While I’m in the UK I’m getting my Kinder Surprise fix by opening an egg a day.
Today we have another pink egg, again bought at a Tesco Metro grocery store.
Is that a… My Little Pony?
It’s a bracelet! Despite myself I am charmed. I left the stickers off though.
· comments  · 10-18-2013 · categories:kindereggaday ·
While I’m in the UK I’m getting my Kinder Surprise fix by opening an egg a day.
Today’s egg is blue, this one was bought at a Tesco Metro grocery store.
Another car, what a surprise. This one, though, has a little spring loaded action so when I pull it back and let it go it quickly shoots itself right off the table. I love it, what should we name it?
· comments  · 10-17-2013 · categories:kindereggaday ·
While I’m in the UK I’m getting my Kinder Surprise fix by opening an egg a day.
Today we open a pink egg. But the blue egg from yesterday and the pink one were bought at a Tesco Metro grocery store.
Pink. Big surprise.
What is it? What is it?
It’s a hair clip. Despite being so very pink and girly I found it surprisingly gratifying to have constructed my own hair clip, even if it did just snap together.
· comments  · 10-16-2013 · categories:kindereggaday ·
There are very few things from the UK and Europe that aren’t available in the US. We have Lush, Muji, Uniqlo and even a Boots aisle inside of Target. But Kinder Surprise eggs remain illegal to sell or even bring into the US. So I’m going to open an egg a day in order to get my fix.
The first day we were out I looked for Kinder eggs in the usual convenience stores that we found ourselves in but there weren’t any. I asked the shopkeepers if they carried them and they were all surprised to find that they were out. I took this as bad news and by dinnertime I’d decided that there was probably a worldwide shortage and that I was doomed to remain egg-less during our whole trip. Doomed. Luckily I found plenty of Kinder eggs in a larger grocery store the very next day. Crisis averted! I bought both boy and girl eggs, why does there have to be a difference? Here is my first one:
It’s a nice bright car but it doesn’t do anything special, no spring loaded wheels or launch-y bits. It doesn’t even roll that well. The sheet included with this one comes with a scannable code that I assume does something, except that when I went to the site (which shall be unnamed) it told me the site wasn’t available in this country (I don’t know if it thinks I’m in the US or the UK) so I changed the country to Belgium and now all I see is a page that just says “ooops!” with no option to change anything. We will never know what was behind the secret code. Which is fine, I’m sure it’s just a coupon or something.
Tomorrow, a pink egg!
· comments  · 10-15-2013 · categories:kindereggaday ·
I was thrilled to be able to attend the XOXO Festival in Portland this year. It introduced me to a bunch of cool stuff, here is what caught my eye:
This is a beer brewing system that is controlled by your iPhone. I just spent the summer learning to brew beer and I have an iPhone so of course I’m terribly interested. It’s made by Cargo and the people are thrillingly passionate about it. They are in the last days of a Kickstarter and I am cheering for them. I spoke to a homebrewer with 20 years of experience about what he thought about Brewbot and he didn’t hesitate to say that if I was going to invest in a homebrew system an automated one like Brewbot would be the way to go. (I’m not going to ignore the fact that it’s expensive though, it certainly is.) They just updated their Kickstarter with news that they can make the system more customizable, and brewers like to tinker and try things out just because. I cannot wait to see how this evolves.
Photo by Natalie Seery, borrowed from jsjoust.com.
Johann Sebastian Joust
Do you know about this already? I didn’t and it was great. Teams of players hold wands of different colors, they can move slow or fast according to changes in music being played. If you move your wand too quickly your light blinks off and you’re out. The goal is to attempt to make players of the other teams move their wand while keeping yourself in the game. It was really fun and everybody was really good sports.
Panic Founders’ Room
The offices of Panic have a hidden room called the Founders’ Room that is super duper awesome. It’s hidden behind a wall panel and it reveals a tiny proper den. There is even a hidden panel inside the hidden room that reveals a secret bar. I love a good hidden room. Related: We were also invited to the offices of Weiden & Kennedy where the Nest that was made famous in an episode of Portlandia is located. It’s a real thing.
This is a game for a large group of people. It’s based off of Mafia using Villagers and Werewolves instead. You can view the rules over at maxistentialism. At XOXO the groups paying this were large and boisterous, anybody who spoke up was subject to suspicion and those who didn’t were questioned heavily. During one session a guy who played the Doctor quietly sat just outside of being singled out and when he made an unusual move it was thrilling to know that those of us watching knew but that nobody playing the game knew that he knew things they didn’t. It was a huge amount of fun to watch.
Photo grabbed from the XOXO video linked to below.
During Max Temkin’s talk The Doubleclicks got up to play “Imposter”, a song about the Mars Rover feeling like it wasn’t good enough for it’s important job. I’m a big fan of theirs (we’re talking house concerts here) and it was a delight to have them pop up unexpectedly. You can view Max’s talk here. While I’m linking to videos go watch one for The Doubleclick’s song Nothing To Prove about being a geek girl.
This has been on my radar for a while and they had the consoles on sale at XOXO so I finally got myself one. The console itself is itty bitty, it’s a cube about the size of a large apple (the good Honeycrisp sort). We fired it up at home, started a few games and contemplated bring it with us on our trip to the UK. Now that we’re here and just spent a sick day inside the tiny studio we rented we really wish we had brought it. Especially because we can hear our downstairs neighbor playing GTA5 and I’m having console gaming envy. I cannot wait to see how OUYA develops.
Largely though the conference for me was about people, it was great to meet people who I’ve followed online for years, great to talk with old friends and great to meet new people. XOXO is often compared to SXSW circa 1999 and I found that to be true, except this time around I’m not too shy to talk walk up and introduce myself to somebody. (I’m still very awkward though, don’t get me wrong.) I feel like I took more away from the conference than I gave to those I encountered and if I have the chance to go to XOXO again I would figure out a way to reverse that.
Some other great moments? Getting to see Rael introduce a game he developed to a few seasoned game makers to enthusiastic response, I’ll be waiting for Zombie Princess to come out. Also, being introduced to Cocanu chocolates, the Gardel bar has Fernet in it. Yum. Also, getting to (finally) meet Jennifer Robbins and learning about the Artifact conference she is part of organizing. It’s all about teaching web designers more about how to work with mobile, and since I left my coding skills back in 2003 I could really use it.
· comments  · 10-13-2013 · categories:events ·
We are headed to the UK! We’ll be there for a month doing a live/work/travel/freaking out thing. I have a few goals for while I’m there:
- Drink Scotch in Scotland. (Easy.)
- Go through a hedge maze in England. (Pretty straightforward. Or twisty.)
- Eat a Liege waffle in Belgium. (Only requires a train ticket.)
- Find a four-leaf clover in Ireland. (Miiight be a challenge.)
If anybody reading this happens to live in Belfast and would be interested in meeting up please email me, I’m going to have a bit of free time while I’m in that city and I’d love to say hello.
We’ll be hitting all the tourist things as we do a loop from England up through Scotland and down to Ireland before heading to London but if anybody has any recommendations on extraordinary things going on that I should do my best not to miss or eat or buy or gawk at please let me know. I’m planning on going on lots of brewery tours, opening Kinder Eggs, staring at really old buildings and being that horrible American driver going too slow because I’m afraid of terrified on the other side of the road. Sorry about that last one.
I’m so excited!
· comments  · 10-1-2013 · categories:travel ·
Housewarming Jar DIY at Oh Happy Day. Our realtor gave us a basket (actually a tool caddy) similar to this filled with tools, picture hooks, cleaning supplies and the like and we used it so much as we moved in and found all our tools packed in a mystery box.
Tips for Furnishing with Floor Models | Making it Lovely. We almost bought a floor model sofa from Crate&Barrel but I had immediate buyers remorse (they were nice enough to cancel). I might someday get up the courage to buy a floor model again.
Dia-monds at Dismount Creative. Diamond light bulbs are a real thing!
How to: Make a DIY Modern Concrete Fire Pit from Scratch | Man Made DIY.
How to Get Your Security Deposit Back: Clean Your Filthy Apartment | The Billfold. Like the person who wrote this I also have gotten every security deposit back. One landlord even said he’d never seen his place so clean. My secrets? #1: It’s much easier to clean once all of your stuff has already been taken out. #2: Wipe down the insides of the washing machine and the dryer.
Cool Tools – Little Giant MegaLite Ladder. We don’t have a ladder yet, largely because we don’t have space to store one. But this? This looks like we could keep it in our tiny shed.
Puxxle: Pixel Puzzle Decals for Your Wall | Brit + Co. You can make your own pixelated art!
DIY Ceiling Medallion, Brick House. Simple and clean.
· comments  · 09-26-2013 · categories:links · the home ·
· comments  · 09-24-2013 · categories:craft · links ·
Earlier this month I went to the Seattle Indies Exhibition. It’s a gathering of independent game designers who are showing off their upcoming projects and it happens during PAX. It’s free and separate from PAX so you don’t need a pass to get in. These are the games that caught my eye:
The Bridge by The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild. This started as a computer science student project and was further developed into a really interesting game. This is a logic puzzle game in which you can manipulate the position of the building as well as reverse the game in time as often as you’d like. It’s challenging and amazing and difficult to explain (go check out the trailer). The graphics are hand drawn in black and white and are stunning. Available now, Steam (Windows).
Tengami by Nyamyam. I’d love to tell you I played this game but I could only observe because it was the game that way always mobbed. It’s an adventure game set among Japanese fairy tails and involves pop-up book surprises. It was gorgeous and I must have it. In development, iOS, PC, Mac and Wii U.
Shaman by High Iron Studios. When I approached this table I was greeted by a man saying I was his target audience, Shaman is designed to appeal to girls because it has no violence. (I kept quiet about my character’s level in Borderlands 2. Not that I don’t appreciate a good non-violent game, mind you.) This game combines gorgeous comic books layout and graphics with exploration and gathering. You forge shields using a recipe like interface when you have the right components, then confront and attempt to cure a shaman that has been possessed. The recipes involve the elements of traditional Chinese medicine. This game wasn’t ready to play but there was a trailer showing while I talked with the game designer. The game will be released in six episodes starting later this year, PC.
Energy Hook by Happion Laboratories. This game is a little bit Spiderman with swinging physics and the city scape reminded me of Mirror’s Edge. You have a jetpack that gives your character some height and you can attach an Energy Hook to buildings and swing and jump. It’s a lot of fun. And I’m not just saying that because Jamie Fristrom let me sample the gameplay while wearing his Occulus Rift. You can currently do a post-Kickstarter to get Alpha access. Windows, Mac and Linux.
Festival of Magic by Snowcastle Games. I didn’t get a chance to play this but I was taken by the bright and appealing 3D graphics. This game is described as “adventure role-playing game in which the players must fight and farm their way to glory”. There is exploration, puzzle solving, combining materials for ammo and spells. This all sounded good but it sounded better when I found out this game uses turn-based combat. I’ll definitely be checking this out. Beta launch later this year. Nintendo Wii U, PC and Mac.
Buddy & Me by Sunbreak Games. This is a sidescrolling platformer and runner that is meant for kids and it’s called “an endless adventure about friendship”. Your character escapes into a dream where he’s joined by a large flying creature I was completely taken by the beautiful hand drawn graphics. If your character falls he’s lifted back onto the screen by some helpful little birds and the game continues, so there is little frustration involved. I might get this game for myself. Should be available soon. Android and iOS, mobile and tablet.
Redshift by Belief Engine. This is a timed escape game. Each go has a randomly generated map and countdown clock, between 3 and 5 minutes if I remember correctly. You need to run through the halls (of a nuclear power plant? I cannot remember!) to find three control panels. Your way is blocked by locked doors and fires, which you can pass by collecting objects. I am normally stressed out by countdowns but found this game engaging and fun. It’s not out yet but I’m keeping an eye out for it’s release. Android and iOS.
Go Plague Monkey! Go! by Sparsevector. This was a funny game where you play a plague infected money who must attack as many people as possible to spread the disease while avoiding police, CDC doctors and dogs. You collect power ups and have a random, open world to run around in. The graphics were cartoonish in a charming way and the game was hilarious to watch. Release later this year. Xbox Live Indie Games and Windows PC.
· comments  · 09-20-2013 · categories:technology ·
· comments  · 09-18-2013 · categories:links · misc ·
The other week I had the thrill of getting a peek inside Microsoft’s 3D Printing Lab. The visit was set up in the hopes that I’d tell you that Windows 8.1 will allow you to send items to any 3D printer as easily as you do to an ink printer. Clearly it worked.
They set aside a few hours (which is like years in Microsoft Time) to give myself and Louise from Mom Start a primer in 3D printing. Here is what I learned:
Right now there are two kinds of plastic that 3D printers use. ABS is a hard plastic while PLA is made from corn. PLA creates a more pliable final object but, just like compostable silverware, it cannot hold up to the heat of a dishwasher.
They had a few 3D printers set up to show us and, please forgive me here, I need to say that I’m working from my handwritten notes on the points below. I don’t have any personal experience with the machines and I very well might have stronger notes and/or opinions once I’ve used them.
– Makerbot Replicator 2. This can use standard spools of PLA plastic and has a nice large printing volume. It’s also for sale in the Microsoft store and let me just note that both Christmas and my birthday are coming up so if those who are close to me want to pool their money and get me something awesome and this is clearly a big hint right here.
– Cube 3D Printer. This is cute, sleek and comes in a few different colors and was presented as the one that would look nice inside a home office or kitchen (a point which I frankly found uninspiring). This one comes in at a lower price point but uses a proprietary system for their cartridges so you pay more for each ounce of finished object. It was mentioned that this one was easy to use and it’s won some awards so I’m curious to look into it further.
– UP Plus by PP3DP. This was presented as a low cost and high quality printer.
– Printrbot Jr. This one comes from a Kickstarter past, it’s low cost (under 1k) and might require a bit more know-how or basic determination and is perhaps a lower quality than higher priced 3D printers.
They also had a Form Labs Form 1 printer set up. This one prints from resin and instead of depositing melted plastic on a surface to build an object from the ground up it uses UV light from below to cure layers of resin from below so the object appears to grow from the liquid resin. Creepy! We didn’t get to see it in action but we did see a few final objects from it and they were smoother and more detailed than the other 3D printed objects we observed that day.
Above I talk about the cost of the printable plastic as a factor, but I’ll also mention that the people who work in the 3D Printing Labs mentioned that most things are printed hollow and use a minimum amount of plastic. While a kilogram of plastic can average $50 most printed objects they showed us were close to $6 in materials. I was a bit apprehensive of the materials cost until I took a sideways look at how much I’m willing to spend on yarn for cardigan that I have more fun planning and knitting than actually wearing. Looking at unit of cost divided by time spent planning and amount of fun had creating means that the cardigan costs way more. That said clearly the initial cost of a pair of knitting needles vs. a 3D printer is weighing in on the side of the knitters. Let’s just say both are expensive hobbies and it all depends on which one turns on your brain.
Earlier this year one of the keynote speakers at the Altitude Summit was Chris Anderson (former editor of Wired and one of Time’s Top 100 Thinkers) and he quickly brought the 3D printing thing to the gathered attendees by telling a story about being able to use his printers to make to-scale dollhouse furniture for his young daughters which they were then able to paint any way they wanted. As simplistic as that might come across it got me thinking. A family member of mine is an engineer and so I knew about 3D printing as a concept from an early age but that concept was always surrounded by the expectation of the object being an exacting part of a jet engine or a component in a high speed train brake system and at that point in time said printers were so expensive one couldn’t conceive of having inside one’s house. So this whole 3D printing for hobby and utility is still something I astounded by. (For the record I’ve been around long enough to have experienced the then-magical quality of a laserdisc player, though my family wasn’t the type to own a laserdisc. Wisely as it turns out.)
Let’s get back to the present. Right now there are a few online services like Shapeways, 3D Systems and even Staples that will take your file and mail you a final 3D printed object. This is great! But if you need to tweak and perfect things the delay of having something shipped to you vs. waiting 30 minutes for it to print out is clear. Most places also have makerspaces that offer use of 3D printers, here in Seattle we have Metrix Create Space and MakerHaus where you can rent time with the machine. (Further reading: Is it a Hackerspace, Makerspace, TechShop, or FabLab? at Make. You can find a makerspace directory over at Makerspace.com.)
In the future (as patents come to an end and the technology is more widely available) we’ll have an Open 3DP system that will allow us to print in substances like sugar, salt, clay, glass and bone. (Need personalized votive holders for an anniversary party? Bam.) The University of Washington apparently already has one of these in place and I really want to see what they’ve been making from it.
I mentioned above that I was aware of 3D printing as a kid but I think I first was really interested in what 3D printing could do when I saw the DIY sugar printer built by Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories way back in 2007. Because sugar! Marginally edible! Also, the possibility of printed sugar skulls! So of course while I was jumping to ask about printing with chocolate. Turns out there is already an open source mod on Thingiverse that creates a chocolate extruder, and the lab at Microsoft showed me the extra bit and mentioned that they use it when somebody in the office has a birthday. Awesome. Then Emmett, who could have been introduced to us as the guy who thinks up the possible, mentioned the hint of a printable cheese. Ooooh, think what you could make! From cheese!
Next we were shown a few ways in which Microsoft is looking at making easily creating a 3D printable object available to anybody with a Windows machine. I’m not allowed to tell you about them, but I am allowed to tell you that all of them will be easy to grasp, simple to create and awfully cool.
We talked about all the practical things that 3D printers will bring about like needed parts to remote medical outposts and researchers in Antarctica as well as recreations of ancient objects for kids in classrooms to be able to hold and touch. I personally want to see the day when humanity can print a personalized cheese sculpture for somebody who is having a birthday while on the Space Station.
For the record: I was not paid to tell you about this, I just think it’s pretty cool. I did accept the can of sparking water that they offered me while we were on the tour.
Two videos that are primers on 3D printing: Will 3D Printing Change the World? at PBS and Lisa Harouni: A primer on 3D printing at TED.
So of course I’ve been wandering around my house wondering what I would create with a 3D printer if I had simple access to one. Most of my ideas so far are practical – a little container to hold my favorite coffee scooper, a replacement part for the little leg that holds up my keyboard which broke off, and something perfect for holding an eggshell when you need it propped up to be painted. And definitely a 3D selfie.
What do you think of 3D printing becoming more and more available? Do you have any plans on what you’d print? Any annoying little problems that could be fixed if you just had the right thing?
· comments  · 09-16-2013 · categories:technology ·
The other weekend we I attended the Washington State Fair for the first time. (Until last year it was the Puyallup Fair and it had a terribly earwormy theme song that is currently infecting the brains all those who’ve heard it before and are reading this. Sorry.) The fair was more fun than I expected it to be. And I was expecting some fun.
We were there with Scott’s parents who were staying at a lovely B&B which was run by a woman who told them that they needed to eat a Fisher’s Scone while they were there. The B&B owner worked serving the scones when she was a teenager and she told them it was something of a tradition. And so the first thing we did was get four scones (delicious, comparable to English Cream Tea). They were served in the handle bag shown above and over the course of the day I saw lots and lots of these bags (as well as lots and lots of Fisher’s counters). Thankfully Carrieann78 chimed in and mentioned that the scones are great to freeze. That explains why we saw so many people carrying full Fishers bags to their cars and also why didn’t I think of that?
Here is what else we saw:
Rodeo! We saw one of the rodeo playoffs and it was the real deal. A solid two and a half hours of people in it to win.
Circus! While Cirque Magnifique was performing people and horses were passing behind it headed to the second rodeo of the day and it was fun watching cowboys observing the people on the trapeze.
Deep fried butter! Sadly we didn’t get a chance to come back and try this. I thoroughly disappointed myself by having a sensible Caesar salad with grilled chicken for lunch. There was a shocking lack of otherwise outrageous deep fried things at this fair. It’s like we are living in a health conscious area or something. Pffft.
A chicken that looks like Phyllis Diller! A bit. Am I right?
Oliver here is pretty chill.
When in Rome.
Among the collections I noted these AOL subscription discs, The Greatest American Hero and Alf. Apparently I miss the end of the previous millenium.
Obligatory photo of adults on the big swing thingy.
My recommendations? If you’re going in the morning get there first thing, our first two hours wandering around on a Saturday morning were blissfully uncrowded. If you’re going to catch the evening hours go after 3pm, which seems to be the warmest and busiest point of the day. If you’re buying tickets to the rodeo try to get something in section #8. We had a straight-on view and I felt like all the broncos and bulls headed right for the area in front of us, also we were closer to the spot where the Mutton Busting was best viewed.
One thing we didn’t see was any competition results from Home Food Arts, like preserving, pickling and jams. We were too early for the Salsa Showdown or the Jam and Jelly Contest or the cake decorating. With all the renewed interest in those areas I assume the competition would be fierce, and I do mean that in to read as fierce in your head.
If you are really hoping to see baby bunnies check the schedule, when we were there all the chickens (magnificent chickens, don’t get me wrong) were being shown off with only a few handsome rabbits off to the side. There are different animals shown on different dates. Don’t miss Cirque Magnifique if you can. Go check out Luminasia and tell me if it’s worth it, we didn’t get a chance to see it when we were there. And, please, tell me if the deep fried butter is worth going back for. Because I totally will.
· comments  · 09-13-2013 · categories:seattle ·
Hello there! Apparently I took a summer break from my website. Sorry about that, I didn’t set out to make it a slow summer around here but I had to admit that my I needed a break. Meanwhile my attention was elsewhere, I was learning to brew beer!
In the spring a women founded, own and run brewery named Spinnaker Bay Brewing opened in my neighborhood. I basically marched in there, introduced myself and negotiated my way into getting to learn how to brew beer. Pushy yes but, hey, free labor for them. Here is what I’ve learned.
Beer is like theater: In the background people are putting a lot of effort into something that is huge and sometimes messy and occasionally dangerous. And then at a specific time people arrive so you scramble to make the experience as good as possible for them. In both cases there isn’t a necessarily a large amount of profit to be had, you do it because you love it so damn much.
Beer is like sewing: When you learn to sew you quickly realize that it’s almost 75% ironing. Brewing beer is 75% cleaning up and equipment maintenance. There is a lot of improvising when you need to troubleshoot and a lot of creative problem solving. Clearly I love it.
Community: Having a brewery a few blocks away as spot to gather means I’ve met neighbors that I wouldn’t have otherwise and I’ve gotten news on what’s going on in the neighborhood that isn’t the sort that is put into print. The brewery focuses on partnering with other businesses who are local, they bring food trucks into an area that might not otherwise be a draw and even the spent grain from the brewing process is given to Farmer Wayne who feeds it to his pigs. (Do we see a brewery pig roast in the future? Yes, yes we do.)
Persistence: Sometimes when you’re brewing beer the mash gets stuck, meaning there is a clog. When you’re dealing with 80 gallons of hot liquid and grain you cannot just give up and start over, you have to find a way to fix it. Is this a metaphor? Yes, yes it is. Getting to peek behind the scenes at the brewery means I get to see the owners unstick a lot of situations, take a moment to celebrate and then tackle the next thing. It takes a lot of strength and I admire them deeply. And I’m not just saying that because they refuse to let me pay for my beer.
The kitchen of the future: The liquid that becomes beer is very sticky and spills are inevitable, but in a brewery we simply hose everything down and leave it sparklingly clean. I really wish it was that easy, and that much fun, to clean my own kitchen.
This summer I wore out a pair of rubber boots and four pairs of gloves. I also learned that I can lift a 55-pound bag of grain (though I do look hilariously awkward doing it). It was like doing crossfit in a sauna, except for all that beer that negates all the hard physical work.
I’ve been generously loaned a pretty serious homebrew setup so expect to see some potentially failed beer brewing experiments here on my site in the next few weeks.
· comments  · 09-11-2013 · categories:mumbling ·
The second project that I created for Apothic is up on their Apothic Handmade page over at Facebook. This one is a studded leather gift box lined in dramatic red felt that is only glimpsed after the box is opened. I used a tiny padlock to secure the box. Go see how to make it, and enjoy.
Because this project involves wine please let me just say: Content intended for users of legal drinking age where this page is being accessed.
· comments  · 09-9-2013 · categories:craft ·
Do you live here in the Seattle area? Go Mighty, along with Crave and Rivet&Sway, are holding an event all about inspiration and setting goals. And Go Mighty will be giving away one $500 grant to help somebody cross something off of their Life List. The evening is free but do RSVP. I’ll see you there!
Did you know that Rivet & Sway is based here in Seattle? I did not. I’m excited to see the inside of their headquarters, and I’ll have to remember to wear my contacts in case we get a little time to try on some frames. (Yes, I know they make it really easy to try on frames in your own home via mail but there is something a little extra special going to the source.)
· comments  · 09-5-2013 · categories:events · seattle ·