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April 2010 Archives

This afternoon an email of great import landed in every ThinkGeek monkey's inbox: details on the second movie night arranged to educate our French codemonkey Guillaume on our favoritest geeky movies.

Greetings Fellows and Members,

After polling the quorum and exercising serious debate on the subject, the Royal Guillaume Film Society is pleased to announce its next Feature Film Presentation, to be screened this Friday, April 30, in the year of two thousand and ten.

STAR WARS
In its original 1989 Laserdisc Widescreen edit, with thanks to the efforts of Esteemed Society Fellow Willy Yonkers and the Han Shot First Boosters.

In advance of the featured film, we will be screening several amusing short films celebrating this first of the Star Wars films:

HARDWARE WARS
Which plays for ten minutes in the manner of an Advert for a parody of the feature.

TROOPS
Which plays for twelve minutes in the manner of the American constabulary documentary "COPS" but set on the fictional planet of Tattooine concurrent to the events of the Film.

ROBOT CHICKEN: STAR WARS
Which plays for one half-hour as a series of sketch acts relating to the feature Film.

The first of which to start promptly at 5:00 P.M., with light Supper and Refreshment served at the second intermission, circa 5:30 P.M.

Twitter friends following @thinkgeek should prepare for infrequent but let us say perhaps hourly tweets on the subject of Star Wars between 5 and 7:30 pm this Friday. Participation is encouraged but not mandatory.

Here's the rundown on the full list of movies we'll eventually show Guillaume, with poll results. Maybe Indiana Jones will be next?

Remember Project Geek <3, way back on Valentine's Day, when we donated $2,000 to 5 classrooms in need via DonorsChoose as voted by you guys? Well, we got a pile of cute from 3 of those classrooms and we have to share.

Mrs. L's class asked for 35 scientific calculators so they could take their standardized math tests with the correct materials. We got a stack of construction paper cards (mmm smells like grade school) thanking us for helping with multiplication and especially dog spots.

Mrs. B's class needed a projector so she could teach her English language learners visually. Wilmer wasn't the only one to write us a letter, but he had the best illustration. (Note the BSG-style corners.)

Ms. M's class wasn't able to use their school's one computer lab because it was always so full, so they needed 10 netbooks. John's letter explains the situation.

Thanks again to our Project Geek <3 voters who helped us make it happen!

Apr
22
2010

We <3 Earth

FIGURE 1. Tron lies darkly in wait for its next victim.

Even though we're currently obsessed with the Sun, we didn't forget today is Earth Day. (Excuse us, but our secret Technorati super spy code is RTZSBQR64GH4.)

And as you may or probably do not know, last year we carbon offset our Tron arcade cabinet in honor of Mother Nature. This year, we're upping the ante: we're carbon offsetting all our gaming and otherwise non-productivity-related devices.

This includes: an Apple IIe + mini monitor (our Fibonacci number generator), 2 photo frames, 2 Virtua On arcade games, 2 52" LCD televisions, 2 Xbox 360s, a Retro Duo, and a Wii.

FIGURE 2. High tech proto netbook.

Using our handy Kill-A-Watt meter and some math to calculate kWh based on actual gameplay per year--that was the extra fun part--we learned how much electricity our consoles, arcade cabinets, and random bits of computery gobble up:

TABLE 1. POWER NOMMAGE BY DEVICE
Tron* 2190 kWh/year
Apple IIe + monitor* 262.80 kWh/year
Photo frame (both)* 7.01 kWh
Virtua On (pair) 14.60 kWh/year
52" TV (on/standby) 85.96/16.95 kWh/year
Xbox 360 (both) 25.11 kWh/year
Retro Duo (both) 0.10 kWh/year
Wii (on/standby) 6.03/13.68 kWh/year
TOTAL 2622.24 kWh/year

*These 3 stay on 24 hours/day most of the year. The rest of the devices' kWh-nomming was calculated according to how much they are actually used, or how much they need during standby mode.

That 2622.24 kWh equals 3,595 lbs of CO2 emitted each year, according to Terrapass, which calculates the carbon footprint of your local power plant via zipcode.

So, now that we have those devices squared away with carbon offsets, there's still something else totally genius we could do: unplug the Wii and television when they're not in use. Since they're all attached to one power squid, this is easily done.

FIGURE 3. Virtua On is actually off.

Looking for ways to make your gaming a little bit greener this year? The easiest (and most money-saving) thing to do is unplug anything that wants to be in standby mode. It's typically a very small amount of power being pulled, but it adds up over the year.

If you're able to do more, you can carbon offset like we have using a service like Terrapass, 3 Degrees, The Nature Conservancy's carbon offsetting program, or Carbon Neutral (specific to the UK).

It goes without saying that if you're in the position to choose energy sources, going renewable with solar or wind would be an excellent idea--and could lead to some really interesting rooftop hacks. Let us know if you've set up your own homegrown solar or wind solutions, but remember, pics or it didn't happen.

Got any other ideas? Share 'em in the comments!

It was a rainy, dark, swampy day in DC--perfect weather for the big reveal of the first set of data and images from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory--the solar probe that'll tell us more about our star's surface, atmosphere, and magnetic field than we've ever seen before.

Reunited and it feels so good

We were graciously invited to attend by @NASA_SDO--the twittering module of the Observatory, if you will--and met up with 15 other space-minded tweeps to tour the National Air and Space Museum and then see the press conference live at the Newseum in Washington, DC.

Timmy was just excited to be reunited with Camilla, the shrieking chicken mascot of the SDO, who he had romanced visited at NASA Goddard earlier this month. She wore her special silver knitted suit for the occasion.

Hubble-hugging

So after lunch at the NASA deli (the "House Special" sandwich was surprisingly good if cryptically named, reports @covert_oops), we headed over to the Air and Space Museum for a tour and some of NASA's best-ofs, including the Apollo mission, Hubble, and the device astronauts use in space to eliminate waste. (The bodily kind.) @SpacemanAndy made Timmy hug Hubble.

Then we hustled over to the SDO First Light press conference at the Newseum. The building was incredible and they'd set up the huge screen downstairs to show the new images live, right there in the press conference.

There were audible gasps when they showed us some of the first images of our favorite star.

It was fun watching the NASA scientists explain their part in the project and what they've discovered with SDO. They were professional, but clearly giddy in that geeking-out sort of way when you forget if anyone cares and you just want to talk about what you love to do.

Even better, they'd watch their colleagues as they spoke and nod in assent--or furrow their brows, as if they thought something could have been said better. Scientists ftw.

When asked by the public why SDO exists at all, and if we should be studying the sun in the first place, Dr. Lika Guhathakurta said, "It's spewing out solar winds at a million miles per hour. ...If we don't study the sun, what should we study?" They summed up their feelings at the end: excitement, awe, and relief that it worked so well. They basically opened the doors of SDO and blammo, amazing data. Nice work, SDO team!

There's lots more jaw-dropping pics at the SDO website, and of course there's a ton of news stories, including CNN (video), National Geographic (photo slideshow), New Scientist, and WIRED. And there's our humble Flickr pool.

Many, many thanks to Aleya of @NASA_SDO fame for making the tweetup happen. We enjoyed hanging out with everyone and have thus constructed a You May Want to Follow Them list: @NASA_SDO @NASA_Hubble @SpacePlumr @airandspace @geeksdreamgirl @nmnh @kebba44 @shortwave @disconn3ct @privong @covert_oops @gramodog @tonyjhoffman @jclamont @jimcook310 @h2ojewel @violethearts.

FOR SCIENCE!!

@NASA_Hubble & Timmy & @Spaceplumr Press conference Basking in its irradiating glow

We asked for your gravity-defying and mind-blowing designs in our Brick Shirt Construction contest, and boy howdy, did we ever get them.

We're not exactly sure how Nathan Sawaya--the baron of the brick himself, and creator of the first prize--chose his favorites, but we like what he came up with. Our most esteemed winners doth follow.

1st place, Dan Havens, LEGO Ferris Wheel (with R2D2):



In addition to winning our first place prize of a $500 ThinkGeek gift certificate, Mr. Sawaya will award the budding brick artist one of his sculptures. We can't wait to see what he chooses!


2nd place, David Simmons, Kane's Tummy Trouble:



3rd place, Moses Ong, Popcorn Bowl:



Honorable mention, Peter Damm, Stabbed in the Back:

Ask your question--for great justice!

Did you know that Timmy, our monkey mascot, has terminal degrees in Physics, Philosophy, Romantic English Literature, and Astrobotany? He's equipped to answer almost anything you can throw at him, including:

And he's here to help you, gentle reader.

If you ask Timmy your deep imponderable by April 19, 2010, he may answer your question in our sparkly new ThinkGeek catalog launching this summer--and you'll win a $50 gift certificate.

Write to Dear Timmy now and commemorate your ignorance in a document landing on coffee tables the world 'round!

Note: You can ask your question in the comments below, but it may not make the cut for the catalog inclusion. The choice is yours.

Over the years we've amassed a collection of catalog covers featuring Timmy, our favoritest codemonkey, in various geeky roles like "Amok Time Timmy" and "Timmiana Jones."

We assume paper catalog collectors have them framed in gilt and spotlighted above their fireplaces, but what about us non-paper hoarding types with lonely computo-monitors?

Timmy desktops to the rescue! Click your favorites below to download the right size for your monitor: 1024x768 (1990 is calling and wants their resolution back), 1280x800, 1280x1024, 1400x864, 1600x1050, or 1920x1200.

We present unto you the most rockingest entrant the of Electronic Guitar Shirt contest, as judged by ThinkGeek and Neversoft:

That was Eric Morrison's entry and needless to say we were impressed. (His was the only one to feature a toupee--as far as we know.) He won a Super Bundle of Band Hero, a $500 gift certificate, a press release, a spot on our homepage, some t-shirts, and this very blog post.

We hope he doesn't mind if we share the space with the 2nd and 3rd place winners, too, 'cause here they are:

2nd place, The Stormtroopers, "Smoke on the Water":

3rd place, Jon Baker's band, "Step Back":

To all our Guitar Shirt contest entrants, thanks for rocking so hard! We enjoyed watching all of them--some of them three and four times.

Other contestery still on the table: The Newton Giveaway winners will be contacted on Monday, April 5, and we're still judging the merits of the Brick Construction Shirt contest. (They were just that good.) Please stand by, entrants!