: Yarn has weird light properties


Colour Whorl


When you look up close at yarn, you can usually see that it’s at least a little bit fuzzy. This helps make it warm and soft, but also means it has some weird light properties where it will seriously glow given enough light. This can be awesome, or it can be really irritating, but the important thing to remember is that photographing knit/crocheted fabrics in bright light can be challenging in different ways, and each yarn is going to be a little different.


The extreme contrast isn’t always a bad thing: it can help you showcase lace. In theory. In reality, I always seem to end up with hyper-real photos, or ones with huge dark patches that just don’t look right:


Trying (and failing) to showcase some lace


And the sun is pretty bright already, so even if the yarn didn’t pick up the light so well, it could be a mess:

Demonstration of knitting photography in the sun and why it can be challenging


You can fix these things, of course, with some messing around in lightroom/photoshop, but then you lose out using the extreme contrast to show stitch definition, and you can make the project look a little dull:


Demonstration of knitting photography in the sun and why it can be challenging (2)


I suspect it’s going to take a lot more experimentation before I can quickly snap off a few photos in sunlight! But for now, I’ll be thinking critically about what I do and practicing doing it until I feel like I’ve got the kind of photos I want for matching with my patterns.


And with that, I give you one more photo where I’m proud of the light. This one showcases the rainbow nature of my stitch markers:


Rainbow stitch marker


So pretty!



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February 03, 2014 02:54 AM

January 30, 2014

Anne

Triple Play lives again through print on demand

Triple Play proof copy

The first proof copy of the Elizabeth Gunn’s re-issued Triple Play paperback arrived in the mail earlier this week.

As readers of this blog may have noticed before, I’m rather proud of my Mom-the-novelist, Elizabeth Gunn. To date she has not ‘broken out’ and become a big name the way other regional mystery authors, such as Tony Hillerman and Archer Mayer or Wyoming’s own CJ Box and Craig Johnson, have done. But she has had 13 novels, in two different mystery series, ‘traditionally published’ in the last 17 years. Her publishers have always been conservative with their print runs but we’re pretty sure they sold every copy of her books ever printed. And that’s are remarkably achievement by any standard.

Mom, with the help of my Dad, who did the technical heavy lifting, was also a pioneer of ebook self-publishing. They made her out-of-print backlist titles available in the Amazon Kindle and B&N Nook stores almost as soon as each opened for business. Since Dad’s death a couple of years ago, we here at Sherprog have taken over ebook formatting for her, cleaning up and standardizing book contents, creating new cover images, and expanding her distribution to Google Play and iBooks.

Now, with the technical and creative assistance of my colleague Bret Norwood, we’re moving up another notch on the evolutionary scale. Mom’s very first novel, Triple Play, will soon be available on Amazon or in a local book store near you, as a paperback. We’re racing to have copies available for her to sell at the big Tucson Festival of Books in mid March. Bret designed the book cover and did all the finicky sizing, formatting, and checking, checking, checking it takes to turn a ‘finished’ manuscript into the camera ready copy CreateSpace demands.

The first review copy arrived here earlier this week and it was a thrill to hold it in my hands. We’ve got a bit of line-by-line checking to do to ensure we’ve got as faithful a copy of the original hardcover as we can manage*. But right now it looks like we’ll make our deadline!

*Back in the dark ages of 1997, when Triple Play first came out, the author didn’t get back any electronic copies of publisher’s edits, so we started from the original (Lotus Ami Pro!) manuscript she had on file and re-applied the publisher’s edits one by one. Bret really deserves a medal for this one.


by ag at January 30, 2014 05:32 PM

January 27, 2014

Terri

Colour-changing Nintendo 3DS XL case

This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

My brother got me a Nintendo 3DS XL for Christmas this year, and he picked out exactly the one I would have chosen for myself, a special edition with the new Mario and Luigi RPG. (Of course, he’s the one who got me hooked on those games in the first place…)


It’s a beautiful little piece of hardware, and I’ve been carrying it around incessantly not only so I can play it at lunch, but also because the 3DS has some sort of meta games where you get points for walking around and for passing other people who also have 3DSes. As I am mildly obsessed with games that involve walking (I’m working on creating one for me and my sister to play together, but that’s another story), this means that the 3ds lives in my purse or backpack and I was worried about it getting horribly abused.


Thankfully, I have a sewing machine and I’m not afraid to use it!


So here’s my new DS case:


Colour-changing Nintendo 3DS case


I was originally going to make this quick and just do two seams up the side and not finish any of the edges. But once I’d started, it seemed so easy to just put some nicer square corners in by sewing across the ends and then finish the top. The fabric’s a bit hard to keep straight because it’s thick and a bit grippy so it’s not my best machine work, but I remember learning how to square corners like this in home ec in grade 7:


Colour-changing Nintendo 3DS case


Wait, you may say, what’s with that weird yellow corner? See, here’s where it gets interesting…


Colour-changing Nintendo 3DS case


Yup, that fabric is changing colour based on temperature. (Also, check out my strangely coincidentally matching manicure!) Remember those old Hypercolor shirts from the 80s/90s?


Colour-changing Nintendo 3DS case


The fabric was part of a sampler box that Quelab got filled with weird samples of sparkly plexiglass and thin veneers and, apparently, some colour-changing industrial fabric. I think it came from instructables? It was filled with interesting materials for projects, anyhow. I am still sad I never found a use for the sparkly plexi, which I refused to take until I had a plan for it, but Adric convinced me that it was cool if I took a chunk out of the very large (and slightly damaged) piece of colour-change fabric.


I’d been trying to think of something sufficiently interesting to do with it, something that sufficiently highlighted the colour change, and maybe the fact that it’s actually sufficiently transparent that you can see a LED through it:


Colour-changing Nintendo 3DS case


But today, as I was flipping through my small fabric collection trying to find something for the 3ds case, I decided that just something I’d be using all the time is sufficiently interesting and gives me a chance to play with it and show it off regularly. Plus, I’m looking forwards to seeing the heat spots in my purse, which is filled with many power-hungry electronics like the 3DS.


It’s already fun for demonstrating how quickly evaporative cooling works:


Colour-changing Nintendo 3DS case


(Fun fact for those of you who don’t live in the desert: New Mexicans cool their houses with evaporative cooling, also known as a swamp cooler, which is a formalized version of a wet towel over a fan, ’cause mold and mildew isn’t so much of an issue in the desert. So you think a lot about evaporation when you live there for 2 years… and then move to the west coast almost-rainforest. Will my clothes ever line dry here?!)


Colour-changing Nintendo 3DS case


I don’t like being all “perfect is the enemy of good” or the sort of uncluttering fanatic who gets rid of things because there’s no immediate use for them, but there is something very satisfying about actually using an item I’d saved rather than having a never-diminishing collection of “cool things that I should use for something.”


Of course, I still have a little bit of fabric left…



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January 27, 2014 01:44 AM

January 24, 2014

Anne

Lean Startups Go Mainstream

economistLogoI’ve been talking to my colleagues, around town and around the state, about the Lean Startup movement for some time. I was delighted to see The Economist get on board this week with their Tech Startups: A Cambrian moment special section. Lean Startups, aka Agile startups, focus on using new technologies to build what customers need and will use, not just what techies think would be cool to have.

The technique has its limitations, but it aims to ground innovation in the real world. And for both self-funded startups and those looking for angel or venture-capital investors, the real world is a very, very important thing to consider.

My own summary of what’s important about this approach is a slight variation on what you’ll find in some of the books:

The product of a startup is a viable business model, not a technology or, even, a solution.

And, BTW, if you don’t already have a subscription to the Economist, you might want to buy a newstand copy of the January 18th edition or just check out some of the other articles online. It’s full of interesting and even downright alarming pieces about technology, the prospects for specific jobs/professions in the next 50 years, and the promises and perils for individual prosperity of our accelerating technology revolution.

Not every issue of the Economist is as good as this one but many are. And the special sections, especially the regular quarterly one on Technology, pretty much justify the price of a subscription for me.

by ag at January 24, 2014 05:01 PM

January 21, 2014

Terri

Vampire Sleeves (sort of a shrug?)

This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

I was out shopping one day with a friend and saw this book:


Vampire Knits: Projects to Keep You Knitting…
Vampire Knits: Projects to Keep You Knitting from Twilight to Dawn
by Genevieve Miller


I didn’t buy it right then, because I didn’t know how to knit and wasn’t sure what I’d do with it, but apparently it stuck with me because I picked it up later thinking I’d give it as a present or something… but then I learned to knit. So now it’s mine, all mine!


I’m not much for making full sweaters yet, because I’ve learned that projects that don’t fit in my purse never get finished. But I figured a pair of sleeves wouldn’t be too bad… but it still took me a year to finish them because I kept getting sidetracked by other things I had to try.


I just call mine vampire sleeves because of the book they came from, even though they don’t look very vampire-y in the colour I chose!


Here I am, smugly showing them off:

Vampire sleeves


One of my pet peeves in clothes is having them too snug across the shoulders, so I’m pleased to report that the lace here is pleasantly stretchy:


Vampire sleeves


The only problem with them is that the lovely autumn browns I chose don’t really match a whole lot of my clothing. They look good with the dark blues and blacks, but not so much with the reds I don’t think and definitely not with anything that has pink tones. When I was looking for something to wear with them for these photos, I was amused to discover that they mostly matched my ereader cover:


Vampire sleeves


My favourite part is the yarn. It was Shimmer hand-dyed lace yarn from Knitpicks, which I’ve only just found out was discontinued. Sadness! It was such a joy to knit with.


The pattern is relatively simple, well-written, and the photography is lovely. It really is just a pair of sleeves, opened up at the back and grafted together. I do like that the lace pattern causes the ends of the sleeves to be a little wavy:


Vampire sleeves


Pattern: Sidhe Shrug by Ashley Fay.



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January 21, 2014 04:26 PM

Book Reviews: The Dragon Slippers Series

Dragonskin Slippers by Jessica Day GeorgeDragon Flight by Jessica Day GeorgeDragon Spear (Dragon Slippers) by Jessica…

Dragon Slippers, Dragon Flight and Dragon Spear by Jessica Day George

Creel's aunt tries to sacrifice her to a dragon in an attempt to attract a knight who will marry Creel and raise the status of her whole family (and most importantly, her aunt), but it goes awry when Creel decides that she doesn't want anyone to get hurt and decides she's going to make a deal with the dragon instead. But who'd have thought dealing with dragons could have such far-reaching consequences?

Fun! Adventure! Girls and dragons as friends! A smart and resourceful heroine! Politics, culture, embroidery, annoying little dogs and monkeys! For all that it definitely plays into archetypes, it's still clever enough in the details to warrant a read. My inner 10 year old is very pleased with this trilogy.

Note: I came at this one having read the first two of the author's Twelve Dancing Princesses books, one of which I previously reviewed.

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January 21, 2014 08:13 AM

What Terri's Playing: Puzzle Agent

The game I finished today is Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent. Despite the similarity in names, it's not very much like Puzzle Quest, the last game I mentioned.

Telltale games presents / Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent / A dark and twisted puzzler

"When White House inquiries to the Scoggins Eraser Co. are answered only with curious puzzles, Nelson Tethers from the U.S. Department of Puzzle Research is sent on the case."

If you've ever played Professor Layton and thought "you know what this needs? more inexplicable gnomes. and also screaming" then this is the game for you!

For those who haven't played the Layton games, this is similar in that it's a mystery where you wander around the game world gathering clues and solving brainteaser-type puzzles to get more clues. It's got a neat sketchy art style, entertaining voice acting and music, and a creepy little storyline. (Spooky, but not so much scary as surreal.) I found the puzzles clearly explained, and there's a hint system if you get stuck. (much to my surprise, the game told me at the end that I'd never used hints, so I can't tell you how good it is.)

I'm a pretty big fan of Telltale thanks to Monkey Island, and this fits a similar but not identical adventure game niche in my life. Less snark, more weird, but still enough clever to be fun.

According to Steam, I put in about 3h of play, which makes it a pretty short game, but it's fun and currently only $5 (plus, you know, steam sales & game bundles). If you're into brain teasers but don't have a huge amount of time for a game, it's worth checking out!

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January 21, 2014 07:41 AM

Mystery Munch: A Simple Android Game

This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

I’ve been brushing up on my android skills for work, since I’ll be helping do security reviews on Android apps. Since I hadn’t written an app in ages, I thought it would be fun to take an Android 101 course on coursera just to force myself to do a couple of assignments and learn some of the things that come from actually writing the code and not just reading about it.


Some of these things-you-only-really-learn-by-doing kind of suck, like where I hit a bug in the hardware acceleration that caused me to lock up my entire computer requiring a hard reboot. Or discovering that making screenshots from the Nexus 7 emulator is apparently a Sisyphean task.


Frustrations about the fiddly bits of development aside, the assignment was ridiculously easy (although given that I used to *teach* a mostly equivalent Java course, that’s not a surprise — I’m really only in this for the deadlines, although the prof’s forays into computer history are pretty fun too.) The first part was an explicitly-defined app that I didn’t find interesting, but the second was “make an app of your choosing!”


So here’s what I chose:


Screenshot for "Mystery Munch" -- my very simple android game Screenshot for “Mystery Munch” — my very simple android game


Mystery Munch is half a battleship game: you click around to find the “food” hidden in the grid. It has no graphics, but it’s smart enough to make random layouts and notice when you won.


I always liked marking the game assignments best, back when I was a teaching assistant, so I figured I’d make a very simple game to amuse my peer reviewers.


The apk is here, if you actually want to play. I’ll get the source code up later once I figure out how I want to share it. Additions to the game will be welcome if anyone wants to make something from it!


This is the product of a Sunday afternoon of coding (I’ve been doing the course on work time, but I figured to save questions about releasing this code, I’d do it entirely on my own time), so it’s not amazing, but it’s mine and I’m amused by it! I’m thinking I might make some silly little pixel art to make it prettier and do some iterative improvement just because I can, if I don’t get sidetracked by another game I’ve been wanting to make for a while…


Incidentally, in case anyone’s wondering: I totally aced the assignment, and it seems I amused my peer reviewers. Mission accomplished!



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January 21, 2014 05:49 AM

January 20, 2014

Terri

Mystery Munch: A Simple Android Game

This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

I’ve been brushing up on my android skills for work, since I’ll be helping do security reviews on Android apps. Since I hadn’t written an app in ages, I thought it would be fun to take an Android 101 course on coursera just to force myself to do a couple of assignments and learn some of the things that come from actually writing the code and not just reading about it.


Some of these things-you-only-really-learn-by-doing kind of suck, like where I hit a bug in the hardware acceleration that caused me to lock up my entire computer requiring a hard reboot. Or discovering that making screenshots from the Nexus 7 emulator is apparently a Sisyphean task.


Frustrations about the fiddly bits of development aside, the assignment was ridiculously easy (although given that I used to *teach* a mostly equivalent Java course, that’s not a surprise — I’m really only in this for the deadlines, although the prof’s forays into computer history are pretty fun too.) The first part was an explicitly-defined app that I didn’t find interesting, but the second was “make an app of your choosing!”


So here’s what I chose:


Screenshot for "Mystery Munch" -- my very simple android game Screenshot for “Mystery Munch” — my very simple android game


Mystery Munch is half a battleship game: you click around to find the “food” hidden in the grid. It has no graphics, but it’s smart enough to make random layouts and notice when you won.


I always liked marking the game assignments best, back when I was a teaching assistant, so I figured I’d make a very simple game to amuse my peer reviewers.


The apk is here, if you actually want to play. I’ll get the source code up later once I figure out how I want to share it.


This is the product of a Sunday afternoon of coding (I’ve been doing the course on work time, but I figured to save questions about releasing this code, I’d do it entirely on my own time), so it’s not amazing, but it’s mine and I’m amused by it! I’m thinking I might make some silly little pixel art to make it prettier and do some iterative improvement just because I can, if I don’t get sidetracked by another game I’ve been wanting to make for a while…

Incidentally, in case anyone’s wondering: I totally aced the assignment, and it seems I amused my peer reviewers. Mission accomplished!

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January 20, 2014 08:27 AM

Misc misplaced makeup photos

I imagine I took these before/after shots to showcase some product, but I'm no longer sure what it was:

BeforeAfter

I'm guessing maybe it was the lip colour? It looks like I'm probably wearing some blend made with one of the obsessive compulsive cosmetics lip tar sets from sephora (A discontinued set I got on sale, but here's a superficially similar set with different colours). It's entirely possible that I was trying out the Chella pencil of my previous review, but as I said in that review, the thing is so subtle that it's hard to find in a still photo (which might explain their resorting to photographic trickery rather than a true product demo).

I am a bit concerned about the orange-yellow cast in the second photo: I'm pretty sure it's a light thing, but it's possible that my current tinted moisturizer/sunscreen doesn't match my increasingly paler skin since moving out of the desert. I guess I'll go let makeup experts colour match me sometime when I'm at the mall.

Aaaanyhow, nitpicking aside, I'm posting this to show a before/after that, to the best of my ability, does not use any photo tricks to make me look better in one photo than the other; it's just a change of makeup (and possibly some light, since it's an hour later by the time I got around to doing the 2nd photo and it is sunlight). I do cheat a bit with the smile, I suppose, but I have a few unsmiling ones and it doesn't make that much difference. Do feel free to compare with the before/after I complain about in November's review.

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January 20, 2014 06:53 AM

Birchbox November 2013

Belated beauty box time!

Birchbox November 2013

Before I start the product reviews, I have to show you my terribly professional new small product photography setup:

20140120-IMG_0523.jpg

As a photographer, I'm normally all about the natural light, and my bathroom has this beautiful frosted window that faces southwestish that provides almost exactly what I wanted. (See photo at the top of this post.) But I bought a new camera and am trying to get myself out of a photographic rut... so, after recommending this setup to my sister I thought I was overdue to try it myself. My room is not nearly as dark as that photo implies, I just didn't bother to balance it because I liked the spotlit effect.

Incidentally, you can see my sister's use of a similar setup here on her latest makeup box review. She's going with a much more neutral white backdrop which probably is better for this sort of thing, but Birchbox so kindly sent me pink tissue paper with this month's box (that's January's, not November's... I'm terribly behind) and I thought it was more fun. I expect I'm going to start developing a coloured paper collection now...

So! Photographic digressions aside, let's talk products.

Snark, science, and makeup! The abrasive/meat tenderizer/healing balm is the most amusing. )

Birchbox November 2013

Overall? Nailpolish I don't love but will use, hand cream that's at least nice at home if no good for work/travel, a highly entertaining abrasive/meat tenderizer/healing agent combo that's actually good at getting rid of flaky skin and not killing my boyfriend, an overly subtle sparkle pencil with a bad tutorial, and delicious delicious honey chocolate. Not bad. I am pleased although not amazed with November's selections.

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January 20, 2014 06:07 AM

January 17, 2014

Terri

Birchbox October 2013, revisited

So, remember that "Karuna Clarifying Treatment Mask" that I really really hated? I just found the photos I took and while they're all creepy, this is too hilarious not to share:

20131022-IMG_7792.jpg

I believe that expression fully captures the horror I felt while using this product. MY FACE IS MELTING.

Edit: Since I crafted this much shorter version of the review for a friend on FB, I think I should share it with the class here as well:

The Karuna Clarifying Treatement Mask hurt like burning, dripped everywhere, and was generally awful. It did make my face very soft, but I think that was due to the fact that it may have been slowly eating it. I'm pretty sure it is made of facehugger digestive juices.

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January 17, 2014 08:31 AM

Baby bunny!

This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

It’s after Christmas, so you’d think by now I’d be digging out the photos of all the projects that became christmas presents. But no, I’m going to dig back a little further to one I forgot from this summer…


This little amigurumi bunny was just so charming that I decided to make her for baby V:


Baby bunny for V


My favourite part is the little mohair fluffy grey tail:


20130722-IMG_0277.jpg


This is a pattern where the details really matter, so while finishing the bunny body didn’t take very long (I think I finished most of her in an afternoon at Quelab), getting her nose and ears sewn just so took me a while. Despite the little bit of fussiness, I think this is my favourite bunny pattern yet, and maybe sometime I’ll make another with more patterned fabric as the original pattern suggests.


The pattern is free on Ravelry: Crochet Spring Bunny by Stephanie Jessica Lau



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January 17, 2014 08:08 AM

January 13, 2014

Terri

What Terri's Playing: Marvel Puzzle Quest

I've got more than a few reviews in my queue, photos to process, and grand dreams to finish.  I actually checked off a step in the latter category, making my first playable Android game.  (It was for an online course, but I'll put the apk & code up for others to poke at once the assignment is marked.)

Speaking of Android games, though, it's occurred to me that although I play games pretty frequently, I don't talk about them much here. So here's part 1 in a series of "what I've been playing lately" :

Marvel Puzzle Quest
Marvel puzzle quest

Puzzle quest was one of my favourite games for the Nintendo DS.  I played not only puzzle quest, but also puzzle quest 2 and the hexagonal Galactrix all through to the end, which is spectacular given how few games I have time to finish.  (Although to be fair, DS games are shorter so I tend to finish them more often).  It blends a simple RPG with a fight system based around the match-3 mechanic (aka Bejewelled) and makes it work.  You have characters with different powers that are fueled by the colours you match off the game board, and beyond the match-3 strategy, there's some further thinking you can do in producing combos with different character powers, and making good use of one-game powerups that you get occasionally.

Marvel Puzzle Quest is exactly what you'd expect from the name alone: same gameplay, now with snarky comments from Marvel characters between games.  That's pretty much the sequel I never knew to want!

The base game is free, but like many such games you can pay for upgrades to do things like level faster or buy extra character slots.  You do acquire the same types of points within the game, so there's no need to pay if you're patient and willing to blitz your way through the odd tournament or event.  I don't really see the point in paying to go through the game faster, but it is really quite nice to have a few extra character slots.  It has optional Facebook integration, which periodically allows you to send random in-game items to your facebook friends.  I don't have many facebook friends playing, alas, but I do send stuff to John, and I'd be happy to send stuff to other folk!

I have only 2 complaints: 
1. It requires you to be online, so no playing when you have no data (this was very sad when I was on the airplane and would have loved to get my puzzle quest fix!).
2. It's *very* big and thus didn't fit on my sister's older phone, which is very sad 'cause I totally wanted to send her in-game items!

I've been playing this game in frequent little spurts since November or so, and I expect I'll be playing it for quite some time to come, since I'm enjoying getting new characters and learning to combine their various skills.  It's a few minutes per match, so perfect for train rides and waiting for my toast to pop in the morning.

Link: Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign



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January 13, 2014 09:43 AM

January 06, 2014

Terri

Portland

Went for a hike today. This was at the top of the hill we climbed:



Definitely a day for "OMG, I can't believe we live here now" moments. I left a cold snap behind in Ottawa, and came to a land of moss and... well, okay, it's still below freezing, but not quite so far below.



Also, look, new year, new camera, new computer to handle processing! I've got a huge backlog but for now, I'm just going to go like I've declared photo bankruptcy and start trying to keep up with the new. Today, however, the setup took long enough that I'll be stopping at 2 photos (for my AAW submissions) so that I actually get some sleep before work tomorrow.

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January 06, 2014 08:56 AM

December 16, 2013

Terri

#NotYourAsianSidekick

Just a quick note: if you aren't following the #NotYourAsianSidekick hashtag on twitter, you're sort of missing out. It started as a discussion on Asian feminism, but has branched out to be a bigger discussion focused around race.

I'm just gonna put this comic here while I try to remember how to log in to tumblr...



And a note to self that perhaps I should write a public version of the "not f'ing docile" post.

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December 16, 2013 07:14 AM