Category Archives: Geekdad

in which i join you in the 21st century

[from my GeekDad post]

I have a confession to make. Compared to most GeekDads, I’m kind of a Luddite. I don’t have a video game console, or a TV to plug it into. I play games with cards and boards, not on the computer. My pets are biological, not robotic. Heck, I don’t even have a microwave. It’s not that I’m opposed to technology, of course, it just tends to get in the way of my life and family.

So I felt odd having a “2001″ technology moment this month.

2001 videophone

You know the scene, that videophone call Heywood Floyd makes to his daughter back on Earth. It never made sense to me: he steps off a frickin’ spaceplane onto a frickin’ space station on his way to the frickin’ Moon, and the first thing he does is hop into a phone booth to have a chat with a nearly-incoherent five-year-old who doesn’t care about what he’s doing as long as he brings back a present. (“Way to move the plot along,” I always thought, followed by, “What’s a bush baby?”)

And now I get it, because I’ve done the same thing. Well, substitute a city bus for the spaceplane and my kitchen for the orbiting Hilton, but the rest is spot on. See, the Geeklet and Mrs. Geek are visiting friends for the entire month of August, and due to a bit of bad planning I won’t be joining them until the very end of their trip. I call every day, but to the Geeklet phones are just instruments for saying “Hello” and “Goodbye” to disembodied voices with familiar names. After a few days, he refused to talk to me at all. So I reluctantly did what any GeekDad probably would have started with: I set up a video chat.

Continue reading “In Which I Join You In the 21st Century”

on iPhoneDevCamp and a lack of writing

do not blog in this roomThings have been quiet at Global Spin lately, but not because I have nothing to talk about. I’ve just been doing my writing elsewhere, like these two stories about my recent trip to iPhoneDevCamp. From GeekDad:

I had a great time at iPhoneDevCamp 2 in San Francisco last weekend. Lots of geekdads and their kids were in attendance. Joe Michels got an iPhone so he could show off photos of his kids, but now he’s writing apps. Carlos McEvilly (pictured) wrote code while his daughter Annika playtested games for other developers. Ray Valdes and his kids worked together on a mermaid game, while Camp organizer Dom Sagolla’s infant son Leo offered to judge the Tastiest App award.

And the apps? I’m biased, but Fwerps is so awesome! A fwerp is a virtual pet–think tamagotchi tribble without the trademark infringement. The idea came from LC Boros, who also served as art director and “fwerp herder”. We wanted to make something that was unique to the Touch platform, so we concentrated on the accelerometer (rocking it to sleep), touch gestures (petting), sound/vibration (purring), and network (reproducing). Our “code gopher” Matt Paul hunted down utility code, and I put the pieces together in Xcode.† It took round-the-clock coding and a lot of help from other developers, but we got something that worked well and didn’t crash during the demo! (Video of the demo is already online.) [Read more...]

…and from Webmonkey, another Wired blog:

Wow. If there was any doubt that the iPhone is a hot platform, iPhoneDevCamp 2 just squashed it like a tank tread over a pile of Zunes.

Hundreds of attendees got together for a weekend of iPhone application hacking, discussion and beer. Buckets of beer and piles of pizza, all supplied by sponsors eager to find out who might have the next killer app. And apps there were aplenty; 44 teams submitted them for the hackathon, including 3 top apps from satellite camps.

I didnít mention sleep, because there was none. This was my very first time developing for the iPhone (or in Objective-C at all), so I coded into the wee hours of the morning just to get things to compile. My team got a lot of help from Objective-C gurus on site, too. [Read more...]

I also started a project page for Fwerps, because you know I need more projects to work on.

Star Trek: The Exhibition

[from my Geekdad post]

The Exhibition entrance As members of the local Mars Society and NSS chapters, my family was invited to a “friends and family” preview of Star Trek: The Exhibition at the San Diego Air & Space Museum. It’s an exhibit we had intended to see anyway, but seeing it on opening day with a bunch of other fans and space enthusiasts was too good to pass up.

The short summary: It’s a fun exhibit for fans of TOS or TNG, or fans of the Trek universe in general. It’s worth going just for the chance to sit on the Enterprise bridge or stand on the transporter pads. More of my review after the jump, including photos and a short YouTube clip.

Continue reading “Star Trek: The Exhibition in San Diego” Ľ

Science Fair Project Isolates Plastic-Eating Microbes

[from Geekdad] In the spirit of the awesome maverick science-fair project[1], I give you Daniel Burd and his amazing plastic-eating microbes.

“Almost every week I have to do chores and when I open the closet door, I have this avalanche of plastic bags falling on top of me,” he said. “One day, I got tired of it and I wanted to know what other people are doing with these plastic bags.”The answer: not much. So he decided to do something himself.

He knew plastic does eventually degrade, and figured microorganisms must be behind it. His goal was to isolate the microorganisms that can break down plastic — not an easy task because they don’t exist in high numbers in nature.

Daniel proceeded to use iterated experiments and the good old scientific method to extract the most effective bacteria and determine the optimal conditions for degrading polyethylene bags. The result was an amazing 43% degradation over six weeks, much better than the thousand years it would ordinarily take to break down the plastic. (Be sure to read the whole story for some inspiring bits of detective work.)

The best part?

Industrial application should be easy, said Burd. “All you need is a fermenter . . . your growth medium, your microbes and your plastic bags.”

The inputs are cheap, maintaining the required temperature takes little energy because microbes produce heat as they work, and the only outputs are water and tiny levels of carbon dioxide — each microbe produces only 0.01 per cent of its own infinitesimal weight in carbon dioxide, said Burd.

Well done, Daniel. I hope to see a plastic-bag compost bin on the market in a few years, or at least a Wired How-To on making one for myself. (via Mother Jones)

[1] See my previous mention of homemade aerogels. Kids these days!

Loretta Whitesides is just plain cool

[I'm going to start posting some of my GeekDad articles over here, so you'll know when new ones are available. Let me know if this is unnecessary duplication.]

I had the pleasure of meeting Loretta Hidalgo Whitesides at a SEDS UCSD talk the other day. It quickly became obvious that she’s one of Our People, and a successful one at that. From the GeekDad interview article (my first ever):

Loretta Hidalgo Whitesides sees the future of space in the eyes of students. Not as the “coveted 18-24 demographic”, but as leaders of the new space industry. To her, space-interested science and engineering students in high school and college right now are “one in a million,” and she wants them to train to be the next Buzz Aldrin, Sally Ride, Burt Rutan, or Elon Musk.

She should know. As an astrobiologist, Virgin Galactic advisor, Wired blogger, and Zero G flight director, she’s seen her share of the Right Stuff. She’s followed James Cameron to the bottom of the ocean and led 70,000 people to a party at NASA. Space is personal for her, too: she and her husband, National Space Society director George T. Whitesides, will honeymoon on one of the first Virgin Galactic suborbital flights.

Check out the rest of the interview and let me know if I should hang up my press hat. ;)