Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Song John Won't Stop Singing


And the weirdest part?

No, not the faceless chubby dancer. Not the Barbie doll and banana hair clip. Not the stream of eyeball vomit, or the giant femur floating through the window, or even this new facial tic.


No, it's that I think that was a Kraft Macaroni and Cheese commercial.


Thanks, Dave B.

I think.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Blogger's Fuzzy Photo Problem

I've spent most of my afternoon today trying to figure out why my uploaded photos on Blogger have been looking so awful lately. If you have a Blogger blog, you may have noticed the same issue: increased pixelation, blurriness, etc. The maddening part is that if you click to enlarge the photo, it looks fine. However, the scaled version in the blog itself? Crapsville.

John and I did some digging, and discovered we're not the only ones to notice this issue, but so far we've seen no official comment or explanation from Blogger. From what we've read, the problem began within the past month or two, so it's possible a lot of bloggers simply haven't noticed yet.

Just to show you how bad it is, take a look at this photo I uploaded today:

Now look at the exact same photo, in the same size, only hosted on Flickr:


It's like seeing through a new pair of glasses, huh?

Unfortunately, this is just the latest in a growing pile of problems with Blogger of late, and I'm sad to say I can no longer recommend the platform in good conscience. It's been one frustration after another here the past several months, and we've been working hard to find a long term solution (news on that coming soon, I hope).

In the meantime, I'll probably be hosting all of my Epbot photos on Flickr from now on. It's an additional step and a real pain (I just spent two hours re-uploading an entire photo post - arrrgg), but when you've worked so hard at making your pictures look pretty, dang it, you want it to show!

Now I can only hope that you all can see Flickr photos, since I know some workplaces have those servers blocked. Let me know in the comments if you can't see the second photo, won't you?

[UPDATE] - Sarah in the comments just offered an excellent suggestion: if you convert all of your photos to .pngs before uploading them, the loss in quality is reduced. We just tested it out ourselves, and did see an improvement - although nothing nearly as impressive as the Flickr-hosted photo. Still, it's a good option for anyone still wanting to use Blogger's hosting. Thanks, Sarah!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

How To Make: Steampunk Goggles

There are about as many ways to make steampunk goggles as there are steampunk goggles, but I hope this tutorial will help get you started.

Some of the things you'll need:

- Leather/vinyl [for the eye cups and straps]

- a small buckle or vest clip [to adjust the straps]

- 1.5 inch plumbing coupler [to make the eye pieces]

- Plexiglas [for the lenses]

- Optional: 2-hole pipe strap [for the nose piece]

The most important piece is the plumbing coupler, which looks like this:

You can find these at any hardware store for around $6, and one coupler will make both eye cups.

Mark off the width you'd like for each cup on the pipe:

We used a fat pencil as a guide - but keep in mind my goggles are shallow, and sit very close to the face. You may want your eye cups to be longer.

Next, cut the pipe:

To hold the pipe, John clamped channel lock pliers on the edge and then secured the pliers in his table vise.

Oh, and it only looks like he's about to cut his fingers off. Promise. ;)

Keep in mind that the coupler pieces that screw on to these edges are the only metal that will show on your finished goggles. So, if you want your goggles something other than silver, paint those pieces, not these. (I painted mine copper.)

Now the lenses:

To keep your saw from scratching the Plexiglas, first cover it in blue painter's tape:

Since we already had a finished pair of goggles to work from, I used one of those lenses as a template.

Cut out your lenses on a scroll saw:

Sorry about the crazy hair photo bomb.

Once your lenses are cut out, you'll need to use heavy grit sandpaper to fine-tune the fit. They should fit snugly inside the outer screw-on pieces of the coupler.

NOTE: If Plexiglas is not an option, cut your lenses from a clear thick report cover. You can even layer a few sheets together to make them stronger, and no one will be the wiser!

Next, the eye cups:

Wrap a piece of paper around the metal pipe to mark the length and form a template. You want your eye cup to flair out slightly at the temple, so that it forms a seal around your eye. To do that, your shape should look something like this:

Play around with the shape to see what you prefer: the more rounded the valleys, the farther out your temple flair will be.

And in case I've completely lost you, here's what I'm talking about:

See how the far edge is higher? That's the temple edge. Again, on my goggles it's a fairly subtle difference, so play around and see what size you prefer.

Once you have your template, add about an inch to the straight edge and the two side edges, and then cut our your vinyl/leather:

The extra inch along the straight edge allows you to roll over and sew the curved edge like this.

Now, I won't lie to you: this part is hard if you're not a sewer. (Er, meaning a person who sews, not a smelly network of waste disposal pipes. But you probably knew that.)

Which is why I had John do it. :D

To puff out our rolled edge, we stuck a piece of rolled paper raffia inside. This is completely optional, though.

Finally, sew the two edges together right side in, flip your cup inside out, and you've got your finished leather eye cup. It should fit snugly around the metal pipe, like so:

Glue the leather to the metal, making sure to leave the metal edge with the threads exposed. Here I'm using a toothpick to fill in the tiny seam between the leather and metal with superglue.

At this point you'll want to attach the nose piece. We used a copper pipe strap bent into shape, but I'm considering going back and replacing it with a strap of leather. (Because my eye cups are so shallow, the metal nose piece touches the bridge of my nose, which is uncomfortable. If your cups are longer, though - as John's are - you won't have this problem.)

We attached the nose piece with bolts and small screws. You can do the same with a leather or chain nose piece.

Next cut your two straps and glue them to the sides of the eye cups, as you see above. If you bring the raw edge of the strap all the way forward against the metal threading, it will be covered when you screw on the edge piece, like so:

Also be sure to hand-stitch your straps along the edge, since glue alone probably won't be strong enough.

Once you sew on your strap buckle or vest clip, you're ready for the fun part:


I bought these brass filigree pieces from The Mermaid's Dowry on Etsy, which has hundreds and hundreds of gorgeous stampings and charms. (Kid? Meet candy shop.)

I glued the tiny rose gold piece on the nose piece (bending it to match the curve), and I hand-stitched the largest filigree pieces onto the straps:

And finally, on a whim I cut out two circles of iridescent cellophane to insert in the lenses, which turned out to be my very favorite part. It adds a lot of fun color, is easy to see through, and helps hide the bolts from the nose piece besides.

Cost Break Down:

Because this is one of those projects that uses tiny scraps left over from other projects, the cost can be quite negligible. The only things I had to purchase were the plumbing coupler ($6) and the vest clips ($3). Even with the vinyl and filigree pieces, I'd say your material cost should stay well under $20 - probably more like $15.

So, if you decide to make a pair, please send me pictures!

And if you missed it, click here to see John's goggles and ray gun, plus more beauty shots of these.


Come see ALL of my craft projects on one page, right here!

Friday, July 29, 2011

My Steampunk Goggles!

John and I have spent the past two days trying to find the best way photograph two pairs of steampunk goggles. [insert joke about using our time wisely here]
Here's the best of what we've got so far:

This is my pair, which I just finished a few days ago. (The gun is an antique reproduction that belonged to my grandfather.) I'm super chuffed with them; I really like the copper and dark brown leather together.

Here's John's pair along with his ray gun, which we built ourselves - and are rather proud of. :)

The gun is made from a glass bottle, brass candlestick pieces, and a custom wooden grip we made ourselves. It also lights up when you pull the trigger. [pewpew!] I'll be doing a tutorial on it just as soon as we build another one... for me. :D

Outside shot:

You can see the difference in eye cup sizes here: I thought John's were way too long, so we made mine much more petite and closer to the face.

Fuzzy inside shot:

Pretty close-up shot:

The iridescent film in my goggles turned out to be our favorite part, and was an easy last-second addition. It makes the lenses look holographic, and I looove all the colors.

Now let's try the photo cube, shall we?

John's gun and goggles again, along with an antique Elgin pocket watch from my Dad.

(Can you tell I had a little too much fun staging all these pictures?)

(Oh, and John says I should mention I actually wear those gloves. Antique gloves seem to the be the only ones that fit my teeny hobbit hands; modern ones are always too long in the fingers. Anyone else have that problem?)

And one final beauty shot of my goggles:

Stay tuned for the tutorial!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Be Careful What You Specifically Don't Ask For...

Sometimes I have a reader ask to send me something via the post office. I've gotten more than my fair share of random fun stuff this way: fan art, an old typewriter, capsule toys, and even some handmade jewelry and toys. (Who has two thumbs and is insanely lucky? This girl.)

When readers e-mail us for the address, John and I like to jokingly inform them that shipments of poo are frowned upon, since John still anticipates a disgruntled baker sending us poo patties some day.

So last week, we got...this:

In addition to a cute pile o' poop notepad, flying poo cellphone charm, and monkey poo stickers, Obsidian from Australia *also* wrote my letter on "genuine roo poo paper," made from - you guessed it - kangaroo poop.

I bow before your snarky greatness, Obsidian.

She also sent me an adorable little bracelet and light saber earrings. *squee!* (Next on the agenda: get my ears pierced. Or, since I'm a wimp: get more clip earring backs to convert these. Heheh.)

Hmm...I wonder what I shouldn't ask for next? ;)

Geek Girl News to Make You Feel Good

Meet Epbot reader Katherine H.:

Katherine is a proud geek girl college student who's just a *little* Star Wars crazy. (Note awesome Boba Fett t-shirt & Droid phone.) In fact, this is Katherine's college backpack:

One day, Katherine found the following in her campus newspaper, filed with all the other anonymous messages students leave for each other:


Katherine was/is engaged, so she never responded to the message. However, if that doesn't encourage you geek girls out there to let your geek flag fly with pride, I'm not sure what will.

(Oh, and Katie? Hang on to that water bottle! You may need it in college.)

Next, meet the top three winners of Google's inaugural Science Fair:

Yep, Lauren Hodge, Naomi Shah, and Shree Bose beat out over 10,000 applicants from 90 different countries to snag those snazzy LEGO awards. Rock on, ladies! Who says science is for boys?

(No, really. Who says that??)

(And thanks to Betsy H. for the link!)

And finally, everyone who followed geek girl Cyril's Tumblr blog knew her dream was to someday play a princess at the Disney theme parks. So when a nasty troll named "anonymous" posted a public message saying Cyril would never be pretty enough, an artist named Alice (who didn't know Cyril personally) decided to show her support by painting Cyril as Rapunzel:

Not only is it a gorgeous painting, Alice's efforts really show what a beautiful thing online community can be. Kudos, all of you. (Well, except "Anonymous," of course.)

Have any feel-good geek girl news to share? Then share in the comments, or e-mail me!

[UPDATE: Yikes! Sorry about the link mix-up for Cyril's blog, guys - it appears the first link I had was hacked to go to an anti-Harry Potter site. Thanks to the commenter who gave me a revised address; it should all be fine now. (phew!)]

Friday, July 22, 2011

Fun Friday Videos

I know a lot of you are excited about the coming Hunger Games movie, so...have you seen the animated movie poster yet?

(You can see the animated poster at Slashfilm.)

This is just the coolest thing EVER, don't you think? I first saw it over at SuperPunch, who mused that someday soon all posters will be animated. As long as they're this amazing, I'm totally ok with that.

John and I both loved this video making the viral rounds today:

25 celebrity impressions in under six minutes. His Morgan Freeman gave me chills. So good!

In honor of San Diego Comic Con this weekend, here's anther viral hit that'll make you smile:

Speaking of which, I'll be spending the weekend living vicariously through everyone at SDCC via Twitter and the rest of the interwebz. I'm both jealous and glad I'm not a sweaty human pancake right now. Heh. (Can't wait 'til Dragon*Con!)

Which leads me to this week's Yahoo exclusive on Victoria Schmidt, geek girl and cosplay enthusiast:

(thanks to Missy & Maria for sharing this on the Epbot FB page!)

Love her SO MUCH.

More upcoming movie greatness: the third Hobbit production video has been released! This one focuses on the 13 Dwarves:

And finally, a bit of random awesomeness: know Penn & Teller? The magicians? I love their performances, and I especially love Teller. Maybe it's a kindred introvert thing. (Penn will often say in interviews that Teller is the real brains behind their illusions, and is the perfectionist of the two, spending hours every night after every performance, practicing new routines.)

Anyway...wanna hear him talk? :D

I found this via BoingBoing:

(skip to about 1:15, and turn your sound way up; it's not a great recording.)

When I met Teller after a performance last year I was so struck by his voice that I think I could have listened to him read the phone book, but this really is a fascinating explanation of the use of diversion and repetition in a magic trick.

Ok, I think I've wasted enough of your Friday night already. Now, go have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Harry Potter Wand Display

John's mom and sister bought him a Harry Potter wand for his birthday last year, but we've never had a good way to display it. So, when the movie premiered last Thursday night, I decided that would be the ideal project to keep me busy while John was off at the theater. (I don't do well with movie theaters, so I stayed home.)

After hunting for ideas online, I abandoned my initial plan for a display case and instead made this:

Ta da!

(John took these pictures and added a fancy-schmancy vignette on 'em. Preeetty.)

Keep reading to see how I did it.

First, I found this graphic online to use as my template:

I've found it on several free file-sharing sites, but I can't seem to find the original source. Anyone know?

John helped me print the graphic to the size we wanted, which required two sheets of paper:

Next, using spray adhesive, we attached the paper to a spare piece of plywood John had in the garage, and John cut it out with a scroll saw:

(True story: John once bought me a scroll saw for Christmas. I love them - but I still scream bloody murder every time the blade snaps. Every. Single. Time.)

Frankly, you could *almost* stop there.

We couldn't, of course, but YOU could. ;)

Next, John used his router to give the plaque a decorative edge, handed it off to me, and went to the movie.

From there I began outlining the shapes and lettering using pumpkin carving bits on my trusty Dremel. I decided to carve out the actual letters of the word "wands," but only outlined "Ollivander's" so I could add color to it later.

After about three hours (and many hand cramps) I had this:

You can see the paper is still attached for "maker of fine" and part of "since 382 BC". (I sanded off the rest.) I planned to hand paint those areas because the font was too fine to carve, but first I used a sharp craft knife to outline them. The faint cuts in the wood (sort of) helped me place the lettering later on.

The next day I turned my attention to the center graphic - the hardest part, since I've never carved wood before and had no idea how to go about it! Plus, plywood is not carving wood; it's several thin layers of wood glued together, which doesn't look smooth or pretty at all.

Anyway, first I sketched in the details with a pencil:

Then I cleaned up the edges and proceeded to *gently* outline my pencil marks with the smallest Dremel bit. I barely dug into the wood at all:

Here I stopped and handed it over to John to stain the whole piece. This turned into a disaster when we discovered there was some kind of glue residue on the wood which made the stain stick heavily in some areas, and not at all in others. It looked terrible, and we resigned ourselves to the fact that we've have to prime and paint over the whole thing. (Ack!)

Then, an unexpected upturn: when John sanded down the plaque in preparation for priming, he found that the result actually looked surprisingly good:

Taking off the excess stain gave it a nice weathered look. Our plaque was saved!

At this point I started adding the color. I initially intended to leave the center image bare wood, but John excitedly asked if we could make the unicorn white. So, to keep the aged look, I watered down some acrylic craft paint and applied it in several thin washes:

I also painted the horn with liquid gold leaf, which is THE most amazing stuff in a bottle. Seriously, crafters - you must buy some. (This looks like the same stuff, although my bottle's a little different.)

After painting Ollivander's green (and did you notice I added the apostrophe? I kind of had to after several of you on FB & Twitter pointed it out, heh) I again had John sand the plaque, which gave the color a beautiful distressed look:

Here I'm practicing with the the liquid leaf on a spare block of wood. It was pretty hair-raising accenting the lettering freehand, but it added a perfect amount of sparkle.

For the painted lettering I first sketched the words back in with pencil, followed by liquid leaf for the date line, and dark brown paint for the "makers of." To make the gold lettering easier to read, I also outlined it with a fine-tipped pen.


The finishing touches included more liquid leaf accents around the top and center seal, a little more sanding, and thin washes of color on the Phoenix feather and Dragon's heart strings in the middle (which are probably not blue, but that was the color we liked best.)

With the plaque done, next we tracked down some pretty gold chain to hang the wand. Rather than loop chain around the wand itself - or worse, drill eye bolts into the wand {shudder} - we fashioned some large cup hooks into hanging brackets:

To do this, just snip off the threaded portion of the hook above the lip, and then bend some gold wire like so:

Once you have your loop, twist the two ends around the hook, under the lip. It won't slide off, and it's nice and secure. Then simply use the wire loop to attach your hook to the chain, and you've got a wand hanger!

New art for John's man cave!

(Doesn't it look nice on the dark blue walls?)

John is ecstatic over his new wand display. I think I've been called "the most awesome wife in the world" at least fifty times. :D Of course, I keep pointing out he did half the work, so it was only fitting that we both signed the back:

Gotta love his "signature."

All told, the only things we had to buy were the gold chain ($3 at JoAnn's) and the hooks (another $3 for a pack of 12). I love projects that use things we already have lying around! Of course, the labor was the real expense, but even so I only spent about four or five nights on this - probably no more than twelve hours total.

Hope you guys enjoyed our latest craziness! And be sure to share any of your own Potter projects in the comments!


Come see ALL of my craft projects on one page, right here!