Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!! From Tech Club!!!!

We here at Tech Club want to thank everyone for their support this past year, and hope everyone has a safe and merry Christmas day!

(Snowman design by Kierre (bio here)... the young man who also produced the "Turkey Head" Cabrini Connections logo from Thanksgiving, using the same image editing skills he's been perfecting at Tuesday Night Tech Club.)

Please let us know if you are interested in volunteering to share your particular tech expertise with us this school year! We'd love to work with you!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays From Tech Club Students Charles and Sean!

It should be no surprise that one of the more creative and provocative Christmas designs was created by our more experienced tech club members, who offer this sleek Holidays At Night design (as I like to call it :)

Two of our older tech club members, Charles (aka Mizawa) and Sean (See Sean's bio here) are already fairly accomplished techies, both on paths to become talented designers and programers. In fact, much of their time in the club has been spent offering a hand as teacher assistant for the younger members.

If you look through this blog, you will see several examples of the compositions Mizawa has already created, through his own motivation (the Tech Club banner up above for instance, but cool designs here and here. And check out some of the anime he's put together here.)

Both of these young men have also become Paint.Net gurus, and also have collaborated on a few animations, like this one here.

It will be exciting to see the work they produce in our upcoming projects in 2010.

Meantime, please join Sean, Charles, and myself in having a safe and merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays From Tech Club Student Israel!

This is the third in our series of holiday graphics designed by 7th-9th grade students at Cabrini Connections Tech Club... students who choose to spend their Tuesday evenings learning/practicing marketable tech skills.

Today's designer, Israel (bio here), took a different approach from the one NyShanell and Marquise took. While the previous two graphics were assembled using Photoshop to cut, paste, and manipulate graphics that were borrowed from elsewhere on the internet, Israel decided to combine technology with his talent as a 2-dimensional artist (he also spends Monday evenings as a member of the Cabrini Connections Art Club).

To accomplish the bells above, he simply drew his image, and then scanned it into the computer, saving the file to be easily opened in an editing application like Photoshop.

Like all great composers however, Israel simply has too many good ideas floating around to get caught up too long in any single art piece!

I can't wait for the artist to come back to these bells with new inspiration and maybe take them to new artistic levels.

Meantime, great job, Israel, using the computer to take something you drew, and prepping it for digital editing. And thanks for the holiday wishes!


Please let us know if you are interested in volunteering to share your particular tech expertise with us this school year! We'd love to work with you!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Holidays From Tech Club Student NyShanell!

The second offering in our Holiday Series is submitted by talented artist, and a natural at graphic design... 7th grader NyShanell... check out her bio for more about her love of computers and art...

If there is something more representative of the spirit of the holidays than people holding hands around a Christmas tree, I don't know what is.

You can almost hear imagine the volunteers, students, and donors represented by the characters in the Cabrini Connections logo singing a carol outside in the snow!...

...Right before heading indoors for a cup of cocoa and a discussion, using Mapping For Justice maps, about how new collaborations can be made to ensure students with all the ability in the world, like NyShanell, have access to programs like Cabrini Connections, to build a work-ready skillset in every neighborhood in Chicago and beyond.

Thanks NyShanell. Great work as always!

Happy Holidays to everyone from Tech Club!

(Last week's submission by Marquise is here.)

Please let us know if you are interested in volunteering to share your particular tech expertise with us this school year! We'd love to work with you!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Happy Holidays From Tech Club Student Marquise!

Students at Cabrini Connections are involved in more than just one-on-one mentoring... many of them take time out of their evenings during the week to attend clubs. That what this site is all about - a showcase of the work produced by the students who work with volunteer professionals on Tuesday nights to learn the skills they need to compete as future techies in the job market!

We took time out from our big project this past month (to be revealed later this winter) and produced the some holiday-inspired pieces... using tech skills we've been practicing at Tech Club.

I will feature those here in the week leading up to Christmas!

The first design to the left was produced by 7th grade student, Marquise (bio here)... a young man who is also a member of Video and Filmmakers Club on Mondays... and an artist with a flair for taking the simple and turning it into something unique, complex, and meaningful (a talent you can't always teach!).

Marquise used his Photoshop skills and artistic eye, and used the Cabrini Connections logo to highlight and define the puffy white part at the top of the traditional Christmas Stocking.

A brilliant composition that combines the spirit of the holiday with the pride of the program.

Marquise explains:

"The stocking of Cabrini Connections represent how everyone in the program is family and the stocking represents a member of Cabrini Connections."

Please let us know if you are interested in volunteering to share your particular tech expertise with us this school year! We'd love to work with you!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Holiday Fund Raising - Organize An Event

Over the past few weeks staff and volunteers of Cabrini Connections have been inviting friends, family and coworkers to help with Holiday FUNdraising. I encourage you to read El Da'Sheon's article, showing how he's reaching out.

Our teens are helping, too. The holiday graphics that we're using were created by the youth who meet each week for Tech Club. I think you'll agree, there is a lot of talent. Hopefully, we'll be able to find enough donors, and additional volunteers, to help these kids keep developing these skills.

We'd like to see a lot of our volunteers and friends organize their own fund raising campaigns this year. At GiveForward we've set up a Tis The Season campaign which you can contribute to. Or, you can register, and create your own personalized campaign that can be supported by your company, faith group, family, or social group.

If enough people try to raise the money needed at Cabrini Connections, we will be able to continue to teach teens to make graphics and use technology to communicate ideas. Thank you everyone for your help.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving from Tech Club

This logo graphic was created by 7th grader Kierre, one of 8 -10 students who meet each week in the Cabrini Connections technology club. He used Photoshop skills he has learned from volunteers over the past month to modify the Cabrini Connections logo in a simple yet clever (and festive) way.

This is one of several holiday graphics that will be used over the next six weeks in our annual holiday fund raising campaigns.

Another example is provided by Israel... whose Turkey dares you to try and cook him for dinner.

Turkey advocacy, and a heck of a good sense of humor! Thanks Israel!

If you'd like to donate to help us continue this work, click here.

We are also looking for new tech-savvy volunteers to meet with us Tuesday evenings for an hour after work. Email us.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Meaning of logo

The meaning of the logo that charles and I made is that it symbolizes the holidays under the pale moonlight and the spirit that roams the holidays (the moon)

Monday, November 9, 2009

A new background

Over the weekend, I learned (Randomly did out of boredom) How to make backgrounds without the use of google or anything. Usually I would copy some things and paste a few images, but now, I can do it all myself. I know I've been talking about getting the new step by step plan for Paint.Net, yet I haven't been able to think on how to make it, so until then I am prolonging that idea. However, to keep everyone updated, I do plan on making the step by step plan soon, hopefully. This Tuesday in Tech Club, I will talk with a few of my peers and try to figure this out.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Hello once again it's Charles/Mizawa. Without all the flashing images, and moving objects, I wanted to show a basic picture that can be created using Paint.Net and only Paint.Net. As we speak I am figuring out a way to make a step by step plan on using Paint.Net.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Technology Night vs Tech Club

(Blog submitted by EL D'asheon Nix)

This week's traditional Tech Club was altered just a bit. Tech Club's fearless leader, Mike Trakan, was not able to attend the session and a special guest of the Tech Club was unable to make it as well.

So Cabrini Connections' staff EL Da' Sheon Nix and Bradley Troast turned Tech Club into Technology Night. The students who attended the session did not work on their weekly projects, but used the computer and the Internet to catch up on some of their academic work and to check the progress on previous work.

Some of the students then located Internet games such as pool to pass the time during the open session which was a great idea. Instead of playing board games, the group used technology to learn and engage themselves in tonight's session. There were a couple of students and a mentor who usually meet on Wednesday who was present tonight because of a scheduling for tomorrow's session. So with the last 15 minutes of the session, we took the technology one step further and we played a game of Catch Phrase, where the males teamed up against the females. The game is similar to Taboo or charades, but uses a hand held technological devices as the center of the game. After an intense 15 minutes of Catch Phrase the females proved to be no match for us guys.

All in all, Technology Night was a lot of fun and gave the group other ways in which to learn, have fun, and compete all while using TECHNOLOGY!!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fireboy Picture

This is an Example of what to look for in the future. I am *Nova*( or aka Savon) and I am currently writing a story called Fireboy. This story is about a boy named Jason andhow he is able to control the black fire demon that has been in his family for generations and find a way to stop the evil warlord Vladamir.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Mizawa Sprite!

This artwork/sprite was created this week by Sean, using paint. Charles animated the artwork, using unfreeze.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mizawa, Photoshop picture

Hello everyone, this is a picture I, Charles Hill, or known as Mizawa, have created. It's one of my many pictures I've used by using photoshop, using photoshop is something I've learned how to use during Tech Club, and now I'm able to create images such as this. Soon, I'll be making a guideline on how to make pictures using photoshop since it's complicated in the begginning, however becomes easier as you go on.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Ideas for youth building web sites

I'm part of an on-line community where people share ideas that they use in their teaching and learning. Today one of the topics is about "motivating kids". One response talked of how kids were encouraged to build web sites as part of this motivation effort.

I encourage volunteers working with teens at Cabrini Connections to read this article, follow the links, and see if there are ideas you can incorporate into what we're doing here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tech Club Students Profiled blog

Chris Warren profiled Cabrini Connections Tech Club kids in his weekly student profiles. Take a look.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Tech Club Work in Progress

For those of you who are content with just visiting websites like YouTube and Facebook, that's just great. However Tech Club isn't content with that. We want more! In Tech Club, we make our own websites! Check out this W.I.P. created by Sean Mayfield. A W.I.P. is short for Work in Progress. That means we'll spend the next few months editing, revising, and adding to this website. Right now, it's a great start. But with a little work, it is going to totally rock. Check back every week to see just how much progress Sean makes.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Who wants to join Tech Club?

The websites are coming along just fine. We're at the point where we are going to start publishing what we have today. Check back for links and see what Tech Club has been up to.

In the meantime, Tech Club is still looking for another volunteer. We are currently working with Dreamweaver and Photoshop. If you have experience with these, that's great, but it's not necessary. We really need someone to help guide the kids. The classes are growing. The kids are motivated and have some great ideas. We just need someone who can help direct them.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Don't just visit websites. Make your own!

Tech Club used to be Cabrini's best kept secret. But we can't say that any more. The word is out. Tech Club has arrived and we are HUGE. The classes are fun, the kids are motivated and more and more of them are showing up every week. We basically kick back with some snacks and talk about movies and video games. When we're done, we hit the computers. Right now, we just happen to be learning how to make websites using DreamWeaver and HTML. Everybody and their mother has their own website these days. All it takes is an idea and a little bit of time and energy. Anybody who wants to stop by is welcome to see what we do. And if you don't stop in, don't worry, you'll be seeing our websites on the internet real soon. :)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Team

Tech Club has lost a great team leader in the past week as Alice Toth has taken a project in Atlanta. This means we're in search of a couple of other volunteers who will help with the Tuesday night group at Cabrini Connections, and who will help share what the group does via this blog.

One source of volunteers is the local universities in Chicago. Chris Warren wrote about one way we hope to recruit volunteers, and financial supporters, in his blog.

We'd like to see a team of tech volunteers, and students, organize for the same goals, but focused on helping tech volunteers work with kids in programs like Cabrini Connections, while also working to make sure funds are available to support the technology. Read Vjeko's blog to see how important this is.

Thanks Alice for helping the Tech Club for the past year. I hope you stay connected virtually. If readers would like to join to help keep this group going, just email or call 312-492-9614.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Photo Fridays

Sunset over Mobile Bay
Point Clear, Alabama

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Death to IE6

death to ie6Those of us who code web apps and web sites have had to deal with making the presentation layer work in IE6. Due to IE6's non-compliance with W3C Standards, this involves a ridiculous amount of extra work (i.e., hacks) to get the page to render correctly in this most outdated of browsers. We've all written CSS that contains something like this:

.foo { margin: 0px 10px; _margin: -3px 5px; }

just so things will render the same across all browsers. And don't get me started on the extra lines of Javascript needed to make things work with IE6's archaic DOM.

The problem is that these deviations from the standard now become the standard and increase the amount of time required to write and maintain code. For those of us who went through the browser wars it is, unfortunately, second nature to write in all of these hacks; for others, it's just plain crazy and not understandable. Unfortunately, since this ancient browser is still in use by a non-negligible amount of people (somewhere between 10 to 20% worldwide), we have to support it.

But not for long. There is a movement underway to rid the world of IE6. From

Several large websites in Norway have launched an advocacy campaign urging Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 users to upgrade their outdated web browsers.

Leading the charge is, an eBay-like site that is apparently the largest site for buying and selling goods in all of Norway (Finn is Norwegian for "Find"). Earlier this week, posted a warning on its web page for visitors running IE 6. The banner, seen at right, urges them to ditch IE 6 and upgrade to Internet Explorer 7.

While started in Norway, this movement has gone global. An international wiki site tracks the spreading suppport; you can also follow on twitter using the #IE6 hashtag; and show your support by joining the Facebook group. Even Microsoft is supporting the campaign, issuing a statement that they hope their users will upgrade to IE7.

A global, grass-roots movement -- very cool. IE6? The bell tolls for thee.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Did You Know? (Part Two)

Some more interesting facts I came across while wandering the tubes:

  • Ralph Johnson Bunche was a chief research analyst in the Office of Strategic Services (pre-CIA spy agency), the first African American to be a division head in the Dept. of State and he was with the United Nations, where he became the principal secretary of the UN Palestine Commission. Due to his work, Dr. Bunche (Ph.D. Harvard) was awarded the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize for mediating the 1948 Arab-Israeli truce.

  • Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman, who moved to Chicago in 1915, was the first African American to become an airplane pilot and the first American of any race or gender to hold an international pilot license. In 2005, a small park in Hyde Park neighborhood was named Bessie Coleman Park.

  • The History Channel's website has a great interactive feature on black history timeline.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Nice Redesign!

Cabrini ConnectionsCabrini Connections has a new site design! The navigation makes it much easier to get around, to enter your SVHATS entrance and exit information (no excuses now!), and they even have some fun stuff like adding the Cabrini Connections theme to your iGoogle. Cool!

Go check it out at

Friday, February 20, 2009

Photo Fridays

City Grid
Chicago, IL

Thursday, February 19, 2009

CTA Bus Tracker Update

CTA bus trackerHaving previously written about CTA's bus tracker, I wanted to let you know that they're expanding their list of routes. Here's the list of routes that are currently being tracked:

3, X3, 4, X4, 6, 7, 8, 9, X9, 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 20, X20, 21, 22, 35, 36, 38, 39, 43, 44, 47, 48, 49, X49, 49B, 50, 51, 52A, 52, 53A, 54A, 54B, 55, X55, 55A, 55N, 56, 56A, 59, 60, 62, 62H, 63, 63W, 67, 68, 69, 75, 77, 78, 79, 80, X80, 81, 81W, 82, 84, 85, 85A, 86, 87, 88, 90, 90N, 91, 92, 93, 94, 96, 97, 125, 126, 129, 145, 146, 147, 148, 151, 152, 156, 157 and 165.

As of March 2nd, these additional routes will now be available on

1, 8A, 14, 15, 24, 28, X28, 29, 34, 49A, 53, 54, X54, 57, 65, 66, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 76, 111, 119

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


We continued to learn about links this week -- specifically, how to create text links such as this:

visit Cabrini Connections

and image links such as this:

We also started to learn about applying the pseudo class of :hover to our links, both text and images, so we can show something different when a user hovers their mouse over the link. We are slowly but surely building an HTML/CSS vocabulary and, more importantly, learning that we need to be precise when we're typing!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Technology & Privacy

There seems to be a storm a brewin' with Facebook's recent changes to its terms of service. The new terms seem to state that anything you upload to Facebook can be used by Facebook however they deem fit, forever and ever, even if you close your account.

That certainly doesn't seem right, but until better legal minds than mine can parse through the lingo, it might be a good idea to review exactly what you have visible to the full public and what is restricted to your friends or to just you. Check out this article on Facebook Privacy Settings to see what settings you might want to change.

The same holds true for users of other social networking sites (MySpace, LinkedIn, etc.) -- while those spaces may not have modified their terms of service, you probably should review your privacy settings just to see what information is visible to whom. This is especially relevant to anyone applying to college or interviewing for a job -- yes, those places sometimes do search social networking sites to find out more information about you. And let's face it: you don't want them to have the same access as your friends. Just sayin.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Did You Know?

The 15th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1870, affirms "the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude."

In 1872, Frederick Douglass became the first African American nominated for Vice President of the United States, as Victoria Woodhull's running mate on the Equal Rights Party ticket. He was nominated without his knowledge.

After the Civil War, the nation's new black voters overwhelmingly aligned themselves with the Republican Party, the party of Abraham Lincoln originally established to oppose slavery. Times have changed.

Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback, the son of a slave and her owner, set a couple of firsts. He was the first African American to become Governor of a U.S. state. He was also the first non-white Governor of Louisiana.

In Chicago on January 25, 1890, Timothy Thomas Fortune co-founded the National Afro-American League to right wrongs against African Americans authorized by law and sanctioned or tolerated by public opinion. This set the stage for the NAACP and other civil rights organizations to follow.

We stand on the shoulders of giants.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Photo Fridays

Photo credit: Maximilien Brice, © CERN

ALICE, A Large Ion Collider Experiment, will study the physics of ultrahigh-energy proton-proton and lead-lead collisions and will explore conditions in the first instants of the universe, a few microseconds after the Big Bang. The photo is the ALICE Inner Tracking System during its transport in the experimental cavern and its insertion into the Time Projection Chamber (TPC) at CERN.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Technology in the Real World

In an effort to look at uses of technology in the real world, I thought we'd look at the pairing of technology and a live event such as the Super Bowl, where technology is used not only in the game itself but also to enhance the overall viewing of the fans. From the headsets coaches use to communicate, to the computers used to calculate statistics to the HD cameras that record the contest for the viewing audience, technology is now an integral part of the game.

Here's how that integration breaks down into the details:

  • A Super Bowl Twitter feed was available as away to share a little bit of the flavor of the excitement gathering around the game with the fans before kickoff. Superbowl XLIII? Meet Web 2.0.

  • The site was designed, developed and available on the web. Online viewers were able to select from five different cameras filming the event and watch the player they wanted to see speak.

  • During the game, we saw 3D commercials -- well if you had the proper glasses they were in 3D. Why bother? Well, these digitally created commercials were a good test case for potentially running 3D trailers in movie theaters in the future.

  • Wireless bridge technology and Wi-Fi devices to support 4,000 journalists. Wi-Fi allows the NFL to streamline their costs by eliminating running lots of cable but still provide a reliable service. And obviously someone with a knowledge of infrastructure needed to setup those routers and networks so they could support roughly 500 simultaneous connections.

  • For game production and business operations, the NFL tech team built out an infrastructure with approximately 300 computers, PCs and laptops.

  • To support it all, the league and IBM used a series of four IBM BladeCenter S chassis, one at each of four venues the NFL has set up around Tampa: one for general media and PR, one for the league's offices, one for game-day media and PR, and one for credentialing and in-house security. These environments don't set themselves up.

Of course not everything in the Super Bowl requires technology -- the game still begins with the entirely low-tech flip of a coin.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

General Motors & Solar Power

Quick -- who owns the two largest rooftop solar stations in the US? If you guessed General Motors (yup, the car company), you'd be correct. Not content with that, General Motors also has the world's largest rooftop source of power from the sun at its plant in Spain. Who knew!

In the U.S., their rooftop stations are located atop warehouse facilities in both Fontana and Rancho Cucamonga, California, and have been operational for a couple of years now. Electricity generated by the solar array, but not used by the GM facilities, is fed back into the electrical grid for sale to other area residents and businesses. During spring and fall, which in California are periods of high sunshine combined with low air conditioning needs, the system will generate extra electricity for the grid.

Last summer, GM began installing 85,000 solar panels on top of its Zaragoza plant in Spain, covering over 2 million square feet. These will provide over 10 megawatts of power from a renewable energy source that will not only be used by the factory (responsible for over 480,000 vehicles) but also by the local power grid.

Providing "green" energy to the local community's power grid -- and I thought GM just made cars.

Interested in the field of green technology and wondering what areas it might encompass? A good place to start is Chicago's Center for Green Technology.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Netflix + XBOX 360 =$$

part•ner•ship [noun]:

An association of two or more people who take part in an undertaking with each other, especially in a business or company with shared risks and profits.

Once upon a time, two companies formed a partnership. Two months later, one million Microsoft Xbox 360 video game console users have activated Netflix's movie streaming service. One Million. In two months.

With this service, Xbox LIVE Gold members who are also Netflix members can instantly view content from Netflix on a TV via the Xbox 360 system through its Watch Instantly video service. In the two months this co-service has been available, the Xbox LIVE community has watched 1.5 billion minutes of movies and TV episodes. That's B for Billion. In two months.

Showing movies and t.v. shows over the web has been talked about ever since the debut of the web. Bandwidth finally increased to the point where it's possible and now technology has caught up to the point where consumers feel comfortable about it. The Netflix/XBox partnership may be a blueprint for the future of streaming movies. Per Reuters:

Analysts have been watching for data on the alliance as an important gauge of the emerging market for movies delivered over the Web, particularly as traditional media companies like Walt Disney this week have reported declining DVD sales and said the traditional business for delivering home video needs to be revised.

Netflix last month said its stronger-than-expected quarterly results were propelled by growth in its Web video streaming service and that streaming was "energizing" its growth.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Dr. Herman B. White Smashes Atoms

Herman B. WhiteTech Club salutes:

Herman B. White
Particle Physicist
Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab)

Dr. Herman B. White has been a particle physics scientist with Fermilab for the past 34 years. His research has covered a range of topics in Particle and Nuclear Physics, as well as work with accelerators and particle beams.

In a 1997 interview, Dr. White made the statement that "[The physicist's] job is to advance knowledge and erase ignorance." His efforts to bring information, concerns, and focus about physics and physical science research have caused him to appear before U.S. Congress, the National Science Foundation, National Public Radio and others. Dr. White's next lecture is at the Adler Planetarium where among other things he'll bring us up to date on the progress of starting the world's newest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider.

But lest you think physicists do nothing but deal with a bunch of stuff we can't even see, their problem solving filters over into our every day lives as well. The World Wide Web was an idea conceived and implemented by a group of high-energy physicists at CERN who wanted to instantly share their ideas and papers with colleagues across the globe. Thanks to their creative solution, the world has become a bit more interconnected.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

International Year of Astronomy

International Year of Astronomy
Related to this week's Photo Fridays' pics, were you aware that 2009 is the International Year of Astronomy?

Astronomy (from the Greek words astron (star) and nomos (law)) is the scientific study of celestial objects (such as stars, planets, comets, and galaxies) and phenomena that originate outside the Earth's atmosphere (such as the cosmic background radiation).

source: Wikipedia

In 2009, 400 years after Galileo first used a telescope to study the skies, the International Astronomical Union and the United Nations are honoring both astronomers and astronomical milestones by proclaiming 2009 as the International Year of Astronomy.

Celebrate the International Year of Astronomy by brushing up on your own knowledge of the skies. Visit the Adler Planetarium's site where they'll be posting a monthly Hot Topic to explore our understanding of the universe and updating their CyberSpace website with space science content and resources about each topic. Both NASA and the International Year of Astronomy also have sites celebrating this year.

To start you off, February's Hot Topic at the Adler is "Our Solar System" where you can read about what Galileo observed when he viewed the universe through that crazy new invention called a telescope.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Photo Fridays

Mars Photo
Postcards from Mars
Photo Credit: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and University of Arizona

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Google Earth Gets Wet

A new version of Google Earth has just been released which now contains an undersea view of the world. This new feature includes maps of the ocean bottom, photographs and videos of underwater flora and fauna and even shipwrecks. But no pirates, argh!

Google's partners in this new venture are the National Geographic Society, the Scripps Oceanographic Institution and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. In fact, a former chief scientist at NOAA, Sylvia Earle, once joked that Google Earth should be called "Google Dirt," because it omitted a majority of the planet's surface. That is no longer the case.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

{ color: red; }

Sean, Kaylin, Cazzie and newest Cabrini Connections and Tech Club member Elijah continued on with their quest to create websites.

Old pro Sean decided his text buttons were just too ugly for his site and quickly opened up Photoshop to create some cool looking graphics for his buttons. He and Steve worked on adding in some pretty neat effects and the result was worth the effort. Sean is just owning this project, which I can see as his site is moving forward.

Meanwhile, Kaylin, Cazzie and Elijah started learning the basics with HTML. We focused on an introduction to CSS, mainly taking about background and text colors. Specifically, we discussed:


and how to make a defined style be applied globally or just to one HTML element.

They soon had their first web page up and then spent some time changing colors and text in their code and seeing how it would display in a browser. There were some errors, but that's part of programming and after some troubleshooting, figured out their mistakes and the correct page was soon visible.

All in all I'm very proud of how quickly they've picked up on the essentials and look forward to seeing how they turn the basics into a site; and how Sean continues to build out his design vision. Tuesday nights at Cabrini Connections are very exciting!!!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Track that Bus!

CTA bus tracker
Is there anything is more frustrating than standing at a bus stop not knowing when (or if) the next bus will come? I think not. To help alleviate that frustration, CTA has developed a very handy bus tracker service to let you know where the buses are on a specific route and when they're expected to arrive at their stops.

Not all bus routes have tracking on them, at least not yet, but those that are online have tracking devices on the buses that update the CTA servers with their location information. That information is then available to you so you can plan when you should start walking to the bus stop. Or if you should actually be running ... like right now!

Since CTA doesn't assume you're always sitting at a computer, you can access either from your computer or using a mobile device (such as a cell phone). So if you're already at the stop and your phone has internet access, you can check their site to see how much longer you'll be standing there. The site served up on a mobile device is text only and the navigation is very direct -- which is exactly what you need for a mobile device. You're first presented with a list of the bus routes that have tracking enabled. After selecting your route, choose a direction (e.g., northbound) and then choose a bus stop. CTA then displays the arrival time of the next bus and the one or two after that. When I used my phone to look up the #8 southbound to see when it would arrive at Halsted & Chicago, I was shown this information:

Halsted & Chicago (South Bound)
#8    To 79th    8 MIN    (Bus 1672)
#8    To 79th    15 MIN    (Bus 1226)
#8    To 79th    23 MIN    (Bus 1661)

When you access the site via a web browser, it has a much more rich interface but similar to the mobile device, you can look up estimated arrival times for a specific stop. In addition, the browser site has a very nice mapping feature where they integrated their bus tracking with Google maps. In this map view, they place an icon of the bus along the route so you can actually see where the buses are. The buses "move" along the map as their location information is updated. You can still view the estimated arrival time by clicking on a stop on the map, but in this view you can also set up a pop-up alert so you'll be notified when a bus reaches a given stop.

As someone who frequently uses public transportation, this is a great tool, and I hope it'll be rolled out to all the routes. Kudos to CTA for not only implementing, but also for creating a version for mobile devices. If you use it, let me know how you like it and how accurate you find the arrival times to be.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Australian Open Win

Serena Williams wins Australian Open
Serena Williams wins Australian Open
Photo credit: Getty Images / January 31, 2009

Over the weekend, Serena Williams won her fourth Australian Open with a 6-0, 6-3 victory over Dinara Safina in the final. Williams ran off 18 of the last 20 points in the first set to finish it in 22 minutes. That's impressive.

With this win, Ms. Williams' Grand Slam titles now add up to 10, making her only the seventh woman to have achieved double-digit Grand Slam singles titles. In addition, she's now the fifth woman to win four or more Australian singles titles and has once again reclaimed her No. 1 ranking.

This post has nothing to do with technology -- I just think she's a great athlete.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Death by Black Hole

I have always been fascinated by the universe and appreciate those who not only delve into space but can explain it in such a way that it's understandable to the rest of us. Neil deGrasse Tyson is one such person.

For those of you unfamiliar with his work, Dr. Tyson is an astrophysicist, the Director of the Hayden Planeterium in NYC, host of the PBS science program Nova scienceNOW and author of "Death by Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandries". In this interview he ruminates on our expanding universe, the risks of asteroids threatening Earth, and death by black hole among other topics. Who wouldn't want to know about that!

I particularly like his view is that Earth is not an isolated planet -- we are connected to the universe. I hope you enjoy his conversation.

[updated]: this is the first time I've embedded Google video; if it doesn't work for you, please leave a comment noting which browser and OS you're using (e.g., IE7 on Vista). kthxbye.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Photo Fridays

I'm tired of cold and snow and ice.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Protest or Facebook Event?

The New York Times Magazine has an interesting article on the rise of political activism via social network sites. In countries that restrict or outright ban such things as gathering in a public place, these sites are the perfect venue for sharing ideas and organizing groups.

From the article:

Members coalesce around a few issues — free speech, economic stagnation and government nepotism — and they share their ideas for improving Egypt. But they do more than just chat: they have tried to organize street protests to free jailed journalists, and this month, hundreds of young people from the April 6 group participated in demonstrations about Gaza, some of which were coordinated on Facebook, and at least eight members of the group were detained by police.

I encourage you to read the full article. It's a good look at how the web is being used in other countries.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Career Direction : Culinary Arts

Culinary Art is the art of cooking. From Wikipedia:

Culinary artists are responsible for skillfully preparing meals that are as pleasing to the palate as to the eye. Increasingly they are required to have a knowledge of the science of food and an understanding of diet and nutrition. They work primarily in restaurants, fast food chain store franchises, delicatessens, hospitals and other institutions

Why the post on cooking? Well, thanks to Cabrini Connections' tutor/mentor and Board member Mike Hayes, you'll have the opportunity to visit Charlie Trotter's Restaurant, get a great meal and learn about a career in the Culinary Arts. While becoming a chef or cook may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of this field, there are other career paths available as well, such as: food and beverage managers, dining room managers (corporate and institutional), food writers and critics, and researchers who develop new food products.

The Charlie Trotter ‘Experience’ is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, March 10th and will accommodate 14-16 students. The selection process for the students is currently being discussed, but if you have any interest in the Culinary Arts, talk to your mentor or anyone at Cabrini Connections to find out how you can be one of the students enjoying this experience.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

From Thumbnails to Code

    <title>test page</title>
    hello world

Last week, Sean and Steve did some thumbnail sketches of the different pages in their site, showing the page layout and how the user would travel between the various pages.

Tonight we started to turn those thumbnails into actual web pages. Sean found some really cool images he's using for background art. Steve is relying more on typography, rather than visual images, to convey his sense of design. Both approaches are valid and acceptable and highlight how the website designer brings his/her own sense of style to a site.

Cazzie and Kaylin have joined Tech Club (welcome!!) and jumped right in with sketching out some ideas for their website. They came up with some very well thought out concepts that are going to look really neat as websites. Next week they will start turning those sketches into code while Sean continues to code along on his website.

All in all, we're on a roll and coding away like crazy.

Government 2.0

In continuation of his pledge for a more transparent government, President Obama is once again turning to the Internet to disseminate information to the American public. This time the information revolves around tracking how and where taxpayer dollars are spent for the economic recovery.

In his weekly address, President Obama talked about a new website that's being setup which "shall provide data on relevant economic, financial, grant and contract information in user-friendly visual presentations to enhance public awareness of the use of funds made available in this Act."

The Act he refers to is the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Once the Act is passed, the new website will allow us to track the performance of contracts that are awarded to various companies, industries, etc., and see how they are doing with our money. And if we don't like how they're handling our tax dollars, the site is one way we can send in our feedback and let them know what we think.

For now, is a placeholder. Once the Act passes and is signed by the President, this website will be our source for knowing who the contracts are awarded to and a means to holding them accountable for good governance. Transparency via the Internet -- that's Government 2.0.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Downadup/Conflicker worm

Since late last year, a new malicious software program has been making the rounds of cyberspace and infecting millions of Windows computers worldwide. Known as Downadup (also called Downad, Kido, Conficker or Conflicker), this Windows worm spreads in three different ways: by exploiting a Windows vulnerability (which has since been patched); by guessing weak network passwords; and by the use of autorun on network drives and removeable gadgets such as USB keys.

The infection seems to be the first step of a potential multistage attack, although as of now, Downadup's main trick is to block users from accessing antivirus sites to obtain updates or from accessing Microsoft's site to download the necessary Windows patch. However, once a machine is infected, the worm is capable of downloading second-stage code for potentially darker purposes. It might operate in the background, using the infected computer to send spam or infect other computers, or it might steal the PC user’s personal information. "Right now it's not destroying or stealing -- it's just hanging out," comments Tom Cross, X-Force researcher in the IBM ISS division. "It's building its network of hosts."

What to do? Since this worm can spread three different ways, here's the short list what you should do:

  • Make sure your Windows security updates are, well, up-to-date.
    If Windows Update is set to automatically download and install security updates and patches, you should be good to go, but it wouldn't hurt to double check. Verify that the patch has been installed by bringing up Windows Update, then clicking "Review your update history" and looking for a security update labeled as "KB958644." If it's not there, then manually run the security updates. If you're just installing the patch now,
    take Microsoft's advice and run the January edition of its free Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT), which was updated last week so that it can detect, and then delete, Downadup infections.

  • Make sure your passwords, especially any network passwords, are strong. The worm relies on people using weak passwords -- dictionary words such as "password", "changeme", "testtest" or sequences of letters or repeated numbers (123123). Strong passwords are lengthy with a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. As Microsoft's article on strong passwords states: "A 15-character password composed only of random letters and numbers is about 33,000 times stronger than an 8-character password composed of characters from the entire keyboard."

  • Disable Autorun and Autoplay to protect the spread from flash drives. A USB storage device (typically a flash drive although any USB device can be infected) from an infected computer will have the file "autorun.inf" at its root. When that flash drive is connected to a PC, the file takes advantage of Windows' Autorun and Autoplay features to copy the worm to any machine that it's plugged into.

Network World has the details on how to deal with this potential problem along with a general article on the worm itself.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Masons of Regolith

moon colony

No, it's not a new video game.

If (maybe when?) NASA returns to the moon, the idea of a permanent base camp is not far-fetched. We've all seen the sci-fi movies with dwellings dotting the moonscape, but the reality is how to deal with the logistics needed to transport the necessary building materials.

A team of seven students from the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech have been working on that very problem and devised a solution: use the volcanic ash from moon rocks to create moon bricks. Since actual lunar rock is scarce, the students devised a simulated regolith by using volcanic ash from a deposit on Earth along with various minerals and basaltic glass, similar to rock on the lunar surface.

From Popular Mechanics:

The team combined the faux moon ash with powdered aluminum and mixed the two together in a silica crucible. Then the group put a nickel chromium wire into the mixture and heated it to 2700 degrees F, starting a thermite reaction that spread through the mix and turned it to solid brick. All it takes is heating the mixture to aluminum's melting point, about 1221 degrees F, says the team's adviser, professor Kathryn Logan. "It's very much like a sparkler," she says.

The self-named Masons of Regolith then subjected their results to various tests to see how much pressure the bricks could take before cracking. Turns out they're nearly as strong as concrete! One-square inch of the brick could withstand the gradual application of 2,450 pounds, or nearly the weight of a Ford Focus. Fascinating!

I'm bringing this to your attention because (a) I'm a Virginia Tech grad and (b) to point out that college isn't just studying and writing papers and taking tests. There are some great opportunities within any program of study to expand your knowledge with real-world experience, and I hope all of our college-bound students will chat with their professors and fellow students and seek them out.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Koobface : Social Network Virus

To anyone on Facebook or MySpace or, for that matter, any other social network, you should be aware that there is a Trojan worm making the rounds of those various sites. Called Koobface, the virus spreads by having unsuspecting users log into their accounts and click on links posted in comments that are seemingly left by friends.

The links take you to an spoofed page that pretends to offer a video download from YouTube and then states that you have to update your Flash player to view the video. Clicking on that link infects your machine. Once a computer has become infected with the Koobface worm, it spams the friends belonging to the owner of the computer by leaving comments on their profiles. And so on and so on. Here is Kaspersky Lab's details on the worm.

The virus is spreading in part because we don't always have our guard up when it comes to our social networks. By now, we already know not to click on unknown links in unwanted email. But, on a social network because you believe the comment was left by someone you know, you have no reason to suspicious and not click on the link.

So what to do? If you think your social network account has recently been used to send spam, reset your password. If you have anti-virus software on your computer, keep the definitions up-to-date and be sure to run the software often. If you don't have the software on your computer, there are some free, on-line virus scanners you can use to detect any viruses or spyware: Kaspersky, Symantec's Norton Security Scan and McAfee's Free Scan.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Start with the Thumbnail

Our exploration of HTML continues. While we covered a few more tags and attributes, last night's focus was more about coming up with an idea for a website. Creating something out of nothing can be a bit intimidating, so we started off with tossing around a few ideas and turning them into thumbnail sketches.

Thumbnail sketches are very small, rough sketches that let you quickly outline the basic elements of an idea and share your thinking with others. Here's what I've written before about thumbnails:

By their very nature they’re not a pretty or perfect drawing -- you have objects overlaying other objects, lines scratched out, arrows pointing to a different version, a big X to abandon the initial idea which is now evolving into a new thumbnail, etc., etc. They’re small drawings, done quickly in order to work through an idea.

Though quick and small, thumbnails are very beneficial. Not only can
you immediately relay the basic elements of an idea to your audience, since they're visual they’ll help you see what isn’t quite working. You begin to see the holes or realize that one idea would be stronger split into two or wonder what in the world you were thinking in the first place. Rarely is this insight possible without first putting pen to paper (or marker to whiteboard as the case may be).

As for next Tuesday, well, that's when we'll start to transform those thumbnails into a site.

For further reading on thumbnails, check out:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Congratulations, Mr. President

Barack Obama
44th President of the United States

Monday, January 19, 2009

Martin Luther King Day

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Field Trip! UIC Men's Basketball

Students, volunteers, and staff have been wanting to take more field trips. You asked and we delivered.

UIC Men's Basketball

UIC Men's Basketball
vs. Youngstown State
@ UIC Pavilion
Saturday, February 7th
Game time: 7:00 pm
Cost: FREE!!!!

The game AND transportation are being provided for FREE!!! All you have to do is sign-up for the field trip. There are over 60 tickets, but we expect them to go fast!! So, if you want to go on this field trip, when you're in for a Club or mentoring night, be sure to write your name down on the posted sign-up sheet; or call in, email or text a staff's cell phone telling them you want to go.

Get a head start on March Madness!!! Hurry Hurry and Sign Up Now!!!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Photo Fridays

Gears under Chicago Avenue Bridge
Chicago, IL

The Chicago River has 38 movable bridges of several different types, one of which is a bascule bridge. From Wikipedia: "A bascule bridge is a moveable bridge with a counterweight that continuously balances the span, or "leaf," throughout the entire upward swing in providing clearance for boat traffic." The gears are part of the mechanism used to give controlled movement once the span starts swinging up or down. Pretty impressive!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Gaming News - Final Fantasy XIII

For you gamers out there, Square Enix has launched their official website for Final Fantasy XIII. You'll be able to get a glimpse of screenshots, game music and the characters' bios -- unfortunately, only written in Japanese.

However, details (in English) on the Final Fantasy XIII battle system can be found on this fan site.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Windows 7 Beta Release

For those of you interested, the Windows 7 beta release in both 32-bit and 64-bit was made available for general public download as of last Friday.

Based on user feedback, improvements include, among others:

  • Improved taskbar so you can set the order the icons appear; plus they're easier to see
  • Jump list to quickly see the files you've recently been working on
  • Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 release

Normal caveats apply: If you don't know what you're doing, don't mess with it. If you do know what you're doing, let us know what you think.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

hello world

A new year ... a new project. Sean and Steve began to immerse themselves in the world of HTML and CSS. Using nothing other than Notepad and their imagination, they started with the basic

hello world

and went from there. Background colors and images were added, font size readjusted, text colors implemented and there was even some absolute positioning going on. All this on just the first night! Crazy.

"Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood."

~ Daniel Burnham

Their assignment for next week is to play around with what they created using on-line references to expand their knowledge. There will be a show and tell of their triumphs and tragedies. I'll let you know how it goes and work with Vjeko on making their results publicly available.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tuesday, January 13th @ 6pm

Nicely rested from the holiday break, Tech Club starts up again on Tuesday the 13th. For the next couple of weeks, we'll be working with


and learning how to create a web page.

Come join us and have some fun creating your own web site! Tech Club meets every Tuesday at 6:00 pm

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Photo Friday

snowy Chicago
Photo Credit: Brian Jackson/Sun-Times

As a city dweller who walks to work, walks to Cabrini Connections, walks to the grocery store -- well, you get the picture -- a hearty thanks to those of you who clear your sidewalks of snow. It's very much appreciated.