Personal Thursday Oops It’s Friday Edition: Things I Recommend

Oct 24

Okay, okay, so I missed a Personal Thursday. But it’s always Thursday somewhere, right?

Instead of some kind of long, well-composed entry on something personal today, you’re getting a bullet-pointed list of things that I’m really digging right now. If any of them seem like they’re up your alley, give em a try!

Book: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. I read this book after a recommendation I read on a blog and man it was good. You can read the blurb on the cover or on the book-purchasing website of your choice, so I’ll skip that and instead tell you that it has some excellent SF world-building, well-executed use of flashbacks, linguistic details that warmed the cockles of my ex-ling-grad-student heart, and an interesting use of Ursula K. LeGuin-style gender ambiguity. The sequel, Ancillary Sword, just came out and I can’t wait till I have time to read it.

Music: Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix Vol. 1. Okay look, I haven’t seen this movie because I don’t go out to movies but I know the basic details behind this mix. It’s a fun listen, and great upbeat music to work to. Also, it has the Baby Seal of Approval (seriously, my fourteen-month-old loves it).

Video Game: Elder Scrolls Online. This is an MMORPG entry in the Elder Scrolls series (of which Skyrim of “arrow in the knee” fame was the previous installment) and it’s my current game obsession. On my therapist’s advice I’m making sure to include some video game time in my schedule almost every day, and this is what I’m spending it on. The graphics are fittingly pretty for a Skyrim followup, the voice acting is great, you don’t have to interact with other players if you don’t need to, and best of all it’s better than any other MMO I’ve played at actually, you know, telling a story. With other games I’ve stayed up late to finish a quest because I wanted the reward for finishing it or whatever — with ESO I’ve stayed up late to finish a quest because dammit I want to find out what happens! Also notable is the inclusion of LGBT characters in the game. Not just in the “you can marry characters regardless of gender” sense but in the “my female character got asked if she was trying to marry the countess”, “lizard lady asked me to look for her injured girlfriend,” “helped a man rescue his husband” sense. There are actual, canonical gay/bi NPCs in this game and it makes me happy. See game companies? Diversity is not fucking hard. Also, John Cleese is in it. This game could be an blog entry of its own but as you might imagine I don’t want to write too much about games right now.

Coffee: Sun-Dried Ethiopia Yirgacheffe (Starbucks). That’s what I’m drinking right now as I write this — brewed on the Clover machine, two pumps of classic syrup, and some half-and-half. It’s got a very interesting and complex flavor. It’ll set you back some extra cashmonies, being a Reserve coffee, but it’s very tasty.

Hobby: Learning to Sew. I’m still doing this and guys, it’s fun. Even IKEA sells an inexpensive sewing machine and fabric by the yard! Even if all you end up sewing is rectangly things (that’s pretty much all I do with crochet), who doesn’t need more pillowcases and napkins? I even have a pretty good pattern for a reusable grocery bag, and since I live in a plastic-bag-ban area that’s always a bonus. It’s a lot easier for me to fit in some sewing here and there than knitting, which is more time-consuming.

TV show: Sleepy Hollow. I haven’t gotten a chance to watch this season but I watched last season (mostly late at night while sitting up with the baby) and it’s fun. It has the kind of story you come up with late at night when you’re hanging out with your buddies and hyper as hell. Every time you think it’s getting a little over the top, it gets even crazier. The leads have a nice Scully/Mulder vibe (and one of the leads is a black woman — ridiculously rare on US TV!) and it balances well between humor and drama. When I first started watching, I felt like they spilled too many beans in the pilot. Beans that should have been trickled out over the course of the first season. But as time went on I discovered that they spilled all those beans right away because they had a HUGE stock of beans still left to go! Good lord. It does suffer from lazy writing here and there (Lt. Mills: “I don’t want to talk about this right now.” VERY NEXT SCENE: Lt. Mills: [talks about it in great detail, with flashbacks]) so if failures in writing quality make you itch it might not be the show for you. Elsewise, give it a try — and start from the beginning.

 

So there you go. My unsolicited and possibly dubious opinions on things that I like, right at this moment. They’re not my favorites of all time … who can really pick a single favorite book ever? … but if you wanna try something new and you think like me, give ’em a shot.

 

What about you guys? What’s your favorite things right now?

 

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Personal Thursday: Things I’ve Learned as a Sewing Noob

Oct 02

As my tag says, I knit because the needles aren’t sharp. Dexterity is my dump stat — I’m an astoundingly clumsy person and to be honest it’s only my high pain tolerance and solid durability that account for the fact that I still have all my limbs and most of my organs.

Kitty and Kenmore

Kitty and Kenmore

However, there’s been a gap in my textile skills that’s been itching at me for a long time: sewing. Sharp needles, unforgiving machinery, it pretty much spells disaster for a person like me. And yet, with the help of books, the internet, and my mom (who even gave me a vintage 70s Kenmore sewing machine), I’ve embarked upon this path of folly. And now that I’ve been sewing for like a whole two weeks now, I figured I’d use this Personal Thursday post to share some of the lessons I’ve learned so far.

  • Don’t forget to put the presser foot down.
  • You might have been laughed at in college for owning an iron and ironing board, but who’s laughing now?
  • Hang some scissors on a retractable badge lanyard and wear it every time you work on sewing. It is your new best friend.
  • Put the presser foot down.
  • A clear grid ruler is also your new best friend.
  • Cheap cotton muslin makes trying new things less scary.
  • Having a borrowed manual for a different model of sewing machine is not helpful at all when you’ve never threaded a machine before.
  • Put the presser foot down.
  • Pillowcases and napkins are the best thing ever for practice, because it’s super hard to fuck them up so bad they’re not usable.
  • Sewing books always assume the reader is a woman who wants to make feminine clothes for herself. Always. In the 21st century we’re still doing this sexist bullshit.
  • Michael’s doesn’t have a lot of sewing supplies, but it does have a few colors of thread and some cheap bundled fat quarters.
  • Have I mentioned the presser foot? Put it down.
  • Sometimes even the simplest patterns are wrong. Mock it up with paper and fix the measurements.
  • Cats love to help.
  • Your friends (besides the scissors and grid ruler) will patiently put up with you when you keep IMing them yelling “I MADE A THING!”
  • Presser foot. Down.

 

You think I’m joking about that presser foot?


I’m pretty sure I get distracted too easily to ever be good at sewing. But maybe I’ll get passable at it.

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Once more unto the breach, with feeling

Sep 14

Yep, another “hey I’m still here” post!

For the past several months, all my creative juices have gone into creating this:

Tiny human

The tiny human, not the blanket.

I swear, I haven’t been able to write damn near anything while the baby was incubating. It really is as if every ounce of creative energy in my body was focused on making her little cells divide instead of making words come out my fingertips. But after a truly Sisyphean labor (which I may blog about at some point, without too much graphic detail), her journey from “tiny bundle of cells” to “independently breathing human being” is complete, so hopefully I can get the words out of my fingers again.

Don’t worry, this won’t become one of those dreaded “mommyblogs”* — I’ll still be posting about coffee-related stuff, mixed in with random personal stuff as it strikes my fancy. I have trouble remembering to use this blog for mundane personal posts, the way I used to use LiveJournal, but I’m working on that. You can see in the “Crap I’ve said lately” section in the sidebar, I still tweet random useless thoughts at random hours.

Posts currently brewing in my head include: the (in)famous Pumpkin Spice Latte, the Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate, bits and bobs on the new audio show I’m working on (stalled out during the great Babyfication process), and possibly the story of the Sisyphean labor. I might also copy some of my favorite posts over from LiveJournal. Any other requests, loyal readers**?

* Gotta say, I don’t like the derision usually aimed at “mommyblogs”. People should blog about what interests them, and for many women (and men!) that’s their children. I don’t see anywhere near as much internet scorn directed at, say, car blogs or movie blogs. That said, my kid will not be the main focus of this blog.

** All two of you

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Misadventures in phone purchasing

May 26

I have unusual cell phone buying habits for an American. I prefer to buy phones up front, unbranded, from third-party retailers for minimal pre-installed crap. No contract obligations, no “pay it off over your next several bills”, I just get a phone, slap a SIM card in it, and I’m good.

This is partly because my last few phones have been what I call “obscure hipster phones” — little-known models you can’t generally get at your local carrier store. If you go to the Nokia Live theater, they have a display of Nokia phones throughout the years … and not a single one of the Nokias I’ve owned are in the list*.

But as much as I love Nokias, it gets a little tiresome having obscure phones. And since Nokia threw the N9 under the bus in favor of the Windows Lumias, I was faced with a choice between sticking with Nokia and submitting to their hasty change to Windows, or getting an even more obscure hipster phone called Jolla. After much research, I decided to go for option C: get a phone with a widely-supported OS that hasn’t been abandoned by the manufacturer. Namely, the Nexus 4.

I knew T-mobile was selling the Nexus 4, so I called my local store to see if they had some in stock — they did. As soon as I walked in, the customer service guy asked me if I was the person who’d called, and went to grab a 16GB phone from the back. I asked if it was branded and filled with pre-loaded crap. “Nope, this is straight from Google.” Awesome. Then I asked the price. “It’s $49 up front, plus $17 off your next –” No no, how much if I pay for the whole thing right now? “$457”. Does that include tax and fees and whatnot? “Nope.”

… wat. $457? When pretty much everyone who wants a Nexus knows you can get it from Google for a hundred bucks less??

Now, I was willing to pay a markup for the convenience of having the phone right now, instead of having it shipped. And I like giving my money to local shops so at least a little of the money might stay in my community. But I am not paying a whole extra hundred bucks on a $350 phone for no reason.

And just like that, T-mobile lost the easiest sale they would’ve had all month. I knew what I wanted, I was ready to pay for the whole thing right there, they didn’t have to sell me on it or anything. But instead of getting their markup, they got $0**. Good job, beancounters.

Happened to be at Fry’s a little later, and checked their phone racks. If I read their crappy signage right (and let’s face it, at Fry’s that’s a big if) they were selling it for $550. Two hundred dollars over Google’s widely-advertised price. Even Newegg has a $100 markup on it. The cheapest price I found was some random retailer on Amazon — and if I’m looking at Amazon, I might as well buy from Google anyway since I’m not gonna save shipping time.

So in the end, Google got my money. I know situations like mine are rare, and most Americans have no idea of the real cost of their smartphones. But really? Nobody’s even gonna come close to Google’s price? There’s gotta be some weird kind of reseller agreement or something going on, because that’s just straight up weird.

And just for a little icing on the nerd cake, when trying to purchase the phone I found a bug in the Google Play store’s Wallet integration. Because when you do QA for a living, bugs come out of the woodwork at a moment’s notice. I’m like the pied piper of crappy code.

* The E71, N900, and N9.
** Well, besides the money they get from me every month anyway.

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Eat all the eats!

Nov 20

For most of my life, Thanksgiving dinner has been lovingly cooked by my mom, for my immediate family plus whatever strays we happened to pick up. Last year, sometime during the summer, my dad tactfully observed that they hosted a fair number of family dinners and barbecues, and wouldn’t it be nice if someone else hosted something for a change.

One thing led to another and before I knew it, I was volunteering to host Thanksgiving at my place. And despite small emergencies like the cat coughing up Lovecraftian horrors the night before, I managed not to eff it up completely. That may have been a tactical error, because now I’m pretty much on the hook for Thanksgiving until the end of time.

This year I started pondering the menu partway through October. By the beginning of November I had a menu planned out. Two weeks in advance I got the turkey and a bunch of the ingredients. Once my brining plans were finalized I got the rest and mapped out my time with military precision. I’ve got one oven, two slow cookers (one on loan), a five-burner stove and a fridge so big I keep feeling like I should attempt no landings on Europa.

On the pretense that you care, here’s what’s on the menu this year:

And while everyone is watching me fret around the house flailing over food, we’ll enjoy some crockpot Maple Pumpkin Spice Lattes, made with my self-concocted pumpkin pie spice.

And the best thing? The turkey carcass goes home with my parents. No weeks of leftovers for me!

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