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Nice to finally see our new library here at the U of Calgary hosting non-traditional events, just as this year's edition of Global Game Jam. If you're in the Calgary area, why not participate?
We've got the whole workstation availability thing licked, but I want to be able to show our users which study seats are available here in the TFDL. That's one of the top two most common complaints here; that students spend too much time wandering around looking for a place to sit/study.
Here's my stream of consciousness on the issue. The solution can't be built in to the chairs, because those can move from table to cubicle etc. I think the most accurate bet is going to be a small proximity or motion detection device at every single table top, either above (subject to being blocked by study materials) or below (subject to confusion by a pushed-in chair?). The problem with that solution is cost and infrastructure. Unless very efficient, each unit would require electricity and a wifi transmitter. Building or buying and maintaining several hundred small Arduino-like devices seems too cumbersome and expensive.
Some other ideas I've come up with, or that have been suggested by colleagues, include cameras that can monitor a large space and tell which spots have bodies sitting at them. Possibly IR cameras? Tracking the number of active wifi connections on a floor, or around a particular antenna, and then guestimating that there must be a certain number of available seats, though not able to pinpoint them on a map.
Are you aware of any solutions out there already?
We're within a week of Halloween, so the zombie references are popping out of the woodwork.
First up, CommonCraft has updated their previous video, Zombies Explained:
Next, from the Zombie Research Society, we have a scientific look at what might be going on in a zombie's brain to make it a zombie:
Zombies seem to be important at the University of Calgary. From last year, here's a game called Nurses against Zombieism (back story), and here's a case study called Zombie Attack! An Introduction to Quantitative Modeling.
Stay safe out there!
I took the kids down to the East Village today for the inaugural Calgary Mini Maker Faire, and we all had a blast! I've been wanting to get involved somehow in the maker movement for quite some time, but never made the effort to get down to our local hacker lab, Protospace. That'll probably change if the kids have anything to say about it.
I was very impressed by the organization of the event. I was a little worried about running in to some anti-social nerds, but every single one of the tables we visited had a friendly, articulate, passionate person behind it. Nobody talked down to me or the kids, and they were all, without exception, eager to talk about their projects and answer as many questions as we had.
The thing that surprised me most was how much time my daughter spent with the "old-school" makers, learning to comb wool and spin it into yarn. I think I learned more from those ladies than I did from any of the more "traditional" robotics, 3D printing and electronics booths as well! At one table we were looking at silkworm cocoons and learning how silk is made from them. We had just been working with the wool, and I hadn't yet touched the silk, which from a few feet away kinda looked like the wool we'd just left. It wasn't until about 5 minutes in that it dawned on me that we weren't talking about some sort of silkworm wool, but frickin' silk! I know, I'm slow, but I'd never seen the stuff coming off a cocoon. Truly amazing.
Not to say we didn't learn a lot about 3D printers and robotics as well. My son picked up a Cybug Scarab (ooh, there's a website redesign contract I can suggest!), and I finally got an Arduino beginner's kit that I've long thought would be a good way to get started. My son and I sucessfully built the first blinky light experiment this evening :-) There were quite a few 3D printers going; I think another year or so and they'll be well under $1,000. I'd hoped to see an egg-bot in action, but no such luck.
Here are a couple more random pix:
One of the non-work-related pleasures I have is assisting with the webcam we have pointing at the Peregrine falcons that nest in the building next to the library here at the U of Calgary. This year we have triplets, and if you've ever wondered whether a bird of prey makes a caring mother, here's an answer for you:
If you'd like to watch them grow up live, you can do so here (warning, there is a fair amount of bird blood and discarded parts lying about...)
GoneReading is a small website that sells stuff related to the reading lifestyle, such as t-shirts, bookmarks, reading lights, etc. What's great though is that GoneReading has a philanthropic mission, which donates 100% of after-tax profits to provide new funding for libraries.
Because they're new and still trying to spread the word, they've provided a discount code that's good for 25% off any purchase except the bookends, good through April 4, 2012. The code is DISTLIB25, and you can enter it on the order page towards the top, just above your billing address. There's free shipping in the US for orders over $25 too.
I don't get anything at all when you use the code; I'm just trying to help spread the word on a good cause. Do take a moment to check them out, won't you?
I started the first couple of weeks of 2011 on vacation, and was reading books on my iPhone at the time. I thought it'd be interesting to track how many books I read in 2011, something I'd never done before. I switched to reading on an iPad 2 when I got one in April, and did all my ereading either in the Kobo app, or the Overdrive app when borrowing books from Calgary Public Library. As I mentioned, I don't have numbers from any earlier years, but my strong sense is that I read more books this past year than any other in my adult life, in large part because of the ease of grabbing another title to read RIGHT NOW from an ebookstore, or CPL. Hope you find something interesting in here too. I'm not going to give you the actual titles read, most of which were some variant on SciFi or fantasy :-)
Incidentally, I'm composing this on the iPad with charts pasted in from the Numbers app. I'm not at all sure the images will actually go through, but we'll see in a moment...
Nope, they didn't, so here's take 2.
At the end of October this year a friend of mine posted that his doctor had found a tumor during a checkup of his manly parts. This timing was such that I decided I'd get involved in the Movember movement this year.
Over the past few days I noticed something really odd. Canada is leading the amount raised by a large margin. Know where the US is, with it's 10-times the population? 4th. Behind Canada, the UK, and Australia.
It's not as though the US has a lower incidence of prostate cancer or other men's health issues than any of those other three countries. I know the economy's in the pits, but it's can't be that bad, can it?
According to Wikipedia, while the Movember movement did begin in Australia, it expanded to Canada and the US at the same time, in 2007. So what's going on down there? You guys don't have enough testosterone to grow your own 'staches? You donated all your spare money to breast cancer last month because the NFL did such a good job wearing pink?
I'm genuinely curious about why the US is such a laggard with this particular movement. How often do you guys have a good excuse not to shave your lip? You know winter's on the way - doesn't your lip need a sweater?
And yes, this is also a thinly-veiled attempt to generate some more donations to the cause. If you'd like to sponser me, you can do so at http://mobro.co/ppival
If you'd like to donate to support men's health in general, you can do so at http://us.movember.com/donate/
If you don't care about men's health issues, do consider finding a cause you do care about, and get involved.
Oh, and of course you don't have to donate through me, but if I don't get at least one donation as a result of this post, I'm going to have to give you details of the prostate exam I'll be getting at the end of this month... Your call, and thanks in advance :-)
Here's a list of stuff I've bookmarked over the past week or so.
I'm here in New Orleans for another night, finishing up a visit to ALA. I was here primarily to participate on the Summon Advisory Board, but also spent today in the exhibits hall. If you're reading this in time to take advantage, here are a couple booths you should hit while here, depending of course on what you're looking for :-)
More generally, I was very impressed with what I saw of Springshare's new Mobile Site Builder and LibAnalytics modules. Yes, I know I can do both of those things myself, or with open source tools, but damn they make it easy and affordable. So much less hassle just to use their tools. Mango Languages just released an iOS app, which is the full content from the website. A no-brainer if you subscribe to their service already. There was one other vendor that I wanted to post something about, but it's completely slipped my mind. :-(
So I guess with that I'll just leave you with this NSFW summary of the weather here over the past few days:
I've tried a fair few of them by now, and have settled on iMapMyRide, because it's accurate (most are), and it shows hill categorizations, which I think is tres cool. There are a lot of hills in Calgary, so it's nice to get some tiny tangible recognition for climbing them.
But there's something EVERY iOS cycling app appears to be missing, and it should be pretty easy to implement. Who will be first to link up to local weather stations and show wind speed and direction along the ride?!? I mean, the app knows when I was at a certain location, so why not check the closest weather station and include the relevant information? It could look something like this:
Ahhhhh, that's so much better. I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but Firefox, my old standby, has slowly become, well, slow. It's no longer my default browser, but it's always had a couple of features I've missed. The biggest one was Firefox's ability to search through the text of a page w/o having to invoke the ctrl-F command (if you're not currently using this goodness, it's a setting under the Advanced Tab, General, - "Search for text when I start typing")
But Safari on the Mac wouldn't help me with this time-saving feature. That is, until I found Glims! It does way more than I need it to, but here's a list of the current features. I've highlighted the ones I've found particularly useful:
I've only been using it for a week, so it's likely I just haven't run across some of the other features in my daily use yet.
It did take me a few minutes of searching to find the preferences pane for this program though, so here's your tip - it's not an add-on, so you'll find it in the general preferences pane for Safari:
David Booker at the Centered Librarian posts a two-part presentation given by Eli Neiberger at the 2010 LJ/SLJ eBook Summit outlining the uncomfortable position ebooks puts libraries and offering several solutions. There are a couple of straw men in the presentation, but it's quite thought-provoking, and does offer some suggested for avoiding the screwage. 20 minutes in total - definitely worth your time.
Yes, it's another review, but while this is another O'Reilly imprint, I got a review copy of this just for asking. I also mentioned that I'd compare Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred to the Instructables book I just reviewed.
This title only has 24 projects, but they're much more detailed, with pictures for almost each step along the way. While some also require soldering and some electronics knowledge, the fact that this book is geared towards kid-friendly projects necessitates that the soldering and electronics are at a much more basic level. My level :-) It also includes a chapter on these topics, introducing the reader to the basics of capacitors and diodes and circuits. With the information contained there, I feel qualified to tackle all of the projects within.
I left the book in my 8-year-old son's room one night and the next morning he informed me that we were going to build a ticklebox:
Personally, I think we'll be starting with the pop can flyer - only a can opener, utility knife and a pop can needed, and nobody gets hurt :-)
If you've got kids in the 6-14 year-old range, and want to make some cool things, I'm going to recommend this book for you. If you don't have kids, but want to make some cool things, and aren't already a soldering or electronics whiz, then I'm also going to recommend it. If you already subscribe to Make Magazine, skip it. If you wanted to buy a paper copy of either this or the Instructables book, I think I'd lean towards this one.