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.