Actually, I Made It

Cross posted from Dot Complicated

 

All my life I’ve loved to make things. While other little girls played with Barbie dolls and learned how to put their hair in ponytails, I sorted through my massive Lego collection, building structures without any particular roadmap. As I got older, the Legos stayed behind with my younger brothers while I went off into the world and gradually lost time for crafts and hobbies. Part of it was becoming more involved in typical young person activities, part of it was my inability to grow due to a lack of technical skills, and part of it was just because Legos didn’t fit the stereotype I had in my head of how I should be spending my time.

When I hear the word “maker,” I think of circuit-savvy engineers and designers tinkering with metal and wood. I imagine them sharing stories over their mechanical design degrees, creating the Next Big Thing in garages full of 3D-printers running night and day, printing out the creatures they’ve built using software that they learned in the womb. These are the technically proficient geniuses that made you look bad at school science fairs, with their homemade quadcopters flying literal circles around the Grow Your Own Minerals kit found in your closet at home.

Even in the modern age where encyclopedic knowledge is available on a whim, making things seems so far out of my reach. For example, the only DIY board I have on Pinterest is called, “Projects I Will Never Do.” I once ruined Kraft Mac N Cheese, which gives me very little confidence that I could use a wood lathe without giving myself a quirky, painful haircut. This doesn’t mean my head isn’t still swimming with ideas about all the things I would love to make; it just means that I’ve never been able to tap into my creativity due to cost and skill-related reasons.

Imagine my joy when I stumbled upon a goldmine of resources for people just like me: the makers who never knew they were makers. I found that the world is full of individuals in my position, untrained but yearning to join the maker movement.  So for those of you who are finding yourselves in the same boat as me, check out what I found:

TechShop: Available in multiple cities across the US, you can come here to take classes on woodworking, 3D printing, laser cutting, silkscreening, jewelry-making, and all sorts of other fun things. This is in addition to being able to leverage the space as a workshop once you learn the skills you seek. Check out these Lego earrings I made!

Hackerspaces: Hackerspaces, such as Noisebridge in San Francisco, are community-operated places where people meet, learn from one another, and work on projects together. All skill levels can join to take classes and discuss a wide range of topics, from programming code to the finer details of circuitry.

MakerFaire: What better way to see how different kinds of people approach making than to surround yourself with thousands of DIYers at every skill level showing off what they know? MakerFaire is the world’s greatest show and tell, and even if you can’t attend the main events in the Bay Area and New York, there are lots of mini-maker faires throughout the world that you can go to instead.

Thingiverse/123D/Blender: I’m officially obsessed with 3D printing but I’ve never designed anything using software before. These free, online tools are a great way to get started so you can design and print your very own Stephen Colbear.

 stephen_colbear

Instructables: There are some great project suggestions online but oftentimes you are stuck with just a picture of the thing you want to make without any info on how to actually make it. Instructables crowdsources step-by-step guides for a broad range of DIY projects, from making challah bread to building aluminum skateboards.

After encountering all of this, I’ve challenged my perception of innovation by asking myself, “What makes the maker?” I now bear witness to the fact that creativity exists in everyone, because I discovered it in myself. Though some may have an innate disposition towards making things, or perhaps have undergone lots of technical training, everyone still harbors a creative spirit that can be uncovered. If you don’t think you have what it takes, just imagine the smile on your face the first time someone asks you, “Where did you buy that?” and you get to respond, “Actually, I made it.”

Facebook-Stalking Your Way To Love

Cross posted from Dot Complicated

 

Confession: it’s weird that you wrote a Facebook status about me being “wife material” the day after we met.

The overall population is on the rise, yet finding a mate has never been so challenging. If you manage to have enough time to meet actual, living people at some kind of social event, there are so many new digital traditions and rituals that one must perform before a date can occur.

The most imperative new ritual is finding as much information as possible on your new beau, down to their swim records from high school (here are mine). Everyone turns to the Internet to “stalk” potential dates, yet there’s still a huge social taboo about doing so, despite the fact that we are accessing information that was willingly put into the public domain. That’s the justification I give myself, anyway.

The truth about Facebook, Twitter, or any other social profile, is that 100% of the information on a given person’s “page” was purposefully put there. It’s hard to believe, but when your friend posts that video of herself singing both parts of “Summer Lovin’” from Grease at a karaoke bar, she is choosing to share that colorful detail of her life with the world. Every picture, check-in, and impassioned opinion that someone posts is their own choice, and the same is true for you as well, dear reader.

So when you meet someone new, you’ll be faced with a wealth of information about said person that will aid you in determining whether or not they are good enough for you. But remember they too are scrolling through your timeline trying to decide if your obsessive love of capybara is quirky or deranged.

Understanding this, I have put together a quick guide on how you can use the almighty Internet to identify your dealbreakers as quickly as possible.

Finding Their Crazy

In many cases you will only be able to see a restricted, private profile. This is good! What someone shares on their limited, to-the-whole-world profile says a lot more about them than what they’re willing to show their close friends. Take this as an opportunity to see if you even want to see the private profile information.

  1. Check out their Facebook to look for:

    • Any mutual friends – get the inside scoop!
    • “Unique” interests – maybe extreme unicycling isn’t your thing
    • Profile pictures of their wedding day
  1. Find out their Twitter name to see:

    • Incredibly vocal tweets about all the most intricate conspiracy theories
    • Complaints to companies in caps lock
    • Nonstop tweets to one celebrity – who’s the stalker now?
  1. Google their name to uncover:

    • High school swim records (we’ve been over this)
    • Participation in any reality TV shows
    • Message board entries detailing a fantasy wedding with a certain celebrity

Clearly, not everything you read on the Internet isn’t true, but what they choose to share can say a lot about them. With all the data that we have about one another it is easier than ever to make an informed decision about who we date, but we have to wield that data wisely. Once you get to the actual date, try to avoid repeating one of their tweets to them verbatim, or you might end up revealing your stalker status.

This is actually a pretty big accomplishment.

5 Moms To Check Out On Twitter

Cross posted fromDot Complicated 

 

In honor of Mother’s Day, or the day in which I buy myself something and say it’s from my dog, I want to highlight five of the most stellar moms “taking it to the Tweets,” which is a phrase that I am going to make happen. Whether you’re a mother yourself, or just looking for more motherly advice in your life, these women have a lot of wisdom to share. Follow, follow, follow!

Screen shot 2013-05-06 at 1.56.19 PM Hyla Molander @HylaMolander

After suddenly losing her husband during the 3rd trimester of her pregnancy and then finding out that her children are at risk of succumbing to the same illness that took their father, Hyla shifted her life focus to making the world a better place. Hyla has become an expert on using social media to affect change. She tweets thoughtful insights (“You can’t heal others unless you take the time to heal yourself. Seriously. Do something for you today”), empowers females everywhere through her annual “Women Rock It” conference, and encourages others to open up. As a mother of 4 with so much on her plate, Hyla reminds me that part of the responsibility of being a good mom means making the world a better place for your children.

Screen shot 2013-05-06 at 1.56.34 PM Beth Blecherman @Techmama

Beth is a quintessential 21st Century lady – a mom navigating the tech world and creating a life for herself at the intersection of parenting, technology, and style. She shares the latest and greatest innovations in technology for moms, from toys to apps to clothes. Beth does the legwork for you, sorting through advertiser’s fluff and sharing her insights on what gear is worth it, and what to pass on. In-between raising her 3 (!!) boys, Beth finds time to write for Mashable, run a website, and write books.

Screen shot 2013-05-06 at 1.56.53 PM Adryenn Ashley @adryenn

Adryenn is on a mission to change the world.  She’s an outspoken, forward-thinking, dynamic woman dedicated to making entrepreneurs as successful as possible through social media. Adryenn is always doing 20 things at once: she produces, speaks, and writes while raising her son Jack on her own. And did I mention she homeschools him, too?  Her positive attitude and social media expertise inspire me. You can gain a wealth of knowledge by seeing what she has to share on Twitter.

Screen shot 2013-05-06 at 1.57.03 PM Tiffany Shlain @TiffanyShlain

Tiffany is a woman who visualized her dream and went out and grabbed it. She’s well-versed in both filmmaking and technology and used her skills to develop the Webby Awards. In addition to raising her two beautiful children, Tiffany gives talks on a variety of topics, such as the greatest finds on the Web or being a successful woman in a patriarchal world. On Twitter she shares motivational quotes like, “’Above all, be the heroine in your life, not the victim.’ Nora Ephron,” and compiles insights from influential women throughout history. Tiffany shows us how to lean in, as Sheryl Sandberg would say, to truly make our mark on the world we live in.

Screen shot 2013-05-06 at 1.57.14 PM Polly Pagenhart @LesbianDad

Polly provides unique insights into modern-day parenting as an LGBT parent to two young kids. She reminds us that gay parents have the same problems as any other parents when she tweets things like, “My kids will have grown up, found love, had kids, & come to appreciate me in a new way, long before my iPhone finishes loading its new OS.” She tackles universal parenting dilemmas with tact and humor. Polly also tweets about difficult problems that are more exclusive to being an LGBT parent, such as receiving hate mail. Above all, Polly is worth following for her spirit, resilience and an obvious desire to make the world a better place for her kids.

How To Take Great iPhone Pet Photos

Cross posted from Dot Complicated

 

Here is a handy guide for capturing that perfect iPhone photo of your beloved companion (or a cutie that you stole from someone else). This information will surely be useful – whether you are trying to get more Likes on Facebook, or you find yourself having to make a “LOST” sign when your pet runs away after getting sick of being photographed all the time.

1. Find a cute animal to photograph. Nothing can ruin a photo faster than having an un-photogenic subject. Sorry if your pet is unfortunate-looking – there’s not much you can do. 

pet 1

These 6-week-old puppies will serve as our cute animal models. I’m calling them Sherlock and Watson, and they came to me as fosters from Wonder Dog Rescue

2) Have your camera phone ready at all times, as pets are known to be spontaneously cute at any given moment – especially when they don’t think you’re looking.

pet 2

 

 

3) Be prepared to take a million photos – not all dogs are trainable, and all cats are cats. Remember that patience is a virtue! 

pet 3

Finally got it!

 

4) If they don’t seem to be getting it, make them look at an example to follow. We can’t guarantee that this will suddenly turn your puppy into a show dog, but at least it will give you a break in between shoots!

pet 4

 

5) Use treats or other forms of coercion to make them look towards you (and the lens). Sometimes, this will require you to contort your face or make a strange noise, just to shock your pet into looking at you.

Screen Shot 2013-03-12 at 1.04.04 PM

 

6) If they are too squirmy, capture them when they aren’t active – naptime is an opportune moment! They are most vulnerable right when they wake up and are still half-asleep. 

pet 6 after desktop

 

7) Take advantage of natural lighting. You want their fur to look soft and sleek. 

pet 7

 

8) Don’t let them slobber all over your phone, even if your case resembles a delicious ice cream sandwich (I wish mine did)…

pet 8

 

9) Reward a job well done with cuddles for all!

pet 9

 

10) Share the cutest (or funniest) shots on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and any other social platform – and be prepared to receive more loves and likes than you’ve ever gotten before!

pet 10

Tech Etiquette in Restaurants: A Social Experiment

Cross posted from Dot Complicated

Imagine a five-star restaurant that boasts tasty delicacies plated like mouthwatering works of art, staffed by some of the most servile waiters on earth.

Now imagine me (or look at the picture of me below if imagining isn’t your thing) with a friend, texting and Tweeting away on our iPhones and tablets, disturbing the ambiance of this fancy, expensive restaurant. Yes, for the sake of journalism, a friend and I ventured forth into the world of fine dining to see how far we would have go to get ourselves kicked out of a restaurant*. It was a great excuse to treat ourselves to some delicious meals and have the license to text all we wanted!

cant eat it til you instagram it
Can’t eat it ‘til you Instagram it!

These days, more and more of us are guilty of being that jerk at a restaurant, snapping photos of our food as if documenting it will satiate our hunger. The foodie movement has given rise to a generation of techies self-identifying as gourmands, leading to an obsessive inability to holster our digital devices while dining.

There are applications dedicated to his hobby, such as Forkly, which is essentially a social network that enables people to be rude at restaurants.

But have no fear – fortunately, for those of us afflicted with the (almost) medical need to keep devices close by while dining, there is a way to know if your frenetic tweeting is acceptable or not. After my adventures of intentionally annoying people at restaurants, I drew some conclusions that will save us all the embarrassment of having our cell phones taken away from us.

For those of you who are like me and have forsaken social aptitude for math-related reasons, here is a graph that can help you determine when it’s okay to use your tech devices in restaurants:

tech at table

Thanks to GraphJam for helping me make this graph so I didn’t have to cry on the floor in the fetal position while trying to draw it by hand.

Here are a few examples to show what types of behavior will break that threshold and get you kicked out of a restaurant:

Okay To Do:

  • Instagram/Facebook/Tweeting your meal (in moderation, and discreetly). How else will you give people food FOMO (fear of missing out)?
  • Playing games with the sound off while waiting for your food, because you are a child that needs to be distracted
  • Putting a photo of a hot celeb on your tablet and placing it on the chair opposite you, helping to make your dining experience feel less lonely (but much more sad)

Not Okay To Do:

  • Taking flash photos in mood-lit restaurants, especially at restaurants like Opaque, where you dine in total darkness
  • Skype calls with mom on your tablet, just for kicks!
  • Talking on the phone at the table, annoying your date and waiter who is trying to take your order. If it’s urgent, take it outside!
  • Watching videos on YouTube of your wife giving birth

The bottom line is to use common sense. At really nice restaurants, I would recommend keeping your phone out of sight, even though it is hard to resist becoming one of the rich kids of Instagram. Doing anything that interferes with the experience of another patron is rude, and just because others in the restaurant are doing it doesn’t make it more acceptable. I would encourage diners to enjoy their culinary experiences instead of missing them while trying to preserve them. I think there’s an app for that.

* For the record, I wasn’t able to get kicked out of any restaurants – but I did get a lot of dirty looks from other patrons, and I definitely annoyed the waiters (don’t worry, I tipped well!).