Play Balloon Brigade to Find Your Strengths as a Worker

Balloon BrigadeHere is an online game that I am playing. My task: To water my flowers and to defend my “contraption”, on the right side of the screen, from the burny thingies that march over the hill from the left. My weapon: water balloons that I can fill on my contraption (until they sometimes burst) and flip (with a swipe of my finger) at the hot enemy hordes, thus extinguishing them. The challenges vary. Sometimes, there are just a few fiery intruders. If I throw high and hard enough, I can catch them as they first enter my space. Sometimes, though, I miss them. They toast my flowers and come right up to the foot of my contraption, trying to burn it down. No time to fully fill balloons then. Just a quick squirt and then fling, fling, fling the flaccid bags down to protect the contraption base.

How well I performed, through sixteen challenges, may offer a clue to where my strengths as a worker lie. Am I a strategic thinker? Am I quick? Do I think ahead to protect the flowers at my base when there is leisure to do so?

The game is called “Balloon Brigade”, available as a free iPad or iPhone download from Knack (, a San Francisco-based company that aims to analyze potential employee strengths based on game play.



Author Irene McDermott talks with Bill Leff in Chicago

Bill Leff

Up all night, Chicago? Tune into Bill Leff’s show on WGN radio 720 to catch author Irene McDermott  discussing web sites that can save you money on travel.

Missed it live? Listen to the podcast:

Learn stuff for free through iTunes U.

iTunes UIn 2007, Apple jumped on the free online college course bandwagon through its iTunes application. Here you will find iTunes U, a selection of recorded videos, ebook, .pdf files and podcasts from courses offered by a variety of schools including Harvard, Stanford, and Earlham Community School District. These days, iTunes U offers “courses”, as noted by the binding on the left side of the course icon, and “collections”, that is, gatherings of lectures on a topic. For example, “Statistics 101”, taught by Harvard’s Joseph Blitzstein, was designed as a class, whereas “What Great Bosses Know” is a collection of podcasts from Poyntner Intsitute’s Jill Geisler. All are available on a desktop computer through iTunes or through the iTunes U app for iPad or iPhone. These courses are offered freely, but one cannot get college credit for them.


Visit to find holiday travel tips

Independentraveler.comHere are travel tips of all kinds for planes, trains, and automobiles from this subsidiary of TripAdvisor. In addition to offering travel deals and message boards on which to chat with other sojourners, the site features traveling advice in a section called Travel Resources ( with articles like “How to Find a Clean Hotel Room” and “Top 10 Reasons to Travel by Train.” A subset of this section features a bi-weekly column called “Travelers Ed” written by veteran globetrotter Ed Hewett. Hewett discusses the implications of recent travel news and advises how to cope with it.

The Independent Traveler

Download a smarphone app to check voting rules in your state

Election ProtectionThe Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights under Law and others have joined together “to deploy the Election Protection Smartphone Application to provide all information and resources, in English and Spanish (branded “Ya Es Hora”), that voters need to fully participate in the 2012 elections.” Download this free Android app to register to vote, verify your registration, see the voting rules for your state, and to get contact information to report a voting issue. (It does not appear that this app is available for iOS products.) Use this app to get voter ID information for your state, as well as voter registration and absentee voter information. The website also offers state voting information.

Election Protection

LittleBits teaches children how to use microcontrollers

“It is easy to learn how to use these controllers,” says Travis Good, editor at Make magazine. “Even kids can do it.” They sure can with a kit from littleBitslittleBits. On these microprocessor boards, each color is an input, a processor, or an output. The parts snap together and in only one way so that it is impossible for inexperienced users to make a mistake. Kids can prototype systems without worrying that they will damage the parts by lack of knowledge. LittleBits are pricier than the plain Arduino. A starter kit costs almost $90.


Sew interactivity into your clothes with a LilyPad Arduino

LilyPad ArduinoSparkFun in Boulder, Colorado makes and sells the LiliPad Arduino, a flexible microcontroller that is designed to be installed in a fabric object. Designed by Dr. Leah Buechley, Associate Professor at the MIT Media Lab, this bendy microprocessor can even be put through the washing machine. (Buechley made this “Turn Signal Bike Jacket” with it: The LiliPad Arduino costs between ten and thirty dollars, depending on its complexity. SparkFun also sells plenty of other helpful electronic bits and pieces. “Whether it’s a robot that can cook your breakfast or a GPS cat tracking device,” they write, “our products and resources are designed to make the world of electronics more accessible to the average person.” They offer online tutorials, too.