Decorating a home office when you’re a gigantic nerd

I’ve been working at home now for a month and a half, and part of the deal was turning the attic into my home office. We put up shelves, reorganised all my books, and then I started pulling things out of boxes, moving things around, and although it’s still a work-in-progress, it’s still filled with things I like.

See, I really like having things around me. They give me something to look at when I need a five-second break.

Other people keep on complaining about how cluttered I make things, but it’s not clutter to me – everything has a place, and it’s all a good place.

So here are just some of the things around me.

A shelf with graphic novels. In front of the books is a card with a magikarp on it, a small toy catbus, a small lucky cat, a small elephant, a knitted pumpkin, and a cone made from resin with glitter and rocks in it.

A Magikarp card from Joshua Dunlop, a catbus from My Neighbour Totoro, a maneki neko, a little fuzzy elephant, a knitted pumpkin, and a cone of orgonite, in front of my Ernie Bushmiller Nancy compendiums, Junji Ito’s Cat Diary, and a bunch of Love and Rockets compilations.

A stuffed toy Naga and a stuffed toy Magikarp tucked between shelves

A stuffed Magikarp and a stuffed Naga.

Two Barbie dolls still in their boxes, next to a container of knitting needles

Game Developer Barbie and Computer Engineer Barbie next to a jar of knitting needles, with “steampunk” goggles in front of them.

A bookshelf with a Funko Pop of Jaws next to a drawing of Godzilla

A Funko Pop Jaws with an air tank in his mouth and a drawing of Godzilla by Anson Aguirre Firth.

Four Twin Peaks Funko Pops next to a picture of the Black Lodge

Twin Peaks Funko Pops (The Log Lady, Audrey Horne, Dale Cooper, and Bob), in a laser-cut box I made, next to a print of the Black Lodge, from Cult Locations Ink.

A comic board with a hand-drawn sketch by Evan Dorkin

A sketch of Bill from the Eltingville Club by Evan Dorkin, that he did for me at San Diego Comic Con in 1995. Behind him is a Funko Pop of Deckard from Blade Runner 2049.

A collection of Star Trek novels on a bookshelf

Star Trek novels, some of which are from around 1990 and still have “property of Katie Bolin” on the inside front cover. (Come on, I was 13.)

A tape dispenser in the shape of a unicorn and a mug filled with small keychains

A rainbow tape dispenser in the shape of a unicorn and a Jeff Goldblum mug currently filled with keychains.

A photo and a postcard hanging off of clips with a skull on a shelf behind them

A postcard of Miss Atomic Bomb 1957 and a photo of my dad and my husband, with a skull behind them. The eyes have LEDs that glow. (The skull, not my dad or husband. Although I wouldn’t put it past them.)

A picture in an embroidery hoop and a calendar hanging on a wall

A Pikachu t-shirt I turned into a wall decoration, and a Poundland Kitten calendar where I’ve been decorating all the kittens to match the season. Being August, this kitten likes festivals. Obviously.

A mirror ball hanging from the ceiling

And, finally, the obligatory mirror ball.

I’m speaking on Monday, August 12th

I briefly mentioned it in my post about my WordCamp Belfast talk, but since it’s all definite and being advertised and there are pictures and everything, I thought I should post about it here.


Monday, August 12th.

At Antenna.

Starting at 6:30pm.

Caching and Documenting.

My talk is titled “You Are Not A Precious Snowflake: Document Your Work”. I’ll get into why you should document, what makes it good for you (and other people), and easy ways to get started. Plus ancient complaints, lost gold mines, and, for once, no Elmer McCurdy.

(It was touch and go on that last bit. He might pop up.)

Samathy Barratt is talking about algorithms and caching, so if you’re hoping for good techie talk, she’s definitely going to bring the code. I’m going to bring the soft skills, and I think it’ll be a really nice combination.

I’ll put the slides and my notes up here afterwards, so you don’t have to worry about missing it if you’re not in Nottingham, but if you are, it’d be nice to see you.

The Talking Pictures TV podcast

You already know how much I love Talking Pictures TV. And you know how much I love the podcast.

Well, I’m happy to say that I am now a reviewer on the podcast, and you can find me on the July episode talking about Dilemma, a delightful little 1962 thriller about a man who discovers his wife missing and a dead guy in the bath.

So if you want to hear my annoying American accent talking about a random film, you can listen to that. And then you can subscribe, because I’ll probably do more over the coming months.

Using GraphViz for fun and nerdity

A lot of people I know program. They have pet languages, they develop things, they do all good things. (Well, except for those who program in JavaScript. What. No. That’s for making pop-ups. Stop doing things.)

I don’t really know any languages, but there is one language that I love playing with.


GraphViz is pretty much exactly what it says – it’s a language that produces visual graphs from code.

Which means that instead of oh-so-carefully trying to make a circle and draw little lines to and from, you can just type, and then the system makes all the circles and lines and colours for you.

And it’s pretty easy to work with too. Arrows = arrows, words = boxes, colours are in word format, and you can get some lovely things done just by typing a few things:

digraph G {
     node [ shape = oval, style = filled, fillcolor = pink];
     node [ shape= square, style = filled, fillcolor = lightblue];
     node [ shape = diamond, style = filled, fillcolor = grey];
     One -> Two -> Three;
A example of a GraphViz graph - going "One" (a pink oval) -> "Two" (a light blue square) -> "Three" (A grey diamond)

There’s even a web version, so you can make quick and easy graphs in like seconds.

I like using it for flowcharts. This is one I did for people donating stuff to my local local hackspace:

A flowchart focusing on donating things to the local Hackspace.  "Can I donate this?" goes to "Is there a consumables box for it?" and "Do not donate". "Is there a consumables box for it?" goes to "I suppose" and "Not really". "I suppose" goes to "Put it away then". "Not really" goes to "Do not donate".

But this isn’t all I do with GraphViz, even though flowcharts are so much fun and easy and beautiful and I love them.

I also obsessively play The Sims 4. Obsessively. Like, whenever I’m bored and boring and just want something to do, I play Sims.

I also like doing legacies, where I stick with a family and just keep going with them through births, marriages, deaths, pets, new jobs, whatever. I start with a single woman, she ends up with a townie, it goes on and on and on and then the next thing I know…

I’m on my 14th generation with my current family.

My current Sim, Lyric Marshall. She is a young woman with light brown skin and red hair with a blonde ombre effect, and is wearing a hippie shirt, ripped up jeans, a bright turquoise necklace, and a pair of trainers.

This is Lyric Marshall. She’s a young adult, working as a sous chef, living in a nice house in Strangeville. Pretty laid back, likes to cook, has a toddler, a cat, and a small dog.

This is Cherish Marshall, the toddler daughter of Lyric Marshall. She has bright red hair in two ponytails, light green skin, and is wearing a blue tank top, grey jeans, and brightly coloured trainers.

This is Cherish Marshall. She’s the toddler and she’s the 14th generation of Marshalls. She’s green, because her father’s an alien.

So how does my obsessive playing of the Sims match up with my love of GraphViz?

Well, like this:

Ovals are Marshalls and octagons are townies. The colours are unnatural skin colours. As you can see, there are blue aliens and green aliens and then it gets paler the further down you get.

Yeah, okay, there’s a bit of crossing the streams, but that’s also because I like to know whether or not alien genetics change depending on whether or not you’re a blue alien or a green alien. Also, apparently, once you hit second cousins or first cousins once removed, you can totally have kids together. Before that, you’re too related.

This is just the direct descendants too, tracing up from Cherish all the way to Clare.

This is how the family actually is:

The full Marshall family lineage, from Clare to Cherish, all 14 generations and multiple families.
Click to see the full version.

Big families! A whole family of vampires (who are diamonds)! So many lines! Lines lines lines!

But the code is so easy to work with!

digraph Marshalls {
     splines = compound;
     edge [arrowhead=none,arrowtail=none, color=grey];
     node [ shape = oval, color = pink];
          Clare Star Cataleya Makenna Kyla Cleo Aurora Rebecca;
     node [ shape = oval, color = lightskyblue];
          Lucas Mason Demarcus Yusuf Harrison Orson;
     node [ shape = octagon, color = lightskyblue];
          Johnny Solomon Argus Jimmie Joaquin;
     node [ shape = octagon, fillcolor = azure4, style = filled, color = lightskyblue];
     node [ shape = oval, fillcolor = azure3, style=filled, color=pink];
     node [ color = grey, shape = circle, label = "", height = 0.01, width = 0.01];
          cj1 ss2 sa2 cp3 cj3 cjo3;
     {rank = same; Johnny -> cj1 -> Clare};
          cj1 -> Star;
          cj1 -> Lucas;
          cj1 -> Mason;
     {rank = same; Solomon -> ss2 -> Star -> sa2 -> Argus};
          ss2 -> Makenna;
          ss2 -> Cataleya;
          sa2 -> Kyla;
     Kyla -> Demarcus;
     Makenna -> Cleo;
     Cleo -> Yusuf;
     {rank = same; Cataleya -> cp3 -> Patrick; Cataleya -> cj3 -> Jimmie; Cataleya -> cjo3 -> Joaquin};
          cj3 -> Harrison; 
          cp3 -> Poppy;
          cjo3 -> Aurora;
          cjo3 -> Orson;
     Aurora -> Rebecca;

So this is what I love doing in my evenings. Me, the Sims, and GraphViz.

How to make sponsoring a WordCamp easy

Last weekend was WordCamp Bristol.  It was also the last WordCamp, for a while, that I’ll be attending as a sponsor.

I’ve been attending WordCamps for three years as a sponsor for both Heart Internet and tsoHost, and over the time, I’ve picked up a few tricks.  Which I’ll share with everyone, because they’re not just great for WordCamps, they’re great for all events.

So here it is: Kate’s Extremely Lazy But Effective Event Planning

Write up the schedule and print it out

With a written out schedule, you can highlight the breaks and lunch times, which lets you know exactly when you need to be awake and cheerful, and when you can take a break. You can also include a map where you’ve marked the venue, social venue, and hotel, so you can get a good guide as to how far you’re going to need to travel.

Make sure you have the essentials

Not swag. Not tablecloths. Not roller banners.  Here are your essentials:

  1. Knife
  2. Tape
  3. Sharpie
  4. Painkillers

A good boxcutter not only makes it easy to open up all your boxes, it also makes it easy to cut tape and cut down boxes. You’ll also be the hero of the other sponsors, when they realise they can’t get through the layers of tape on their own boxes.

Tape comes in handy when you inevitably have stuff to ship back.  Go for clear packing tape and make sure you have a full roll, just in case.

A Sharpie lets you write mailing labels, quick signs, changes to your name badge, whatever. 

And painkillers are really important on that second day, when you’ve been sitting in an uncomfortable folding chair and are about ready to scream.

If you have to brand yourself, make it as comfortable as possible

I’ve seen too many sponsors sweltering in polyester blend polo shirts. If you have the choice, don’t make anyone wear a uniform.  If you don’t have the choice, make it as comfortable as possible – light cotton t-shirts are the best, and make certain that you have a full range of sizes (and fits!) to match your team. 

Or if you want to be lazy, slap a brand sticker on your plain t-shirt and you’re done.

Be the coolest cat on the block

Even on the mildest of spring days, it can get ridiculously hot in the sponsors area.  Or, if you’re like me, because you’re so busy setting everything up and lifting heavy boxes, you’re getting sweaty anyway. 

Take tissues to wipe your face, and a small plug-in fan or a hand fan to keep yourself cool while you’re sitting there. And if you think the heat is going to make you stink, face wipes and antiperspirant can be tucked into your kit and save the day.

Travel down the day before and leave the day after

If you can do it, it saves you so much stress before and after the event, especially if it’s going to be a longish trip. You don’t have to rush the packing up on the last day, you don’t have to worry about being late on the day of, and it just makes things a lot smoother.

On the other hand, if you like being at home, then head home right after the event, but there’s really something to be said for lazily waking up the next day, enjoying a hotel breakfast, and then slooooowly making it to the train station.

Cheap snacks are the best snacks

Poundland is your friend. Poundland has all those treats that someone will say “Oh! I haven’t seen those in ages!” and be delighted by them. And, unsurprisingly, they’re just a pound. 

Poundland also usually has those goldfish-bowl shaped cocktail globes, which give you an easy place to put your snacks without having to worry about breakage. I usually end up spending a fiver or a tenner at the most, and the collection of Maoams, Refreshers, and Chupa Chups brings everyone to my stand.

You don’t have to stick around

You’ll be invited to pre-events, post-events, during-events, whatever.  And you don’t have to stick around if you don’t want to.  If you’ve been on your feet all day talking to everyone, going to a small and loud room with bad catering and the same people you’ve had to talk to all day can be absolutely exhausting.

Sometimes you just want quiet and a giant bacon cheeseburger. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

If you paint your nails, splurge for shellac

You want to look impeccable while at the event? Get them done professionally and get the UV shellac style.  They don’t chip and stay shiny.  And the ridiculous amount of glitter you can have on them is astounding.

This one quick banner trick stumps event planners!

This works for those roller banners you get that have one pole that goes up the back.  You always think you can’t do it, especially if you’re a bit shorter, but you can.

  1. Put the base on the floor, but don’t swing out the feet yet.
  2. Set the pole up.
  3. Put the pole into the base and make sure it’s right where it needs to be.
  4. Tilt the pole/base combo towards you.
  5. Pull out the roller banner towards you, tilting the pole/base down as much as you need to pull the banner up to the top.
  6. Hook onto the pole.
  7. Straighten it back up.
  8. Swing out the feet.

And that’s it. If you’re going to be sponsoring an event any time soon, I hope these tips help!

You, me, and Talking Pictures TV

Talking Pictures TV Logo

I adore Talking Pictures TV. It’s a bastion of independent television, an treasure trove of oddities and wonders, and a place where I can watch a lot of bad movies.

It’s the kind of station where you can watch a 1960s’ kitchen-sink drama, a 1930s’ murder mystery, a 1950s’ giant radioactive insect B-movie, a five-minute film-reel of someone riding the Big Dipper at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, and then finish off with an 80s’ psychological horror, all in the span of a lazy Saturday afternoon and evening.

It’s where I saw Seance on a Wet Afternoon and Spellbound for the first time, as well as The Trollenberg Terror and Nomads. Not to mention regular rewatchings of The House on Haunted Hill and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

It also has one of the easiest-to-read online schedules I have ever seen. No need to navigate around complicated tables! No fancy scripting or barrages of advertising! Just clean, clear, and understandable listings I can go an entire month ahead and plan out what I want to record.

(I have a lot of movies from TPTV on my Tivo. I can quit any time. Really.)

I just don’t love it because it gives me a chance to catch movies I’ve heard about but have never seen. I also love it because it reminds me of my childhood, sitting around watching old movies on AMC or TCM or the local UHF channels, where you got weird local ads and weirder random films. Or the late late movies my dad would tape alongside Popeye cartoons and random music videos.

It’s obviously run with love, and it also has the only podcast I’ll listen to that runs over two hours per episode.

So there we go. You, me, and Talking Pictures TV.