Still Life With 3D Printed Castle

3d printing

The pile of 3D prints in my office keeps growing.

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In Which There Is Tudor Fiction I Don’t Love

six of oneRemember when I said how excited I was to review Six of One? I just loved the premise, a time-traveling chicklit about the six wives of Henry VIII, and I could not wait to read it, but then… it turns out that I didn’t actually like the novel all that much.

The protagonist, Dolly, a Tudor history scholar, is about to marry six-times-divorced Harry. She’s on her hen night with her girl friends, female relations and all of the ex-wives, when she whacks her head and finds herself meeting the girl friends, female relations and wives of Henry VIII. Each woman has to tell Dolly a story about her life, and at the conclusion of the stories, Dolly will be back her real world, to apply her new knowledge to her regular life.

Dolly, spent a lot of time saying she was an academic and a scholar, while making weirdly childish rhymes. It was odd, even before the time-traveling bit.

Each of the six wives revealed a pretty shocking secret, and each time it made her historical arc more sympathetic. (Except for poor Jane Seymour, who was constantly, and hilariously, ten minutes behind the rest of the conversation.) Unfortunately, the secrets didn’t really work out into one narrative, there were way too many secret liaisons, dark secrets and witchcraft. I did like Anne of Cleves’ secret romance with Holbein, though. Actually, I’d probably have been interested in any one of these alternate histories as a standalone story, perhaps with less rhyming overall, but all the stories together was over the top.

Overall, I was thoroughly shocked to find Tudor fiction that I did not enjoy! Although I was excited to read a fun Tudor riff, and I was on board with all the time-traveling and magic, this turned out too zany for me.

 

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Adult life is so hard

We have more space in our new studio, and it turns out that I don’t know how to have normal workplace conversations now that I have to walk into another room to chat. What if I am interrupting other people’s important work? What if someone is looking for me and can’t find me? What if I seem like a lazy slacker because I am always talking? Or what if I’m an antisocial jerk because I don’t know how to have these casual normal chats?

Adult life is very hard.

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How It Works Media’s #ExplainerVideos.

howitworksmediaHow It Works Media makes short, explainer videos for startups and small businesses, allowing them to demonstrate their idea or project to visitors, without suffering through an elevator pitch or reading a product description.

Does anyone ever want to listen to an elevator pitch? I’ve been to tech shows where I know I walked around and saw new apps and new hardware, but I still felt like I listened to one long elevator pitch all day.

Look, I have never personally encountered this phenomenon and I’m not entirely convinced it exists, but I’ve been told there are people who don’t like to read! Weird. I don’t really understand that, but I’m not going to judge too harshly. If I had a startup, I’d want to reach (and sell to) everyone, including people who —  for some reason — don’t like to read. Short videos, like the explainer videos from HowIsWorksMedia, are easily understood by everyone, and can be easily shared.

For example, here’s an explainer video on how explainer videos work.

Now, you basically don’t need the rest of this post because you already know what How It Works Media does

It’s also easy to promote videos on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so forth, and we all know how once a piece of content is on a social network, how widely and wildly it can spread. Cute videos could be shared and spread more easily than a text explanation of a new product or service.

How It WorksMedia believes that explainer videos also increase sales, not just visibility or name recognition, so of course there’s an explainer video for that, too.

Right now, How It Works Media is running a promotion for startups, offering a discounted rate through the end of September.  The September rate is $4000 for a 90 second explainer video, and interested startups can check it out here.

How it Works startups This post is in conjunction with How It Works Media. Pretty sure it’s due to my extensive knowledge of startups and even more massive hatred of elevator pitches.

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Checkpoint: Reflections on Gaming, Travel and Place

checkpoint

Possible Cover Art!

I’ve started a new project combining two of my favorite things, gaming and travel, and now I’m looking for contributing writers. This will be a collection of essays, vignettes and general reflections on games and location. I have, um, two pieces for it right now BUT THEY ARE AWESOME.

Here’s the call for submissions:

I see many connections between games and physical location, and I hope you do too.  Do you think of Monkey Island when you visit a real jungle? Did you recognize your Beijing dumpling shop in the background of a hidden object game? Will you always remember which game you played that week you were snowbound in New England? Or the game you played on a long flight? Did a game inspire you to take an actual trip? Did a trip encourage you to try a new game?

I’m looking for around 20 brilliant writers to share personal reflections on games, place and travel. Ideal contributors will have a background in game development, games journalism, travel writing, or just in thoughtful analysis of games.

Tentative release date is Spring 2015.

You should be part of it! Send .doc or .docx submissions to Checkpoint.Submissions@gmail.com to contribute, or share simpsonsparadox.com/checkpoint with other gaming or travel writers.

 

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Going All Pear-Shaped

pearshaped blue coverIn Stella Newman’s new novel Pear Shaped, our heroine, Sophie, is a puddings developer for a supermarket chain. Handsome, wealthy, much older James isn’t her usual type, but they begin seeing each other and fall madly in love. Kind of.

By the way, pudding is British for dessert, it doesn’t always mean sweet goo. British desserts for me are either wonderful concoctions of fruit and flaky pastry, or fruit and sponge cake,  or they are very, very unappetizing, like different variations on sweet goo. Sophie makes and enjoys both kinds.

I particularly enjoyed some of the work sections, like when a new boss decides Sophie should work with colleagues in Curries and Instant Breakfasts, instead of friends in baking and desserts, or decides that the freezers should be organized by color, and the Phase Four testings. This is when all the developers gather to munch on whatever new dishes are being developed, while pretending it’s entirely for work and quality reasons, and in no way because food is delicious. It’s kind of like a playtest, for desserts.

And, pear-shaped is also British for something going all wrong. The author really gets James right — I wanted to love the sweet and adoring things he does so much that I tried to rationalize away his selfish moments. It’s OK that he’s driving his sports car through the bus lane, because he’s taking Sophie on a romantic date! Ignore all his selfish behavior, just like Sophie does! He’s so handsome and makes these wildly romantic gestures( like hand-delivering her favorite cake from Paris) and when he’s being good to Sophie, he’s really, really good.

This is a fun and engaging novel about good food, good friends, and falling in love with a guy who’s just too good to be true.

I received an eARC of this book from the publisher to review. All comments and opinions are my own, and free copies have never stopped me from snarking about a bad book before.

 

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Impostor Syndrome, Yet Again

A number of days ago, I went to a, um, thing…. about blogging and, um, stuff for bloggers…. which was held at… a local place. Ugh. I’m trying to stay vague about the event because I had some good conversations with a few people, and learned some very Valuable Information, but it was a basically terrible evening.

Mostly it’s my own impostor syndrome, which means when that even though I’ve been doing this for 10 years, I feel like I’m pretty new and I have a lot to learn, which is why I signed up for this… event. To learn more about blogging from the expert speakers.

One expert blogger would say that you need to post every single day. Another would say that you must always share your posts on Facebook. And then another would say that you shouldn’t spam your followers by posting on Facebook every single day. And then, when someone in audience would ask which it is, the panelist would agree that you just have to find what’s right for you! Each audience is different! Everyone is right!

I’ve figured out already that social media promotion is necessary, and that too much self-promotion is annoying. This isn’t because I’m so genius — I’m guessing that most of the attendees had figured this out too. By existing in the world, we’ve all figured out that there’s a happy medium between constantly promoting yourself and completely hiding your accomplishments (saying fairly new to mean been blogging for a decade, actually for example. UGH. Why do I do that?) What I wanted to be told was that 4PM EST is the ideal time to post (It totally is — you get East coasters waiting out the last hour of work and West coasters on their lunch breaks.) or that you should tweet a blog post 3 times with 3 different headlines in a 24 hour period (I made that up, but that’s the kind of information I could seriously use).

You should be authentic and honest, because brands want Authenticity in their sponsored posts. But also, don’t be political on Twitter because that’s alienating to brands. Also, you should either cram your metatext full of keywords, or not. Can you be an Amazon affiliate in North Carolina? No one seemed to know! Which made me feel less and less like I was learning from a panel of experts, and more and more like I was a loser wasting time and money on attending. I’m not a particularly big fish, man, but this felt like a depressing puddle.

It was not a total waste, because there was alcohol. In one of the event’s promo photos, there’s a lovely panorama of the room, with an audience focusing, paying attention, and taking notes. I’m the girl sitting at the bar looking bored. It gave me such a laugh to see it, and the laugh was mostly at myself. Sign up for intro-level info, Meg, and of course you’ll be bored and unimpressed.

Also I realized some Valuable Information that night. In my life, I constantly feel like a dabbler or hobbyist, instead of a professional.  I learned that the thing keeping me from being a professional isn’t that I need more experience, or I need to earn a certain dollar amount at it, or that I need someone outside to validate me by calling me a professional. The thing keeping me from being a “real” professional is just that I constantly feel like an fake one, like a imposter, even when it’s objectively not so.

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Still Life With Hello Kitty

hello kitty craftingReally excited to review these both!

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Another Roman Book Review: Medicus

medicus coverIn Medicus: A Novel of the Roman Empire Ruth Downie uses the tensions between Roman army and British locals to create a believable historical setting and a page-turning mystery

Roman army medic Gaius Petrius Ruso is just trying to keep up appearances for his impoverished family without letting anyone know just how deeply in debt his father was. When an old army buddy, Valens, suggests that Ruso join him in a forsaken outpost of the Roman empire, Ruso jumps at the chance to make some money and maybe also to get away from his ex-wife. Of course, Valens hadn’t quite mentioned all the miserable weather, surly natives and hospital bureaucracy that Ruso would encounter in Britannia.

Ruso is just trying to get by until payday, and the promised army bonus from the new emperor, Hadrian, when corpse of a local girl is brought into the army hospital, setting a local mystery in moment. Soft-hearted Ruso can’t keep himself from investigating, especially not when a second girl from the same brothel is found dead. He also — despite his rising debts — can’t stop himself from buying an injured slave girl, and setting her broken arm.

It’s hard not to like Ruso, whether he’s having it out with an officious and penny-pinching hospital administrator or trying to work on his Concise Guide To Field Medicine. The poor guy just wants to be left alone to get on with his work and pay off his debts, and he keeps getting dragged into unpleasant situations with unpleasant natives.

Ruth Downie makes the same kind of snarky remarks about the dreadful English weather and useless British natives that Robert Graves slipped into I, Claudius. It’s probably exactly what a Roman would think of the outer reaches of the empire, after indoor plumbing and gorgeous Mediterranean weather in Rome, but, again, a British author explaining how desperate the culture and weather are in Britannia is always funny.

While moments in Roman-occupied Deva are delightful, the romantic subplot was underwhelming. The stunningly gorgeous slave girl and her bratty-yet-somehow-charming behavior would have fit seamlessly into any Harlequin romance, and I found myself speeding through their interactions, while savoring descriptions of Ruso’s daily life in Deva. (While I’m sure there was a Roman noble who married his slave, I thought Valens’ comment that he appreciated the new housekeeper and he wouldn’t bed her without Ruso’s permission was more typical of the owner-slave relationship in Rome.) One bright moment in otherwise underwhelming “courtship” was Ruso accidentally naming the girl Tilla while explaining that he could fix her arm. He explains that she could still be a useful worker, by saying utila in Latin, while she heard as You Tilla.

Ruth Downie uses the tensions between Roman army and British locals to create a believable historical setting and a page-turning mystery

Roman army medic Gaius Petrius Ruso is just trying to keep up appearances for his impoverished family without letting anyone know just how deeply in debt his father was. When an old army buddy, Valens, suggests that Ruso join him in a forsaken outpost of the Roman empire, Ruso jumps at the chance to make some money and maybe also to get away from his ex-wife. Of course, Valens hadn’t quite mentioned all the miserable weather, surly natives and hospital bureaucracy that Ruso would encounter in Britannia.

Ruso is just trying to get by until payday, and the promised army bonus from the new emperor, Hadrian, when corpse of a local girl is brought into the army hospital, setting a local mystery in moment. Soft-hearted Ruso can’t keep himself from investigating, especially not when a second girl from the same brothel is found dead. He also — despite his rising debts — can’t stop himself from buying an injured slave girl, and setting her broken arm.

It’s hard not to like Ruso, whether he’s having it out with an officious and penny-pinching hospital administrator or trying to work on his Concise Guide To Field Medicine. The poor guy just wants to be left alone to get on with his work and pay off his debts, and he keeps getting dragged into unpleasant situations with unpleasant natives.

Ruth Downie makes the same kind of snarky remarks about the dreadful English weather and useless British natives that Robert Graves slipped into I, Claudius. It’s probably exactly what a Roman would think of the outer reaches of the empire, after indoor plumbing and gorgeous Mediterranean weather in Rome, but, again, a British author explaining how desperate the culture and weather are in Britannia is always funny.

While moments in Roman-occupied Deva are delightful, the romantic subplot was underwhelming. The stunningly gorgeous slave girl and her bratty-yet-somehow-charming behavior would have fit seamlessly into any Harlequin romance, and I found myself speeding through their interactions, while savoring descriptions of Ruso’s daily life in Deva. (While I’m sure there was a Roman noble who married his slave, I thought Valens’ comment that he appreciated the new housekeeper and he wouldn’t bed her without Ruso’s permission was more typical of the owner-slave relationship in Rome.) One bright moment in otherwise underwhelming “courtship” was Ruso accidentally naming the girl Tilla while explaining that he could fix her arm. He explains that she could still be a useful worker, by saying utila in Latin, while she heard as You Tilla.

As the story unfolds, Downie artfully connects minor events in the village and army base of Deva with larger historical trends, while building an engaging mystery. Fans of John Maddox Roberts’ SPQR series, or David Wishart’s Marcus Corvinus series will enjoy the setting and mystery of Medicus.

This review originally appeared on the UNRV Roman History Forum.

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Building a better action figure with 3D Printing?

future_actionfigure_3Dprintyoda-600x600In which Harold goes to my work party, but is actually thinking about action figures the whole time.

Mobile apps and games now occupy children from a very young age. In addition to consuming New Media, more and more children are becoming New Media producers and makers. There is a great deal of evidence showing that  toys which allow players to build and create are gaining much more traction. Lego, for example, has gained a huge market share, earning $2 billion in the first six months of 2014, beating the earnings of Fisher-Price, Mattel and Matchbox.

All these things came together in my mind recently, leading  me to think about the possible future for action figures. I was at the opening reception for the new studio for my fiancé’s place of work, Youth Digital. After working in game design for years, Meg now teaches game design and app design to children as young as eight. Others at Youth Digital teach 3D modeling, animation and 3D printing to children and teens.

As I made my way through Youth Digital’s new space, I came face-to-face with examples of their 3D printing. 3D printers are becoming more common and more accessible to the general public. The quality of the printed output continues to improve, and 3D printing is more accessible to casual and hobby designers, especially as companies such as Shapeways spring up to provide 3D printing services and a marketplace for 3D designs.

via Building a better action figure with 3D Printing? by Harold Sipe on Action Figure Fury.

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Online Classes With Provost Academy

This post brought to you by Provost Academy. The content and opinions expressed below are that of Simpson’s Paradox.

This post is sponsored by Provost Academy. I was happy to work with this company because I’m (obviously) interested in online education and how teachers can best reach distant students.

Online Education

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It’s hard not to see pretty exciting and disruptive implications of online education. With programs like Coursera (and with my own work), we see how a lesson can be delivered remotely to many students, regardless of their location, and can be brought to students on their own schedules. Coursera is just one of the programs offering college-level courses to interested students, So many applications… almost makes sitting in a lecture hall at a set time seem like a quaint and inefficient way to deliver content. There’s also a niche for online learning and K12 students. Provost Academy is an online and accredited public school, available in Colorado, Ohio, and South Carolina, that uses online learning to serve K12 students. Provost Academy in Colorado and South Carolina teaches children in grades nine through twelve, while the Provost Academy for Ohio offers grades 6-12. These online classes would allow homeschooled students to share a curriculum with other learners in distant cities or for traditional students to take an elective or advanced class not offered at their local school.

The UnVirtual Online School

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There are, of course, some special challenges to online education. Coursera, and other similar MOOCs, usually have something like a 10% course completion rate. Students just drop out before finishes the class. This makes sense for casual students — plenty of Coursera students just want to try out a new subject, want to listen to a specific lesson, or are “trying out” a class as they consider returning to school. I’ve taken a few MOOCs, without ever seeking university credits or a certificate of completion (although I did wish my gamification class on Coursera unlocked an achievement), just to listen to an interesting video or two. Since the courses are free and open, why not sign up for, say, a world history class in order to listen to a couple niche lectures? This is fine for casual students, but a 10% completion rate would be awful for an accredited school. Keeping students engaged and focused at a distance is a challenge, but Provost Academy is looking to change that for their middle and high school learners. Provost Academy is online, and plans to stay online, but they’re rejecting the term “virtual”. Instead, the goal will be to offer distance classes, but to use social networking and personal connections to reduce that distance.

What Do You Think?

Do you think individual connections to teachers, mentors and classmates, can offer online students an “unvirtual experience” in their academics? How would you encourage online students to stay focused? Continue the conversation around My UnVirtual School Idea with a comment here, or by using the hashtag #MyUnVirtualSchool on social media.

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The Lesser Richmond Convention Center

When Harold and I got into Richmond, we drove past the stylish restaurants, art galleries, and bookshops of downtown, and we were in payday loans and check cashing counter territory when we found our hotel. We also weren’t entirely sure it was open, because all the lights on the street-facing side were off. It was not entirely reassuring.

This one of my stranger hotel visits, because the building had, at one point, been a fairly upscale hotel. You could see how someone had once carefully chosen and coordinated the (peeling) wallpaper and (stained) carpets, and that when it was new, it must have looked really nice. We looked at the pool, but the room was only lit on one side (unsure if this was a wiring failure or lightbulb apathy) and the floor was warped enough to leave deep puddles. There was also a whole wing devoted to holding functions, but it was deserted, naturally. Pretty sure anyone holding an event would have a few blocks down the street, at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, rather than here in the ghost hotel.

Everything non-essential was broken, and in some cases, even the Out of Order signs were dusty.  One elevator was non-functioning and the other had a little sign asking riders to please press the buttons harder. But hey, the bed was comfortable, and the room was clean, and it was right down the street from Harold’s comic con.

Although, when we left the first morning to go to the show, the desk clerk was visibly relieved that we weren’t checking out early.

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The One and Only DNF

I recently learned that for book bloggers, DNF means Did Not Finish. What is this not-finishing-a-novel business? Seriously, I very rarely leave a book unfinished, and that is including some fairly dreadful self-published memoir and that time I thought I was reading historical fiction but it turned out to be Julius Caesar erotica; because in general, I would rather be reading a book than not reading a book. Also, how awful does something have to be to stop reading it?

Anyway, I recently got The One and Only on audiobook for the car, because I really enjoyed Baby Proof and Something Borrowed, by the same author, and also because driving is the worst.

According to the summary of The One And Only:

one and onlyThirty-three-year-old Shea Rigsby has spent her entire life in Walker, Texas—a small college town that lives and dies by football, a passion she unabashedly shares. Raised alongside her best friend, Lucy, the daughter of Walker’s legendary head coach, Clive Carr, Shea was too devoted to her hometown team to leave. Instead she stayed in Walker for college, even taking a job in the university athletic department after graduation, where she has remained for more than a decade.

But when an unexpected tragedy strikes the tight-knit Walker community, Shea’s comfortable world is upended, and she begins to wonder if the life she’s chosen is really enough for her. As she finally gives up her safety net to set out on an unexpected path, Shea discovers unsettling truths about the people and things she has always trusted most—and is forced to confront her deepest desires, fears, and secrets.

I thought this meant Shea was leaving small-town Texas for bigger ambitions in a big city (one of my favorite chick lit tropes, seriously), but actually it means she’s going to take up with Coach Carr, and that was NOT my favorite.

Times I like May-December romances: The guy is young at heart, the girl is tired of dating immature twenty-something dudebros, the two share so many interests that age doesn’t even matter, the man is a respectable Roman senator who is obviously not going to marry someone his own age, etc.

Times it creeps me right out: When the girl has serious abandonment issues with her father, so she takes up with her best friend’s father. The man is a new widower, and he’s stuck washing his own socks until he finds a hero-worshipping young girl to quit her job and do everything that his devoted wife once did for him. Also this starts practically on the ride home from his wife’s funeral. And he is a celebrity football coach, while she’s just gotten her first sports journo gig because of him.

So unbalanced on so many levels. I found myself skipping sections of the story, like when Shea drunkdials Coach Carr, or when they reminisce about the time she got caught in teenage misbehavior, and the cops drove her to Coach Carr’s house for her scolding  Not even halfway through the book, when it became clear exactly where it was going, I shut off the CD and drove in silence.

And I guess that’s what DNF means.

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What, No Glitter?

Talking to my boss about what we can offer regarding girls and coding. He sends me this photo, tells me he ordered 10,000 of them for girl students, and that I am now in charge of the related pink-technology girls-in-STEM initiative.

What, no glitter?

What, no glitter?

I think he gets me.

 

(Unfortunately) Related Post:

pink next island

Things I Have Learned About Games.

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Southern Comfort

On Thursday, Harold and I drove up to Richmond for Wizard World Comic Con, where Harold had a table signing copies of Screamland and some of his more recent artwork. We stayed at a hilariously awful hotel, because I simply refuse to learn that when a hotel has a very good location and very low price, there is always a reason.

But when we got into town, we went straight to comfort, a Southern, comfort-food restaurant on Broad Street. (Conveniently located between the comic con and the sketchy hotel!)  comfort was active, not crowded on this Thursday night, and we  were seated immediately. We got a lovely  window table, which was pretty much the best thing ever. Richmond at night is all old brick with new neon, and downtown has a lot of foot traffic, and it wasn’t all that hard to pretend I still lived in Brooklyn.

comfort

Although I really wanted to try the whole cocktail list (in the interests of blog reviewing, obviously), I just got a Jack Rose.

Harold is always hungry, though, so we ordered before I completely devoted myself to people-watching. comfort has a selection of Southern main courses, like pulled pork and fried catfish, served with a selection of side dishes like okra and grits. As you know, I pretty much hate everything about living in the South except Harold and my job. Also okra. The South does a nice okra.

Overall, comfort does a great everything. I’ve had good barbecue and fried catfish and okra before, but it’s somehow less appealing off melting styrofoam plates, served on greasy tables. comfort’s decor and atmosphere were Brooklyn-good, even if the service was definitely on a southern schedule, not New York time.

comfort
200 W. Broad St.
Richmond, VA 23220
Comfort on Urbanspoon

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