Wednesday, April 27, 2011

This one sets the bar high for geek parents

Want to be the coolest geek mom on the block? Maybe you could try building this neat marble run around your kid's room:

How's that for some Wednesday fun?

The kind soul who made this video also provided instructions on how to build the marble run. Forget kids, I kind of want to build this for myself!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Carleton Students Win a Prize For Innovative and Challenging Mobile Game

I recently competed on a team with three other students from the School of Computer Science (Jamie Madill, Andrew Erdeg, and Jacob Agar) in the Great Canadian Appathon.  It was a 48-hour mobile game development competition.  Our team didn't place in the top three, but we did get a prize for the most technically challenging game! (I will admit that wasn't thanks to me - Jamie happened to be working on fluid simulation for his thesis and implemented it for the game.)

From the Carleton newsroom article:
The goal of the single player puzzle game is to fill coloured drains with matching fluids that takes full advantage of the interfaces offered by modern mobile devices. The player can dig trenches in the sand to channel the fluid by drawing shapes on the touch screen in the same way they would trace out shapes in the sand. In order to move the fluid, the player simply tilts the phone, causing it to spill down the channels. The challenge lies in not wasting fluid by channelling it down mismatched drains.
The most unfortunate part of the competition? There were hardly any female programmers! (I guess that's why the National Post featured me in one of their articles covering the event.) This was a great experience, so why not give it a shot at your next opportunity?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Super mario bros accapella

There are a lot of covers are the mario bros theme, but this one Jimmy Wong's version is especially cute and singable because it goes beyond the source to make something really fun:

And as if the song itself weren't amazing, the artist himself is a pretty neat guy. Check out the NPR story on him: Jimmy Wong Saves The Internet:

Jimmy Wong reminded me that the tools that can be deployed by the so-called cyberbullies are also freely available to those they harass.


The lyrics are funny and good-spirited, and effectively turn the tables on the original rant. And the song itself has a catchy hook, has been viewed about 800,000 times, and is now for sale on iTunes.

When I was a kid, here's one thing I never thought of saying to a bully who was about to pummel me:

"Hey, don't mess with me. I've got a quirky sense of humor, a great singing voice, and I know how to code!"

But Jimmy Wong and many others are proving those types of creative skills could be a decent way to put up a defense.

Jimmy's Mario song is available on iTunes along with a bunch of his other music, and proceeds are currently going to the Japanese relief efforts.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A terribly educational video about turtles

Since I know your brains are all filled with studying now that exams have started, I thought it best today's wednesday fun had a nice simple "educational" video that won't take up too much memory space. Enjoy!

And best of luck with your final exams!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Reminder: Google Summer of Code!

A quick reminder: Google Summer of Code applications are due tomorrow!

Summer of Code is a program where students can get paid for working on open source projects over the summer. It's a pretty neat opportunity if you're looking to try open source development, because you get matched up with a mentor who's volunteered their time to help you work on your project.

You don't need a lot of experience to contribute. We're hoping to find new contributors this way, so we're prepared to train you on how to set up your development environment and contribute to the project.

I'm going to be mentoring for GNU Mailman this year. If you're curious about our proposed projects, you can find them on our wiki. We've got a bunch of really great mentors and I'm hoping we'll have some great students to match. I've already had a chance to meet some of our applicants on our IRC channel (#mailman on

There's a whole slew of projects just waiting for great people like you. While the deadline is super close now, you've still got enough time to put together a good application if you're interested! Geek Feminism has run a few posts about preparing applications that you might find helpful: Google Summer of Code 2011: application tips from this year, and Showing your awesomeness for Google Summer of Code from last year, and many mentors are anxiously watching their email/IRC/mailing lists for last minute questions from students.

Go check out the list of mentoring organizations and put in an application now!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Back in the tech boom, I worked in a research group at a very fun company that not only had plenty of toys around, but let us play with them during meetings. Some weeks I'd grab our huge set of dominoes and set up a lengthy run. When I finished, we'd pause the meeting, knock them over, then get back to discussing the business at hand. It might sound ridiculous, but playing with stuff like that really kept us energized during the meetings, and meant we looked forwards to them even when we had heavy stuff to discuss.

And in that spirit, today's Wednesday fun video features dominoes and tic tac toe: