Jan 022018

The new year holiday time is when I like to reflect, trying to notice how things went, to conclude what worked and what didn’t, and to contemplate what I’d like to do better in the coming calender year. When I did this last year, I was happy with my goal accomplishments, changes I’d made, and the general direction everything was moving. So, for the first time in almost a decade, I made no goals at all. I figured if I could keep doing the things I was already doing, I’d be okay, to self-improve without a plan. Generally, it went okay, but I’ve found I prefer to have a plan. Admittedly, I seldom stick to my plan strictly, but I like having it anyway. This means I’m going to have to make one for 2018, which also means I’m going to have to do this reflection thing quickly here. My recent crazy workload has taken a lot of my brain cycle time (I’m not complaining; it is uncommon for work projects to be so interesting AND involving) and the majority of my evenings have been spent essentially checked-out on the sofa, catching up on television and movies, along with many hours of video games. Thus, perhaps if I write out my thoughts here, I’ll make some headway that I can come back to after interruptions. Maybe a semi-public blog isn’t the best place for it, but the crowd here is quite small and I’ve always maintained that the most important audience for a personal blog is the person it belongs to, me. Plus, I can always take this offline if I need to.

Let’s navel gave!!
Okay, that got heavy the more I typed and none of it is sharable, with the public, or really even with my closest. I hold some unpopular views, I think. Instead, let’s fast forward to the “what have I learned” and “WTF I’m going to do about it” section.

What have I learned?

Most of the things that bug me are inherently related to people and these are things I cannot change. If you are disappointed, change your expectations. Hope is a fucking unicorn.
In 2017, I made the effort to give up on things that I felt were not beneficial to me. This was a challenge, since some of these things were ingrained through my whole life by well-meaning idiots. The road to hell and all. For the most part, this was good. I will continue to not invest my precious resources (mostly my time; I am still mortal, dammit!) in things that don’t return some benefit to me. I’m being vague, yes, but this is the summary of the item.
Thus, lower my expectations. Don’t care so much.

Finally, thanks to modern technology, I’ve found a way to eat healthier, easier, faster, and with my nutritional needs taken care of. Phew. That only took my whole life to date. This means my morning routine and lunch needs are fewer and I can focus on other, less easy things. Good. Also, lost a lot of weight this year, so that is great – except for having to buy new clothes. That part is irritating.

On the downside, I failed to prioritize some things like exercise, hikes, bike rides, long walks, and meditation. 2017 had a lot fewer/less of all of that. I kept meaning to do them, but I didn’t stress about it and ended up not doing it. I miss these things, in hindsight. They help my mood and I like being happy.

As a note, one of the goals I kept for 2017 was to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night. I failed, a lot. I did get better, but I must get better still.

Speaking of happy, I did prioritize my happiness this year. The aforementioned cutting out of dubious things helped, but I made a point to try to sleep in sometimes, have that extravagant dessert, watch the movies I wanted, and sometimes simply sit on the sofa and draw things when I wasn’t up for other stuff. This was all pleasant, but not a huge deal. The little things like that don’t seem have a big impact. I will take small impacts, though, and appreciate them for what they are.

Too many inspiration fueled projects! In 2017 I allowed myself to go ahead and start new projects when ideas or general inspiration struck. This is something I tried to keep a lid on in the past and this year I tossed the lid out. Mistake. It might sound contrary, but riding that fresh wave of energy from a vision straight into a project is seldom a good idea. The only two of those that turned out well were these:
fabric shag zip pouch
And maybe that space dress I made and wore at the Solstice Party. Maybe. The rest are still incomplete, for various reasons. I estimate 10-12 UFOs from this year alone, on top of the UFOs that naturally and slowly accumulate over the years. I have more ideas and inspiration than I have time. This is somewhat a side effect of not using a plan or goals this year. More creative projects actually got done when I had a layout/plan/goals/obsessive spreadsheet system than when I did not – even when I swapped out most of my planned goals for other ones.

Too much stuff. I’m faced with the reality (as many others are, too) that I have too much stuff cluttering up my spaces. Some won’t change – I do want all the pen sizes at my fingertips and I do want a wall full of fabric choices. Some should – like books I’ll not read again, toys (but my dinosaur collection is JUST FINE!!), a fuckload of board and card games, and some digital files. I’m sure there are more crap subjects that could do with examination, but I try to set realistic goals, so this is enough for 2018 to deal with.

Okay. That is a good amount of reflection summary. Now, to action!

WTF am I going to do about it in 2018?

The basic goal list for 2018.

1. Lower my expectations for the good of my own happiness. And let shit go.
People will often disappoint you and sometimes you’re the one disappointing them. The only person responsible for your happiness is you, so you have to deal with it. As well, I almost always want to make things better, in all aspects of my life. When something bugs me, I tend to examine it and pick at it until I find a way to improve it, improve my view of it, or get over it and admit it is hopeless shit. If I could find a way to the “get over it” phase faster, that would be good.

2. Continue to eat healthy.
My system works, so I’m going to stick to it. If the cost is that I must buy some new jeans every 20 or so pounds, then so be it.

3. Exercise, long walks, hikes, bike rides, meditation, and (new to this idea), yoga.
These are all self-explanatory.

Get 8 hours of sleep a night, as often as I possibly can! I know it seems like this should fit in the above #3 goal, but it is important enough to have its own break out here.

5. All projects must be on the master spreadsheet and have a plan!
No more spur of the moment stuff, no more last-minute, weekend projects. It didn’t work out and I know why and what to do better.

6. Acquire less stuff, get rid of stuff.
I’ve already started this on my holiday weekend. Three bags of trash and a pile of magazines met the trashcan. I’ve just cancelled one of my art supply subscription boxes (I had three (crazy, I know!) and now have only two) and am making a soft-goal to not buy ANY art supplies this year. With so many UFOs and a well-stocked workshop, AND two monthly blips of a handful of new supplies, I should be okay. Thread is an exception to this because of its aging issues, and I do have a gift card with some balance remaining for necessities. We’ll see how long I can go on this one. Also, if I sell something in my Etsy shop, I am completely allowed to use that profit for anything I want.
Besides the creative supplies, I will continue to open old boxes, toss stuff out, and be generally more ruthless in the assessment of items I keep.

7. Be nice to myself.
I push myself a lot, because I like doing things, accomplishments, learning, experiments, creations. I dislike sitting around, ingesting mindlessly, wasting my precious life. Sometimes I need to stop and remember that I should only do as much as I want, as much as is beneficial for me. My drive is MY drive and should benefit ME. Just, chill the fuck out every once and awhile.

That is a fine list. Hello 2018! Let’s do it! If anyone is still reading, what are you aiming for or against in 2018?

Jul 192016

Yesterday as I was departing work, driving along at a reasonable few miles above the 30 MPH speed limit, an SUV was in a hurry, riding my rear as if that would make me go faster. After a light change, the SUV floored it, cutting off a truck in the next lane so that they could pass me under the light, get up to about 50 MPH, cut in front of me and slam on the brakes – because we were both stopped at the NEXT red light. I tried to ignore the crazed behavior, casually flipping them off and attempting to put it from my mind.

As we sat at the light, I realized this SUV driver was from my workplace. I had a strange moment of dissonance – almost always the crazed assholes on the road are strangers. This is someone I have worked with. My brain immediately supplied the reminder that this person is an asshole in their workplace, too. Every single encounter I’ve witnessed proved they were an nonredeemable asshole. Every reliable person who has related interactions with this person confirms the assholery. If you asked me to predict their driving behavior based on their work behavior, I would’ve surmised they were likely to drive like an asshole.

What interests me was that moment of dissonance. The idea that I would be surprised that a person I knew would be an asshole on the road. It surprises me, and frankly disturbs me, that even though I know this person was a piece of shit, that I wouldn’t be ready for the recognition of their reckless driving when it was right in my face. That it would surprise me.

On one hand, I think I should be more prepared for people to be assholes, it is far too commonplace. On the other hand, I am glad that I still have enough heart left to not assume that every person in an asshole.

For everyone out there who put some effort into not being an asshole today, thank you.

May 252016

Why do people want to socialize while using bathrooms?
I am busy eliminating body waste. I do not want to chat with you about the paint job on your new birdhouse through a stall door. I would like us all to pretend to have some semblance of privacy.

 Posted by at 10:22  Comments Off on I do not understand people.
Nov 102015

A couple weeks ago, I got a bit of a shopping itch and had some bonus points on Amazon. I stumbled across this product, Scratch-Art Printmaking Scratch-A-Print 2 and decided to try it out. It was interesting and cheap – both things I like. There were no useful reviews I could find online and the description of the product didn’t give me enough information to satisfy my curiosity.

Screen printing can be an intimidating process for folks who are new to it. There is a comparatively steep monetary investment, there are sensitive emulsion chemicals to mix up and deploy/install/adhere/spread/coat, there are specific timing and light guidelines/restrictions/requirements that can change based on a variety of factors. I’ve had my own difficulties with old, poorly-stored materials.

The Scratch A Print package, front.

The Scratch A Print is a paper frame with a tissue screen. The screen tissue is embedded with pressure sensitive material in it – this is the equivalent of your emulsion. The stencil is created by mere pressure. This means you write or draw what you want with a pointy thing, through the clear plastic and you’re ready. I don’t think it gets much easier or simpler than that. Very little time investment and the product is the only resource investment to get to stencil ready status.

The tissue in my pack was blue, not red as shown in their package picture. I think the picture is of the larger size, the 6.75 x 5 inch printing area, but I have the smaller ones, which are 3 x 4 inch printing area.

The Scratch A Print package, back.

The frame exterior is made of a thick, coated paper, which increases its water and ink resistance and general durability. The core of the paper is still merely a foamy, paper nothing. This means that as soon as the frame edge gets wet, the moisture spreads. The stability degrades with any water or even wetness, as you’ll see below. The screen is like a carbon copy layer. If you’ve every used a carbon copy layer, you will recall how your writing or typing would leave translucent sections on the layer where the blue was transferred to the paper below. This is exactly the same principle. I want to call the screen carbon tissue, but that term defines something specific and different, so I’m going with carbon paper tissue. The carbon paper tissue is delicate, but plenty sturdy to get through the job, as you’ll also see below.

Paper already cut to the tissue window size is included in the kit, so if you’re creating your image from scratch, you can get right to it. Otherwise, make sure you have a correctly sized frame around your art so you can line it up with the tissue window.

I drew a quick outline of this photo of Moxie and wrote a few words to see how they’d look.

The first tests were done using a foam roller – aka brayer. Mine was a closed cell foam (meaning it was smooth) instead of the brand advertised open cell foam (meaning it had sponge texture). I was concerned the brayer, even with the soft foam rubber, would be too harsh on the tissue, but it was fine. In fact, I think my smooth foam roller made the prints better.
Test of Scratch A Print on plain paper with Sargent's washable tempura using a foam roller.
Test on plain paper with Sargent’s washable tempura paint. Not great. This is not paint I normally use, but I wanted to try it since success would mean a low monetary investment (this whole bottle was $1.50) and easy cleanup. The paint was too runny out of the bottle, so there was little I could do to increase the viscosity without breaking out my paint additives, which defeats the purpose of using cheap tempura paint to begin with.

Test of Scratch A Print on plain paper with Versatex fabric screen printing ink using a foam roller.
Purple Versatex fabric screen printing paint onto white cotton using a smooth foam roller. Good consistency out of the jar, good push through the tissue stencil. Half of these prints are acceptable. Maybe I’ll make some zip pouches from them.

Test of Scratch A Print on plain paper with Speedball block printing ink using a foam roller.
Speedball block printing ink in red on plain paper using a smooth foam roller. Had to add water to the ink to get a usable consistency, but the push through the stencil was okay after that.

Between each color and material, I gently rinsed the screen and blotted it dry with soft towels.

The next tests were done using a foam brush.
Test of Scratch A Print on plain paper with Sargent's washable tempura and Versatex using a foam brush.
On the left in blue, Sargent’s washable tempura onto plain paper and on the right, Versatex fabric screen printing paint onto white cotton using a foam brush. Yes, I also did a partial of the purple onto paper – almost okay! The blue tempura was worse than before, with the brush – the brayer forced a good layer through the tissue stencil, whereas the foam brush was most useful for sticking unhelpfully to the tissue itself. Even worse than that was the purple Versatex on fabric! The force required to make the brush get the paint through the tissue also squished too much paint onto the other side on the fabric. All bad.

Test of Scratch A Print on plain paper with Speedball block printing ink using a foam brush.
Red Speedball block printing ink on plain paper using a foam brush. This was the worst! All bad. The only print that turned out on this set is the cleanup one, upper left, where I placed the screen on the paper and used a damp paper towel to remove as much excess ink as I could. That cleaning gave a decent print!

Scratch A Print frame and tissue after six print runs and rinses.
After six rinses, the paper frame has lost enough integrity that the red ink has seeped into the center of it and isn’t coming out. I recommend against full water cleansing of the frame if you can help it at all. The tissue itself is surprisingly resilient, but the paper frame getting wet and dry causes it to warp and shrink, which makes the tissue screen increasingly useless as it loses vital tension.

For most screen printing, I use Golden Acrylics (fluid or heavy body) with fabric medium and I love them. I also use Speedball fabric screen printing inks/paints and they’re almost as good. For relief printing from blocks, I use Golden Open Acrylics. I would suggest any of those mediums for this Scratch-A-Print product. If you have a slightly thicker tempura, try it. You might be able to get the Speedball block printing inks to a good consistency, but I can’t speak to it only because I didn’t try very hard.

The stencil can be gently cleaned with a damp paper towel or rinsed in a container of water and blot-dried in order to change colors or mediums. If you allow the paint to dry in the stencil, it will become unusable. Given the paper frame delicacy, I would instead suggest transitioning to an acceptable mix color to change instead of rinsing. For instance, going from a blue to a purple, which would give you a print or two with in-between colors before the new color saturated the tissue completely. Damp paper towel the edges of excess paint to clean them up. Reasonably, I wouldn’t expect much reuse from this; I would consider it a one or two run product. If you’re kinder and gentler than me, you may get three uses. Jainists may get four uses.

This is a good product, if it will fulfill your project needs. I will certainly be using it in the future. As an occasional home-screen-printer, it is a bit of fuss to clear spaces and gather and process materials to expose an emulsion screen. This Scratch-A-Print product requires none of that – just take it out and write or draw on it. It doesn’t last very long, but if I only need to make two or three dozen prints ever, this would trump a traditional emulsion stencil screen. The Scratch-A-Print will never give me exacting and crisp details, like printed text or anything fine, but it would be excellent for more simple designs, of shapes with some details and shading, but not much. The small size is restrictive, true, but I don’t think this Scratch-A-Print material could hold up at a larger size. For how cheap and easy this is, I think many crafters would benefit from having it on hand. The only additional tool I would strongly suggest would be a smooth foam roller, if you don’t already have one. They’re maybe three or four dollars at the craft store, so it isn’t too big a deal.
This would be a good product to make some holiday cards, or invitations. With each screen running a mite under a dollar, you could do some color layers, too. The Scratch-A-Print would be ideal for some quick design additions to fabric, which I think I’ll be trying out in the future when I need just a little extra personal touch to a piece.

Oct 082014

Almost halfway through 2013, I decided to focus my reading attentions on science fiction novels, especially those considered classic, or hard sci-fi. I didn’t read sci-fi exclusively, but I did make it my main course and ended up with 26 books that were categorized as science-fiction over a year of time. Beyond the classification it had to be a new-to-me book, the first in a series or a stand alone, I wanted each in electronic format, and there would be no duplicate authors. It was an interesting experiment and here are my results.


  1. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  2. Red Shirts by John Scalzi
  3. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  4. Wild Seed by Octavia Butler
  5. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
  6. Dune by Frank Herbert
  7. Makers by Cory Doctorow
  8. Pattern Recognition by William Gibson
  9. 2001 A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
  10. The Outback Stars by Sandra McDonald
  11. 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson
  12. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  13. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
  14. A Girl Called Badger by Stephen Colegrove
  15. The Stars My Destination (aka Tiger! Tiger!) by Alfred Bester
  16. Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer
  17. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
  18. Sphere by Michael Crichton
  19. Contact by Carl Sagan
  20. Wired by Douglas E. Richards
  21. CyberStorm by Matthew Mather
  22. The Bleak Door by Christian Baker
  23. Ringworld by Larry Niven
  24. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
  25. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
  26. The Atlantis Gene by A.G. Riddle

I thought about writing a full review for each one, but I don’t think that’s really the way to go. All these books have many reviews online that are easy to find if you’re interested. Instead, I’ll summarize by groups.

Top great sci-fi books

  • The Stars My Destination (aka Tiger! Tiger!) by Alfred Bester
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  • 2001 A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
  • Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
  • Contact by Carl Sagan

Worst rubbish; shouldn’t have been published because they’re crap

  • The Bleak Door by Christian Baker – writing so bad I couldn’t finish it
  • Wired by Douglas E. Richards – writing was terrible, but I finished it
  • The Atlantis Gene by A.G. Riddle – the least worse of the worst, it was merely bad

Biggest disappointments:

  • 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson – supposedly a great author, I hate these characters and almost everything about this book
  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein – Maybe you had to be a hippie to get into this, but it didn’t live up to expectations for me
  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood – I expected a lot from this author, but this main character was simply not worth caring about.

Miscellaneous callouts

  • Saddest book: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
  • Most fun to read: tied between Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and Red Shirts by John Scalzi
  • Better for young adults: A Girl Called Badger by Stephen Colegrove

Percentages of expected science fiction elements!

  • Aliens play a significant part in story: 46% of my list (an even dozen)
  • Being in space, going through space, getting to or surviving on another planet: 46%
  • War!: 19% (five books)
  • Plot was dependant on post-apocalyptic conditions: 12% (three books)

Some of these books aren’t like the others:

  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline was heavily sci-fi, but without aliens, war with aliens or other countries or planets, no space travel or other planets (virtual reality doesn’t count as space travel) and while the world was crappy, it still had structure similar to today.
  • Wild Seed by Octavia Butler would more appropriately be classified as fantasy, as the main story devices are reliant on things that have no basis of possibility, unless you are one of those people that believe in the supernatural as reality.
  • Pattern Recognition by William Gibson should be classified as fantasy, as again the tale is dependant on supernatural abilities. One could argue that it is only fiction (not fantasy) and the abilities in the book are merely preternatural, and I would not argue against that.
  • CyberStorm by Matthew Mather is only fiction. Nothing in that book couldn’t happen today, under the combination of situations presented. I’d suggest anyone curious about doomsday preppers read this book.
  • Wired by Douglas E. Richards has to be fantasy. The magic chemicals in it are so ludicrous I cannot categorize it fairly any other way.
  • Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer can be argued for fantasy or science fiction. The story presents a scientific basis, but it is definitely fuzzy. I’d still leave it in sf, myself.
  • The Stars My Destination (aka Tiger! Tiger!) by Alfred Bester is an older book and was a small fuss to find in electronic format. While it has two elements that fall under fantasy, the rest is very sci-fi. In fact, there are many pieces that are fully cyberpunk – well before that particular subgenre existed.

There we go, a brief summary of the books, as a whole. Leave a comment if you want to know anything specific. Now that this is done, I’ll go back to reading whatever I feel like.

 Posted by at 7:04  Comments Off on A Year of Science Fiction reading  Tagged with:
Jan 022014

Redneck truck.
Humanity’s grim outlook: the energy expended advocating a broken past instead of working for a better future. Small minds, small hope.

 Posted by at 7:33  Comments Off on Heavy Sigh
Aug 222013

Another edition of Internet Window Shopping. Someone should count up all the fuel savings we’re creating here!

Plantable Paper Seed Money by Leafcutter Designs
Okay, we all know you could just go to the local garden shop and find seeds in a paper slip for a cheaper price, but they wouldn’t be nearly as cool as these paper coin-enclosed seeds! Each coin denomination holds a different type of plant; pennies produce non-invasive wildflowers, nickels give herbs, dimes spur root crops, and quarters provide salad plants. A bag of magic coins would be the perfect gift addition for any new gardener.

Magnetic Putty by Vat19
I could absolutely see creating all sorts of new and unusual problems and situations for myself with this stuff. I don’t need it, I wouldn’t likely do much with it, but it would be as fun as your first discovery of vinegar and baking soda.

Popular person prayer candles.
Scientist (and other) candles in the fashion of the saint candles has been an idea on my Crafty To Do list for years. Looks like someone has more initiative than me and finally made some. Buy yours at the poorly named Twerkstore. Also, I guess I can take this off my Crafty To Do list now, too.

There you go guys, hope you had some virtual shopping fun with me.

Aug 022013

Time for another edition of Internet Window Shopping!! As usual, there are more fine items available for purchase on the web than I am able to afford. So let’s go window shopping, but with our virtual windows. See? No gas money needed!

Greenwich Letterpress: matchbooks for the bitter.
Greenwich Letterpress: matchbooks for the bitter.
These remind me of my own bitter, broken-heart cards. I like a bit of snarky humor, what can I say? Also, I have a thing for matchbooks. Who doesn’t?! Tiny bits of paper and chemicals and you get to make FIRE! Big win, all around.

Paper and Cup: wooden Utensils.
Paper and Cup: Wooden Utensils
I don’t normally go for things that populate landfills needlessly. At The Arches we’ve moved to cheap, but easily washable plastic plates and cups instead of paper or plastic for parties. We’ve stocked up on extra washrags and cloth napkins, reserving paper towels for noxious chemicals and/or cat vomit. But these are so nice! I like wooden utensils in the kitchen and these seem like they’d hit the same button for me. Plus, if you are eating a fine dining picnic out in the woods, you could leave these behind to be weathered away like a branch.

Black fox temp tat.
Tattly: Black Fox, temporary tattoos
This temporary tattoo is simple and cute. I enjoy a little ephemeral decoration for fun. Some temporary hair color, a wash-off tattoo. Fun. Click around the site there, good stuff.

Okay, folks. Have a marvelous weekend. I will try to do the same.

Apr 292013

Book: A Universe From Nothing by Laurence M. Krauss
A Universe From Nothing
Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing
by Laurence M. Krauss

Ymabean and I decided to read this book together at the beginning of the year. I’m only now getting around to the review.

This is dense book that will really make you think. One of the things you’ll think is “I don’t have the math for that” as the author walks the average person through some definitively complex topics. A few hundred pages progress through possible explanations of the universe and stuff; including, but not limited to what is “nothing” and what is “something”, dark matter, the small but awesome scientific discoveries ( and mistakes), the different types of universe (flat, expanding, etc), multiverses, string theory, quantum fluctuations, black holes, general relativity, and relevant philosophy. If that isn’t enough, there are also charts and graphs and descriptive drawings, which if you are reading on a ebook will be small, hard to read and out of order. I recommend a physical purchase of this book, for visual ease as well as passing along to the next guy ease. You will want to.

Now, let me emphasize that many of the concepts, conclusions and speculations in this books are intricate and demand some sophisticated thought in subjects most of us (I don’t personally know ANY astrophysicists or cosmologists) are not accustomed to giving technical thought to. It is not an easy read, but it is an interesting, fascinating and accessible book. I think it is wonderfully worthwhile, but I don’t know if I would suggest it for everyone.

tl;dr: Dense on subject, slim on page count, discussion of THE UNIVERSE.

 Posted by at 7:15  Comments Off on Review: A Universe From Nothing  Tagged with:
Apr 022013

Book: The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal
The Willpower Instinct
by Kelly McGonigal

Surprisingly good. Seemed to be common knowledge fluff, but settled in to useful knowledge stuff.

There are 10 chapters which can be read at any pace, best in order though. We start off with the basics; pay attention, sleep enough, exercise, eat better. These are true, but also common knowledge. No one doubts that being tired, sore and distracted is a recipe for failure. After these basics are laid out and agreed on, though, we move into finer points like behavior justification, desire vs. satisfaction, emotional feedback, future self, and social motivations. This is where the books shines, putting psychology and a few study results into an easily understandable message and action path for anyone seeking to improve their own will power. The tone is general and friendly, although I could have done without the ‘witty’ side jokes peppered throughout. I am sure lots of people like that ‘girlfriends chatting at the water color’ level.

This is not hard science, to be sure, but general self-help with scientific ideas. The studies referenced are used only to further the theme of the chapter, and they are handled well. I think anyone could read this and find useful bits. The suggested exercises sum up the information of the chapter and hand the reader short, simple directions to try. It could be especially useful for those who will never read it – those who believe they have excellent willpower. It would be helpful to the many who think that willpower failures make them weak and somehow lesser; to learn why we react the way we do and what exactly to do about it.

tl;dr: Good willpower improvement book, light science references.

 Posted by at 8:34  Comments Off on Review: The Willpower Instinct  Tagged with:
Dec 122012

Today, we’ll do my first specific product review, of the 18-Ounce Stainless Steel Tritan Thermos.

The 18 ounce Stainless Steel Tritan Thermos, in silver
When I started back at (Company Name) last year, I already had a Thermos. It was pretty nice, but one sleepy morning I dropped it onto the cold, hard tiles of my kitchen floor and broke the inner envelope. I love my home-ground-and-brewed coffee, so I immediately went to the local mercantile (Target) and bought the item you see below.
The 18 ounce Stainless Steel Tritan Thermos, in purple.
I also got a coordinating water bottle, Thermos brand Tritan style, in a gray cap. I was pretty pleased with the purchase because both bottles fit perfectly into the upper section of my lunch box. 18 ounces of coffee is a good amount for a workday, and I like the color options of a muted purple, gray and silver. Stainless Steel? Yes, thank you. And I like the option to drink from the flippy lid, although I wouldn’t use that. The coffee I took to work was very hot – too hot for me actually. I have to pour it into a mug here at my desk and let it cool before drinking it. While I almost always ingest my coffee immediately, one day went haywire and I didn’t get home until very late that night and the coffee was still very hot.

My pleasure didn’t last long. After a few weeks, an inner seal snapped off and coffee would leak out. The leak was only occasional, and I assumed I’d been guilty of over-tightening the lid. After a two months I dropped the purple Thermos into the sink while filling it one morning. I had changed my habits, after breaking the last one on the floor, to avoid long fall potential. Didn’t matter; the less than six inch drop into the sink still broke it. Damn. Thus, in my midwinter need for coffee, I went back to the mercantile and purchased the exact same model, but in silver, which had been out of stock before. I mean, in fairness, I had broken the Thermos so there was no reason to hunt out a different model. Thus, Tritan number two.

Within weeks, I had a problem. The cap has a series of inner ridges that act as a liquid seal, which is expected. But, they are friable and one seal cracked and began to break off, then another, then another. Again, the Thermos would progressively leak coffee from the lid, depending on what angle it sat in the lunchbox and how much movement happened. I was getting very tired of cleaning coffee out of my lunchbox. Finally, this morning as I rinsed off the lid, the seals cracked and broke off so severely that the lid wouldn’t even tighten down. The Tritan Thermos is done.

As soon as I get a few minutes, I’ll be scouring the reviews on Amazon for a superior product. The water bottle, having no ridiculously fragile seals, is dandy.

In the end, I give it a two out of five Thermos rating.
2 out of 5 Thermos
Not so good, not for regular use by average folks. Maybe it is better for super-dainty wee folk who like very hot sipping drinks.

Summary: It is too delicate, don’t buy it.

 Posted by at 12:53  Comments Off on Product Review: Thermos Tritan 18oz  Tagged with:
Aug 082012

Two weeks ago, we gathered at AmyKatt’s house for dinner and to play Cards Against Humanity.
Cards Against Humanity game

You’ve heard me mention them before, but I’ve been waiting for them to come back in stock on Amazon because I’m deeply lazy and a little snobbish in wanting factory printed cards in a shiny box. Fortunately, AmyKatt is resourceful and much less lazy. She printed out the free PDF from the CAH website (first link above) and carefully cut out each and every card so that we could play sometime this year. This turned out to be a good idea, which I’ll explain at the end of the post.
Since so many people were interested in this game, I thought I’d try to share some of it online. The group majority did not wish to appear on video, so I had to scrap the YouTube/Hangout idea. Instead, everyone was okay with me recording the game, so I did that. At home, I transcribed the recording into the text dialogue you see below. I largely used the speech recognition built into Windows 7 (for the first time) by listening to the recording over headphones, then speaking into my microphone. I did it this way to get around the inability of SR (speech recognition) to recognize and ‘learn’ different voices all at once. I’m not sure if this actually ended up being faster, but it saved my delicate wrist a lot of typing strain and was an interesting experience, overall. So, if you find any odd or off words or typos, it is because I didn’t catch the SR mistake or the auto-correct. It is not because any of the players spoke in a secret typo language.

Warning, offensive content!

Due to the length of this post, I have utilized the “more” or ‘jump’ feature. Please, look in the lower right of this post box for the “Continue reading” link.
Sunday, 29 July, 2012.
AmyKatt: To start the game, each player draws ten cards. The white cards are answer cards. One randomly chosen player starts as the card czar and draws a black card. The card czar reads the question or fill in the blank phrase on the black card out loud. The black cards are question cards. Everyone else answers the question or fills in the blank by passing one white card, face down, to the card czr. The card czar shuffles all of the answers and shares each card combination with the group. For full effect, the card czar should usually reread the black card before presenting each answer. The card czar then picks a favorite and whoever played that answer keeps the black card as one awesome point. After the round a new player becomes the next card czar and every one that draws back up to 10 white cards. Some cards saying pick two on the bottom. To answer these each player plays two white cards in combination. Play then in the order that the cards are should read them the order matters. If the card czar has a lobster claws for hands you can use paper clips to secure your cards in the right order. We do have paper clips available.
There is gambling; if a black card is played and you have more than one white card you think could win you can bet one of your awesome points to play one additional white card. If you win you keep your point, if you lose whoever won the round gets the point you wagered.
There are some house rules. We can select these if we’d like them, we can make up our own.
Warhorse: so it’s all about the white cards is what you’re saying?
AmyKatt: yes, yes it is.
Warhorse: (chuckling)
AmyKatt: (chuckling) okay. The one they call happy ending, when you’re ready to stop playing, play the “Make a Haiku” black card to end the game. This is the official, ceremonial ending to a good game of Cards Against Humanity. This card should be reserved for the end. Haikus do not need to follow the 575 form they just need to be read dramatically.
Sarcastra: god! Haven’t we bastardized haikus enough that we don’t even follow any standard at all?
Random: I know, right?
AmyKatt: no.
Sarcastra: geez, what whores and sluts we Americans are.
EvilAndrew: fucking haikus. Structure! Fuck them!
AmyKatt: I’ve been reading a lot of cat haikus on Twitter lately. Some very decent ones.
Random: why?!
Warhorse: sorry.
AmyKatt: well, because they’re haikus. They’re written by cats.
Warhorse: they’re not written by cats.
AmyKatt: yes, they are. The cats have their own twitter account, they write every post on their own.
Warhorse: Cat Food Breath does not write Tweets on his own.
AmyKatt: yes, he does.
Warhorse: no, he doesn’t.
AmyKatt: he is Siamese. He is a very smart cat. He writes his own Tweets.
EvilAndrew: well, I’m full up on crazy for tonight.
(Group chuckles)
Continue reading »

Jul 152012

A couple weeks ago, I bought a card- based, role-playing game called The Werewolves of Miller Hollow from Amazon. It came up as a recommended item while I was ordering some Zombie Dice. The description didn’t do much for me, but one woman’s review was so exuberant that I decided to buy it. It was cheap and small, so not a big deal if it sucked. After arrival, I read the instructions. This version of the game was developed by a couple Frenchies and while the translation is mostly fine, there were a few words missing or mixed up to make you pay attention. It sounded good and the minimum players needed are nine. So, this would be a good game to try when we had a large Game Night showing. The tiny box (maybe 3″ sq) sat around the house for a few weeks, largely biding its time.

The Werewolves of Millers Hollow

We had a Game Night on Saturday and ended up with a total of eight people. I was excited to try the game and convinced everyone to go for it. I think most people simply wanted to play Catan as it is our favorite, go-to game, but it helped that each game of The Werewolves is rather short – maybe 20 minutes or so. Again, if it sucked we didn’t lose much. I rigged the deck count for less people than needed and we played. It was pretty easy to understand and quite entertaining!

It turns out that this form of game has been around a few decades. It started as a party game created in the USSR by Dimitry Davidoff in 1986, called Mafia. Back then, it played into the political concerns of the time, but it boils down to a few bad guys secretly in the midst of a larger group of innocents and each side must pick off the other. Lots of lies, storytelling, blame and laughter. Good fun. The werewolves version came later and there are many versions and variants to be had. I’d tell you more about it, but it is really one of those things you have to experience to appreciate. I’m considering transcribing the events and dialogue the next time we play because it is interesting. As well, out of five games, the werewolves won each time. The innocent townspeople cannot seem to stop killing their own – especially electing someone sheriff and then lynching them. I admit I don’t fully understand that one, but I was the moderator for the game that night. Maybe it is different on the player side of the table. I suppose this is more motivation to transcribe the game, so that it can be reviewed more dispassionately. Good stuff.

I actually did a few things wrong as the moderator, but I don’t think it hurt the fun any. As information for those who were present…
1. Messed up the spy card. You cannot use your cards or hands to hide your eyes, which I failed to mention. As well, if the spy is caught, she immediately dies of fright – not killed by werewolves, as I said, although the end result was the same since the werewolves don’t eat anyone that night, being unsettled about the spy.
2. Upon death, the sheriff names her successor. I forced a sheriff election each time one died. Oops.
3. The witch is called after the werewolves in the night. This might have made a difference as Random wouldn’t have been doubly killed, but only singly. Poor Random.
Also, the instructions suggest an instantaneous vote as opposed to the adding up and counting method of voting we did; although this seem to differ in the variations of the game. We’re going to agree on some hand signals in order to facilitate the silence of the night instead of the card flipping round.

There is an expansion set to The Werewolves of Miller Hollow called New Moon and it is already being shipped from Amazon to my mailbox, for future play.

On an only slightly related note, three people have mentioned Cards Against Humanity for Game Night. This has been on my wishlist since early this year, but they keep selling out on Amazon before I can get them. It was mentioned that the cards can be printed out on your own (courtesy of PDFs on the site), but I’m going to hold out for the real set. I’ve signed up for notification when they come back in stock, so I should have them next time another print run happens. Maybe if I come across some nice, glossy, thick card stock I’ll think about printing up and cutting my own set.

Jul 022012

A two-review post this time.

The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook is the first novel for this Iron Seas world. Part alternate history, part steampunk, the world of The Iron Duke has an invasive and ruthless Asian empire along with an Industrial Revolution that took a sharp, expansive turn. The main characters in the tale are detective inspector Lady Wilhelmina Wentworth and the eponymous Iron Duke Rhys Trahaearn. The two traverse the lands by mechanical spider conveyance, trains and airship seeking to identify and stop the murderous, mind-control plot by the villians – all whilst falling in love, of course. Also, zombies.

Most of this book I loved. Steampunk, nanotechnology, airships, mechanical conveyances, sea adventures, sky adventures, strong female characters, moderately involved plots and politics, alternate historic points, romance, a richly described world, and building drama hit all my reader buttons. Also, since I was reading this on my Kindle, I didn’t have to concern myself with the display of the cover, which was merely a focus on male abs. (I selected a different cover for my media icon on this site.) The writing was decent to good, the world was fairly easy to realize and the imaginative inventions of fiction were completely comestible. As I’d assumed this book would focus on romance and sex with a bit of fiction thrown in for page count, I was pleasantly surprised to find the Iron Seas a world I wanted to explore. The descriptions are sustaining, the dialog fine, action and excitement levels intensify at the desired rate, and the general story plot is interesting.

While I enjoyed the well-crafted tale and the subjects, there was one major problem with this book. I’m willing to overlook a number of minor flaws and misalignments of whatever variety, but some things are not okay, no matter how the author thinks they have crafted the viewpoint to make it okay. In my view, rape is a worse crime than murder, even if “it’s okay because she only said no because she was scared” and “he was abused himself, he didn’t understand so it’s okay” gets written in heavily. No, that’s not okay. This huge and monstrous flaw means that I don’t know if I would actually recommend this book to anyone. If you’re able to block out this section (or I guess, if you’re into rapey story sections) then go ahead and read this book. It’s a real shame, too; because this would have been an excellent sci-fi romance book if the author (or editor!) could have simply left out one ignorant, oxymoronic literary trope.

tl;dr Good steampunk, romance adventure, but marred by nasty scene.

– and –

Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook is the second novel set in the Iron Seas, although it is not precisely a sequel. We readers met Captain Yasmeen Corsair and Archimedes Fox (think Indiana Jones, but less of a jerk) in the first book, and this edition of the series follows their obviously-left-open story line. Captain Corsair and Archimedes team up to recover a valuable archeological find, travel via airship, fight and flee zombies and help a rebel group overthrow a hollow, but symbolically oppressive regime – all whilst falling in love, natch. Also, more zombies.

Despite the fatal failing of the first novel, I did read this book and it hit most of my same reader subject buttons: airships, nanotechnology, detailed steampunk inventions, light political intrigue, layered characters, sky and sea adventures, romance, drama, action and some strong ladies who aren’t taking shit from anyone. Again, the cover is a bare-chested man with a sword, for awkward display issues – spared by my Kindle. (Also again, I chose an alternate cover to more accurately reflect the main character.) A few generous servings of the history of the Iron Seas (one told around the traditional campfire at night) is equally as satisfying, yet more meaningful, as in the first book. The dialogue is harmonious and acceptable, the plot is interesting enough, and the action is appropriately dramatic and does illicit the expected amount of interest and entertainment. Don’t forget this is a romance, too; you’ll see a number of crackling interactions as the lurve grows. Basically, it is precisely what you would expect from this book, solidly delivered.

This book didn’t suffer from an unforgivable flaw like the first one did and I found myself frankly relieved by this fact by the end. Heart of Steel has less world-building work than the first, which I missed; it instead turns focus on the main characters, which I found genuine and enjoyable, if a tad unrealistic – but this is fiction, after all. Reading about Yasmeen’s love of air sailing nearly brought tears to my eyes and I think anyone who climbs mountains, sails seas, or likes to fly would appreciate the emotional resonance. Yasmeen and Archimedes have a good amount of humor, sweetness, respect and sensibility which make them worthwhile. I liked the racial (almost specific or maybe generic) diversity bit and the gender role assignment flexibility was well done, well reasoned and welcomed. Overall, it delivered as expected.

tl;dr Great steampunk adventure romance. Airships! Zombies!

– and –
Further reading in the Iron Seas world:
A short story prequel, “Here There Be Monsters” in the Burning Up anthology and short story concurrence “The Blushing Bounder” in the Wild and Steamy anthology.

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