Create Your Own ‘Kaiju’ in the July 7th Google Doodle


The July 7th Google Doodle gives props to cinematic history, offering up a game to celebrate Eiji Tsuburaya’s 114th birthday.

Perhaps you’re wondering, “Who is Eiji Tsuburaya?” That’s a very good question.

Tsuburaya is the father of kaiju movies, featuring the giant monsters that crush cities, destroy shipping ports, and wreaks havoc throughout Japan.

Everyone has seen evidence Tsuburaya’s work, from the multiple reboots of the Godzilla movies, to the Power Rangers movie, even to (one of my favorites!) Beastie Boys’ ‘Intergalactic’ music video!

Upon hitting the “Play” arrow on the Doodle, you will enter Eiji Tsuburaya’s studio and be given 10 tasks to help him make his movie. Glue together sets, string actors up on harnesses, and help the puppets stomp out vehicle and tank props. I haven’t been very good at the game, and to do the whole thing you need 3-4 minutes of time as each task loads up. But you could the team who put it together had a great time honoring this cinematic pioneer.

Get Inspired by the 2015 MOONBOTS Challenge!

Image: MOONBOTS. Used with permission.

Once again, GeekMom is proud to be a media partner for this wonderful competition helping to inspire kids to create the most amazing things!

Calling all Explorers, Adventurers, and Dreamers!

We are excited to announce the launch of the 2015 MOONBOTS Challenge, an international competition sponsored by XPRIZE and Google that invites kids to design, create, and program their own lunar rover. Often referred to as the Google Lunar XPRIZE for Kids, this year’s MOONBOTS Challenge is offering an extraordinary Grand Prize: a trip to Japan to meet the actual Google Lunar XPRIZE teams competing for a $30 million prize purse to land a privately funded robot on the moon. Generating excitement about the new Moon race while promoting STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) and team building, MOONBOTS aims to inspire and engage the next generation of space explorers, adventurers, and innovators.

Since its inception in 2010, MOONBOTS has challenged thousands of kids from around the world to use their imagination and creativity in a game of skill that’s engaging, collaborative, and educational. Teams of 2-4 members (ages 8-17), and one team captain at least 18-years old, are asked to write a story or create a video essay explaining what inspires them about the Moon. Thirty teams are then selected by a panel of experts to move on to the next stage of the competition, where they are required to design a lunar landscape, as well as build and program a robot.

In addition, MOONBOT teams must come up with a simulated lunar mission and game play for their robots, and then demonstrate their innovation to children and adults in their community. This public outreach builds confidence for team members, teaches audiences about the Moon and the Google Lunar XPRIZE, and demonstrates how STEM education can be fun.

By inspiring and encouraging today’s youth, MOONBOTS 2015 hopes to create the next generation of coders, innovators, space explorers and dreamers. To find out more about the 2015 MOONBOTS Challenge, go to You can also follow the competition on Twitter and Facebook using #moonbots.

Test Your Geography Knowledge With Google SmartyPins

Screenshot from 2014-07-01 20:58:37
All images from

Yesterday, Google launched SmartyPins, a geography game that lets you test your knowledge of geography, but Trivial-Pursuit-style.

You’re asked questions in one of six categories: Featured Topics, Arts & Culture, Science & Geography, Entertainment, Sports & Games, and History & Current Events. Then, place a pin on the map in the place that is the answer. You can take random questions or select the category to play in.

You start with 1,000 miles and lose them for every mile you are off. For example, if you get this question:

Screenshot from 2014-07-01 21:22:02

And for some reason, you decide that Milwaukee is the Windy City, you’ll lose 79 miles, as that is the distance from Milwaukee to Chicago:

Screenshot from 2014-07-01 21:23:28

If you answer quickly enough, you get bonus miles added to your score. This is where it helps to have a speedy internet connection. While I was able to play on slow hotel Wi-Fi, I never got bonus miles because I was always waiting for the map to load.

The better you do at the game, the more specific you’ll need to be with your answers. For example, when I started, “Chicago” was an acceptable answer. Later in the game, I dropped a pin on Washington, D.C., but lost two miles for it not being directly on the White House.

Play at

Google Docs: The Future of School Reports

Teaching Your Kids How To Use Google Docs For School Reports
all images courtesy of: justJENN

When you think of the future and technology, visions of floating cars and time machines are the first thing that come to mind and rightly so, I’m waiting for my DeLorean as we speak. With computers and video games, kids have access to so many advancements now that it’s easy to overlook key pieces of technology that can be integrated into their core school work.

Growing up we had to write outlines on lined paper by hand, then a summary, rough draft, and final draft in pen. Pen! The final report was then typed on a typewriter, and if mistakes were made, liquid paper was your best friend. This all isn’t that long ago but that’s how quickly technology advances.

google doc settingsWhile iPads and laptops are common for school work nowadays, something you may not be taking advantage of is Google Docs. Google Docs is a free web-based software within Google Drive. Not only can you edit your document on multiple devices but it also allows you to edit and share documents with others online.

I’ve always used Google Docs for my own writing and when the Kid’s 4th-Grade California Mission project came up, it dawned on me that it would be the perfect way to research and write the report.

At the start of the project I set up the Kid with a new document in Google Docs where he typed his outline and the questions he had. Google Docs is a shared mobile app, so that document was always with us. When we visited the site, I simply brought up the document on my phone and he altered and added information to it as we walked around the Mission.

using google docs for school reportsWhen we got home he went over the notes he took and completed his rough draft. It’s that simple! The days of dragging around spiral notebooks and a pen to field trips is over!

Google docs is great for group projects as well. It allows for sharing a link to the document with your other collaborators or keeping the document completely private.

To see how the Kid transformed his notes into a Powerpoint presentation, go here.

If You Are Transgender, Google May Out You. Here’s How You Can Protect Yourself.

Google products
Google Plus, Google Gmail, and Google Hangouts icons by Google. Image by Jules Sherred.

There as been a lot of news this past week about the very sad suicide of Dr. Essay Anne Vanderbilt, which was the result of Grantland reporter Caleb Hannan outing her as transgender.

In the wake of this news, Violet Blue wrote an article for ZDNet, which uncovered how Google has also been outing transgender people after upgrading to Android 4.4 aka KitKat.

The TL;DR version of Blue’s article is:

  • Some trans people use one name on Google+—we will call this their real name. People on Google+ may or may not know they are transgender. That part is irrelevant. The part that is relevant is that is that their Google+ world is their real self. They may not be ready, for a variety of reasons, for their “in real life” world to know about this real self. But, because they are not “out” at work, with some peers, and/or family members, they use another name on for their Gmail and messaging on their phone—we will call this their assigned name at birth.
  • After upgrading to Android 4.4, Google Hangouts became their default SMS app.
  • Google Hangouts is tied to their real name listed on Google+.
  • Their assigned name at birth—which once appeared as their name in the old messaging app and Gmail—has suddenly been replaced with their real name, thanks to Google’s infinite “wisdom” of integrating all of their services with Google+.
  • Now, they’ve been outed without their consent or transparency on the part of Google about what will happen to your ID when you upgrade to Android 4.4.
  • Google is saying, to paraphrase, “This isn’t our fault. It’s user error.”

When I read the news last night, my heart sank. I frantically went through all of my accounts associated with my Google+ account to make sure my real name is listed everywhere. My Galaxy Note III is still running Android 4.3, so I didn’t have to worry about the Google Hangouts thing, just yet. But, I wanted to make sure that when the upgrade finally becomes available to me, I won’t have to worry about my assigned name at birth popping up somewhere.

You see, I’m already mostly out. So, that isn’t something I necessarily have to worry about. I’ve legally changed my name, which also means that my assigned name at birth was destroyed and new birth records and a new birth certificate was created. But, I do have a different type of “outing” to worry about.

There are people, including my entire family, who, despite a legal name change, refuse to call me by my real name. New people come into my life who do not know I had an assigned birth name that differs from my legal name. I don’t ever want to give anyone any more “reason” to use my wrong name, or gain knowledge of it without it being on my terms.

After all, this is my life, my name, my identity. I should have control over this very private part of my life. And, so should you.

After my legal name change, I had to update all of my online profiles. It is very easy to miss one, especially if some of your online profiles are throw-away accounts. The Gmail account attached to my Google+ profile is one of my throw-away accounts, because of privacy and personal safety reason.

Missing from Blue’s article are some steps you can take in order to protect your identity. Here are two things you can do, right now, in order to protect yourself:

  1. If your situation is similar to mine, meaning: you are out; or, have recently legally changed your name, but you don’t want new people to know your past self; and/or you have people who refuse to call you by your real name and you don’t want to give them any more “reason” to be transphobic towards you, then do the following:
    1. Log into your Gmail account.
    2. Click the spokes button under your avatar.
    3. Click “Settings.”
    4. Click “Accounts.”
    5. Beside “Send mail as:” make sure it’s the same name as your Google+ account. Make sure your assigned name at birth isn’t listed when you click “Edit info.” After my legal name change, it took quite some time for Google to erase my old name. It’s only quite recent that it was no longer listed in Gmail.
  2. If your situation is such where you need to use your assigned name at work, with your peers, and with your family, then you’ll have to set up another Gmail account using your real name. It’s not ideal, but it is what a lot of my trans peers have done. Once you setup the new Gmail account, you’ll need to do the following:
    1. Create a new Google+ account that is attached to the Gmail account that uses your real name.
    2. Start re-adding people to your circles, rejoin all your communities, notify your Google+ pals of the changed account, etc. Yes, it’s a lot of work.
    3. Deactivate the Google+ account that is attached to your assigned name at birth. Because, despite your Google+ account using your real name and your Gmail account using your assigned name, soon the Google+ name will overwrite your assigned name. If you need to keep that account as your assigned name, you cannot have it attached to a Google+ account unless you want to change the Google+ account name to your assigned named. I really hope this point makes sense, because it is a little convoluted and it shouldn’t have to be.
    4. Add the new account which is using your real name to your Android devices. The upside to Android is that you can be logged into different accounts for different apps. I am logged into my throw-away Google account for Google+ (I never check my Gmail and I don’t use Google Hangouts), and my real name account for Google Play.

While the above steps are not ideal, these are some things you can do. The ideal thing would be for Google to wake up and realize that there are valid reasons for using different identities for different products. Not everyone who uses a pseudonym is a troll. Not only could these people be transgender and, for very valid reasons, have to hide this fact. But, they could also be people escaping abusive relationships, who still have to use two sets of names. And the list can go on.

I hope I made sense. If not, please feel free to ask a question in comments, and I’ll do my best to clarify.

Your Android Phone Has Geeky Answers To These 22 Requests

Android screenshot by Ruth Suehle

If you haven’t played with the voice commands on your Android phone yet, you’re missing out on a) looking like a total nerd (so what?) and b) some really fun answers.

Drag up your Google Now interface. You can start voice control with, “OK, Google…” per the phone’s instructions, but a “Listen, Google,” or a, “Hey, Google,” will do as well. If you haven’t gone full Google fangirl, you can go with, “OK, computer.” But to turn the nerdtasticness up to 11, say, “OK, JARVIS,” and pretend you’re a lady Tony Stark in control of the digital world. (To be fair, you can say just about anything that even vaguely resembles “OK, Google,” and it will pick it up.)

Of course, now you have to issue a command or two to JARVIS/computer/Google Now. Here are a few you can try that will get it to talk back to you. Note that not all of these always work depending on your handset, Android version, and particular accent. They also may result in different answers if you try them a second time. Try them all, and enjoy the geeky fun!

  • Beam me up, Scotty!
  • Make me a sandwich!
  • sudo make me a sandwich (This one is particularly difficult to pronounce such that Google hears “sudo.” Try saying it like “pseudo.”)
  • up up down down left right left right
  • Who are you?
  • When am I?
  • When does the narwhal bacon?
  • What is your favorite color?
  • Bacon number [insert actor name]
  • What’s the best smartphone?
  • What is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything?
  • What is the nature of the universe?
  • How can entropy be reversed?
  • What is recursion?
  • What is the loneliest number?
  • Who’s on first?
  • What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?
  • Do a barrel roll.
  • Tilt.
  • How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

And if you change your phone’s language in Android settings to “English (United Kingdom),” you can try, “Tea. Earl Grey, hot.” Unfortunately it won’t actually make a cup for you.

Finally, you can sing “Magic Dance” from Labyrinth with your phone. You start, then continue to tap voice control and say each line back:

You: You remind me of the babe.
Google: What babe?
You: The babe with the power.
Google: What power?
You: The power of voodoo.
Google: Who do?
You: You do!
Google: Do what?
You: You remind me of the babe!

And now you’re stuck in a loop talking to your phone. Congratulations!

Google Doodle Celebrates Foucault’s Pendulum

Screen capture by Cindy White

Google is celebrating the birthday of French physicist Jean Bernard Léon Foucault today (September 18) with an interactive Google Doodle featuring his most famous invention, the Focault pendulum. A truly elegant scientific device, it demonstrates the rotation of the Earth via a constantly swinging ball and a ring of pegs, each of which is knocked down in succession as the planet changes position. You can play around with the sliders to change how quickly time passes or see how different latitudes affect the pendulum’s arc.

Focault’s other notable contributions to science include an experiment in 1850 which measured the speed of light, the discovery of eddy currents (also called “Faucault currents”), coining the term “gyroscope,” and devising a test for reflecting telescope mirrors that is still used today. For more background and history on Focault, click on the magnifying glass on Google’s home page.

On a personal note, as a kid growing up in L.A. I have fond memories of watching the impressive, mesmerizing Focault pendulum at work in the rotunda of the Griffith Park Observatory and listening to my dad explain the scientific principle behind it. To this day, it’s still one of my favorite places to visit in the city. So, thank you Léon Foucault and Google for bringing it all back to me with this lovely tribute.

Google Doodle Celebrates 66th Anniversary of Roswell

Screen grab of

Sixty-six years later, there are still questions about the Roswell incident. What exactly was the object that crashed to Earth in Roswell, New Mexico?

The United States Armed Forces first said it was an experimental surveillance balloon, but other reports stated that a “flying disc” was recovered on July 8, 1947. In another version, the “flying disc” became a weather balloon. The story disappeared into relative obscurity until Major Jesse Marcel came forward in 1978, saying that he believed the U.S. military had recovered an alien spacecraft and subsequently covered up the story. This revelation has led to theories and official inquiries and provided lots of fodder for both UFO researchers, conspiracy theorists, and skeptics. Might there be alien remains hidden in Area 51?

In today’s interactive Doodle, Google re-imagines the crash, putting a cute little alien on the ground—alive and well—in Roswell. Can you find all the puzzle pieces? (I’m still looking!)


Just in Time for Memorial Day*: Enjoy the 2013 Doodle4Google Winner

Image: Google

*I understand that Memorial Day technically isn’t meant for those servicemembers still living. But we all know that a lot of attention is given to our currently-serving military members around Memorial Day and I’m merely pointing out the proximity on the calendar between the release of this doodle and Memorial Day. Per Wikipedia, “Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day; Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, living or dead.”

A Wisconsin 12th grader is singlehandedly bringing millions of people — especially military spouses, military children and servicemembers — to tears. For her winning 2013 Doodle4Google contest entry, Sabrina Brady wholeheartedly deserves the $30,000 scholarship, new Chromebook and $50,000 technology grant to her school that come with winning the 2013 Doodle4Google competition.

I’ve been in both of those characters’ shoes and this art brought me to tears. Many times I’ve stood pier-side waiting as my father returned from 6- to 9-month Navy deployments. In 2009, I got to enjoy my sons’ hugs after many months away in the Middle East for my own deployment.

I’m in tears now as I copy and paste the image into this post.

In addition to the moving message, Miss Brady’s art is wonderful. I love the shadows of each of the characters.

For the Doodle4Google contest, students in grades K-12 submitted Google Doodle art that applies to an annual theme. This year’s theme was “My Best Day Ever…” and Miss Brady’s entry commemorated the day her father returned from Iraq after 18 months away from home. She was 10 years old at the time.

The other four national finalists earned $5,000 scholarships. One winner was chosen from each state. Read more about the winning entry and see the finalists’ pieces here.

Are you interested in entering? Stay tuned, in January the new competition and theme will be announced.

The April Fool’s Roundup: Jokes Around The Web

April Fool's Day, Google prank
Google Nose!

There are a few you always know to expect, starting with Google and ThinkGeek. Here are those, along with a few others we’ve seen this morning. Happy Don’t Believe The Internet Day! (Except the GeekMoms–we really have moved to this new site. What do you think?)

Samsung Galaxy Camera: Sharing, Editing, and Android

Image Courtesy Samsung

Does your camera run Android? This one does. The Samsung Galaxy Camera is part of a new class of device. It’s got every part of a phone, including a huge 4.8 inch screen and possible two year contract, except it doesn’t make phone calls. With the Samsung Galaxy Camera, you can take photos and have them sent to Instagram, Flickr, or Google+ without having to download anything or even wait until you get back to a Wi-Fi hotspot. You can also make corrections on your images or edit video directly on the camera before sending them on to friends and family.

Samsung Galaxy Camera
Screen Capture of Expert Mode

The whole device is slightly heavier than your average smartphone, probably to accomodate the 16 megapixel camera with 21x optical zooming lens. It also takes better pictures than a smartphone and is loaded with extra features. Its “Expert Mode” lets you individually adjust things like f-stops and ISO, and it tells you what you’re doing while you adjust it. That’s right. It teaches you as you go along. Now you can take better photos and learn how to better use that fancy DSLR, should you eventually choose to upgrade. Continue reading Samsung Galaxy Camera: Sharing, Editing, and Android

Happy Birthday, Google!

Google is celebrating their 14th birthday. Can you believe it? Google is old enough to be a freshman in high school. Microsoft is actually old enough to be Google’s dad, so there you go. Now the exact birthday of Google also depends on who you ask. They filed for incorporation on September 7th, but they’ve shifted the date around over the years. The 10 year anniversary was marked with an entire month of celebration. Google claims their birthday is “whenever they feel like eating cake.”

This year’s celebratory doodle has an animation of chocolate cake with candles that gets nibbled to form the Google logo. You can sneak a peak at Google Japan or wait for the animation to work its way to the 27th in your time zone.

Google Is Now America’s Most Awesome ISP

Google Fiber
Image Courtesy Google

Kansas City is about half an hour from my house, taunting me with fast download speeds.

After a summer of waiting, Google finally emerged with details on their new Kansas City Fiber network. The price for Google Internet starts at free. That’s right, for the $300 installation fee, Google will give you free Internet at “today’s speeds” for at least 7 years. If you’re used to thinking of these speeds as fast, take a gander at this comparison and then imagine seven years of technology innovation.

For $70 a month, you get the gigabit Internet and a network box. That’s 100 times faster than what most of us are using right now.  This is probably what I’d pick, and it’s about what I’m paying for the speeds Google is now giving away for free. Did I mention that there’s no data cap for these plans? There’s also no cap on upload speeds.

For hesitant cord cutters, Google has the ultimate plan at $120 a month. That’s the gigabit Internet, two terabytes of local storage, a shiny new Nexus 7 tablet, and a TV box with a cable lineup. That’s right, Google is becoming your cable company. The lineup doesn’t include most of the local networks, but they’re probably within antenna reception range. I wonder if the TV box also acts as a DVR.
Continue reading Google Is Now America’s Most Awesome ISP

Marissa Mayer: Yahoo’s New Pregnant CEO

Marissa Mayer speaks on a panel of highly influential women in tech.
Marissa Mayer speaks on a panel of highly influential women in tech. Credit: Marziah Karch

Marissa Mayer is a big deal.

She’s Google employee 20, the first woman engineer, and the highest ranking woman there. Well, she was. As of yesterday, she’s a Xoogler. Mayer quit Google in order to become Yahoo’s new CEO. As if that weren’t enough, the same day she made the announcement, she tweeted that she and her husband were expecting a baby boy in October. That’s right, Yahoo hired her with a visible baby bump.

While Mayer certainly had a long and lucrative career at Google, her promotion possibilities had narrowed. She was the most senior female engineer, but there were still two levels of management above her, and one of those layers was added after Larry Page took over duties as Google’s CEO. While I’m not sure anyone can rescue Yahoo out of its current mess, Marissa Mayer is ready for the challenge. I hope she has some Miracle Max magic.

Back in January of this year, I saw Mayer, Padmasree Warrior, and Caterina Fake give a panel presentation at CES on the field of women in technology. They spoke about the problem that not only are women less likely to enter a tech career, they’re more likely to give it up to start a family. All the women touched on the idea that women shouldn’t shrink from responsibility and power when starting a family. Instead, women should try to grab more power.

Why? When you have enough power, you dictate the rules. Bring your baby to work. Turn that meeting into a teleconference from home. Set up a daycare on campus. Flex your schedule around that pediatrician appointment.

It’s certainly advice that Mayer, who may have just found out she was pregnant around that time, was taking to heart. Rather than taking it easy, she plans on having only a few weeks of maternity leave and continuing to work.

Hack Build With Chrome for Pink Legos!

Build With Chrome Easter Egg
Credit: Joshua Rowe

Josh Rowe, the creative director for Build with Chrome, let me in on a little Easter Egg. Legos come in all sorts of colors, but not so for Build. It turns out there were some  issues with “WebGL shaders work and the complexity of the 3D scenes.” In other words, they could make it fast, or they could offer 150 colors. They went with fast. I’d say that’s a good call.

As it turns out, you can add one of those colors back. You’re going to have to go into the Chrome developer console, but this isn’t really that complicated. I’ve tested it, and it works. Here goes: Continue reading Hack Build With Chrome for Pink Legos!

Nexus Q Aims to Be the Center of Your Living Room

From Google I/O
Google I/O Conference Introducing Nexus Q

The Google I/O conference officially kicked off with the keynote this morning. They introduced the Nexus 7 tablet – already leaked before the conference, but they also introduced a Nexus something new. The Nexus Q aims to build on the connected entertainment environment. It’s a tool designed to allow you and your friends to control your home music and movie experience.

Hook the Q up to your TV or home theater, and you can use it to stream and enjoy content. You and your friends “in the same room” can use your Android phones and tablets to stream content from Google without going through a lot of authentication steps to connect. (I can already see the pranking possibilities here. Can you?) Google has intentionally made this device hacker friendly, so expect to see some interesting uses in the future.

Is this a Google TV killer? Since Sony, LG, and Vizio are all rolling out Google TVs, that would be a heck of a strategy faux pas by Google. (Not that they don’t make missteps.)  I think this is more a case of Google throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks. The Nexus Q will be small and hackable, while the Google TV is intended as a full, self-contained Android device. Both are valid guesses as to how consumers want to enjoy content, and there’s a chance one or the other will take over. That is, unless Apple whips out something amazing that blows them both away.

The Nexus Q is available for pre-order now for $299. It’s currently US market only. My advice is to wait for the reviews… and the hacks.

Lego Build With Chrome Wins the Internet

Screen Capture of Build with Chrome

It’s time for Google’s I/O developer conference, and that means it’s time for lots of really fun, really cool announcements. If you’ve got kids or just really like Lego, you’ll love this – that pretty much includes everyone, right? Use your Chrome browser to navigate to Build with Chrome and start grabbing a piece of virtual Australia or New Zealand. The rest of the globe will still have to wait.

Once you log in, you can start building on your virtual property with virtual Lego bricks. You can publish, but that’s something you want to do when you’re finished. Once published, you can’t delete your creation, and you consent to letting Lego and Google use it for promotional purposes. Advertise away, Lego. This is just cool.

You can claim any chunk nobody else has claimed, but hurry because it’s first come, first served.

I got assigned a chunk of ocean, and the property next to mine was under construction about two seconds after I started. If it’s all full by the time you log in, you can still explore the virtual buildings others have made. There’s a moderation system in place to keep out the griefers, so theoretically it should be safe for work and kids.

Google’s New Privacy Policy

Google sent out emails to users to let them know that they’re changing their privacy policy and Terms of Service, effective March 1. That’s usually enough to start a good panic, and I doubt it will be different this time.

Just how “evil” is Google?  Well, it probably depends on who you ask. There were plenty of people spreading the rumor that Google was stealing all your content, when really they were just doing normal Internet-y stuff, like allowing you to upload, store, and post it. You’ve always retained copyright. The good news is that Google’s new Terms of Service are a lot clearer about that. They’re also simpler and apply across all services, except when the service itself says otherwise (open source software allows you to modify it, for example.)

The privacy policy changes are a biggie, however.  Google is going to combine info across services. That means when you search, the search algorithms will consider your contacts, your email messages, your documents, and your recently read news articles when returning your search results. That sounds pretty Big Brotherish, but I suspect you’ll like the search results better, anyway. It’s also likely going to mean less logging in. I don’t know about you, but I’m annoyed when I have to log into YouTube separately, even though it’s tied to my Gmail address and uses the same password.

Google also assures us that they’re not going to tie DoubleClick advertising info with personally identifying information unless you opt in. Better hope that opt in option is obvious and clear. Google has my phone number, credit card information, and address. It’s bad enough that they’re taunting across websites. I don’t need my banner ads to call me by name.

The bad, the ugly. This means Wil Wheaton’s rule applies tenfold. If you get caught breaking the rules, you can be locked out of everything you use on most of the Internet. Google still needs to work on their tools to get people out of that situation if they break rules unknowingly, are hacked, or end up being falsely accused.

What do you say? Are you ditching the Google come March 1st, are you launching a protest, or are you just going to passively accept that they knew all your personal data anyway and enjoy the integrated services?

A GeekMom’s 34 Goals for 2012

Number 17 on my list of goals: Have one thriving crop. This mutant carrot is the outcome of my last gardening attempt. Photo by Cathe Post.

A friend of mine recently published her professional website after months of preparation. One of her premier posts shared 30 things she would like to do this year in honor of turning 30. It’s not a milestone birthday year for me, but the idea made sense. In an effort to set reasonable goals instead of unattainable demands, I’m going to follow in IndieKate‘s blog-steps and create a 34 in 2012 list. Here it goes…

  1. Work on getting in shape – I just signed up for Fitocracy so I can log all of my Dance Central time in Workout Mode.
  2. Keep up with my blog – I would like to share more on my personal blog than a log of articles I write for GeekMom. Some blogs I read just share one moment from the day that their readers can identify with. I’d like to do the same, if I’m not cleaning up the mess from said moment…
  3. Social Butterfly – I want to put myself out there more. I am on PinterestFacebookTwitterGoodreads and Google +. I hope to cross share through all of these platforms at least once a week.
  4. Keep up with Phineas and Ferb this summer – There is a calendar. I printed it for my daughter last summer and we only did about a third of the things that we wrote on it (let alone the ideas that came with it).
  5. Watch less TV – My husband would probably not understand this one. I listen to Netflix shows while I’m on the computer. If I listened to audiobooks or podcasts instead, I would probably be better off.
  6. Read More – I HATE reading. Due to my astigmatism, I end up reading the same line in a book multiple times before getting past it. It makes book reading less than fun. It’s “better” now that we have a Kindle Fire, because I can show one paragraph per page and increase the font size, but it still hurts my eyes – I have to really be interested in the book.
  7. Learn at least one more of my husband’s miniature games – I played Warhammer Fantasy with my husband for a year. It was great fun. But, I played the season, won the tournament (and a really cool sword) and left it at that. So now I should catch up and learn Blood BowlHell Dorado, and Dystopian Wars.
  8. Learn an activity with my daughter – I don’t care if it’s Heroclix or something non-geeky – we had a lot of fun learning Pokémon together (have you heard the recent GeekMom podcast?). Mother/daughter bonding is good.
  9. Earn my Tournament Organizer’s title for Pokémon – Since I keep running computers for Pokémon tournaments, I really should have a copy of the program on my computer. In order to have that, I need to earn my stripes!
  10. Drink water – 8 glasses a day…blah…blah…blah…
  11. GeekMom – The responsibilities of a core contributor on GeekMom are not unreasonable, and yet I find myself fighting to keep up from time to time. I would like to work to 125% of what is required, because GeekMom is a great community to be part of. I keep find myself saying, “That would make a great article.” So, sit down and write the article already!
  12. Pre-school – This would be a goal for later in the year. As my youngest nears turning three, I look at the pre-school choices and cringe. The idea of teaching him myself is daunting, but doable – and he’d love it.
  13. Eat more veggies – I eat veggies twice a day on a good day. I could be better about it.
  14. Ride my bike – Even riding my bike once this summer would be more than I did last year.
  15. Edit out the virtual garbage – This would include cleaning out the backup hard drive, deleting old documents, and having everything backed up and organized in one location…instead of three.
  16. Make headway in the yard – We put in a playground (swings and a slide thanks to my parents) this last summer. We have a small rectangular backyard. I would like a third of it to be raised gardens and a stone oven for baking pizza/bread, a third lawn, and a third playground. It means DOING IT.
  17. Have one crop thrive – I have a black thumb. Enough said.
  18. Go back to church – I haven’t been in a year. Again, if I make it once this year, it will be a step in the right direction.
  19. Vote – I missed our last local election and felt guilty about it for weeks. If you don’t vote, you don’t have a right to complain about how your taxes are spent.
  20. Date – My husband. I need to make that clear. I have known my husband since 1993. We started dating in 1998, and were married in 2003. Several times we’ve misplaced the romance. We seem to find it if we can go on a date.
  21. Pet the cats – Isn’t it scientifically proven that animals can reduce stress levels? I have four cats, so I should be four times less stressed, right?
  22. ADHD – I need to learn all I can about this. My daughter was diagnosed with it, and I think it is a HUGE source of the behavior issues we have had in the last three years. Learning how to help her deal with her symptoms will be a relief.
  23. Remain close to my parents – I am an only child. My parents live less than 5 miles away. I have tried very hard to be there for them this year as my mom has taken on difficult volunteer tasks and my dad has undergone chemotherapy. This year can only be better for them, right?
  24. Have a cemented financial plan – Being in a one income household is hard. I am thankful that my husband’s job provides a roof over our head and food on the table. GeekMom Judy Berna had a similar resolution this year.
  25. Learn how to fix one thing – My husband is very handy. He cooks, he sews, he fixes the stuff that needs fixing. Just once I should take initiative and learn to do it myself instead of asking him.
  26. Attempt to potty train – My 2-year-old wants to do everything his sister does. So, perhaps this summer I will have the guts to attempt to teach him how to use the potty. Isn’t it as easy as throwing cheerios in the toilet and having them do target practice?
  27. Write a book with my daughter – She loves drawing and telling stories. It would probably be a great geeky story – an epic tale even!
  28. Start a video podcast – The hubby and I have been watching Hank and Katherine Play Super Mario Brothers Wii! on YouTube. Where my husband is inspired to play his ukulele and make videos someday like the DoubleclicksMolly Lewis, or Pomplamoose, I want to make a board game blog. We shall see if I can get anyone to help me – I can’t really play board games by myself.
  29. Brush up on my sign language – I used to be fluent, but if you don’t use it, you lose it.
  30. Run a D&D campaign – I don’t know that RPG Kids would count. But I would run a one-shot game in a heartbeat.
  31. Add to my client base – It would be nice to have a couple more clients to tutor in the art of running a computer.
  32. Make one item out of one of my craft books – Complete a large fiber project  (like an afghan) or a project from a craft book. I have a shelf full of craft/fiber books that are fun to look at, but I haven’t done anything other than look at them. I have done a few projects from the GeekDad books, but I want to complete ALL OF THEM.
  33. Do one Arduino project – This is an intelligence challenge. Can I be smarter than the programming language? (I wasn’t in college – that’s for sure).
  34. Enter one photography show – Just one. Just enough of a commitment that I have to attempt to take artsy-fartsy shots throughout the year.

I don’t think this list is unattainable. It will take some work, but there isn’t one thing on this list I can’t finish (maybe 33, but I will at least attempt it). What are your goals for 2012? Do you have some of the same crazy plans as I do?

GeekMom Is Now on Google+

At long last, Google+ has rolled out pages for businesses, organizations, and websites. We’re delighted to announce the brand-spankin’-new GeekMom page on G+—let the circling begin!

If you’re new to G+ and still finding your way around, here’s our four-part series of Google+ tips:

Part 1: Don’t let circles make your head spin
Part 2: Privacy and profiles
Part 3: Finding your friends
Part 4: Assorted tips

Although Google’s foray into social networking hasn’t been without its bumps—such as the Nymwars issue and the shuttering of Google Reader’s Shared Items feature in favor of Google+ sharing—Plus has much to offer, especially for users who are increasingly uncomfortable with Facebook’s “frictionless sharing.” We hope to see you there!

Why Curated Content Matters: A Lament for Reader Share

Google Reader unveiled big changes this week, and the internet recoiled. Some folks (I’m one of them) loathe the new design: the excessive use of white space at the top of the screen, the heavy black-and-gray palette, the black-underlined links that have replaced the stand-out blue. But far more irritating to many users is the death of Reader’s Shared Items feature.

Screen shot of my new Reader. That gaping hole on the left is where my friends’ Shared Items should be.

If you used Reader Share, you’re probably in mourning today. No longer can you click the share button at the bottom of a post in your Reader, sending it to a sidebar widget on your blog and popping it into the “people you follow” section of your friends on Reader. No longer can you count on that easy click in Reader to show you the links shared by the people you follow—those trusted curators of content whose taste and judgment you rely on.

Sure, those folks can continue sharing the best of the internet with you via other means. Google is hoping they’ll share to Google+ instead, and there’s a button at the bottom of every Reader post to make it easy for you. But even if you’re a G+ enthusiast like I am, share-to-Plus is no substitute for Reader Share. Here’s why: Let’s say you read a great blog post and you share it to Google+. I follow you on G+, so I’m sure to see this post you’ve shared, right? Well, no, not if I don’t happen to be looking when it hits my stream. If I miss it, it’ll whisk on by. The current there is swift.

Same goes for sharing links on Twitter or Facebook. These platforms are terrific for sharing information with a broad audience all at once, but they’re like live-music festivals. You’re there in the crowd, you soak up what’s being broadcast through the sound system, you revel in the moment, and it’s wonderful. But sometimes you want to go to your shelf (or your iTunes, whatever) and pick out an album by an artist you know will move you and make you think. Good content curators are like that. Boing Boing, for example, became a force to reckon with because its founders were, from the very beginning, excellent at picking out what is noteworthy on the vast internet. Mental Multivitamin is one of my favorite curators: she reads, she thinks, she shares—I learn.

Google’s shift from Reader Share to Google+ seems part of a larger push toward stream content, away from curated content you can subscribe to. Last week, Felicia Day wrote a post on G+ about her frustration with websites that have abandoned RSS feeds in favor of streaming platforms like Twitter.

RSS is a way to consume a LOT of information very quickly, and STORE it in nice categories if you miss it. So I can catch up with a small blog’s output at the end of the week and, if I so choose, read EVERY article easily in one sitting. You think on Friday I’m gonna go browse that same site’s Twitter feed on their page (digging through all the messy @ replies) and see what they did that week?! Or go to their Facebook page that is littered with contests? No way dude, I’m too busy for that!

I feel like small blogs cut their own throat by taking away the RSS capability. I give this analogy a lot, but social media outlets are INFO COLANDERS! 5% of your followers will see anything you post, and that’s probably only within 20 minutes of posting. That’s the way it is and it’s gonna only get worse. Apart from email lists, RSS is the best way you can collect stuff across the internet to read quickly, and I am so irritated when that choice is taken from me.

And that is exactly what’s bugging me about the death of Reader Share. It was an info pantry, not a colander—a place well stocked with nourishing brain food. I followed a number of people who had demonstrated, day after day, a sharp eye for items worth my time. Every time I clicked that “people you follow” link to see what they’d shared, I could count on learning something.

Of course there are other ways to share curated content. (I’m using Diigo for now.) Reader Share was simply the most efficient, the most convenient. It employed the “point of first use” principle used by savvy homemakers: store things where you use them. Keep your measuring cups and mixing bowls in the cabinet closest to the counter where you plug in your mixer. Keep your link-sharing button right next to the place where you do the bulk of your online reading—your feed reader. And while you’re at it, keep the feeds of the curators you like there too. It’s common sense.

I love the social media stream. It’s thrilling, it’s an adventure. It can set amazing chains of events in motion. And if you want a quick reply, there’s no better method. Once, standing in a doctor’s office, arguing with his staff over why he did, in fact, have to sign a document I had brought in, I fired off a quick Twitter plea for the relevant chunk of California legislation. In less than thirty seconds—faster than I could have Googled for the information and sifted through search hits on my tiny cellphone screen—I had it. The doctor’s staff complied. It was magical.

But, as we all know, social media can generate a lot of noise. So can the big, busy blogosphere. A good curator finds the music among the static. Reader Share made it easy to tune into that music. I miss it already.

Yes, It’s Another Social Network: Erly’s Claim to the Event-Based Social Niche

I caught wind this past week of a new social network that hit the airwaves on September 14th., started by Eric Feng, the founding-CTO of Hulu, is deeming itself a “new social platform for organizing and sharing your personal content.”  It’s attempting to shift our perspectives on social media: while most of our social media experiences have been individually-driven, Erly is attempting to collect social media based on events.

Based on my short time on the site, there appears to be a lot of potential in this, but the website needs to be populated before we can see most of this come to fruition.  I predict that with enough members, if someone were to post a Facebook album called “Muse Concert: 12/12/11”, Erly will data mine for other pictures from the same concert and recommend them to each other.  Over the weekend I took a short visit to the site and gave it a go.

For starters, it appears that Erly doesn’t want to have much to do with you without a Facebook login.  There’s a link you can click about this that explains that Erly doesn’t store passwords and by just using Facebook, there’s no need to learn another login and password.  But if you read between the lines it’s also getting its first batch of media with which it can populate the network.

Just register with your Facebook account. After that, you have the option to connect with other social media.

I chose to link my Picasa photo albums to Erly, since I had a couple of topics in mind.  First of all, I was going to try to bring together all my albums that included flowers.

The assumption is that it won’t be my own collection.  You will be plunged right into starting your own first “collection”.

I titled my collection “Flowers” and started filling it with photos.  But as you can see above, you can also add links, notes, and videos.  There’s also a “Request” button with which you can ask Facebook friends to contribute to the collection.

It was really easy to bring in the pictures, but I’m having trouble with cataloging and arranging them for now.  It reminds me of sharing photo albums on G+: the pictures are randomly sized and ordered.

Pictures are very easily brought in from existing Facebook and Picasa albums. Still trying to crack the code on sizing and ordering them though.  Slide the bar at the bottom to scroll left and right through the pictures.  The orange-colored blocks are the pictures.  Also, note that I added a “contributor” on the left, one of my Facebook friends who also takes a lot of flower pictures.

Like other social networks, you can edit captions and comment on the assorted pictures.  But Erly lets you go a step further, and this might be where it can make its money compared to Facebook and G+: adding links, video and notes to the same collection.

You can see a Wikipedia link I added about oleander flowers in the upper left, and I started to add a Chinese hibiscus wiki article on the right. These will sit in the collection side-by-side with the pictures.

You can also add a note. I could see this coming in handy like an announcement to a group of guests to add pictures after a wedding.  I also tried to move the Wiki articles to the right.  You can pick up and drop the modules, but I still can’t crack the code on resizing.
My deployment collection. Between Facebook, Picasa and Blogger, I had online video, photos and stories of my 2009 deployment that I could bring together in one easy-to-share location.  I linked to all my deployment blog posts in the upper left, and to the right of that I included a link to my duststorm video that I had taken in February 2009.  PS: That’s a Chia Homer on the right that I had received in a care package.

In summary, here are the pros and cons of Erly based on my one-weekend-worth of exploration:


  • LOVE LOVE LOVE being able to drop relevant links, notes and videos into the same album as your photos.  Facebook isn’t quite there yet with their own albums.
  • It’s expected to be event-cataloged, rather than individually-cataloged.  So attending rock concerts, NFL games and state fairs will likely be cataloged into “related” photo albums.
  • If you don’t mind linking your albums, this is very easy to do.
  • Pulling the media into the collection was quick and simple.  It’s wonderful bringing together several social networks and photo sharing services.


  • Organization needs some work.  I was presented with a sample set of Facebook albums to choose from for my “Flowers” collection and it was missing several.  There was no way to get to my older albums.
  • A search function would be good for finding the media in Picasa and Facebook.  If I had been able to search “Flowers” in my Picasa album list, I’d have saved a lot of time assembling the collection.  While Picasa has a decent search function for your photo albums, Facebook’s isn’t very good and Erly probably can’t make things any easier.
  • The website hung up several times.  I got the “X-eyed” computer that Chrome presents when the webpage freezes up.  This happened about 5 times while setting up my two collections.  I’ll attribute that to growing pains.
  • The two-dimensionality of the collections became troublesome.  I haven’t maxed-out the size of the collection yet, but I’m wondering how wide I can make a collection.  Sliding the zoom bar left and right (at the bottom) wasn’t quite as responsive as I’d like.
  • At the moment, if you don’t have a Facebook account, you’re excluded from this experience.  Considering about 18% of the population is on Facebook, I doubt they’ll have trouble populating their network.

If you’d like to visit the two collections I’d made, please feel free to check them out and see what you think.  Collections — Flowers and Collections — 2009 Deployment.

Google Breadcrumb: Slightly Geeky and Fun Mobile Learning Tool

According to a Microsoft infographic on the Digital Buzz website, there are four billion mobile phones in use around the world.  Even more intriguing is that mobile Internet usage is on course to overtake desktop Internet usage by 2014.

In addition, of those four billion mobile phone users, over 60% of them are using their devices to play games.  Thanks to Google Breadcrumb, these four billion people can now create their own learning games without having any programming skills.

Google Breadcrumb is a Google Labs product that enables just about anyone to create simple text-based, mobile learning applications.  With only three additions to plain text, creating a working quiz is amazingly intuitive.  Breadcrumb is designed to work on any internet-enabled smart phone or computer. As a result, even those who do not own a computer can use it.  As with all Google Labs applications, Google Breadcrumb is an experimental application, may contain bugs, and could even be discontinued by Google in the future.

You will need a Google account to get started, but the application is completely online and free.  Creating quizzes is one of the most obvious applications but some people are using Breadcrumb to create data center troubleshooting guides or training guides.  By the way, kids will enjoy creating applications, too, because there is virtually no learning curve.  So, encourage the kids to create their own applications to help them study, quiz their peers, or even invent new uses for the tool.

When you have finished your application, test it by clicking on or scanning the QR code that accompanies your application.

Click on or Scan this QR code with mobile app on your camera phone to view a Google Breadcrumb quiz.

To understand how Breadcrumb can be used, check out the quiz we created while learning Google Breadcrumb.  Please share links to your projects by leaving a comment on this post.

With mobile devices gaining popularity at such a rapid pace, Google Breadcrumb encourages mobile learning through tools that anyone in the world can use.