Posts Tagged ‘Technology’

foursquaring for Vaccines

September 20, 2011

I use foursquare, which is part online game, part social media, part easy advertising for businesses. When I visit a place and “check in” I tell the world or just my circle of foursquare friends that I’m there, or that I’ve been there. foursquare seems to be great for local businesses – they can offer specials for checking in once (“show a cashier that you checked in and get $5 off your total at check out”), or offer loyalty programs (“check in here three times and receive a free Margarita”). foursquare is free for users, it’s a way for local businesses to advertise to their target market, and there’s a silly point program so you can compete with friends. From what I understand it’s similar to Facebook’s Places, but I don’t use Places, so I’m not sure how accurate the comparison is.

I’ve used foursquare to tell my friends when I’m visiting somewhere extremely cool or out of the ordinary (It was fun to tweet via foursquare that I was “checking in” to the sky deck of the Seattle Space Needle last month), and to get good deals ($5 mojitos at Stella’s Fish Cafe!). But yesterday I used it to SAVE LIVES!

I stopped at a Walgreens in South Minneapolis last night, and when I opened up Foursquare I was interested to see that Walgreens was offering a special. I stop at that particular store pretty often, but had never before seen them offer a special. I opened the tab and saw this:

I went online to learn more about the offer, and it turns out that through October 8th, Walgreens will donate one flu shot voucher for every valid foursquare or Facebook Places check-in. And you can go onto their Facebook page to vote for one of five groups that will receive a percentage of the flu shot vouchers (the organizations are Feeding America, the National Urban League, AmeriCares, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and the American Diabetes Association).

How cool is that!? I love technology. And corporate giving. And vaccines. Win!

$600 Cat Toy

May 21, 2011

My friend has a really expensive toy for her cat, Luna.

Omigod, I CAN haz camera!

February 19, 2011

Warning: there are more exclamation points in this post than any one post should be allowed. Also, there is some squeeeeeing.

I’m not the sort to whine about a situation and then ignore an opportunity when it becomes available.

I’ve been wanting a camera. A DSLR camera. And a zoom lens. For about a year now.

After speaking with friends who have DSLRs and salespeople at three different camera chains, and tooling around the internet I decided that I could be quite happy with a Nikon D3100, which goes for about $599 these days. But after adding in the zoom lens (zoom capability is one of the reasons that I want to get a better camera so it wasn’t even a possibility of getting into a nice camera without picking up a zoom lens), the carrying bag, the USB cord, memory card, sales tax, warranties/service plans…I was looking at about $1000.  That’s about $110/month…too much.

I was dreaming about having a DSLR, you guys. From my Facebook:

I love my friends.

I had it bad, but I just couldn’t figure out how to make it happen. And then I found out about Best Buy’s 18-month no-interest payment plan. That I could swing. So I did.

Squeeeeee! hyperventilate…and… Squeeeee!

I was so excited! As I was checking out I thought of my blog-friend, Jana, because earlier that day we had been grousing about our point and shoot cameras. My first picture is for you, Jana!

When I got home, I did the only thing a photo-obsessed gal could do – I took pictures of everything!

My swag

Everything opened! I left a few bits and pieces out of the pic, but this is all the really exciting stuff.

The lenses, with UV filters attached. The 55-200mm has the lens hood on, which makes it look all classy and shit.

The camera body without a lens attached.

The camera all put together with the kit lens attached.

My camera has pretty specs – 14.2 megapixels, shoots 3 frames per second, has 11-point autofocus and an ISO range of 100-12800. The kit lens is an VR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G, my zoom lens is a VR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G. I still don’t have the uber-zoom lens or a ultra low f stop that would kick ass in darker environments, but one thing at a time! I know and embrace my sweet new camera’s limitations. Well, not really, but shhh…I don’t want to hurt it’s feelings.  My camera phone is already in the corner whimpering. It’s saying “But, I…I gave you 8-megapixels! How could you do this to me!?” I still love you camera phone, and you’re still my steady for shots on the go and twitpics.  C’mere, let me give you a hug.

Sad camera is sad and needs comforting.

I may be a little giddy right now.

I’m running off to a talk by PZ Myers in Minneapolis now (could this day get any better?). After that I have to stop by Best Buy to pick up a USB cable (srsly, how is that not included in the camera kit?) and an extra battery. And this afternoon the Hubby and I are driving up to Duluth/Superior along the river.  Helllloooo test drive of new camera.


Love: A Sad Science Story

February 3, 2011

A nice woman named Amy was giving away postcards.  You receive the postcard, take a picture with it and then send the picture back to her. It sounded like kind of a fun pen-pal deal-eo and I decided to do it.

Here’s the postcard she sent me:

So I took a picture. Or six. And may have written a really stupid story to go with it. Caution – HUGE LAB NERDINESS AHEAD!!! 

They met in the park when the summer blossoms were in full bloom.  It was love at first sight, and they knew that they would never be separated.

As they spun together around the fountain, she felt dizzy and lightheaded. They spun around and around and around.

She felt care-free and weightless.

They both liked Victorian cosplay, but she was a modern, intelligent, tech-savy woman, so she of course did her research on him before fully committing her heart.

And was horrified to learn that he had a chemical addiction problem!

He tried to explain, but it was too late – all of his pleadings smelled rotton.  

 And so she reluctantly walked away from his toxic love.

The End.

Would you like some powdered water with that?

September 2, 2010

Dry Water!

Military Intelligence!

Honest Politicians!

Amateur Expert!

Living Dead!

You get the idea. 

How the heck does one make dry water?  Well, they cheat, sort of.  The powdered water is one drop of “wet” water surrounded by modified silica.  So the water itself isn’t powdered, but it’s stored in a way that keeps the water droplets from coalescing.

Did I mention that the headlines about this story are pun-ishingly horrible?  “Dry water making waves!” “Dry water could make a splash commercially”  *shudder*

I heard about this story on Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe (SGU – episode #267) in the Science or Fiction segment.  Several news sources have done a decent job of summarizing the American Chemical Society (ACS) presentation by Dr. Ben Carter (a researcher for study lead, Dr. Andrew Cooper) .  

According to Science 2.0 silica-encapsulated water was first discovered in 1968 by the cosmetic industry.  An article in Scientific American describes the “discovery” of a process to create dry water by coating water in a “hydrophobic powder” in 2001.  It sounds like the technology has been here for a while, but we haven’t yet figured out what to do with it. 

The current focus is on developing dry water technology for use in commercial applications and perhaps in carbon dioxide absorption, which could be useful for that little global warming problem we’re not dealing with.

From an ACS news release:

BOSTON, Aug. 25, 2010 — An unusual substance known as “dry water,” which resembles powdered sugar, could provide a new way to absorb and store carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming, scientists reported here today at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.

The powder shows bright promise for a number of other uses, they said. It may, for instance, be a greener, more energy-efficient way of jump-starting the chemical reactions used to make hundreds of consumer products. Dry water also could provide a safer way to store and transport potentially harmful industrial materials.

and later in the article:

Dry water was discovered in 1968 and got attention for its potential use in cosmetics. Scientists at the University of Hull, U.K. rediscovered it in 2006 in order to study its structure, and Cooper’s group at the University of Liverpool has since expanded its range of potential applications.

One of the most recent involves using dry water as a storage material for gases, including carbon dioxide. In laboratory-scale research, Cooper and co-workers found that dry water absorbed over three times as much carbon dioxide as ordinary, uncombined water and silica in the same space of time. This ability to absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide gas as a hydrate could make it useful in helping to reduce global warming, the scientists suggested.

Cooper and colleagues demonstrated in previous studies that dry water is also useful for storing methane, a component of natural gas, and may help expand its use as a future energy source. In particular, they hope that engineers can use the powder to collect and transport stranded deposits of natural gas.

It sounds like things are proceeding along…


Nerdy AND Sexy!

June 17, 2010

These are my favorite pin up models EVER! Thanks to Le Cafe Witteveen for bringing the beautiful…but skinny, don’t you think?…ladies of EIZO Medical Imaging High Precision Displays to my attention.  Follow this link for the full calendar!

Ms. EIZO March:

More randomness.

June 15, 2010

I had a lovely dinner with friends last night – London Broil, Yukon Potatoes and Tossed Salad with Bleu Cheese dressing – yummy!  Good food, good company. 


Is your Droid sucking all of your battery up in mere hours?  No!  Bad Droid! 

I installed the Advanced Task Killer for Android on my HTC Incredible.  It’s supposed to save my battery life by closing Apps that aren’t in use.  I’m game.  Currently I have been getting about 5 hours of battery life on my phone (sob!), and the charging cord – for car, computer and wall charging have been constant companions.  Hopefully this will elongate my time between charges.


I signed up for my PADI Open Water Dive!  I’ll be taking my final classes at Golden Acres near Stillwater, MN in early July.  Hopefully the weather and the water will have warmed up a bit by then…grumble, grumble.  After the dives at Golden Acres I’ll be a PADI-certified Open  Water Diver, and just in time for Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast! 

We’re getting super excited for our trip – The Hubby and I spent a couple of hours last Saturday flipping through guide books at Barnes & Noble.  We leave for Italy on 7/18/10.  We’ll fly from Minneapolis to Rome (through Detroit – ah well).  When we arrive in Rome we’ll jump right on a train to Perugia, Umbria, Italy where we’ll meet up with Mom.  We’ll spend 7/19-7/28 romping around Italy.  We’ll spend the last three days of July in Rome.  On the way home we have a “forced” overnight layover in…Amsterdam!  We’ll get into Amsterdam at ~5:30pm and leave for Minneapolis at 2:30pm the next day.  Love it!  I’m excited about taking original photos for this blog, and about being able to write up some of our adventures here.  For now, take a gander at these shots from travelers who have gone before me:


Amalfi Coast – photo source

Sorrento Diving – photo source

Perugia, Umbria – photo source

Roman Forum, Rome – photo source

Amsterdam Downtown, aerial view – photo source

Doesn’t it look like FUN!?

Salad Spinner Centrifuge

June 4, 2010

Check this out!

The problem:  Find a way to diagnose anemia without power, without it being very costly and with a portable device.

The solution: A Salad Spinner Centrifuge:


In a solution short on cost but long on ingenuity, the duo modified a basic, every day salad spinner into an easy to use and transport centrifuge that successfully separates blood to allow diagnosis of anemia with no electricity. The device costs about $30, can process 30 individual 15 microliter blood samples at a time, and can separate blood into its component red cells and plasma in about 20 minutes.

“Sally Centrifuge,” as the innovation has been dubbed by its creators, prepares for a summer of field testing in places that will benefit from the availability of effective but low-tech solutions and adaptations. As part of Rice University’s Beyond Traditional Borders (BTB), a global health initiative focused primarily on developing countries, Kerr and Theis will be traveling along with their device to Ecuador, Swaziland and Malawi where rural clinics will provide real-world testing of the surprising diagnostic tool.

Separating whole blood into RBCs and plasma or serum is the crucial first step toward running chemistry and serology tests to diagnose malnutrition, TB, HIV/AIDS and malaria.  Traditional centrifuges can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, and many are not portable – they’re heavy and require electricity to run.

These gals rock!  I congratulate them for gaining such media exposure, and I wish them luck with their field testing this summer.

This camera! I’m telling ya!

May 11, 2010

I’ve had a chance to play with my camera on the HTC Incredible, and I have to say – I’ve been pretty impressed with it.  The autofocus feature is great.  Below is a pair of pictures I took at work.  I focused the first pic in the foreground, and the second pic in the background.  All I did was touch the area of the screen where I wanted the camera to focus, and it did the rest.

Pretty amazing for a point-and-click camera.

I’ve had awesome, crisp photos in daylight settings, and I’ve been able to use the white balance to correct for incandescent and fluorescent indoor settings. 

I like all of the options for setting the on-screen review period, the resolution and ISO settings.  This camera has every option (and then some) that my traditional compact camera has. 

I also like the digital slider bars that control contrast/sharpness/saturation, brightness and the zoom, although I did find the zoom to be a little restrictive, i.e., I want to zoom more than the settings allow. 

Downsides to the HTC Incredible camera:

The laser roller button took a little getting used to, especially learning how to snap a photo without shaking the phone and ruining the picture.

No macro mode 😦  But, the camera does do a good job with maintaining the focus for close-up pictures.

I’m a bit worried about the unprotected glass lens.  Glass doesn’t scratch as easily as say, plastic, but still  I wonder how long it will be before I manage to scuff the lens.  Photo source 

I don’t have any photography training, so excuse my mealy-mouth description of this – the pictures are sometimes too…saturated?  The colors are a bit unbelievable, sometimes, in some situations. 

The flash is very, very bright, and I haven’t yet figured out if there is a way to modulate the brightness.  Below, in the indoor low-light picture of my tomato plant, everything is washed out and blue.  I also haven’t been able to make good use of the flash in outdoor, shade situations.  And fugedaboutit with shiny/reflective surfaces – I washed out every glossy-cover book that I tried to shoot with flash, from every angle.  But I’m guessing that some fiddling around with different light/dark photos will help me hone my skill with this not-quite user-friendly flash. 

I found a nice review of the HTC phone at Mobility Digest that includes a lot of screen shots.


Tomato Plant Update

We had a cold snap this past week in Minneapolis – well, not a snap so much as the temperature has plummeted and hasn’t come back up yet.  I went out one morning and found my poor tomato plant bent over at the base – the main stem had weakened in the cold.  I brought my three planters back inside and commandeered a corner in one of the apartment stairwells.  I bolstered the tomato plant stem by resting the top of the plant against the wall and waited to see what would happen.  It did bounce back, and is actually flowering, but I’m getting worried about the lack of direct sunlight.  Ugh – cold, rainy, cloudy weather.  Enough, already!


And finally, Happy 50th Anniversary of the Pill! 

photo source

I found a great column in the NYTimes via Skepchick called What Every Girl Should Know.  The article was written by Gail Collins and it outlines a few of the outrageous ways women used to try to prevent pregnancy.  It includes a snippet from The Pill, sung by Loretta Lynn, and a few stories about Margaret Sanger and the melodramatic villan-esque Anthony Comstock. 

And speaking of Loretta Lynn:  Woman sang herself a song with The Pill!

Loretta Lynn: The Pill lyrics (source) – 1975
You wined me and dined me
When I was your girl
Promised if I’d be your wife
You’d show me the world
But all I’ve seen of this old world
Is a bed and a doctor bill
I’m tearin’ down your brooder house
‘Cause now I’ve got the pill

All these years I’ve stayed at home
While you had all your fun
And every year thats gone by
Another babys come
There’s a gonna be some changes made
Right here on nursery hill
You’ve set this chicken your last time
‘Cause now I’ve got the pill

This old maternity dress I’ve got
Is goin’ in the garbage
The clothes I’m wearin’ from now on
Won’t take up so much yardage
Miniskirts, hot pants and a few little fancy frills
Yeah I’m makin’ up for all those years
Since I’ve got the pill

I’m tired of all your crowin’
How you and your hens play
While holdin’ a couple in my arms
Another’s on the way
This chicken’s done tore up her nest
And I’m ready to make a deal
And ya can’t afford to turn it down
‘Cause you know I’ve got the pill

This incubator is overused
Because you’ve kept it filled
The feelin’ good comes easy now
Since I’ve got the pill
It’s gettin’ dark it’s roostin’ time
Tonight’s too good to be real
Oh but daddy don’t you worry none
‘Cause mama’s got the pill

Oh daddy don’t you worry none
‘Cause mama’s got the pill

iHave no iPhone

May 7, 2010

But I do have the new Droid – Verizon’s HTC IncrediblePhoto source.

Droid Incredible by HTC : Front

And it is…it really is!

Back it up a minute…I decided not to go for the iPhone when I signed up for SCUBA lessons – the magic debit card only goes so far before it starts giggling hysterically at me.  But I really, really wanted a smartphone for the 3G access.  I want GPS, instant internet access and all of that computer-in-your-pocket technology.

So I did a little digging, and I found out that with my Verizon 2-year renewal contract plus an employer discount I was able to get a Droid Incredible for HALF of what I would have spent on an iPhone of equal memory.  Score – SCUBA and a smartphone!

On to the awesomeness that is the Incredible.

Now, I just received it in the mail yesterday, so I’ve only started playing around with it.  But it has the smooth movement of an iPhone – the scrolling screens fly by.  I’ve got pinch, drag and swipe capabilities.  The Incredible’s 8-megapixel camera blows iPhone’s 3MP camera out of the water.  And maybe the biggest benefit of the Incredible is that I can stay on Verizon’s network instead of switching to AT&T. 

The Android Market has a lot of similarities to iTunes App Store, but iTunes is for superior for number and variety of apps.  That’s okay for me because I still have my iPod Touch which I can use to download must-haves from iTunes.  I’ll keep my iPod and treat it as my primary music storage – look, now I have 32GB of storage across two devices (which is good, because I’ve already exceeded the 16GB limit on the iPod).

So far I’ve downloaded GeoBeagle (for geocaching), Google Earth, ColorNote (notepad), Color Flash (a superior version of the iTunes flashlight, IMHO), Urban Spoon, WordPress, and Calvin and Hobbes.  Good times!