terriko: (Default)
2015-03-02 05:30 pm

Hello Kitty Amigurumi ("Bring me the head of Hello Kitty!")

This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

Hello Kitty Crochet is a book I have coveted since I knew it existed, in part due to nostalgia as I remember getting little cute Japanese things on occasion as a kid, but also because it just looked like a fantastic set of amigurumi crochet patterns with lots of details and cute photos.


Hello Kitty Crochet: Supercute Amigurumi…
Hello Kitty Crochet: Supercute Amigurumi Patterns for Sanrio Friends
by Mei Li Lee


J’s parents were sweet enough to get me a copy for my birthday. So of course, the thing to do is to make the titular character and send her back with a thank you note! I have no idea what they’re ever going to do with a little Hello Kitty, but what has one ever done with Hello Kitty other than admire her, really?


I finished her head pretty quickly, then got side-tracked by something else so there was just this severed head lying around the house for a week:

Hello Kitty Amigurumi


Eventually, though, she got some more body parts:


Hello Kitty Amigurumi


The strange one there is the bow. I am quite sure that there’s an error in the book, because they have you doing 4 sc and then 3 sc in one, which would give you a total of 7 sc across… but then the next line says you should turn and do 9 sc plus another 3-in-one. Does not compute, Hello Kitty. Through looking at the pictures and some online research my best guess is that you’re not supposed to turn your work front to back but rather make an oval by crocheting around the other side of the original chain, so that’s what I wound up doing.


Here’s a picture where you can see it better:

Hello Kitty Amigurumi


And here’s one so you can see that she does indeed have a tail:

Hello Kitty Amigurumi


What you can’t see is that she has washers in her butt to make her a bit weighted and not top heavy. I debated putting a rare earth magnet in there too, but I couldn’t really think when that would be useful, so I went with just the washers.


To fill out the post, here’s some photos with a Hello Kitty Makeup box I got when it was on sale at Sephora:

Hello Kitty Amigurumi


Very kawaii, indeed. I’d originally intended to felt her, but once I got her features on I didn’t want to mess them up. Maybe next time!


Hello Kitty Amigurumi


Hello Kitty Amigurumi


If you don’t know how big that box is, it might be hard to tell how big she is. Here’s a shot with a ruler, although the one I have with the ruler up and down didn’t turn out so well, so you’ll have to guesstimate from the one where it’s beside her. She’s a little under 3in high.

Hello Kitty Amigurumi


Aside from the issue with the bow, I found the directions pretty clear. They’d be suitable for a crochet/amigurumi beginner if you’re eager to try her out. I can’t wait to try some of the other patterns in the collection!

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2015-02-27 05:31 pm

Blue starry math pony (using @valleyviolet's pattern!)

This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

Ever since I saw Valleyviolet’s Pony Pattern collections, I’ve wanted to make one. I finally bought the collection in order to make the Pink Fluffy Unicorn mascot for Quelab (who is apparently MIA right now, likely stolen by the same person who vandalized the room sign; much sadness. She was a lot of work!), but I didn’t want to jump right into fighting with fun fur, and I’m fortunate enough to know a little girl of around the right age to enjoy a pony, so…


Custom my little pony for V


I went with blue and stars not out of any particular reason other than I liked the way the two fabrics looked together. The recipient’s young and lives far away from me, so I don’t know much about her preferences yet! However, I *do* know that her mom’s a mathematician and that her dad would like me to be a science role model for her. So the pony came with a book:


Custom my little pony for V


The book, as you can’t quite see in that photo, is “The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdős.” I was super excited when I first heard of it, as it’s a beautifully illustrated children’s book about a rather famous mathematician. One of the things he did was travel the world, collaborating with mathematicans all over the place. Mathematicians sometimes talk about their Erdős Number, which indicates degrees of collaborators on your published papers leading back to the man himself. (I published a paper with someone who’s number is 2, so mine is 3, a number worthy of bragging about at math parties!). My Calculus prof, an excellent storyteller, used to tell us tales of Erdős at the end of class sometime, and I was totally enchanted to hear more of them through the book. And the art works a lot of careful math and real people into the story, which is amazing. I also love that it doesn’t shy away from the fact that he was a man who couldn’t do his own laundry but helped do so much math that people were willing to welcome him into their homes.


The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life…
The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos
by Deborah Heiligman, LeUyen Pham (Illustrator)


I highly recommend it, especially if you’ve got a kid in your life who could use a gift!


It’s also a kind of funny pairing with this pony, as some folk have this theory that one of the My Little Ponies with somewhat similar colouring also really likes math. Not an intentional joke on my part, but I’ll take it!


So back to the pony construction…


Much like how representations of humans can have an uncanny valley effect if things are close but a little off, my experience is that this is a pattern that can go kind of horribly wrong if you don’t pay attention to the details. I originally sewed her head on in a weird way and was totally disappointed with the end result. I wasn’t even going to give it to V, it was so awful. I didn’t even take pictures (which is a shame in hindsight because the comparison was so striking). But after ruminating a while, I tried again, and with her nose tipped up just so, she got the curious look I was hoping for.


Custom my little pony for V


Valleyviolet’s instructions are very detailed and clear, and there’s a lot of work put into the shaping that really shows in the final product. There’s also just a lot of thought put into the instructions. I’ve actually never worked with a pattern that was so careful about explaining things, and I’ve got to say the patterns are worth every penny as a result. You can can buy her pony patterns here, and I promise you can make much more polished ponies than I did!


Custom my little pony for V


I think when I do my next one, I’ll have to be a bit more careful about marking the notches and just generally careful about the stitching. I also need to invest in some heavier weighting for her legs since, as you can see, she doesn’t quite keep all four feet on the floor sometimes. (This was right after she came out of my suitcase from my flight to Ottawa, though, so I can’t blame her for looking a bit disheveled!)


Custom my little pony for V


I don’t know how much the recipient cared for the pony, and to be honest she’s a bit young for the book yet, so I didn’t win any gift giving awards here, but it was fun to do and I really loved the pattern.


I think I’m going to try out the shoulder pony pattern next, once I find some suitable beanbag filling!

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2015-02-23 05:31 pm

Yarn of the Month Club review, February 2015

This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

This month, I joined a yarn subscription club that No One Talks About on the Internet. So of course, I’m going to talk about it on the internet. I hope I’m not breaking some unspoken rule by telling you about it. Oh heck, who am I kidding? I’ll probably be pleased if I broke some rule. Knowledge for all!


Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015


First, though, let’s back up to how I wound up joining this club. I’ve been intrigued for a while by the idea of yarn subscriptions.


On the plus side:

+ Surprise yarn!

+ Trying new things!

+ Learning about new dyers and mills and whatever!

+ Getting some patterns to inspire me!

+ And having enough yarn to complete the projects!


But on the down side:

– Most of the boxes are moderately expensive. Around $40/month is pretty normal, and you can pay much more.

– … so if you hate what you get, you’re going feel like you’ve wasted a lot of money

– I don’t think I actually use 2+ skeins of yarn every month, so it’s going to start to pile up


Some pricing:

Knitcrate has 6 subscription types, ranging from $22.50 for 5 minis/month to $65/month for indie yarns. Likely subscription for me would have been $55 for an intermediate/advanced box.

Yarnbox: $35.95/month, more for the luxe version (presumably)

There are lots of others, but those were the two that came up the most.


In the course of doing some research about options, I encountered Yarn of the Month, which sends out little teensy yarn samples instead of full skeins. Because it’s only a taste of yarn rather than a full meal, it rings in as a $9.25/month subscription (less if you get a few months at once). That hits that sweet spot on subscription boxes for me, where it’s easy to write off a bad month and won’t result in rapidly growing pile of stuff in my life. I’d miss out on some of the advantages, in exchange I’d basically wipe out all the disadvantages I listed, and instead miss out on extras that fancier boxes throw in. (That’s actually kind of a shame because I haven’t been knitting long enough to acquire a lot of the small tools that show up as extras!)


What finally pushed me to the decision brink was the assertion that you’d be able to do little 5 inch swatches from your teeny yarn balls, and put them together to have a blanket at the end of the year. So it wouldn’t even be a pile of craft clutter when I was done admiring them, and I’d be motivated to actually *use* the yarn. Awesome!


The problem is, I couldn’t find pictures of the yarn, the swatches, or even many people talking about this club. It was a giant social media void. I could find pictures for yarnbox, pictures for knitcrate, pictures for random yarn of the month clubs on etsy… but only a few forum stale threads for Yarn of the Month.


What to do? I contemplated for a bit, then figured I could afford to try it out and see what happened. But in the interest of helping others, I was darned well going to post some pictures when (if?) I actually got a shipment!


So here’s a review. Hopefully the lack of posts about the yarn is a lack of social media marketing rather than a sign that I have paid money into some sort of mysterious yarn cult that will be upset at this breach of unspoken social etiquette.


First, let me show you the yarn again on a different background to give you a sense of colour:

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015


I guess February was kind of red themed for valentine’s day.


Not pictured: the February Socks pattern from Birgitte Zeuner and instructions for 3 square swatches. Frankly, they’re printed on thin US letter paper and just not that attractive as a photography subject after being mooshed through the mail. Totally legible, but I might have invested in stiffer paper if I were running YOTM.


February Socks by Birgitte Zeuner


The February Socks pattern looks cute enough. I would have liked better pictures, but obviously I can find them on Ravelry so that works out.


Unfortunately, having just finished my first pair of adult socks, I’m not actually that excited about starting another one, so I think this is getting shelved indefinitely. I’m going to have to find a binder I can put these in! Maybe I’ll find a friend who’s super excited about this and I can pass it on, though.


Angora Lace


Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015


Angora Lace

“Luxurious with a delicate bloom”

6.5 sts/inch on US 2

50% Merino Superwash 20% Angora 30% Nylon

462 yds Color: 102


This is soft and lovely in the ball as one would expect for Angora, and quite pleasant to knit with. It’s not fluffy and doesn’t seem to shed (ask me about my experience knitting pure angora bunny fur sometime) but instead just results in beautifully soft yarn. It’s tightly wound enough that it doesn’t split on those little size 2 needles, and it held up to some unknitting as I tried to end my swatch as close to the end of the ball as possible and mis-calculated.


Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015


It’s not the easiest thing to photograph since it is subtly fluffy and catches the light a lot, but that’s only annoying for the purposes of this post and not in general. (Actually, I’d totally be into anti-photography yarn… I should work on that with some retroreflective stuff.)


The swatch pattern provided uses double-wrapped knitting stitches, a technique I hadn’t tried but a video tutorial wasn’t too hard to find. I actually usually prefer non-video tutorials, but this one is short and clear. You put the needle through as if to knit then wrap the yarn twice instead of once around and knit those, leaving two loops on. then when you come across it in the next few rows, you don’t bother trying to keep those doubled but instead slip stitch through them, leaving you with one longer stitch floating over the fabric.


Here’s one regular vs one weirdly processed photo to show you the floating stitches:

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015


The finished piece is super soft and pretty light. I suspect it'd be pretty warm, but it's hard to tell with just a swatch!


Saki Bamboo


Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015


Saki Bamboo

“Soft and yummy with great stitch definition”

7 sts/inch on US 0

50% Merino Superwash 25% Nylon 25% Rayon from Bamboo

230 yds Color: 203


This one feels great in the ball, all silky smooth, but I found it actually a bit odd to work with. While I’m knitting it, it has that sort of squeaky/roughish feel that I associate with some acrylics, even though the finished piece feels nice.


I was so pleased when I figured out the swatch pattern:

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015


I’m thinking that I might see if I can incorporate this into the hem of a baby sweater in the near future. I’m not sure I’d buy this yarn, though. It wasn’t hard to work with and it does as promised have great stitch definition, but with so many yarns in the world “feels a little weird to knit” is enough to drop it off my personal to-buy list. I’ve never knit with bamboo before so I don’t know if that’s a function of the fiber or if I just didn’t love this particular blend, but I suspect the latter so maybe I’ll try some other bamboo blends out.


Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015


And finally here is is, blocking on my chair, so you can see the repeats better:


Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015


The finished, blocked piece is smooth and very light, so it might be a great for summer knits. To be honest, I like the stitch pattern best when it’s a single row, but the swatch was still fun to do!


Saki Silk


Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015


Saki Silk

“Beautiful, subtle sheen and drape”

7 sts/inch on US 2

55% Fine Merino 25% Nylon 20% Silk

440 yds Color: 305


Silk blend yarn is one of my favourite treats for myself. I’m not sure that the stitch pattern really showed off the drape at all, though:


Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015


It’s kind of a bumpy rib pattern with twisted stitches. It’s quite dense and doesn’t drape at all! What’s neat about this pattern is that it’s very reversible and feels completely different on both sides.


The bumpy rib side:

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015


Much smoother back:

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015


The smooth side is where this yarn really appeals, since it’s got that little bit of silky slippery-ness.


I would strongly consider using this to replace ribbing on worn items like sweaters and mitts, since I like the look of the one side and the feel of the other.


The one thing that this pattern does show off is the yarn’s stitch definition:


Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015


Overall, I liked working with this yarn a fair bit: it’s soft, easy to work with, doesn’t snag too much, and the results are reasonably striking. I do wish I had a way to see if I actually like the drape, but I enjoyed the swatch pattern so much that it’s hard to really mind.




So in conclusion…


Do I still want a fancier, more expensive, larger yarn subscription?


Heck yeah, they sound lovely. But while I can afford more, this seems like a good balance of price and quantity for me. I think I’ll aim to spend money in my local yarn stores (there are so many here!) rather than risking it on a larger subscription at the moment.


Am I happy with this month’s box?


Heck yeah! I *loved* making the swatches. I’d never done any of those stitch patterns before, and I’m glad to add to my repertoire. And I’m glad to have tried all the yarns, although I’m not sure I’d run out and buy more of any of them unless I had a specific project in mind. But I really like having samples of them all so I can tell if they *would* fit a given project.

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2015-02-16 05:56 am

February 2015 Knit-a-long: week 1 and 2

This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

A local designer (PDXKnitterati) started advertising her February Knit-a-long (KAL) and I thought I’d give it a try. It’s an excuse to try out one of her lovely patterns, to take more pictures for sharing (I definitely need more practice photographing my knitting projects to best effect) and there are even prizes, which is fun. This one came at just the right time for me, since those rainbow socks (see previous post) had been almost ready to come off the needles and I needed a push to get them done.


I’ve never tried a KAL before, although I guess I did have a mutual “create as many crocheted angry birds as possible before PAX East” pact with my friend M one year, which I guess is sort of similar, maybe?


Feb 1st, I gathered up my ingredients… The pattern I’m using comes out of the Knitpicks “under 100″ (as in under 100g of yarn).


February 2015 KAL prep


The yarn is Knitpicks Gloss fingerling in the Kennai colourway. (Two 50g hanks, you see?)


February 2015 KAL prep


I had 3 bead options, all of which I liked. At a suggestion, I tried a swatch with them all to see which ones worked best for me:


February 2015 KAL


The silver and gold were clearly better than the blue/greens (which barely showed up) but what really decided me was thinking of ferns and what the fruiting bodies look like:


Fern fruiting bodies (pairs of them running along the underside of the frond) from  A Digital Flora of Newfoundland and Labrador Vascular Plants Fern fruiting bodies (pairs of them running along the underside of the frond) from A Digital Flora
of Newfoundland and Labrador
Vascular Plants


The pattern beads are designed to go in the center, but I liked the idea of brown to remind me of real ferns anyhow. Perhaps someday I’ll work on some fern lace with pairs of beads, though!


Here’s what it looks like in the shawl:

February 2015 KAL


After a few false starts and times where I had to rip back to where I went wrong, I finally made it through a few repeats of the pattern. Here’s how far I was near the end of the first week:


February 2015 KAL


I guess I must have been tired since I blocked it upside-down. Thankfully, that doesn’t matter!


Now that we’re at the end of week 2, I’ve gotten much further! Here’s one to show the current length.

February 2015 KAL (Week 2)


I was actually the lucky recipient of the week 1 prize, which was a pair of bead aids. This has made it way easier to put on the beads, as previously I was using a teensy crochet hook that didn’t quite grab all the yarn, so sometimes it would take me 2 (or more!) tries to get the bead on. The bead aids are much easier to get right, so that’s helped a lot. Here’s a wingpsan-y view to show the beads and the detail of that blocked tip while it’s rightside up!


February 2015 KAL (Week 2)


And finally, here’s a photo with real live ferns!

February 2015 KAL (Week 2)


Those last photos were taken along the Columbia River Gorge, since we have an out-of-town friend visiting and since she’s a photographer and it’s been a gorgeous weekend, we’ve been trying to hit some prime photo spots. So to round this out, here’s a picture of the famous Multnomah Falls:


Multnomah Falls


It’s a bit of a unusual photo because the falls are usually photographed vertically to show off how tall they are. I was showing off my new very wide lens to my boyfriend, which is why I took this one, but I kind of like it because it’s not a shot you see that much! (Sadly, I didn’t get it perfectly horizontal, so clearly I’ll have to try this again another day…)


Want more KAL photos? I have an album for them which has a few that I didn’t put here. More waterfalls will probably show up in my flickr photostream shortly as I process the weekend’s photos.

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2015-02-09 07:46 am

Making my own yarn swift

This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

A yarn swift is something that holds a hank of yarn so you can wind it into a ball or skein. Here’s a useful link on the typical ways to package yarn, in case you’re not familiar.


Yarn swift


When I was mostly buying relatively inexpensive yarn at the craft store for amigurumi, I’d get it in skein form and be ready to go. Which is awesome! But those ultra-washable bright coloured acrylics that I enjoy for crochet don’t work as well for some of the fancier knitting patterns and colour work I want to do now — it really helps to have some forgiving natural fiber that can be wetted and reshaped to look just so.


(Yarn snobs here might give me a hard time over the synthetic yarns, but they still have a place in my repertoire!)


So the end result is that I get a lot more yarn in “hank” form, and while I find winding balls to be pretty relaxing, I don’t love trying to wrap the yarn around my knees and keep it from getting tangled as I do it.


February 2015 KAL


Thankfully, the internet knows how to make a yarn swift. I modified this a bit, because I didn’t care as much about portability and I wanted something a bit smoother with some real ball bearings in there, so when John and I were wandering around the hardware store finding parts, he came up with the idea of using a Lazy Susan bearing.


This one was a joint effort between me and John, with him doing a lot of the heavy work and me doing more of the detailing. I feel a bit silly about this, as I’d intended to do it myself, but he’s got much steadier hands and greater strength so it’s probably safer to have him to it. He did teach me to use the router, though, which is one of the few pieces of woodworking equipment we own that I’d never used!


Routing!


But mostly I took photos and measured and turned things over to John for drilling or cutting:

Measure twice...John at the drill press


I also cleaned the garage workspace, vacuumed, and at least tried to keep him company. I also did some sanding and hand filing for things that didn’t quite match up. As you may have noticed in that earlier picture, neither of us is super precise at the routing.

Doesn't quite fitThe base


I asked John to round the ends so they wouldn’t catch on the yarn, and he did a lovely job, then I stained the whole thing up, let it dry, and reassembled it… only to find that the pegs for holding the yarn no longer fit in the holes due to expansion. Oops. A bit of drilling later, though, and we got it up and running.


Stained pieces:

Stained yarn swift piecesStained yarn swift pieces


First test with yarn!

Yarn SwiftYarn swift with wool!


You might recognize the stain as the same one I used on Puppy K-9, as this is the only stain we own.


Here’s the final product:

XOXO


I’m pretty happy with it! I wish I’d looked for a smaller bearing than the lazy Susan as I found out that it’s possible to fit a yarn tail into the bearings where it gets all slimy from the lubricant. But that’s what the store had, and it does make this a pretty solid device. And I only got the yarn tail caught once out of the 5 balls I’ve done on it so far, so it’s reasonably avoidable if you know you need to wind up the tail on a pole.


I do like how it looks so fancy all stained up. I was worried that I’d find it too bulky and be sad I hadn’t gone with the collapsible version, but I’m actually kind of tempted to try sticking it to the wall with that 3m wall hook stuff and seeing if I can use it as functional art!

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2015-02-08 02:01 pm
Entry tags:

Birchbox January 2015

I finally dropped my Wantable subscription, since I'm at the point where I didn't really need more soft bras, sleepware, or even probably socks for a while.

To be fair, I don't need makeup either... but Birchbox is fun and only $10/month. :)

Here's January's box:

Birchbox January 2015
My blush brush is in there for scale (not included in the box).

Birchbox January 2015

Davines OI / Shampoo


This was a very generous sample! The shampoo lathers well, cleans nicely, and the smell doesn't linger too strongly once my hair is dry. But it is pretty strong while still wet and honestly, the smell just wasn't for me.


Davines OI / Conditioner



The instructions for this suggest you towel dry hair, apply, and then rinse out. I agree that this needs a rinse out because the smell is much too strong otherwise. But that's way too much work unless the product does something amazing, or smells so great that you'd want to be in a cloud of it all day. Sadly, I don't love the smell, and my existing leave-in does just as nice a job on my hair while being less hassle.

Davines OI / Oil Absolute Beautifying Potion




Given my dislike for the smell of this, I couldn't really bring myself to use it as directed and put it directly in my hair. I may eventually try it as an overnight hair mask, but only if I've got enough time to wash my hair thoroughly in the morning.

Birchbox January 2015

Sweet Science Invisible Daily Tint SPF 35



Nice, simple tinted sunscreen, smells vaguely fresh and citrus-like. Cute container. Hard to blend because it's so thick and sticky, but that might mean good things as far as being effective sunscreen.

You can see how thick it is by how the sample is a giant blob on the lid:
Birchbox January 2015

Still, it looks hilarious while I'm putting it on:
Birchbox January 2015

Birchbox January 2015

Mirenesse Mattfinity Lip Rouge

I love the cityscape packaging! (I tried to get a picture of it but it's more a thing you see as you turn it in your hand. Lovely, though!) All of these are named for cities and I got the "New York" colour, which is a bright red with a hint of orange to make it more coral-like. I was worried because the applicator looked kind of sketchy (think gooey velvet) but the product itself is nice.

Here's a picture of the brush. It's sort of scoop shaped with a slimy velvet cover. Works, but not exactly a texture sensation. (You can also see that the silver "new york" lettering on the cap is suffering some from a few trips to work in my pocket.)
Birchbox January 2015


And here's a very simple look with me wearing the tinted sunscreen and the lip rouge (note how it looks more orange on my lips than it does in the tube):
Birchbox January 2015
I like it!


Birchbox January 2015

Essentiel Elements Wake Up Rosemary Body Lotion

The old school medicine bottle really works with the slightly medicinal scent of this body lotion, while still feeling fancy. I am strangely taken with this little body lotion as a result! Birchbox combined with J's mom kind of keeps me in more body lotion that I'm going to use, but I'd consider buying this because I find it amusing.

Birchbox January 2015

Harvey Prince Hello Liquid Loofah

Normally I complain about scents, but I actually kind of adore "Hello" which is some sort of citrus-y thing. I feel like it makes me feel more awake in the shower, although I suppose that could be the caffeine. I'm not so sure about the whole "liquid loofah" thing, though: this is such a light exfoliant that I can barely feel it if I apply it to my face, which is usually too sensitive for such things. But as a shower gel, it works and I like the smell, and that's basically all I want.


Birchbox January 2015

In conclusion...

I disliked the scent of the hair products, but the rest was pretty good!
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2015-02-08 11:51 am
Entry tags:

Book Reviews, the novels and the nonfiction, January 2015

Night Broken (A Mercy Thompson Novel) by…
Night Broken (A Mercy Thompson Novel)
by Patricia Briggs

This wasn't my favourite Mercy Thompson book since I'm not a huge fan of passive-aggressive relationship crap (and there's plenty of that as Adam's ex wife comes to stay with them), but the rest of the book is good, and Coyote's in fine form as always. Definitely not the finest book of the series, but not one to miss if you're already a fan!

Closer to Home: Book One of Herald Spy…
Closer to Home: Book One of Herald Spy (Valdemar)
by Mercedes Lackey

This is a book that seriously pleases my inner teenager, although my adult self notices and wishes for more for the women of Valdemar. I don't know how well it would stand up if you weren't already familiar with the world, but if you loved Mercedes Lackey as a kid, this is a nice journey back to Valdemar.

Ashes of Honor (October Daye) by Seanan…
Ashes of Honor (October Daye)
by Seanan McGuire

I'm a big fan of Seanan McGuire's InCryptid books (as well as her books written as Mira Grant) but I'd found the October Daye series hard to get into because poor Toby takes so much abuse. So I would read a novel, think "that was amazing but I can't take another of those" and wait 6 months before spotting one on a library shelf and thinking "oh, right, I should figure out which one I read last..."

Toby's still getting beaten up a lot, but in this novel especially I feel like she's finally getting into her own, and directing her destiny rather than just getting tossed around. But what made this particular book amazing to me was that it marks the first time where I read an October Daye book and thought "I need the next one right now."

Chimes at Midnight (October Daye) by Seanan…
Chimes at Midnight (October Daye)
by Seanan McGuire

(... so of course, here's the next one!)

In this book, Toby gets her whole network of friends an allies working to save the world, and you can finally see where she really shines. I found it very satisfying to watch all those threads come together and see the major and minor reveals for so many characters. It does feel a lot like this is the book that the series has been heading towards, whether you knew it or not. In some series, this would be in the end, but for October Daye, this seems to be a new beginning.

The Iron Trial (Book One of Magisterium) by…
The Iron Trial (Book One of Magisterium)
by Holly Black, Cassandra Clare

I've really enjoyed both Holly Black and Cassandra Clare's books, so I was really excited to hear about this one. It's a pretty standard magical-high-school setup in a lot of ways, but plays with the tropes and tosses in red herrings to keep it interesting.

Unfortunately, I got this as an audiobook and the reader didn't exemplify what the voice in my head said Callum should feel like. I've never had this problem with an audiobook before! It was *really* distracting to deal with this constant dissonance, and I think I enjoyed the book less as a result.

I'm curious enough to still be anticipating the next volume in this series, but I think I'll get a hardcover instead of an audiobook.




And then, finally, a couple of non-fiction knitting books that I checked out as possible additions to my library:

200 Fair Isle Motifs: A Knitter's…
200 Fair Isle Motifs: A Knitter's Directory
by Mary Jane Mucklestone

This collection of Fair Isle motifs is nicely laid out, well photographed and explained. I can definitely see this being a worthwhile reference book for those doing a lot of colourwork. I'm not really there yet, but I'm happy that my public library has a copy.

Knitter's Handy Book of Top-Down…
Knitter's Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters: Basic Designs in Multiple…
by Ann Budd

I've got a goal of doing a sweater for the first time this year, and got this out of the library to get a better sense of pattern design. I found it clear and helpful, but I have a feeling that I'm going to have to actually construct a sweater to really grok how to apply the advice. I will probably put it on my list of books to own for my personal library, though.
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2015-02-02 12:54 am

Rainbow Socks

This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

When I started knitting, I promised myself I wouldn’t bother making socks. It’s just too much work for something that wears right out, I told myself. But gradually, I’ve started to notice that sock patterns have a lot of technique in them that I wanted to learn, and they’re much smaller and more manageable than a sweater.


So here’s my first adult-sized socks:


Rainbow Socks


The pattern is “ballet socks” from Melissa Morgan-Oakes’ book “Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks” (yes, I bought a sock book in a sale). I wanted to get some more complex cable practice, learn how to turn a heel, and make use of the lovely chroma yarn.


Rainbow Sock


It was slow to start and I kind of put these away in September when I started a big Christmas project (which I’ll show when I organize the photos!)


But I’m almost done. I was going to cast off a bit back, but the colour lengths aren’t *exactly* identical in the two balls of yarn and I knew it would drive me nuts if one side hit the green and the other hadn’t, so I’m doing another repeat so they’ll both be in green.


Rainbow Socks


The plan is to finish them tonight so I can start the next project today. But it’ll be dark by the time I finish, so you get pictures now. :)

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2015-01-31 12:38 pm
Entry tags:

Brief Comic Reviews, January 2015

It looks like I've read ~20 books this year already, although a lot of them were graphic novels so that's not quite as impressive as it might seem. Still, I'm going to break this up into a couple of posts and putting all the comics in one is as good a way as any to do it.

Oh, and remember that list? This first one ticks off a few boxes:

✓ A book with a color in the title
✓ A book by a female author
✓ A book from an author you love that you haven't read yet
✓ A graphic novel

I expect some of those are going to be ticked off a lot of times on my list. Obviously the last one is *so* done now. ;)

Red Sonja Volume 1: Queen of the Plagues by…
Red Sonja Volume 1: Queen of the Plagues
by Gail Simone, Walter Geovani (Illustrator), Simon Bowland (Contributor)

I've never been particularly into the barbarians and had been turned off the chicks-in-chainmail overly sexualized look of Red Sonja covers in comic books stores, but I bought some Humble Comics Bundle specifically for this book, as I've liked Gail Simone's other work.

Reading this book brings me back to that time when S decided to carry a dead cat through all of Icewind Dale. She'll know what I mean, but maybe most of you won't.

So instead I'll say that I wasn't disappointed. This book features a Red Sonja that makes her strangely reminiscent of my sister: fierce in protecting her friends, determined to see things through to the end, occasionally capricious, and also quite happy to disregard the opinions of others when they're stupid. ;) I'd never really thought of the barbarian fighter in this way except when S is playing them.

It's a fun read, both a little subversive and a tribute to the genre.


Wolverine Volume 2: Killable (Marvel Now) by…
Wolverine Volume 2: Killable (Marvel Now)
by Paul Cornell, Marvel Comics (Illustrator), Alan Davis (Illustrator), Mirco Pierfederici (Illustrator)

From the "Wolverine's lost his healing powers and his enemies have found out" setup you'd this this book would be an epic battlefest, but the authors actually thought about what lost powers meant not only physically and tactically but also emotionally, not only for Wolverine but also for his friends and allies. This one has some surprisingly sweet and bittersweet moments.

I have to admit, though, it wasn't vividly memorable for me and writing this review weeks later is hard.

(This may tick off "✓ A book by an author you've never read before" judging from the list they have for him on wikipedia)

X-Men by Brian Wood - Volume 1: Blank…
X-Men by Brian Wood - Volume 1: Blank Generation
by Brian Wood, David Lopez (Illustrator)

Loved the art on this one, but I felt like I'd missed too much back story to really enjoy it, which is weird since it's a "volume 1" kind of deal.

Gambit, Vol. 1: Once A Thief by James Asmus
Gambit, Vol. 1: Once A Thief
by James Asmus, Clay Mann (Illustrator), Diogenes Neves (Illustrator)

To be honest, I barely remember anything about this one other than the art was nice.

The Dreamer: The Consequence of Nathan Hale…
The Dreamer: The Consequence of Nathan Hale (Pt. 1)
by Lora Innes

High school drama crossed with historical romance via Very Intense Dreams. I got drawn to this one as a webcomic because of the art, but Lora Innes' sheer joy in history makes it worth sticking around for. (Also worth going to read her blog posts about the real history behind the story!)

The Dreamer webcomic has just started up again after a hiatus, but if you're going to check it out for the first time right now, go back to the beginning, because those last few comics really don't make any sense unless you know the characters.

Oh look, there's ✓ A book by a female author again!
Also, ✓ A book based on a true story, although perhaps this isn't exactly what folk mean when they say that.

Young Avengers Volume 3: Mic-Drop at the…
Young Avengers Volume 3: Mic-Drop at the Edge of Time and Space (Marvel…
by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie (Illustrator)

I actually kind of hated volume 2 (too much chaos not enough depth for my liking), but this pushed past the "running aimlessly through dimensions" and into the "time to turn around and fight our mind-controlled parents and save the world" point. All in all, a nice wrap-up to the story arc.


Hawkeye Volume 3: L.A. Woman (Marvel Now) by…
Hawkeye Volume 3: L.A. Woman (Marvel Now)
by Matt Fraction, Annie Wu (Illustrator), Javier Pulido (Illustrator)

After the last volume, I'd been kind of wondering why this series had been getting so many accolades. (It's not awful, it just didn't seem as amazing as I was hearing.) But I understand now: it's not just about the Clint Barton Hawkeye, it's been the Kate Bishop hawkeye that makes the whole thing fit together and work. The comics were actually interleaved in original publishing, this book collects #14, 16, 18, 20. I understand why they collected them separately, but I think I would have enjoyed the Barton Hawkeye story so much more if I'd read it contrasted with the Bishop Hawkeye story. Kate's story is funny, clever, and so very human.

The Infernal Devices 3: Clockwork Princess…
The Infernal Devices 3: Clockwork Princess
by Cassandra Clare, Hyekyung Baek (Illustrator)

I think the manga adaptations of these books are kind of adorable, and this one does not disappoint. I'm not sure it'll be as meaningful without having read the novel, though.

Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal by Marvel…
Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal
by Marvel Comics

After a poor experience trying to read the new X-men series as single issues (The format's a bit too short for me and I found the advertising was outright disruptive), I waited for a collected volume on this one to avoid making the same mistake. As I started hearing more and more hype, I started worrying that the book itself would never live up to the things I'd heard.

Thankfully, that wasn't my experience. The book is sweet, hitting some nerdy superhero teenager tropes I like, and playing off the non-white north american experience in a way that felt unsurprising after reading Secret Identities and getting so many comics recs off Angry Asian Man, but it's nice to see these things in such a big title. And Kamala isn't just written as a minority, where it's that part of her that defines her: she's also practical, smart, adorkable, and just enough introspective to give her sudden superheroism a depth that sometimes you don't see in the first volume of a new series.

I look forwards to more, and I guess having chickened out and gone with the library copy instead of buying it the day it came out, I may go invest in my own copy now. ;)

Black Widow & The Marvel Girls by Paul Tobin
Black Widow & The Marvel Girls
by Paul Tobin, Salva Espin (Illustrator), Jacopo Camagni (Illustrator)

This is a series of shorts about Black Widow teaming up with other women of the Marvel universe. I wasn't sold on the first tale, but the others were kind of neat looks into different depths of her character.

Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic, Vol. 1 by…
Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic, Vol. 1
by Shinobu Ohtaka

This inspried-by-arabian nights manga just didn't do it for me. Too many over-the-top OMG REACTION moments, too much chaos and silliness, not enough story or character. It's a genre for low-attention-span boys, though, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I suspect this one could deepen to more, but I couldn't even make it through the first volume without wanting to skim it.

Soul Eater NOT!, Vol. 1 by Atsushi Ohkubo
Soul Eater NOT!, Vol. 1
by Atsushi Ohkubo

This one's cute: A new girl starts at a school for humans who can transform into weapons and the human "meister" (weaponmasters) who will pair up to become superheroes. I expected this to be kind of silly, but there was just enough in this to make me curious as to what happens next. I guess I have to find the next volume!

PS:
✓ A book set in high school
✓ A book with magic

The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith…
The Adventures of Superhero Girl
by Faith Erin Hicks, Various (Illustrator)

The intro describes this as a story about being human, but also a superhero. This is exactly what gives it such charm, and Faith Erin Hicks' adorable art makes it perfect.

It also doesn't hurt that it's also very Canadian. (Why do the cats like the prime minister so much? Is a superhero qualified to work at Tim Horton's?) I think this is a book I need to own!
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2015-01-26 03:41 am

Pastasaurus and friends

This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

Continuing in my quest to process more photos, I’ve started aiming to do the Active Assignment Weekly challenges on Flickr. I think some of my favourite photos came from doing their challenges, but I hadn’t participated in a long time.


Here’s this week’s, the Pastasaurus:

Pastasaurus


He normally lives on our microwave so he’s ready whenever pasta needs stirring!


And here’s some from last week, the robots that make our neutral-toned rental less boring:


Robot blast off!  +100Robot light switch


I also uploaded some older photos from the Flock and Fiber festival, as part of my campaign to get old photos processed, but frankly I wasn’t that thrilled with them. Still, I got to experiment with some processing tricks I wanted to try, so that was cool!

terriko: (Default)
2015-01-12 03:17 am
Entry tags:

2015 Reading Challenge

I got this list from popsugar. Well, actually from some social media post long forgotten, but I tracked down the original source. Here's a link.

It's a fun list, but I'm irked that it's an image that doesn't have enough space for me to scribble down notes in between. So here it is in text, for my use later. I doubt I'll chase down all of them, but it might be fun to search for a few of the ones I wouldn't have checked off on my own!

❑ A book with more than 500 pages
❑ A classic romance
❑ A book that became a movie
❑ A book published this year
❑ A book with a number in the title
❑ A book written by someone under 30
❑ A book with nonhuman characters
❑ A funny book
❑ A book by a female author
❑ A mystery or thriller
❑ A book with a one-word title
❑ A book of short stories
❑ A book set in a different country
❑ A nonfiction book
❑ A popular author's first book
❑ A book from an author you love that you haven't read yet
❑ A book a friend recommended
❑ A Pulitzer Prize-winning book
❑ A book based on a true story
❑ A book at the bottom of your to-read list
❑ A book your mom loves
❑ A book that scares you
❑ A book more than 100 years old
❑ A book based entirely on its cover
❑ A book you were supposed to read in school but didn't
❑ A memoir
❑ A book you can finish in a day
❑ A book with antonyms in the title
❑ A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit
❑ A book that came out the year you were born
❑ A book with bad reviews
❑ A trilogy
❑ A book from your childhood
❑ A book with a love triangle
❑ A book set in the future
❑ A book set in high school
❑ A book with a color in the title
❑ A book that made you cry
❑ A book with magic
❑ A graphic novel
❑ A book by an author you've never read before
❑ A book you own but have never read
❑ A book that takes place in your hometown
❑ A book that was originally written in a different language
❑ A book set during Christmas
❑ A book written by an author with your same initials
❑ A play
❑ A banned book
❑ A book based on or turned into a TV show
❑ A book you started but never finished
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2015-01-09 09:41 pm

Birchbox Dec 2014

Birchbox December 2014

It's silly, but I'm always pleased when they send out special-coloured birchboxes. This one is especially pretty and will probably be used to house sewing notions in my craft room so that I can leave it out where I will be admiring it regularly. Sadly, the products inside didn't all live up to the promise of the pretty box, although there was one gem!

Acure Organics Lip Lush
Birchbox December 2014

The science of this product is crap. Plant stem cells aren't going to do anything meaningful for your skin, and the papers that claim so are highly suspect (a brief search suggests that they may be the scientific equivalent of tabloid stories about elvis giving birth to bat boy written by someone who's offering to sell you pictures for only $9.99). The company should feel bad and require everyone involved with approving this product to take remedial science classes.

I actually liked the lip gloss just fine -- birthday suit is a terribly boring colour, but it smells ok and is a pleasant enough gloss for when your lips are sore and sticky seems like a good idea. It's not an exceptional lip gloss, but it's not a terrible one either. The sample tube did leak a bit so I'm afraid to keep it in my pocket, but it's not great enough that I want it with me all day anyhow.

However, no matter how inoffensive the product itself is... As a PhD carrying scientist myself, I absolutely cannot support nonsensical bad science claims like these, so I won't be buying this and I'll be telling anyone who asks that it's bull.

[I'm betting birchbox won't publish this review...]


Davines Replumping Shampoo, Davines Replumping Conditioner and Davines Replumping Hair Filler Superactive

I didn't take pictures of the shampoo and conditioner because they were uninspired packets, and I wanted to make sure I used them before time was up on the reviews (you only get birchbox points for writing reviews if you do it before the 10th of the month!). But here's the "hair filler."

Birchbox December 2014


While the shampoo seemed effective enough, this made my eyes water before I even started lathering up my hair, and the smell lingered so much after that even my boyfriend, who has a damaged nose and can barely smell things, commented that I smelled weird. To my nose, not only was it too strong, but it smelled... old and musty, I guess. Like really old makeup that has probably gone bad or something. Not for me.

Similarly, I thought this did a nice enough job as a conditioner, but it was simply too strongly scented for a leave-in. I wasn't even sure if I should go to work the next morning without washing it out.

I wanted to give the spray a fair shot, but to be honest I had to wash it out of my hair after a half hour because the smell was driving me crazy. It was both too intense and just not a scent I want others to associate with me.

Benefit They're Real! Mascara

I already had a sample of this from Sephora, so I gave the one from my Birchbox to my sister.
Birchbox December 2014

Facegoop panned this one for the dreaded panda-eye, and I was really perplexed, as I've never had that problem. And if anyone would have it, it would be me, since I am terrible about touching my eyes during the day. But I've finally figured out the discrepancy: I don't wear creams or anything around my eyes usually, but I received one in another birchbox and was trying it out and... voila, panda eyes. So this mascara dissolves in at least one type of eye creme. Mystery solved! So yeah, don't wear under-eye concealer, or try it out for a bit before you go out with both on in case you also have one that dissolves this mascara. As I dislike undereye concealer, this isn't really a problem for me.

Birchbox December 2014

Their crappy review aside, I like this stuff so much that it has taken me from "eww, mascara" to "hey, maybe I'll wear that sometimes for fun." I guess the idea behind "they're real!" is that this mascara doesn't look that much like you're wearing a pile of eye product. And indeed, it extends the heck out of my lashes (so much so that they brush my sunglasses!) without making me look like I'm trying too hard. It's fun and not too over-the-top to wear to work or the library.

I expect makeup samples will fill all my mascara needs unless I stop the subscription box, but I would consider buying this if I ever *did* need to purchase mascara!


Color Club Art Duo Pen

Birchbox December 2014

This was definitely the winner in my birchbox this month! Great little polish with both a thin nail art-brush and a pen applicator where you squeeze the whole bottle. The brush is pretty neat, but it's that teensy pen applicator that really makes this easy to use. I loved my first manicure with it, and I think with a bit of practice, I'm going to be able to make some pretty neat nail art with this!

Birchbox December 2014

I'm usually pretty hesitant about dotty manicures since anything non-smooth doesn't last too long. One of the nail artists I follow on tumblr says hers last maybe 2 days, and I expect my nails to last around a week. But I put dots all over my nails and they lasted better than expected, so yeay!

Birchbox December 2014

Yu-Be Moisturizing Skin Cream

Birchbox December 2014

There was a project a few years back called "Significant Objects" that tested whether people were willing to pay more for an object when a talented writer wrote a story to go with it. I feel like the marketing folk for this moisturizer must have taken those lessons to heart, given the included tale of the Japanese pharmacist's secret and how travelers discovered the cream.

That said, I can't help but like the stuff. I like glycerin moisturizers when my skin has been a bit damaged. This one is effective enough, the quickly-fading medicinal scent makes it interesting to apply, and the story *is* good. I may even buy more!

Birchbox December 2014

(Final picture to show how strangely yellow it is.)

Overall, I *really* hated the hair products and was insulted by the lip balm, but the mascara and nail pen are great and I'm pretty pleased with the weird moisturizer too!
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2015-01-08 08:30 am

Candy Cane Cupcakes (to tempt those with new year's resolutions)

This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

Ah, January, the month where one can buy a big box of candy canes in the grocery store for 44 cents. It’s also the month where everyone’s made new years resolutions and don’t want cupcakes. I’m guessing some of my coworkers aren’t going to be impressed with me tomorrow when I bring these in…


Candy Cane Cupcakes


Instructions


My plan for this was “make chocolate cupcakes, dip in candy canes, take to work” but here’s a more descriptive version in case you don’t, say, have a favourite chocolate cupcake recipe.


1. Make chocolate cupcakes


Candy Cane Cupcakes


I use the following “wacky cake” recipe:


Dry ingredients:

1.5 C flour

1 C sugar

3 tbsp cocoa

1 tsp baking powder

0.5 tsp baking soda


Wet ingredients:

1 tsp vanilla

1 tbsp vinegar

1/3 C oil

1 C warm water


Preheat oven to 350F

Mix the dry ingredients (and get rid of any lumps in the cocoa).

Add wet ingredients and stir well.

Spoon into baking cups. (around 1/2 to 2/3 full)

For mini cupcakes, cook 10 min. For normal sized ones, cook around 18 mins, or until a toothpick inserted can be removed cleanly.


Note that I actually make mini and normal sized cupcakes in the same batch. In this case, just pull the tray out of the oven after 10 minutes and grab the little ones off (the silicon liners make it possible for me to do this bare handed, but your mileage may vary), then put the rest back in once you’re done. This may make the tops of the big ones look a bit less than perfect (as you can see in the back of the picture above), but it doesn’t matter since you’ll be covering them anyhow.


Candy Cane Cupcakes


Make vanilla icing


I don’t use a recipe for this exactly, but…


Spoonful of butter

Splash of vanilla

Then add alternating icing sugar and milk until you have enough icing. You don’t actually want that much for this, as the extra candy on the side will make them pretty sweet.


My cake is actually vegan, so if you wanted to replace this with some sort of vegan icing, you could change this up. I suspect a water-icing sugar glaze would be enough to keep the candy canes on if you were so inclined.


Crush up some candy canes


We used wax paper and a rubber mallet for this. (When I lived in Canada, I’d use a small milk bag instead of wax paper, ’cause those things are stronger, but alas, this part of America does not have milk that comes in bags.)


Candy Cane Cupcakes


John helped with the unwrapping and crushing duties!


Put the icing on the cupcakes then roll the rim of the iced cupcake in the crushed candy canes


You could, of course, dip them and cover them entirely, but they’re already pretty sweet and crunchy so I figured less is more here.


Candy Cane CupcakesCandy Cane CupcakesCandy Cane Cupcakes


Garnish with tiny chunks of fudge


I had some leftover fudge so we used that as a final garnish for maximal abuse of new year’s resolutions.


Candy Cane Cupcakes


And finally…


Enjoy!


Here’s a few extra photos I took in aid of this week’s AAW assignment, which is to use foreground/background to tell a story about two (or more) items, one in focus and one blurred. I thought the rubber mallet we used for crushing candy canes was kind of a funny contrast with the finished cupcakes.


Candy Cane Cupcakes


Candy Cane Cupcakes

terriko: (Default)
2014-12-07 11:54 pm
Entry tags:

Puppy K-9

This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

So, remember a while ago I posted about a work in progress? She's still a work in progress, but while I don't have full setup for her internal hardware, her chassis did indeed get "finished" in time for ABQ Maker Faire, so here's a picture of her on my table:

DSC_6776.JPG

This picture care of the fine folk at Quelab. I've kind of forgotten who actually took the picture. You can tell it wasn't me because that's my elbow in there!

You know how people joke that building ikea furniture together as a couple is the ultimate test of your relationship? Try designing steampunk robots together! With a deadline looming! I think we did most of this in around 2 weeks, although we had batted the idea around for a while.

The germ of the idea was my fault. I wanted a puppy k-9 who would be less hassle to travel with than John's full-sized k-9 replica, which weighs over a hundred pounds when you include the 3 pelican cases needed to ship him. And I wanted her to be steampunk, because it would break us away from being show-accurate and make her amusingly photogenic. Her job, by and large, is to convince people to come talk to us, although we have some other functional plans for her too! However, it's a long path from idea to finished project, and I have to say that John did the bulk of the execution while I handled the details -- he got the c&c machine to cut out dog panels and engineered it so I could have the wing doors I wanted without compromising structural integrity, while I convinced the c&c to cut out a modified minnowboard logo for the resin inlay, and figured out the hinges and staining. I admit, we might have done some arguing, but we worked her out!

I am quite pleased with the details we managed to get in. I insisted she have ears and a tail because John's larger k-9 replica still doesn't have those details. Her tail is a functional USB wireless antenna, and John even inserted a proper usb port into her butt so it's detachable when she gets packed for travel or so you can plug something else in easily while leaving the case closed. Her ears gave us a different kind of trouble, and we were running out of time until I started digging through the recycling bin and found a pair of 7-up bottle bottoms which I painted gold.

The computer on top there is the Minnowboard MAX, which will serve as Puppy's brains. We didn't get it mounted inside until after the show, and you can see the nice laser-cut mounting plate (again care of Quelab; thanks Morgan!) in front of her (it's the smokey grey piece with all the holes). That's all inside now, with a whole lot of hardware attached.

More pictures to come eventually, but since she's gotten side-tracked by xmas present projects, it might be a while before we get back to her!
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2014-12-05 09:35 pm
Entry tags:

In which I am both awesome and not awesome at blood donation

I guess all those years in Albuquerque have made me extra resilient to blood-oxygen changes. I donated blood yesterday and I could barely even feel it today, even going up stairs.  Not even a bit of huffing and puffing! If it hadn't been for my sore finger and arm, I would have forgotten that I was supposed to still be drinking lots and taking it a bit easy.

Awesome part number two is that I have barely a bruise.  This is normally true for me, and wouldn't be surprising... except for the  less awesome part, which I'll put behind a cut for those who might not appreciate details about my blood donation.

It sounds more unpleasant than it was, honestly. )


End result, I have successfully donated blood yet again, I have suffered even fewer ill effects than one might expect, and I got to feel all heroic about having a hole in my arm and maybe saving a life. So yeay!

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2014-11-10 10:40 pm
Entry tags:

Book reviews: more brief than usual

Hawkeye, Vol. 2: Little Hits by Matt…
Hawkeye, Vol. 2: Little Hits
by Matt Fraction, David Aja (Illustrator), Javier Pulido (Illustrator), Steve Lieber (Illustrator), Francesco Francavilla (Illustrator)1 more, Jesse Hamm (Illustrator)

This was decent, but I found it a lot more confusing than the last volume and was starting to wonder if it was overhyped the way some movies are when people don't understand them and don't want to admit it.

X-Men, Vol. 1: Primer by Brian Wood
X-Men, Vol. 1: Primer
by Brian Wood, Olivier Coipel (Illustrator)
X-Men Volume 2: Muertas by Brian Wood
X-Men Volume 2: Muertas
by Brian Wood, Terry Dodson (Illustrator), Kris Anka (Illustrator)
X-Men. Vol. 1, Primer and X-Men. Vol. 2, Muertas

My goodness, it's much nicer to read these in collected volumes instead of single issues full of ads interspersed every few pages. Seriously, I don't think I'm ever buying single issues in this series again.

Other than that... it's X-men. This series made a minor splash because it's really the x-women -- the main team is pretty female dominated, just because that's the way it happened to be. But they don't make a big deal out of it. I liked the first volume quite a bit, but I think I was missing some key backstory to really feel for the characters in the 2nd. This is unfortunate because I'd thought this was supposed to be a pretty good starting point for new readers, but I'm not sure it really is... and I'm not even a really *new* reader. Still, if you don't mind feeling like there's some history you haven't seen, the art is great and the story is interesting even if it feels a little all climax no backstory without knowing the characters better.

Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 8 by Kiiro…
Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 8
by Kiiro Yumi, Kiiro Yumi (Illustrator)
Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 9 by Kiiro…
Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 9
by Kiiro Yumi, Kiiro Yumi (Illustrator)
Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 10 by Kiiro…
Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 10
by Kiiro Yumi
Library wars : love & war. 8-10

I can't remember if I reviewed this series before, but it's set in a future japan where censorship has run rampant and only public libraries stand in the way of the censors. We're following the story of a young woman who is the first woman on her library's Special Defence Forces, a paramilitary organization that protects the libraries, the books, and the patrons. These volumes dive more into the politics and machinations around the library, and I'm really enjoying the series.

Late Eclipses (October Daye) by Seanan…
Late Eclipses (October Daye)
by Seanan McGuire

After the previous novel in the series, which I found good but incredibly disturbing, I needed a break from the October Daye series. But I was reminded of it when I encountered a short story from the author on tumblr that gave a sweet little happy ending to part of this story, and realized I wanted to know what else had happened. The series is great, but dark, however, this was less nightmare inducing than the last book, and left me eager for more. Maybe it's time to finally get caught up again!

Due or Die (A Library Lover's Mystery)…
Due or Die (A Library Lover's Mystery)
by Jenn McKinlay

The second in the series of library mysteries. It's a pleasant little cozy set in a town with our main character as a librarian and periodic sleuth. It's got pretty much everything I want from a cozy: fun characters, mystery, a nice backdrop and now even a cute dog. I've already gotten the 3rd one out of the library!

Chosen (Alex Verus) by Benedict Jacka
Chosen (Alex Verus)
by Benedict Jacka

In this 3rd book in the series, we're starting to delve more deeply into Alex's (disturbing) past in order to figure out what's going on in his present. I'm a bit worried that this will go all grimdark (my problem with the Dresden Files, which this series clearly and even explicitly was inspired by), but the book is ultimately as much about friendship as it is about dark pasts. Looking forwards to the next in the series.
terriko: (Default)
2014-10-21 05:01 pm

Buttons!

This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

Buttons buttons, rah rah rah


The first time I got to use a button machine, I was a kid. It was at the Ex (a fair with livestock, music, and a midway, not unlike state fairs in the US only with fewer deep-fried things), and I was kind of astounded by this giant button press because I’d never really thought about how a button was put together, let alone that this might be done by a human-powered machine.


Fast forward, years later, and one day it just occurs to me that as an adult with some income (not much; I was still a student) there was absolutely no reason I couldn’t just buy a button machine and make silly one-off buttons whenever I wanted.


Buttons! (Push button; receive bacon)


I’ve used them for costumes, for befriending random people off the internet who like snarky kitten commentary, for hanging out at abq maker faire and helping people make their own, and for anything else that might amuse me.


Since I sometimes bring the whole machine with me to places like quelab or abq mini maker faire, I often get asked about where I got it and how much it costs, so I figured I’d make myself a post that contained all the info so I can find it easily. This is that post!


The button machine


Here’s what my personal machine looks like:


The button machine


I have a 1.5 inch button machine. It has a visible “top” area of around 1.37 inches, with a bit more visible space wrapping around the edge of the button. The circles I cut are 1.87 inches wide.


Although I realize this listing won’t stay live forever, here’s a current listing equivalent package I bought. It’s the Tecre model 150 1.5inch button machine with 1000 button blanks, and as of this writing it costs $264 (although I think it might have been a bit less when I got it).


For when that link no longer works: The vendor is called “button boy” and goes by the username “politicsstinks” on ebay. Here’s a link to the ButtonBoy ebay store. The latest stuff I bought from them also recommended the ButtonBoy etsy store.


It’s a small machine although very heavy, but I did a lot of research and the Tecre machine seemed to be the best type of machine for my needs: It’s physically easy to use, hard to damage, reasonably well designed so that with a bit of adult supervision kids can make their own buttons. I went with the 1.5 inch size because it was large enough to have reasonably legible text or enough space to colour, but small enough to be cuter and easy to fit on a bag strap.


If I were to buy a second machine I’d probably go with the 1″ because I’d love to try the magnetic jewelery stuff they have now, but I expect I’d still want my 1.5 inch because visible text is important a lot of the time!


Recommended Accessories


Button punch


My number one recommendation is that if you’re going to do any larger runs of buttons, it’s worth investing in one of the button hole punches. Especially if you’re letting people colour their own buttons, it’s annoying to colour a teensy piece of paper, so I find it’s more pleasant to punch things out on the spot after the colouring is done rather than cutting the circles in advance. The punch is also great for using magazines or wrapping paper, like I did for these Christmas buttons (although I didn’t have the punch at the time so these were done by tracing circles with the mylar and cutting them out with scissors):


Christmas Buttons


Alternatives:


Scissors work just fine. Invest in a comfortable pair rather than doing like my sister and I did on our first big button run where we gave ourselves bruises cutting out 200 buttons by hand, though.


I do *not* recommend trying to use a a cheaper adjustable circular cutter from the craft store. I have one, and there’s a couple of problems with it:


1. The center has a point, which makes a teensy but noticeable hole in your design. I can feel this through the mylar cover on the finished button and it annoys me. I stuck a piece of rubber on it to compensate, but that just makes it more finicky.


2. It’s very hard to line up the design nicely (at least compared to a hole punch or scissors)


Basically, it turned out to be more annoying than drawing circles and cutting them out with scissors. The punch, however, is way better.


Some folk at my former hackerspace have pointed out that a cricut machine would be excellent for this, and probably the laser cutter would work as well. Both of these are a lot more expensive than a punch, but if you’ve got them, why not? The only downside is that neither is as convenient for on-the-fly button making using magazines or quite as convenient for maker faire purposes.


Paper Guillotine


If you’re printing 8.5×11 sheets of buttons to cut out, you may also want to invest in a paper guillotine. This is handy if you want to hand out smaller segments for kids to colour, and great if you’re using a button punch that can’t punch holes in the middle of a piece of paper.


Again, scissors work just as well, but when you’re spending all day making buttons, little things that make life easier like that are worth it. So once again, I recommend it if you find you’re doing a lot of buttons, but it’s not needed for small runs.


Inkscape


I’ve found inkscape to be the most consistently good tool for making buttons because it’s so easy to whip up a template (1.85in circle with inner 1.375in circle) and import things into it. It lets you do things like fit text to a path, trace bitmaps so they can be converted to fewer, easier to read colours, etc. It’s fast for duplicating buttons and laying them out as a sheet for printing, too. And it’s free software that runs on linux, mac, and windows, all of which I occasionally use to make buttons. http://inkscape.org/


Really, any drawing program will do, but I think Inkscape is particularly nice for letting you set sizes and fix alignments quickly and easily, so although I’m also reasonably capable a few other art tools (I use photoshop, for example, to do photography work), Inkscape is my tool of choice for buttons.


DSC_6775.JPG


Non-button things!


If you look through the Tecre catalog, you’ll notice that depending on the size of machine you have, you can make a few things that aren’t buttons. Not all of them are available for my size of machine; for example, some of the larger machines can be used for small hand mirrors and some of the smaller machines can be used for jewelery-buttons.


I’ve thus far tried the flat-backed magnets (the magnet goes inside the button) and the smaller split-ring keychains. Unfortunately, neither came with instructions so here’s some notes on what did and didn’t work for me:


Flat-backed Magnet instructions


The way the button machine works, you crimp the top half together, then you crimp the top onto the bottom. In the case of these magnet blanks, the magnet part goes with the bottom half (because the machine doesn’t have space for it in the top half die). It’s a nice strong magnet… which unfortunately means that it can pull the top half down if you’re too slow when you flip the machine around and crimp it the second time, and if it gets pulled out of alignment you get a messed up button. I messed up two before I figured out what was going on, and since then it’s been pretty easy to avoid the problem, but hopefully I can save someone else some annoyance.


I don’t know if this is true with other magnet backs, which may have less strong magnets, but if you’re having trouble it’s worth trying to go faster and see if it helps!


I am *very* pleased with the feel of the flat-backed magnets. They’re smooth and strangely pleasant to hold in a way that I was not expecting.


Short split key-ring instructions


In this case, the bottom half of the blank has a small hole in one side. You crimp the top and bottom together, then insert the keychain clip into this hole (note to self: take some pictures of this later).


Things to note:

1. The instructions I found online implied that you had to be super careful about how much you crimp. It seems like the version I have is pretty well designed to avoid this problem, because the bottom half has a slightly raised edge over where the hole is, and clamping the machine all the way down does not seem to squash the hole, so don’t be *too* nervous about getting it right.


2. While the clip can be inserted either way, if you insert it so the sticking up part of the clip faces the front of the bottom, the piece sits more flat relative to the back of the button.


All in all, I found the magnets harder than expected and the keychains easier.


Button jars, overflowing


Conclusion


When I bought the button machine, I really wasn’t sure how much I’d use it, but it’s turned out to be even more fun than I hoped. The highlight was probably that first big giveaway my sister and I did at the Cute With Chris show. When we walked down to the front to give out buttons before the show started, people actually cheered for us! And then we went around talking to each person at the show while they chose their designs, which was pretty neat.


But there’s been lots of fun stuff since then. In the past year alone, I’ve made buttons for open source projects (real and most desirable), given out slightly subversive buttons at defcon, made silly buttons for one-off jokes and IRC bots, watched literally hundreds of kids and adults make buttons with my machine, even wound up making some blank ones to serve as a temporary whiteboard-style expression-changing doll face for a friend’s guerrilla photography and crafting project!


It’s a bit of a weird hobby, but each button is so cheap that it’s one you can share with a lot of people! (At the current rate of blanks, each button costs me under 10 cents) And as someone who always enjoyed getting free stuff, it’s fun to be on the side of designing and giving! :)

terriko: (Default)
2014-10-09 12:24 am

Back from France!

I was in France last week for work, but I've been home for a few days now.

I am pleased to report that my French was adequate for basic stuff like getting directions and translating menus into English for my Polish colleagues. My French colleagues were highly amused that I spoke the language at all, since I guess no one warned them that I was moderately fluent. No one was offended by my weird accent, or even seemed to have much trouble understanding me. I couldn't handle full on eavesdropping on the train, but I could get the gist of a lot of conversations when I had some idea of the subject.

I didn't try to carry too much stuff because my ankle is still sore from hurting it after my trip to Poland, but I was able to walk quite a bit even if I had to do it carefully and a bit slowly. 100k steps! It's especially impressive given that my leg still hurts all the time. Walking, as always, is much easier than standing still, so the 30 minute walk to the office was easier than standing in line at the airport. I am sore, but it seems to be mostly the usual chronic constant thing plus some bonus knots from sleeping on planes and trains and strange beds.

They stole my knife-free Leatherman at the Charles de Gaulle airport. It was especially frustrating because several of the agents pointed out to the guy who took it that it was absolutely fine under their rules, but he decided it wasn't despite their best efforts. The thing's under $20 and I sort of assumed I'd lose it eventually, but I was still upset because it was just so unnecessary and wasteful. Have ordered a new one. I may give up on traveling with it outside north america, though, as I expect I'm going to have to fly through France again. (Amsterdam, mind, had no problem with it.)

Jetlag is hitting me hard this time, with the headaches and all. I miss when this wasn't a guaranteed thing, but at least I have Serious Painkillers and coworkers who are pretty understanding about travel miasma. I did not donate blood this week because I was not well enough and not because I am miffed at the red cross for phone harassing me all week (seriously, I think they called 7 times without ever leaving a message) and then after I told them I was unwilling to schedule an appointment because I often get sick when I travel, they gave me two days of silence then called me at 4am while I was adjusting to the time zone in France. So now they're a blocked number, and I'm not sure I'm going to unblock them, although I'll probably donate again when I'm not cranky about it.

Anyhow, recovery will go better with more sleep, so I'm going to do that now!
terriko: (Default)
2014-09-23 09:19 pm
Entry tags:

Birchbox August 2014

You might have thought I'd given up on my subscription boxes, but no, I just take pictures and forget to post them, like usual. And then I write posts and save them and forget to post those too.

Here's August's box, though!

Birchbox August 2014

5 samples, 4 of which were random and the 5th of which I actually chose.

Let's start with the one I was least excited about:

Birchbox August 2014


Harvey Prince Ageless Body Cream

This is perfectly reasonable body cream, not terribly-strongly scented once applied, although I think it's still a bit too volatile to be a good choice for me to take to work where it might irk others. And frankly, it smells like grapefruit (not my favourite scent) and it's hideously pink. But it *does* contain shea butter, so it's pretty pleasantly rich. So it's fine, and I'll use it, but I don't think I'll be ordering more.

Actually, one weird thing to note is that unlike a lot of the birchbox samples I received, this one had a little tinfoil "sealed for your protection" thing. which wouldn't be that notable, except the darned thing left a glue film that became a flap that blocked all flow of product. Inconvenient, and something I've not seen in many of my boxes. But then I saw exactly the same separating-glue problem with the next product in my box:

nügg Beauty Revitalizing Face Mask

Birchbox August 2014

So yeah, I'm sort of wondering if their warehouse got a bit dry or something.

Anyhow, here's what it looked like before that:

Birchbox August 2014

This is an absurdly minty face mask, enough to make your face tingle and your eyes water when you first apply it. I find this amusing and kind of fun, and enjoyed sitting around with it on (unlike some face masks I could mention...).

Unfortunately, I'd be lying to myself if I said I thought it did anything for my face. Here's three shots:

Before:
20140907-IMG_8024.jpg

With face mask applied (mm, slimy and minty...):
Wearing face mask

After:
20140907-IMG_8029.jpg

(Aside: this is one of those series of pictures where I wonder what the heck is wrong with the people who say I don't look very Asian. Even if you don't recognize the facial structure of my awesomely mixed genetics, have you *seen* my eyes? Really?)

The redness in the after picture is mostly from washing it off my face (note abq sun damage pattern showing when I'm warm), not from a bad reaction to the face mask. No particularly noticeable difference in my skin to an outside viewer, but my face felt slightly slimy for hours thereafter, even after I had a shower that evening. It was a bit better the second time when I applied a bit less. I want to say that maybe this would be nice in the winter when I could use a bit more moisture... but honestly, I'm not sure if I'm just making excuses for it because I thought it was fun to apply.

Bottom line: if you want to play around with a fun minty face mask treatment, thumbs up to this! If you want it to be useful and not feel like you applied face lube afterwards, maybe not so much. I am actually more in the former category with face masks ("was this an excuse to lie around for a while with goop on my face? score!") so I'm pleased by the product, but probably not enough to buy more unless I was hosting a girl-style sleepover and wanted something I'd tested and not hated to share.

Birchbox August 2014

Neil George Shampoo 3.38 oz
Neil George Conditioner 3.38 oz

This is supposed to be gooseberry scented, but I don't know where Neil George gets his gooseberries because it doesn't smell much like any gooseberry I've ever noticed. I like to imagine that this is the concentrated attempt at a weaponized version of gooseberry scent. I actually quite liked it: it's sort of a spicy and less fruity scent, and while it's much stronger than real gooseberries, it's still gentle enough that it doesn't linger once my hair dries or overwhelm me in the shower. It feels a bit more masculine while still being not overly gendered, and I like it. I actually sort of wish it lingered a bit more because I enjoy it so much.

As products, these are both nice but not overly remarkable:

- The shampoo is a bit thin and does not lather much, but it cleans quite well.
- The conditioner is a bit thicker and leaves just enough slickness on my hair to make combing it out after a shower easier, but not so much that it feels weighty.

All in all, pleasantly effective product with an unusual scent. I might actually consider buying this again!

Birchbox August 2014

Laura Geller Beauty Cool Lids Cream Eyeshadow

I'd never tried cream eyeshadow, and if this sample is representative, I have been missing out. Goes on smoothly, lovely colour, lasts better than most on my eyes (that's not saying much actually as I've never had much luck with eye makeup).

I haven't taken pictures of myself wearing it on account of my insane "let's travel every few weeks and eat all your weekends" schedule, but perhaps I'll do that later.
terriko: (Default)
2014-09-17 07:10 am

Winking Microview

This is crossposted from Curiousity.ca, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

With my travel and work schedules, I haven’t had time to hack my original MicroView, but the replacement ones arrived while I was out at ABQ Mini Maker Faire! So of course, I had to try *something* now that I can actually flash things to it.


Here’s my current very simple program: a smile with a wink!


microview_wink


Although it’s probably better with video



And of course, it’s more fun if you can also check out the code so I dumped it into my git repository. Here it is in case you’re not feeling like clicking through:



/* 
 * microview_wink: a simple winking face animation for the MicroView
 * 
 * Created by: Terri Oda