# Planet Systers GSoC

## May 14, 2015

### Terri

#### Yarn of the Month Club review, April 2015

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 is my third yarn of the month club envelope, which is significant because I only paid for 3 months up-front and promised myself I’d make a decision thereafter. Only two samples once again, but I liked them!

The samples for April 2015:

## Pattern: Spring Showers Hood

This is a cute little pattern that I’m tempted to make just to see if I’d use it. I’m not much for cowls, but I like hats, so maybe? No author given, no reference to it in ravelry, so I guess it’s just a YOTM special.

## Tenzing

Tenzing

“This is a great blend. The merino gives it bounce and the yak adds just a little haze.”

6.25 sts/inch on US 3-4

85% Merino Wool 15% Yak

153 yds Color: 13

I love this yarn. Soft but shows off the stitch pattern nicely. I’ve definitely pet yak-blend yarns before, since J has a particular fondness for Blue Moon Fiber Arts’ YAKSI Fingering in Tardis Blue, but I hadn’t knit anything with yak in it myself. This was definitely a treat!

Look at it, even before it was blocked:

I liked this stitch motif for the swatch, which makes a nice zigzaggy cable across the top of each rib. It’s nice and stretchy, but a little more solid than a regular rib because of the teensy zig-zag cables. I may have to find a way to use this in a pattern!

And here it is blocked:

I wouldn’t mind picking up some more of this, and I’m definitely interested in trying some more yak blends now, even if they are pricey!

## Azalea

Azalea

“Soft and strong cotton”

5.5 sts/inch on US 6

100% Printed Cotton

262 yds Color: 207 Monet

This is a really nice soft cotton. Not fuzzy the way the yak yarn is, but easy to bend and knit. It tends to unwind a bit; the loose twist that helps with the softness doesn’t do you favours in the “staying together” department, but I think the balance in that tradeoff was ok.

What I don’t like about this yarn is the way the colourway looks when it’s knit up. It looks ok in the ball. Interesting, at least. But put it together into a stitch pattern and it seriously makes this look like a grimy paint rag:

I’m not a huge fan of the “bluebell rib” swatch pattern provided, as it once again looks like a bunch of nostrils to me, and I think I probably should have flipped my yarn overs so that both holes worked out to be the same size, but I decided to just run with it rather than re-knit.

I don’t think this colourway does any favours the bluebell rib, unless you figure providing camouflage so you can’t see stacks of noses in photo is good. It’s a bit easier to see the shapes in person than in the blocked photos below, but it’s still not great.

I think I actually like the reverse side better in this case! But I did enjoy the yarn even if I think the colourway is too much and the stitch pattern is too nasal. I would consider buying this in another colour if I had a project that could use a soft cotton.

### Conclusion

Even though there were only two samples this month, these two were both really fun yarns to try out and they weren’t very much like other yarns I already have, so I’m pretty pleased! I definitely feel like I got more bang for my buck than last month.

Drip irrigation timer – 880/mo. @ $1.24 CPC #### Market facts Drip irrigation – 110,000/mo. @$1.84 CPC
Drip irrigation system – 22,200/mo. @ $1.91 CPC Drip watering system – 18,100/mo. @$1.86 CPC
Drip irrigation supplies – 2,900/mo. @ $1.77 CPC Garden irrigation – 40,500/mo. @$2.15 CPC
Home irrigation –

#### Market Facts

Sod  – 4,090,000/mo. @ $1.60 CPC Sod cost / Cost of sod – 33,100/mo. @$1.44 CPC
Lawn grass – 1,220,000/mo. @ $1.57 CPC Grass seed – 301,000/mo. @$1.57 CPC
Bermuda grass – 90,500/mo. @ $1.56 CPC Kentucky bluegrass – 49,500/mo.$1.44
Zoysia grass – 40,500/mo. @ $1.27 CPC Artificial turf – 110,000/mo. @$3.35 CPC
Synthetic turf  – 74,000/mo. @ $3.30 CPC Artificial grass – 165,000/mo. @$3.37 CPC

All keyword stats courtesy of KeywordSpy.com

Image “Garden Irrigation Computer” by Wikipedia user Jarlhelm. CC-BY-SA-2.5

## February 23, 2015

### Terri

#### Yarn of the Month Club review, February 2015

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 month, I joined a yarn subscription club that No One Talks About on the Internet. So of course, I’m going to talk about it on the internet. I hope I’m not breaking some unspoken rule by telling you about it. Oh heck, who am I kidding? I’ll probably be pleased if I broke some rule. Knowledge for all!

First, though, let’s back up to how I wound up joining this club. I’ve been intrigued for a while by the idea of yarn subscriptions.

On the plus side:

+ Surprise yarn!

+ Trying new things!

+ Learning about new dyers and mills and whatever!

+ Getting some patterns to inspire me!

+ And having enough yarn to complete the projects!

But on the down side:

– Most of the boxes are moderately expensive. Around $40/month is pretty normal, and you can pay much more. – … so if you hate what you get, you’re going feel like you’ve wasted a lot of money – I don’t think I actually use 2+ skeins of yarn every month, so it’s going to start to pile up Some pricing: Knitcrate has 6 subscription types, ranging from$22.50 for 5 minis/month to $65/month for indie yarns. Likely subscription for me would have been$55 for an intermediate/advanced box.

Yarnbox: $35.95/month, more for the luxe version (presumably) There are lots of others, but those were the two that came up the most. In the course of doing some research about options, I encountered Yarn of the Month, which sends out little teensy yarn samples instead of full skeins. Because it’s only a taste of yarn rather than a full meal, it rings in as a$9.25/month subscription (less if you get a few months at once). That hits that sweet spot on subscription boxes for me, where it’s easy to write off a bad month and won’t result in rapidly growing pile of stuff in my life. I’d miss out on some of the advantages, in exchange I’d basically wipe out all the disadvantages I listed, and instead miss out on extras that fancier boxes throw in. (That’s actually kind of a shame because I haven’t been knitting long enough to acquire a lot of the small tools that show up as extras!)

What finally pushed me to the decision brink was the assertion that you’d be able to do little 5 inch swatches from your teeny yarn balls, and put them together to have a blanket at the end of the year. So it wouldn’t even be a pile of craft clutter when I was done admiring them, and I’d be motivated to actually *use* the yarn. Awesome!

The problem is, I couldn’t find pictures of the yarn, the swatches, or even many people talking about this club. It was a giant social media void. I could find pictures for yarnbox, pictures for knitcrate, pictures for random yarn of the month clubs on etsy… but only a few forum stale threads for Yarn of the Month.

What to do? I contemplated for a bit, then figured I could afford to try it out and see what happened. But in the interest of helping others, I was darned well going to post some pictures when (if?) I actually got a shipment!

So here’s a review. Hopefully the lack of posts about the yarn is a lack of social media marketing rather than a sign that I have paid money into some sort of mysterious yarn cult that will be upset at this breach of unspoken social etiquette.

First, let me show you the yarn again on a different background to give you a sense of colour:

I guess February was kind of red themed for valentine’s day.

Not pictured: the February Socks pattern from Birgitte Zeuner and instructions for 3 square swatches. Frankly, they’re printed on thin US letter paper and just not that attractive as a photography subject after being mooshed through the mail. Totally legible, but I might have invested in stiffer paper if I were running YOTM.

## February Socks by Birgitte Zeuner

The February Socks pattern looks cute enough. I would have liked better pictures, but obviously I can find them on Ravelry so that works out.

Unfortunately, having just finished my first pair of adult socks, I’m not actually that excited about starting another one, so I think this is getting shelved indefinitely. I’m going to have to find a binder I can put these in! Maybe I’ll find a friend who’s super excited about this and I can pass it on, though.

## Angora Lace

Angora Lace

“Luxurious with a delicate bloom”

6.5 sts/inch on US 2

50% Merino Superwash 20% Angora 30% Nylon

462 yds Color: 102

This is soft and lovely in the ball as one would expect for Angora, and quite pleasant to knit with. It’s not fluffy and doesn’t seem to shed (ask me about my experience knitting pure angora bunny fur sometime) but instead just results in beautifully soft yarn. It’s tightly wound enough that it doesn’t split on those little size 2 needles, and it held up to some unknitting as I tried to end my swatch as close to the end of the ball as possible and mis-calculated.

It’s not the easiest thing to photograph since it is subtly fluffy and catches the light a lot, but that’s only annoying for the purposes of this post and not in general. (Actually, I’d totally be into anti-photography yarn… I should work on that with some retroreflective stuff.)

The swatch pattern provided uses double-wrapped knitting stitches, a technique I hadn’t tried but a video tutorial wasn’t too hard to find. I actually usually prefer non-video tutorials, but this one is short and clear. You put the needle through as if to knit then wrap the yarn twice instead of once around and knit those, leaving two loops on. then when you come across it in the next few rows, you don’t bother trying to keep those doubled but instead slip stitch through them, leaving you with one longer stitch floating over the fabric.

Here’s one regular vs one weirdly processed photo to show you the floating stitches:

The finished piece is super soft and pretty light. I suspect it'd be pretty warm, but it's hard to tell with just a swatch!

## Saki Bamboo

Saki Bamboo

“Soft and yummy with great stitch definition”

7 sts/inch on US 0

50% Merino Superwash 25% Nylon 25% Rayon from Bamboo

230 yds Color: 203

This one feels great in the ball, all silky smooth, but I found it actually a bit odd to work with. While I’m knitting it, it has that sort of squeaky/roughish feel that I associate with some acrylics, even though the finished piece feels nice.

I was so pleased when I figured out the swatch pattern:

I’m thinking that I might see if I can incorporate this into the hem of a baby sweater in the near future. I’m not sure I’d buy this yarn, though. It wasn’t hard to work with and it does as promised have great stitch definition, but with so many yarns in the world “feels a little weird to knit” is enough to drop it off my personal to-buy list. I’ve never knit with bamboo before so I don’t know if that’s a function of the fiber or if I just didn’t love this particular blend, but I suspect the latter so maybe I’ll try some other bamboo blends out.

And finally here is is, blocking on my chair, so you can see the repeats better:

The finished, blocked piece is smooth and very light, so it might be a great for summer knits. To be honest, I like the stitch pattern best when it’s a single row, but the swatch was still fun to do!

## Saki Silk

Saki Silk

“Beautiful, subtle sheen and drape”

7 sts/inch on US 2

55% Fine Merino 25% Nylon 20% Silk

440 yds Color: 305

Silk blend yarn is one of my favourite treats for myself. I’m not sure that the stitch pattern really showed off the drape at all, though:

It’s kind of a bumpy rib pattern with twisted stitches. It’s quite dense and doesn’t drape at all! What’s neat about this pattern is that it’s very reversible and feels completely different on both sides.

The bumpy rib side:

Much smoother back:

The smooth side is where this yarn really appeals, since it’s got that little bit of silky slippery-ness.

I would strongly consider using this to replace ribbing on worn items like sweaters and mitts, since I like the look of the one side and the feel of the other.

The one thing that this pattern does show off is the yarn’s stitch definition:

Overall, I liked working with this yarn a fair bit: it’s soft, easy to work with, doesn’t snag too much, and the results are reasonably striking. I do wish I had a way to see if I actually like the drape, but I enjoyed the swatch pattern so much that it’s hard to really mind.

## So in conclusion…

Do I still want a fancier, more expensive, larger yarn subscription?

Heck yeah, they sound lovely. But while I can afford more, this seems like a good balance of price and quantity for me. I think I’ll aim to spend money in my local yarn stores (there are so many here!) rather than risking it on a larger subscription at the moment.

Am I happy with this month’s box?

Heck yeah! I *loved* making the swatches. I’d never done any of those stitch patterns before, and I’m glad to add to my repertoire. And I’m glad to have tried all the yarns, although I’m not sure I’d run out and buy more of any of them unless I had a specific project in mind. But I really like having samples of them all so I can tell if they *would* fit a given project.

## February 16, 2015

### Terri

#### February 2015 Knit-a-long: week 1 and 2

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.

A local designer (PDXKnitterati) started advertising her February Knit-a-long (KAL) and I thought I’d give it a try. It’s an excuse to try out one of her lovely patterns, to take more pictures for sharing (I definitely need more practice photographing my knitting projects to best effect) and there are even prizes, which is fun. This one came at just the right time for me, since those rainbow socks (see previous post) had been almost ready to come off the needles and I needed a push to get them done.

I’ve never tried a KAL before, although I guess I did have a mutual “create as many crocheted angry birds as possible before PAX East” pact with my friend M one year, which I guess is sort of similar, maybe?

Feb 1st, I gathered up my ingredients… The pattern I’m using comes out of the Knitpicks “under 100″ (as in under 100g of yarn).

The yarn is Knitpicks Gloss fingerling in the Kennai colourway. (Two 50g hanks, you see?)

I had 3 bead options, all of which I liked. At a suggestion, I tried a swatch with them all to see which ones worked best for me:

The silver and gold were clearly better than the blue/greens (which barely showed up) but what really decided me was thinking of ferns and what the fruiting bodies look like:

Fern fruiting bodies (pairs of them running along the underside of the frond) from A Digital Flora
Vascular Plants

The pattern beads are designed to go in the center, but I liked the idea of brown to remind me of real ferns anyhow. Perhaps someday I’ll work on some fern lace with pairs of beads, though!

Here’s what it looks like in the shawl:

After a few false starts and times where I had to rip back to where I went wrong, I finally made it through a few repeats of the pattern. Here’s how far I was near the end of the first week:

I guess I must have been tired since I blocked it upside-down. Thankfully, that doesn’t matter!

Now that we’re at the end of week 2, I’ve gotten much further! Here’s one to show the current length.

I was actually the lucky recipient of the week 1 prize, which was a pair of bead aids. This has made it way easier to put on the beads, as previously I was using a teensy crochet hook that didn’t quite grab all the yarn, so sometimes it would take me 2 (or more!) tries to get the bead on. The bead aids are much easier to get right, so that’s helped a lot. Here’s a wingpsan-y view to show the beads and the detail of that blocked tip while it’s rightside up!

And finally, here’s a photo with real live ferns!

Those last photos were taken along the Columbia River Gorge, since we have an out-of-town friend visiting and since she’s a photographer and it’s been a gorgeous weekend, we’ve been trying to hit some prime photo spots. So to round this out, here’s a picture of the famous Multnomah Falls:

It’s a bit of a unusual photo because the falls are usually photographed vertically to show off how tall they are. I was showing off my new very wide lens to my boyfriend, which is why I took this one, but I kind of like it because it’s not a shot you see that much! (Sadly, I didn’t get it perfectly horizontal, so clearly I’ll have to try this again another day…)

Want more KAL photos? I have an album for them which has a few that I didn’t put here. More waterfalls will probably show up in my flickr photostream shortly as I process the weekend’s photos.

## February 09, 2015

### Terri

#### Making my own yarn swift

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.

A yarn swift is something that holds a hank of yarn so you can wind it into a ball or skein. Here’s a useful link on the typical ways to package yarn, in case you’re not familiar.

When I was mostly buying relatively inexpensive yarn at the craft store for amigurumi, I’d get it in skein form and be ready to go. Which is awesome! But those ultra-washable bright coloured acrylics that I enjoy for crochet don’t work as well for some of the fancier knitting patterns and colour work I want to do now — it really helps to have some forgiving natural fiber that can be wetted and reshaped to look just so.

(Yarn snobs here might give me a hard time over the synthetic yarns, but they still have a place in my repertoire!)

So the end result is that I get a lot more yarn in “hank” form, and while I find winding balls to be pretty relaxing, I don’t love trying to wrap the yarn around my knees and keep it from getting tangled as I do it.

Thankfully, the internet knows how to make a yarn swift. I modified this a bit, because I didn’t care as much about portability and I wanted something a bit smoother with some real ball bearings in there, so when John and I were wandering around the hardware store finding parts, he came up with the idea of using a Lazy Susan bearing.

This one was a joint effort between me and John, with him doing a lot of the heavy work and me doing more of the detailing. I feel a bit silly about this, as I’d intended to do it myself, but he’s got much steadier hands and greater strength so it’s probably safer to have him to it. He did teach me to use the router, though, which is one of the few pieces of woodworking equipment we own that I’d never used!

But mostly I took photos and measured and turned things over to John for drilling or cutting:

I also cleaned the garage workspace, vacuumed, and at least tried to keep him company. I also did some sanding and hand filing for things that didn’t quite match up. As you may have noticed in that earlier picture, neither of us is super precise at the routing.

I asked John to round the ends so they wouldn’t catch on the yarn, and he did a lovely job, then I stained the whole thing up, let it dry, and reassembled it… only to find that the pegs for holding the yarn no longer fit in the holes due to expansion. Oops. A bit of drilling later, though, and we got it up and running.

Stained pieces:

First test with yarn!

You might recognize the stain as the same one I used on Puppy K-9, as this is the only stain we own.

Here’s the final product:

I’m pretty happy with it! I wish I’d looked for a smaller bearing than the lazy Susan as I found out that it’s possible to fit a yarn tail into the bearings where it gets all slimy from the lubricant. But that’s what the store had, and it does make this a pretty solid device. And I only got the yarn tail caught once out of the 5 balls I’ve done on it so far, so it’s reasonably avoidable if you know you need to wind up the tail on a pole.

I do like how it looks so fancy all stained up. I was worried that I’d find it too bulky and be sad I hadn’t gone with the collapsible version, but I’m actually kind of tempted to try sticking it to the wall with that 3m wall hook stuff and seeing if I can use it as functional art!

## February 08, 2015

### Terri

#### Birchbox January 2015

I finally dropped my Wantable subscription, since I'm at the point where I didn't really need more soft bras, sleepware, or even probably socks for a while.

To be fair, I don't need makeup either... but Birchbox is fun and only $10/month. :) Here's January's box: My blush brush is in there for scale (not included in the box). # Davines OI / Shampoo This was a very generous sample! The shampoo lathers well, cleans nicely, and the smell doesn't linger too strongly once my hair is dry. But it is pretty strong while still wet and honestly, the smell just wasn't for me. # Davines OI / Conditioner The instructions for this suggest you towel dry hair, apply, and then rinse out. I agree that this needs a rinse out because the smell is much too strong otherwise. But that's way too much work unless the product does something amazing, or smells so great that you'd want to be in a cloud of it all day. Sadly, I don't love the smell, and my existing leave-in does just as nice a job on my hair while being less hassle. Given my dislike for the smell of this, I couldn't really bring myself to use it as directed and put it directly in my hair. I may eventually try it as an overnight hair mask, but only if I've got enough time to wash my hair thoroughly in the morning. # Sweet Science Invisible Daily Tint SPF 35 Nice, simple tinted sunscreen, smells vaguely fresh and citrus-like. Cute container. Hard to blend because it's so thick and sticky, but that might mean good things as far as being effective sunscreen. You can see how thick it is by how the sample is a giant blob on the lid: Still, it looks hilarious while I'm putting it on: # Mirenesse Mattfinity Lip Rouge I love the cityscape packaging! (I tried to get a picture of it but it's more a thing you see as you turn it in your hand. Lovely, though!) All of these are named for cities and I got the "New York" colour, which is a bright red with a hint of orange to make it more coral-like. I was worried because the applicator looked kind of sketchy (think gooey velvet) but the product itself is nice. Here's a picture of the brush. It's sort of scoop shaped with a slimy velvet cover. Works, but not exactly a texture sensation. (You can also see that the silver "new york" lettering on the cap is suffering some from a few trips to work in my pocket.) And here's a very simple look with me wearing the tinted sunscreen and the lip rouge (note how it looks more orange on my lips than it does in the tube): I like it! # Essentiel Elements Wake Up Rosemary Body Lotion The old school medicine bottle really works with the slightly medicinal scent of this body lotion, while still feeling fancy. I am strangely taken with this little body lotion as a result! Birchbox combined with J's mom kind of keeps me in more body lotion that I'm going to use, but I'd consider buying this because I find it amusing. # Harvey Prince Hello Liquid Loofah Normally I complain about scents, but I actually kind of adore "Hello" which is some sort of citrus-y thing. I feel like it makes me feel more awake in the shower, although I suppose that could be the caffeine. I'm not so sure about the whole "liquid loofah" thing, though: this is such a light exfoliant that I can barely feel it if I apply it to my face, which is usually too sensitive for such things. But as a shower gel, it works and I like the smell, and that's basically all I want. In conclusion... I disliked the scent of the hair products, but the rest was pretty good! comments #### Book Reviews, the novels and the nonfiction, January 2015 Night Broken (A Mercy Thompson Novel) by Patricia Briggs This wasn't my favourite Mercy Thompson book since I'm not a huge fan of passive-aggressive relationship crap (and there's plenty of that as Adam's ex wife comes to stay with them), but the rest of the book is good, and Coyote's in fine form as always. Definitely not the finest book of the series, but not one to miss if you're already a fan! Closer to Home: Book One of Herald Spy (Valdemar) by Mercedes Lackey This is a book that seriously pleases my inner teenager, although my adult self notices and wishes for more for the women of Valdemar. I don't know how well it would stand up if you weren't already familiar with the world, but if you loved Mercedes Lackey as a kid, this is a nice journey back to Valdemar. Ashes of Honor (October Daye) by Seanan McGuire I'm a big fan of Seanan McGuire's InCryptid books (as well as her books written as Mira Grant) but I'd found the October Daye series hard to get into because poor Toby takes so much abuse. So I would read a novel, think "that was amazing but I can't take another of those" and wait 6 months before spotting one on a library shelf and thinking "oh, right, I should figure out which one I read last..." Toby's still getting beaten up a lot, but in this novel especially I feel like she's finally getting into her own, and directing her destiny rather than just getting tossed around. But what made this particular book amazing to me was that it marks the first time where I read an October Daye book and thought "I need the next one right now." Chimes at Midnight (October Daye) by Seanan McGuire (... so of course, here's the next one!) In this book, Toby gets her whole network of friends an allies working to save the world, and you can finally see where she really shines. I found it very satisfying to watch all those threads come together and see the major and minor reveals for so many characters. It does feel a lot like this is the book that the series has been heading towards, whether you knew it or not. In some series, this would be in the end, but for October Daye, this seems to be a new beginning. The Iron Trial (Book One of Magisterium) by Holly Black, Cassandra Clare I've really enjoyed both Holly Black and Cassandra Clare's books, so I was really excited to hear about this one. It's a pretty standard magical-high-school setup in a lot of ways, but plays with the tropes and tosses in red herrings to keep it interesting. Unfortunately, I got this as an audiobook and the reader didn't exemplify what the voice in my head said Callum should feel like. I've never had this problem with an audiobook before! It was *really* distracting to deal with this constant dissonance, and I think I enjoyed the book less as a result. I'm curious enough to still be anticipating the next volume in this series, but I think I'll get a hardcover instead of an audiobook. And then, finally, a couple of non-fiction knitting books that I checked out as possible additions to my library: 200 Fair Isle Motifs: A Knitter's Directory by Mary Jane Mucklestone This collection of Fair Isle motifs is nicely laid out, well photographed and explained. I can definitely see this being a worthwhile reference book for those doing a lot of colourwork. I'm not really there yet, but I'm happy that my public library has a copy. Knitter's Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters: Basic Designs in Multiple… by Ann Budd I've got a goal of doing a sweater for the first time this year, and got this out of the library to get a better sense of pattern design. I found it clear and helpful, but I have a feeling that I'm going to have to actually construct a sweater to really grok how to apply the advice. I will probably put it on my list of books to own for my personal library, though. comments ## February 02, 2015 ### Terri #### Rainbow Socks 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. When I started knitting, I promised myself I wouldn’t bother making socks. It’s just too much work for something that wears right out, I told myself. But gradually, I’ve started to notice that sock patterns have a lot of technique in them that I wanted to learn, and they’re much smaller and more manageable than a sweater. So here’s my first adult-sized socks: The pattern is “ballet socks” from Melissa Morgan-Oakes’ book “Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks” (yes, I bought a sock book in a sale). I wanted to get some more complex cable practice, learn how to turn a heel, and make use of the lovely chroma yarn. It was slow to start and I kind of put these away in September when I started a big Christmas project (which I’ll show when I organize the photos!) But I’m almost done. I was going to cast off a bit back, but the colour lengths aren’t *exactly* identical in the two balls of yarn and I knew it would drive me nuts if one side hit the green and the other hadn’t, so I’m doing another repeat so they’ll both be in green. The plan is to finish them tonight so I can start the next project today. But it’ll be dark by the time I finish, so you get pictures now. comments ## January 31, 2015 ### Terri #### Brief Comic Reviews, January 2015 It looks like I've read ~20 books this year already, although a lot of them were graphic novels so that's not quite as impressive as it might seem. Still, I'm going to break this up into a couple of posts and putting all the comics in one is as good a way as any to do it. Oh, and remember that list? This first one ticks off a few boxes: ✓ A book with a color in the title ✓ A book by a female author ✓ A book from an author you love that you haven't read yet ✓ A graphic novel I expect some of those are going to be ticked off a lot of times on my list. Obviously the last one is *so* done now. ;) Red Sonja Volume 1: Queen of the Plagues by Gail Simone, Walter Geovani (Illustrator), Simon Bowland (Contributor) I've never been particularly into the barbarians and had been turned off the chicks-in-chainmail overly sexualized look of Red Sonja covers in comic books stores, but I bought some Humble Comics Bundle specifically for this book, as I've liked Gail Simone's other work. Reading this book brings me back to that time when S decided to carry a dead cat through all of Icewind Dale. She'll know what I mean, but maybe most of you won't. So instead I'll say that I wasn't disappointed. This book features a Red Sonja that makes her strangely reminiscent of my sister: fierce in protecting her friends, determined to see things through to the end, occasionally capricious, and also quite happy to disregard the opinions of others when they're stupid. ;) I'd never really thought of the barbarian fighter in this way except when S is playing them. It's a fun read, both a little subversive and a tribute to the genre. Wolverine Volume 2: Killable (Marvel Now) by Paul Cornell, Marvel Comics (Illustrator), Alan Davis (Illustrator), Mirco Pierfederici (Illustrator) From the "Wolverine's lost his healing powers and his enemies have found out" setup you'd this this book would be an epic battlefest, but the authors actually thought about what lost powers meant not only physically and tactically but also emotionally, not only for Wolverine but also for his friends and allies. This one has some surprisingly sweet and bittersweet moments. I have to admit, though, it wasn't vividly memorable for me and writing this review weeks later is hard. (This may tick off "✓ A book by an author you've never read before" judging from the list they have for him on wikipedia) X-Men by Brian Wood - Volume 1: Blank Generation by Brian Wood, David Lopez (Illustrator) Loved the art on this one, but I felt like I'd missed too much back story to really enjoy it, which is weird since it's a "volume 1" kind of deal. Gambit, Vol. 1: Once A Thief by James Asmus, Clay Mann (Illustrator), Diogenes Neves (Illustrator) To be honest, I barely remember anything about this one other than the art was nice. The Dreamer: The Consequence of Nathan Hale (Pt. 1) by Lora Innes High school drama crossed with historical romance via Very Intense Dreams. I got drawn to this one as a webcomic because of the art, but Lora Innes' sheer joy in history makes it worth sticking around for. (Also worth going to read her blog posts about the real history behind the story!) The Dreamer webcomic has just started up again after a hiatus, but if you're going to check it out for the first time right now, go back to the beginning, because those last few comics really don't make any sense unless you know the characters. Oh look, there's ✓ A book by a female author again! Also, ✓ A book based on a true story, although perhaps this isn't exactly what folk mean when they say that. Young Avengers Volume 3: Mic-Drop at the Edge of Time and Space (Marvel… by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie (Illustrator) I actually kind of hated volume 2 (too much chaos not enough depth for my liking), but this pushed past the "running aimlessly through dimensions" and into the "time to turn around and fight our mind-controlled parents and save the world" point. All in all, a nice wrap-up to the story arc. Hawkeye Volume 3: L.A. Woman (Marvel Now) by Matt Fraction, Annie Wu (Illustrator), Javier Pulido (Illustrator) After the last volume, I'd been kind of wondering why this series had been getting so many accolades. (It's not awful, it just didn't seem as amazing as I was hearing.) But I understand now: it's not just about the Clint Barton Hawkeye, it's been the Kate Bishop hawkeye that makes the whole thing fit together and work. The comics were actually interleaved in original publishing, this book collects #14, 16, 18, 20. I understand why they collected them separately, but I think I would have enjoyed the Barton Hawkeye story so much more if I'd read it contrasted with the Bishop Hawkeye story. Kate's story is funny, clever, and so very human. The Infernal Devices 3: Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare, Hyekyung Baek (Illustrator) I think the manga adaptations of these books are kind of adorable, and this one does not disappoint. I'm not sure it'll be as meaningful without having read the novel, though. Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal by Marvel Comics After a poor experience trying to read the new X-men series as single issues (The format's a bit too short for me and I found the advertising was outright disruptive), I waited for a collected volume on this one to avoid making the same mistake. As I started hearing more and more hype, I started worrying that the book itself would never live up to the things I'd heard. Thankfully, that wasn't my experience. The book is sweet, hitting some nerdy superhero teenager tropes I like, and playing off the non-white north american experience in a way that felt unsurprising after reading Secret Identities and getting so many comics recs off Angry Asian Man, but it's nice to see these things in such a big title. And Kamala isn't just written as a minority, where it's that part of her that defines her: she's also practical, smart, adorkable, and just enough introspective to give her sudden superheroism a depth that sometimes you don't see in the first volume of a new series. I look forwards to more, and I guess having chickened out and gone with the library copy instead of buying it the day it came out, I may go invest in my own copy now. ;) Black Widow & The Marvel Girls by Paul Tobin, Salva Espin (Illustrator), Jacopo Camagni (Illustrator) This is a series of shorts about Black Widow teaming up with other women of the Marvel universe. I wasn't sold on the first tale, but the others were kind of neat looks into different depths of her character. Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic, Vol. 1 by Shinobu Ohtaka This inspried-by-arabian nights manga just didn't do it for me. Too many over-the-top OMG REACTION moments, too much chaos and silliness, not enough story or character. It's a genre for low-attention-span boys, though, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I suspect this one could deepen to more, but I couldn't even make it through the first volume without wanting to skim it. Soul Eater NOT!, Vol. 1 by Atsushi Ohkubo This one's cute: A new girl starts at a school for humans who can transform into weapons and the human "meister" (weaponmasters) who will pair up to become superheroes. I expected this to be kind of silly, but there was just enough in this to make me curious as to what happens next. I guess I have to find the next volume! PS: ✓ A book set in high school ✓ A book with magic The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks, Various (Illustrator) The intro describes this as a story about being human, but also a superhero. This is exactly what gives it such charm, and Faith Erin Hicks' adorable art makes it perfect. It also doesn't hurt that it's also very Canadian. (Why do the cats like the prime minister so much? Is a superhero qualified to work at Tim Horton's?) I think this is a book I need to own! comments ## January 27, 2015 ### Anne #### AndroidDebugging.com: “Appraised” for$2,350, Sells for $6 [ A Domaining Update] # Sherprog Goes Domaining… This winter, we’ve leapt into “domaining.” Domaining is the hobby or business of participating in the domain name aftermarket. Last week our first domain name auction on Flippa.com closed. Anne decided this winter to thin out her domain coffers, and the first auction to go live was a lot of two related domains: AndroidDebugging.com ($60, Estibot) and AndroidDebugger.com ($55, Estibot). They were both English-language exact-keyword-match .com domains. It looked good to me. ## The Generous Appraisal, or the “Wisdom” of the Masses Just for kicks and vanity, I submitted AndroidDebugging.com to Flippa’s crowd-powered estimation forum. You can amuse yourself with the results here. While a few Flippa users made earnest stabs that fell close to our Estibot and GoDaddy appraisals, e.g. the$60-90 range, the majority of participants tossed out four-or-five figure numbers, with $10,000 capping things off. We were…flattered, I guess, by the enthusiasm. (It turns out if you appraise 15 domains a week, you can get one free listing per week, so maybe I should start throwing out some fun numbers too just to circumvent that$9 Flippa listing fee…)

Just one lay-appraiser voiced the con I was worried about. I was aware trademark issues would limit the potential uses of the domain to only those that could be considered “fair use” of the Android brand name.

## AndroidDebugging.com at Auction

After a $9 listing fee and another$9 for “promotion” (Bold listing title? Heck, yeah, I want it bold), the auction went live. And dormant. For 14 days.

With two hours to go on Day Zero, our first bid came in. One crisp and green US dollar! Well, one digital and insubstantial PayPal dollar–or, more accurately, since it cost eighteen to list, negative seventeen dollars. But, hey, it felt good to have a bid.

Fortunately, another bidder chimed in, taking it up to $6. Unfortunately, someone I opted against a reserve hoping to attract more interest by doing so. Oh well, I guess I can feel good about giving one lucky bidder a heckuva sweet deal…and hope that my boss can too, ha ha (nervous laughter). Ha. … ha… ### THE STATS Appraised:$120.00 (both domains)
Sold: $6.00 Profit: -$12.00.

# Domains for Sale

Watch our current and upcoming domain name auctions!

BackCountryCampsite.com — Active Listing
DripTimer.com — Coming Soon
TurfCalculator.com — Coming Soon
BrainRN.com — Coming Soon

## January 26, 2015

### Terri

#### Pastasaurus and friends

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.

Continuing in my quest to process more photos, I’ve started aiming to do the Active Assignment Weekly challenges on Flickr. I think some of my favourite photos came from doing their challenges, but I hadn’t participated in a long time.

Here’s this week’s, the Pastasaurus:

He normally lives on our microwave so he’s ready whenever pasta needs stirring!

And here’s some from last week, the robots that make our neutral-toned rental less boring:

I also uploaded some older photos from the Flock and Fiber festival, as part of my campaign to get old photos processed, but frankly I wasn’t that thrilled with them. Still, I got to experiment with some processing tricks I wanted to try, so that was cool!

## A Rage Comics Infographic

This is why, when you’re crossing the great platform divide and producing both iOS and Android versions of your app, you should trial run on Google Play first. Then, when all the kinks are worked out, you can submit it to the time-consuming Apple process. We find that if you need to make revisions to the app after publishing, the time involved in the Apple process adds up.

{Click image to embiggen}

Publishing an App on Google Play Versus the Apple App Store: a Rage Cartoon Infographic by your friends at Sherprog

FACE US ON LIKEBOOK!

## January 12, 2015

### Terri

I got this list from popsugar. Well, actually from some social media post long forgotten, but I tracked down the original source. Here's a link.

It's a fun list, but I'm irked that it's an image that doesn't have enough space for me to scribble down notes in between. So here it is in text, for my use later. I doubt I'll chase down all of them, but it might be fun to search for a few of the ones I wouldn't have checked off on my own!

❑ A book with more than 500 pages
❑ A classic romance
❑ A book that became a movie
❑ A book published this year
❑ A book with a number in the title
❑ A book written by someone under 30
❑ A book with nonhuman characters
❑ A funny book
❑ A book by a female author
❑ A mystery or thriller
❑ A book with a one-word title
❑ A book of short stories
❑ A book set in a different country
❑ A nonfiction book
❑ A popular author's first book
❑ A book from an author you love that you haven't read yet
❑ A book a friend recommended
❑ A Pulitzer Prize-winning book
❑ A book based on a true story
❑ A book your mom loves
❑ A book that scares you
❑ A book more than 100 years old
❑ A book based entirely on its cover
❑ A book you were supposed to read in school but didn't
❑ A memoir
❑ A book you can finish in a day
❑ A book with antonyms in the title
❑ A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit
❑ A book that came out the year you were born
❑ A book with bad reviews
❑ A trilogy
❑ A book from your childhood
❑ A book with a love triangle
❑ A book set in the future
❑ A book set in high school
❑ A book with a color in the title
❑ A book that made you cry
❑ A book with magic
❑ A graphic novel
❑ A book by an author you've never read before
❑ A book you own but have never read
❑ A book that takes place in your hometown
❑ A book that was originally written in a different language
❑ A book set during Christmas
❑ A book written by an author with your same initials
❑ A play
❑ A banned book
❑ A book based on or turned into a TV show
❑ A book you started but never finished

## January 10, 2015

### Terri

#### Birchbox Dec 2014

It's silly, but I'm always pleased when they send out special-coloured birchboxes. This one is especially pretty and will probably be used to house sewing notions in my craft room so that I can leave it out where I will be admiring it regularly. Sadly, the products inside didn't all live up to the promise of the pretty box, although there was one gem!

Acure Organics Lip Lush

The science of this product is crap. Plant stem cells aren't going to do anything meaningful for your skin, and the papers that claim so are highly suspect (a brief search suggests that they may be the scientific equivalent of tabloid stories about elvis giving birth to bat boy written by someone who's offering to sell you pictures for only $9.99). The company should feel bad and require everyone involved with approving this product to take remedial science classes. I actually liked the lip gloss just fine -- birthday suit is a terribly boring colour, but it smells ok and is a pleasant enough gloss for when your lips are sore and sticky seems like a good idea. It's not an exceptional lip gloss, but it's not a terrible one either. The sample tube did leak a bit so I'm afraid to keep it in my pocket, but it's not great enough that I want it with me all day anyhow. However, no matter how inoffensive the product itself is... As a PhD carrying scientist myself, I absolutely cannot support nonsensical bad science claims like these, so I won't be buying this and I'll be telling anyone who asks that it's bull. [I'm betting birchbox won't publish this review...] Davines Replumping Shampoo, Davines Replumping Conditioner and Davines Replumping Hair Filler Superactive I didn't take pictures of the shampoo and conditioner because they were uninspired packets, and I wanted to make sure I used them before time was up on the reviews (you only get birchbox points for writing reviews if you do it before the 10th of the month!). But here's the "hair filler." While the shampoo seemed effective enough, this made my eyes water before I even started lathering up my hair, and the smell lingered so much after that even my boyfriend, who has a damaged nose and can barely smell things, commented that I smelled weird. To my nose, not only was it too strong, but it smelled... old and musty, I guess. Like really old makeup that has probably gone bad or something. Not for me. Similarly, I thought this did a nice enough job as a conditioner, but it was simply too strongly scented for a leave-in. I wasn't even sure if I should go to work the next morning without washing it out. I wanted to give the spray a fair shot, but to be honest I had to wash it out of my hair after a half hour because the smell was driving me crazy. It was both too intense and just not a scent I want others to associate with me. Benefit They're Real! Mascara I already had a sample of this from Sephora, so I gave the one from my Birchbox to my sister. Facegoop panned this one for the dreaded panda-eye, and I was really perplexed, as I've never had that problem. And if anyone would have it, it would be me, since I am terrible about touching my eyes during the day. But I've finally figured out the discrepancy: I don't wear creams or anything around my eyes usually, but I received one in another birchbox and was trying it out and... voila, panda eyes. So this mascara dissolves in at least one type of eye creme. Mystery solved! So yeah, don't wear under-eye concealer, or try it out for a bit before you go out with both on in case you also have one that dissolves this mascara. As I dislike undereye concealer, this isn't really a problem for me. Their crappy review aside, I like this stuff so much that it has taken me from "eww, mascara" to "hey, maybe I'll wear that sometimes for fun." I guess the idea behind "they're real!" is that this mascara doesn't look that much like you're wearing a pile of eye product. And indeed, it extends the heck out of my lashes (so much so that they brush my sunglasses!) without making me look like I'm trying too hard. It's fun and not too over-the-top to wear to work or the library. I expect makeup samples will fill all my mascara needs unless I stop the subscription box, but I would consider buying this if I ever *did* need to purchase mascara! Color Club Art Duo Pen This was definitely the winner in my birchbox this month! Great little polish with both a thin nail art-brush and a pen applicator where you squeeze the whole bottle. The brush is pretty neat, but it's that teensy pen applicator that really makes this easy to use. I loved my first manicure with it, and I think with a bit of practice, I'm going to be able to make some pretty neat nail art with this! I'm usually pretty hesitant about dotty manicures since anything non-smooth doesn't last too long. One of the nail artists I follow on tumblr says hers last maybe 2 days, and I expect my nails to last around a week. But I put dots all over my nails and they lasted better than expected, so yeay! Yu-Be Moisturizing Skin Cream There was a project a few years back called "Significant Objects" that tested whether people were willing to pay more for an object when a talented writer wrote a story to go with it. I feel like the marketing folk for this moisturizer must have taken those lessons to heart, given the included tale of the Japanese pharmacist's secret and how travelers discovered the cream. That said, I can't help but like the stuff. I like glycerin moisturizers when my skin has been a bit damaged. This one is effective enough, the quickly-fading medicinal scent makes it interesting to apply, and the story *is* good. I may even buy more! (Final picture to show how strangely yellow it is.) Overall, I *really* hated the hair products and was insulted by the lip balm, but the mascara and nail pen are great and I'm pretty pleased with the weird moisturizer too! comments ## January 08, 2015 ### Terri #### Candy Cane Cupcakes (to tempt those with new year's resolutions) 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. Ah, January, the month where one can buy a big box of candy canes in the grocery store for 44 cents. It’s also the month where everyone’s made new years resolutions and don’t want cupcakes. I’m guessing some of my coworkers aren’t going to be impressed with me tomorrow when I bring these in… ## Instructions My plan for this was “make chocolate cupcakes, dip in candy canes, take to work” but here’s a more descriptive version in case you don’t, say, have a favourite chocolate cupcake recipe. ### 1. Make chocolate cupcakes I use the following “wacky cake” recipe: Dry ingredients: 1.5 C flour 1 C sugar 3 tbsp cocoa 1 tsp baking powder 0.5 tsp baking soda Wet ingredients: 1 tsp vanilla 1 tbsp vinegar 1/3 C oil 1 C warm water Preheat oven to 350F Mix the dry ingredients (and get rid of any lumps in the cocoa). Add wet ingredients and stir well. Spoon into baking cups. (around 1/2 to 2/3 full) For mini cupcakes, cook 10 min. For normal sized ones, cook around 18 mins, or until a toothpick inserted can be removed cleanly. Note that I actually make mini and normal sized cupcakes in the same batch. In this case, just pull the tray out of the oven after 10 minutes and grab the little ones off (the silicon liners make it possible for me to do this bare handed, but your mileage may vary), then put the rest back in once you’re done. This may make the tops of the big ones look a bit less than perfect (as you can see in the back of the picture above), but it doesn’t matter since you’ll be covering them anyhow. ### Make vanilla icing I don’t use a recipe for this exactly, but… Spoonful of butter Splash of vanilla Then add alternating icing sugar and milk until you have enough icing. You don’t actually want that much for this, as the extra candy on the side will make them pretty sweet. My cake is actually vegan, so if you wanted to replace this with some sort of vegan icing, you could change this up. I suspect a water-icing sugar glaze would be enough to keep the candy canes on if you were so inclined. ### Crush up some candy canes We used wax paper and a rubber mallet for this. (When I lived in Canada, I’d use a small milk bag instead of wax paper, ’cause those things are stronger, but alas, this part of America does not have milk that comes in bags.) John helped with the unwrapping and crushing duties! ### Put the icing on the cupcakes then roll the rim of the iced cupcake in the crushed candy canes You could, of course, dip them and cover them entirely, but they’re already pretty sweet and crunchy so I figured less is more here. ### Garnish with tiny chunks of fudge I had some leftover fudge so we used that as a final garnish for maximal abuse of new year’s resolutions. ## And finally… Enjoy! Here’s a few extra photos I took in aid of this week’s AAW assignment, which is to use foreground/background to tell a story about two (or more) items, one in focus and one blurred. I thought the rubber mallet we used for crushing candy canes was kind of a funny contrast with the finished cupcakes. comments ## December 07, 2014 ### Terri #### Puppy K-9 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. So, remember a while ago I posted about a work in progress? She's still a work in progress, but while I don't have full setup for her internal hardware, her chassis did indeed get "finished" in time for ABQ Maker Faire, so here's a picture of her on my table: This picture care of the fine folk at Quelab. I've kind of forgotten who actually took the picture. You can tell it wasn't me because that's my elbow in there! You know how people joke that building ikea furniture together as a couple is the ultimate test of your relationship? Try designing steampunk robots together! With a deadline looming! I think we did most of this in around 2 weeks, although we had batted the idea around for a while. The germ of the idea was my fault. I wanted a puppy k-9 who would be less hassle to travel with than John's full-sized k-9 replica, which weighs over a hundred pounds when you include the 3 pelican cases needed to ship him. And I wanted her to be steampunk, because it would break us away from being show-accurate and make her amusingly photogenic. Her job, by and large, is to convince people to come talk to us, although we have some other functional plans for her too! However, it's a long path from idea to finished project, and I have to say that John did the bulk of the execution while I handled the details -- he got the c&c machine to cut out dog panels and engineered it so I could have the wing doors I wanted without compromising structural integrity, while I convinced the c&c to cut out a modified minnowboard logo for the resin inlay, and figured out the hinges and staining. I admit, we might have done some arguing, but we worked her out! I am quite pleased with the details we managed to get in. I insisted she have ears and a tail because John's larger k-9 replica still doesn't have those details. Her tail is a functional USB wireless antenna, and John even inserted a proper usb port into her butt so it's detachable when she gets packed for travel or so you can plug something else in easily while leaving the case closed. Her ears gave us a different kind of trouble, and we were running out of time until I started digging through the recycling bin and found a pair of 7-up bottle bottoms which I painted gold. The computer on top there is the Minnowboard MAX, which will serve as Puppy's brains. We didn't get it mounted inside until after the show, and you can see the nice laser-cut mounting plate (again care of Quelab; thanks Morgan!) in front of her (it's the smokey grey piece with all the holes). That's all inside now, with a whole lot of hardware attached. More pictures to come eventually, but since she's gotten side-tracked by xmas present projects, it might be a while before we get back to her! comments ## December 06, 2014 ### Terri #### In which I am both awesome and not awesome at blood donation I guess all those years in Albuquerque have made me extra resilient to blood-oxygen changes. I donated blood yesterday and I could barely even feel it today, even going up stairs. Not even a bit of huffing and puffing! If it hadn't been for my sore finger and arm, I would have forgotten that I was supposed to still be drinking lots and taking it a bit easy. Awesome part number two is that I have barely a bruise. This is normally true for me, and wouldn't be surprising... except for the less awesome part, which I'll put behind a cut for those who might not appreciate details about my blood donation. End result, I have successfully donated blood yet again, I have suffered even fewer ill effects than one might expect, and I got to feel all heroic about having a hole in my arm and maybe saving a life. So yeay! comments ## November 11, 2014 ### Terri #### Book reviews: more brief than usual Hawkeye, Vol. 2: Little Hits by Matt Fraction, David Aja (Illustrator), Javier Pulido (Illustrator), Steve Lieber (Illustrator), Francesco Francavilla (Illustrator), 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, Olivier Coipel (Illustrator) 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 Yumi, Kiiro Yumi (Illustrator) Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 9 by Kiiro Yumi, Kiiro Yumi (Illustrator) 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 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) 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 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. comments ## 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. 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. 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: 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):

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.

## 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.

## 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!

## 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! comments ## 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.

## 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!

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

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:

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:

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:

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

After:

(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.

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!

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.

# Publishing Print-on-Demand and Ebook Simultaneously

## Lessons Learned for Book Cover Design

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.

When 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.

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

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.

## 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!

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 

## 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?

## 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:

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:

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

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.]

## 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:

WTF Necklace

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:

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.

## 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)

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:

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.

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

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

## 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 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.

## 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.

## August 01, 2014

### Anne

#### Sheridan Commute: Buffalo Family Portrait

A 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.

## 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?"

## June 25, 2014

### Anne

#### Android app development cross pollination

Today 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.

## 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!

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:

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.

## 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:

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

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!

## 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!

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:

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

And one final photo:

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!

## 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.

My picture isn’t great, but…

1. Little sheep feet in the grass!

4. Perky sheep ears!

And my favourite:

5. Puffy little tail!

## 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.

Sheep Hat by Renee Lorion

## 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…

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:

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.

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:

And unblocked back piece:

Front chart:

And unblocked front piece:

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:

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

## May 31, 2014

### Terri

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

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!

#### 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!

## May 21, 2014

### Anne

#### Wyoming Team Earns First Place in Google GovDev Challenge

##### 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

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.

### 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

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

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)

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:

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!

Tricolor Holly

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

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

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

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!

#### Book review: Half-Off Ragnarok

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!

# 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?

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.

## 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

The 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.

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.

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.

## April 26, 2014

### Terri

#### Mailman 3.0 Suite Beta!

I'm happy to say that...

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!

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?

## April 24, 2014

### Terri

#### Book Reviews: 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.

## March 29, 2014

### Terri

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. 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? comments ## 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. 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: And the inside: 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: 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: And products inside: So first step was primer and BB cream plus a little bit of colour corrector: 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 Can you tell I had fun photographing it? Here it is on my face: 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: 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: 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 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: In case you forgot, here's what that original bare faced picture looked like so you can compare it as a before image: 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 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 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: 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! comments ## 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. 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: And back: (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 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: 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: 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 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 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: Their marketing, however... the best I can say is that the product detaches from the card of stupid that came with it: 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: ## Benefit Benetint The benefit sample had much better packaging: And then, inside, it tells you how to use the product: 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: 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 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: 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.

## 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" :

(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!