Monday, July 18, 2011

Photo Dump

I don't have a (working) camera phone, but John does. So, anytime we're out and I see something photo-worthy, I have to borrow his phone. Then I forget and never see the pictures again until he's cleaning out his memory and demands to know why there's a picture of a pineapple owl on his phone:

Or maybe it's a bat.

(A bowl? Ha!)

So anyway, here are a few of the things I deemed photo-worthy over the past six months:

Modern Bridal Shop, meet Elite Fighting Academy.

[insert punchline (zing!) here]

According to the box, this is "a most acceptable gift for any occasion":

So many jokes, so little time.

And these are two "skull heads":

As opposed to the skulls that are *not* heads? Or heads that don't have skulls?

(Yes, I always over-think these things. I am a lot of fun to be around. Honest.)

Hobby Lobby, I love you - but a cross made of
chili peppers?


If you follow me on Twitter you may have seen this next one. John was sick with food poisoning on the couch all day, and our cat Lily was showing her support by sleeping on his butt:

I, of course, showed my support by taking a picture of Lily on his butt and sharing it with the entire Internet. 'Cuz that's what awesome, supportive wives DO.

Next are the things I wanted to buy, but not so much that I was willing to spend the money required to do so:

Spotted at an art festival. Those are vintage metal tape measures, all cut to different lengths and nailed down individually:

Quite a neat look, huh? Great DIY/craft inspiration.

(Update: thanks to Number 1 for identifying the artist! It's by Tim Yankosky.)

From Downtown Disney:

Video game Mickey! (If only Disney shirts didn't cost $30 and up. Urg.)

This clock is from Kirklands:

It was even on sale, but we're rapidly running out of wall space; no room for awesome over-sized steampunk clocks!

More art I love:

How can you not grin like a fool while looking at this?

And finally, John and I collected a little yard inspiration from the Winnie the Pooh ride in Fantasyland, of all places:

We're planning to build a little arbor on the front of the house a lot like this. Isn't it pretty? I love the lanterns!

Stay tuned for my next photo dump in, oh, another six months or so. ;)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Saturday Steam 7/16/11

These handcrafted pens have real watch gears and pieces embedded in the finish:

Made by BG Artforms; prices vary


Not exclusively steampunk, but I love this copper pipe pot rack:

Found by Kristie via This Old House

Not to mention it would be a fab DIY project. The plumbing aisle should have everything you need!

In case you didn't get enough geeky bling the other day, feast your eyes on these:

Found by Des S.; "Epic Keys" by DeviantArt user *Drayok

So gorgeous, it almost hurts.

Hit the link for lots more, or visit the artist's Etsy store, Keyper's Cove.

Since I get e-mailed his amazing Steampunk laptop at least several times a week, I need to finally mention Datamancer and his spectacular steampunk keyboards and computers:

I've actually been a fan for years, and I've been just as excited to see his new line of Art Deco inspired creations:

For lots more, check out his site - just be sure to put a cloth over your keyboard first, to catch all the drool. :)

Oh, and fun fact: if you're a fan of Warehouse 13, you've already seen Richard's (aka Datamancer's) handiwork; he built Artie's keyboard:

image via NotCot

Warehouse 13 has such a fun steampunk vibe. If you've never seen it, check it out!

Here's an art print that caught my eye:
Found by Megan W.; "Clockwork Wings" by Amy Houser

Must... resist...unladen swallow... joke.

And finally, a gorgeous music video:

"The Islander" by Nightwish, submitted by Mechel

Isn't it pretty? I love the Celtic flair - I may have to buy this one!

Seen anything deliciously steamy this week? Share your links in the comments!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Geek Chic Jewelry

Not only are Boardaments necklaces and key chains made with circuit boards...

...they also light up when you plug them into a USB port!!

Ok, so I don't know why you'd plug your necklace into a USB port, other than to see it light pestering me with logic, you! It's COOL. (And only $9.99!)

This one is actually jewelry for your dog, since it's an ID tag, but it's hand stamped and awesome and I kind of want one for me:

$26.50 from Make Your Dog Smile

Hey, have you noticed I haven't raved about Portal in a while?


$20 for both at Lickety Cut

These Portal necklaces are being billed as friendship necklaces, but I'd totally wear both.

And maybe cry a single, lonely tear over the state of my friendlessness.

But then I'd see my awesome necklace and feel better.

Jen B. sent me a link to the adorable Chandler the Robot necklace:

Chandler is apparently famous now because a contestant on the Voice wore him on the show, so he's currently sold out. However, I'd guess his maker will have more available eventually, and there are a few other 'bot styles at the Chandler the Robot shop.

Plus, he'd go great with this copper binary cuff:

If that's not geek chic, I don't know what is.

Here's another adorable 'bot:

Sleepy Robot 13 also sells tons of these cute little 'bot figurines, dressed as everything from ninjas to nerds. And at around $12 each, I'm pretty sure you'll find one or twelve you can't live without. (The necklace is $9.50.)

Khara Ledonne hand paints tiny pictures inside vintage ball lockets, with the most delightful results:

She paints everything from rocket ships to little birds, and there's even a cute seahorse! Each locket costs between $36 and $38, and I honestly can't seem to pick a favorite; I think I want them all!

Marcy K. found this cutie:

"Orbit Girl" from marmar, $28.00

Oh, and several of you have been telling me about all the robot necklaces at Forever 21, so I went to see for myself last week. There are at least four or five cute styles, starting at $2.99 (WOW), so definitely go check 'em out if you have a F21 nearby!

And finally, this working miniature Rubik's Cube necklace brings a whole new level to playing with your jewelry:

$10 at Naked Tile

So fun! And with only four tiles per side, maybe I'd actually have a shot at solving it.

Seen any good geeky jewelry lately? Share your links in the comments!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How Much is Too Much? 5 Ways to Avoid Blogger's Remorse

Whether you write about cakes or cars, funny stuff or politics, every blogger faces the same dilemma: finding the line between "charming personal anecdotes" and "TMI."

This is especially true when the bad things in life wallop us unexpectedly: an angry e-mail, a sudden financial crisis, a death in the family. Suddenly we're at a crossroads. To share, or not to share?

After all, odds are your readers are there because they like you, and probably wouldn't mind knowing you better. And, as writers, our knee-jerk reaction is to write. We use the written word not only to express ourselves, but also to slough off excess sorrow or anger. For us, nothing is more therapeutic than dashing off a post in the heat of the moment.

On the other hand, most of us aren't out here to blog about conflict and grief; we're here to blog about cakes, or geeky stuff, or finances, or what-have-you. For some of us, it's even our livelihood. And to put it bluntly, nobody likes a Debbie Downer.

So where's the line?

Over the years I've seen bloggers both rise and fall to the occasion of handling hard times. When it's handled well, I've had my respect and admiration for a writer increase tenfold. When it's handled poorly? I cringe and watch the melee from the sidelines, wishing someone had been there with a quick word of caution before "publish post" was clicked.

So, in the interests of seeing less crash-and-burn blogtastrophes, here are a few of my own words of caution, learned either first-hand by experience, or second-hand from the sidelines.

1) "Shut up and smile" is NOT the answer.

Look, we're writers, and we're human. Showing our readers that we face the same crappy stuff they do from time to time will not only foster better relationships with them, it's also the only honest, honorable thing to do. The key is simply choosing those times wisely, and sharing in a way both you and your readers will be comfortable with. So don't quash your feelings, use them wisely.

2) Write now, post later.

By all means, write that scathing rebuttal, or describe your day spent crying into a pint of ice cream - but when you're done writing, wait. Emotions are fickle things, particularly anger. Take a few hours to cool off and/or gain a little more perspective before committing to a published post. Remember: once on the Internet, always on the Internet.

Case-in-point: A blogger with some of the best writing chops I've ever seen destroyed her blog and substantial following with an increasingly bizarre barrage of posts detailing both her and her husband's infidelity - calling out "the other woman", etc - and culminating in what she later claimed was a drug-induced hallucination about attempting to kill her dog. Even deleting those posts within a few hours wasn't enough; it was a very public, very messy breakdown.

Within days all of her sponsors had fled, along with even her most devoted followers and any chance of having her book published. The last I checked she now works two jobs to support her family, and no longer writes online at all.

Obviously that is an extreme case, but the moral is: don't do that.

3) Try to see things from your readers' point of view.

Our emotions color everything, and shrink the world until all we can focus on is our own immediate crisis. Sure, you may be wracked with grief, or reeling from anger, but odds are your readers are not. Throwing a big jumbled ball of negativity on them will be out of character at best, and a shocking turn-off at worst. If you don't feel objective enough on your own, enlist your spouse or a friend to pre-read.

4) Rewrite

Once you've waited a few hours or a few days, go back and adjust. Odds are you'll need to soften the language, since we tend to write in extremes when our emotions are in the driver's seat. Ask yourself, "What in this post could come back to bite me?" Are you portraying relatives or friends in a bad light? Are you starting a war you'll regret?

Then consider how you're portraying yourself. Do you sound catty? Vindictive? Whiny? Just looking for sympathy? In other words, will your readers still respect you in the morning?

With these questions in mind, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.

5) A little humor goes a long way.

As a humor writer, I freely admit I'm biased here. However, nothing softens the sting of negativity like a little wry self-deprecation or irreverent one-liner. Yes, your readers are there because they like you, but like it or not, they're also there to be entertained. Don't reward their loyalty by dumping a bucket of ice-cold horror on them - give them some virtual breathing room by granting them permission to laugh.

Here's a positive case-in-point: I follow a few fashion bloggers, most of whom are just pretty faces in pretty clothing to me. However, when Keiko Lynn detailed the painful few days she spent nursing her terminally ill horse, suddenly she gained a new dimension in my eyes. Now, did I expect that kind of sadness on a fashion blog? Of course not. However, the human connection Keiko forged through that post made me a more devoted reader, and I respected her all the more for it.

I've been told my own memorial post about Sweet Baby James achieved something similar on Cake Wrecks. Was it shockingly out of place on a humor blog? Absolutely. However, with rewriting and a lot of thought and by ending with a smile, it let me share what my heart demanded while also sparking an avalanche of reader response (I still hear from readers about James), only one of which was critical.

Which bring me to: yes, it's a gamble. Yes, you risk exposing your weaknesses and open yourself up to criticism and ridicule.

But if it didn't carry that risk, would it really be worth writing?

Let me end by saying there are exceptions to nearly every "rule." Sometimes you can't wait. Sometimes you can't crack a joke. Sometimes you just have to express yourself in a raw, shocking, get-it-all-out-there-before-you-explode kind of way. However, even then, I truly believe keeping these tips in mind will help you express yourself in a way that both you and your readers won't have cause to regret.

So tell me, guys, what did I miss? How do you handle sharing the "bad stuff" online? Any additional words of advice?

Monday, July 11, 2011

John's Heaven

No lie, I think John would give a non-vital organ to be the guy in this vid:

Found via Wimp, John's favorite video-sharing site.

Well, up until that last second, anyway. ;)

John has a huge soft spot for big cats; he can't get enough of 'em. He's always showing me pictures and videos like this, and asking if we can get a serval. In fact, I suspect he's over-feeding Tonks (now up to 15 pounds, thankyouverramuch) just so he can have a monster cat here at home.

Someday I'd love to bring John to Tiger Island in Australia. You know, once they invent the stasis chamber so I don't have to be conscious for a 20 hour flight.

UPDATE: John just offered this correction: he would in fact give a vital organ to be the guy in that video. I suggest you all link to your favorite big cat pictures and vids in the comments below to help ease his pain. :D

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Saturday Steam: Disney Style!!

Hold on to your hats, fellow Disney steampunk fans, because today I'm going to introduce you to Epbot reader Christina Grey's AMAZING steampunk bride & groom Mickey ears:


[double swoon]


Quick backstory: Christina and her hubby came to WDW for their honeymoon last January, and they wanted Mickey ears to reflect their steamy interests (mrowr). So, naturally, they made some themselves!

Since their last name is Grey, Christina dubbed the newly 'punked ears the Earl Grey and the Lady Grey. I love it! And here's what she did:

"The Earl Grey is an old style Mickey Groom Hat. I took off the ears and covered the hat with an embossed faux leather. Mr. Grey hand patina'd the ears and I cut a keyhole in one before attaching a keyhole cover."

"The hat band is a linen measuring tape and the hat is striped with brass upholstery tacks (trimmed for safety). The final touch is two old fashioned loupe lenses in the band.

"The Lady Grey is a fascinator rather than a true hat. The headband portion is made of the same faux leather as the Earl Grey. The ears are the gold see-through Disneyland 50th anniversary ears and the right one has been embellished with a line of gears.

"Mr. Grey painted a pair of welder's goggles with gold and bronze paint and they are affixed to the headband along with a veil made of Russian netting."

YOU GUYS. I...I don't own any Mickey ears. Can you believe it? Don't ask me how this is possible, because now I HAVE TO BUY MICKEY EARS AND STEAMPUNK THEM OUT.

A huge thank you to Christina for sharing this amazing steamy awesomeness with us, and also for being incredibly patient with me, since I've had this in my "to-post" folder for nearly six months. (Eep!)

And finally, since you guys have been sending me links to the steampunk Vinylmation figures at Disney for nearly a year now, I thought you might be interested to know that they've finally been released:

The figures are only available as a set ("Steam Park" - cute), which costs about a hundred dollars. There are six figures in the set, and they come in this nifty box:

They're only making 1,000 of the sets, so grab 'em quick if you want one. Personally I'm not into VM enough to spend that kind of money, but they *do* look pretty:

via The Dis Parks Blog (click to see the other three figures)

For those of you who can't get to a park, the sets will be available for purchase online here on the 22nd of this month. (They released in the parks just yesterday.)

Now, who has some old Mickey ears they want to give me? :D

Friday, July 8, 2011

Star Wars Wedding Boutonnieres

Instructables user krystylynn84 made these amazing wedding boutonnieres using plastic rings from a cake shop. (You know, the ones you always find on cupcakes?)


And here's the whole set:

Kristy mentions that the fathers were supposed to wear Darth and the rest of the groomsmen (including the groom) were to get Storm Troopers, but due to a mix-up the groom ended up with Darth. Either way, I think it's friggin' fantastic. I just love inexpensive personal touches like this!

Check out her tutorial for full instructions, and a big thanks to @ArkhamAsylumDoc (who you should follow on Twitter if you're a Star Wars fan) for finding it!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Book Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

When my brother gave me an Amazon gift card for my birthday, I did something I never do: I bought a book without reading it first. (Usually I read library books, and then buy the ones I know I'll read again.)

After finishing Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, I'm glad I took the leap.

I won't summarize the plot for you here, but suffice to say this is a YA fantasy supplemented with darkly intriguing vintage photos like the one above. I didn't learn until finishing the book that almost all are actual vintage photos (a few slightly modified), and were not made specifically for the story.

This was quite the revelation, and I found myself going back and looking at each photo again, marveling at how seamlessly the author, Ransom Riggs, was able to weave them into the storyline. These aren't simply bonus illustrations on the side; they're integral keys to the entire plot line. As a result, you can tell that Riggs built some of his characters around their images, as opposed to the other way around. Fascinating stuff.

From the description and cover images I was afraid this was going to be a horror story. It's not. In fact, I am a *huge* wimp when it comes to scary books, and I was able to read this in the dead of night just fine - although I could imagine a few of the creepier images in the middle revisiting the odd nightmare here and there. (The Santa in particular was pretty shudder-worthy.)

The ending was everything I like: enough resolution to satisfy - no annoying cliff-hangers - but enough room left over for possible sequels. And I dearly hope there's a sequel.

So, if you like young adult fiction (and after Harry Potter, who doesn't?) I definitely recommend Miss Peregrine's. For a debut novel, the story alone is fairly impressive - but combined with the photographs, it becomes one of those tales that will stick in your memory for years to come.

And finally, I was about to embed the book trailer here, as it's one of the best I've ever seen, but I just stumbled across something even better: the making-of video. Turns out, Riggs went urban exploring in Belgium to shoot the trailer, trespassing in abandoned old mansions, and the resulting film is filled with jaw-dropping scenes of simply gorgeous urban decay. So, by all means, watch the finished book trailer, but you simply HAVE to see this:

Wow. I think I'm going to watch that again now.

Oh, and if you're inspired to take the leap, too, Miss Peregrine's is currently $10.25 at Amazon.

Young Adult fantasy is my genre of choice, so I've read most of the popular titles and I'm always looking for more. Have one to recommend? Then please, tell me in the comments!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Geek Glee 7/5/11

After ending a long weekend, who couldn't use a few pick-me-ups?

My first smile came in the mail today:

Yay, ebay! I scored all these guys, plus an extra Gonzo, for about $6. Now I just need Animal in his red wagon to complete the set. (Because, really, I need more toys on my desk.)

From the always-amazing SuperPunch, a pic that made me squeal and gasp at the same time (squasp?):

That's it, I want to play Atlas. (The short 'bot.) Now I just need to learn how to mold plastics and wire electronic eyes and stuff.

And finally, something I shared on FB last night from LeVar Burton's Twitter feed:

Considering that John and I spent last night watching old Star Trek episodes on Netflix (did you hear? Both original AND TNG are now available for online viewing!), I found this especially apropos. And you've gotta love Brent's expression.

So, how was your weekend, guys? John and I worked, per usual. (The downside of working both at home and for yourself: you have to try reeeally hard to take a day off.) Not that I'm complaining; I love my job. Most of the time. ;)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Saturday Steam 7/2/11

I haven't done a Saturday Steam roundup of random whanot in a while, so prepare for an onslaught of steamy goodness!

First, a little bling:

Found by Lisa R., Astrolabe Necklace by dragonweave, $39.95

Astronomical jewelry? Yes, please!

- Hannah F. found a flash program I had way too much fun playing with: a steampunk "costume creator:"

It's kind of like virtual paper dolls, except everything is customizable, right down to the skin tone and makeup. Here's what I came up with:

Seriously: so fun.

The program was designed and created by DeviantArt user Ammotu, and you can play it here.

- Speaking of costumes, who wants to see Epbot reader Jason dressed as steampunk Buzz Lightyear?

Woohoo!! Rock on, Jason!

He tells me my photos of the steampunk Wizard of Oz gang helped give him the idea. Ah, I love having a part in inspiring greatness like this.

- Someone sent me this amazing short film, "Bird: A Decent Animal," but I've managed to lose said person's name. I'm sorry, someone! Anyway, the film is kind of like Bride of Frankenstein, only less B monsters and more haunting steampunk. It's beautiful, but also dark - and there's a brief surgery scene - so it's not for the extremely young or squeamish:

And as is the case with most short films, I was equally fascinated by the making of:
More info at the film's website.

And now for a little whimsy!

Eric found this DIY Steampunk Singing Bird over on Instructables, and I totally want to make one. Isn't it amazing? Kind of a clockwork Tim Burton vibe. Hit the link for in-process photos and instructions, and then visit creator Keith Newstead's site for tons of jaw-dropping automatons.

Which is a great segue to this:

- Gena C. found something for my fellow history buffs: Check out the world's only known surviving pair of singing bird pistols:

These jewel encrusted beauties aren't actually pistols; they're a form of automata. When you wind them and pull the trigger, a tiny bird pops out of the barrel and sings:

The bird's movements are astoundingly lifelike - if nothing else, go to 1:25 on the video below to see it in action. You will be amazed. Especially when you consider these were made in 1820.

The pistols sold last month at auction for over five million dollars. WOW. Visit Christie's for more info.

- And finally, there's a steampunk group planning an airship Nautilus float for the New York Mermaid Parade next year. Awesome, right? If you want to get involved (or chip in for supplies) head over to their Facebook page.

Well, I think that's enough for today - the rest will have to wait 'til next week. Hope you guys are having a great holiday weekend!