Sunday, July 25, 2010

Simply Smashing Penny Jewelry

Remember how I told you to gather up all your souvenir smashed pennies back during my trip to Disneyland? Well, I've been working for weeks now on assembling lots of fun options for turning these:

Into these:

Yes, it's upside down. I was just seeing if you were...uh...paying attention. Yeah. That's it.

Intrigued? Want to know how to make these yourself for only a couple of bucks and reused materials you probably already have? Plus see more designs? Then read on, intrepid penny lover! Read on.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

More Comic Con Highlights

I know, I know. I should stop.

But c'mon, Tony Stark is in the hoooouse!!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thank You, Twitter! Comic Con Goodies

Hey, just 'cuz I'm not at Comic Con this weekend doesn't mean I can't bring you some Comic Con goodies! That's right: thanks to the miracle of Twitter and grainy cell phone pictures, we, too, can now get our geek on - at least vicariously.

And, for those of you who have jobs and responsibilities and lives and whatnot, I've spent more time than I'm willing to admit today wading through all the tweeted madness to gather up some of the best shots for you.


What's cookin,' Darth?

Star Wars Sweeties

Tell me this isn't the cutest freakin' thing you've seen all week:

It's not easy to squeal while laughing hysterically, but somehow this painting gifted me with that unique ability. Seriously, I can't look at this without grinning like an idiot. I love it.

And why is it that Star Wars gets the best fan art, anyway? Not that I'm complaining TOO much, but just once, I'd like to see a chibi Andorian baby with a Tribble in one hand and a tricorder in the other. Right? C'mon, artists, that would be EPIC.

In the mean time, though, I'll just soak up goodies like this:

By Greg Peltz, who has more Victorian-styled Star Wars characters on his blog.

Awesomeness. I'm hoping, with all my might, that Peltz does a matching R2 portrait.

And speaking of Star Wars art, I can't wait to peruse the artist alley at Star Wars Celebration V, which will be here in Orlando next month. Katie Cook will be there, and she draws adorableness like this:


I'm also looking forward to seeing Jon Stewart interview George Lucas; that should be...entertaining. Mostly, though, I look forward to the costume photo safari. [rubbing hands together] Oooh, I LOVE taking convention photos! Here's hoping I just don't make too much of an idiot of myself by asking, "And who are *you* supposed to be?" Heh. Yeah, I'm not as good with Star Wars as I am with Trek; I've never seen any of the animated stuff. [ducks to avoid hurled tomatoes] I'm sorry! I'm sorry!

So, are any of you going to be there? Holla back if so! And if not, don't worry; I'll be posting updates and pics here when the time comes. Then the rest of you can help me ID who all the characters are. :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Rabbit Trail of Geekery

I will now demonstrate how to seamlessly segue from Neatorama to Star Trek to M*A*S*H to puppeteering to Cake Wrecks. BECAUSE I CAN.

Ready? Here goes.

First, some cool Trek trivia I found on Neatorama today:

James Doohan (aka Scotty on Star Trek) was shot by a German machine gunner six times during the Allied invasion of Normandy. (!!) A shot to his chest was stopped by a metal cigarette case. (!!!) Another shot to his right hand caused him to lose his middle finger, which meant that stand-ins (hand-ins?) were used during the filming of both the show and the movies.

[Read more at 5 Sci-Fi Actors Who Were War Heroes)]

Do a Google image search to see all the other creative ways Scotty kept his hand hidden.

Not only is this fascinating, but my respect for Doohan just went up a thousand-fold. (Sadly, he passed away in 2005.) It also reminds me of M.A.S.H. (another favorite), because Gary Burghoff (aka Radar) also has a deformed hand - although his is a birth defect. They tried to conceal Burghoff's hand on camera as well - ever notice he's always carrying a clipboard?- but you can still spot it from time to time if you look closely.

[In case you missed it, that was my first segue. See how I'm all smooth and natural-like? Eh? And the segue wasn't bad, either. HEYO!]

I first learned about Burghoff's hand back in middle school, when I was part of a puppet troupe called Kids on the Block. Each of our puppet characters had a certain disability or disease, and we toured elementary schools teaching kids about diversity and tolerance and such. My puppet was named Valerie, and she had spina bifida:

She had metal crutches and leg braces, which made her sooo heavy - plus I was/am so short that I had to stand on an egg crate to perform. Even so, I loved it. I even earned a pin - which I still have to this day - for memorizing and performing in the most sketches of anyone in our troupe. And did I really just brag about that? YES I DID.

ANYWAY, [Segue imminent. Repeat: segue imminent.] as part of our training we watched a video of Burghoff talking about his hand and M.A.S.H. and what it was like growing up with a disability. So now he and KOTB are both permanently linked in my mind.

[Ok, believe it or not, I'm about to wrap this all up with one final, brilliant segue into Cake Wrecks. Prepare to be amazed. Or, better yet, don't; I really don't need that kind of pressure.]

So, on the last stop of our book tour a few weeks ago, John and I were wandering the La Jolla Art Festival before the show. It was a pretty small festival, so we were slow-motion strolling, trying to kill time. As we moseyed down the row, guess who I saw at one of the booths?

No, not Gary Burghoff. C'mon, keep up.

It was Valerie, my old puppet! There she was, leg braces and all, sipping a beer and talking smack with the macrame seller.

Hah, ok, now I'm just messing with you.

The puppet *was* there, though, in a Kids on the Block booth, because - get this - the organization is still going today! (Just to be clear, it's a nation-wide thing; this wasn't the exact same puppet I used.) I spent about five minutes amusing John and frightening the booth attendant with my squees of amazement and gibbered tales of standing on egg crates.

And so, in conclusion, this is pretty cool:

Sorry, I used up all my segue juice.

But hey, cool phone, right? You plug your iPhone into it, and then use the handset to talk on. It's silly as all get-out, I suppose, but it's also cool and artsy and steampunked, so that makes it alright.

(John also pointed out that if I let him get the new iPhone then he could give me his old iPhone and then I could use this. To which I responded, "This costs $450," and the conversation abruptly ended. Still nifty, though.)

You can see more phone styles (including a nice sleek black one) at Freeland Studio's Etsy store.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Forget Everything I Just Said

As you insiders already know, our attempted move to a server over the weekend didn't go quite as well as we'd hoped.

Ok, scratch that.

It was a big, flaming disaster. Children ran screaming through the streets, poets composed tragic death sonnets, and the sky bled the tears of a thousand angels.

Also, stress makes me a little melodramatic.

So, we're back on Blogger. And yes, a part of me is kind of happy about that. The other part - the part that spent weeks and months and lots of moolah and sleepless nights preparing for the move - is all, "C'mon!! Really?!?"

And, since I know you tech geniuses out there are probably thinking we're incompetent buffoons because a move like this isn't THAT hard, allow me to say that the actual blog moved fine. The comments, however, did not. And that's a deal-breaker.

We've talked to some of the highest higher-ups at both Blogger and WordPress, plus plenty of scary-smart gurus, but apparently all the things that are *supposed* to work just plain *don't* when you're dealing with 80,000+ comments. To give you an idea: It took 4 hours just to transfer the 6,000 comments that did come over. So I guess any program that sees 80 THOUSAND decides that now is an excellent time for a break.

Granted, we have had offers by programmers to whip up a custom doo-dad to scrape and gather and match up and progmaticize...ate... and such, but at the end of the day, when we saw how WP had messed up the formatting on all of our nearly 900 posts, plus was giving me grief to write in, plus costs a lot of money to host on a private server, plus would cost that much more to have someone write that program to retrieve the comments...well, we did the math, and then tucked tail and went crying back to Blogger.

Blogger, for its part, has welcomed us back with open arms, a loving smile, and broken comment moderation. (Well played, Blogger. Well played.) Even so, I think we can all agree it's never looked more beautiful.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I Hate Change

For months now, a storm has been brewing behind the scenes of Cake Wrecks. This weekend it all came to a head.

Wait. Do those analogies even work together? Does a storm come to a head?

This may or may not be a storm head.

Anyway, it all started when I let John win an argument.

In a nutshell, it's probably really dark.

But, getting back to that argument: John has wanted for ages and ages to move the blog off of Blogger and on to, and I quote, a "real" server.

I, however, being a curmudgeonly curmudgeon who, once comfortable, will guard against change with the kind of ferocity normally associated with maternally crazed bears, did not want to move the blog.

Now, John and I don't fight much. Fact is, we're fairly similar in temperament, food preferences, and shoe-shopping tactics (clearance first, then work your way forward), so we don't really have much to fight over. But this? This was a sticking point. Every few weeks, or any time Blogger had a hiccup, John would start up again.

"Do you see any other big blogs on Blogger?" he'd ask. "No."

"We're on Blogger," I would point out.

"They just randomly deleted a bunch of our comments!"

"A glitch."

"Moderation is locked up again!"

"They're working on it."

"What about the time they locked you out of your own account for nearly a week?"

"That only happened once."

Then John pulled his trump card:

"Look, with your new redesign, some people can't see the blog anymore. Don't you want people to be able to read the blog?"

Aw, dang it.

See, in order to get the custom design template we have on CW, our designer extraordinaire Aric had to do a lot of hacks. Blogger, as some of you know, doesn't do well with hacks. Or more accurately: certain browsers (*cough cough* IE6 *cough*) don't do well reading Blogger hacks. When we started getting e-mails saying that the site wasn't loading right for some people, we had Aric go through the code line-by-line to fix any glitches, remove unnecessary Java, etc. I was sure that would fix any problems, and then we could stay on Blogger and everyone would be happy.

Instead, the code clean-up and refresh quadrupled our problems: over night we lost about 8% of our readers - we're pretty sure because they just couldn't load the site properly any more. (That, or I really ticked a lot of people off with my "master baster" crack.) We also had plenty of e-mails to confirm that formatting and/or load errors were among the culprits.

Our design wasn't the only problem, though: some of the Picasa servers which host Blogger's photos have been flagged by company firewalls as containing "inappropriate content," and are therefore blocked. When this happens, any photo stored on the offending server - about one in five in our case - won't load. And since the vast majority of our readers read at work (yay, productivity!), having a company firewall block any or all of our images meant no more readers at that company.

Unfortunately, the only fix for all of these and other issues seemed to be a move to a private server.

Which is why I finally let John win the argument.

Dang it.

This roughly translates to both John's and my reactions.
I'll let you figure out which cat is who.

Don't worry; I'll spare you most of the gory details, mostly because I don't understand them. In fact, I'm starting to suspect that all the technical jargon John and Aric are throwing around is really just an elaborate prank to see how dumb they can make me feel.

John: "So we're waiting for the name servers to propagate."

Me: "A-HA! I knew you were making up words! 'Propagate.' Puh-lease. What are they going to do, have little baby servers? Yeah. Nice try, dude."

Matters only got worse when our first attempted move from Blogger went horribly wrong: the host we'd hired went all wonky, throwing up its own firewalls and giving everyone a big ol' "Server not found" error. John and Aric back-pedaled madly, and after a long weekend of hard work, we were back where we started on Blogger again.

This weekend we're trying again - only with a different host.

Of course, for you the reader, nothing will have changed. (Well, unless you couldn't see the site before; hopefully now you can.) For me the writer, EVERYTHING has changed. And, in case you've forgotten the title of this post, I HATE change. Hate it hate it hate it. I've been cruising along for years now with Blogger, and I know every quirk and trick it has up its sleeve.

Now, I have to learn WordPress.

And don't even try and tell me how fabulous WordPress is, WordPressers. I get it: it's awesome. Whatever. Just let me relish my grumpiness for a little while; I'm sure I'll drink the Kool-Aid eventually.

Oh, and if you're wondering why I'm grumpy, allow me to describe my first writing experience in WP, which occurred just a few hours ago.

Me: "Ok, I'll just cut and paste this section..." [click click clickety click]

" cut, so why isn't it pasting? [clickclick]



At this point I had just deleted a photo and its corresponding text and hyperlink. Since the "undo" wouldn't work, I now had to replace them. Ok, fine. First, the photo.

I actually got the thing uploaded on the first try (woo!), but it was the size of my entire screen (whoah). I tried editing the photo to make it smaller. The edits wouldn't update. So, I deleted the photo and re-uploaded it as a smaller size. Now it was too small. So, I grabbed the corner of the photo and dragged the box to make it larger. This worked, but now it was pixelated.

I finally "fixed" the problem by deleting the photo again and re-uploading it again several sizes too big (because your only upload options are either around 300 wide or 1200 wide - because yeah, THAT makes sense) and then dragging the box to make it smaller.

Next I couldn't put more than one line of space between the photo and the text. I don't know why. I gave up ("Um, one space is probably fine.."), and moved on.

Then I tried to insert a hyperlink. Highlight the text, open the hyperlink box, insert the link, and...nada. Didn't work. I tried again. Nothing. And then again. Still no hyperlink. I was doing everything correctly, but it just. wouldn't. work.

At this point I was literally sobbing with frustration. Maybe it's the newness. Maybe it's the loss of control. Maybe it's that I hate feeling stupid. Maybe it's my anger at Blogger for causing so many issues that we had to leave in the first place, or at WordPress for not being exactly like Blogger. Maybe it's the fact that CW was once just MY blog: my goofy little cake blog that I knew backwards and forwards and learned how to hack into a 3-column Minima template *all by myself* and I was so proud because it was all my work and I didn't need anyone's help to do it - and now it's this big unwieldy behemoth requiring people smarter (and far more expensive) than I just to log into.

Or maybe I'm just PMS'ing.

Whatever it is, you'll note that I'm currently writing this in Blogger. (Epbot is not moving.) I decided a tactical retreat was in order. Plus some good ol' fashioned venting. John has since told me that the post I was working on had to be saved, closed, and re-opened, and so now some of those issues are fixed. So that's something. And I guess I do feel a little better now, so...

Cover me. I'm goin' in.

Oh, and if Sunday Sweets isn't up by 9:30 tomorrow morning, send chocolate.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Show n' Tell: Display Yer Goods!

Way back after my Show and Tell post, several of you sent in pics of your own geeky projects and displays. This was such a treat for me that I figured I'd show them off, in the hopes of getting the rest of you to send in your stuff. Because I like seeing your stuff. And I'm SELFISH. Yeah, I said it. (Don't tell John.)

First up, Diana Laurence made this amazing "stitchpunk" doll, inspired by the movie 9:

Check out Diana's blog for fantastic progress pics and descriptions.

When you're done swooning over the 'punky cuteness, check out her ingenious method of attaching his feet to the base:


These snaps are just like you'd use in a purse or bag. How clever is that?!? (I'll tell you: Really, really clever.)

In fact, I've been brainstorming projects just so I can steal this idea. I envision myself dramatically sweeping a sculpture off the shelf and popping it off its custom base to the amazement and awe of all my friends. Of course, to do that I'd need 1) a sculpture 2) a base 3) magnets, and 4) friends. So, you know, that's all still a work in progress. (Speaking of which...Any of you free this weekend? Yes? No? If it helps, I found my Animaniacs dolls.)

Next up is Debbie Goard, the famous Debbie of Debbie Does Cakes. (DebbieDebbieDebbie. Ok. I'm done. DebbieDebbie. No, really.) She collects vintage lunchboxes, and after seeing her super-cool display wall, now I'm tempted to as well:

It looks like a modern art gallery, doesn't it? Love it. Also, what a perfect use of space! Most folks would never think to display collectibles on a stairwell wall (at least, I think that's what this is.)

Wendy K. sent in several pictures of her dad's ├╝ber geeky office displays. After looking at these pics, I think I can safely say that Wendy's dad doesn't own any cats.

That, or everything is glued down with Museum Putty. :)

John was especially enamored with the Marvin the Martian shelf:

I always did love Marvin.

This next one is absolutely hilarious, because it has an awesome story to go with it. Back in 1981, through means only slightly nefarious, Julie M. managed to get her mitts on a bottle of hotel shampoo used by Billy Idol. (Yes, really.) Naturally, such a relic deserved a worthy display/shrine:

C'mon, that's frickin' hilarious. She even added glue drops to the tiles to look like water. And she still has it. That kind of fangirl geekery deserves a big ol' gold star.

Ok, the rest of you, your turn! Send me your photos or links to your own geektacular goodies. Have a clever display idea? Custom stand/case/dust dome? Share! (Jen [at] Epbot [dot] com.)

Or, if you just have a fun project or craft that you think I'd enjoy, send that along! I'm planning a post of fun geek crafts, so I'll include the best of what you guys send in.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My Friends Are Such Geeks...

...and I couldn't be more proud.

Yes, I'm actually friends with these people. JEALOUS? Of course you are.

Actually, a few of you may remember John & Abby Gjertsen, or their first son, Sweet Baby James, from some of my posts on CW. If you don't know their story, check out their blog; they're pretty amazing. Anyway, this vid feature their new, healthy baby boy, Valor.

And then there's Ray & Julianne, aka Baby Ninja's parents. Why Baby Ninja? Because John and I convinced Ray & Julianne to let us do THIS to their nursery:

If these photos look familiar, it's because they were also posted on Super Punch. I sent them to John soon after we finished the room.

The ninjas started out as small pencil sketches by Ray, who is a graphic designer, and then John and I designed and painted the whole room to incorporate them. Aren't they cute?

And speaking of cute, here's the Baby Ninja himself, Isaiah:

...wearing his "I am NINJA!" onesie.

And now a ninja punch, just for cute's sake:

Isn't it nice to see Geeks: The Next Generation in good hands? :D

Monday, July 12, 2010

Why I Otter...

Ok, forget the sloth.

Now I'll take a baby otter, if you please.

Watch 'til the end, because believe me, it just keeps getting better. I think I had a religious experience at 1:35; suddenly my Monday grumpies were replaced with soft, squishy feelings of love. And double rainbows. Yeah. You heard me.

More pics of this little fur ball over at Zoo Borns, the blog that makes me increasingly dissatisfied with the cuteness quotient of my cats. Why can't you look like this, cat? WHY?!?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Leather Curtain & Tie-Back Tutorial

Now that the book tour and Disneyland craziness is over, I can get back to the long-delayed curtain tutorial!

As you may recall, this is what the finished product looks like:

Here's what we started with: a $20 set of curtains purchased at Ross.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

World Of Color

I don't have a whole lot to say about World of Color. I mean, I liked it, but like all big Disney shows, the hassle of the waiting and the crowds and the little punk kids elbowing you in the ribs does detract from the experience somewhat. (Grumpy? Me? Never.)

All the hassle afforded us a great viewing spot, though, and the visuals were stunning, so it's definitely something you'll want to see at least once.

And this was before the show even started.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Disneyland Details

Ahh, Disneyland, how I love thee...

Don't worry, though; I won't be boring you with endless snapshots of me and John in Mickey ears.

Well, ok, maybe just *one*...

Awww. Isn't John adorable?

Trekkin' It Old School

YOU GUYS. If you're not following Leonard Nimoy on Twitter, you're missing out on goodies like this:

Hm? That noise just now? Oh, that was just me, collapsing in a fit of nerd glee.

There's also an adorable pic of Nimoy's son visiting him on set wearing Vulcan ears. Smiling Spock = happy Jen.

And while we're at it, there's a great article about one of my favorite OS Trek books, The Entropy Effect, over on io9. You should read it. (The book, I mean. You can also read the article, if you like.)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fun with the Founding Fathers

I'm something of a history buff. Not a good one, mind you; I can't retain dates or names for the life of me. Still, I really enjoy museums and learning about our country's past and the founding fathers. Exhibit A: John and I went to Washington, D.C. - for our honeymoon.

This was not taken in DC. Nor was it taken on our honeymoon. In fact, it has nothing to do with anything other than the fact that it's an eagle and today is the fourth of July and I'm really proud of this shot and I may not get another excuse to show it off. So...hey, look! Pretty eagle!

Anyway, I first saw this video nearly six months ago, and I think I watched it a dozen times in one sitting. It's odd, silly, and a flat-out bizarre in the end, but for some reason I love it. And since it's about the Declaration of Independence, I figure today's the perfect day to share it:

The best part is definitely the actor playing Thomas Jefferson, R. Keith Harris. There's something kind of mesmerizing about a smooth rockin' Jefferson. :D

You can download the song for free (and also learn more about the group who made the video) here.

Also, if you're looking to get your feet wet with American history, you can't go wrong with a book on Lincoln. He may not be a founding father, but his life and words are fascinating enough to get anyone hooked on history. (And when you're done with him, read something on his wife. Yowzers.)
Also not taken on our honeymoon. But at least it IS in D.C.
There are tons of Lincoln books out there, but for light reading I'd go with this one by McPherson - it's less than 100 pages, and I *think* it's one of the ones I read and liked.

If you're up for something (much) heavier, David McCullough is another good author. I don't believe he has anything on Lincoln, but his John Adams made for excellent bedtime reading: slow enough to not keep me awake after I put it down, but interesting enough to keep me going through the 750+ pages. (Keep in mind I'm a fast reader, though.)

And finally, just for fun:


A costume at the '08 Dragon*Con by Studio Creations

Just when you thought Lincoln couldn't get any cooler.

And one more for a good LOL:

Happy Independence Day, everyone!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Excuses, Excuses...

I determined when I started this blog that I wouldn't populate it with posts apologizing for not posting, so...I'm NOT sorry. Yeah. So, um, there.

John and I are still in California, though, and with only one laptop and one day's reserve on CW, I'm just not able to write as much as I'd like to here. (And until you guys get about eighty thousand of your friends to check Epbot every day, I'm afraid the Wreckage will have to continue to take priority. Heh.) Rest assured that all will return to normal next week, though!

In the meantime, I will tell you that I'm loving the Disneyland downtime. Yesterday it took us four hours just to get down Main Street.

In related news: I love Main Street.

The old bank vault. Leave it to me to find steampunk inspiration in Disneyland!

Yep, I love the architecture, the signage, the window displays, the Dapper Dans, the lights...and yes, I am going crazy Disney fangirl on you right now. Sorry. But not really.

When we got here, the girl in the ticket window decided John and I were so cute that we simply HAD to celebrate our anniversary this trip. So she gave us buttons with our names on them, and now everyone is wishing us a happy anniversary two months early. It's awesome.

Carved capital building in the pre-show area of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, which I got to see for the first time.

Oh, and I'm collecting smashes pennies from the machines sprinkled around the park. (Pennies? Again? YES.) You'll see them pop up in a tutorial soon, so go dig up any you have from past theme park or museum visits and wait for further instructions.

No stalker sightings to report yet, which, to be honest, is a bit disappointing. I'm telling myself they're all just really *good* stalkers. :D I almost turned stalker myself, though, when I spotted fashion and make-up guru Shrinkle in the queue at Caption EO. My first celebrity siting! Woohoo! Turns out Leesha (aka Xsparkage) was also here, but I missed her. These gals make me seriously crave candy-colored hair. For now I'll stick to embarrassing John with my yellow boots, though.

So tell me, fellow Disney Geeks (aka Dizgeeks), what's your favorite often-overlooked thing here in California? I don't want to miss anything! (Btw, I haven't spotted the Rocketeer popcorn cart yet, but it's on the list!) We're actually here until Friday, which is good considering the crazy crowds. Whose idea was it to do this during June, again?