Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Knitting: Beware the Lusekofte

Well, I cast on the kit for the red Lusekofte Norwegian sweater... finally.  Unfortunately, I am a complete idiot because I didn't realize from the very vague wording in the instructions that *both* sleeves are meant to be knitted at the same time, meeting at the shoulder, and knitted together for the purposes of steeking them later.

So here is the start of the second sleeve.  The first sleeve is about 6" past the cuff up the arm, so when I catch the second one up, I'll be good.  I think.  The plain maroon part you see there is the inner cuff facing.  I think if I were to do this over again (and I might in another color) I will go down two needle sizes for the facing, instead of one, as my stranded colorwork pulls in a LOT more than I think it's supposed to.  It's not puckered, it's just rather tight.  Tight enough that the facing seems larger by comparison.

I also cast on a pair of Knotty Gloves for bedside knitting.  I have just WAY too much sock yarn, and the Summer Blooms was already wound into a cake from my failed attempt at the Ulmus Rectangle.  The second attempt.  It's a cool pattern, I just seem to have trouble finding yarns that don't make it look clownish.  So far I have most of a cuff.  I would do them two at a time, but I find that knitting from both the inside and the outside of a yarn cake gets really twisty, and beside is not the place to dangle and untwist it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Food II: The Perfect Homemade Hamburger Bun

I don't know if it's the new Zojirushi Bread Machine I got for Christmas, or the excellent recipe I found and modified, but this makes the *best* hamburger buns.  Seriously tasty, soft but not too delicate, and lots of flavor.  This recipe is mixed in a 2-lb. capacity machine.  If you have a 1 1/2-lb. capacity machine, you may have to watch your dough closely on the first rise.

Cheese Onion Buns (for bread machines)

1 1/4 C Water
4 1/4 C flour (bread flour is best, but all-purpose will work)
1 C Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1/4 C Sugar
1 Tbs. dry Milk powder
1 Tbs. dried minced onion
2 tsp. salt (do not omit this, it's necessary for a proper rise)
1 1/2 tsp. bread machine or quick active dry yeast

1.  Measure ingredients precisely and add to the bread machine pan in the order recommended by your manufacturer's instructions.

2.  Set machine to the "dough" cycle and allow dough to mix, knead, and go through one rise cycle.

3.  Punch down dough and remove from bread machine.  Rolling it into a log shape, cut the dough into eight pieces for large buns, or ten pieces for smaller buns.  Roll each piece into a smooth ball and flatten slightly with your palm.

4.  Lay buns 1 to 2" inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with foil or parchment paper.  Cover with a damp dishtowel or tea towel and let rise a second time for one hour.  Preheat oven to 350°.

5.  When the buns have completed their second rise,  place in preheated oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, checking after 10 minutes or so.  They should be golden on top, but sound hollow if you tap lightly on their underside.  Cool and store.

Food: 2010 or The Year of Recycling

While it's not particularily "green" to recycle an old blog post, I'm going to refer you to my 2009 Post-Thanksgiving post about what to do with all that leftover Holiday ham and turkey.  It contains both my Turkey chow mein and Ham and Egg Fried Rice recipes.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Movies: Non-Christmas Christmas Movies 2010

Since a lot of TV shows are in their holiday season hiatus until January or later, I thought it would be fun to list my top five favorite movies set during the Christmas season without being *about* Christmas.

5.  P2(2008) - This little-known psychological thriller follows a young professional who's simply trying to get out of the office to meet her family for Christmas dinner.  The parking structure seems to have other ideas.

4.  Gremlins (1984) - A beloved cult-favorite of the '80s, a young man gets an unusual pet for Christmas and gets more than he bargained for.

3. Lethal Weapon (1987) - Perhaps over the years we've forgotten that this jam-packed action classic opens with a Christmas carol playing as we close in on a dead body.  The contrast between how Riggs and Murtagh spend their holidays is heartbreaking and sad.

2. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2001) - This Robert Downey Jr./Val Kilmer vehicle would not have been complete without the sexy Ms. Santa in her outfit.  Okay, well maybe it would have.  Still an excellent flick.

1. Die Hard (1988) - Meeting your wife at the Nakatomi building during a Christmas party?  What could go wrong with that?  The first in a series of high-octane films, they all happen at Christmas.  You'd think he'd learn to stay home.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Knitting: Bogged down

As usual, I started too many projects and got caught up in trying to finish what I started.  It was making knitting feel like a chore instead of the fun thing it's supposed to be.  I realized this yesterday when I cast on a pair of Ringwood Gloves and finished almost an entire glove in one day.

I believe my New Year's resolution from 2010 will be making its reappearance in 2011.  Cast on one project at a time.  And buying yarn one project at a time.

I do have 90% of my family gifts made.  I should make something for my uncle, but his wool allergy makes that kind of difficult.  I do have lots and lots of cotton yarn though, it's just persnickety to work with.

After the New Year I plan on getting serious about reverse-engineering this sweater.  It's an adorable little thing, seen on the TV show Fringe.  After that, if I still feel like reverse-engineering things, I may go after an adorable shawl-collared gray sweater I saw Helen Shaver wearing on Supernatural several seasons back.

So many things to knit, so little time...

Saturday, December 4, 2010


If you didn't watch last night's episode of Supernatural, go watch it NOW.  I'll wait.  Really, it's that good.

Okay... hopefully you've been keeping up with Supernatural this season, because a crap-ton of stuff got resolved, answered or skewed in a new direction last night.  And Hooray for Castiel!  Not only did he kick some ass righteously (in every sense of the word), he learned some new tricks, too.  That must have been quite a performance by the Pizza delivery guy.

Fringe also pulled a mid-season massive plot-resolution episode.  Fauxlivia's cover was blown, they're back in their correct universes, and now we get to see how Peter reacts to knowing he's been sleeping with the enemy all this time.  Is it going to screw up his relationship with Olivia?  Also, hilarious use of coined wordage by Walter.

Once again, anything I'm supposed to watch with the hubster, we are behind on.  This means Glee, No Ordinary Family, Walking Dead, etc.  I have been watching old seasons of the comedy "Frasier" to fill in my knitting time... guess who I spotted?  A very young version of Sue Sylvester from "Glee" as a snooty mother trying to get her child into prep school.  Hilarious.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Knitting: Change of Plans

Well, I did NOT start my Norwegian Sweater during the Thanksgiving festivities.  I started feeling guilty about starting something for myself when I have relatives in Minnesota freezing their butts off.  SO...  I'm knitting other stuff, but I can't talk about it.  Yep, they read my blog.

Don't you hate it when people do that?  Announce they have a secret and don't spill it, not reading my blog.

Knitpicks, of course, had this HUGE sale... 40% off... on the holiday weekend starting with cyber Monday.  Do I have any money left to take advantage?  Heck no.  All spent on presents already thanks to some nifty Black Friday deals on Amazon.  Oh, there was such a lot of very, very pretty sock and lace yarn... some at less than $2 a skein.  Can you hear the whimpering all the way over where you are?  Yup, you should.

Ah well, I shall put it all on my wish list and cross my fingers.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Computing: Moving your "My Documents" folder

Windows has been set up to do a very stupid thing... its default location for your "My Documents" folder is in the Users section of your C: drive.  The very same drive your operating system resides on.

Normally this wouldn't be a problem, if computer viruses didn't exist.  But oftentimes the most effective and time-saving method of cleaning up your virus problems (especially if the victim isn't particularly computer-savvy) is to reformat your operating system drive, and reinstalling Windows.  I'm sorry, but there's no way I'm going to spend a nine hour phone call with my Grandmother explaining to her how to download the virus removal tool or get into her hidden files and folders, or the registry.  It's just not going to happen.

So here's how you can permanently relocate your "My Documents" folder to another hard drive, assuming you have one (and you really, really should) so that you don't lose all those important documents, photos, and music.

1.  Locate the icon for your "My Documents" folder.  Depending on which version of Windows you're using, this may be located on your desktop or in your "Start" menu.

2.  Right-click the icon and select "Properties"... it should be all the way down on the bottom.

3.  In the box that pops up, you will see several tabs across the top... one should say "Location".  If it doesn't, then you're probably running a much earlier version of Windows (Like, before XP) in which case you can probably just move the folder manually.  I don't have a way of checking that, however.

4.  On the "Location" tab, you should see a box with the current file path in it, and three buttons below it.  Click on the "Move" button. 

5.  A box titled "Select Destination" should pop up.  Select the proper drive letter from the tree on the left, and then click the button marked "Select Folder".  It doesn't have to be an actual folder, despite what the button says.  In this instance, just the top level of the drive is good, such as D: or E:.   It's going to be "cutting and pasting" the entire "My Documents" folder from the old location to the new one, so there's no need to create a folder to put it in.  That will just make finding your files a pain in the keister later.  Make sure you have enough room on the drive for the folder, and some extra space for future stuff, like new photos or music.

 6.  Wait for it to finish moving.  Depending on how much stuff you have this can take quite a long time.  If you have over a Terabyte (that's 1,000 Gigabytes, people) it can take upwards of an hour, depending on what you've got running in the background.  Especially if you have things writing files to one of the two drives that are involved in this process.  My last move took several hours because I forgot Tivo desktop was copying TV shows to my computer.  Oy.

Okay!  You should be all set.  All programs that use the My Documents folder (some games and applications save files to your folder) will see it in its new location and everything!  And your data is safer if there's a catastrophic failure of your OS drive, or you have to reformat for any reason.  Not just viruses.

However, you should still follow a regular schedule of backing up your important stuff.  It's no different than scanning and saving your hard-copy photos or documents that are important to you.  Having extra copies, saved in a separate location than where the originals are, is always a good idea.  I'll be talking about a backup plan later.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Computing: Signs you may have a computer virus

Sorry friends, this is not one of those humorous posts.  Deadly serious.

Everyone... and I do mean everyone... who browses the internet, uses cute little Facebook apps, or clicks html links embedded in emails indiscriminately is vulnerable to very sneaky, sometimes undetectable (without virus software) computer viruses.  Sometimes, they'll steal your credit card number when you type it in to buy those cute shoes on eBay.  Sometimes they want to send annoying spam mail from your email software so the virus creator doesn't get in trouble with the law for running scams.  And sometimes the creator writes them just to see how far they can spread them, tracking them in the wild like tagged elk.

No matter what they were created for, they are annoying and can waste you hours of time and effort... even if it's just in time spent waiting for web pages to load.

It's important to have anti-virus software even if you don't think you're infected... a good program (some of them free) will catch them before they even take root.  I'm going to point you to one, but first, here's a list of symptoms that you might have a computer virus.  Taken from

  • Your computer runs more slowly than normal
  • Your computer stops responding or locks up often
  • Your computer crashes and restarts every few minutes
  • Your computer restarts on its own and then fails to run normally
  • Applications on your computer don't work correctly
  • Disks or disk drives are inaccessible
  • You can't print correctly
  • You see unusual error messages
  • You see distorted menus and dialog boxes

Another one they didn't list was if you have an unusual number of friends and family from your email address book asking "What was with that weird Viagra email you sent me last week?"  You might want to take that as a BIG sign.  Unless, of course, you actually sent one yourself.

Anyway, even though newer versions of Windows have built-in defenses, right now most people are not running the most up-to-date version of Windows.  Here's how to protect yourself and guard against future infection.

  1. UPDATE - I realize some of my family up in Minnesota are still stuck with dial-up connections, but it's still very important to connect to the Windows update service and get the latest security updates.   These are fixes for security holes that virus creators have learned to exploit.  Spackle them over with a hotfix update.  Do this at least once a month.
  2. Get yourself some anti-virus software and set it up to regularly scan your computer... quick scans daily and a deep, thorough scan once a week.  Most of them have the ability to shut down the computer when it's done running, so you can start it up when you're leaving the computer for the night, and even if the scan takes till three in the morning, it will shut itself down afterward.
  3. If disaster strikes, and you do contract a virus, learn how to clean the infection, or be prepared to re-format your operating system drive.  Depending on your setup, this may mean losing a lot of data.  Be prepared for this by NEVER keeping your "My Documents" folder on the same hard drive as your Windows drive.  There's a way to ask the PC to move it in the "Properties" tab of the "My Documents" folder.  At least then you won't lose your photos, documents, and other personal stuff.
AVG has a great anti-virus program... I'm using it myself.  There are two versions, Free, and Pro.  You can download both here:  Just look for the blue box that says "Free Edition 2011".  Don't forget to set that up to update itself, too, since new viruses are being written every day.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Knitting: Casting On

Well, between baking pies and last-minute shopping trips, a girl has to find time to sit down and get off her feet.  With that in mind, tomorrow morning while waiting for baking, simmering, and browning to be done, and I'm watching the Thanksgiving Parade, I think I'll be casting on my kit for the Norwegian Lusekoft sweater.  My kit is in red.

I've been crocheting squares for the Snuggly blanket this week, and it's just a basic granny square.  I'm feeling the need for a bit more complexity.

My Grey/black Clapotis is done, but I haven't taken a picture yet.  It's really yummy-soft and warm.  Will make for good neckwear when the temperatures drop back below 40 again.  That's the weird thing about living on the gulf... even if you're in Texas, the winters get nippy.  We had snow one year.

Anyhoo, my dear friends and family, have a great turkey day!  Remember to keep all food-safety rules in mind when eating/storing leftovers.  Food poisoning is not your friend. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cooking: How do they do that?

I've been using a recipe organizing software called "Cook'n".  I started using it because Master Cook is abandonware, and Living Cookbook needed me to call and ask for a license reset EVERY freaking time I reformatted my operating drive.  Up until this month, Cook'n was a dream to use.

Oh, sure, there were little things about it that bothered me, like the jury-rigged way you have to do ingredients if you need to qualify it with something with a comma (onions, chopped means you have to type ,_chopped in an ingredient field) and some of the weird linked recipe bugs I've found over the years, but until version 9 it was a good resource for menu planning.

I've purchased several cookbook modules from them, all sent via download link in an EXE file.  I save them diligently on my hard drive, backing them up in case I need them.  I had a problem installing version nine that necessitated uninstalling BOTH versions of Cook'n, both 8 and 9 and reinstalling both of them again.  Why would I need to install both again?  BECAUSE their EXE files for their cookbooks are NOT backwards compatible.  Over $100 in cookbooks and recipes purchased over a span of years, and all were useless unless I installed version 8, installed all the cookbooks, then installed version 9 which would automatically import them.  The first time.  But not on subsequent re-installations.  Oh no.

The flaw in their system was brought sharply home to me when, on a whim, I ordered the download version of "Holiday Cooking".  It had a LOT of recipes, was less than $15, and seasonally appropriate.  Much to my dismay, when I tried to install it, it said I didn't have Cook'n installed.  It also politely asked me to call an (801) area code number if I needed assistance.  As if.

Now, I could back everything up, uninstall everything, and reinstall it all, adding this one cookbook.  But why should I have to?  I even tried exporting from version 8 to a DVO file, and importing into 9 (something I'd desperately tried on my first 9 installation).  But no.  Those files are not backwards compatible either.

I probably wouldn't be angry about all of this if they hadn't PUSHED BACK the release date of 9 in order to "provide a better product on release".  Really?  What exactly DID you fix?

I am *this* close to going back to Living Cookbook... and they still haven't replied to a technical service email I sent them five years ago.  That's how irritated I am.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Food: Because It's Sooner Than You Think

 Alton's Brined Turkey (sorry, they embed advertisements right in there, too... bastards)


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Television: Messages

My grandfather died last week.  He had a long life, and his health was not good, but it still affects me.  I'm also unable to make it up for the funeral.  I will probably be posting very little next week regardless.  I don't even feel like writing this post, but I figured I'd better mention it so no one worries.  And since I'm here and had this half-written and saved...

I discovered the new "Nikita" series this past week.  It rehashes the "origin story" of Nikita from the french film, the American re-telling via "Point of No Return", and the "La Femme Nikita" television series, and use many of the same characters.  "Nikita" is giving it an interesting twist, however, placing most of the origin story in the past and telling it through flashbacks and the mole Nikita placed in the training facility.  I like it.  However, of the three "Nikita"s and three "Michael"s, I like the Bridget Fonda/Gabriel Burne pairing the best.  LFN's Michael's accent is so thick, it's hard to follow him sometimes, although I like his Nikita.  In the new series I don't like Michael at all, and Nikita is just "meh".  I do like her protege a lot though.  Eh.  We'll see.

"Psych" is back from hiatus.  Ah, Sean and Gus... I missed you wacky kids.  I also miss your '80s retro musical numbers after the end credits.  What happened?

Supernatural is becoming a real force this season.  Kudos to the new team!  And Ack!  What do I say that's not spoilery?  This week's episode was touching and sad, and the boys seem to be dealing with Sam's status.  Still, I bet they're thinking that torching those bones was a good idea now, don't you?  Not that Sam gives a crap...

Rumor has it that Gwyneth Paltrow will be singing on Glee next week.  Really?  I missed the memo.

Otherwise, with my marathon of "La Femme Nikita" episodes to compare and contrast with the new series, I am behind on all my current TV watching.  I'll be trying to catch up.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Knitting: Search of the Week

With the ability to share Ravelry searches, I give you the new "Search of the Week".  Please note, you must be a Ravelry member to use this link.

This week's search:  Shawl Collar Cardigans, Aran weight 

Knitting: New Show, New Vigor

Well, my knitting took off yesterday with the discovery of a new, cool show to watch while I knit.  I was skeptical about the new "Nikita" series, especially when it started with roughly the same plot as "Point of No Return" and all the other previous Nikita knock-offs.  They added some unique touches that made it a bit better than I anticipated though, and I'll be talking about that on my usual TV blogging day on Saturday.

Meanwhile, I'm making excellent progress on my Big Red Tights.  I'm beginning to see why the yarn was on sale though, as I've run into several spots where one strand of the yarn was looser than the rest, bumpy and snaggy looking.  I had to break and splice, they were so bad.  I'm glad I got extra.  I'm also glad that I intended these to be worn under things, rather than as leggings.  The snaggy bits look like I split stitches all over the place.

I also think that either the pattern is a bit off, or my gauge is a bit off... or a combination of the two.  Once it hits the knees, these things are huge.  Trying them on, it almost looks like I should have decreased at the knees and increased for the thighs again.  Instead once you hit the top of the calves, there's this huge baggy area.  I may not even need any inseam increases, and I'm seriously considering using a sewing machine to take out an oval-shaped swath behind the knees once I've finished knitting them.

I *really* don't want to have to rip all the way back to the increase line.

It's crap like this that makes me not want to knit.  I swatched for this, and I *hate* swatching.  And still... crap.  Sigh.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Gaming: Spooktacular

Steam had a sale Halloween weekend... 50-75% off selected spooky titles.  I got hubby a gift of the Left 4 Dead bundle... at a third of the price I got it for myself.  Grr.  But I got myself the Overlord bundle, so it's all good.

I'd said I wasn't going to get Overlord... I'd already played the first one on the Xbox 360, and given up because I found it frustrating.  There are no clear road signs, and the paths are just loopy enough to get oneself turned around... a bad thing for an evil overlord stomping through the countryside.

So after the trick or treaters slowed down to a trickle, I got a little gaming time in with my new games (I also picked up Batman: Arkham Asylum and the Steam version of Plants vs. Zombies for an absolute steal).  Overlord is better on the PC for some reason.  I *did* have to look up the map online, which had been included with my previous version, but not this one, not even in PDF format, but maybe I have more patience now, or maybe it's the difference between playing on your couch and playing up close to a PC.

In any case, Halloween was a great time.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Television: What rhymes with "Screwed"?

We finally got some answers this week on Supernatural.  There is going to be some speculation on my part and some SPOILERS if you didn't watch the episode last night.  Consider yourself warned.  I'll also be discussing some other shows in a more general fashion, so if you want to skip ahead to those paragraphs, I won't be offended.

Supernatural finally told us what the weirdness is with Sammy, Samuel, and those freaky cousins of theirs.  I TOLD them quite loudly a while ago that they should have burned Crowley's bones when they had the chance.  Did they listen?  NO.  Idiots.  Now he's holding Sammy's soul hostage, and has some kind of leverage over Samuel (and can I just interject how stupid it is to bring back one of the relatives the boys are named after?  Having two Sams is confusing... Gah!).  My private guess is that both Sam and Samuel were brought back without a soul, but Sammy's soul is the one currently in Samuel... Samuel was a demon when he was killed.  I'm betting his soul is long gone.  And I'm thinking the leverage Crowley has on Samuel has something to do with Mary, they boys' mother. 

Okay, enough spoilers and speculation.

Stargate: Universe is chugging right along.  Our unhappy soap-opera in space didn't have any trips through the stargate, but plenty of romantic side-trips, discussions of babies, divorce decrees, and secrets and lies.  It's starting to piss me off.  You know, I don't care if the ship's computer can run battle simulations in the colonel's dreams... it was one big "Groundhog's Day" episode, without the funny.  My god, I'm ready for them to bring back the fugly aliens, and I really didn't like those guys.

Graham Norton has started a new season... check your BBCA listings (or your equivalent if you're not in the US) for details.  He has quite a few American actors on his show, which is surprising.  I don't get all of the political satire, but his bashing on Amy Winehouse is funny.

I like the addition of Sela Ward to the CSI: NY cast.  She's always been fun to watch in any of her roles, and her current one as a transplanted Virginian scientist in New York is cute and sassy.  I'm hoping Mac finally has a love interest that isn't going to run off on him.

I feel unqualified to comment on the Rocky Horror Glee show, since I must be one of the few people who has only seen it on DVD.  I did get the joke Sue told about throwing toast, but other than that I was pretty much lost.

I have a lot more shows I watch, but I think that's enough for this week. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Knitting: Still Working on the Fluffy Stuff

Still working on the Snuggly Afghan, which might turn out to be the Snuggly Bedspread.  Little Monkey Pants recently got new sheets and needs a brighter, cuter bedspread to go with them.

The squares for this thing seem to go really fast, but once I started piecing them together, I wasn't making as much progress as I thought I was.  Good thinking on my part to use the Yellow Crayon yarn that I bought over 20 skeins of when the color was being discontinued.  It's the main color, interspersed with a bright pink and citrus orange.... I love those three colors together, but now I'm wishing I'd added some blues and greens.  And ordered more of the secondary colors.  At the time, I thought two skeins that made 10 squares each would be plenty, but the end result is smaller than I anticipated.

What you see above would make a very large couch cushion.  I'm already on my second skein of pink, so it looks like I'll have to order more.  I'll just have to make a crap-ton of yellow squares while I'm waiting for the additional pink and orange to arrive.

I've also been using up the excess yarn from my Chullo Hat, now finished, by double-stranding it and crocheting the exact same basic granny square.  Since it's in browns, it will make a nice addition to the back of the couch.

I think the reasons I'm on the crochet kick are a) it feels faster b) I NEED to use up some yarn.  Seriously. and c) I picked some really boring stockinette projects for my knitting, and I'm in avoidance.  The granny square is easy enough to memorize (no hauling a book around) yet complex enough that I have to pay attention to what I'm doing.

I'm getting burned out on it though.  I hate to cast on yet another project, but I do have a rather nice Norwegian sweater kit from Knit Picks, and since the temps are dropping to the 40's this weekend, I'm thinking it will be handy soon.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Television: Freaky

... and not in a wholesome, cutesy Freaky Friday way. 

Stargate: Universe threw us into Lt. Scott's subconscious by way of the episode "Cloverfield".  How sweet that he wants to marry Chloe, that he sees his Colonel as a father figure... it's too bad he knows something's up with Chloe and that dangerous alien DNA she's carrying.

Supernatural is getting rough.  Sam is just wicked wrong right now, and despite my best efforts I got a spoiler for next week dumped in my lap.  Look people, there's a REASON I don't watch the previews, goddammit.  Stop blabbing them.  Anyhoo, props to newlywed Jared for some fine acting... nice use of subtle facial expressions man.

We are behind on Modern Family, No Ordinary Family, Glee, and any of the other shows we watch with hubby.  Band concert this week kind of cut into our family evenings.  I'm rather glad though that my "manly" husband will sit down and watch Glee with us... I think the high ratio of Journey and Billy Joel did a lot for that.  Now if we could get them off that damned Lady Gaga thing... I just have very little respect for techno pop where half the instrumentation is turn-a-dial-and-push-a-button.  Learn to read sheet music and play a fucking instrument!

Ahem.  Yeah, I'm a music snob.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Knitting: Chalupa?

There's a Taco Bell right behind the apartment complex.  I'm a fan, but only because it can be cheap and filling and damned convenient when Mom needs a break from cooking.  Unfortunately the rest of my family is too darned picky, so it's usually just me celebrating a nice sale on Etsy or going for lunch when I'm too hungry.  My favorite is the #6 Chalupa combo in steak or chicken.

What does this have to do with knitting, you ask?  I just finished the Chullo hat kit from Knit Picks in brown.  Naturally, my family doesn't call it by its name... it's now the Chalupa Hat.  Yay.

To say it looks dorky as heck when you're wearing it is an understatement.  It's darn toasty though.  The colorwork causes a lot of floating strands across the back side, so it's as warm as an aran-weight hat despite being made from sock-weight.  There is a crap-ton of yarn left over.  I am not surprised they say you can make an entire second hat from the stuff.  I'm not doing that however... I'm holding two strands together and making old-fashioned granny squares.  I'm always looking for something large to wrap up in, and my shawls... made rather small because of my impatience with knitting them... don't cut it most of the time.  And since I can crank out at least four or five squares per television episode, it's terribly satisfying to use up left over yarn so quickly.

I still haven't progressed much on the Big Red Tights or my Valkyrie cardigan.  My positional vertigo is all but cured, but I haven't picked up knitting much except to finish the hat.  I expect to have at least a partially finished blanket of some sort by next week to show off to you, though.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Gaming: WTH?

LoTRO used to be a nice place to go and play.  I could log in for fifteen minutes in the morning when I needed to kill a bit of time, or spend an hour or two later in the day when my eyes needed an adjustment from knitting or reading.  Not so any longer.

I don't know if Turbine is broke, or if the influx of new kiddies from going F2P (free to play) is causing a slogginess, or what the cause is, but it takes a good twenty minutes for my server to even show up, much less my logging in. 

As people who had purchased lifetime subscriptions, we were assured that we would not be inconvenienced.  Well I'm feeling mightily inconvenienced right now.  By the time I get logged in I'm saying to myself "Feh, now I don't feel like playing."

Maybe that will change as the kiddies lose interest and the traffic dies down, but for right now I'm pissed off.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cooking: Postponement

This week I was going to review my pre-order of Cook'n 9.  It's a recipe software organization bundle I've been using for a couple of years now, ever since Mastercook has become buggy abandon-ware and Living Cookbook annoyed me with their ridiculous license verification scheme that ended up with me emailing them for a reset every time I went to open the darn thing.

Unfortunately they are pushing back the release date a week.  I liked how on the original release date, they waited until practically the next day to tell all of us who had already plonked down our money for the pre-order.  Not.

So... next week.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

General: Vertigo and Crochet

For the past two days I've been dealing with dizziness.  Apparently I have something called "Positional Vertigo" and it comes from an ear infection affecting the part of the ear responsible for balance.

To say that intricate, multi-colored knitting is not on my top priority list is an understatement.  If the room started spinning while looking at all those colors...

So part of what I've been doing is trying a very basic crochet square.  In fact, in my Harmony Crochet Motifs book, it's the very first one listed.  It's part of my prep for the Lafayette Afghan, inspired by the one used on True Blood.  Right now I'm using a very soft boucle cotton yarn that's pretty forgiving of errors.  I'm at the point where I can do one entire square in the time it takes my husband to walk to CVS, pick up my prescriptions, and come back.  So, not shabby.  If I had, say, four episodes of True Blood to watch, and the yarn (already on order) I could probably finish half the blanket in the time it takes me to watch them.  Assuming I'm not distracted by flashing fangs and interesting pectorals.

Edited to add... holy crap, Claritin is effing expensive.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Gaming: Back to Civilization

Sid Meier's Civilization V was released recently, and although I'm not the world's biggest fan of the series, sometimes boredom causes you to make leaps of faith.  I very, very nearly got the digital deluxe version, but I didn't see how I could justify spending an extra ten dollars on a game I wasn't sure I'd enjoy for very long just for an extra cultural leader character.  And as convoluted as that sentence is, if you haven't played the game it'll be really hard for me to make it any clearer.

In any case, they've improved the game tremendously.  I still feel like an idiot when I play, because it beats me every freaking time, but at least now I'm having some fun while all this is going on.  Civilization IV was on sale while they were building up to the release date, so I gave IV a go (it was ridiculously low-priced, like $10) to guage what my interest in V would be, and I didn't like it very much.  Four seemed boring.  But for some reason, five is maintaining my interest.  You're closer in on the action, for one thing, although you can pull back to get an overview if you want.  It's amazing what that little difference can do.

I've also been slowly making my way through all the episodes of Left 4 Dead on the PC.  Steam recently had a sale, selling both L4D and L4D2 at a ridiculously low package price, and although I've played through the first one on the Xbox 360, it was insane to spend $60 for the second one in the 360 format, when I could buy both L4D games for $10 on Steam.  Yes, you read that price correctly.  I don't know why people keep crying that consoles are going to kill PC gaming... with price differences as big as those for the content, consoles aren't taking over any time soon.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Television: Formula, Formula

I believe I'm going to have to switch my TV blogging to Saturdays.... since the move of "Supernatural" from Thursday to Friday, it's far too long a wait to discuss the really good stuff.  And yes, I consider "Supernatural" the best show I'm watching.

This week, much like "Enterprise"s episode "A Night in Sickbay", "Supernatural" had a one-hour focus on one of the more peripheral characters, and a slice of their life.  "Weekend at Bobby's", directed by show star Jensen Ackles in his big debut, gives us a quick two-day peek into what typically goes on in Bobby's average day.  Or not so average.... and why, oh why, won't the powers that be let him eat that frickking peach cobbler?  Great episode.

On "Fringe", I knew Walter's acquisition of Massive Dynamic would prove to be a candy store the writers could not resist going nuts in, and they did not disappoint.  I did not get a chance to read "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" before the episode, so I could compare and contrast the themes, but it was an excellent episode nonetheless.

"Rubicon" is winding up its season.   With the dramatic attempt on Will's life, they're setting us up for a firecracker of a cliffhanger till next summer.  They do a very good job of making him human and interesting.

I'm not sure I like the appearance of Dr. Rush's dead wife on "Stargate: Universe".  Jiminy Cricket she's not.  I also really wish they hadn't found a way to get Lou Diamond Philips onto the ship... that guy annoys me.  Oh well, he won't be poaching wives from men who are on assignment anymore.

We're behind on "Glee" and "Modern Family".  We've checked out "No Ordinary Family" but we're undecided on whether it's a keeper.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Knitting: The Crack of Doom

After Katrina happened, we were living off of rental furniture.  The first thing we rented was this huge sleeper sofa because we couldn't afford to rent two beds as well.  We ended up keeping it, mostly I think because we didn't want to have to haul it back to the store. 

This thing is enormous, and comes in two sections... very heavy sections.  There's the bed section, and then it turns a corner in an L shape, much like an attached chaise.  At this point in the couch, where the two parts join, there's a dividing line we call the "crack of doom".  If things fall down there, it's going to take an act of congress to get it back.  And where do you think my favorite knitting spot is?  On the chaise section.  It's next to both a light and a window, and dammit, it's comfy.  It demands a heavy price though....  I'm sure when we move I will find a bazillion and one knitting needles, cable needles, pens, tapestry needles, and quite possibly Al Capone under there.

Anyway... knitting.  I finished the Vanity sweater, so named for the color of the Rowan summer tweed yarn I made it from.  I'm not terribly happy with it.  The cotton/silk blend makes for a very loose knit, even though I went down a needle size.  The ribbing is floppy and has no "pull" to it.  I also did not understand the way the author wanted us to construct the button holes. 

The Big Red Tights are up to the knees, but I'm not enthusiastic about those right now.

After the Vanity was finished, I started in on the Andean Chullo hat kit I got from Knit Picks.  I love the look of colorwork items, but man, I hate knitting them.  My floats are always too tight and picking the different colors with every other stitch makes for slooooow going.  Like I'm not frustrated enough with the speed of my knitting.

The crack of doom nearly took my Chullo hat yesterday though.  If I disappear for more than a week, send my hubby an email and tell him to pull the couch apart... I may have fallen down in there.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Books: Late, Late at Night

When I was in Junior High and High School, I was famous for mostly one thing... having the world's biggest crush on Rick Springfield.  I believe the best descriptive phrase would be "obnoxiously obsessed".  I would challenge my friends to come up with trivia questions that I could not answer.  I knew most of the answers, but when they occasionally came up with one I didn't know, I'd pull the answer out of... well, you know.  The brand name of the champagne he was holding on the cover of "Success Hasn't Spoiled Me Yet"?  Really?  But I really did think I knew it all.

Until I read his memoir.

It seems tragic to me that a man who has brought such happiness, enjoyment, and (let's face it girls) lusty feelings to millions around the world once tried to hang himself when he was seventeen.  I know the landscape of my life would have been vastly different, and not for the better, had he succeeded... although that tragic picture of me in a shirt with epaulets playing a tennis racket like a guitar could disappear without one word of complaint from me.

The meaning behind some of his songs have also been altered for me forever.

The book is set up in a mostly chronological order.  I had several strong impulses to play his albums as I read when he mentioned them... and I'm a fast reader.  Despite the 320 page length I think I could have kept up with the pages as the story behind them unfolded, with a suitable pause during the dry spells.

Rick is exactly twenty years older than me.  I've known that for years.  What I didn't realize at the time is that he and my mother are almost the exact same age, Rick being two weeks younger.  I mean, I knew the facts of it, but I never really put it all together.  When I was one, he was dodging bullets and playing gigs for the GIs in Viet Nam.  My stepfather was there several years later, but it's likely they trod on the same patch of dirt once or twice.

Mostly what I didn't know was the sad stuff, the tragic stuff.  The scary stuff.  The idea that he's had a shadowy dark figure he's nick-named Mr. Darkness tailing him all his life, whispering in his ear that he's not good enough.

Has any of this tarnished my view of my idol?  Not so much.  At fourteen I probably would have been devastated, but I'm a grownup now (and pretty damn long in the tooth myself) so I understand it a lot more now than I would have then.  I have my own tragedies and regrets.  My own little Miss Darkness that travels with me wherever I go, whispering that what I've made is crap.  Yeah.  I totally get that, and I feel badly for him... that he can't just pick up a flashlight, shine it on his darkness, and stab that fucker right between his eyes, banishing those dark whispers forever.

Huh, I guess playing Alan Wake has given me an alternate method for dealing with darkness.  Sometimes I wish real-life demons were as easy to vanquish as fictional ones.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Knitting: Resurgence

I've gotten back my knitting mojo... with a vengeance.  I'm currently on the lower edge ribbing for the "Favorite Cardigan" whereas this time last week I had not even cast it on.  In about three inches of ribbing, I'll be on the sleeves and then done.  Of course I'm kind of slow on sleeves... we'll see how it goes.

Obviously, or maybe not, this means I finished the "Stripey Tang" sweater.  I decided not to steek it, and went easy on the collar, instead of making it very long for a folded turtleneck.  Yes, I wanted to finish it more than I wanted it to look just "so", why do you ask?  :D

Once the Favorite Cardigan is finished, I might finally start those orange and black striped socks I've been meaning to make for the past two years.  Possibly in time for Halloween, not that they'd go with my outfit, but hey... they're 50% silk and the orange is a discontinued color from Knitpicks (yes, big surprise) so I'll at least feel special wearing them down to the bus stop under my kick ass boots.

My husband wore his Fish Hat to work today.  I'm not sure whether to be pleased and flattered, or just embarrassed for him.

I just bought a three-shelf organizer for the front entryway (which would imply that there's a back entryway, which there's not... dunno, I'm weird).  It does NOT fit three of the recommended cloth drawers in it, only two, but I've designated one drawer for hats and another for gloves and mittens, clearing up a bunch of space on the back of the door, where I'd been hanging a cloth shopping bag full of said items.  It's a stackable, modular style thing, so I can probably order more pieces and add to it.  Hopefully there's a piece that would do for hanging coats and such.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Television: Events, Hacks, and Surprises

During my television watching this week there was a kind of odd convergence of random oddities that, as a whole, added up to a very surreal experience.

Not only am I starting to watch a few new shows, get reacquainted with old ones, and finishing up the summer's entertainment, I'm also watching very old shows... most notably Star Trek Enterprise and X-files.  I watch older shows before bed, because if something is *too* interesting I will never get to sleep.

First, the season premiere of "Supernatural" with Mitch Pileggi (remember that name, folks) reprising his role as Samuel Campbell, the boys' grandfather and father to Mary Winchester nee Campbell.  Excellent as always, and an interesting return for the show.

Then, an old X-files episode where AD Skinner (played by Mitch Pileggi) is conned into thinking he's killed a prostitute in his bed while asleep.  This prostitute was played by Amanda Tapping, the actress who portrayed Carter on Stargate SG-1.  Mitch Pileggi was on Stargate Atlantis, so watching the two of them roll around under the covers was a bit... odd to say the least.

And then the second episode of "The Event" which has gotten infinitely more interesting now that we know it's all about "aliens among us", and could only possibly be improved upon by the inclusion of Mitch Pileggi.  Considering it's about aliens, he'd fit right in.  Or as my husband would say, "He's got a background in alien acting", taking a riff from the character Joey from "Friends".

Then to wind up the whole oddball package, I was watching a re-run of "Graham Norton" I had never seen, and who should be a guest but Gillian Anderson formerly of "X-files".  I had no idea that she was British.  At first I thought she'd just picked up the accent from being in the country, as I will do in a heartbeat if I'm around heavy accents for more than five minutes, but no.  And she was still disgustingly beautiful, damn her.  I would kill to have her luminous complexion.  That's not makeup, folks.

I have not managed to catch the new episodes of "Chuck" as yet, as my DVR is having scheduling difficulties.  Also, some weird randomness seems to turn off my cable box once or twice a week, leaving my Tivo nothing to record but blackness.  It's annoying.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Knitting and Handicrafts: Tangy

I have made some progress on my Stripey Tang sweater, even though I haven't updated my Ravelry percentages.  They're always a guesstimation anyway... I mean, it *feels* like the body of the sweater should be about 50%, each sleeve roughly about 20%, and the collar 10%, but who knows?  I always feel a vague unease when marking the percentage completed on Ravelry, as though I'm pulling numbers out of my ass and bluffing my way through... something.  Like a business presentation.  Weird.

I'm still contemplating whether I'm going to steek it and put a zipper up the front.  As a pullover sweater, the stripes make it a little clownish, but add a zipper and call it a jacket and it suddenly doesn't seem so terrible.  If only Wil Wheaton had known during his Star Trek costume fitting sessions, his name wouldn't be paired with terrible sweaters for all eternity.  Take care of that the next time the Enterprise goes back in time, will you?

I am perversely feeling like I don't knit fast enough to get everything I want done, yet strangely unwilling to actually sit down and knit.  I think the relatively instant gratification of sewing has spoiled knitting for me.  Not forever, but every time I sit down I'm thinking "My god this takes forEVER".

Speaking of sewing, I have decided to make my costume this year.  Simplicity was having a sale on patterns, so I stocked up.  Of the ones I got, I think this year I'm going with a pirate wench outfit... nothing cleavage-y.  It's a puffy shirt, nice corset-vest with epaulettes, and some breeches.  We're talking muslin, velvet, and fake suede.  Nice and tastefully elegant... assuming I don't mess it up.  It's been a while since I've used a set of eyelet-setting pliers, and the velvet is fricking expensive at $16 a yard.  I wanted to get some bits for making a striking fake gem and fake pearl necklace to go with it, but of course then we're getting into a hundred dollar costume... and no.  That is NOT in the budget.  It's funny how even fake versions of semi-precious gems can still cost the earth.

I also picked up a pattern for a long duster coat, much like Neo in the Matrix.  Instead of making it for my husband, however, I have a billion yards of some fake suede bought on sale in a dusky brownish-rose color.  This may be a solution for a winter coat, assuming I line it properly.  I also found some square magnetic snaps/clasps on sale, intended for handbags, but I think would do much better for closures than the squares of velcro the pattern calls for.

I'm terribly excited about the sewing projects to come, so I guess this is my long-winded way of saying my knitting might be taking a back seat for a while.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Gaming: Way Behind

Despite the fact that Dead Rising 2 is out today, I am NOT playing it.  No, instead I'm catching up on old titles that I bought, but have been sitting in my cupboard, still in the shrink wrap.  Like Dead Space.  I'm a bit of a moron that way. 

Ah, well, I'd be sitting and obsessing over when the UPS man was going to get here.  And then of course, instead of being one of the days where he shows up early, like 10:30 am when I'm still on my first pot of coffee, it'd be one of the days where he shows up at 4:30 and in a surly mood.

I'm pretty glad that I finally gave Alan Wake a go.  Not only did my interest peak while the Limited edition was on sale for only $6 more than the regular edition, it is one of the few games that was interesting enough for me to want to continue past the first play-through.  I like the stories in a game or movie or TV show... once I know the story, I'm usually done with it, having sucked it dry of every imaginative premise.   Only Alan Wake and an unknown gem called The Darkness (based on a comic-book character) have been worth a second play-through for me.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some space zombies to track down.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Television: Goodbye and Hello

After a bunch of interesting (and sometimes baffling) season finales last week, it was good to finally get back some of the shows I've been puzzling over all summer, most notably "Glee" and "Fringe".

How anyone can mistake the new "Glee" character Coach Beast as anything but a man in drag, I will never know but my husband gave me skeptical looks whenever I brought it up.  And I hope this trend towards Lady Gaga and rap music dies a slow and painful death.  Bring on the Billy Joel, I mean he did give you performance rights... make use of it.  Something from "Glass Houses" please.

Judging by the season opener last night and plot spoilers gleaned over the summer, "Fringe" means to draw out the events of last season's finale over the next season.  I wonder what big plans Joshua Jackson has that he's signed a contract dropping himself back to guest star status?

"Supernatural" returns tonight.  It's a miracle, but we will see the return of character "Castiel" despite the fact that actor Misha Collins recently ran a staggering 52 miles for a charity event.  Honey, since leaving the Army I don't even want to run 5 feet, and his kind of mileage just staggers the mind.  Check out the non-profit organization "Random Acts" that Misha inspired, and see what they're up to.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Gaming: Bright Falls Tourism Board

I finally got around to returning some not-being-played titles to Gamefly.  And what showed up in my mailbox?  Alan Wake.  (The limited edition is on extreme sale right now... OMG, get it while you can!  I did.  I'm itching to get the soundtrack on my iPod.)

Normally, I'm a zombie girl... but "the taken" can give zombies a real run for their money.  Even with the lights in full-on brightness mode in the living room, this game can make you jump, but won't cause you sleepless nights.  The game very fluidly takes you from novice to expert without overly annoying tutorials.  The monsters are spooky without being garishly bloody, and the plot is well-written even if the ending is ambiguous.  Well, it's a game about a writer... one would hope the plot was given more than one trip through the word-processor.

I've finished it once in Normal difficulty.  I'm currently going back to clean up some achievements before heading into Hard and Nightmare territory.  So far, I'm not chafing at re-playing material I've already covered, so I would concede that it has re-play value.

Plus, there's so much that's satisfying about wielding a flashlight as a weapon.

Once my purchased copy gets here, my rental copy will be headed back to the Gamefly warehouse.  Give it a try.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Television: Summer's End

Big summer-season finales going on for the shows who didn't rate being in the fall line-up.  Covert Affairs wrapped their season with a possibly-fatal gunshot while boarding a helicopter.  Will Ben Mercer live long enough for us to find out what he's up to?

I've been enjoying Lyndsay Wagner's role on Warehouse 13.  It's too bad they don't seem to be interested in expanding it very far.  I would almost prefer her character to be the current Big Bad Evil instead of Ms. H. G. Wells.  Imagine the damage a medical doctor could do with W13 knowledge?

The Gates has been picking up for me.  Rather than the episode four revelation being a death-knell, it has led to some interesting plot developments.  The loss of Paul Blackthorne's character "Christian" brought an end to what I thought was an interesting exploration of addiction patterns, and began moving into adoption issues.  Meh.  And while it's trying to be a show that highlights relationships and communication in a supernatural setting, they seem to move past each point they're trying to make so fast that it really doesn't have time to sink in.  Maybe being limited to 13 episodes in a season causes this.  It's certainly been the case for HBO's True Blood this season.

Speaking of which, Alexander Skarsgaard is one sexy man, even dipped in concrete.  It's too bad this season spent so much time on inconsequential matters, like football players on V, that they had to flash through the main events.  At least Sookie has stopped being an idiot for the time being, although that maniacal cackle while using the garbage disposal makes me question her sanity.

Less than a week to the season premiere of Supernatural, and the advance trailers are making this season look really, really good.  They seem to really like evil Sammy, and since good Sammy is kind of a pill, I don't mind that in the least.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Knitting and Handicrafts: Farmer Joe

I've been neglecting my knitting this past week, partly because my back doesn't like me sitting in one place for very long, and partly because I've been sewing.  I'd been promising my hubster a jean jacket for winter for the last six months, and had the fabric for five.  Halloween is coming, so I knew it was time to get it done.

The pattern came in sixteen pieces.  I pinned it out on Sunday, started sewing on Monday, and finished up putting on the buttons yesterday afternoon while catching up on "The Totally Rad Show" on the Roku.  I probably could have been done in one day if I didn't have to get up and move around every half hour.

I had switched knitting focus anyway... I've been trying to finish up my stripey Tang sweater.  For one, I wanted it off the needles, and two, I want to start the "Favorite Cardigan" from the same book to use up the last of my luxury yarn I bought when Barry got a bonus earlier this year.  It's the Rowan Summer Tweed, and it's 30% silk, and I've been dying to use it.  I got bored with the Big Red Tights.  I knew when I started that they'd be the equivalent of four pairs of socks, but I didn't think it'd be *that* boring.  I should have done them in colorwork, with fancy bands of pattern.  But then they wouldn't be wearable, in my opinion.  Younger gals could maybe get away with big, fat stripes across their legs, but not me.

I really want to make my Halloween costume this year, but the patterns I have are old ones bought on sale, and they were apparently written in cooperation with some lace manufacturer who has since gone out of business, because I can't find their lace anywhere online and nothing even remotely compatible.  It's a 3-style pattern, where you can make either a gypsy, princess, or shepherdess costume.  Apparently they all wear corsets and yards of lace.  Who knew?  I was going to do the shepherdess thing... It's got a Bavarian bar-maid kind of feel to it, but 10 yards for the two layers of skirt alone?  Oy.  Even with discount fabrics we're talking the start of a $50 costume.  It would be handy if I ever went home for Oktoberfest, though.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gaming: LoTRO A-Go-Go

I've been playing the new, micro-transaction enabled version of LoTRO for about a week now.  It's had some rough patches (pun intended) and an influx of annoying kiddies, but mostly it's been a good experience.  Not great, just good.

The addition of instances that are available no matter where you are in the world, through the skirmish system, is a big plus.  You no longer have to get your group of people organized, troop them out to a remote location, and hope you don't end up dying and have to walk all the way back.  Now, it's group, click and go.  The dead re-materialize in the instance.  I cannot tell you how much of a time-saver that is.

The points system is a little wonky.  I wouldn't trust my cash with it yet.  The points, also, do not go very far.  $50 will get you 5000 points (thank goodness mine were free) but things like a permanent Fate stat increase costs 1500 points.  To save up my 500 free points per month for all the stat increases available, it'd take me a year and a half.  The first time I logged in, I got bonus points for each month I logged in over the summer, plus points for all the deeds I'd already completed with my characters.  It totaled up to about 6700 points and after a few permanent instant-teleport maps to places I go frequently, and a couple of stat increases, that is almost gone.

As far as aesthetics, the new buttons on the login screen and the shop interface are overly large, and garishly done.  The world is almost as beautiful as ever, and fitting for the Middle Earth setting with the exception of some new buttons advertising purchasable perks, but then you go to the shop and BAM!  You're jolted out of the serene world by an advertising-heavy shop front.

And that "Restore Morale" button up top?  I'm afraid to check how much *that* costs.  Talk about a crutch for poor players with more money than sense...  Ugh.

But of course, I'll continue to play.  It's been free for me to play for the last three years, more or less, so unless it becomes impossible for me to play properly with all the extra load placed on the servers, I'll be sticking with it.  I'm just not sure whether I could recommend it to friends.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Food and Budget: Ouch

I've been nursing a sore back for four days, and I think I'm finally seeing some improvement.  How did I injure it?  Dodging the crap my daughter leaves in a trail from the front door to her computer every day when she comes home from school.  I take consolation in the fact that I will always have a trail leading to her location.

Anyway, the point of this self-pitying missive is that I haven't gotten to do much in the freezer-cooking department, but this IS the occasion where it really pays off.  Stuff was already in the freezer, I just had to finish it up and serve it.  Thaw a bag of pre-cooked hamburger, and you've got sloppy joes or the base for a good chili when topped off with home-canned chunky red sauce.  With ingredients purchased on sale, I also know that it's only pennies per serving.

Hopefully the savings will allow us to save up for a house and move... soon.  Because I can't wait to get my hands on a big chest freezer.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Store stuff: Like Phoebe's Brother

I have rediscovered an old hobby... making candles.  The equipment has changed some in the past thirty years, but it's still as fun as ever.  I'm thinking about switching my shop focus (yes, again) to stained glass and candles.  Why?  Well, with the recession, my sales dropped off sharply.  There's a market for dyed wool, but it's nowhere near as big as the market for artistic glass items and candles.  I want to cast my net as widely as possible.

Now, if only there was some way to guard against my extreme oafishness.  :P

I made my first candle yesterday afternoon after the supplies arrived.  The plan was for a Cranberry-citrus scent and red color.  I'm working away happily, when my daughter came home from school and noticed that the scent I'd *actually* used was "Blueberry Muffin".  Yeah.

Determined to make the next candle "fancy" and see what I could do when improvising (sort of... I'd read about the technique online months ago and wanted to give it a go)  I used a small craft melting pot to make a small amount of orange wax, layering it in a foil-lined bread pan with a layer of white wax.  I let this cool halfway, until it was cool enough to handle, but not stiff yet.  I snipped this into strips with my workbench's kitchen shears, twisted them, let them cool and placed them in my shorter 3" pillar mold.  I then overpoured this with the (corrected) Cranberry Citrus in red.  I was hoping for an orange-cranberry scented candle that looked red with orange peels embedded in it.  It turned out really neat.  Unfortunately my picture of it did not.  The embedded chunks do not look like peels, but the color differences are still there.  Next time I will pour my overpour wax a little cooler to preserve the integrity of the chunks.  I will also take the time to set up my proper photography area.

My third candle is cooling now... a "MP requested" candle in a light blue with "Ocean" scent.  I think the scent is rather gross... it really *does* smell like the ocean.  And if you've ever spent any time walking a beach, with its tangles of seaweed and rotting fish carcasses, the appeal of the ocean is kind of lost on you.  But she finds the notion romantic, so that one's all for her.  I'll be doing the second pour on it sometime later today.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Gaming: Free-ness

As of today, the LotRO servers are going down for a big patch.  Not only are they adding the content for Book III, Chapter 2, but today is the day the anticipated/dreaded (by some) free-to-play business model goes into effect.  What does that mean?  Anybody can play... well, anyone with a computer and a broadband connection. 

I have this vision of some homeless guy spending six hours in the library doing a raid on the library in the game.  Though most libraries are on dial-up, yes?  Not good for gaming. 

I'm anxious to see what's going on with the paid-points trading system for in-game items.  Since we all went lifetime-membership some time ago, we're permanent VIP members, with 500 free "Turbine points" a month., Turbine being the name of the game company.  Supposedly, if we save up our points, we can use them for expansion packs, in-game items, and the like.  I'm very curious to see how far 500 points will take you.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Happy Labor Day Weekend

Don't drink and drive, have a fire extinguisher handy by the grill, and by all means practice food safety in the kitchen.

Have a happy three-day weekend!  See y'all on Tuesday.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Knitting: Sock Break

Well sometime last week I finished the Watermelon Socks and started in on the Big Red Tights from the Knitter's almanac.  Then I promptly took two or three days off knitting while I read books.

I don't know what the hell is wrong with me.

It's like I become serially obsessed; focus on something intensely, then flit off to the next one to become obsessed all over again.  I've re-read the first three Dean Koontz "Odd Thomas" books in two days.  And forget about the weaving.

I'm doing much more weaving now that I've gotten the stand for my Kromski Harp loom... my problem is the hassle of dragging it to somewhere where I can see the TV while I weave is becoming a pain, because it doesn't seem worth it to drag it back after only fifteen minutes, and I don't like spending more time than that in one chunk.  It's hard on my shoulders.

Getting a large roll of appropriate-width recycled newsprint paper is the best investment I ever made, though.  Rolling the warp onto the back beam is ever so much easier.  Just plonk the box down under the loom, direct-warp onto the loom through the heddle, and wind, giving the warp a tug after each rotation.  I have way fewer tension problems now than when I first started.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gaming: Buying Used Games is NOT Evil

I don't know how many of you follow the online comic strip, Penny Arcade, or keep your ear to the ground for the latest game-industry gossip.  For all I know, the only people who follow my blog are cooks and knitters who find my gaming posts boring.  But as a knitter, cook, and gamer, I follow all these things with more than a little interest.  So bear with me.  Gaming is making an appearance...

Today's Penny Arcade strip and news article tackles the subject of buying used games, and dissects a statement made by THQ's creative director Cory Ledesma.  Apparently, everyone I've listed above thinks that buying a used game somehow cheats everyone involved.  Since a good portion of my blog deals with how to tighten up your budget for something as necessary as FOOD, you can imagine how I feel about spending the full price for a game.

Here's the thing... buying a used game, no matter if it's from a chain store like Game Stop, eBay, or Gamefly, is not the act of someone trying to actively cheat the system.  There's piracy for that sort of thing.  Buying a game used is like two kids going to the corner store and pooling their money to buy a game.  You pay half, your buddy pays half, and you both get to play.  In the used game market, these two "buddies" never meet each other, but the principal is the same.  They're splitting the cost to buy a game that might otherwise never get purchased because the parties involved couldn't afford it any other way.

Yes.  Might never get purchased... that's what I said. 

If the consumer goes into a store to buy a game, which do you think he or she will buy... one they can get a portion of the value back on when they've completed it, or another game at the same, ridiculously high price that they'll have to throw away when they have no use for it any more?  And the person who buys all of their games used?  They'll never want to pay that ridiculously high MSRP either.  So that's one copy of the game that never gets purchased, and two consumers who will never experience your product.  They'll never rent it from Gamefly, because the game has been crippled for that market too.

So basically, Mr. Ledesma, when you snub the portion of the gaming community that buys used games, you're basically saying "If you can't afford our game at full price, I have no interest in having you as a customer".  And that basically tells me you're no better than those snooty shopgirls on Rodeo drive in "Pretty Woman".

Big mistake.  Huge.  I'm off to go shopping now...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Knitting and Weaving Extra: The Zoom Loom

In order to finish my Sherry Stole (Ravelry link... oh heck, if it's not an Amazon link, it's a Ravelry link in this post... I won't bore you with telling you where each one goes) I had to order three more skeins of the Sherry Shimmer Laceweight.  They finally arrived yesterday, and now I'm a mere 16" from completing it.  The silk/wool combo has made for a soft, yet I think fairly warm fabric, and the slight variations in color look really striking.  I'm also amazed at how quickly this 3x3 tabby weave is progressing.  If I get off this computer and get to my loom, I'm sure I could be finished in an hour or less.

Which leads me to start puzzling over what to do next.  On the one hand, I have a crap-ton of sock yarn.  On the other I have several spools (yes, huge spools) of Peaches and Creme cotton yarn left over from knitting a log cabin blanket.  I am torn as to what to try. 

I have many, many skeins of a Gypsy red sock yarn I had intended on knitting into the Wool Peddler's Shawl from the Folk Shawls book I've had for a couple of years.  But how much cooler would it be to weave one instead?  Especially since I'm expecting a new book, The Weaver's Idea Book some time today.  I've heard nothing but glowing things about the book, and its ideas on how to create new fabrics on simple rigid heddle looms like my Kromski Harp.

I also want to get these Watermelon Socks done so I can start in on the Nether Garments from Zimmerman's Knitter's Almanac book.  You would not believe how absolutely NIPPY it gets here in coastal Texas in the late fall and winter.  Frost on the grass, see-your-breath, bitingly COLD.  I fully intend on finishing those puppies and wearing them like long-johns.  I might even make them with footies.  Heh.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Food and Budget: Back to School

I was just telling a friend that I think I've caught the "back to school nesting" thing I saw another blogger type about last week.  I know things are going to be crazy-hectic, so I'm getting the freezer and pantry ready for everything.

Over the weekend we went grocery shopping, spent way too much, and now I'm canning and preserving it all.  Between cooking, bagging, and storing meat in the freezer and making jams for canning in the pantry, I'm worn out!  I cooked several pounds of chicken thighs, stripped them of their bones and skin, saved the cooking broth, and bagged the meat and froze it.  I made a strawberry-raspberry jam, an orange marmalade, and salsa.  I canned all those over the weekend.  I'm thinking my electric bill is going to be huge!  Do you know how much water it takes to cover quart jars in a canner?  Then heat it to boiling and sustain that boil for over 15 minutes?  Oof.

I'm glad we did the school supply shopping early this year.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Television: Bitemarks and Brouhaha

You know you're watching too many vampire shows when you find yourself comparing and contrasting the bitemark effects.

I'm not sure I'm liking what's going on with "True Blood" this season.  Once again revealing the differences between female (book author Charlaine Harris) and male (HBO series writer/producer Alan Ball) writers, Alan Ball has taken a street-savvy-but-romantically-inexperienced Sookie Stackhouse from the books and turned her into a stupid, whiny woman who doesn't have the sense not to scream for help when she's in a house full of sleeping vampires and werewolves.  Get a female writer on staff, Alan, because you're being a chauvinistic dick.

Meanwhile "The Gates" has ramped up their own revelations of how their Vampire and Werewolf societies work and interact.  The police chief is now aware of the werewolf community... I wonder how long it will take him to realize what's going on with his wife and make the revelation to her as well.

"Covert Affairs" has emerged from its infancy and revealed itself to be a straight-up espionage thriller, without the distracting and annoying mystical trappings foisted on us by "Alias" or the constant (but still appreciated) comic relief present in "Chuck".  Piper Perabo has proved she can carry the drama and action required for this role, at least to me, and I now count the show as one I am eager to watch.  Since the show's cast is mostly a "who's-who" of actors from most of my past favorite sci-fi series, they had me half in the bag from the beginning, but it's nice that the production quality seems to be properly supporting such diverse and excellent talent.  I've had my eye on Christopher Gorham since his guest role on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and lengthier role on "Odyssey 5".  Add in additional cast members such as Kari Matchett (Invasion), Peter Gallagher (Rescue Me), and Sendhil Ramamurthy (Heroes) and you've got a pretty good recipe.

AMC's "Rubicon" is harder to gauge.  It's less a "flash in the pan" action thriller, and more a slow-burn conspiracy/intelligence drama.  The problem with this kind of show, the slow-burning kind, is that it will probably take an entire season to get really, really grippingly interesting.  The pilot led me to believe it would have at least one "Aha!  Aren't I clever for figuring it out too?" moment in each episode, but instead it's turned into a drama/documentary on the realities of intelligence analysis.  Rather dull.  It has enormous potential, but when it's this slow to find its gear, they may lose their audience and be off the air before things get good.

"Fringe" will be returning to the air on September 23rd, just a short month away.  I cannot wait to find out what happens with Olivia... and Olivia.  If you don't watch the show, don't worry, that's not a typo.  And I can't wait to see Walternate get his comeuppance.

School here in our district starts on Monday.  Expect my posts to start showing up at an earlier hour from now on, since the woogie will be back in school.