Saturday, December 19, 2020



And the little envelope, useful for small gifts, splashes of color in decor, table places, parties...this one is nice because it doesn't require glue to keep it shut, can be used for keeping many a small thingie in line, and is easy once you make a couple.  It opens like a flower (or cardboard box, depending on how you like to view things) and is kinda impressive in its own way.

So here are my written instructions (good luck):

And now if you prefer, you can watch me muddle through making one of these small wrappers.

Lovely little letter luggage.

Useful Origami: FUN BOAT


One of my favorite things to fold up is very easy but has a trick ending, so to speak.  Still, it comes in quite handy.  I like to return change, keep pens or glasses in such boats.  And they do float.  Well, maybe not if you make it out of mesh or absorbent towels, but for the most part...

Here's a video on folding a utilitarian paper boat:

And included for the price, the written instructions:
Sail Away!!


Useful Origami: HANDY CUP

Now a VERY simple trick...a cup!  How often have you needed a small cup for a quick sip or to pop something into and the best you could come up with was your hands (for the sip) or a crumpled napkin (for a small container)?  A couple of brown paper towels in a pinch, or a page of notebook paper (which actually works pretty well, since it has a thin clay coating that keeps the water in for a while) will do nicely when you're out and about.  Or perhaps, a bit of pretty wrapping or construction paper would make some bright party favors, etc.
                             Here's how:

And again, for those who prefer the video form of learning, here's the 3D version of the instructions:


The Cup.

Useful Origami: EASY BOX


I thought I'd share a few easy bits of origami that can actually come in handy, especially around holidays but also for all kinds of daily occurrences.  The first I'll tell you about is the box.  I think it was one of the first items I learned to make, as a preschooler.  The box can be used for quickie stashes of stuff, or made in a very beautiful way for presents and decorations, or created with thin cardboard for use in organizing.

Different types of paper and different sizes will result in all manner of boxes.  But here's the gist of it:

With any luck, you can make this out (or enlarge or print it out).  Here's a slightly different version (made another time):

In short, you fold a grid, cut the side slits open, fold up the sides and fold over the middles and there you have a neat little box.  

In the meantime, here's a short video of how to fold one, if 2D instructions aren't your style.

And, tada, BOX!


Saturday, October 17, 2020


"Hey Howard!" Bob said.
"Hiya Bob!  Where's your mask?" replied Howard.
"Where's YOURS?  I guess I don't have one, but we're social-distancing," Bob admitted.
"I don't think we're six feet apart, Bob," Howard smirked.
"No, but we're only two inches tall, Howard," Bob reminded Howard.
"Oh.  I guess that makes a difference," Howard said thoughtfully. 
"A bit.  So, how have you been, Howard?" Bob inquired.

Howard sighed. "Well, not so good.  I can't get online to pay my bills and do my studies but they don't want me to roam far from the pond, either."

"Why can't you get online, Howard?" Bob pried.
Howard pouted in a duckly way. "Well, I don't have internet, and the library is closed when I need to do stuff.  So what can I do?"

Bob smiled, "You can check out a hotspot."

"A Whatspot?" Howard queried.
"A HOTSPOT!" Bob repeated emphatically.

Howard looked confused.  "Why would I want to check out a hotspot?  This is Texas.  Hotspots are everywhere!"

Bob explained, "Not that kind of hotspot.  A 'hotspot' is a little gizmo that lets you connect to the internet."
"I told you I don't have internet.  And I already have a laptop," Howard quacked, exasperated.

"No, a 'hotspot' IS internet.  You connect it to your device and there you go, you're online." Bob bobbed his head.

Howard looked up.  "NO!  Are you kidding?  That's...magic-talk."

Bob chuckled.  "Nope.  And you can check them out from the library!"

Howard did a double-take.  "You mean, like a book?"

"Pretty much.  First you have to sign an agreement form, though," Bob added.

"Always a hitch," Howard muttered.

"No, no," Bob clucked, "it's just that a hotspot is pricey and the library wants to be sure you will be responsible and take care of it.  You know, don't take it in the pond with you or throw it in the book drop."

Howard pondered a moment.  "Oh, I guess I can understand that."

Bob assumed a pedantic pose. "All you need to do is call up the Leon Valley Public Library and say you'd like a hotspot, and the staff will set a form out on the porch for you to fill out when you can get there.  After that, if a hotspot is available, you can check out one, just like a book."
Howard paused.  "For free?"

Bob detailed, "For free if you are a LVPL member in good standing, of course!"
"WOW."  Howard soaked that in for a minute, flabbergasted by such astounding news.  "
Then what?"

Bob inhaled, "Then you can take it home, or wherever you want to do your internetting, and connect it to your device to get online."

"On anything?" Howard slitted his eyes somewhat in disbelief.
"On anything that can connect to wi-fi, or can get online and has a USB connection, I'm pretty sure," Bob informed.
"So like, a laptop? A tablet? A phone? A desktop?" Howard listed.

"Yup, all those things," Bob agreed.  "But just one hotspot per household, so you might not want to do them all at the same time!"

Howard shrugged.  "Well, it's just me, so..."

Bob snickered. "I never know with you, Howard."

Howard gave Bob a look, then started, "How do I connect, then, Bob?"

Bob waved his little clipboard around in the air. "When you check out a hotspot packet, you'll have all this:  A hotspot (with a battery), a charging/connection cable, a charging block (wall plug thingie), a little instruction guide, and a plastic baggy to carry it all in."

Howard ogled the device. "Ohmigosh, Bob, the hotspot is HUGE!! 
How will people use THAT?"

Bob rolled his beady eyes. "Remember, we're just two inches tall, Howard."
"Oh, yeah," gurgled Howard.

Bob attempted to educate Howard. "The first thing you'll want to do is to make sure the battery is charged.  You can go ahead and start charging it, or turn it on to see if it seems to be working ok."

"How do I do that, Bob?" Howard wobbled around the hotspot.

Bob cleared his throat.  "To charge the hotspot, you just connect the tiny end of the charging cord to the hotspot jack, and connect the USB (fatter) end to the charging block, then stick that plug in a wall plug or the like.  Or you can just use the USB end, if you have something that charges USB things."

"To turn on the hotspot, you just press that On-Off button, the circle towards the bottom, for about 3 seconds.  The helpful finger will show you exactly where it is," Bob elucidated constructively.

Howard shook his feathers.  "I think I've got it, Bob."

Bob thought he heard the slightest bit of annoyance in Howard's reply.  "There is the little instruction booklet, Howard, if you would rather just read how to do it."

"Naw, I'm very happy to let you demonstrate, Bob," Howard grinned.

Bob stamped around for a moment.  "OK."  Bob preened.

"Now the button is a little tricky and sometimes you have to try again, but if the battery has juice, the little icons on top of the hotspot will turn green when the machine is on."  Bob beamed.

"It needs juice?"  Howard turned about.  "Orange or grape?"

"Electricity, Howard.  Battery juice," Bob said patiently.

Howard licked his bill.  "I don't think I've had that kind.  Sounds spicy."

Bob went on. "Ahem.  Anyway, green icons, more or less."

Howard nodded.  "Gotcha.  Green=on.  Then what?"

"If you have a wi-fi enabled device, you turn it on and go to the section in your internet stuff that shows you which networks are available.  If you need to, turn on your wi-fi first, of course.  If you don't have a wi-fi gizmo, like an ethernet-connected desktop, then connect the hotspot with the charging cable to a USB jack," Bob stated matter-of-factly.

Howard stared.  "Like, what?"

Bob demonstrated.  "Like this: 

"Find the wi-fi settings stuff.

"Look for the list of networks.  After a minute or two, CoolpadSurf_xxxx should show up in your list of options.  (xxxx is a number, the last four digits of the device's number/barcode)."  Bob continued.

"That's the network your little hotspot is offering.

"So you select that network."

Howard inspected the screens and followed the helpful finger. "Fine so far, Bob.  Turn everything on, find the CoolpadSurf network.  Gotcha."

"Good," expressed Bob with delight.  "The next box will ask for your password.  That's the eight-digit number next to HSPW on the barcode sticker, which is on the back of the hotspot."

"Oh, I see.  HSPW is Hot Spot Pass Word!"  Howard wriggled in gleeful understanding.
Bob tittered.  "Yup, just enter that number and Connect." 

"That's it?" Howard seemed a little dumbfounded.

"That's it!" Bob confirmed.  "Just remember to turn it off when you aren't using it.  It turns off pretty much the same way it turns on, though it looks like everything is on and green for a minute, then shuts down."

Howard flapped in exultation.  "Awesome, Bob!"
"I thought you'd like it, Howard!" Bob puffed, quite pleased.

Howard began waddling off.

"Hey Howard, where are you going, you just got here?" Bob yelled.

Howard didn't even look back.  "I'm going to check out a hotspot.  I've got stuff to do!"


Friday, July 10, 2020

Red Rover Red Rover

The Planet Mars
NASA plans a Perseverence Rover Mission to Mars this July/August (2020), since Mars and Earth will be in good positions to make a long-distance trip between them a bit shorter than it would be otherwise.  The mission will have the rover robot gather up evidence to see if there is or was life on Mars!

So here are a number of fun things to do to learn about Mars:

This links to a wonderful powerpoint presentation all about Mars, a guessing game where you rack up points with your guide Marvin the Martian, called IMAGINE MARS:  An Interactive Journey Through Time.  It gives an overview of Mars from astronomical history to books and movies to  NASA missions.  Very cool.  

Sign up for a (bilingual!) STEM newsletter and learn even more nifty things!

These are some clever STEM crafts to explore:
                                   Make a Cardboard Rover!
                                          Here's mine...but it could definitely use some work!

Make a Paper Mars Helicopter!          (This one is a bit easier).

If you like games,
 here is a whole variety pack of nifty space games:

Free Kid Science Apps!  (Space Science Games)
(sponsored by the Space Science Institute/NSF/NASA)
Rover Coder, Planet Families, Planet Families 2, Matter Sorter, Space Stage, Solar Vision, Star Maze, Rubble!

And a whole page of space games you can play straight through a browser!

A website with all kinds of space info and fun for kids...

Fascinating interactive space website!

Perseverence Rover you can mouse over for info, rotate, look all over virtually!

And some neat information about the Mission:
Perseverance Rover Illustration
Perseverance Rover Illustration
         Don't just stand around, go have a great time with Mars!

Bixby & Walston
Bill Bixby and Ray Walston from "My Favorite Martian"

Friday, June 19, 2020

Returning Checkouts

Bob & Howard (ducks) on big fan
 "Hey Bob," waved Howard.

"Howdy Howard," Bob returned.

"Whatcha thinking about?" Howard asked.

"I've decided I'm a BIG FAN of people who return their items in a timely fashion," Bob smiled.

"I kinda get that," Howard agreed, looking at the fan.  "But why seem so concerned?"

"I feel for the people...I don't want them to rack up fines and have troubles," pouted Bob.

"Why would they do that?" Howard seemed mystified.

"Well, there were about a thousand things out in March, but there was no way to return stuff then, so all the due dates were just extended.  Now the return box has been open for 2 weeks and normal actions like fines will restart on July 1.  Only about a tenth of the checkouts have come back," worried Bob.

"Can't they just renew things?" wondered Howard.

"Nope, they can't renew any more for what was already out.  And because of the one week quarantine, there's hardly any more time to return stuff without starting to get fines!" Bob squawked.

"How's that?" Howard was curious.

"Today, for example, is the 19th, so if you turned in your book or movie today by 5PM, say, add 7 days before it is handled again to be checked in," posited Bob.

Howard looked into the air.  "Uh...19 plus 7, carry the one, er, 26!"

"Yup," Bob acknowledged, "your items would be checked in on the 26th.  You'd be ok."

"But if I brought them back on the 25th?" Howard continued.  

"That would be 25 plus 7 so then they'd be checked in on the 2nd of July and you'd have an overdue fine." Bob stared down dejectedly.

"I thought there was a grace period?" added Howard.

"That is the quarantine period," Bob declared.

"Oh boy, I'd better see if I have anything to turn in, then!" flustered Howard fluttered off.

Bob and Howard (ducks) on bookdrop