Category Archives: Gaming

Coding and tech comics & coloring books

First posted at

We are coming up quickly on the winter break, with families gathered and children out of school. With that in mind, it might be fun to have some some (slightly eccentric?) options for family activities and young folk distractions. Even better if these are options that promote learning, or just understanding more about what the old folks do with their days, eh? Here are a few highlights from my collections of (mostly free) comics, coloring books, and games around the world of geekery, coding, and tech. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find something that tickles your own funny bone!

A FORTRAN Coloring Book

Coloring Books

The first coding coloring book I could find dates from 1978 — Roger Kaufman’s FORTRAN Coloring Book, actually published by MIT Press and used as a textbook, back in the day. I was tickled pink when I found it, in part because I remember by Dad coding in FORTRAN when I was a young thing. (Yes, I have a copy on paper in my office. Honest!) It is robustly humorous for actual coders, and probably not as much fun for kids today. It is, however, available in the fabulous Internet Archive (but you might have to wait your turn to get access, since it is still under copyright).

Another rather amusing tongue-in-cheek (optionally NSFW) geek coloring book comes from the infamous Oatmeal. Check out 404 Not Found (and 404 Not Found NSFW). Not free.

With coloring books about coding going back so many decades, I thought there must be more, and oh my, there are.

ABC++ [PDF] (free)

The Coder’s Coloring Book [PDF] (free)

Kevin’s Python Coding Coloring Book (usually around $7)

Lady Ada’s E is For Electronics Coloring Book [PDF] (free as PDF, or you can buy a copy for $9.95)
(You might want to see also Lady Ada’s R is for Robots, which is not free.)

Programmer’s coloring book (About) [PDF] (free)

The SELinux Coloring Book (Github) [PDF] (free)

Soldering is Easy (free, but no PDF, only individual page downloads)

The Imitation Game, by Jim Ottaviani

Comics, Graphic Novels, Zines, Etc.

– About Coding & Tech-

These include comix for kids and comix for pros, but even those for kids are so well done I get a giggle out of them.

BubbleSort Zines. (Includes zines like “Hip Hip Array!” as well as t-shirts and jewelry such as “BYTE ME!”) (not free)

Code Cartoons (such as A Cartoon Guide to Flux and more) (free)

Google Chrome comic by Scott McCloud (free)

Grokking Algorithms: An illustrated guide for programmers and other curious people (~$17 onAmazon)

Hello, Ruby (for ages 5 and up) (not free, but free stuff available for downloading at the site)

How DNS Works (start here) (free)

Linux comics, a small zine. Others from the same author include “Let’s Learn tcpdump,” “Spying on your programs with trace,” and “Networking! ACK!” (free)

What Makes a Clock Tick (free)

Why’s Poignant Guide to Ruby (free)

– About Geekery Other Than Coding –

We are very lucky here to have Jim Ottaviani on campus as a hard core science geek who loves and loves to make comics. I could hardly talk about comics and coding without mentioning his collaboration with Leland Purvis, The Imitation Game: Alan Turing Decoded! But there are more comics and graphic novels about coders, geeks, and the work and culture they love. This is just a few selected titles, not at all comprehensive (try searching cyberpunk graphic novels to see what I mean). [NOTE: These are mostly NOT free, but for sale at bookstores both analog and virtual.]

Alice in Quantumland: An Allegory of Quantum Physics

William Gibson’s Neuromancer

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer (Pantheon Graphic Novels)

Tom Clohosy Cole’s Space Race

(And if this isn’t enough to keep people busy, you can always make your own, one way or another.)


Science Games on Twitter — Hashtags of the Week (HOTW): (Week of January 27, 2014)

Games? On Twitter? Oh, my, yes. And the games, while quite entertaining, also foster serious purposes, from engagement in educational outcomes and flipping the classroom to efforts to reimagine the name of peer-review and professional publication. Here are a few examples (#GreenGlam, #SixWordPeerReview, and #PrincessBrideScience), showing beauty, humor, fun, wit, and some rather insightful thoughts.


I was struck by the creativity of the #GreenGlam project from the Jahren Lab at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. From what I’ve been able to piece together, it seems that #GreenGlam started life as a “gamification” of a learning exercise for the students there. Luckily for the rest of us, it didn’t stop there, but garnered views, pictures, tweets, and engagement from a broader community. I can easily imagine using this concept to assign med students to locate Creative Common pathology images to share meeting specific guidelines, for example. Or images to support health literacy or public health outreach. Best infographic on [X] topics. What do you imagine? Here are some lovely selections from the students in Hawai’i to counterbalance the extreme cold we have here this week.


While the complaints and humor about the idea of peer review remain fairly typical of similar hashtags in other years, I was impressed with how the conversations around #SixWordPeerReview eventually turned to discussions of how to improve the peer review process in general. Here are some of the humorous tweets as well as some of the more thoughtful ones.


Alright, this is an indulgence. I’ve always enjoyed the film Princess Bride, but it never entered my mind to adapt it to a conversation around … science? And science education? And scientific methods? I’m still shaking my head with incredulity and delight at some of the clever puns and offerings from the #PrincessBrideScience stream.

NOTE: The tweet immediately above is in reference to this week’s new scandal:

First posted at THL Blog:

The Imagine Cup

Day 1 - Imagine Cup 2013 Worldwide Finals

In case you haven’t already heard about it, the Imagine Cup is taking place this week, with a livestream hosted by Microsoft for the final award ceremonies TOMORROW MORNING (i.e. 9:30AM Thursday morning July 11, 2013).

Imagine Cup:

I’m not just excited because Matt Smith, the current Doctor Who, is hosting the awards.

Matt Smith on Imagine Cup 2013: What’s Next?:
Imagine Cup Worldwide Finals with Matt Smith is just the beginning!

From their About page.
“The Microsoft Imagine Cup is the world’s premier student technology competition. Over the past ten years, more than 1.65 million students from more than 190 countries have participated in the Imagine Cup.”

Last year the awards went to projects like these.

“D Labs allows tutors to understand the behavioral patterns of children with dyslexia by using games to assist them in alphabet identification and movement recognition.”

“Enable Talk was created to give disabled individuals with limited communication abilities a better way to communicate. It transforms sign language into a form of verbal communication by creating a mobile device that continuously recognizes sign language phonemes.”

“WinSenga is a mobile application that aids health workers as they assist expectant mothers. The algorithm analyzes fetal heart sounds to determine the fetal heart rate (beats per minute) and the age and position of the fetus and then records these readings to the cloud”

“Health Buzz is a cost-effective mobile-based solution that helps healthcare service providers access patients’ electronic medical records through a secure cloud-based storage system.”

“StethoCloud is a cloud-powered, mobile-hybrid stethoscope for early detection of pneumonia. By connecting a custom stethoscope to a mobile phone, the user is able to transmit diagnostic information into a cloud service, reproducing the diagnostic capability of a trained medical doctor.”

“nunav is a navigation system with the potential to reduce vehicle carbon emissions by preventing traffic congestion. The system proactively routes city traffic by calculating the best route for each car and communicating that information to each driver.”

Imagine Cup 2012: Imagine Cup Grants Award Winners:

Now you see why I’m excited? Incredible tech developments coming from the best and brightest high school students from around the world. Open their doors, open your mind, open the world.

Flickr: Imagine Cup:


Team Triton, Malaysia Team Omni-Hearing Solution, Taiwan
Team PhAid, Malta Team Qspark, Qatar
Team Kernel, Côte d’Ivoire Team Sano, Canada


Team Quad Damage presentation
Team vSoft Studio presentation Team Beezinga Presentation
Team MYRA Presentation Team Firebird Presentation
Team Seven Worlds Presentation Team Merado Presentation


Day 1 - Imagine Cup 2013 - Worldwide Finals Day 1 - Imagine Cup 2013 Worldwide Finals
Day 1 - Imagine Cup 2013 - Worldwide Finals Team Combine presentation

At the Movies: Games for Autism

Pic of the day - Puzzles

Gaming is of special interest with the ASD community. Here, ASD stands for Autism Spectrum Disorders, a range of conditions with some common elements but for which the names keep changing, thanks to the folks in charge of the DSM who recently removed Asperger Syndrome as a diagnosis. Personally, I happen to disagree with them, but that isn’t necessarily why I’ll continue to use both terms in this post (Autism and Asperger). Of necessity, most of these videos predate the name change, so it’s easier to use the common lingo from when the videos were made.

Gaming is big in ASD for a few different reasons. (1) Many kids and adults on the ASD spectrum show a strong affinity for games and gaming. One hypothesis is because it is easier to understand social expectations within the structure of games, or that the representations of social interaction in videogames are easier to understand than those with real people and all their complexity of body language and expression. (2) Gaming is being used for education, health behavior change, social change, and more. The combination of so many ASD folk connecting with gaming makes it a good match to reaching out to them to build needed skills and behaviors.

“Many children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have an affinity for video and computer games. CAR’s FaceStation project is designed to capitalize on this interest and use computerized games as a therapy.”
Center for Autism Research: Computerized Gaming.

Last year, University of Michigan engineering students were in the news for having developed some games for the Kinect for kids on the autism spectrum.

Toppo, Greg. Video games help autistic students in classrooms. USA Today 6/1/2012 3:10 AM,

Since I couldn’t figure out how to get the video from that article to embed on, I went hunting for other videos showing ASD kids using the Kinect. Here’s one of the University of Michigan project.

EECSatUM: Software engineering class hacks autism:

And one from the Lakeside Center for Autism, not developing tools so much as using existing ones.

Lakeside Center for Autism uses Kinect:

And other gesture-based computing.

Severely nonverbal autistic teen uses Wii UDraw:

Now, thinking games and play as a window into social skills, here are a few other examples. MyFriendQuest teaches recognition of emotions in facial expressions.

Asperger’s Games: MyFriendQuest, the Trailer.

So does this Secret Agent game for older kids.

Secret Agent Society Computer Game for Autism + Asperger’s Syndrome

Facial recognition is pretty common for autism games. There is a substantial series of face training games from the Center for Autism Research. This is just one.

Facestation Games:TrexTrample
And other FaceStation games: Face Puzzle Fighter | Face Invaders | The Adventures of Pennsylvania Jones | TrainZoom | EmbedFaces | Dr. Face’s Potion Shop

There is actually evidence behind the idea of using videogames and role play for teaching and learning social skills.

Video Games and Social Skills

And there are other kinds of games, not just computer games or video games.

Autism & Board Games at Autistically Inclined

One of the most phenomenal local resources for kids on spectrum is the Wild Swan Theater social skills theater summer camp. My son participated in it for a couple years, and it changed his life. Currently, he is majoring in theater in college. There aren’t any videos of Wild Swan doing their thing, but here is another video about the benefits of theatrical thinking and improv types of thought for people with autism.

TEDxBloomington — Stephen Volan — “Approaching Autism Theatrically”:

Games are also used to teach life skills, like this street crossing game.

DigitalSpace: Street Crossing Safety Game for Autistic Children, for


Autism Games:

Learn by example from other parents how to play with your young autistic child to help them build needed skills. Includes social skills games, attention, and adventures. Check out their Game Collections

Autism Games (AU):

A group from Australia provides free online games for children with autism. “The games are a free resource that aim to help autistic children to develop independent living skills. Please contribute to our forums and help us to develop more games.”

Whiz Kid Games:

A more child-friendly interface to the games from Autism Games (AU).

Glass! Glass! #IfIHadGlass

How It Feels (through Glass):

When I saw this video it had officially 303 views and almost 7 thousand likes. Not quite sure how they managed that. I do suspect that the views are going to skyrocket at some point.

Google Glass video

My stream in Google Plus this morning is almost nothing but buzz about Google Glasses. Since I am inexplicably unable to see my Facebook and Twitter streams, I don’t know what’s going on there, but I suspect it is similar.

One of THOSE days ...

The buzz is because the mythic Google Glasses are about to get out where REGULAR folk can see them. They are asking for folk to apply to get a pair (in 50 words or less) via social media. (Please note, this is NOT my application.)

What would you do if you had Glass? Answer with #ifihadglass.

I don’t expect that I will get one, since I don’t have a good track record for getting “freebies” of any sort, but I bet some of you will, and I want you to have the chance. Oh, do please read the fine print, this is NOT a freebie. You have to pay $1,500, live in the USA, and be able to fly to San Francisco, Los Angeles, or New York to pick it up. Me, single mom of special needs kid, not gonna happen. So I have nothing to lose by pushing the info out to all of you, and hoping one of my friends gets one and will tell me ALL about it!

As I scan the stream for creative ideas being listed, I am seeing an enormous number of folk talking about capturing moments with family and loved ones (especially births!), and memory aid & notetaking, as well as travel of all sorts and mapping. Also mentioned often, of course, were sales, marketing, and porn. 😉 Here are some of the less common ideas I’ve seen and which have impressed me.

EDUCATION: In the classroom, for kids, language learning, journalism in context, and more (Alexandria Mooney and Chase Masters and Francine Hardaway)

PEOPLE: Street photography (and anthropology type investigations) (JJ Bentley and Renat Zarbailov)

FOOD: Cooking instruction & management (Rebecca Otis, Lauren Atkins, and
Jake Croston)

#AR/GAMES FOR LEARNING: Augmented reality role-playing game for learning in the forest (Luka Leduc-Boutin)

WORK: Integration with job functions for construction & architecture, hazardous waste management training (Kevin Reedy and Mark Dunton)

HEALTH: Life as a patient with an invisible disability or a child with special needs
(Frank Garufi Jr. and
Lori Friedrich)

(This is what I would want to do – show folks what city life is like with no car, with a kid with special needs, helping folk find/use/understand health information and work with their healthcare teams. I’d also LOVE to see some scientists get one for a day-in-the-life 365 type of project. And I can’t wait to see what real artists do with creating new unexpected kinds of artwork and storytelling. Perhaps relive re-enact historical events? And the so obvious extension of the Virtual Photowalks project, expanding the lives of the homebound. And please give one to an astronaut, ok? And a hospice worker. And an inner city kid, if you can keep them alive long enough to use it without it getting stolen or broken. Lives that are going unseen, stories that are going untold and unwitnessed.)

And possibly the least inspirational and most amusing:

HUMOR: “i would never have a problem with bad customers because i would replace their heads with rubber chicken masks so i could retain my customer service smile.”
Matthew Stone

At the Movies: Games for Healing

I found so many great videos related to gaming, that I am going to have to subdivide them into sections. I’m thinking health, social change, education, just for starters. There several ways to slice each of these, so who knows? I’m starting with of the health-related gaming apps and tools that really caught my interest, and will expand upon some of this in the future.

SickKids Pain Squad iPhone App
Sick Kids App:

A really fascinating idea, this app uses simulations of the old “cops & robbers” type of games and action TV shows to engage kids in tracking down the “bad guy” in their cancer treatment.

truth presents: Tommy Castillo:
The Truth: Flavor Monsters:

There are several videos of this game in Youtube and on the website for the game. I chose this one not because it shows gameplay but because it gives some explanation of the ideas behind the game, which focuses on awareness of chemicals and food additives.

FACT: In 2009, flavors were outlawed from cigarettes. But flavors still exist in 45 other tobacco products. Humanity needs you. Stop The Industry’s gunk spread before it’s too late. Download Flavor Monsters today. Free on iOS and Google Play.”

ZOMBIES, RUN! A running game & audio adventure
Zombies Run Game:

Speaking of monster invasions, check out Zombies, Run! This is one of the better known of a type of games called “exergames” or “exergaming”. They combine exercise with a game. In this game, zombies chase you, and you run. You get feedback from the game telling you how close the zombies are to catching you.

The “What’s a Zamzee” Song

Zamzee combines exergaming and kids, with an app to make moving fun. Personally, I suspect Dance Dance Revolution already has everyone else beat in this respect, but the idea is sound. Evidently it works pretty well, since this video was designed and made by an actual kid.

Bad Trip: Navigate My Mind from KwanAlan on Vimeo.

Bad Trip: Navigate My Mind

Bad Trip completely blows my mind. It is a combination of gaming and psychology.

“Since November 2011, every moment of my life has been logged by a video camera that mounts on my eyeglasses, producing an expanding database of digitalized visual memories. Using custom virtual reality software, I design a virtual mindscape where people can navigate and experience my memories and dreams. The mindscape grows continually as fresh memories and dreams come in.”

While I am not suggesting that this particular game be used for health, I am thinking that this could be a really exciting approach to work with patients of a variety of sorts. The obvious connection is for patients with some kinds of mental illness, but I could also see this idea being repurposes to help explain the lives of persons with invisible disabilities, or a kind of storytelling approach toward learning about a new diagnosis through the life of someone who already has it and has had it for a while. Very creative!

Tech-Savvy Fitness by @MarqueA2

I thought I had posted this eons ago. I was just browsing my draft blogposts (started several new ones this week), and found it UNPOSTED. I’m sorry, folk.

Marc Stephens is a friend & colleague. I’ve worked with him for several years now, even co-authoring articles. While Marc has always been an active sort of guy, I’ve been particularly impressed lately with his recent fitness kick. This has become a real change of lifestyle. Being a true geek, Marc has naturally incorporated a huge variety of tech tools into this, from gadgets to geocaching, apps and tracking and networks, personal fitness data collection and management and all that personal informatics geekiness…. He’s perfectly happy to test things out and then share what he’s learned with others, to the extent of teaching courses for med students and coaching individuals. He has collected such great stuff, I wanted to share it with people, especially since it seems relatively underutilized at the moment.

Here is a video of an interview with Marc telling the story of his transformation and motivations.

“A Fitness Journey” (08March2012Edit):

Here’s the really primo collection of awesome resources from his popular class. Please note there are TWO extensive slide decks. Good stuff.

Tech-Savvy Fitness, Day 1

Tech-Savvy Fitness, Day 2

Want more about Marc and these projects? Marc has a blog, and there was a news article about all this.

Tech-Savvy Fitness (blog):

Med Students explore connected health through Tech Savvy Fitness:

I collected a few more links, from other sources, just because that’s what I do, but hey! Marc is the real expert. Ask him what he thinks.

ABC World News Now : High Tech Fitness Apps and Gadgets: Best Exercise and Fitness Apps for iPhone and iPod Touch, Let your iPod be your trainer.

Fox News: Partner up with these new high-tech fitness accessories for a boost in style, motivation, and protection.

Greatist: The 63 Best Health & Fitness Apps.

Mashable: 10 Fitness Apps That Boost Your Stamina, Speed and Strength.