Geek Etiquette

Anybots: Send Robots in Your Place

Anybots

Do you have a wedding, important conference, or other big event coming up, but you just don’t feel like going? (Hey, we’ve all had those days where the siren song of sweatpants and Netflix marathons drags us away from the outside world.) Get a robot to go in your stead.

Anybots has created a “Virtual Presence System” that consists of an “avatar” attending an event on your behalf, while you’re back at home, viewing the festivities through the bot’s eyes. You can communicate with others at the event, see everything going on, and even dance if the mood strikes you! If you’re in the San Francisco area, Anybots can even send out an escort for the avatar to make sure they don’t miss anything.

Anybots are available to rent for $325 for a day or purchase for $9,700.

Would you rent a robot to attend an event on your behalf? Would you rent one for an event you’re planning? How would you incorporate a robot in your festivities?

Find out more at anybots.com.

Hat Tip: New York Times

Contest: Win an Unplugged Vacation in Vermont

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One of my new year resolutions (like many of you) was to unplug and find time away from electronics. It can be so nice to have the time to connect with your loved ones, with nature, and with your activities without the distraction of new emails and tweets. Well, Vermont Perfection heard us loud and clear, and they want to help. They’re giving one reader an unplugged 2-day vacation at the Amee Farm Lodge in Pittsfield, Vermont.

The prize is a $600 value and includes:

  • A 2 night stay at Amee Farm Lodge (based on availability)
  • Deluxe Continental Breakfast each morning of your stay
  • Gift Certificate for Lunch to Original General Store
  • Welcome Basket/Bag from Riverside Farm

It does not include transportation to Vermont. But if you have some airline miles to spend or happen to live close enough to get there on your own, you need to enter. The area has 30+ miles of hiking and biking on the Green Mountain Trails,
yoga classes, snow-shoeing, skiing at Killington and Pico, tubing on the Tweed River, kayaking and fishing at Kent Pond and Tweed River, and on-site massages.

I’m ridiculously jealous that I can’t go and desperately want to hear from whoever wins. But after the trip. Put your phone and laptop away while you’re there, bring some board games and a good book, and get ready to relax. Find out more at vermontperfection.com and enter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tara’s Resolutions for 2014

Nothing is Impossible

Before we get into my resolutions for 2014, I want to share a bit about the above picture. This is the product pic for a necklace my dear friend Liz gave me. Whenever I need a little pick-me-up or am about to handle something big and scary, I put it on. Although grammar-lovers may notice the double negative, I think the phrase is absolutely perfect. You see, “Anything is possible” sounds like anything could happen at any time purely out of coincidence. “Nothing is impossible” makes me feel like nothing is out of reach if I work for it. And that’s the big thing: if you work hard, nothing is impossible. Remember that. 

Yes, I know resolutions are a silly thing. We all pledge to better ourselves, and most resolutions barely last a month. Well, that’s a month more than you may be motivated to do otherwise. So while in the past I’ve resolved to not have resolutions, I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on myself and how I want to improve. Why not start now? (If it helps, think of resolutions as a chance to give yourself a “yearly review.”)

Here are my resolutions for 2014:

Be More Active
Sure, losing weight would be great. But overall, I want my goal to be more active. Working on the computer all day means I struggle to get any bit of movement in. I pledge to take more steps, make time to exercise, and attempt to relax by going for walks as much as I relax in front of the tv. I’ll be monitoring my progress with my FitBit. Do you use FitBit? Friend me and we can keep each other motivated!

Try a New Recipe Each Week
For the last few years I’ve resolved to cook more at home, and I’ve gotten better at it each year. Making meals at home is healthy, less expensive, and is a fun, relaxing hobby. This year I pledge to go through the recipes I’ve bookmarked in my recipe books but have never made. The goal is to try something new each week, whether it’s a quick snack or a full meal. I’m hoping to broaden my cooking/food horizons and find a few more staples in the process! I’ll keep you updated on any amazing recipes I try.

Set Boundaries
When you work for yourself, you never stop working. I do social media marketing, I run the Geeky Hostess blog/brand, I make online videos, and I do whatever other projects come to my mind each day. I don’t stop. This year, I will. I want to set clear boundaries on when I will and won’t respond to emails or spend time in front of the computer. I want to disconnect from my phone and connect with my friends and family. It may mean someone will have to wait a few extra hours before they hear from me, but in the long run, I think it will help my sanity, relationships, and time management skills. Do you take time to disconnect or set hours when you work for yourself? Any tips or suggestions?

What are your resolutions for the new year?

10 New Year Resolutions for the Geek Community

New Year's Resolution Tee available at shirt.woot.com.

New Year’s Resolution Tee available at shirt.woot.com.

New Year’s Eve is tomorrow. Do you have your resolutions picked out yet? If not, I’d recommend including some of these. These resolutions will help you strengthen your geekness and become a better person. And some of them are just plain fun.

1. Pledge to get fit
And by “fit” I don’t mean “skinny.” Make yourself feel better and help your body perform better by keeping active. Come convention season, you’ll be thrilled to see that you’re not dying after the first day on the convention floor. There are so many fun and geeky ways to get motivated, whether it’s by playing fitness games on your new console, keeping track of your steps with tech like FitBit, or training for a zombie-themed marathon. Find some other geeks who enjoy the same things as you, and have Dance Central nights, or compete to get the most steps each week.

2. Finish that game
We all have it. An unfinished game. A “To Be Read” pile of books. An unopened RPG guide sitting on our shelf. Make the time to finish it. Schedule it into your calendar if you must. Your mind will thank yourself for giving it one less thing to feel guilty about, and you’ll enjoy having some scheduled time to do something you love!

3. Introduce someone new to your fandom
Share your love with others! While they’re geeky or not, introduce your friends and family to something you love in a non-threatening, non-crazy way. Remember that you were noob once too! Tell them why it means so much to you and encourage them to give it a shot. Want to bring a non-geek over to the dark side? Start slow. Maybe watch The Avengers and ask them if any of the characters stood out to them. If they loved Iron Man, then introduce them to some of the other movies, or to some good issues of the comic. Find points that they will relate to that you can talk about.

4. Try a new fandom
There’s a whole lot of geek out there, and there are fandoms you probably haven’t even touched. Ask your friends for recommendations, or do a “fandom swap” and try out each other’s favorite show/movie/book/game. I, for instance, have never seen an episode of Star Trek (although I have seen the recent movies). I’d love to be able to check that out in 2014!

5. Don’t read the comments
Simple as that. Don’t read the comments on  your work, and don’t read the comments on others’. If you need to leave a comment, imagine you’re saying it to someone’s face. When in doubt, don’t be a dick.

6. Support those you love
Your favorite authors, artists, filmmakers, musicians, bloggers, and game makers need your support. Many of them crowdfund their new works and/or accept donations. Tell them you want to see more from them by supporting them financially when you can. Don’t have the money? Not a problem! Help spread the word about their new projects, ask for some of their merch for your birthday, and let them know what you think of them. A kind word or two can mean even more to an artist than money. If you have a convention or event near you that needs speakers or exhibitors, suggest them. You’ll help them grow in popularity which will enable them to create more of the work you love.

7. Attend a con
There is no better feeling than attending a convention for your fandom or hobby. It’s like a giant slumber party love-fest of meeting people that “get it” while learning all of the coolest news, trying new products, and meeting your idols. GO. There is likely one near you, and likely one for just what you’re into. You don’t have to go to one of the big comic-cons. Start small if you want. Just try one.

8. Dress up for your next game night
Show everyone that geeks can look good. Instead of throwing on the closest jeans and t-shirt and heading out the door (I’m guilty of doing this), take some time to put together an outfit that makes you look and feel amazing. Who knows what may come of it: you could meet a new friend (or lover), encourage your friends to start regular “Dapper Days” in your game group, or even play better with your new-found confidence!

9. Find a healthy go-to gaming food
Yes, Cheetos are delicious, but are they the best thing you should be eating? As my friends and I get further away from those days in high school and college where we can eat anything, we’re trying to find healthier alternatives to our favorite snack foods. Try veggies and hummus, air-popped popcorn, or a homemade version of something you normally get from a drive-through or a convenience store!

10. Disconnect
I know, I know. You’re tech savvy and your job and hobbies all revolve around your phone, computer, and tv screen. But find some time to disconnect. Set daily limits for the amount of time you’re gaming or on reddit. Don’t refresh your phone looking for new emails after 10pm. Pick up and read a physical book instead of grabbing your Kindle. Eat dinner with friends or your family without the tv on and with phones put away. Sure, you won’t be able to take a selfie or tweet about your meal, but you’ll be able to reconnect with the people that are right in front of you. It’ll be worth it.

Any other resolutions you think the geek community should make? Let me know in the comments! And come back tomorrow for my personal list of resolutions.

Black Friday Tips From the Hunger Games

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You’ve volunteered as Tribute to stand out in the cold and get the best deals for your house. What can you do to make sure you return a Victor and don’t just become a cannon shot in the sky? Follow these tips gathered from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire! (Warning: If you have not read the books or seen the movie, some of these tips may contain spoilers.)

Form an Alliance: You may have the best stamina for waiting in lines, but you’re nothing unless you team up with someone who can see over crowds, someone that can hold a lot of bags, or someone that can function in the early morning. Team up and form alliances–that way one person can wait in line while the other shops or does a coffee run.

Stay Hydrated: There won’t be any trees to get water from, and there may not be a water bottle in sight, either. Bring your own from home and refill it whenever you pass by a water fountain.

Have a Supporter Back Home: Have someone back home that can come to your rescue if things get too intense. They may not be able to parachute anything in to you, but they can provide you with valuable information. Call them to check up on sales/deals, ask them to have food prepped and waiting for you, or just to hear a non-crazy voice.

Prepare: I sure hope you haven’t gotten rusty since the last Hunger Games! Make sure you know the layout of the stores, the model numbers and sizes of the items you want, and the ideal shopping route. And stretch. Seriously. It also won’t hurt to practice lifting heavy bags.

Wear the Right Attire: The Hunger Games uniform is always made to be best in the environment they’re in. For most of us, that means you’ll want to dress in layers and something you can walk a good distance in. Waiting outside? Make sure you’ll be warm enough, but can shed those layers once you’re in the store. Walking around a mall? Leave the bulky coat in the car so it’s one less thing you have to carry. And don’t forget about side braids–a surprisingly fashionable way to keep hair out of your way!

It’s a Clock! Deals come in waves, and many are on timelines. Map out the stores you want to hit and when you want to hit them, and then keep an eye on your watch.

Know When To Sacrifice Yourself: Sometimes the deals just aren’t worth it. If it looks like a stampede’s about to break out, get yourself out of harm’s way. If a sweet, young couple is in danger and has a shot of winning that big screen tv that you don’t really need, let them have it. A bit of compassion can go a long way.

It’s Just a Game: Black Friday is just a game. It’s just one day of deals and gimmicks. Get the shopping done that you can, and think of it as preparation for the real war: The weekend before Christmas.

Birthday Resolution: Think Big

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Today’s my birthday, and I often take the day as an opportunity for a resolution or new goal. This year? I want to “Think Big.” (And yes, I’m a grown adult taking advice from a 90′s cartoon character. What of it.) You see, as an entrepreneur/blogger/marketing person/etc./etc., I often have fun, ridiculous, and grand ideas. Usually these go away as quickly as they come with thoughts like “that’ll never work” or “I’m just one person. I can’t do that.”

In this past year, I’ve done some awesome stuff. I’ve put together fun events, had a booth at a convention, started planning for an upcoming Kickstarter, created an online store, attended more cons, and laid plans for future partnerships/opportunities with the blog. A lot of these things have been scary. At some point in all of it, I’ve doubted if I could even do it. But I’ve loved everything and learned so much.

I resolve to not hold myself back. I’m going to dream and actually put my dreams into action. And each thing I do, whether it’s writing a blog post, throwing a party, or planning a new goal, I’m going to say “What can I do to go even BIGGER.” I think this will continue to push me throughout the year and will help me grow tremendously.

Do you make resolutions on your birthday? What are yours? How would you like to see me go bigger this upcoming year?

Tips For Running a Convention Booth

Geeky Hostess Booth This past weekend I ran my very first Geeky Hostess booth at GeekGirlCon. I had a great time and learned a lot while meeting some really fun people! I think booths are addictive. While running them you’re exhausted and barely think you’ll make it through the weekend, and then the next day you’re looking at prices of booths for upcoming cons. If you’re looking to start promoting/selling items at a convention, GeekGirlCon’s a great place to begin. The vendors were all so amazing and supportive, the volunteers went out of their way to help, and the environment was really welcoming. Here are some things I learned about boothing it up:

  • Stand Out. Whether you pick a fun theme or a prominent color, find a way to make it so your booth is noticeable. Mine was definitely the pinkest booth of them all, and the giant floating cupcake made it an easy-to-find location. (Although I did disappoint two different toddlers when they found out it wasn’t edible.)
  • Have an Attention-Grabbing Freebie. I was going for a “Cupcake Bakery” theme to my booth, so naturally I needed to have cupcakes. I made a bunch of mini Mountain Dew cupcakes to give out in the mornings, and they drew people in. It was a great conversation starter: people knew me as the “cupcake girl” and it gave readers a chance to sample one of the cupcakes they’ve seen online. If you do decide to hand out food, make sure you get permission from the convention center and have a list of the ingredients available for those who ask. Other booths have done things like raffles and giveaways at specific times which draws a great crowd.
  • Have a Handout with Online Information. I had flyers for GeekyHostess.com and the Geeky Hostess Store, as well as Mountain Dew Cupcake recipes with GeekyHostess.com on them. There was something for everyone and most people left the booth with a flyer of some sort.
  • Keep Your Branding Consistent. Put the same logo on your signage, flyers, and products so people will recognize and remember it when they see it again in the future. Everyone ends up with so many flyers and cards at the end of a convention, make it easier for them to find yours!
  • Collect Information. Have an email sign-up sheet, ask a question, or have people fill out a survey. Whatever info you need, folks will be willing to give. I now have a big list of contacts I can reach out to when I start my Kickstarter, which means a big list of potential donors.
  • Have a Booth Buddy. A booth buddy means you have someone to talk to if it gets slow, someone to help talk to others when it’s not slow, someone to cover you when you want to look around or have to run to the bathroom, and someone to grab lunch or coffee for you. No booth buddy means none of these things. Mr. Geek was with me for most of the con, which was extremely helpful when I had to leave to do panels.
  • Bring a snack. Make sure you have a water bottle and a snack or two behind your booth in case you can’t escape right away for lunch. I also brought a pack of Emergen-C with me, which was very helpful in keeping con crud away.
  • Always Be Prepared. Bring extras of everything. Have small bills so you can make change. Bring a roll of paper towels, a pen, a sharpie, a pair of scissors, some tape, and some paper or a notebook. You’ll need all of those things.
  • More, More More. Someone on Twitter asked me what I learned from having the booth, and the main thing is “More.” Have more cupcakes, be more outgoing to draw people in, and have more sizes/colors available in my products. The more you have/do, the more people you’ll get to interact with and the more sales you’ll make!

I want to give a huge thank you to everyone who stopped by the booth or said “Hi” at the con. You made my experience so wonderful! I’m already planning for future booths down the line. I can’t wait! Have you run a booth? What tips do you have?

Quingo: Play iPad Games for Charity

quingo image

Lately I’ve been playing an iPad game or two to unwind and relax before I head to bed in the evenings. They’re fun, but one or two quick games can turn into five or six games, and before I know it, a half hour has gone by. The games that keep track of how long you’ve spent playing just make me depressed. I’ve wasted that much time?

Luckily, when I play Quingo, a new iPad game that launches today, I don’t feel like I’m wasting time. The more I play, the more money goes to charity!

Quingo is a cross between a quiz game and bingo. You are given something to look for (For instance, “characters in Harry Potter books”) and must find the five answers in a bingo board of options. You’re timed, and each wrong answer reduces your time more. A game is played in 5 rounds, and at the end, your score (or “hope points”) goes towards the charity of your choice. I chose Seattle Children’s Hospital for mine.

The game is currently available to download for free for iPad, and other mobile options will be made available later in the year. Find out more about the game here and download it here.

Give the game a try and let me know what charity you’re playing for! I’ll be playing mine and watching the “points you’ve given” number keep going up.

The Care and Feeding of your Board Game Group

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Photo by Andrew Ferguson

One of the fantastic panels I attended at PAX was on the care and feeding of your game group. Whether you game casually with friends, have a large weekly meetup, or haven’t found a group yet, there was some great info for you. See below for my notes from the panel based on words of wisdom from Dikla TuchmanMax TemkinMatthew Baldwin, and Boyan Radakovich. (Additional commentary from me are in italics throughout.)

How to Gather a Group by Matthew Baldwin 
1. Why have you gathered everyone together? What is the purpose of this game group? There are multiple different types of gamers, and each has a different goal. Will you be catering to the jokers of the group who want to have fun and focus on party games, or will you be catering to the competitors with a serious/tournament-style game group?
2. Set a schedule and stick to it. Will you be meeting every Monday? Every New Year’s Eve? Every day during lunch break?
3. Take a break from evangelism. Stop trying to recruit everyone. It’s not your job to convert everyone. Enjoy the group you have.
4. Teach the games. It’s your job as host. If you’re not good at it, find someone who is.
5. Enforce Wheaton’s law. (For those who don’t know, the law is “Don’t be a dick.”)

These notes are great for those ready to start a more official game group. I game casually with friends which is nice, but we wouldn’t be able to do anything like a regular RPG session because we’re so scattered. Starting and keeping a schedule is a great idea. Additionally, Matthew touched on the 9 different types of gamers and said he could “ruin a cocktail party” by talking about them forever. Matthew, you’ve piqued my interest! I want to hear more!

How to Teach a Game by Max Temkin
“No one’s there to learn the game, they’re there to play the game.”
1. Set up the board. (Bonus points if you set it up before people get there)
2. Teach the big picture about the game before you start.
3. Explain the theme of the game.
4. Explain how to win the game.
5. How the game ends. (Give basic, high level info. Not all the details/strategies are needed at the beginning.)
6. Explain what happens in a turn.
7. Don’t teach strategy
8. Don’t get into the fine print. (Instead, just teach basics. “Normally, this is how it works,” etc.)
9. Start the game. (Play your hand first, talk aloud about what you’re doing and why.)

Teaching a game correctly is one of the best skills you can have. It can make the difference of your friends understanding and loving a game or ending up frustrated and/or bored. Practice a few times or write down notes for yourself if you’re not sure how to explain it! Looking for good examples of games being taught? Check out Tabletop and Shut Up and Sit Down

The Feeding of Your Game Group by Dikla Tuchman
1. You want people to enjoy themselves. What else do they have in common, other than games? Food? Beer? Wine? Something else?
2. Make sure you plan time in your day for food prep and during the game night for eating.
3. If your group is interested in beer, try a beer share: “Let’s do stouts and Ticket to Ride this week.” Everyone brings their favorite stout (ideally a larger bottle or growler) so everyone can sample a variety of that type of beer. Think of it as a beer potluck.

Thematic Game/Beer Pairing Ideas by Dikla 

  • Ticket to Ride and Steam Train Porter
  • Cataan and 80 Acre Hoppy Wheat
  • Forbidden island and Island Big Swell IPA
  • Gloom and Dead Guy Ale (Dead Guy Ale is one of those beers that’s perfect for a lot of horror games/movies/parties. I’ve used it for Cabin in the Woods and have wanted to use it for Betrayal at House on the Hill.)

Combining your friends’ other interests is an easy way to met them halfway and introduce them to gaming.

Well, now I need to throw a beer potluck. Such a fun idea! 

Final Thoughts by Boyan Radakovich

1. It’s not about the game: it’s about getting together and having fun.
2. Stick to a schedule, even if everyone can’t make it.
3. Find someone that can be a host for your game night: Making sure it’s running smoothly, people are greeted, etc.
4. Join an Online Community. Have a consistent theme, branding, logo for your game group. Suggestions:

  • Boardgamegeek.com
  • Reddit.com
  • Meetup.com
  • Facebook  for invites
  • Twitter for sharing
  • Tumblr for game play video or images

5. Community Engagement. Your gaming group is a community. Engage with other communities IRL, such as volunteer groups, crafting groups, book clubs, your work, etc.
6. Do it in public. #doit (This is a verbatim quote from the panel.)

Boyan couldn’t stress the first point enough throughout the panel. Getting people together to play games ISN’T about the game. It’s about getting together and having fun. Remember that as you start/attend your board game group sessions!

Do you have a regular gaming group? An other tips that aren’t included here? Leave them in the comments! Questions? Reach out to any of the panelists, or let me know in the comments and I’ll hunt down an answer for you!

Roommate Etiquette with the cast of Being Human

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One perk of going to San Diego Comic Con as Press is that you get invited to press rooms/interviews. And if you’re like me, you take the opportunity to ask the cast of one of your favorite shows about etiquette tips. Because, why not?

For those who don’t know, Being Human is an amazing show on Syfy (based on a BBC show) that focuses on a relatively simple premise: A werewolf, a vampire, and a ghost living together. If they can all get along, then any of us should be able to make our living situations work. Which is why I asked them for their character’s best roommate etiquette tips.

Meaghan Rath, who plays the ghostly Sally Malik, started us off with some practical advice that applies to ghosts and humans alike:

“Don’t do anything that you don’t want someone to see, because there’s always somebody watching. Be conscious of giving people their space, because that’s always important when you do need your privacy; you need to be able to give someone else their privacy as well. Being roommates with supernatural characters sorta breaks all the rules, I guess, because anything goes. Be prepared for your house to get burned down and your shit to be dirty.”

Sam Witwer, who plays the resident vampire Aidan Waite, went for a more simple (but effective) answer:

“Don’t bite your roommates. It’s a good way to start, anyway.”

What are your tips for dealing with roommates? Leave them in the comments!