Grow a moustache and fight cancer!

For my next 30 day challenge, I’ll be growing a mustache to raise awareness and money for men’s health issues, and specifically prostate cancer research. Men of search and SEO, please join our team. You can raise awareness, or raise cash. And it’s super simple: just don’t shave your moustache for 30 days. The name of the event is Movember and it should be a blast. Here’s my profile page, for example.

To keep myself honest, here I am, clean-shaven, with a today’s issue of USA TODAY on November 1st:

Matt Cutts, clean shaven on Nov. 1st

By the way: Kim Kardashian is getting divorced‽! I really thought they had a love for the ages.

This is going to be an extra-fun 30 day challenge because I’m joining up with Duane Forrester of Bing and we’re both raising money for the cause. I have to warn Duane though: he might not realize how fast my moustache grows. For example, here I am just an hour after I shaved clean:

Matt Cutts, just an hour later!

That’s right Duane, I can grow a moustache in an hour, so look out! :) By the way, thanks to Mike Halvorsen for asking a timely question about Movember during our recent live Q&A on YouTube.

This should be quite a fun month:
– If you’re a woman (or a man who can’t or won’t grow a moustache), you can still help out the cause by donating to our team.
– Men, I hope you will grow a moustache this month. A great cause like Movember only comes around once a year–why not join us? All you have to do is not shave. It doesn’t get any easier than that.
– The Twitter tag is #seostache if you want to root us on. I hope to see some serious stache from fellow people of search!

Halloween costume: stickman from xkcd

For Halloween this year I asked people on Google+ what I should be for Halloween, and someone suggested going as the blackhat stick man from xkcd. You know, this guy:

Black hat stick man from xkcd

That sounded like a good challenge. I finished the costume and taped a video, but unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to get the video to the quality level that I wanted. Here’s the video:

A couple quick things: 1) I know the video is cheesy and lo-fi, but that’s what I was going for. 2) With a little more time and more work on the video (e.g. better lighting, turning off automatic brightness on the video camera, a little more time spent on the greenscreen key) I think it could have been pretty great. But sometimes you run out of time, and October was a busy month. :)

Maybe I’ll write a bit more about the costume and the video later. Happy Halloween everyone!

Halloween Pumpkin: Portal Turret!

I made a Portal turret for my Halloween pumpkin! I was trying to think of things to carve: vampire Android? R2-D2? Zoidberg? Then I thought: I could do a character from Portal 2! I was going to carve something like GLaDOS or Wheatley, but then I realized that a portal turret would be perfect:

To make the glowing red eye, I punched a small hole in the pumpkin, taped an LED to a battery, and pushed the LED from the center of the pumpkin through the small hole. I thought about doing an actual red laser, but 1) I don’t want to blind any kids walking by my pumpkin, and 2) laser beams aren’t visible unless there’s fog or smoke or something for the beam to hit.

To make the side “gun” sections of the pumpkin, I had a small dowel rod lying around, so I just cut two small stakes from the dowel rod and jammed them into the pumpkin sides. It’s a bit rickety, but it works. For the video, I played some turret sound effects and moved my red laser over the pumpkin as if another turret was locking onto it.

I didn’t want to take long to carve my pumpkin. I finished it in maybe an hour, but check out this really elaborate pumpkin that someone else did. And it turns out that they work at Google too!

I like how my pumpkin came out overall:

Portal 2 turret pumpkin for Halloween!

Happy Halloween, and I hope you’re getting creative with your pumpkin carving!

Good Books for Summer Reading?

It’s summertime, so I’m looking for a bunch of fun books to read. I just ordered two books by John Scalzi (Fuzzy Nation and The God Engines), two books by Dean Karnazes because I’m training to run a marathon (Run!: 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss and Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner), plus Zero Day: A Novel by Mark Russinovich. I’ll let you know how they turn out.

I’ve gotten some great suggestions for good books to read in previous years. Here’s how I expressed my summertime reading preferences early on:

Okay, I’m looking for fun, light reading for my vacation. I don’t want search stuff, I don’t want heavy reading, I don’t want geopolitics or history.

Things like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Or Terry Pratchett. Or early William Gibson. Cheesy cyberpunk if they don’t get the computer stuff too wrong. Neil Gaiman. Transmetropolitan.

Based on that, what books would you recommend for fun summer reading?

Announcing the winners of the Kinect contest

When the Kinect launched, Adafruit Industries ran a contest for the first person who released open-source code to extract video and depth from the Kinect. Adafruit also ended up donating to the EFF after the contest was over.

When I was in grad school, I would have loved to have a device like the Kinect. So I decided to run my own contest:

The first $1000 prize goes to the person or team that writes the coolest open-source app, demo, or program using the Kinect. The second prize goes to the person or team that does the most to make it easy to write programs that use the Kinect on Linux.

It’s time to announce the prize winners. There’s been so many cool things going on with the Kinect that instead of two winners, I ended up declaring seven $1000 winners.

Open-source Application or Demo

I picked two winners in this category.

People that have made it easier to write programs for the Kinect

A ton of people have made the Kinect more accessible on Linux or helped the Kinect community. I ended up picking five winners.

All of these individuals pushed things forward so others can develop great programs on the Kinect more easily. Congratulations to all the winners, and to everyone doing neat things with their Kinect!

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