Monthly Archives: February 2015

Google and Square prep new payment options in the wake of Apple Pay

There’s no denying Apple Pay has grabbed a share of retail payments, and the support of banks, since its arrival. However, it appears both Google and Square are working on new products to keep customers’ attention. According to The Information, the folks in Mountain View are testing a service called “Plaso” that would allow Android users to say their initials at the register in order to complete a transaction. Unfortunately, there aren’t any specifics on how that would work with Google Wallet: the system for cashless payments that arrived long before Apple Pay, but never really took off. Of course, Google will have to do more with its upcoming release than just handle payments. The Apple Watch is launching soon, and that wearable, along with the newest NFC-equipped iPhones, could sort public transit passes, building security credentials and more.

The report also mentions Square, a company that has lost ground not only to Cupertino’s system, but to similar compact credit card readers from the likes of Amazon, PayPal and others. It’s said to be working on its own Android tablet for wrangling those financial transactions, offering a standalone device as an alternative to using iPads with Square’s retail setup. Those tiny scanner dongles work with both iOS and Android Devices, but the company’s current stationary stand reader only plays nice with Apple’s slate.

Share Button

Inside the Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady

Image via Rachel’s Writings

An English contemporary of Beatrix Potter, Edith Holden was also a talented watercolor artist and naturalist. Although unpublished during her lifetime, Holden’s collectively titled Nature Notes for 1906 was posthumously published in 1977 as The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady. Millions of copies of the vibrantly illustrated book now reside on shelves around the world.


Originally intended as a guide for her art students, the book is filled with observations and drawings of British Midlands flora and fauna. Dragonflies, wildflowers, birds, and even poetry grace the pages of The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady.

Continue reading

Share Button

Meet the Lutz pod, the UK’s first driverless ‘car’

We’re all pretty familiar with Google’s self-driving car, right? The smiley-faced automobile has been stealing headlines since its first reveal, but now the UK government wants a turn in the spotlight. A couple of months ago, we heard about a series of driverless car trials it was funding to push Britain’s R&D image. That’s now been backed up with an official review which concluded that automated vehicles are safe enough to be tested on public roads, provided a safety driver is present and they comply with normal traffic laws.

It’s a massive green light for any researcher in the UK that’s been interested in this technology. While a household name like Google isn’t involved just yet, we’re already seeing some vehicles that could fly the flag for Britain. One of those is the Lutz, a small driverless pod with a long, arching windscreen and chunky, futuristic wheel caps. It’s designed for pedestrianised spaces rather than the open road, but its unusual design and Union Jack decals should make it just as memorable as Google’s friendly car.

The Lutz can seat two people and scoot around for 40 miles, or roughly six hours on a single charge. With a top speed of 15mph, it’s by no means the fastest mode of public transportation, but it should be just fine for helping commuters, shoppers and the elderly complete short journeys. It’s packing some serious hardware under the hood too: twin cameras and LIDAR sensors are fitted on the front, alongside a further two cameras and a single LIDAR on the back. They’re flanked by another two cameras on either side, which combine to give the vehicle a detailed 360-degree picture of its surroundings.

Share Button

A Book DIY Project Your BFF Will Love

A Bookish DIY for Your BFFPin this!

It’s starting to feel a lot like fall here in Pittsburgh, which makes me want to sip warm drinks and laugh with my bestie, Alicia. The problem is, she lives across the country, and we don’t get to see one another as much as we’d like. That’s where this project comes in!

With September being National Literacy Month, the ModCloth Charitable Giving Committee hosted a book sale featuring all the thrifted hardcovers we used on our Geek Chic photo shoot back in July. All the proceeds were donated to the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council. I’m not an avid reader, but in the interest of helping a good cause, I decided to use one of the books in a new way — as a super-fancy case for a fall mix I’ll send my friend in California. Check out the tutorial, and use your imagination — what other little presents could you package in this clever box? –Marne O., Photo Producer

Continue reading

Share Button

Box’s private security key helps keep spying eyes off your files

Box CEO Aaron Levie at his company's IPO

Box already encrypts the files you store in its cloud, but it also stores the necessary security key on its own servers. If a government wants to look at your data, it can theoretically order Box to hand over the key and expose all your sensitive info without your knowledge. The company just unveiled a clever way to fight these kinds of intrusions, though. It has a new paid option, Enterprise Key Management, that gives the corporate crowd a secondary key held on a separate, privately rented device. If you’re using EKM, the only way to access your files is to have full use of both keys — hackers and snoops can’t look at your company’s files without giving you a clue that something’s up.

The service is in beta right now, and it’ll take months before it’s available to many customers. There’s no mention of a personal version, either. However, EKM could still give Box an edge in countries that don’t trust the US following revelations about the NSA’s mass surveillance programs. Box is effectively promising that it won’t turn against its clients at a moment’s notice, and that even determined attackers would have to go out of their way to break in.

Share Button

Court clamps down on warrantless surveillance case against NSA

Utah Cyberattacks NSA

This week, a US District Court judge ruled in favor of the NSA in a case challenging its tactics of intercepting messages on the internet without a warrant. California District Judge Jeffrey White said that the plaintiffs in Jewel vs. NSA didn’t establish the legal standing needed to pursue claims that the US government violated their Fourth Amendment rights. White ruled that there wasn’t enough evidence presented by the plaintiffs, and that the risk of revealing of state secrets would prevent the case from going forward even if they had. The group, who are all AT&T customers being represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), still has a case against the wider telephone record collection and other forms of mass surveillance employed by the National Security Agency. Jewel vs. NSA was filed in 2008 and is one of the earliest lawsuits brought against the federal government over its monitoring practices, preceding the whistleblowing work of Edward Snowden.

Share Button

How to Cook Sautéed Shredded Pork with Sweet Bean Sauce? Sautéed Shredded Pork with Sweet Bean Sauce Recipe


200g pork fillet

Seasonings: 4 green onions, 250g cooking oil, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon cooking wine, 2teaspoons (tomato) ketchup, 3 teaspoons sweet bean sauce, 1 egg, and some starch.

Note: The amount of the seasonings listed above can be adjusted according to personal taste.


  • Clean and shred the pork fillet. Starch the shredded pork with the egg white, starch, soy sauce and cooking wine.
  • Clean and shred the green onion.

Cooking Instructions:

  • Heat some cooking oil in a wok. Add shredded pork and stir-fry until it changes to a white color. Tip out at once and set aside.
  • Leave some cooking oil in the wok and heat on high heat. Add ketchup, sweet bean sauce and white sugar. Stir-fry on low heat until fragrant and bubbling. Add the shredded pork and quick-fry on high heat until it has cooked thoroughly and absorbed the seasoning.
  • The sautéed shredded pork with sweet bean sauce is ready. Dish it out and sprinkle the shredded green onion on top.

How to Cook Sautéed Shredded Pork with Sweet Bean Sauce? Sautéed Shredded Pork with Sweet Bean Sauce Recipe.

Share Button

Nian Gao – Chinese New Year Cake

The Symbolism of Niangao

The pronunciation of niangao sounds like ‘year high’ (年高), which symbolizes a higher income, a higher position, the growth of children, and generally the promise of a better year. Niangao was originally used as an offering in ritual ceremonies before it gradually became a Spring Festival food.

Niangao Types

Niangao is usually made from glutinous rice flour, wheat starch, salt, water and sugar. It is delicious when steamed, fried, or even eaten cold. Within the extensive land of China, customs vary in different areas: white rice cake is eaten in northern China, yellow rice cake in the northern frontier of China, water-mill-made rice cake from southern China, and Hongguigao (红龟糕 ‘red turtle cake’) from Taiwan, are the most representative ones.

The flavors ofniangao can be divided into two major kinds according to geographical differences: sweet rice cake is usually made in northern China by steaming or frying, while, in southern China, rice cake can be sweet or savory, cooked by steaming, sliced-frying, or even cooking into soup.

Beijing New Year Cake

In Beijing, New Year cakes are on sale in many Islamic snack shops, especially during the Spring Festival. They are also found at places like Qianmen Snack Street and Jiumen Snack Shop.

Guangdong Niangao and Hainan Niangao

Guangdong Niangao is often like a soft, sticky dough, made from glutinous rice flour, peanut oil, and shelled melon seeds, and wrapped in bamboo leaves. Rice cakes made in this way taste soft and sweet.

Hainan New Year cakes are made before the Spring Festival as gifts to share, with glutinous rice flour, sugar, sesame seeds, red dates and water as the main ingredients. There are some special ways to enjoy a Hainan Niangao, such as frying, baking, and boiling.

Jiangsu Niangao and Zhejiang Niangao

In the Jiangsu and Zhejiang areas you have different choices of New Year cake fillings, such as sweet-scented osmanthus flower sugar, lard oil, and sweet red beans.

Traditional steps to make a rice cake are: first, put some steamed rice into a big stone container; second, beat it with a long handled wooden hammer until the rice becomes a glutinous paste; then take the paste out, cut it into small pieces (about 150 grams per piece); and lastly, roll them out into 3-centimeter strips. Many people in rural areas still observe this ancient method to make New Year cakes.

In Jiangsu Province, especially in Suzhou, osmanthus flower sugar rice cakes and lard oil rice cakes are very popular, both made from glutinous rice. While in Zhejiang, the most common one is Niningbo Niangao, made from rice which has been crushed in a water mill.

Nian Gao – Chinese New Year Cake.


Share Button

Decades of Dresses from Cannes All in One Infographic

WebPin this!

The Cannes Film Festival is officially in full swing. Film fans that we are, we’re obviously keeping close watch on which flicks take the top awards, but let’s be real: Until those films make their way to theatres, we’re way more interested in what’s walking down the red carpet.

So we were delighted to come across this fab infographic of notable styles worn to past Festivals De Cannes. If it looks familiar, that’s because it was created by MediaRun, the same agency that created this illustration of dresses worn by “Best Actress” winners at the Academy Awards. It’s certainly a diverse group, from Madonna’s two piece in 1991, to Britt Ekland’s floral floor-length number in 1969 (my personal favorite is Vanessa Redgrave’s polka-dotted micro-mini-and-leggings combo from 1967). Take a look and be sure to let us know in the comments what takes top prize in your book.

Share Button

Say Yes to This Trend: Temporary Tattoos

ShineOnTattoosPin this!

Image via ShineOnTattoos

Remember those silly temporary tattoos that you used to wear as a wee kiddo? There were those giant yellow smiley faces, jolly cartoon characters and, of course, funky phrases like “WOW!” and “COOL!” that you could put anywhere on your being.

Well, temporary tattoos are totally back and ready for action. Only stead of being worn by the “12 and under” crowd, trendsetters and fashion-forward females are donning them. And instead of goofy smiley faces, we’re talking deluxe tattoos that look so good, they even pass as the real deal.

We scoured Instagram and Etsy for some examples. Let us know which are your favorites!

Continue reading

Share Button