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Arduino Day 2014


Sparkfun has a bunch of Arduinos on crazy sale today, and they're allowing backorders. It's a one day sale, ending just before midnight US mountain time, so you've still got time to buy your own! Those $3 minis are amazing.

I wound up buying the maximum amount I could, since I figure if I don't use them myself, they'll make nice presents. I have plans for two of the mini ones already, as part of one of my rainy day projects that's only a little past drawing board and into "let's practice arduino coding and reading sensor data" stage. But the rest are waiting for new plans!

I feel a teensy bit guilty about buying so many arduinos when I haven't even found a good use for the Raspberry Pi I got at PyCon last year. I did buy it a pretty rainbow case and a cable, but my original plan to use it as the brains for a homemade cnc machine got scuttled when John went and bought a nice handybot cnc router.

disassembled pibow case
A pretty picture of the pibow rainbow raspberry pi case from this most excellent post about it. They're on sale today too if you order through pimoroni

I've got a few arty projects with light that might be fun, but I kind of wanted to do something a bit more useful with it. Besides, I've got some arty blinky-light etextile projects that are going to happen first and by the time I'm done those I think I'll want something different.

And then there's the Galileo, which obviously is a big deal at work right now. One of the unexpected perks of my job is the maker community -- I've been hearing all about the cool things people have tried with their dev boards and seeing cool projects, and for a while we even had a biweekly meet-up going to chat with some of the local Hillsboro makers. I joined too late to get a chance at a board from the internal program, but I'll likely be picking one up up on my own dime once I've figured out how I'm going to use it! (John already has one and the case he made for it came off the 3d printer this morning and I'm jealous!)

So... I'm looking for inspiration: what's the neatest arduino/raspberry pi/galileo/etc. project you've seen lately?
terriko: (Default)
This box was oscars-themed, I guess. Not really my thing, but better than valentine's, and probably more appropriate for birchbox than olympics, I guess.

Birchbox Beauty Box February 2014

I was mostly just irked because that juicy couture stinky sample really messes up the colour scheme. ;)

Actually, if I had to describe this box in one word, that word would be stinky.

Let's start with the perfume:

Juicy Couture Couture La La Malibu - 2.5 oz



The outer package:
Juicy Couture Malibu Eau de Toilette Spray

And the inside:
Juicy Couture Malibu Eau de Toilette Spray

Does pink sugar actually smell different from other sugar? I'm not sure I can tell, since this also claims to smell like mandarins and that seems more like wishful thinking than truth to me. I find the resulting scent strangely generic, like that lingering smell of all the combined perfumes in a shopping mall. It smells a bit familiar, but not really in a good way, more in that "I think I smelled a candle like this once, in the dollar store" kind of way.

To me, this smell immediately evoked the image of a teen girl you get stuck next to on the bus on a hot day, where you spent the whole trip wishing she had a better idea of how much perfume is appropriate or at least had better taste in scents. Combine this with the marketing, and I feel like this is a scent for people who wish they were self-centered so-cal teens. I gather perfumes are more based on image and brand than actual scent, and I'm disturbed that "horribly entitled so-cal teen brat with dubious taste" was ever considered a marketing win. I want to say something vaguely positive like "maybe ok if you're trying for something youthful..." but let's be honest: I hate it.

And, on top of that, a light spritz on one wrist was enough to make my eyes slightly itchy for hours afterwards, whereupon I finally gave up and scrubbed it off as best I could. Definitely not for me, and bad enough for me that I hope it's not for *anyone*.

I'm not sure what to do with the rest of the sample -- if anyone wants it, let me know, otherwise I might dump it down the drain to do something more fun with the teensy glass spritzer bottle.

That disappointment aside, let's move on.


In fact, let's evolve through me putting on a bunch of face goop, because I took these pictures so I could compare as I went, and I might as well use them for more than one purpose.

First, the bare-faced selfie, me with no makeup whatsoever:
Me, No makeup whatsover

In case anyone's wondering, the curling of my normally straight hair is a side-effect of the way I've been coiling it up out of my way while it's wet. There's actually nothing in my hair except maybe some lingering leave-in conditioner from my shower ages before.

Also, see that camisole? Totally bought from PACT, in the same style as the cami I liked so much from my Wantable box. This subscription thing is working!

I have just picked up the smashbox try-it kit thanks to my birchbox points and a nice 20% coupon they gave me for sticking with it for 6 months.

Some underwhelming packaging:
Smashbox Try It Kit
And products inside:
Smashbox Try It Kit

So first step was primer and BB cream plus a little bit of colour corrector:
Me with primer and bb cream on

This was also my first time trying the Beautyblender sponge, also bought from Birchbox thanks to points and coupon. This is an expensive, hot pink sponge applicator that is supposedly God's gift to makeup, and I decided I wanted to try it. I think I didn't quite pat enough water out of it, so my makeup is a bit thinner than it might have been. Probably just as well, it's not like I really needed it today.

So let's look at product #2 now:

ElevenSkin Perfection Eye Creme + Concealer



Perfection Eye creme + Concealer by Eleven Skin

Can you tell I had fun photographing it?

Here it is on my face:
Now adding the eye concealer...

It's a bit hard to tell from the bad lighting, but it has a distinct but not-too-obvious effect. It came in a tube with one of those diagonal-with-a-hole applicators that I see mostly in lip balms, but since I was trying the beautyblender makeup sponge already, I used the sponge to apply it. It may have been a mistake, as I think I would have benefited from a slightly thicker application than I managed.

I like this concealer/lotion a lot, since I was having problems with my existing concealer (it went on fine, but by the end of the day it would often highlight or deepen the lines around my eyes). It seems a little wimpy as a concealer, but subtle is sometimes the order of the day for my work makeup and the smooth application and nicer all-day wear has me convinced.

That said, I haven't tried a lot of different concealers yet, so my enthusiasm might be just due to having used an incredibly bad product in the past.

I'm not sure yet if I'll buy more, because I think I'd like to test a few more before making a decision. This isn't likely to be the sort of category where I bother with more than one product long-term, and since I usually leave my eyes bare, it may take me a while to use the sample. But as of right now, this is the top of the list.

Continuing with the makeup, here's the next layer, where I added blush/lip stain and finishing powder:
Closeup on the blush and finishing powder

This is using the benetint (from my previous birchbox) as both a cheek and lip stain. And then patting my new smashbox finishing powder over it on my cheeks because it was too much. The finishing powder container is my new favourite thing, because it has little holes and then you turn it and a small amount of product comes out, allowing you to get just a bit of loose powder. I'm sure this is a totally common way to do it, but since I know jack-all about makeup, I'd never seen one before.

It's the weekend and I just bought a wet and wild eyeshadow palette that reminds me of Twilight Sparkle, and my next stop is the library, so for my own amusement I thought I'd try some eyeshadow:

Eyeshadow.  I'll go with "subtle" rather than "ineffective"

I think the eyeshadow is rather too subtle, just a hint of pink-to-purple across my eyelids, but I wasn't in the mood for eyeshadow heroics.

And that brings us to product # 3 in this review:

Beauty Protector Protect & Oil


Beauty Protector hair oil

Before we talk about the actual product, let me say that (once again) I feel like the graphic design of this product sample was not very well thought out. The clear vial of hair oil has a logo on one side and printing on the other, meaning (as you can see from the photograph) that even when I did my best to carefully position it (and even provide a strong distracting background element), it looks kind of messy. They really missed the boat here, as I think the little sample vial could have been really elegant if they'd put some thought into it. They could have removed the back printing (which really doesn't say anything useful; I got the application instructions off the birchbox card) or reduced the number of words and put it below the logo, or maybe they could have done a two-colour printing to increase legibility.

Here it is applied in my hair, a few drops into the ends while it was dry:
Now with hair oil!

In case you forgot, here's what that original bare faced picture looked like so you can compare it as a before image:
Me, No makeup whatsover

Aside from the lips, I'm not sure you see much difference for all that work, but I'm now coated in sunscreen, which is really the only part of my "makeup routine" that I consider important.

I don't think the effects of the hair oil are particularly visible on first application (although perhaps after I've been using it a week I'll feel like it's had an impact), but it's still very noticeable in person because you can *really* smell it. It smells quite strongly like all the other beauty protector things, so now I most definitely have an odor. While I generally like the scent they use, I found the hair oil a bit more stinky (err, strongly scented) than most of their products.

As a result, I feel like this is really more of a hair perfume than a hair oil (and that any oil effects may be secondary to their aim of getting their scent in your hair), so if you like the beauty protector smell and want to have it floating around your face, this might appeal to you. For me? I think the scent is too strong, and while I'll use up the sample because my ends are looking a bit frizzy from winter, I'm not even slightly tempted to buy more. Admittedly, that might be because I accidentally bought two bottles of their detangler due to not paying attention when I placed by birchbox order, so I'm currently feeling like I may OD on beauty protector scent.



So let's move on to the last two products...

Juara Candlenut Body Creme


Candlenut body creme

First, a packaging note: this was a really annoying sample to open. Although the top is perforated, it ripped off without leaving enough hole to get any product out, and I wound up having to find scissors. Even once it was open, the harder foil-lined cardboard was not a great feeling for squishing it out. It reminds me of a lube sample of the kind that kills the mood due to annoying packaging. On the bottom of the sample is says "Xela Pack &trademark;" so this is apparently a package used by others.

As a body lotion, this seems pretty decent. It's a bit thicker but not overly greasy, and did a nice but not mind-blowing job on my rough, winter-dry elbows.

However, this is so strongly scented that I'd feel uncomfortable wearing it in public, let alone in places like concert venues, public spaces, and workplaces that discourage use of heavy scents. Just a small dab on my elbows was enough to make me feel like I'd overdone it on the scent. So this isn't really viable for me as a regular use thing, and I don't love the scent enough to use it on my "days off" either. It would have to have some crazy exceptional results if I were going to use it at all, and it really doesn't. Not for me!

Also, while it doesn't make my eyes itch the way the Juicy Couture perfume stinkbomb did, it's smelly enough that it made me anxious to be wearing it, wondering how long before I started having some sort of reaction. As is, it makes my nose feel a bit raw, but probably just due to the volume of scent rather than the specific elements of it.


AYRES Bar Soap


Ayres bar soap in Patagonia

This smells like something my grandmother might like. I don't mean that in a derogatory way -- she's a woman of distinct taste and much better fashion sense than I -- but she and I don't love the same scents.

The jasmine & lavender give this a slightly floral bouquet, but the fir (and possibly the ylang ylang?) gives it a slighly more husky scent that makes it kind of interesting.

But mostly, it just smells too strongly for me. I haven't really used this yet because after the array of other products, I couldn't stand any more stupid scents so I'm detoxing a bit before I try it out.


Here's one last picture to show you the size of all the samples in context:
Birchbox Beauty Box February 2014

These are all pretty small samples, which would bother me a lot more if I didn't dislike most of them anyhow.

In summary: The eye concealer is the only one of these products I'm excited about, as it replaces an eye concealer that wasn't working for me. Everything else... pretty much stank too much, even the one where I like the scent they use, and most of them I did not like.

I'm pretty disappointed with this box, because I feel like there's a clear "I dislike stronger scents" theme to all the problems I had with this one, and thus it's the sort of thing that maybe could have been captured if they'd ever asked my preferences. (Sending me perfumes was a waste of time, as I not only won't wear them but socially can't.)

Obviously, I knew the risks when I signed up and one bad box isn't going to make me cancel given that I'm usually pretty happy with the subscription, but it's still sad.

That said, I once again had a lot of fun photographing this box, so at least I feel like I had some fun with it!
terriko: (Default)
For the new year, Birchbox went with an inspirational theme to their add-ins, if not so much for the products themselves.

Hello 2014

Inside is a book of inspirational cards.

Quite often, I find this sort of inspirational stuff a little vapid, and given that I regularly question the intelligence of the folk who write the copy about the products I've received, I wouldn't have been too surprised if I hated the series of inspirational cards they produced. But I don't. In fact, they've paired some cute typography with some of those "get yourself out of a rut" type tips that aren't entirely awful if you're just needing a little kick. I like these enough that I may hit up the dollar store for some cheap frames and put some of the cards out on display.

Here's the happy one, front:
happy happy happy happy

And back:
5 ways to get happier

(Sorry about my overzealously narrow depth of field there, but you can probably read some of it.)


So, let's talk products!

Klorane Gentle Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk



Klorane dry shampoo

I was quite curious to try this, as I'd heard about dry shampoos ages ago thanks to women's mags, but since I never actually bought any of the products advertised within, I'd never tried it. It's basically talcum powder you put in your hair to absorb oils so you can go a day without washing it. Birchbox put up a gif tutorial for using dry shampoo that is fairly amusing because their model has great expressions. My only complaint is "second-day = dirty" (and thus needing a product) implication seems like edging into unnecessary products based on shame marketing for a lot of adult women. My long hair, for example, does better with a day between washings lest the ends get totally dried out.

The first time I tried this product, I had terrible sneezing fits all morning and wondered if it was related. I didn't have as much trouble the second time, though. Here's some pictures:

Before:
Dry Shampoo Before
After:
Dry Shampoo After

As you can see, it's not a huge difference, possibly because I was hesitant to use too much lest I have sneezing fits at work. But it does get rid of enough unwanted shine up top that I could go to work without feeling like an unwashed teenager.

There are two problems for me here:
1. This leaves product in your hair. As someone who rarely puts more than a miniscule dab of leave-in conditioner in, I find this makes me feel like my hair is really dirty, even if it looks cleaner.
2. Also, while it does absorb oil, it also clumps up all those dead skin cells coming off your scalp. This makes me just a little itchy. And also makes me feel gross.

As a result, I was desperate to wash my hair when I got home both times I used this product. I suspect those both might be general issues with dry shampoo and not bugs in this particular formula, so it's possible that dry shampoo is just not for me. I'll probably use the rest of this, because even though I don't love it, sometimes you're just in a hurry. Here's an "appropriate" card:

20140210-IMG_1029.jpg

End result: This totally helps me run out the door looking less greasy in a pinch. However, it's not even slightly as good as having remembered to wash my darned hair the night before.


Whish Three Whishes Body Butter



Whish body butter in pomegranate

This claims to smell like pomegranate, but makes me think I smell kind of like a toddler has drooled red lollipop onto me somewhere. It's reasonably effective as a moisturizer I guess, but it smells like really cheap awful candy that's partially digested. It's $0.16/ml, which maybe doesn't sound so bad, but for $0.03/ml I could just use lubriderm and be moisturized and *not* smell like I might attract ants at any moment. (For those who prefer US fl oz: Whish is $4.73/oz to Lubriderm's $0.82/oz)

I'm probably over-stating it: the smell isn't *that* bad and sometimes it's fun to smell like candy. Just, maybe not candy that was abused by a 2 year old and smeared all over your pant leg with sticky fingers. What I'm getting at is it's really not the sort of scent that would inspire me personally to spend 5x as much on an otherwise equivalent product.


ORIGINS Smarty Plants™ CC SPF 20 Skin Complexion Corrector



ORIGINS Smarty Plants™ CC SPF 20 Skin Complexion Corrector

The card reads as follows
Smarty Plants CC
SPF 20 Skin complexion corrector

Instantly: Color corrects and visibly perfects so you look radiant and flawless.
On demand: Antioxidant infused formula helps neutralize skin damaging effects of city smog and pollution.
Over time: helps recycle environmental stressors into vial hydration so you keep your youthful good looks longer.



WTH does recycling environmental stressors into hydration even mean? I'm pretty sure they just told me this thing will make acid rain, fog, and also random pollutants stick to my face Or possibly that it will keep my sweat in if I stress out. Gross.

Discard the product nonsense. Here are the things you actually need to know about Smarty Plants:

1. This product smells like plants. Maybe sort of like a freshly-picked something-from-the-mint-family? I like it, since I like plant-y smells. But I was surprised about the smell since every other product I've tried in this category seems to avoid having much scent at all. (And I approve of the trend of having unscented stuff on your face!)

2. It is very sheer. So sheer that I have serious doubts about its ability to provide the stated 20 SPF in a normal application. But if you want to tone down a bit of redness without, say, covering up your freckles, that's handy. (S -- you might want to try it?)

I have no idea if the sheerness a feature of CC creams since no one seems to know if there's any difference between them and BB creams, really.

3. The people who write their product descriptions were smoking behind the bleachers instead of going to science class.

Anyhow as far as the product goes, it's nice, light, and smells like plants. I generally approve of this, but I'm not entirely sure it fits a very solid beauty niche. It is nice if you don't want to look like you've got foundation on. Here's a photo of me wearing it:

Smarty Plants CC on the human face



Their marketing, however... the best I can say is that the product detaches from the card of stupid that came with it:

ORIGINS Smarty Plants™ CC SPF 20 Skin Complexion Corrector

Although actually, they used some serious glue on that sucker, so it's not *easy* to detach.

And now, for the most inappropriate of the inspirational cards:
20140210-IMG_1028.jpg


Benefit Benetint



The benefit sample had much better packaging:
Benefit Benetint sample box

And then, inside, it tells you how to use the product:
Benefit Benetint sample box: put this product on your face

This can be summarized as "put this product on your face and smear it around artistically" but they make me feel like I have a nice internationalized Ikea makeup package. In a nice way.

For context, this sample is really tiny:
Benefit Benetint size comparison

But given that you use a couple of drops, it's still a decent amount to use.

Benetint is a product I actually had already gone out of my way to try, since I'd been curious as to what other subtle lip stains were available after I tried Staniac in my first box.

Benetint is a teensy vial of coloured, rose-scented water. I wasn't really expecting it to be outright liquid. I find it fairly nice if I want a subtle cheek colour, because it's easy to blend in with my BB cream, doesn't dry super fast, and is not too darkly pigmented so it's hard to be heavy handed. On the other hand, sometimes I'm pretty sure I'm getting more colour from the friction on my cheeks than I am on the product.

Although the instructions suggest that you should dab it on your lips, doing so resulted in it dripping into my mouth sometimes. Gross. Instead, spread it along your lips and get a nice subtle colour change. Definitely nice if you want to hide the fact that you're wearing any makeup at all, as the water doesn't leave any of the tell-tale signs a cream lipstick would. That said, it also doesn't hydrate or protect your lips.

I like it, but I don't know that it excites me enough to go out of my to get more. However, it does come in some reasonably fun box sets, so I expect I'll wind up with more eventually. I got it with a Benefit set called "sugarbomb" which maybe sometime I'll review for you if I'm ever actually caught up on my subscription stuff.

Ahmad Teas Assorted Teas



Ahmad Tea samples

I think that these were better than the average bagged tea. The scents were really lovely, but there was a faint but noticeable bitter aftertaste that just didn't appeal to me. However, I'm particularly sensitive to bitter (as in, I'm one of those people with bonus taste buds), so it's likely that these will be perfectly lovely to someone without my sensitivities. (This isn't self-diagnosed; I took the test in high school biology. It was terribly disgusting.)

That said, rather than buying this tea, do yourself a favour and head over to Captea and get some nice loose leaf instead. (If you're near Denver, go visit the shop! The baked goods are amazing, the place is very down to earth, and the tea is absolutely lovely.)

Ahmad Tea retails at 20 teabags for $3.50. Each teabag, according to my scale, is around 2g, so that's 40g or 1.4oz of tea, or $2.5/oz. My favourite Masala Chai from Captea is $5.25/2oz or a very comparable $2.62/oz.

Since I have a pretty comprehensive tea stash and a friend in Denver who's apt to bring more when he visits, I won't be buying any more of this, but I am totally happy to have gotten this in my box, because I like trying new tea, and it really did smell nice.

Before we end this, I've saved my favourite card for last:
20140210-IMG_1030.jpg

In summary, I enjoyed trying all these products, and was particularly glad to have finally given dry shampoo a shot even though it turns out it's not a thing I love. (But now I know, without having invested in a full-sized bottle!) I don't think any of these are things I'll be rushing out to buy, but since most of my goal in trying out a makeup box is to try new things, I feel like I got my $10 worth of entertainment out of this one.

On top of the actual time spent trying the products, I'm enjoying the time I spend doing product photography for these reviews. It's really forcing me to think about lighting in different ways, as well as getting to experiment with some new tools and new backdrops. And that actually is awesome.
terriko: (Default)
Python's in as a mentoring organization again this year, and I'm running the show again this year. Exciting and exhausting!

In an attempt to cut down on the student questions that go directly to me, I made a flow chart of "what to do next" :

gsoc

(there's also a more accessible version posted at the bottom of our ideas page)

I am amused to tell you all that it's already cut down significantly on the amount of "what do I do next?" emails I've gotten as an org admin compared to this time last year. I'm not sure if it's because it's more eye-catching or better placed or what makes it more effective, since those instructions could be found in the section for students before. We'll see its magical powers hold once the student application period opens, though!
terriko: (Default)
This is my favourite wantable box so far!

Let's start with the boring and work our way up:

Wantable Socks - Color: Black



Wantable Socks
Wantable, your system isn't so good with colour, is it? Pretty sure that's not black.

These are a cheaped out part of the box, for me. I could buy these at the drug store for probably $3.99 or less, so the claimed $6 by stamping a wantable brand on the tag is pushing it.

That said, they're kind of cute neon socks. I'm not a huge fan of short socks since I've moved out of the desert and have discovered that short socks often result in damp ankles, and I hate damp ankles, but I'll enjoy these when I'm not leaving the house, anyhow.

Hiding the more intimate parts for those who might not want panties showing up on their feeds... )

PACT Navy Bandana Camisole



PACT camisole

I love love love this piece. It fits me perfectly, has a bit of runching in the front so it sits properly on my boobs, goes down to my hips, it's soft, and it even claims that profits of the sale went towards urban garden projects. How cool is that?

My only complaint is their flavour text about the organic cotton, which I'm too lazy to look up right now but it included something like "it's certified organic, which means no harsh pesticides" FAIL. Certified organic means a restricted set of organic pesticides, not no pesticides, and many of those organic pesticides are plenty harsh and dangerous.

20140210-IMG_0937.jpg

Mis-information aside, PACT seems like a pretty cool company. They're a bit hippy-dippy, but they claim to be sweatshop-free and their prices are reasonable, so I'm willing to give them a bunch of money. The hard part is in deciding what I want and how many tank tops I can justify buying at once...

Claimed value: $28 (Actual value: Originally $30 on PACT's website, but currently marked down to $12)

Summary


Lots of winners in this box, and only one pair of panties that was annoying. I discovered a new brand which I like, even if they don't understand what certified organic means. I am pleased!

... which is just as well, because February's box is so underwhelming that I may return it entirely. Stay tuned for pictures!

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