My husband and I are avid readers of the XKCD webcomic, and we occasionally remember to also check the XKCD blog. It’s not frequently updated but when a new post does show up, it’s always a good one. The latest post showcases Dictionary of Numbers, a new tool that helps put large numbers in perspective.
Installed as a Chrome extension, Dictionary of Numbers can scan the websites you visit for large numbers and append the text with something else of a similar quantity. To put Dictionary of Numbers to the test, I googled the perfect candidate for large numbers, “US debt.” I landed on a Wikipedia article about the US national debt, which turned out vastly more entertaining with Dictionary of Numbers turned on!
Any good geek knows that the answer to the great question of life, the universe and everything is 42. But were you aware just how often that number has crept up in pop culture? From apartment numbers to Hurley numbers, dates to car registrations, the number 42 is everywhere when you start looking hard enough. Here are 42 examples of the number turning up in pop culture.
1. The first reference that Douglas Adams made to 42 was during a sketch called “The Hole in the Wall Club” in which Griff Rhys Jones mentions the 42nd meeting of the Crawley and District Paranoid Society.
2. In Star Trek, the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) has 42 decks.
3. In The X-Files, Agent Mulder lives at apartment 42.
4.In Caprica the license plate of Starbuck’s truck is “FB 42 E3.
5. In Spore, the Staff of Life is limited to 42 uses.
I’m a little embarrassed to say that I get most of my news from the internet. And not from a reputable news source. Most of the news I read about comes from Facebook and Twitter.
This afternoon, I got up from taking a nap with my toddler to find my Facebook and Twitter feeds covered in talk of the earthquake. I live in Western NC, and an earthquake is pretty rare around here. Despite that, several people I know in the area had felt the earthquake.
I immediately texted my husband, who was on his way to work, and my best friend who lives near Charlotte, NC. My husband said that he hadn’t felt the earthquake. But my best friend didn’t even know about the earthquake.
She had just moved and was without internet or cable at home. She had felt the earthquake, but had no idea what it was. She also didn’t know anything about Hurricane Irene which is headed this way. I filled her in as best I could via text message.
The speed of news travels fast via social networks. Some even said that they read tweets about the earthquake before they felt it. There is a really funny webcomic by xkcd that illustrates this point.
It also shows how out of touch you can be if you don’t have the internet. With all the chatter on the internet, I was a little surprised that my best friend hadn’t heard anything about it because she does have a smart phone.
I love baking cakes, especially ones that are geeky and challenging. Some of my favorites that I have made are a TARDIS for my husbands 30th birthday and a Mad Hatter hat for my sister’s high school graduation party. In any case, its no wonder that I have collected quite the set of geek cake inspiration from across the internet. With wedding season upon us, its hard not to focus on the wedding cake, the traditional tiered white cake with beautifully piped flowers. Those traditional cakes are usually absolutely beautiful but are totally not befitting a true geeky couple by any means. Most of the time, the geekiness shows up in the grooms cake, however, once in a while you get a wonderfully brave couple who kicks tradition to the curb and you are left with geeky wedding cake masterpieces.
Enjoy, there should be a little something for everyone here!
For the Math Nerd: xkcd Wedding Cake
I hope you noticed that it says: sqrt(<3) or the root of love; cos(<3) the cause of love; and [1 0; 0 1]<3 the identity of love. So incredibly romantic!
For the Whovians: The Tardis
Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed and Something BLUE!
For the X-Philes Out There:
The truth is out there, and its love!
(Thanks to fellow GeekMom Sophie for pointing this one out to me, I love it!)
For the Superhero Nut!
“Do you DC Comics take Marvel Comics to be your wife?”
For Those Who Live in a Steampunk World!
I’m in love with this cake! It is just so incredibly steampunk! My husband is lucky that I didn’t see this before our wedding!
I only wish I could get words that long in Scrabble. HA!
For the Stargate Fans
I wonder where their honeymoon was?
Dungeons and Dragons
Sadly, I don’t know much about D&D, but this is an awesome enough cake I think it is time to give it a chance!
For the Old School Tetris Lovers
The Cake Topper was made of blocks to spell “J” and “C”, after they cut the cake, the bride and groom took the topper apart and found where they fit on the main part of the cake.
For the Lego Fans
Well that’s one way to build your relationship! I really love how this is so pretty and geeky at the same time.
For the Trekkies
“Marriage, the final frontier. These are the voyages of Mr. and Mrs.. . Her five-year mission: To explore strange new worlds, seek out new life, new civilizations. To Boldly go where no man has gone before!”
Han and Leia’s Wedding Cake!
If I missed your favorite geeky cake put a link to it here in the comments!
It’s been two months. I’ve had an iPhone for a grand total of two months. And I still straddle my Apple vs Other fence, yet to waver to one side or the other.
As with any piece of technology I’ve adapted to it. I’ve developed new muscle memory and am now accustomed to its quirks. My Droid now seems bulky and ungainly. My calls are on forward and Droid now exists as a very expensive alarm clock and occasional vehicular distraction tool for my daughter. (Unfortunately I’m still under my personal contract with Verizon and its a family plan so I can’t just cancel it. So there it sits, the world’s most expensive 911 emergency dialer…) I still have a soft spot in my heart for it, but I don’t think I could go back to it. However, if my iPhone were to be lost, broken, or taken from me, I’d go back to the Droid line in a heart beat. On the other hand, I’m not willing to chuck the Apple product either.
After a bit of good, hard use that finally extended beyond Angry Birds and Words With Friends, I do have some new observations. First, I still hate the on-screen keyboard. I don’t have fat, weak, short, or stupid fingers. I have freakishly long fingers, I type over 60 WPM, and play the electric bass. My fingers are probably stronger and more agile than your average mom. But so help me, watching me type on that keyboard, one would think I was using my big toe and tongue to hack out a message in Dutch. And it doesn’t matter how I orient the phone, I miss on about every other letter. Thankfully the auto-fill is nominally intelligent and catches most of the stuff I fail at. Although, one particular instance saw me text my mom that I was going to *PROFANITY WARNING* “Roast the penis and then fix the next bitch”. Apparently auto-fill thinks I have a potty mouth as that sentence was supposed to be “Roast the peanuts and then fix the next batch,” in reference to some holiday peanut butter cookies. Thanks to my inattention, I sent that. To my mom. To. My. MOM.
I also miss the back button. The Droid phones offer a back button that is reminiscent of your web browser’s back button. It flips you back page for page through the various apps you were working in. The iPhone 4 has something similar. You can double click the Home button and it will show you a list of all the apps running in the background, but it’s not quite the same thing. Scroll through, select the right one, and you are there. It might just be a personal preference or a habit born of way too many hours on Internet Explorer. (I know, antique browser technology. I use Google Chrome now, thank you.) But the back button is a forgetful mom’s best friend. I have a terrible habit of forgetting why it is I left an app in the first place. I blame it on the kid.
My third major issue with iPhone is the synching. It did not seem like such a dramatic ordeal to hook my Droid to my PC, move music files, pics, and videos from one to another. Doing this on iPhone reminds me of planning a family vacation. It shouldn’t be as complicated as it always is.
First, you can only synch to one iTunes account. Because this is a company-issued phone I have my iTunes on my work PC. Not a giant issue, as I spend more of my waking time at work than at home, all things considered. But I spend more of my time at home playing around in iTunes than at work. And if I get an itch to jam out to some old school Freezepop on Friday evening, I have to wait ’til Monday to get it on my phone. Chances are pretty great my longing for synth-pop will have faded by then.
Second, despite my every effort, and no small amount of knowledge about basic Windows operation, I can’t get either device to stop deriding me for asking two rivals to momentarily cooperate. Every time I plug my iPhone into my PC I get a friendly window reminding me that “This device is not optimized for performance with your Apple device.” Yes, I understand that I don’t have a Mac. You needn’t remind me of that constantly. It gets a little grating after the 1000th time. I totally understand performance specs, compatibility, even guerrilla marketing techniques, but goodness gracious, people, know when enough is enough. I know damn well you can code that fun little message to shut up after so many attempts. Chances are pretty great that if I haven’t gone skittering out of the house to raid the Apple Store by message # 543, I’m not gonna do it after message # 544, # 545, or # 546 either.
Now, to my Jobian readers, this is not a “trash the iPhone” post. I’ve actually found quite a few things I truly enjoy about it. Not the least of which is, it’s so much easier to run with the crowd. The Droids are a bit of the underdog and having gotten a much later start in the app world, there is just not a whole lot out there for them. Plus, in the spirit of open source sharing, there is absolutely no moderation in Droid’s AppWorld.
Apple iTunes & AppStore, for all the crap they get, win on moderation. While some apps are worthless just in principle, I can be sure that they won’t make my phone explode or my OS spiral into a codex vortex of doom, despair, and death. There is no such guarantee for Droid or Blackberry.
Plus, I love the accessories. Oh so many accessories. I’m well aware that the number of random cases available for technology should not be a deciding factor in whether or not I support the product, but I really can’t help it. When it comes right down to it, I’m very much a girly girl and having enough cases to choose from so that I can match my phone to my purse, which is coordinated to my outfit, which is then tastefully contrasted to my shoes…that is some sort of queer little mini-heaven for this geek. Then all the little plug-ins and extenders and ear buds and docking stations you can add, oh the possibilities are endless. Again, I know such things are available on other platforms as well, but due to popularity and longevity, iPhone has so much more available, and often for cheaper.
I’m still periodically floored by the internal gyroscopes. (OK, more accurately, they are gyroscopic sensors). I mean it knows how it is sitting and can sense the tiniest shift in position. Just a twitch and the phone understands. How freakin’ cool is that?
I’m terribly impressed with the resiliency of the machine. Having moved from the world of Droid where aerodynamics hadn’t really been a consideration, I was pretty sure I was gonna snap the cursed thing within the first day. When I first got it my accident-prone, butterfingers of a daughter wasn’t allowed to look at it from a distance, much less touch it. And the kid didn’t get those unlucky traits from thin air. Her mother isn’t any better. I’ve broken three cell phones out of the five I have owned, and that was being careful. I spent the first month babying it like a Faberge egg until I had my first major drop. Not just a gentle slide off the couch to the carpeted floor, but a good 4-foot drop to asphalt. I was helping my daughter out of the car on a rather moist day when her tennis shoes slipped. I needed both hands to prevent the face-plant and one hand had been holding the iPhone. The iPhone was replaceable, my daughter’s teeth, not so much. The phone clattered to the ground, my daughter was saved. I picked the phone back up expecting shattered screen and a lecture from the IT guy at work. But lo and behold, the thing was fine. Not even a chip where the corner impacted the ground.
The phone was technically in a case, but not one that I would think could offer much protection. The hard plastic kinds are more decorative in nature. They’ll protect from scratches sure, but impact resistance I doubt. Since then it’s experienced a few more minor falls and one incident involving an overzealous (hormone-induced) fingerprint removal attempt and has come through all like a champ.
Overall I’m still pleased with the product itself but have yet to fully jump on the bandwagon. The deadline for the purchase of my new laptop is looming ever closer and I still don’t know what to get. I still say that had I been spending my own hard-earned money, I likely would not have invested in the iPhone. As terrific the display, numerous the apps, groundbreaking the gyro, and prolific the accessories, the goofy little thing is expensive!
And not to get wrapped up in the good, better, best marketing ploy, now Verizon and US Cellular have 4G available. Really, couldn’t Apple have waited just a touch longer and released iPhone4G? I know, I know. Now the hyper-tech geeks who have an embedded urge to constantly have the newest and greatest will be suckered into buying a new $500 phone a mere eight months after they bought a now antiquated $500 phone and, cha-ching, the dollars keep on a-flowin in the good ol’ American capitalist system. (The previous was not a statement about the government, just the consumerism inherent in our culture.) Just once in a while I prove that I have not fully slaughtered the optimist I once was. Relax, I’m working on it. Tax season is just around the corner. That always gives me some nice blunt sticks to bludgeon her with.
So, two months in, I’m undecided. What do you get when you are undecided? Linux?
As if we didn’t have enough random sites cluttering our bookmark bars, I submit another one for your reading intrigue. Randall Munroe has used simple stick figures to create one of the wittiest comic sites available. xkcd began as notebook doodles he didn’t want to lose to the ravages of time. A few scans, a test server, and a t-shirt or two later, Randall Munroe has achieved what we geeks all aspire to. He has turned his hobby into a real, grown-up, actually pays the bills job.
The following information I admit to stealing off the web. Should Randall actually read this, I apologize for the brief stint of stalking I had to venture through to write this article. I found a bit on his website as well as on wired.com from their interview. It was all in the best of intentions, and I promise, I’m done. Randall has worked for NASA making robots. He has a degree in physics and wit so sharp he could take on a ninja.
His webcomic is drawn simply. Just stick figures for the most part. The occasional electric skateboard. But he covers a broad range of very geek topics from computer programming to relationships to etymology to mathematics. Munroe takes high brow comedy to an entirely new level.
Munroe also ventures into pop culture, romance, politics (rarely), and the introspective existentialism with varying degrees of seriousness. Some will make you think, some will puzzle you, and I’ll freely admit that a number of them go straight over my head. Of course then I spend a good hour or two Googling just so I could figure out the day’s xkcd comic. And it never fails I learn something new. I am constantly astounded by the things that float around in Munroe’s brain. The exotic is made mundane, the monotonous made spontaneous, and its all with freaking stick figures! He really is a geek I love!
For new visitors to xkcd.com, be sure to hover over the comics for an extra smidge of humor and the occasional explanation. It may hold insight to Munroe’s design or else further the joke, but its almost always worth it. **Warning** If you use the Firefox browser the hover texts may not appear in full. Check the help pages on xkcd.com to learn how to get it to work. New comics are released Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, without fail.
xkcd does contain adult humor and situations that all GeekMoms may not find suitable for the kids. I’ve never found anything offensive but I still wouldn’t let my daughter read it. There is the occasional depiction of sex (well as close a depiction as you can get with stick figures), and some language, but Munroe is very upfront that this site is not designed to be a comic for kids. He places a disclaimer in full view on his site.
One of the best parts for me is he keeps his comics on Creative Commons. To anyone with a blog that means a little something. To those non-bloggers it just means we get to use his comics without seventeen months of emailing pleads for permission to reprint his material. This is good!
Munroe is even a fan of one of our favorite shows, MythBusters (Hi Kari!). And zombies. Even better!
For his ability to make us laugh, swoon, think, and get defensive all within four simple frames, Randall Munroe is a geek we love!