Video games are surrounded by a stigma that they are inherently bad from a mental health perspective. This negative perception led to the . But there is a widening group of people, including those who work in mental health, who believe games can be an important and positive tool for those dealing with mental health issues. This was the subject of a panel at this weekend’s PAX West game convention in Seattle, called Roll for a Sanity Check: Games and Mental Health. The panelists, all of whom suffered from some type of mental health issues, were unanimous in that games can be a powerful coping mechanism, whether you need to relax or face your fears. The panel consisted of gaming industry professionals and mental health experts. The games they discussed were both digital and physical. The panelists said they suffered from a laundry list of conditions throughout the group, including bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and chronic insomnia. Panelists from left to right: Jimmy Chi, Dr. Barbara McCann, Robert Schuster, Liz Leo, and Tifa Robles Dr. Barbara S. McCann, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences from the University of Washington, said she became intrigued by games as a coping device after hearing a news story about “Space Invader Thumb,” a phrase that was coined to describe a repetitive stress injury from playing the game. “I had always played games as a way to cope,” she said. “I started with pinball and moved on to the early games like Space Invaders. When I heard how people were studying games from a negative standpoint, it made think about ways games could be positive, as well.” This first spark of interest has played a huge role in her career and how she helps her patients. Other panelists including Tifa Robles, a product marketing manager for Xbox, Liz Leo, a creative producer at Wizards of the Coast, and Robert Schuster, also from Wizards of the Coast, said they use games mainly as a way to calm down when feeling symptoms of anxiety. They mentioned that most of their gaming for that purpose happens on their mobile devices. “The great thing about app games,” said Schuster, “is that you have them with you all the time. You don’t need a console or a TV to quickly put yourself back into a better mental state.” Dr. McCann also praised mobile games, especially augmented reality games like or because they encourage the player to “get out and do things,” which can be hugely beneficial, but also a challenge for those suffering from depression or social anxiety disorder. Leo added that the types of games that help her relax are open-ended resource management games like , developed by Seattle developer Eric Barone, aka Concerned Ape, which tasks the player with running a farm and interacting with nearby villagers at their own pace. Jimmy Chi, a support operations lead at Humble Bundle, pointed to the growing number of games in which the goal is much more simple than in traditional games. He brought up a game called , where the player is placed in a party where he or she doesn’t know anyone and is encouraged to cope by finding dogs throughout the house to pet. It’s a way to help the gamer feel more comfortable in a new social setting. But the panel’s suggestions didn’t solely consist of relaxing games. Sometimes, they said, a different way to cope with your problems is to look them straight in the face and try to relate to characters in games who are going through the same issues you are. They all recommended a game called , a tabletop game where the end of the world is imminent and the player is tasked with telling the story of the character in his or her last few hours of life. “It’s a real exercise in bringing closure to something and finding peace with it, which can be applied to something you might be dealing with yourself… except for the end-of-the-world part,” Leo said. Another game in that same vein is , which was brought up by Schuster, who had been dealing with health issues for his own child recently. In that game, the player follows the four-year fight of a child with cancer. “But make sure you’re in the right frame of mind before you play it,” he warned, after saying that it made him feel like “I’m not alone.” In fact, not feeling alone was another major topic of the panel, including the sense of community around games and how important that can be as a support system. The toxic elements of gaming communities are often at the forefront of the discussions, but the positive aspects outweigh the negative, according to the panelists. “Whether they’re people online whom you’ve never met, or those sitting around the table playing or , the people you meet through gaming can be as valuable a resource as anything else,” said Robles.
The Blue Angels’ F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets are lined up in the parking lot of Seattle’s Museum of Flight. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) The sights and sounds of the Blue Angels flying their aerobatic fighter jets through August skies are a Seattle tradition – but this weekend, there are a few new twists.. The biggest twist in the takes place on the ground rather than in the air: The I-90 floating bridge is no longer being closed for the Blue Angels’ hour-long demonstrations on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. To minimize disruption to light-rail construction work on the bridge, the flight path for the air show over Lake Washington has been moved slightly south. That means the bridge is now outside the Federal Aviation Administration’s safety zone, known as “the box,” and traffic no longer needs to be halted. That also means spectators will no longer be allowed to stop and gawk from the bridge. “Pedestrians and cyclists will be able to access the bridge’s pathway for the duration of the flights. However, it may not be used for stopping and viewing the Blue Angels. The path is a heavily used route for commuters and should be viewed similarly to a roadway,” the . State patrol officers will be monitoring traffic to make sure motorists don’t stop to watch the show. And it goes without saying that drivers should keep their eyes on the road rather than trying to snap a smartphone picture while they’re at the wheel. That’s what passengers are for: Here's the view from the passenger seat of a car on I-90 of the Blue Angels flying overhead. New this year, I-90 is remaining open to traffic. The story on KIRO 7 News At 6. — Graham Johnson (@GrahamKIRO7) One thing’s for sure: The pilots doing the flying for the Blue Angels are unfazed by the change. “It’s just part of the routine,” Navy Lt. Jim Cox, who’s flying the No. 3 jet, told GeekWire today. “This is my first time here to Seattle, so I have really nothing to compare it against from last year,” he said. “With our show center being a little bit different, all of our pilots are going to use different checkpoints on the ground for our individual maneuvers and whatnot. But it’s pretty much transparent to us, because we just take what we’re given at each show site each year, and we can fly from there.” The Blue Angels change up their show depending on the flying conditions. If there’s limited visibility, they might go with a “flat” show that stays closer to the ground. But if the skies are clear – as they’re expected to be for the 3 p.m. shows – there’ll be more of the high-arcing, smoke-trailing loops that are visible from miles away. “We will do as much as we possibly can with the weather that we’re given,” Cox said. There’s one traditional plane that won’t be making an appearance this weekend: “Fat Albert,” the C-130T Hercules plane that traditionally transports the Blue Angels’ gear and personnel. After 17 years of service,. In its stead, the Blue crew is relying on the Navy’s fleet of C-40s and C-130s to carry their stuff. By next year, a e should be ready to take its place as Fat Albert’s faster and more efficient successor. The Blue Angels are also getting ready to phase in . Another of this weekend’s twists has to do with where the Blue Angels’ jets will hang out when they’re not flying. Boeing needs to use the tarmac that’s traditionally set aside for the jets next to the Museum of Flight, so this year, the jets will be lined up in the museum’s main parking lot. That means museumgoers will (just follow the signs). But on the bright side, they’ll get a great view of the flying machines as they walk into the museum. “This is almost making lemonade out of lemons,” Trip Switzer, the Museum of Flight’s vice president of development, told GeekWire. As an added sweetener, the museum is planning a . The Blue Angels aren’t the only aerial attraction, of course. The Boeing Seafair Air Show features an , starting at 1:25 p.m. on Friday, 11:55 p.m. on Saturday, and 10:30 a.m. on Sunday. There’s even a mystery guest: Boeing plans to send an “X” plane flying overhead at 1:15 p.m. Sunday. “We’ll fill in the name on Sunday when it flies,” said Patrick Harrison, Seafair’s director of marketing and communications. Then there’s the hydroplane races: Genesee Park serves as the epicenter for Seafair activities, including the HomeStreet Bank Cup competition. The provides the full rundown on ticket prices, events and tips for getting around amid the congestion. If you can’t make it to the park, the or the shores of Lake Washington, you can watch coverage of the thunderboat races from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday on KONG-TV and via , or listen to all weekend long. And if you’re not a fan of , there’s lots more to do this weekend – ranging from the to the at Volunteer Park to and the at Seattle Center.
Lucian Freud, Large Interior, W11 (after Watteau), 1981-1983. Oil on canvas, 73 x 78 inches. (Paul G. Allen Family Collection) The public will get a chance to view some of the significant pieces in the private art collection of Paul Allen, the late Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist, as part of a year-long exhibition at . “A Cultural Legacy: A Series of Paintings from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection,” (July 24 – July 20, 2020), is an iterative single-painting exhibition that will feature works by Lucian Freud, Sandro Botticelli and Georgia O’Keeffe. In addition to his cultural pursuits around sports and music, Allen, who died last October at age 65, had a lifelong interest in the visual arts. His collection spans centuries, genres and media, SAM said in a news release on Monday, and he was a frequent lender to the museum. A 2017 exhibition titled “Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection,” featured 39 works from his collection and showcased key moments in the development of the landscape genre. SAM said which Allen hoped it would “inspire people to renew their commitment to protecting Earth’s natural beauty for generations to come.” Sandro Botticelli, The Madonna of the Magnificat, c. 1480-1489. Tempera on panel, 24 3/4 inches diameter. (Paul G. Allen Family Collection) “Paul Allen was a tireless champion of art with an incredible commitment to this city. His cultural legacy surrounds us,” SAM director and CEO Kimerly Rorschach said. “We’re honored to have this opportunity to present this series of paintings that reflect his appreciation for extraordinary art, and his belief that art connects us to each other and to the world.” Georgia O’Keeffe, White Rose with Larkspur No. 1, 1927. Oil on canvas, 36 x 30 inches. (Paul G. Allen Family Collection) “Art demands something of us: to slow down, to view the world differently, to see ideas and possibilities previously unknown,” said Greg Bell, chief curator, Art Collections at Vulcan. “We are grateful to be able to share these works with the Seattle Art Museum and our community, so that we may continue to enrich the arts and culture of the region.” The new exhibition, which opens Wednesday, will be on view in the museum’s third floor galleries, adjacent to its collection of modern and contemporary art. The artworks (pictured above) and dates include: Large Interior, W11 (after Watteau) (1981–1983) by Lucian Freud, on view July 24 – Nov. 18. The Madonna of the Magnificat (c. 1480–1489) by Sandro Botticelli, on view Nov. 27 – March 23, 2020), concurrent with SAM’s major fall exhibition, “Flesh and Blood: Italian Masterpieces from the Capodimonte Museum (Oct. 17 – Jan. 26, 2020), featuring works from the High Renaissance and Baroque periods. White Rose with Larkspur No. 1 (1927) by Georgia O’Keeffe, on view April 1 – July 20, 2020, concurrent with “Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstract Variations (March 5–June 28, 2020), focusing on O’Keeffe’s early drawings, paintings from the 1920s and 1930s, and photographs of the artist by Alfred Stieglitz.
Bill Nye has a hot take on global warming. (YouTube screen grab via Last Week Tonight) Bill Nye has finally reached his burning point. The famed “Science Guy,” who used far-less-salty language while explaining science to children during his television heyday on PBS, wants us all to “grow the f— up” now because the planet is on fire and this is serious. Nye shows up in the latest episode of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” on HBO in which the host spends 20 minutes talking about the challenges facing the environment and the terrifying headlines everyone sees — and apparently glosses over — on a daily basis. Oliver uses news clips to illustrate some of the ridiculous debate surrounding the Green New Deal while also spelling out just what the piece of legislation would hope to achieve when it comes to climate action. Nye first shows up at the 10:20 mark of the video below to explain “the complicated logic behind carbon pricing.” “When we release carbon, say, by burning coal or driving an SUV, all of us pay for that in the form of things like fires, floods and crop failures. Putting a fee on carbon creates incentives to emit less carbon, and, more importantly, it also incentivizes the development of low-carbon technology, which is huge, because that’s vital to reducing emissions globally. And because for some reason, John, you’re a 42-year-old man who needs his attention sustained by tricks, here’s some f—ing Mentos and a bottle of Diet Coke. Happy now?” Nye returns at the 18:30 mark, but he’s clearly run out of patience, so he resorts to burning a plastic globe and unleashing a few F-bombs to get his point across. “I’ve got an experiment for you. Safety glasses on. By the end of this century, if emissions keep rising, the average temperature on Earth could go up another four to eight degrees. What I’m saying is the planet’s on f—ing fire. There are a lot of things we could do to put it out — are any of them free? No, of course not! Nothing’s free, you idiots! Grow the f— up. You’re not children anymore. I didn’t mind explaining photosynthesis to you when you were 12. But you’re adults now, and this is an actual crisis, got it? Safety glasses off, motherf—ers.” Watch the full video here:
Lena Begun is an accomplished pianist who founded Play At Work in 2013. (Igor Khodzinskiy Photo) Lena Begun has been playing music since the age of 5. She attended a school for gifted children in Moscow and eventually received a masters degree from the Russian Academy of Music. The accomplished pianist is now bringing her gift to tech workers in the Seattle area who take a break at work for , a music lessons company started by Begun. Begun has worked with recording teams for the internationally renowned Russian National Symphony Orchestra and Bolshoi Theater Orchestra. She came to the United States in 2000 and eventually launched Play At Work in 2013. “I came to Seattle as a single mother with my daughter, and basically started from scratch,” Begun said. “It’s a success story for me and I’m very proud of it.” The impetus for Play At Work was rooted in Begun’s desire to spend more time with her daughter at night. All of her private music lessons were happening in the evening, and Begun was looking for a way to maintain that career, but to do it during normal working hours. “This kind of work-life balance that we promote at the workplace? I started with myself,” she said. “I just wanted to have the same balance for my own life.” Plat At Work offers lessons in a variety of instruments. (Igor Khodzinskiy Photo) Play At Work offers one-on-one instruction in the workplace, and bills it as a benefit to the employee, who can take a break from work to learn or brush up on an instrument. The employer gets to allow a perk that is said to improve mood and performance — much like massages, fitness classes, free food, and others benefits frequently offered by tech companies. Begun started by offering piano lessons by herself at Google in Seattle, and her business grew to a waiting list of 40 would-be students. She brought on other instructors teaching other instruments, including choir, and now between Google and Facebook, Play At Work teaches about 100 students. It’s a benefit for people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to find the time to take music lessons, especially if they have children or other obligations that mean they have to be right home after work. Panjak Kakkar is a software engineer at Google and he’s been taking piano lessons for about five years. He has a background in Indian classical music, vocals as well as harmonium. He tinkered with the piano a bit before beginning formal lessons with Play At Work. “I do weekly lessons, though work responsibilities sometimes mean I have to miss,” said Kakkar, who takes his lesson in a dedicated room with heavy soundproofing at Google’s Kirkland offices. “Lena is very patient and adapts her style to fit the student’s preferences and level. She also picks music that adapts based on those two things, which makes the lessons tractable and very enjoyable.” Apart from the achievement of getting progressively better at playing the piano, Kakkar said that every lesson leaves him mentally refreshed. “Playing and learning the piano is a meditative experience for me,” he said. “It de-stresses me and helps me sleep better, code better, feel better.” Laurie Betts Hughes is the artistic director for Play At Work’s corporate choirs. (Igor Khodzinskiy Photo) Begun is at Google every day, and the Play At Work website shows seven other instructors, who mostly visit once a week. Students range from beginner to quite accomplished, Begun said, and rates are $45 for a half-hour lesson. While she’s already teaching at two tech giants, and has tried to get in the door at Amazon, Begun said the workplaces do not have to be high-tech. At Facebook, Marianne Giesemann has been a product designer on the News Feed team for a bit over a year and a half. She had no prior experience playing music, aside from a bit of singing for which she had no formal training, but she’s been taking ukulele lessons through Play At Work for almost a year. “I saw some posters at work and I thought it was a really cool perk,” said Giesemann, who meets with guitar instructor Chris Gibson once a week in a soundproofed music room. Giesemann is already able to play two types of ukuleles and now she’s starting with guitar. She admits she has a long way to go technically, but the experience has been great. “It’s really awesome to take a break and do something completely different than work,” Giesemann said. “To have fun and learn something new, something creative. It really makes me excited to go to work whenever I have a class that day.”
Facebook’s new Seattle buildings in the South Lake Union neighborhood feature a pedestrian friendly walkway down the middle. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) Joseph Kaynor has lived and worked in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood for years. On a walk this week through the rapidly growing area, home to Amazon and so much more now, he gave the ever-transforming tech hub a thumbs up. “I think it’s positive architecturally, because what was here was not really being used,” Kaynor said of the neighborhood, which was made up of a mix of warehouses and low-slung industrial buildings. Now, with a mix of modern designs and tall and short buildings crowding the busy streets between the northern edge of downtown and Lake Union, Kaynor sees texture in the landscape. And despite being surrounded by a neighborhood full of people working mostly for Amazon, Kaynor offered his own interesting architectural assessment. “You don’t feel like you’re in the middle of Jeff Bezos’ brain,” he said. An open space between and beneath Amazon property in South Lake Union. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) Anyone else who might have their own take on what’s being built in SLU, or a desire to hear from professionals who could offer that take, can take a walk of their own on Saturday with the With a mission to connect people to the architecture, design and history of Seattle, the volunteer-driven organization uses programs, events and tours to help people consider the city’s built environment. is intended to shed more light on the “no-mans-land” that has become “one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in the country,” as SAF refers to it. That fast growth means SLU has been a focus of tours for several years, according to Stacy Segal, executive director of the non-profit. “It just keeps changing, so every year the tour route is completely different because there’s new buildings along the way,” Segal told GeekWire in an interview to preview Saturday’s event. “We cover the architecture and the history of the neighborhood — what’s currently there, what used to be there and in some cases what’s coming online in the future.” Part of the new Google campus in South Lake Union, and a piece of public art in the center of Mercer Street. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) What’s coming online is not just more Amazon real estate. Silicon Valley tech giants Facebook and Google are also getting set to occupy large-scale properties in SLU, expanding their growing presence in the Seattle area. Facebook began moving into a new 196,000 square foot building directly across from an Amazon building. The neighborhood that was once predominantly home to warehouses and industrial buildings is now bustling on any given weekday with thousands of tech workers who shuffle between new office buildings and trendy restaurants, apartment buildings and hotels. Float planes coming in for a landing on the nearby lake buzz over cranes building the next tech tower. Segal doesn’t just take tours of the place — she actually put down roots, and has lived in SLU for about 10 years. “When we first looked at buying a place in the neighborhood, it was during the downturn and there was nothing there,” she said. “We were a little bit hesitant. But now living there for a while, we’ve seen a lot of changes, and it’s different. It’s really conveniently located to lots of things. I think as transit has improved and amenities in the neighborhood have improved, it’s become even more of a desirable neighborhood.” (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) Those who take part in SAF’s tour will hear about the reinvestment and redevelopment of the neighborhood from the Denny Triangle to the shore of the lake, and participants will be asked to consider what the right mixture is for successful revitalization of an urban neighborhood. And while development across Seattle can often be knocked for a variety of reasons, including the same-same nature of modern architecture, Segal defends some of what she’s been witnessing in SLU. She believes developers are doing a lot more than what they previously did, especially when it comes to green spaces and the pedestrian experience, including the use of everything from artwork to well-designed benches. She said it’s important to take into consideration not just the buildings, but the spaces between them. “In my opinion, the buildings that have started to move into the neighborhood are better designed than they used to be,” Segal said. Segal credits the “softening of spaces” and the addition of parklets and pass-throughs that make the urban campus easier to navigate and more user friendly. The UW Medicine complex in South Lake Union. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) Miranda Lyons-Cohen was sitting in the sunshine this week on one of those thoughtful benches, outside the University of Washington Medicine complex where she’s a graduate student in the Department of Immunology. Lyons-Cohen moved to Seattle for school two years ago, and likes coming into the neighborhood as opposed to being on the main UW campus because “it feels like I’m going to work.” To her, the neighborhood also feels very Amazon-centric and a bit sterile. “In other neighborhoods [the architecture] is more mixed; everything here got knocked down and it’s homogenous,” Lyons-Cohen said. “Because it’s been built in a short period of time, everything looks the same.” Maslow’s restaurant sits in a low-slung brick building, surrounded by Amazon glass. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) While Segal agreed that she misses some of the character of older buildings and warehouses, not everything got knocked down. She points to Brave Horse Tavern, a Tom Douglas property, as a saved building that turned out to be a “a really good development.” “I think there’s still a long way to go,” Segal said. “It’s a lot of area to cover, but when I look at the it’s so different than some of the buildings that went up before it, just the way that it’s situated on that block. There was a lot of thought and consideration that went into how that street gets used by people.” Saturday’s tour, one of 13 that SAF conducts across the city, will last two hours, and generally attracts Seattle residents who live right in the neighborhood and take part because they’re curious about what’s happening in their own community. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) Segal’s hope over the next 10 years would be that more development addresses the need for affordable residences, so that the city is a place that everybody can afford to live in and enjoy. “It’s a challenge in any growing city to really find space for everybody,” she said. “I think we’re just caught in a massive growth that we were not quite prepared for on a number of levels. But I think that if you just stop to look, there is a fair amount of thoughtfulness going into the development. You have to try appreciate that and that’s something we try to instill in people on our tours.” The Seattle Architecture Foundation’s May 11 tour of South Lake Union takes place from 10 a.m. to noon. The tour starts at Triangle Park across from Whole Foods and ends at Lake Union Park. Ticket information . The new Center for Wooden Boats at the edge of Lake Union. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) The tour ends at Lake Union Park, where members of the Pacific Northwest Model Yacht Club were sailing small boats this week. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)
With her coffee cup edited out, Daenerys just looks like she’s waiting for one of these men to get her a drink. (HBO screen grab) Tormund may have been especially adamant about how he really did see Jon Snow riding a dragon, but the “Game of Thrones” character will have to check his memory about whether or not he actually on a table nearby during Sunday’s episode of the show. The latte seen across the Seven Kingdoms and beyond, accidentally left on set in front of actress Emilia Clarke (Daenerys), has been edited out of HBO’s fantasy series following the internet’s version of an uproar on Monday. We checked the streaming episode of the show on HBO Now Tuesday morning and the cup was indeed gone. A rep for the network confirmed to that the cup was deleted and future airings of the episode, “The Last of the Starks,” would be of the updated version. The Starbucks cup is seen at right, on the table in front of actress Emilia Clarke during a scene from “Game of Thrones” on Sunday. (HBO screen grab) HBO tweeted its version of a statement on Monday, acknowledging the gaffe, and saying that the latte was a mistake and Dany actually ordered an herbal tea. News from Winterfell. The latte that appeared in the episode was a mistake. had ordered an herbal tea. — Game of Thrones (@GameOfThrones) But Hauke Richter, an art director on “Game of Thrones,” told Variety that the reaction to the accidental cup was “so blown out of proportion [because] it has not happened with ‘Thrones’ so far.” Starbucks couldn’t let the moment pass without promoting its own brand, including a nod to its with dragonfruit. TBH we're surprised she didn't order a Dragon Drink. — Starbucks Coffee (@Starbucks) There are two episodes left in the eighth and final season of “Game of Thrones.”
The Starbucks cup is seen at right, on the table in front of actress Emilia Clarke (Daenerys) during a scene from “Game of Thrones” on Sunday. (HBO screen grab) Even the Mother of Dragons needs her coffee fix, apparently. In a gaffe for the ages, HBO’s popular and nearly complete fantasy series “Game of Thrones” was being roasted following the discovery Sunday night that someone left what appears to be a Starbucks coffee cup in a scene that aired during episode four. While celebrating the defeat of the Army of the Dead, those who managed to keep on living decided to keep on drinking during a feast and party at Winterfell. But while Tyrion and Jaime and The Hound and Brienne and Jon Snow and Tormund and others celebrated with wine, Daenerys appeared content to throw back a lattè. For those of you who didn’t think the Starbucks cup gaffe was real, I went back to watch it and— — Clarkisha Kent: Benioff and Weiss Hate Account (@IWriteAllDay_) The offending cup shows up on the table in front of Dany, in the background of a shot in which Tormund is letting Jon Snow just how impressed he is with his fighting spirit. For her part, the would-be-queen of the Seven Kingdoms could use another shot or two in her Starbucks, because she begins to look a little glum. PREVIOUSLY: The Seattle-based coffee giant couldn’t have wished for more premium product placement. pointed out on Monday, in pointing to , that each episode of “GoT,” in its eighth and final season, costs $15 million to produce. It doesn’t make much sense that in a show where CGI dragons swoop through the sky and breathe fire onto imaginary battles below, a coffee cup can’t be erased from plain sight. There might not be trolls in Westeros, but they certainly live on Twitter and they leapt at the chance to be heard: Starbucks girl
The “Legend” cast iron skillet from Hilted Cookware features a sword-inspired handle and right now is aimed at “Game of Thrones” fans. (Hilted Cookware Photo) “Game of Thrones” fans looking for the perfect way to prep a dragon steak — or whatever they eat in Westeros — might want to check out this custome cast iron skillet with a sword-style handle conceived by a couple of entrepreneurs from Seattle. Bruce Valles and Victor Avila are 3D-printing geeks and co-founders of . The two brothers are “waging war against traditional cookware” with the creation of their “Legend” 10-inch skillet, and they’re hoping to cash in on the hype surrounding HBO’s soon-to-be-gone fantasy series. Hilted lauched in March, but was conceived more than a year ago as Valle was cooking chicken parmigiana in a skillet before settling in on a Sunday night for an episode of “Thrones.” “I couldn’t help but think, ‘What if this skillet had a sword handle?'” Valle told GeekWire this week, ahead of the fourth episode of the final season of “GoT,” which airs tonight. “I wouldn’t necessarily say that thought ruined my traditional level of excitement for the episode but it definitely had my mind distracted for the better half of the show.” Like a regular old , Valle set to work the next day on studying swords and working on a model for the cookware. He rendered a design in TinkerCad and made an initial 3D print. After modifications, he finished final designs in Fusion360 and over the next several weeks put his printer to work making “pretty awesome models.” (Hilted Cookware Photo) Valles’ regular job is a regional director of digital strategy for , where he helps fortune 500 organizations “identify and create a framework to transition from monolithic or legacy digital environments to a more efficient architecture like microservices.” His 11-year-old daughter Audrey is the one who really got him into 3D printing about four years ago. “Her elementary school is big on STEM and was doing a session on exploring helmet safety through 3D printed nanotubes,” Valles said. “She asked me the same day if we could get a 3D printer, I thought, ‘Heck yeah! My Barbie days are over!’ We would print random things from time to time like new tags for our cat Henry or a cell phone case for my phone and she would always ask me if this was how the future would be or if everyone would have these in their home to replace things with.” Valles said he got more ambitious over time and when the skillet idea materialized, he felt like he could make it happen. The most difficult aspect, though, had been finding a foundry to bring the Legend to life. Hilted shared their 3D-printed skillet prototype with at least 11 different foundries, getting more and more discouraged with each rejection of the project. “After doing some research we came across and their custom state-inspired skillets,” Valles said. “We tracked down their manufacturer after some deep recon and reached out to in Kaukauna, Wisc. We sent them our design and they quickly came back with ‘We have to make this work.’ They’ve been doing custom cast iron for over 75 years and have helped bring Kickstarter favorites to life like the and . They’ve really burnt the candle at both ends helping us not just at the manufacturing level but also from a strategic level in terms of effective design — we’re fortunate to have a partner like them supporting us.” (Hilted Cookware Photo) Hilted Cookware is accepting now, priced at $100. The plan is to ship them by May 13 so that “Thrones” fans have them in time for the series finale on May 19. Future plans include more sword-inspired skillets, including 8- and 9-inch versions of the Legend, and variations on the handle design, which Valles said will be put to Hilted followers to determine what they want to see next. “Swords and swordplay captivate our imaginations, whether it’s clashing sticks as kids, reading tales of dueling knights and swashbuckling pirates, or sitting around with friends watching ‘Game of Thrones.'” Valles said. “Plus, cooking is just more fun when you’re slinging around our 10-inch Legend skillet like a sword!” Valles said he an Avila have gone through all seven seasons of the series twice, and he’s been on team Tyrion since early on. Avila likes The Hound. “I think we both agree that a steak would be well deserved for Ned Stark,” Valles said. “And we’d know just the skillet to grill it up on.”
Comedian Jesse Warren of Socially Inept performs on stage at the Museum of Pop Culture during the GeekWire Awards in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) A tech-geek-turned-comedian walks into a room full of 1,000 current tech geeks … or so the joke goes. At Thursday night’s annual in Seattle, there was plenty of time to talk business, but for about seven minutes, Jesse Warren brought the business of comedy to the stage at the Museum of Pop Culture. Warren is one of the founders of Socially Inept, a new tech comedy startup that performs around Seattle and in other cities with the mission of bringing a bit of levity to the world of startups and geeks. The group recently performed one of its at a comedy club in the University District, but the Sky Church at MoPOP was unlike any venue Warren had ever worked in his young stand-up career. GeekWire Awards nominees, including Matt Oppenheimer, Grant Goodale, and Kabir Shahani, have a laugh Thursday night. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) A former Microsoft and SpaceX engineer himself, Warren turned his inside-tech perspective on the audience in attendance. “It’s an honor to be here, speaking in front of all of you creators, innovators, entrepreneurs, all coming together to create a better future,” Warren opened. “A future with less hardship, less injustice, less privacy, less free will and no humans. … Looking at the AI startups here.” (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) With jokes lobbed at the expense of Jeff Bezos, Rover, Textio and more, Warren also had fun with Next Tech Titan nominee Stay Alfred, in attendance with a large group that for the event. “We have Next Tech Titan nominee Stay Alfred … the first company out of Spokane, Wash., to be nominated for literally anything ever,” Warren joked. “In 2018 Stay Alfred actually raised $47 million in funding, though what investors did not realize at the time is that for $47 million they could have just bought Spokane, Wash.” Socially Inept is to Tacoma, Wash., at the end of the month. Check out Warren’s full performance from the Awards below:
The Tetris game developed by a Kentucky high school student using Code.org. (Twitter screen grab via @hadip) In a Twitter thread on Tuesday, Hadi Partovi, the longtime Seattle entrepreneur and founder and CEO of , provided some insight into why he loves his job. In 12 tweets, Partovi laid out the story of a Kentucky high school student, a video game, a teacher and Code.org’s place in the dynamic as a nonprofit dedicated to helping more kids gain access to a computer science education. (Partovi’s thread starts with , and the entire stream is embedded at bottom of story.) Here's an amazing story and why I love my job… A few weeks ago, I saw a teacher tweet a video of a Tetris game a student named Spencer made on . — Hadi Partovi (@hadip) Partovi first noticed a tweet from teacher of Glasgow High School, who shared a video of a Tetris game created by student Spencer Applegate using tools on Code.org. Partovi tried to play the game, but it didn’t work as well on his smartphone as it did on desktop, and he learned that Applegate didn’t have a phone of his own. Glasgow was named the poorest community in Kentucky in a report by USA Today last year, and 70 percent of the high school’s 600 students receive free/reduced lunch and 14 percent are homeless, Correll told Partovi. But the teacher said the high school continues to rank in the top 10 percent of Kentucky schools and was ranked seventh best high school by US News. So AMAZING using ‘s app lab and skills developed in Computer Science Principles class a GHS student created Tetris — Larry Correll (@ghsteachlarry) WOW! We love this! — Code.org (@codeorg) After hearing from Correll about Applegate’s potential as senior who is gifted in math and science, with a talent for programming, Partovi sent the student a new phone. “We have seen so many students make amazing games and apps on Code.org,” Partovi told GeekWire on Wednesday. “In fact, just this week a student made their own re-make of Pac-Man. What stood out in this case was that this is a school in a very low income town in Kentucky. About one in six students in the school are homeless, and most will never afford college. The idea that a student in this school made such a great app yet didn’t have a phone to try it on is what inspired me to reach out.” Tweets in Partovi’s thread show Applegate opening the gift in class and the Tetris game being played on a mobile device. Correll told Partovi that with the help of Code.org, Glasgow High School offered students a computer science class, AP CS Principles, for the first time last year and that 22 of 24 students received a 3 or higher (passing score) on the AP exam. At the same time, computer science classes were introduced in local elementary schools and a middle school. “The work we do at Code.org is a lot more than providing software and curriculum,” Partovi said. “We provide a year-round professional development and support program for teachers who want to begin teaching computer science, and that’s exactly the program Larry Correll was part of. Aside from the story of the student, what stands out is that this is a teacher that is teaching computer science for the first time, and his entire class is crushing it, in such an unexpected part of the country. “Talent and genius is everywhere, opportunity is not,” Partovi added. “That’s part of what we’re trying to fix at Code.org.” Check out Applegate’s game , and read Partovi’s tweets below: Here's an amazing story and why I love my job… A few weeks ago, I saw a teacher tweet a video of a Tetris game a student named Spencer made on . — Hadi Partovi (@hadip) Spencer had worked on it for weeks. His teacher, Mr. Correll, had promised to take him out for breakfast at Hardee's if he could get it right. — Hadi Partovi (@hadip) I tried Spencer’s game, but it didn’t work on my phone. His teacher, Mr. Correll wrote “It only works on a computer. Spencer doesn’t have a cell phone. I’m encouraging him to continue CS. I sure hope he gets a chance to go to college.” — Hadi Partovi (@hadip) Hearing Mr. Correll talk about this kid’s potential, I decided to buy Spencer a phone, so he can finish his app. — Hadi Partovi (@hadip) Here is Spencer receiving his gift. From Mr. Correll: “When I told the class what was going on, one of the young women started crying.” — Hadi Partovi (@hadip) And here’s Spencer’s working game. — Hadi Partovi (@hadip) Mr. Correll teaches in Glasgow, Kentucky, ranked the poorest community in the state. 70% of Glasgow students are on free lunch programs. 14% are homeless. — Hadi Partovi (@hadip) With the help of , the school began teaching computer science, and it has “rejuvenated the whole school”. 90% of Mr. Correll’s students have passed the AP computer science exam. (The national pass-rate is 70%) — Hadi Partovi (@hadip) Spencer Applegate is graduating high school this year, he may never attend college, yet he recreated Tetris (a billion-$ game) in 500 lines of code. — Hadi Partovi (@hadip) Mr. Correll is one of 1.1M teachers on , who are bringing opportunity to tens of millions of students in communities like Glasgow, Kentucky. — Hadi Partovi (@hadip) Nominate a teacher for a scholarship to take the same training the helped Mr. Correll begin teaching computer science. . And consider supporting our work with a donation: — Hadi Partovi (@hadip) Thank you to Larry Correll for the work you do each day in the classroom, you are changing the face of computer science; and to Dr. Amy Allen for supporting computer science in your school. — Hadi Partovi (@hadip)
The horse racing T-shirt as seen on Amazon. (Amazon screen grab) The horse racing broadcaster whose signature catchphrase “And down the stretch they come!” has been a staple of his 40-year career is reportedly suing Amazon for selling a T-shirt that uses the quote. Tuesday that is not happy with the tech giant and that the “tacky, low quality, over-priced” item is tarnishing his good name. Johnson is the voice behind some of the biggest races in the sport, including the Kentucky Derby, which will stage its 145th running this Saturday. Listen to Johnson make his signature call during the 2006 Derby in (forward to 2:00 mark). The shirt shows up on Amazon.com under the category “awesome horse racing shirts” and features a silhouette of a jockey on a horse above Johnson’s catchphrase. The shirt is available in a variety of colors, priced at $19.99, and billed as a “cool design for any horse racing fan to wear at the horse track” in the product description. According to TMZ, Johnson owns the trademark for the phrase and he’s seeking to stop Amazon from selling the shirt, and he wants remaining shirts recalled and destroyed. The celebrity news site also said Johnson wants any profits Amazon has made off the product and additional damages. GeekWire reached out to Amazon for comment and we’ll update this post when we hear back.
The “Throne Fantasy” app icon, left, and “Game of Thrones” characters Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow in a scene from the HBO show. (Throne Fantasy, HBO Images) Plenty of television fans entertain themselves by trying to figure out what might happen week to week on HBO’s popular fantasy series “Game of Thrones.” The fantasy goes a bit further with an app built by a group of friends in Seattle. , a former software engineer at Pioneer Square Labs who is headed to a new job at Stripe, was playing another fantasy league app centered around the show but he wasn’t enjoying the experience. So after graduating from the University of Washington and before starting at PSL, he set out to make a game before season seven. Daniel Gorrie. (Pioneer Square Labs Photo) “The whole idea was to make this for ourselves and just put it out there and see if anyone else liked it. And it turns out other people did like it,” Gorrie said. The free app attracted 10,000 users for the previous season, and now with “Game of Thrones” in the midst of its eighth and final season, 55,000 people are playing on the app. Gorrie has been joined on the project by Alex Spencer, Lincoln Doyle, Eric Ross, Ryan Drapeau, and Marius Maaland. “Being a bunch of engineers, we were like, ‘OK, we need to go do this thing consistently, have clear rules, and make it a delightful product that people love to use,'” Gorrie said. “We wanted to make sure that there’s artwork, that there’s illustration, that it’s a crisp mobile app and that people can play with their friends, because ultimately that’s the whole point, right? That’s what makes everyone really excited to use the product.” The goal with “Throne Fantasy” is to draft a team of characters from the show and to earn points for various things that happen to those characters each week. Kills, dialogue, sex scenes, deception, pregnancy and many more things are worth different levels of points. A character who acquires a dragon, for instance, will earn a player 2,000 points. Players can join an existing league or create their own. (Throne Fantasy Images) Gorrie and members of the team watch the show on Sunday nights as a soon as it airs and can have stats and standings updated in the app by as early as 9:30 p.m. PT. After they watch the live episode, they rewatch it, pausing and screen-shotting along the way to handle the scoring. Gorrie said there are some heated debates and yelling because some of the scoring can be subjective, like whether a piece of dialogue is a joke or not, or whether Jon Snow has acquired a dragon now that he’s ridden one. Fans have been known to quibble, too, messaging the team on Facebook to debate scores. “We hear that there’s a 45-minute battle this upcoming episode, so that might take a little bit to score,” Gorrie said about the third episode of “Thrones,” airing tonight. The app features cute illustrations of all of the show characters, done by hand by Ross, a designer. Growth has been all organic, with no promotion, and the app has previously hit No. 8 on trending for Android, and got up to No. 37 in entertainment for iOS — “we were above StubHub!” Gorrie said proudly. And “Throne Fantasy” has even attracted HBO employees, who are playing at offices in New York and Seattle, according to Gorrie. You can still download and play, but there’s a penalty tacked on for joining late, since two episodes have already aired. Gorrie said the team of friends are “Game of Thrones” fanatics, obviously, and while some of the guys take it especially serious, he doesn’t pretend to have a clue about how the show might wrap up. “I’ve got no idea. That’s what fun about it,” Gorrie said. “I don’t really care if any of them die, or if all of them die. But I’m rooting for Jaime to kill Cersei, for sure.” Download “Throne Fantasy” for or .
Chris Lindsay, back right, operates his BB-8 droid at the Museum of Flight in Seattle on Saturday during a builders club event put on by Star Wars fanatics. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) Well, these were certainly the droids people were looking for on a Saturday in Seattle. Members of the gathered at the and rolled out a large selection of their signature creations: working robots like those from several of the popular Star Wars films. In the museum’s Great Gallery, where real-world flying machines loomed overhead, droids such as R2-D2, BB-8, R5-D4, R4-M9 and more rolled around on the ground and stopped kids and parents in their tracks. Builders who belong to the 20-year-old club focus on life-size astromech droids, the most popular of which is R2-D2, the blue and silver beeping buddy of Luke Skywalker, first introduced in 1977’s “Star Wars: A New Hope.” Tutorials and blueprints are and many builders spend years crafting and tweaking droids. Some are made of wood or aluminum, and others are now assembled using 3D-printed plastic parts. Droids assemble for a group photo in the Museum of Flight’s Great Gallery of aircraft. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) “Most of this stuff is done solo in your own garage or workshop, so this is a chance for us to get together and show people what we have and also interact with each other,” said Todd Maxfield-Matsumoto, a builder who started about six years ago with his oldest son. He got the Star Wars bug early in life. “I saw ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’ in the theater when I was almost 3, and we had to leave early because I couldn’t stop making Chewbacca sounds,” Maxfield-Matsumoto said. “It’s been a lifelong thing.” When he’s not building cute robots, Maxfield-Matsumoto works as a mortician for Bonney-Watson. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) Sarah Jane Huff and her husband Jesse Huff plan to build a 7-foot-tall K-2SO from the movie “Rogue One.” (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) His son was operating an R4-M9, which shows up in the beginning of “A New Hope” on Princess Leia’s ship, and they also built a green and white R2-A6, which was nearby. Dozens of people interacted with the droids throughout the event. Moms and dads snapped pictures and watched as kids of varying sizes crouched to get a better look at characters they have seen in films. Wearing orange and white BB-8 sneakers, Craig Lindsay was operating his lovable creation of the same color scheme — and stealing the show — nearby. The droid first appeared in the 2015 blockbuster “The Force Awakens.” (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) Unlike the other droids on display Saturday, BB-8 is unique because he doesn’t move on wheeled “feet,” but rather rolls across the floor with his head spinning atop a spherical body. Despite seeing it happen in the film, fans still couldn’t believe it worked and asked Lindsay how he did it. “It’s magic!” he said. “Actually, it’s magnets. But they’re magic!” Lindsay, who works for a software company in Seattle, 3D printed BB-8 after his wife heard a story on NPR and encouraged him to teach their daughter about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Chris Lindsay’s BB-8 sneakers next to his BB-8 droid. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) “It took me nine months to build it and get it rolling, and there have been many improvements … and fixes after shows like this,” he said, watching little kids put their hands on the droid and try to hug it. “There are things that happen with the head and children. Sometimes you have to reprint the head.” With a group of small kids huddled around BB-8 on the floor, Lindsay said they forget that an adult is anywhere nearby operating the thing, saying that it “brings the movies to life.” But he has to stay close in case someone tries to pull the droid’s head off. “I often carry baby wipes because the reaction is so positive from kids,” Lindsay said. “They all walk up to it and hug it and sometimes kiss it. I’m like, ‘You know this thing rolls around the ground. You shouldn’t kiss it.'” (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) Ian Martin, a web applications developer, was drawing a crowd with his droid, too, a R5-D4. That droid almost belonged to Luke in the “A New Hope,” but when it blew up he selected R2-D2 instead. Using a PlayStation controller to operate R5-D4, Martin opened flaps and extended assorted utility arms and gadgets that he also 3D printed. He said the machine had 36 servomotors inside performing a number of tasks. With the push of a button, a vintage-looking trading card emerged from a slot with the droid’s picture on it and specifications spelled out on the back. Another button, and R5-D4 dropped a plastic egg from its backside. Inside was a Lego minifigure version of the droid. A trading card emerges from an R5-D4 droid. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) Like many of the builders, Joe Marzocca also belongs to the , an organization of Star Wars fans who dress as characters for various events and charity causes. When he’s not a stormtrooper, he’s been working on a droid for about a year and was sitting behind a table full of parts that will go into building an all-aluminum R2 unit. He figured it will take about $14,000 to get his version of a droid up and running, and depending on what type of battery he uses, it will weigh close to 200 pounds. Droid builder Christina Kato and her 3D-printed BB-8. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) Christina Kato, another costumer with the 501st, works on sneakers for Nike in Oregon, and she started building droids four years ago. “I had never seen a full-size droid before,” Kato said. “I didn’t know people built them, I didn’t know that was a thing at all.” Her BB-8 is 100-percent 3D printed, and the body took about three weeks to complete. “I love 3D printing, I’ve got several at home,” she said. “I learned how to 3D print because of BB-8.” “This has been a really fun ride. I’ve had so many crazy opportunities because of the building,” she said, adding that she does a lot of charity work that involves visits to schools and hospitals. “It’s an amazing experience to be a builder.” A Mouse Droid rolls around on the floor. The tiny robot showed up in a Star Wars film and got screamed at by Chewbacca. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)
(GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) Here’s a chance for you to use a bit of your allotted screen time to learn about how screen time is in the news this week. Merriam-Webster to its dictionary during the month of April, reporting that the English language never sleeps and that the work of revising a dictionary is constant. Among those words was screen time, which anyone who has stared at a device or put their kid in front of one has most likely used as a word. Merriam-Webster’s of the noun is “time spent watching television, playing a video game, or using an electronic device with a screen (such as a smartphone or tablet).” The definition has clearly evolved since its first known usage in 1921, according to Merriam-Webster, when it was used to define “the amount of time someone or something appears on screen in a movie or television show.” Meanwhile, the World Health Organization released a this week aimed at kids and devices, and said that infants under 1 year old should not be exposed to electronic screens at all, and children between 2 and 4 should not have more than one hour of “sedentary screen time” each day, as reported by The New York Times. The intention is for kids to develop healthier habits around exercise and sleep. A good place to get away from screens might be with an actual printed dictionary.
Comedian Erin Ingle, right, roasts tech worker Jash Bangdiwala, seated, as fellow comedians Taylor Clark, Adi Naidu and Jesse Warren look on during the Socially Inept: Tech Comedy Roast in Seattle on Thursday night. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) Tech worker Jash Bangdiwala took a seat on a stool in front of a room full of people and proceeded to have everything from his dating life to his job openly mocked. “Jash worked for Microsoft,” said Adi Naidu, a comedian and himself an engineer at Amazon. “Your parents must be really proud of you … 20 years ago.” Such was the scene on Thursday night at Laughs Comedy Club in Seattle as stand-up comedians took their best shots at tech and techies in another edition of the The venue was packed with young tech workers from a range of companies who clearly got a kick out of hearing their peers and their industry get made fun of. Jokes were lobbed at a host of entities, including Microsoft, Bing, Amazon, Uber, online dating, apps and more. Sex, drugs, ethnic and racial comedy were featured heavily throughout the hour-and-a-half event, which started with four stand-up sets and progressed to the roasting of three “volunteer” audience members. Jesse Warren, host and co-producer of the Socially Inept comedy show. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) The show was produced in part by Jesse Warren, a former University of Washington computer science major and Microsoft and SpaceX worker who quit to pursue comedy full time. He had help from comedians Naidu, Erin Ingle, Taylor Clark and Naveed Mahbub. “Every tech person has a secret desire to do comedy,” Warren said. “It’s this thing you’ll start to realize over and over, because smart people like comedy.” Here’s a sampling of some of the best lines (which we can actually print here) focusing on tech, and images from the night: Adi Naidu, a comedian and an engineer at Amazon, performs his stand-up routine on Thursday. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) “Neither of my parents wanted me to be a doctor or an engineer. In fact, my dad wanted me to be a stand-up comedian, because he was a stand-up comedian. And my mom, she wanted me to anything but a stand-up comedian. She wanted me to be a tattoo artist. Can you imagine? Both my parents wished for me to be poor … and white!” — Adi “Eighty years of freedom and India is still a developing country. I guess that’s because all of the developers are here!” — Adi Comedian Adi Naidu roasts Jash Bangdiwala. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) “Jash works on integrating Bing into Windows. Just goes to show you guys that not all heroes wear capes. Remember that time you fired up Windows and thought, ‘Yeah this is great and all, but it could use some more Bing.'” — Jesse roasting Jash “Cool that you worked at Bing, which we all know is Google for virgins.” — Erin roasting Jash Erin Ingle roasts Carlos Hattix, a tech recruiter at Uber in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) “Carlos ghosts his dates regularly. And that is the only qualification he possesses as a tech recruiter.” — Adi roasting Carlos “Very charming guy. Very attractive guy. You do kind of look like a low-rent Russell Wilson, but, nobody cares if you stay in Seattle.” — Erin roasting Carlos. “I feel like you got a job at Uber because you were too slimy for pharmaceuticals.” — Erin roasting Carlos Vineeth Sai, a UW student and tech worker, is roasted by Jesse Warren. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) “Vineeth is an incoming penetration testing intern at Nordstrom. Don’t even have to write a roast joke. It’s a real thing.” — Jesse roasting Vineeth “Super cool to have you here. You look like Jash before Xbox.” — Erin roasting Vineeth “For people who don’t know what is, it’s a technical term that means ‘rejected from the computer science department.'” — Jesse roasting Vineeth over his University of Washington major.
There’s a sweeping view of the Seattle skyline, a bustling downtown street, Mount Rainier, a fancy house and a slick Tesla Model X. It all looks like a picture of the techie dream. But the scenes are part of a trailer for “Vellai Pookal,” a new film made by tech expats from India who now work at some of the biggest companies in the region, including Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Facebook. The film opens in theaters on Friday and is the product of Seattle-based , a performance arts group that usually stages theater shows and makes short films. Shot in Seattle and around the Pacific Northwest, the feature-length “Vellai Pookal” is a thriller about a retired police officer who visits his son in Seattle and soon begins investigating a series of disappearances. Indian actor Vivekh stars. The film was directed by , a senior program manager with more than 12 years at Microsoft. Vidhyashankar Balasubramaniyan, another longtime Microsoft employee, detailed the mix of tech and techies involved in making the project a reality in a post . “Many of these engineers are new to movie-making, and worked weekends and nights over the course of two years to create this movie,” Balasubramaniyan wrote this week. “The team overcame the movie making inexperience by putting their tech expertise to good use with all aspects of production.” Elangovan said in the post that he and his fellow filmmakers “strongly believe Microsoft’s growth-mindset culture and emphasis on learning and creativity motivated us to consider this moonshot goal of getting into movie making.” They also leveraged concepts like a marketing hackathon to identify ways to promote the movie. The film, which is bilingual with Tamil and a mix of English and English subtitles, is slated to open in 20 theaters across the U.S. and another 200 in India. It is showing at the at Lincoln Square in Bellevue, where it had a special premiere event last weekend.
The Amazon headquarters campus, featuring the Spheres, in downtown Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser) It’s tough to pass any light pole or street sign in Seattle these days without noticing that many of them have been sprayed or scribbled or stickered with one message or another. And as the ever-growing city grapples with assorted pains, a lot of the messages target tech. Ratul Mahajan. (Twitter Photo) Ratul Mahajan is no different than any of us who have taken notice, and perhaps snapped a quick picture. This past summer, GeekWire spotted as it seemed to reach peak proportions around town. On Wednesday, Mahajan shared his own photos in a post on Twitter. One sticker referenced Amazon’s Spheres office space (and CEO Jeff Bezos’s anatomy), and another simply called for tech bros to “go home,” wherever that is. Both stickers were scrawled with rebuttal messages: the first said “Go Bezos!” and the second said, “Quit being poor.” Seattle's complicated relationship with big tech summed up in two pieces of street art on the same block. — Ratul Mahajan (@ratulm) As the co-founder of the Seattle-based startup , and as a faculty member at the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington, we were particularly interested in Mahajan’s take on Seattle’s version of graffiti. And how it illustrated Seattle’s “complicated relationship with big tech,” as he tweeted. Mahajan saw the stickers on Madison Street near Boren Avenue in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, a hotbed for all sorts of graffiti, much of it these days directed at tech and techies that are blamed for reshaping the character and affordability of the place. “I’ve been noticing them more, but that could just be because I noticed the first one and now I see more,” Mahajan said. “You know, availability bias and confirmation bias.” He said people love to and are free to express themselves, and while he called the humor in the Bezos sticker “endearing,” Mahajan said that his opinion of the “quit being poor” scribble is that it’s cruel. “However, both that message and the original one are ridiculous,” he said. “‘Tech bros’ are not going home, and no one is poor by choice.”
The FIRST LEGO League Jr. Boomtown Build Inspire Set box. (LEGO Photo) Kids who have caught on to the world of FIRST LEGO League competitions will have something new to build with next season, with exclusive new LEGO sets that actually focus on building and shaping cities. and announced the news Wednesday at the , where thousands of students from around the world — including some from the Seattle area — are competing in Houston this week in robotics competitions. The Boomtown Build Inspire Set will be used by FIRST LEGO League Jr. competitors and will encourage them to think about building “a city to accommodate all different types of people,” LEGO said in a news release. Teams will use LEGO Education’s WeDo2.0 to create the programming part of their project. The City Shaper Challenge Set is geared toward older FIRST LEGO League teams who will build and code an autonomous robot to complete a series of architecture-themed missions on the competition mat/playing field. LEGO FIRST League City Shaper Challenge Set. (LEGO Photo) Kids at various grade levels are inspired through mentor-based robotics programs to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers, and they compete in tournaments throughout the school year. runs such programs and last month teamed with GeekWire to help put on the first in Seattle. Teams that were part of that event are also in Houston this week, including the , a group of sixth-grade girls from Kirkland, Wash., and the , high school kids from Issaquah, Wash. “If you meet students where they are, challenge them appropriately, allow them meaningful failures, they will ultimately succeed, and this builds their confidence and desire to learn more, try more and stretch themselves and their learning,” Esben Stærk Jørgensen, president of LEGO Education, said in a statement. “We believe all students can gain confidence in STEAM through hands-on learning. We are excited for all FIRST LEGO League and FIRSTLEGO League Jr. participants to build their confidence in learning while competing with our newest architecture-themed sets.” LEGO’s new SPIKE Prime competition ready unit. (LEGO Photo) LEGO Education also announced a new that can be used in FIRST LEGO League competitions — the first time in FIRST LEGO League’s more-than-20-year history that participants can use another product in addition to LEGO Mindstorms to compete. SPIKE Prime and the SPIKE Prime Expansion Set can be in the U.S. and will be available around the world in August. “FIRST LEGO League Jr. and FIRST LEGO League allow students to engage in the same real-world challenges that scientists and engineers face today,” Donald Bossi, president of FIRST, said in the news release. “This coming season we’re thrilled for teams to explore city life through the architecture theme and create new, innovative solutions to improve our communities for the future. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of young students will be building problem-solving, teamwork, and communication skills that are critical to their own future success.”
The “Socially Inept: Tech Comedy Roast” returns to Seattle on April 18. (Photo courtesy of Jesse Warren) You may have your own internal, running dialogue that relies on tech and techies for comedic fodder, but an event this week in Seattle brings the jokes out into the open, to roast what has become a big part of our everyday culture. returns Thursday night for another run at the people and the technology who have so dramatically shaped the way we live. The show will feature comedians doing stand-up comedy at the tech scene’s expense, while roasting volunteer techies from the audience. Producers Jesse Warren and Austin Nasso have brought a string of successful shows to Seattle and San Francisco since launching the concept last summer, and they have more lined up in Los Angeles, with plans to expand to every major tech hub in the United States. Both have worked in tech and both are regular stand-up comedians. Warren, who studied computer science at the University of Washington, previously worked at Microsoft, SpaceX and a small AI startup called MindMeld. He quit his job two years ago to focus full-time on comedy, and now performs every night of the week. Nasso studied computer science at UCLA and he still works for Microsoft as a software engineer. He’s been doing stand-up for about six years after starting a comedy club in college. “The show started last year when we were planning a goodbye roast show for Austin before he moved to L.A.,” Warren said. “We decided to expand the concept of ‘Roast of Austin’ to ‘Roast of the Seattle tech scene’ and the show was a huge hit. We’ve sold out almost every show so far.” Nasso said techies are especially roastable because they’ve become so pervasive in most major cities. He also called them a “fundamental paradox.” “On the one hand they are wealthy and intelligent which puts them in a sort of ‘elevated status.’ It’s hard to really punch down on a recent college grad who makes $130,000 per year,” he said. “However, despite their high status they typically have many funny characteristics and interests such as their social awkwardness, obsession with self help, inability to properly dress themselves, and fascination with the television series ‘My Little Pony.'” Vignesh takes one for his scrum team after getting roasted on stage. Posted by on Tuesday, April 9, 2019 Material about those who play the board game “Settlers of Catan” is also to be expected. Roastees are comprised of friends of friends, and those who have seen the show and want to be a part of it, Warren said. All work in tech. “It takes longer than people know to write a new joke that works consistently, but we’re always trying to write new tech material and incorporate it into our shows because we want to celebrate this subculture that our audience are all a part of,” Warren said. The producers are in the process of creating a segment where comedians will write jokes about recent tech news specific to the city that they are in, but that won’t be part of this week’s show. Warren will be joined by comedians including Taylor Clark, Erin Ingle and Adi Naidu — an Amazon engineer. “Socially Inept: Tech Comedy Roast” takes place Thursday at in Seattle, 5220 Roosevelt Way N.E.. Doors open at 7 p.m. for the 8 p.m. show. Ticket information .