Saturday, January 8, 2011

How We Amuse Ourselves


UPDATE: Just three hours later, and we have an illustrated version. Thanks, JRose!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Cruisin' For A Bruisin'

Some of you have been asking how our four day (or was it five?) Christmas cruise went.

Ok, one person asked. But still.

To answer that question, I will have to remind you that there were 11 people in our party, 10 of whom were related by blood or marriage, and all of whom have access to the Internet. And then I will have to politely change the subject.

Oh, but wait! I have pictures!

Hm. Well, in that case, I *guess* I can spare a few more details...

Ok. So. The only day worthy of visuals was our stop in Nassau, the Bahamas. Here we visited Atlantis, the famous resort that any of you who have ever been on a Caribbean cruise have probably visited.

Now, I love Atlantis for one reason and one reason only. Can you guess what it is? Considering that I just posted a big picture of one above this paragraph?

Yup. It's the seahorses.


Actually, all of the decor in Atlantis is amazing, and the whole "Lost City" theme is right up my alley. Crumbling plaster, nautical touches, and lots of star maps and armillary spheres? Yes, please!

A pretty ceiling in the main lobby:

And if you've ever been, you'll of course remember these glass sculptures in the casino:

[Update: You commenters are right: this IS the work of Dale Chihuly. According to his site, this one represents the sun, and the blue one down below the moon. Nice!]

If you step outside the casino there's a nice patio/walkway with this view:

That building houses an underwater aquarium and also a restaurant, if I'm remembering right.

And now, let's check in with our vacation correspondent, Mr. Seymour Butz! (woo-hoo!)

*giggle* Yes, I'm 12. Besides, I was getting a real Ocean's 11 vibe here with everyone bellied up to the balustrade, so of course I had to take a picture. And John caught me in the act, of course.

Oops, I just realized my mom isn't in that shot. So here's one of her in front of the aquarium, instead:

That's my grandmother in the chair. She nearly died about an hour prior to this, so this was quite the eventful day for her. (I'll tell you about the almost-dying thing in a minute.)

While you're enjoying the suspense, check out this great shot of John's mom and sister, who I think are checking out the 15-foot manta ray:

I love this shot. You can almost hear the fish saying, "Dude. I'm right HERE."

Ok, now on to Grandma's Action-Packed Almost-Dying Experience, aka, "So I Married An Action Hero!"

It started like any other day.

Well, not really; we were on a cruise. Heh. Um. Maybe I should just skip the intro? Yeah.

So here's the thing: when you have 11 people in your party, deciding on a course of action for the entire group is kind of like trying to steer some massive, unwieldy metaphor for something that's hard to steer. It's hard. Which I guess is why we ended up on the water taxi to Atlantis.

Now, John and I have actually been on a really nice water taxi to Atlantis before. It was a big double-decker with open-air decks, clean seats, and a PA system so the tour guide could narrate the 10 minute trip with ease.

That was not the boat we ended up on.

Our boat was a small, nasty wooden thing with peeling paint, belching fumes, and tiny windows that were fogged with scratches and grime. However, by the time we saw what it looked like we'd already walked a block or so to get there, and with 11 people you don't just change the plan willy-nilly once it's been set in motion.

Before we boarded, though, we did make sure that we could safely get my grandmother - who can walk, but mostly travels by wheelchair due to balance issues - on board. So, we asked the crew for their professional opinions on the matter. In answer, we got lots of enthusiastic "No problem!!"s and head bobs, as they quickly took our money for the tickets. And, in fact, it wasn't too bad: one big step from the dock onto the back of the boat, and then she could sit down again. Easy peasy.

The trip over was smelly, muggy, and unbeLIEVably loud, since the "tour guide" "narrated" our "tour" by bellowing at the top of his lungs directly into my right ear. (This was necessary to be heard over the skull-vibrating drone of the engine.) When he screamed out his first "LADIES AND GENTLEMENS!!" - yes, it was "gentlemens," a double plural - I nearly fell off my bench. I spent the rest of the trip trying to catch a whiff of fresh air through the tiny cracked windows, counting how many times the guide said "gentlemens" (8), and wondering how much I would have to tip the guide to make him *stop* guiding.

It was when we docked that the trouble started.

You see, we had boarded at the back of the boat, which is where small boats like this are meant to be boarded. As you may recall from any previous boat encounters you've had, the front is the pointy bit. It has no railings, walkways, or flat surfaces.

In fact, here's a picture of a boat similar to the one we were on:


Imagine a bigger, banged up, wooden, and completely enclosed version of this. That's what we were on. And that's what they decided to dock front-first.

At first I didn't realize there was a problem. We were seated in the back, which was much lower than the example above, and couldn't even *see* the front of the boat. Then, as the passengers emptied out ahead of us, I realized there were several very steep steps to navigate on the way forward. "Uh-oh," I thought. "Grandma's going to have trouble with those."

Then I stood up and saw that everyone was being forced to crawl out the front windows.


Shocked, I allowed the crew to hustle me forward, trusting that somehow the guys in our party would see Grandma safely ashore. As I climbed the steep steps a crew member grabbed my arm and pushed me towards the left window. "You go out the window," he said, pointing. Like this was a perfectly normal instruction to give in a non-burning mode of transportation.

Seeing no other option, I hitched my leg over the sill and crawled onto the outside deck, where I noted with mounting horror that the "walkway" was approximately 8 inches wide, and rail-less.

Which is how I came to be clinging to the side of a boat in the Caribbean and side-stepping around the edge like James "Twinkle Toes" Bond.

Now, at this point most of the passengers were off the boat, which meant that it was turning into the world's largest teeter-totter. It swayed side-to-side, rising up 6 feet only to crash down again a second later. Normally I find this fun. This time, all I could think was, "My grandmother is about to die."

Eventually I made it onto the dock where a small crowd was gathered, staring back behind me. I almost didn't want to look. But, of course, I had to.

What I saw next will forever haunt me, because - it's hard for me to even type these words - I didn't take a picture. Nope. I'm ashamed to say it, but my hands were glued to my face in such a state of panic that it never even occurred to me to grab the camera. Dang it all.

Well, anyway, here's what I saw: John, my grandmother cradled in his arms, was staggering forward Backdraft-style down the main aisle of the boat. Seriously, the only thing missing was dramatic music and maybe a few explosions. The deck was heaving so violently I was sure he would lose his balance and they'd both go down, but somehow he managed to climb the steep steps inside and get her to the window.

Next, he and my brother helped Grandma crawl out onto the tiny 8-inch pathway. (Around this point my heart stopped. You understand.) With one going before her and one after, the guys then kept their arms around my grandmother's back, pinning her to the boat side as the three of them slowly inched their way down the edge of the wildly pitching deck.

On the dock, roughly half a dozen people prepared to dive into the water in case she fell.

However, as you've probably gathered from the fact that none of my photos showed a dripping wet grandmother, my grandmother made it. When the guys helped her that last step onto the dock a small cheer went up, and eventually - maybe just one or two days later - my heart even started beating again.

The boat crew, I should mention, looked bored and slightly impatient throughout our ordeal.

So, to sum up: never, EVER, take your aged or frail relatives on the crappy Bahamas water taxi. For that matter, don't go yourself, either. Take the car taxi. It's well worth the extra $2. Trust me.

And now, your moment of cruise zen:

(I have no explanation. Just the picture.)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sweet Tweets

Some geektacular goodies hogging my browser tabs today:

- The Disney Wedding Blog has a sweet photo feature on Cheryl & Adam's Steampunk Wedding:

Click the link for lots more eye candy, and don't miss the wedding cake!

(Why, oh why, wasn't I invited?!?[sob])

- Stained glass TARDIS clock, anyone?

- One of the funniest things I've read in a loooong time: How To Put On a Sports Bra.

"Step 1: Approach the sports bra with confidence, secure in the belief that you will wear it."

It's hysterical. You must read it. (Found via SuperPunch.)

- Speaking of hysterical, behold the newest thing since Vajazzling: the Tajazzle.

It's essentially a rhinestone sticker you stick on your lady business. However, they've managed to make it a "3-step system" that is the "ultimate in personal confidence" and costs "$39.95." Seriously. I couldn't make this stuff up.

Go see the ridiculously long 30 minute infomercial here, complete with horrendous acting and lots of babes in bikinis wearing the rhinestone sticker everywhere *except* their lady business. (Do I need to tell you the videos are not exactly safe for work?)

Actually, just watch the first minute of the second half; that'll be enough. Plus, watching this guy here:

...earnestly explaining how the Tajazzle body powder makes him "feel fresh" just made my entire afternoon. (Again, vids are NSFW, but there's no nudity, either.)

- And finally, for your "dreampunk" jewelry fix, check out the Girls Are Geeks' feature on Bionic Unicorn, one of my favorite Etsy sellers. In fact, I couldn't resist buying the first necklace they featured:

Orange and blue! Wheee!

Click the link for more info on what "dreampunk" is (I like it!), and also for a discount code in case you decide to go shopping!

So guys, what's caught your eye today? Any good links? Share them in the comments!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Plethora of Penny Jewelry

Ok, clearly I have a thing for pennies. The good news is I'm not the only one; many of you readers are catching the one-cent spirit, too! Just look at some of the amazing jewelry ideas you've been sending in:

Epbot reader SJ helps lead Girlscout troop #1287 in Kentucky. Inspired by my smashed penny tutorial, she had all the girls get their own pennies during a field trip to the Cincinnati Zoo - and then they turned their smooshed souvenirs into rockin' penny pins!

Here's the whole troop, proudly wearing their pins:

If you click on the photo to see the large version, you'll see how each girl's pin is slightly different. I love the designs, and the dangling chains and beads!

Amy D. made this gorgeous bracelet:

Shades of blue and teal look *amazing* with the copper, don't you think?

And Sonya G. used a fabulous chunky chain for hers:

Jessica M. incorporated her dinosaur penny into this fun dino-themed charm bracelet:

Note the little frame with the word "Rawr" in it. :D

Rachel S. found this next example over at FusionBeads:

I'm loving how the pennies are bent slightly to fit the curve of your wrist, and the little bead clusters make it surprisingly elegant. I may have to try this!

And finally, some of you are *also* acquiring (and happily pounding away on) your own doming blocks. [wiping away tear] And I am SO PROUD. [sniff]

Emily M. made this perfectly patinated pair of wheat penny earrings:

[Correction: Emily's husband made these for her. Go, hubby!]

And over at Land Pirate Designs there are a couple of different penny designs. This is my favorite:

(Thanks for the link, Allison E!)

I've actually tried making a design similar to this, but I hit a few roadblocks. For one thing, drilling the holes at the right angle on the curved surface is pretty difficult with my Dremel, and you have to drill a *lot* of holes. (You can't drill before doming the coin, because the doming process distorts the holes. I learned that the hard way, too.) So now I'm thinking I need a drill press. Sorry, John. :D

So, have you guys made any penny jewelry of your own? Share your links in the comments; I'm always looking for more inspiration!

Oh, and if you're in the market for a doming block, go to Harbor Freight Tools. This set (the one I got): only $39.99 there. Suh-WEET! (I don't think you'll find a better price anywhere than that.) I also found this set over on Amazon for less than $50, but it doesn't look nearly as nice.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Katie's Book

Want to see the best gift I gave this year?

I have to share, because I really can't even take credit for it; over 3,300 of you readers helped me create it:


This, my friends, is a 552 page book comprised of all of your encouraging comments to Katie the Star Wars girl. Pretty cool, right?

The cover art is by comic artist Jack Lawrence, who was inspired to create it after first reading about Katie:

Fortunately he was delighted to grant me permission to use it for the cover. (Thanks again, Jack!)

I also have to give a shout-out and big thank you to readers Deirdre Popp and Jennifer Reid, who helped me format the 700+ page document down into a more manageable 550-ish pages, a feat which took many more hours than I had to spare!

Here's the dedication page:

It reads,

To Katie, from the readers of

Whenever you're feeling down, or lonely, or pressured to be someone you're not, we hope you'll flip through these pages and remember that there are thousands and thousands of us out here, cheering you on.

(The bottom line credits Jack, Deirdre, and Jennifer.)

Following the dedication page is Carrie's original article, and then my own blurb from here on Epbot.

Here's a sample page spread from the inside:

I have to tell you guys: I never dreamed this book would look this nice. I was positively *giddy* when it arrived in the mail. It's such a tangible expression of geeky solidarity - I didn't want to put it down!

Which reminds me: I have to give another shout-out to Lulu, the self-publishing site I used to order Katie's book. Getting all the formatting ducks in a row was kind of a pain - it's very much a DIY site - but in the end the total cost for this huge hardcover was less than $30. Seriously. And it looks a-MAZ-ing. So, consider this my ringing endorsement for Lulu. Great stuff.

Thanks again to everyone here who contributed to Katie's book, and of course to Katie's mom Carrie, who started us all off on this wild and wonderful journey. And, Katie? We hope you love your book, and will cherish it and the memories it represents for many, many years to come. MTFBWY!

UPDATE: I've already had several of you ask if you can order your own copy of Katie's book. Turns out, you can! I've adjusted the settings on Lulu, so all you need is this direct link to order a copy. (I'm not making any money on this: you'll pay the same amount that I did.) I hope it helps encourage lots of other Geek Girls (and boys!) out there!