Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I Want You to Install This App

Because though I hope you'll never need SafeTrek, I don't want you to ever suffer for want of it. Free download for iOS or Android.

The basic idea is this: start the app when you're traveling through an area where you feel unsafe. Hold your finger down on the screen until you feel safe again. When you remove your finger, you have ten seconds to enter a PIN. If the correct PIN is not entered, police are notified of your GPS location.

I learned about SafeTrek last week on Beth Revis' Tumblr. She had reblogged it from lillianloverly, where it appeared on March 16th.

Because I'm a research nerd, I did some legwork on the people behind it. I was also curious about how the police notification part of it worked, and what the company's business plan was. Here's the first part of a brief SafeTrek timeline, from its inception through the end of 2013, gleaned from online public records:

The earliest mention of the app I found was a branding presentation dated April 22nd, 2013, by Portguese designer Frederico Cardoso. I couldn't discern an obvious connection betwee him and SafeTrek's creators, but I did find two news stories from May of 2013, about SafeTrek winning an app design competition. Both were from University of Missouri student news sites: "App designer student codes winning smartphone app" and "Public safety app wins RJI student competition."

Later, in August of 2013, the Columbia Business Times reported that SafeTrek was "aiming for a release date of Aug. 1 for the MU campus" and "[t]he app will make its debut on Windows 8." Well, neither of those things appears to have happened: the iOS version first appeared in October of 2013, and no Windows version appears to exist at all—I could find no mention of it anywhere, not even on the official SafeTrek web site.

Speaking of the official site, the current SafeTrek team appears to be five University of Missouri college students: Zach Beattie, Zach Winkler, Nick Droege, Aaron Kunnemann, and Derek Provance. The articles from May of 2013, identify the original app creators as "Convergence Journalism senior Natalie Cheng, Business Administration senior Zach Beattie and Information Technology senior Zach Winkler" (my emphasis).

It's a bit disheartening that there appear to be no women currently leading SafeTrek development, when young women would seem to be the people who stand to benefit the most from this app. (I won't speculate about why Natalie Cheng left the SafeTrek project, but she has since co-founded another company, Quirks Consignment.)

Things got much more interesting for SafeTrek in 2014. I'll blog about that next Wednesday! Meanwhile, please install the app, try it out, and let me know what you think.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I am in a house without WiFi

And I will be here until Sunday. The nearest WiFi-enabled coffee shop is five miles away. I'm seriously considering turning on LTE tethering on my iPhone. HALP

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

SnoutCast #206: Andrea Blumberg

Did you enjoy Puzzled Pint, May 2014: The Princess Bride? Well, you have Portland's own Andrea Blumberg to thank for those fine puzzles!

[ Download mp3 ]

Show length: 30:42
File size: 29.5MB

Andrea's favorite room escape games online:

What Else?

Tell us we're wrong on the Internet! E-mail or post a comment at

Music: instrumentals from "Code Monkey" and "My Monkey" by Jonathan Coulton

[ Subscribe to SnoutCast / iTunes link ]

Curtis DeeAnn Andrea Blumberg

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

I am Pitching My Novel on Twitter Today

Because though I've gotten some very encouraging responses from my agent queries, nobody's asked for an exclusive yet, and I definitely haven't gotten "the call."

Plus, let's be honest, I live on Twitter. How could I pass up #SFFpit?

I'm joining the stream in progress because reasons. Here are my four entries for the second half (one per hour):

Check out the #SFFpit hashtag for all of today's pitches, and retweet anything you see and like. (Do NOT favorite! That's reserved for agents and editors who want to see more.)

Thanks to Dan Koboldt for organizing this thing!


Wednesday, June 04, 2014

I Knew Jay Lake

And now he's gone forever.

Photo by Waterloo Productions

I didn't know Jay very well, but I did have the privilege of spending some time with him over the past few years—in local "co-working" writing groups, at a few different conventions, and once while waiting for our shared flight back to Portland (we talked about how home genome sequencing and "chemjet" drug printers could revolutionize medicine).

We were both writers, and we were both born in Taiwan. That's about where the similarities end, but he was a wonderful person to know and an inspiration in many ways. I'll miss him a lot.

Lunch at Paradise Lost 2013. Photo by Donnie G. Reynolds

As a tribute, here's my own, somewhat morbid version of Link Salad, a frequent feature on Jay's personal blog, and from which I always gleaned something fascinating.

A little bird told me — Twitter is awesome, in all senses of the word. In this case, it was good to know from the source sooner rather than later, but those four little words hit me with a sharp, deep pain.

It was dark and cold that morning — on June 1st, the power went out in our neighborhood just after 4:30 AM, and stayed out until 5:45 AM, the same time as Jay's passing. It's meaningless. But it's a thing. I don't know.

I've seen the future, baby It is murder. — Lisa's post about "the day after." (The title of the blog post is lyrics from the Leonard Cohen song "The Future." It's okay, I had to look it up too.)

The Oregonian story on Jay's passing — longer than an obituary, but still too short.

Remembering Jay Lake, 1964-2014 — a more SFnal perspective on Jay's life.

Free Speculative Fiction Online: Jay Lake — read some of Jay's many, many, many published stories.

Some of Jay Lake's books at Powell's — the greatest bookstore in the world.

International Fuck Cancer Day — the first Saturday of every June. Because seriously, fuck cancer. (Join the Facebook group if you're into that sort of thing.)

The Clayton Memorial Medical Fund — if you'd like to make a contribution in Jay's name, there are many other Pacific Northwest writers who are currently enduring or will someday encounter medical emergencies which strain their personal resources.

Lakeside — a documentary by my friend Donnie, currently in post-production. The original concept was "a year in the life of Jay Lake," but after Jay's cancer diagnosis, the film morphed into something else. I want to see it, and I know I'm going to cry. It's okay. It's going to be okay.