Friday, July 29, 2016

CONVERGENCE 2016 REPORT & CON TIPS

Convergence 2016

Once again, I had a great Convergence with J, as well as friends T, L, M, & B, even though I had to wear my unfashionable cam boot for tendinitis (J was great about bringing me food, and I commiserated with other Booted-Americans). It actually went pretty well with my Post-Apoc look (I added black mask makeup in tribute to both Furiosa and Lexa from The 100).

This year, J and I swore to avoid eating out too much, especially the overdone, overpriced horror that is TGIFriday's. We ate all our meals in the Con Suite, except for one trip to Burger King. I also avoided all news except for that trip, a lovely break from the agony of 2016 current events (RIP Prince). 

Thursday:

3:30 Crafty Geek Meetup. We hung out a bit and worked on geeky coloring pages. 

7:00 Sci Fi TV Year in Review. I'm always wanting to learn about good shows to watch. This was OK, they mostly talked about shows I already knew about, except one guy was weirdly obsessed with Galavant. I don't know, the idea of a medieval fantasy musical doesn't make my heart beat faster. I was interested in hearing about The Magicians, it sounds like "Harry Potter goes to an open-minded small-liberal-arts college", which is more up my alley. 

8:30 Fancy Bastard Pie Competition. A Guest of Honor demanded home-made pie in exchange for attending, so there was pie, and it was good. The banana pie that actually tasted like banana for once was my favorite. 

10:00 You Will Behave Yourself at My Table. Since we play RPGs, it seemed like a good idea to get tips on dealing with difficult players. It was a little dry, they could have had more juicy stories . J and I have some, oh yes we do...

Friday:

12:30 What's with the Airships? This was a panel on why people are fascinated by airships and why they appear in so much media. The people on the panel were mostly experts on the topic who knew their stuff, which isn't always the case. The conclusion was: people like them because they are cool, but they aren't really practical. However, many people, artists and scientists alike, read about them when young and fall in love with their look and the idea of gracefully floating in the air with windows wide open. This article has profiles of some of these people, including Iron Maiden lead singer Bruce Dickinson, who invested half a millions dollars in them and sings about them on their latest album. 

2:00 Historical Fiction in RPGs. A good overview on sources creating an historical world in a role-playing game. As a librarian, I already knew about primary sources and "daily life" books, but there were some things I hadn't thought of, like legal cases, digitized maps, archaeological dig web sites,  war gaming books, and historical-reenactment web sites. Also, creating a mood with facsimile coins or other props, or with audio, can give players the feeling of being in the past.  

3:30 Wonder Woman: The Golden Age. An old-time-radio-show-style staged reading based on the first Wonder Woman comic. They didn't have to change anything to make it funny, because that shit was weird, which won't surprise anyone who read The Secret History of Wonder Woman. Check it out, it's a tale of bondage, female supremacy, polyamorous living arrangements, and lie detectors. 

7:00 Joseph Scrimshaw vs. Reality. Not much to say, the dude's really funny, follow him on Twitter or buy his comedy albums if you are a comedy-album buyer.

8:30 Feng Shui 2. A fun, Hong-Kong-cinema-style roleplaying game. I was a dangerous gambling lady out for revenge. 

Saturday:
1 PM Pillar of Fire. A playtest of a new RPG from local company Atlas Games. I enjoyed the adventure - it was a standard sci fi-horror trope of something going wrong and a party investigating an abandoned base, but it's a trope for a reason - it works. The setting was a bit too complicated, though. Players play characters who are sort-of superheroes/angels that guide humanity. Everyone belongs to a guild based on their job and has one of 3 kinds of "souls" (which have been discovered by science to exist). Also, there are animal-human hybrids. I'd say, trim it down a little, and it could be like when Marvel & DC get spacey (Green Lantern, Guardians of the Galaxy). 

7 PM Misspent Youth. This game was different and fun. It's really good for one-shots or short campaigns. There are some cooperative parts where players create game elements, although not as much as Fiasco. You play one of a bunch of disaffected youth who are rebelling against something. The game ends when one of the party sells out completely to The Man. We played youth who protested when our squat was going to be torn down for a corporate headquarters. I sold out by becoming a YouTube star after making a viral video of the corporation's misdeeds. 

Cosplay trends: Mad Max, Steven Universe, opposite-sex versions of characters. 

Wish I hadn't missed: the Afrofuturism panel, since I love Octavia Butler and want to learn more about it.


Tips for having a good con:


I've been going to Convergence for 3 years and Anime Detour about 10, not the world's record, but I've picked up a few things you might be able to use when you attend the fandom-interest event of your choice. 

1. Eat all the free food you can. Some cons may offer snacks only, but every little bit helps. Convergence has chips, rice, raw veggies with dip, and some nice soups. Some of the party rooms also have food for just $1 and/or tips. I finally visited the famous House of Toast (Nutella, grape jelly, and whipped cream). 

2. Do something that makes you a little uncomfortable. What happens at Con doesn't necessarily stay at Con, but everyone else is geeking out, so why be embarrassed? Wear a costume or ask someone about theirs, make a craft, ask the panel a question, play a game. Just remember - no touchy without permission, 'cause that's creepy. 

3. Stay in a hotel near the con, but not at the main hotel. This way you won't have to deal with as much noise, or wait 20 minutes for the elevator when you need to go to your room.

4. Keep your bodily fluids to yourself. According to the Convergence Facebook page, 2015 had a rash of drive-by vomitings. It's really not nice to make staff clean that up, and it can damage relations with the hosting facility. If your life is not complete without drinking to excess, at least stick to the toilet. 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

I MADE A LASER ENGRAVING & ALSO A 3-D PRINT

So my place of work has a Makerspace now, which means I get to make stuff at work, which is pretty cool. To get ready for Con, I thought I'd make some stuff to add to my steampunk costume.

The watch is a pattern I downloaded from Thingiverse. The hands didn't come out, but it still looks cool. The hardest part was scraping out the "raft" - the temporary support part - out of everything. I found I'm not good at scraping the inside of a circle with a utility knife without getting my fingers cut, but luckily I didn't lose any.

The cameo was based on a project I saw on Instructables, but unfortunately it wasn't complete, because they were waiting on a Kickstarter or something which never happened. So, I just found a clip art of a Victorian-looking cameo and imported it into CorelDraw, which is what we use with our laser engraver (you can create the designs in other programs and import it as a JPG or PDF into Corel, but I needed the practice).

Corel is not the most intuitive drawing program in the world, so it would've been ideal to take a class first, but I fiddled with it based on my knowledge of other drawing programs, from Illustrator to good old ClarisWorks. The tricky part is making red outlines to indicate everything you want to cut though, but only those parts (black lines mean engraving).

My first attempt was too small, and just left a pile of dust. Finally, though, I got a size and pattern that would work. It's really neat to see the laser cut through the felt super-fast without somehow burning it up.

So, if you like to make stuff and are bad like me at cutting a straight line, give the laser engraver a try. 3-D prints tend to look to unfinished to me, maybe the watch needs a patina or something to make it look old.





Friday, February 26, 2016

TAX REFUND POST & BEST AND WORST TECHNOLOGY PURCHASES




So, I just got my tax refund, which means it's time for a big-ticket-item purchase. Usually, it's either technology or home improvement. Last year was both, as I bought a new bigger TV, wire shelving and CD storage. This year, I'm finally replacing Big Iron, my 2007 MacPro tower, with a new iMac. Big Iron was starting not to play nice with current software, not to mention he blows his fan at me sometimes for no good goddamn reason. 

Of course, one purchase often leads to others, so I might also try to update my "home office" set-up, maybe a new little table for peripherals, since I won't have a hard drive tower to keep them on, possibly the kind that the Google calls "C". I have this fantasy of getting selected for Lifehacker's Workspace Show & Tell even though I don't have 6 monitors and a desk made out of a plank from Blackbeard's pirate ship.

In honor of tax refund time, here are some of my best (beyond the obvious ones) and worst technology purchases.

Best:

Computer desk: Maybe this isn't technically technology, but I just love my desk so much. This baby is all metal and almost impossible to damage, even when they were fixing my HVAC and I had to keep moving it around. It has cool extension shelves for storing peripherals that likewise are nearly impossible to break. Its smooth lines and brushed metal finish fit with my modernist style, and the triangular shape squeezes into a corner just right.  While it was clearly made with CRT monitors in mind, that just means you can't buy your own, so there. You can buy a boring ol' rectangular one if you want, though. 

Toaster oven: Maybe it's weird of me, but I just like baking things in my little toaster oven so much more than my regular oven. I even bake potatoes in there and set the timer twice. Before, I just heated up bread and pizza rolls, but now I make stuff every week (from a mix, but still...).

Universal remote: It's hard for my sweetie to pry my Logitech Harmony out of my hands, I love it so. It just fits right in my hand. And when you have the amount of devices I have, you need a serious remote. I use my iPad to search for things, but when actually watching, I don't want to have to look at my device. The software is slightly crash-y, but it's pretty easy to add a new device, as it walks you through the steps.


Worst:

Antenna: I just can't get a good signal with anything for either radio or TV. I might try one of those flat ones you hang on the wall, but it's hard to face more disappointment. I've gotten used to watching everything on demand anyway - the last time I watched live TV was when I was sick and the Internet went out.

Nook Glowlight Plus: When my old Nook Simple Touch finally died, I thought I'd try the fancy new "deluxe" model, but its new version of Android broke compatibility with Adobe Digital Editions, which is how I get my library books - my main use of it. It's fixed now, but the bitterness lingers. Anyway, I don't like how heavy and hard it is - you could kill somebody with it. So, I went back to the soft light rubberiness of the slightly earlier version. I just hope it lasts until they come out with indestructible color e-ink tablets, or a brain chip or something. 

Roomba: Probably one of my worst ever purchases. Maybe I just have too much stuff in too little space, but it just sat under the couch and cowered in fear. Sorry we don't all live in lofts with tons of empty floor, Roomba.

BONUS TECHNO-BRAG:

I got a Twitter reply from Sun-Times technology columnist Andy Ihnatko. Wee!



Monday, January 18, 2016

JFRO'S 2015


PIZZA RAT/ CIGARETTE CRAB 2016: MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN

https://twitter.com/peter_fries/status/646062337833627648

Format once again ripped off shamelessly from the Librarian in Black

Books -- Station Eleven, The Incident Report, The Haunting of Hill House, Tipping the Velvet, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Wolf in White Van, Dread Journey.

Comics -- Museum of Mistakes, New Lone Wolf and Cub, Order of the Stick: Blood Runs in the Family, The Age of Selfishness: Ayn Rand, Morality & the Financial Crisis.

Movies --Snowpiercer, Chappie, Mad Max: Fury Road, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, The Babadook, Ant-Man, Ex Machina, Tangerine, What We Do in the Shadows 

TV Shows -- The Americans, Archer, The Killing (US), Black Sails, The Bridge (US), Danger 5, Silicon Valley, Ray Donovan, Broad City, Sons of Anarchy, Veep, The Blacklist, Nurse Jackie, Mad Men, Brooklyn 9-9, Agents of SHIELD, The Code, Halt & Catch Fire, RuPaul's Drag Race, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Community, Parks & Recreation, Orange is the New Black, Adventure Time, Penny Dreadful, Sense8, Homeland, Person of Interest, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, The Walking Dead, The Knick, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Master of None, Transparent, Continuum, Ripper Street, High Maintenance, @Midnight, LARPs.

Albums --The Wolf Council: S/T, Valkyrie: Shadows, Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats: The Night Creeper, Torche: Restarter, Sweverdriver: I Wasn't Born to Lose You, Sacri Monti: Sacri Monti, Royal Thunder: Crooked Doors, A Place to Bury Strangers: Transfixiation, The Lucid Dream: S/T, Kadavar: Berlin, Graveyard: Innocence & Decadence, Ecstatic Vision: Sonic Praise, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth: S/T.

Songs --Violet Chachki:"Bettie", Major Lazer: "Lean On", Celiac: "Promised You a Miracle", The Blind Shake: "Mildew" Sia: "Big Girls Cry", Shamir: "On the Regular", Tunde Olaniran: "KYBM"

Apps --Artstudio, Flickr for iPad, Postmates, Instacart, Alien Blue, Tunein, Slice.


Devices --iPad, AppleTV, USB turntable, Nook Glowlight, 42" television.  

Events --Anime Detour, Convergence, Game Night @Library Technology Conference, Shogatsu in San Francisco, Bash 15 with Melvins/Run Westy Run/Cows, Art-A-Whirl with Blind Shake & Mrs., Hapsburgs/Mark Mothersbaugh/Mary Griggs Burke Collection @MIA, WMCN Reunion Radio Show, Minnesota Valley Nature Refuge.

Items of clothing --Panda blouse, Badtz Maru hoodie and Kugurumi.

Games --Plants vs. Zombies 2, Candy Crush Soda, Tetris Blitz, Neko Atsume, Interface Zero, Takenoko, TimeZero, Cards Against Librarianship, Castle Panic, Eclipse Phase, Fiasco.

Web sites --Gamerghazi, We Hunted the Mammoth, Awful Library Books, Bandcamp, The Obelisk, 8Tracks, Fast 'n' Bulbous, Florida Man.

Twitter Twerps -- @RealGDT, @skullmandible,@MrGeorgeWallace, @SwiftOnSecurity, @iglvzx, @arthur_effect, @WernerTwertzog, @josephscrimshaw, @TokyoFashion, @Snarkysmachine.

YouTubers -- Kevin Logan, Nerdist, Geek & Sundry, Diamanda Hagan, Jay Smooth, William Belli. 

Substance- Sugru.


Boyfriend --Jseux wins again!

Monday, December 28, 2015

PLEASE CONSIDER WATCHING CONTINUUM










Continuum is the best show you've never heard of with all of its episodes available on Netflix, so go watch it now.

Do you want a show that deals with time travel and stopping a bad future like the Terminator franchise, but in a way that actually makes sense?  Do you like the idea of Minority Report dealing with technology's possible misuse by government, but wish the show was actually well-done? Do you want a cutting-edge exploration of technology as both problem and solution like Mr. Robot, but from four years ago and starring Canadians? Well, here you go!

Not to mention, the cast is refreshingly diverse and non-stereotypical. No character is totally good or bad -- everyone has their reasons. In fact our heroine has been happily serving an evil corporate empire, while the "terrorists" she fights (who are pretty damn ruthless) are trying to prevent a dystopian hellscape future. And, thank Cthulhu, she is too busy with her goals to spend much time on juvenile romantic angst (looking at you, Flash and Arrow!).

The only issue I have with the show is that the actors are fine, but a little bland. It's not like watching Orphan Black and thinking, "OMG GIVE TATIANA MASLANY ALL THE AWARDS!" So, it may take a few episodes to grow on you, but give it a chance.

Monday, December 21, 2015

MY LATEST WEIRD ART PROJECT

Victorian & Edwardian Horror

I've been having fun with the Artstudio app for iPad and the Sensu stylus lately. It was coming up on October, and Guillermo del Toro was talking about his favorite horror stories on Twitter (Dude must have been a librarian in a previous life, because his Readers' Advisory game is ON POINT. Go follow him). That inspired me to read 31 of my old favorite Victorian & Edwardian horror stories and draw illustrations for each of them for Halloween. Of course, it took me longer than that, but they are finally finished. I was inspired, in my lazy and casual way, by great illustrators like Aubrey Beardsley, John R. Neill, and Alastair.

 Here is the list of stories:


  • “Caterpillars” -E.F. Benson
  • “Casting the Runes” -M..R. James
  • “The Horla” - Guy de Maupassant
  • “How Love Came to Professor Guildea” -Robert Hichens
  • “Afterward” -Edith Wharton
  • “The Great God Pan” - Arthur Machen
  • Yuki-Onna” - Lafcadio Hearn
  • “Green Tea” - J. Sheridan LeFanu
  • “The Monkey’s Paw” - W. W. Jacobs
  • “Luella Miller” - Mary Wilkins Freeman
  • “Rappacini’s Daughter” - Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • “The Picture in the House” -H.P. Lovecraft
  • “The Yellow Wallpaper” -Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • “The Open Window” -Saki
  • “The Phantom Rickshaw” - Rudyard Kipling
  • “Ancient Sorceries” -Algernon Blackwood
  • “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” - Ambrose Bierce
  • “The Yellow Sign” -Robert W. Chambers
  • “The Voice in the Night” - William Hope Hodgson
  • “The Beckoning Fair One” - Oliver Onions
  • “The Tell-Tale Heart” -Edgar Allan Poe
  • “Adam and Eve and Pinch Me” - A. E. Coppard
  • “The Way It Came” - Henry James
  • “The Captain of the Pole-Star” - Arthur Conan Doyle
  • “The Body-Snatcher” - R.L. Stevenson
  • “What Was It?” -Fitz-James O’Brien
  • “Dracula’s Guest” - Bram Stoker
  • “Good Lady Ducayne” - Mary E. Braddon
  • “The Dream Woman” - Wilkie Collins
  • “The Ghost Ship” - Richard Middleton
  • “Man-Size in Marble” - E. Nesbit



I downloaded all of them from reliable public domain e-book sites like Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive, and University of Adelaide E-books to read on my Nook. (remember, never pay for an e-book published before 1923, folks). You can download them to read here.





 

Friday, September 18, 2015

PLEASE CONSIDER WATCHING PERSON OF INTEREST






It's on streaming, finally!


If you had told me 5 years ago that my favorite network show (and right up there with more highly-praised cable shows) would be a show on CBS called Person of Interest, there would have been scoffing involved. I associate CBS with bland-but-comforting investigation shows that exploit some technology (usually inaccurately) to give the story a little twist, then tie up a mystery all nice-&-tidy, with occasional breaks for truly cringeworthy depictions of the investigators' personal lives. Except for a few bad apples, all authority figure have our best interests at heart.

Well, this is not that. Getting murdered or almost-murdered by corrupt authority figures is one of the top concerns for characters in this universe. When you're one of the few people who know about an all-seeing AI that watches us for the government, it's kind of an issue (and yes, social media was created to get us to give up our personal information so the authorities can spy on us).


All the main actors are great in this. Jim Caviezel is slightly "off" in an interesting way, like Lee Pace or early Nicholas Cage, and it really works for him here. Person of Interest has some similarities to Burn Notice, in that an ex-spy helps "regular" people using as much con artistry as martial arts and high tech, but it's a bit darker. For all the hints of Michael's dark past, I just couldn't buy that he was only a short distance from being a cold-blooded killing machine. I can totally see Caviezel killing people, though. I never got into Lost. so this was my first exposure to Michael Emerson, and he's amazing. It's really hard to play a super-genius, but he pulls it off. And I've been impressed with Taraji P. Henson's emotional range since I saw her play a lesbian hitwoman in Smokin' Aces. Do we even need to talk about Amy Acker, AKA Fred from Angel, who should be in all the things?

Speaking of ladies, even though most of the promotional stuff features the two dudes in front, there are a lot of great big and small roles for women, who have the same character options as men without making it a BIG DEAL. Women can be cynical political fixers, assassins with personality disorders, super-hackers, ruthless heads of intelligence operations, crack interrogators, amoral con artists, kindly children's book illustrators, and older partners who show the newbie the ropes. 

All this, and my favorite AI character in non-anime visual media. So, give it a try, already!