Friday, February 26, 2010

Television: In other words, I hope you like sports, Lady.

So the other day I watched the US women's Curling team compete.  You just know some bored Minnesotan or Canadian thought this one up... let's see, we have a rock, and a bunch of ice, how can we amuse ourselves?

Hey, I'm from Minnesota, originally.  I know winter boredom.

Kind of like now.  With the Olympics on, suddenly we have two months of no original programming from the networks.... V, Fringe, Supernatural, and a host of others are on hiatus until the Olympics are over.

Is it just me, or have television hiatuses, in much the same way the children's school year has changed, gotten longer and more frequent?  Used to be a show started in the fall, they maybe took a break for Christmas, and then were on until what, May? 

Since I added Television to my blog format, though, it seems like I'm constantly apologizing for lack of content because NOTHING IS ON.  I realize the television medium is evolving.  With instant streaming and the crap-ton of free content on the internet, things must change.

I just miss the days when I would get excited as a kid because it was a Friday night during the school year and I knew that "Buck Rogers" would be on.  You know I can't even watch that show now?  I wince at the complete cheesiness of it all, though I know the dialogue from some of the episodes by heart, because I would use an audio tape recorder (VCRs were still $1000 items back then) to record and re-play the episodes.  I didn't know at the time that Buck Rogers was originally a radio show, so the irony was lost on me, but I would play those tapes in my room for hours during the summer when I was bored out of my mind.

The one shining beacon through this sports-heavy time is LOST.  Supposedly this is the final season, the "season of answers", but we're... what?  Five episodes in, and so far they've only obliquely answered what the smoke monster is.   Everything else?  No.  Are the answers so simple to convey, so basic, that they're going to fritter away these precious last episodes with filler and "reminder" episodes to bring up things we may have forgotten?  Did we really need to revisit the Adam and Eve skeletons in the cave?  Do we really need NEW locations and mysteries, such as the Lighthouse, introduced at this point?  It may have answered the question as to how Jacob could find the survivors on the mainland in their childhoods or earlier days, and influence their lives, but the basic core of it, the "just what the hell is going on?" of it, has not been addressed at all.  Five seasons of questions building up, can you really waste time getting to the answers?

Not if you want the story to blow people's minds.

Ditto with the side-reality... the reality that would have been had the island never intervened in their lives... seems to have no bearing on "our" reality.  More time wasting.  Get to the meat of it, already.  I've had it up to here with appetizers.

Geeze I complain a lot.

In other news, hubby's quarterly bonus check has come in, so we are dragging me to the eye doctor today.  I know my eyes are bad, and my contacts are getting really bad, because I keep mis-reading things in print and on the internet.  It makes for some very amusing mental dialogue while reading Ravelry forum topic headers.  It doesn't help that I tend to skim a lot.  In fact, while re-reading this paragraph for proof-reading, I read "bonus check" as "boom check".  Oh yes.  That makes total sense.

Hopefully this will lessen my frustration with beading.  I was having a heck of a time doing tubular peyote stitch around some 8mm pearls last night.  I finally threw it down in disgust, because I just couldn't SEE how the beads were lining up.  My tension was for crap too, but I probably could have fixed it if everything wasn't so hazy.

Anyhoo, I will see you folks again on Monday, assuming I don't find something I must share with you RIGHT NOW over the weekend.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Store Stuff: This week's agenda

This week for the business side of things I have a shipment of jewelry supplies coming in... Nymo and silamide thread, a wide array of seed and Rocaille beads, an assortment of Austrian crystal beads in 3 and 4mm sizes, headpins, eyepins, etc.  They were on sale and you can never have too many headpins on hand.  And if I can save a couple hours of work getting pre-made eyepins instead of rolling my pliers myself, I'll do it.

I will probably be entering inventory receipts into the computer until NEXT week.  There's over fifty items.  In fact, since I installed Windows 7 a few weeks ago, I just realized I have to reinstall my inventory management software.  Oy.

And I should probably get ready to do the new-fiscal-year merchandise inventory.  Blech.  I wonder if I can hire a highschool kid as an apprentice to do it?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Beading née Knitting: Downtime

Still on the injured list as far as knitting goes, and taking a break seems to be working, so I don't want to mess it up now by giving in and knitting again.  I resolved to go one month, so I will.  Better that than having to give it up for a lifetime, yes?

To keep myself busy, I've gotten back into jewelry and beading.  I went through my crafting stuff and discovered I had a much more extensive collection of Delica seed beads than I realized... much more extensive.  In fact, I'm starting to feel guilty about the large order I placed on payday that's arriving Friday.  Fortunately, years ago when I was building this stash I had a preference for silver-lined transparents, and my order is mostly AB metallic finishes.

I started my skill rebuilding by learning how to bead around cabochons... the most famous cabochons being cameos.  A cabochon is defined as an undrilled bead or stone with a flat back, sometimes with a domed front.  The domed front can be either smooth, faceted, or carved as in the case with cameos.

My first bead-bezeled cab was a cheap glass one done in a tiny motif.  I did it in my daughter's favorite colors, so if it was terribly messed up and tragic looking, someone would still love it.  :D  It did not turn out terrible, so I forged on.

My second beaded cab was a greenish, mother of pearl-ish oval stone.  I had bought an assortment of cabs five years ago, and they don't exactly label them individually.  To say I am not a geologist is an understatement.  But it's pretty, so I gave it a bezel, outline, and dared to add some fringe.  It's passable.  I don't think I'd wear it though.

Now, I have a strict rule that I will not make jewelry, for personal use or for sale, that I would NOT wear myself.  I try to create something tasteful, and hopefully original yet classic in design.  There are some beading techniques that I just think look cheap and tacky... heck, there are some metalsmithed pieces that I think look tacky... so I won't do them.  Coral fringe, I'm talking about YOU.

But despite this, suddenly I have this urge to do one of those fantastic, overblown, tacky beaded collar pieces.  Why?  Who wears these things?  Is there a trailer park of retirees in Florida who thrive on every new piece?  A group of egyptian-era SCA types re-enacting the building of the pyramids?  I appreciate the work, detail, and artistic merit in creating these things, but we are, at the core of it, creating JEWELRY.  Something meant to be worn, loved, and enjoyed.  If it looks like someone's bead stash finally gained a life of its own, like a mutant boa-constrictor, and is trying to choke the life out of the recipient, did we truly fulfill our purpose?

It seems like I constantly complain about things here, on this blog.  This is not "Craftastrophe".  I really want to be positive.  But I just can't think of an occasion where it would be appropriate to wear something like this.  Am I turning into a stuffy old fogey who can't appreciate or change with new trends?

Am I turning (gasp!) conservative?

I could possibly see the daisy number being worn on a younger woman at a Prom or similar occasion, preferrably with a classic gown in simple lines.  If there are too many froofarou embellishments on the dress, the overall effect would look like Carmen Miranda.

But sometimes a piece, although visually stunning and perfectly composed, is not jewelry... it is art, for art's sake.  Like a ring with a four inch tall setting, or the garland-like piece to the left.  It's pretty, it took tremendous talent to design and execute, but would I wear it?  No.  And it's not just because the first toddler I pulled onto my lap would tear it to shreds, it's that it's just too much.  I'd feel like I had a Christmas wreath around my neck.  I wouldn't be wearing it to make myself look attractive, I'd be wearing it to draw attention *away* from myself. 

And I think jewelry should enhance the wearer, not the other way around.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Gaming: Neighbors stealing cable

So I published my blog yesterday at about 7:30, went to the bus stop with my daughter, and returned at about 8:00.  The internet was down.  My cable TV was also a fuzzy, red and snowy mess.  I could not get on the internet all day.

Considering how much I complain about people getting away from their roots, losing the self-sufficiency of our pioneering anscestors, you'd think that I wouldn't find this a terrible inconvenience.  With one of my knitting/spinning/wire-wrapping hands on the injured list, though, I was finding it VERY inconvenient.  I couldn't email my husband to stop for bread on the way home.  When I needed a clarification on a beading technique I was having problems with, I couldn't look up a tutorial online.  And I had horrible visions of a customer placing an order that I would never see because I couldn't get to my email.

Well, obviously it's back up again.  The main tap into the apartment complex was eroded, and the repair guy swapped it out and everything was dandy.  I found out in the course of things, though, that my downstairs neighbor was stealing cable.  It makes me wonder if he switched things around down there to make his stealing more convenient, because to go from great to crappy in the space of a half-hour seems suspicious.  No matter.  They slam their door all the time anyway.

Anyhoo, I WAS playing a lot of Star Trek: Online up until this debacle.  Yesterday it was a lot of Plants vs. Zombies while I waited.  I still have plans to get Bioshock 2, but possibly not next payday since I have my eye on some metalsmithing tools, and they are pricey.  I think I need to learn to be a machinist so I can make these tools to sell, instead of busting my ass on jewelry and fiber.  $46 for a 4x4 inch square bench block?  It's a completely smooth square!  You don't even want to know what they're charging for a dapping block with mirror-finish depressions for doming sheet metals.

So that's the state of my gaming life this week.  TMI?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Food: Husbands and Grocery Stores

So I asked hubby to stop on the way home on payday to get some basics, like milk and bread, and he comes home with $20 worth of steak.  Not even steak that's worth the price per pound, mind you... the tough kind that needs to be marinated or braised into submission.

So I went to to find a good marinade I could make with what I had on hand.  Couldn't find one, but there was an interesting one made with cocktail sauce and honey.  Since cocktail sauce is ketchup+horseradish,  and I did have both of those things, I improvised, stuck the steak in a zip bag with the marinade, and let it soak for 24 hours.  It was pretty darn good, all thinks considered.  The sauce is boiled after marinating, sauteed mushrooms are added, then served over the steak.  The resulting sauce is not unlike the mushroom sauce found on top of the Burger King Mushroom and Swiss burger, which my family has a definite passion for.  I served it with oven fries and a simple salad on the side.

I also found myself with only one can of Bing cherries, and unfortunately you need two of them to make a pie, so I thickened it with a bit of cornstarch in a sauce pan and served that over ice cream.  Awesome.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Television: Kurt Russell on the BBC

I record a program from BBC-America called "The Graham Norton Show".  It's what the "Tonight Show" would be if it was hosted on a cable network by a flamboyantly gay man.  It's hilarious!  This week's guests were Kurt Russell and Jenny Eclair.  Jenny is a comedienne from "Grumpy Old Women", and she's a stitch.  They covered many topics, mostly about Kurt's career, and I found out some very interesting things that I didn't know.

  • His first acting job at about 10 years old was kicking Elvis in the shins.
  • Walt Disney was like a grandfather to him.  He died after writing Kurt's name (so sad).
  • He purposely drowned (with rescue personnel standing by) while filming "Poseidon" for a more realistic portrayal.
With the disillusionment I've felt recently with certain actors I've admired, it's nice to see someone in the business who seems wholesome and down-to-earth.  This episode isn't being re-aired this week, but catch it in reruns if you can.  Olivia Newton John and Anna Pacquin episodes are airing later this week, so if you have any interest in them, try to catch them.  It's a really funny show, and worth a watch.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Knitting: Injured Reserve list

Well, I don't know how I did it, but I injured my hand while knitting.  Fortunately it's my left hand, but I'm going to give it some rest so I don't do anything permanent to it.

It's just as well, I'm on my third week on the body of that wretched sweater, and I'm only to the increases at the bust.  Whoever decided that a sweater knit out of LACEWEIGHT was a good idea should be chastised.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Gaming: Grows on You

Windows 7 has been relatively painless to use.  There's been some aggravation with figuring out workgroups and sharing with the (as yet) non-W7 computers in the house, but other than that it's been a breeze.  As a result of the expensive purchase, though, my ability to purchase casual games and the latest releases (Bioshock 2, stay alive and I will find yooooou) has been curtailed.

That, and some nasty cold/flu that has kept me sleeping for three days straight, and I don't have a lot to report.

Before I collapsed, though, I was still giving Star Trek: Online (STO) a shot.  Then, in what must have been a moment of delirium, I purchased the lifetime subscription, making me even more short on funds.  Strangely, I have been enjoying the game much more, especially since I made Lt. Commander (a level 11 equivalent) and was able to purchase my first chosen vessel, a science ship with what trimmings I could afford.  I don't even mind the space battles anymore, though I prefer the away missions.

Other than STO, I've been re-hashing old games or trying in vain to get a jackpot on  Hey, who couldn't use $4,999.99?  Especially if I'm taking it from Electronic Arts, who now owns the casual gaming site.  Don't get me started on what they've done; suffice it to say I nearly didn't purchase Sims 3 after the debacle that was Spore.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Miscellaneous: Recovering

Some nasty virus attacked our house, so we'll be recuperating a few more days.  I'll be blogging again shortly.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Knitting: Still the Same

I'm still knitting the Classic Lines Cardigan... or I should say, I'm still NOT knitting it.  This project has either killed my desire to knit, or it's the slowest project in the world.

My resolution this year was to whittle down my stash.  My approach to this was in two ways... I would only buy yarn when I have a specific project in mind for it, and I would try to pick more projects based on yarns I already have.  Therefore, if I have 60,000 yards of laceweight, I will knit patterns based on laceweight, and I will not BUY any laceweight.  No, not even if it's on sale, or a color is about to be retired and it's my "last chance".  I slipped up a little bit last week... kits were on sale last week, so I bought the Mrs. Foster kit, "Carmen Banana", and a kit for the houndstooth bag in red. 

Have I knitted the Mr. Foster kit yet that I bought last year?  No.

So when I say I really don't want to cast on another project, I do mean it... I also want to focus on one project at a time so that I don't end up giving up on things and the yarn just sits there.  I would also like to find a use for all the little leftovers I have... a whole skein here, a partial skein there.  My problem is that they are all different weights, and different fibers.  While I appreciate the frugality of crocheting an afghan from yarn scraps, I don't think you should mix superwash with handwash wool.  The squares are also going to look a little funky if you use different weights.

What I should do is dump that placemat project off of my rigid heddle loom that I haven't touched for a year, and make scrap-yarn scarves.  It was just really, really time-consuming to put that warp on the loom.  I'd hate to cut it off and start over.  I suppose I could cut it off and use the warp that's already on there... I think I wound on enough for at least two scarves.  Side by side, too... so four scarves total maybe?  Hmmm...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Gaming: It's getting bad out there...

When I used to work at a little medical equipment refurbishing firm called Comdisco (yes, that really was the name, and no, John Travolta never visited) they used to give us the Monday after the Superbowl off every year.  Can you tell it was a mostly-male workplace?  At least it wasn't like the conference I went to for Radio Shack managers where they threw hot peppers at the audience and the guys waved them around like penises while the three women in the audience rolled our eyes.  But I digress... I took Monday off because after a weekend of chips and dip, I felt I wouldn't have much to contribute in the food arena.

As far as gaming, I haven't done much new either.  With my purchase of the Windows 7 upgrade, I pretty much had to stick with what games I already have.  Not that there's a lot of choices on the market at the moment.

I've been sticking with Star Trek Online, Lord of the Rings Online, and the ever-changing array of complete-them-in-one-day casual games on Big Fish Games.

STO has improved, somewhat, since the beta and headstart ended.  Windows 7 helped my machine's performance in that regard too... by fully utilizing the 4G of RAM, which XP never could do properly, things run smoother.  This is also probably helped by the new video card.  Whatever the reason, I've reached Lieutenant 7 with my joined Trill character, and once I figured out to turn off dynamic lighting, I stopped crashing on ground missions.

The new skirmish play mode on LoTRO is fun and fulfilling even if you only have twenty minutes to play.  It's a shame you have to play PvE to get past the tutorial for it and access it, though, since my favorite character is currently in Moria, and that place is seriously kicking my ass.  Do you know how long it would take me to travel, in real-world time, to get someplace better?  Forty-five minutes.  I'm not kidding.  These days, I hardly want to play forty-five minutes straight, much less watch my gal on the back of the horse while I do nothing but knit.

Other than those two, it's been "Vacation Mogul" on Big Fish Games, one of those time-management building games.  Whoopie.  I really contribute very little to society, don't I?  :P

Tomorrow... my knitting.  Or lack of change thereof.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Miscellaneous: Colored Glass for Windows

Made the jump to Windows 7 today, and once the loooooong install process was over, it was relatively quick and easy to get used to.  I went with an upgrade version, installed to replace my Windows MCE (Media Center Edition) which is a variant of XP.  It was two clicks and a long wait.  Very painless.

The pain came when trying to reinstall my Kaspersky Anti-virus.  They are not getting more money to upgrade to 2010 when I just paid for 2009 four months ago.  But 2009 refuses to work on W7.

Everything else was a breeze.  I got the software at 10am, had it installed by 11, and by 11:15 I was playing Star Trek Online again.  I love Steam for gaming... codes are right there, and no messing with disks.

I was smart enough to de-register a few programs that would be affected by an OS change, such as Amazon's Kindle for the PC, and iTunes.  I'm up to four registered PCs for my iTunes, and this is the only machine I've ever used it on... it does not deal well with change.

My favorite feature so far is the Slideshow for the desktop wallpaper... for years I've been downloading third-party apps to do this, now it's built in.  Yes, I'm a PC and Windows 7 was my idea.  *snort*  It's definitely faster on the restart, and I don't get that sluggish feeling that used to happen between switching windows. 

Friday, February 5, 2010

Television: A Trio of Time-Travellers

"Supernatural" is still continuing to amaze and delight.  The Winchester boys, along with Castiel, the friendly angel, travelled back in time to save the boys' parents... again.  Because it worked out so *well* the time before.

"Fringe" dropped the big plot bomb on us last night right before they quit until after the Olympics!  They return on April Fool's Day.  Olivia manages to recapture her ability to see what things have travelled to our universe from alternate ones.  Rabid fans of the show can guess what happened last night without a spoiler.

Speaking of Time Travel, LOST is back, baby!  The two-hour premiere makes me think that they squandered two hours they could have spent *answering* questions creating new ones instead.  Oh well, they're the ones that have to figure out how to wrap it all up in one season, not me.

"The Mentalist" amused me last night.  Jayne once again used his carnival-huckster skills to solve a crime, but he managed to dump a $100,000 car off a cliff in the process... and gets a free Mercedes out of the deal.  Tell me what universe THAT happens in.

Ladies, don't forget you're losing the television all day Sunday for the Superbowl.  The signs are there, you just have to look for them... bags of chips and salsa mysteriously appear, your husband has dragged the grill out from the garage, and for one week of the year you don't have to remind him to take out the trash.  Just hope that a few of the ads during the bowl mention Valentine's Day, and it should even out.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Knitting: Uh...

Okay, I did some crocheting.  Just a one-afternoon headband, nothing to be alarmed about.  That's the one thing about crocheting, once you get a rhythm going the projects move fast.  I wish I liked the type of fabric it makes, then I might do more of it.

Still working on the classic lines cardigan.  I don't know why I thought the body would go faster than it is, but I've only managed four inches.  Mind you, I've already turned up the hem, so that's another inch and a half of knitting that just.... gets you nowhere.  I think the reason I busted out the crochet hook was because this endless stockinette in the round, even with shaping decreases and a third strand added every six rows, is BO-ring.  All the Doctor Who in the world can't make that better.

I've rearranged and added to my Ravelry queue (I know... shocking!) changing a few things around and moving the Zarabel Sweater to the top.  Wrenna is still hovering around there, but honestly the sheer volume of posts on the support group about how it's worded, and how confusing it is (and the fact that I GAVE UP on it) makes me hesitant to try again.

At this point, I'm so bored with the stockinette, I may have to take on another project... and I was doing so well with my resolutions.  BUT I may make it an afghan or something in crochet... it's semantics, but it works.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Gaming: Nay, Captain

Star Trek: Online (STO) moves out of the pre-order headstart today and into release.  Cryptic is out of their everlovin' minds.  There are still strings of quests where you don't get 'credit' once completing a section, or necessary parts of the ground missions never spawn, not to mention the numerous times I've been dumped out of the game due to glitches or server errors.  Various patches have made it a better game than I've previously reported, but it's not terribly *polished*.  Compared to their own superhero effort, "Champions Online", you can really see the difference.  I think they need six more months.

Here's what I think happened... some suit pushed for a 2009 Christmas season release.   "Have to get it in stores by Christmas!" but then it got pushed back for a little work.  You ask me, they'd be better off pushing it off until right before the summer school break.  They might get some of the kinks worked out by then.

There's still far too much space battle for my tastes, but either I've gotten used to it, or it isn't as prominent as it was in beta.  I still don't want to pay $250 for a lifetime subscription... not for this thing, anyway.  This version is like Original Trek... plenty of trek flavor, but if you look really closely you can see the zipper on the Gorn costume and the strings holding up the ship.  What I want in my game is sleek, slick, 2009 trek movie reboot Trek... so pretty it hurts your eyes.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Food: One Base, Many Meals

One of the basic concepts I adhere to in the kitchen is the idea of one base item being made into many things.  Freezer meatballs making not only spaghetti, but appetizers and sandwiches.  Pre-cooked ground beef for tacos, sloppy joes, meat sauce, pizza topping, etc.  Chunked cooked chicken for stir fry, chow mein, ala King, chicken salad.

The trick is to freeze the base ingredient in portions that you commonly use.  2 Cups of pre-cooked ground beef is equal to one pound of raw hamburger, browned.  Once you know that, it's easy to substitute into any recipe that calls for browned ground beef.

Some people may ask why you would brown it and freeze it... why not just freeze it raw?  Well, there are several reasons why it's more convenient.

One thing I am always concious of here in Texas is that we have power outages during hurricane season.  Not always for long, although the week after hurricane Ike was horrific, but often enough and long enough to be a concern.  It was handy that the meat was pre-cooked, so all I had to do to make a stew was dump everything in a pot over a charcoal grill.

It also saves time and heat in the kitchen.  I often put it into the meal in a still half-frozen state before cooking it up the rest of the way.  Instead of dirtying five pans, browning the meat at each individual meal, I've only dirtied one pot pre-browning it for the freezer.  Not to mention that thawing the raw meat overnight in the fridge or in the microwave is a messy, potentially hazardous proposition.  I would much rather have a pre-cooked package of meat thawing in my fridge than a raw one.