Saturday, March 17, 2012

Saturday Steam: 3/17/12

Hands down, the best steampunk build I've seen in weeks:

Steampunk Portal gun!! And it lights up!

Made entirely from scratch by DeviantArt geek girl batman-n-bananas, who constructed an entire steampunk Chell costume to go with it, thereby making her my new hero.

For her long-fall boots, she incorporated a giant spring into the heel:

If you need me, I'll be over here poring over her list of gun materials and plotting ways to construct my own. (Mwuah-ha-haa!!)

Next, Arthemise spotted this spiffily steampunked Dalek :

Believe it or not, the Dalek itself is a plastic bottle of bubble bath! (Also, I don't think "spiffily" is a word. But I'm going with it.) Made by Alex Holden. (More details on how he did it at the link.)

Here's a steamy way to store your kitchen spices:

Danielle W. found this spice rack tutorial over on Instructables - perfect for a touch of "mad scientist chic" in the kitchen! (I wish there was a pic of it full of test tubes; that must look pretty darn awesome.)

Steampunk already has some fabulous titles to its name, but now the genre is breaking into children's books in a big way. Author Emilie Bush actually e-mailed me about her "steampunk bedtime story" last month, and though I haven't read it yet, Her Majesty's Explorer is getting nothing but rave reviews from everyone from The Bloggess to Captain Robert of Abney Park.

$11.95 over on Amazon


That is all.

And just look at these amazing illustrations from Thaddeus the Boss, by Heather Theurer:

$13.22 for the hardcover right now at Amazon
Christina A. sent it over just for its amazing illustrations, and in fact you can buy prints of some of them at Heather's website here.

There are a lot of artists out there doing steampunky things with insects: beetles in pocket watches, dragonflies with gears on their wings, etc., but I haven't posted any 'til now because, well, bugs give me the creepy-crawlies. (I blame the grade school project that forced me to catch, kill, and mount something like 50 different insects. Yeah. Traumatized for life.)

Still, while looking through a link one of you sent in this week, I stumbled across Mike Libby's Insect Lab, which I think may be the gold standard in steampunk insect art:

He's either replaced or surrounded the body with springs and gears, and I like how the long coil on the front mimics the butterfly's natural...uh... coil thing. (Clearly that project taught me so much.)

Libby has plenty of squirm-inducing beetles and spiders and stuff, too, for those of you with braver constitutions. Me, I'll just stick to looking at the pretty butterflies.


And finally, I have to show you guys the awesome sketch Ruth D. sent in:

The monocle really gives him a distinguished air, don't you think?

Have a steamy Saturday, everyone!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Women's History Month Goes Gaga

Ages and ages ago I posted a music video parody of the song Too Late to Apologize, made by a team of educators as a resource for teachers. It shows the founding fathers drafting the Declaration of Independence, and is so well done that - to this day - I still prefer that version over the original. Seriously. It's brilliant. (Hit that link if you haven't seen it yet.)

Anyway, the folks behind the video, Soomo Publishing, have released another historical parody this month in honor of Women's History Month. This time it's a parody of Lady Gaga's Bad Romance, and the subject is the women's suffrage movement - specifically honoring Alice Paul and her contribution to women's rights.

These videos are a fabulous tool for educators in that they're entertaining, relevant, and filled with history. In fact, here are some of the lyrics to Bad Romance: Women's Suffrage:

It's gotten ugly
They passed the 15th
Still women have no right
Nor guarantee
To liberty
Child, health, wealth
Or property
Hey! We’ll raise our banner
Across this land hey!
‘Cause franchise isn’t just
The right of a man
Yuh, yuh, yuh, it’s universal!
Yuh, yuh, yuh, universal!
You know we don't want to
Take freedoms from you
Just want our rights and nothing less
We cry for freedom
Oh, hear our voice
And see we’re equal to all men!
Oh oh oh oh...
We the whole people
Not just male citizens
Formed this most perfect Union!
(Read the rest on Soomo's site here.)

And as catchy as the song is, I dare you to watch this without tearing up just a little:

[Note that the video parallels Gaga's original with some mildly disturbing imagery, so this may not be appropriate for the very young.]

Here's hoping Soomo makes these history parodies a regular feature.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


We originally planned to go to the Tampa Ren Fair last Saturday, but then my iPhone predicted rain and one of you lovely readers informed me that Dan Aykroyd was doing a signing in Orlando that day and next thing I know I have to get out of bed by, like, 8:30 AM. (WHAT IS THAT ABOUT?)

Since I was a sleep-deprived zombie for most of the experience, I'll let the photos do (most of) the talking:

We arrived just before 11AM (the signing was scheduled from 11am - 1pm) to find the Blues Mobile in the ABC's parking lot and a line already out the door. The car's dash was appropriately littered with cigarette boxes and bits of trash:

(I'm guessing this must be the same car that was on display at MegaCon.)

A little after 11 the Vodka Van pulled in:

Dan's latest thing is his Crystal Head Vodka, which he tours around the country promoting. I'm pretty sure most of the people who show up for the signings could give a rip about the vodka (although the bottle is impressive and it tastes quite nice), but the cool thing is Dan will sign anything you bring in, and at no charge. You don't even have to purchase the booze, although most people do to be polite.

Another ten or fifteen minutes passed, and we got our first Dan sighting:

He made a quick photo stop at the Blues Mobile before being ushered inside.

He called a greeting to us as he went by, proclaiming, "It's like Santa Claus for grown-ups!" and receiving a thunderous ovation from the crowd inside.

The owner of the car was already in the store, but he and his partner (who I think was his dad) came out later for photos:

When someone told him Dan had sat on the hood earlier, he loudly exclaimed he was never washing it again. :D It was fun hearing him geek out over his childhood hero being near his car; that infectious energy really boosted the spirit of us end-of-the-liners.

John takes pictures of me to pass the time. (This is my sleepy smile.) You can see his "Couldn't-Care-Less Bear" t-shirt in the window reflection, and his silhouette in my glasses. :)

There were also a few Ghostbusters on hand, of course:

This girl was my favorite. The suit and pack are Janine's from the animated series. Love the color!

I later had to duck out of line and chase this little guy into the parking lot to get his picture:


And this group was just behind us in line:

I like the guy's trench coat, and middle girl's dress, and that adorable StayPuft amigurumi in the second guy's belt holster. Turns out the gal on the right made it to give to Dan, and, because I love you guys, I hunted down her Etsy shop in case you want one of your very own. (Or to buy me one. You know, whichever.)

The next two hours passed pleasantly as we chatted up the two guys behind us, Rob and Bill, who were cool enough to get my Restaurant at the End of the Universe jokes. Man, do I love being around fellow geeks!

Eventually we rounded the final corner and I got to take stalker-like zoom photos of Dan from behind a display:


The last twenty feet went surprisingly fast, and we were scrambling to get our signing things in order just as one of the million handlers surrounding Dan called out, "NEXT."

John and I had a total of three things for Dan to sign between us. One was a photo for a friend who couldn't be there (and we still need to discuss payment options, Chris):

Because I didn't have time to buy a professional photo online, I just cropped a screengrab and printed it out. I think it turned out pretty well, though.
Next was my large StayPuft doll/figure/bank:

I think we can all agree: if anyone can pull off a Dan Aykroyd tramp stamp, it's Mr. StayPuft.

Here he is with my mini StayPuft, which was signed by Ernie Hudson (Winston):

And here they are on my office shelf, just 'cuz:

I know no one can see that they're signed this way, but *I* know.

Our third item was a kind of art project I had way too much fun making the night before, and I was up 'til past 2AM working on it, but I'm going to make you wait to see it 'til another post. Sorry.

Actually, you get a blurry shot of it here:

I brought a silver pen for Dan to use, and it took lightning-fast reflexes to catch him mid-Sharpie and ask him to use it. Those handlers had the guy signing like a machine!

Kermit-flailing on the inside. [AAAIIEEE!!]

After he quickly signed my two items (John had the StayPuft), Dan leaned over, quietly asked my name, and then we got the money shot:

You can tell I dressed to match him, right? (Well, except for my yellow boots & jean skirt. Awww yeeeah.) Seriously regretting I didn't put my shades on, though. Maybe I should photoshop some in...

After this we bought our glass skull full of vodka (it's only polite!), said our goodbyes to our new friends from the line, and went home for a much-needed nap. Total time in line: just over two and a half hours.

I've never waited that long for an autograph, but to be honest, the whole experience was totally worth it. On the book tour John and I had shows where people waited that long for *our* autographs, and when we'd apologize for the wait they'd invariably say they'd made friends in line and had a pretty good time regardless. Now I can relate. Being there with people who love some of the same things you do helps keep it fun.

So, if Dan swings through your town: Go! And if he doesn't, then I hope you at least got a grin reliving it with me. :)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Procrastination Station 3/13/12

Do that other stuff later. This is more fun!

You might remember some drool-inducing videos a while back showing someone playing the original Mario Brothers game - except Mario had a Portal gun.

Well, hold onto your companion cubes, my friends, because that game is now a reality, and you can have it... FOR FREE.

Here's the official game trailer:

Now, quick! Go grab the free download on the creator's site here!

If you follow me on Pinterest then you know I have an unhealthy obsession with rainbow colored hair.

Mmm, copper & purple goodness.

So if you also enjoy gawking at unnaturally bright 'dos, then have *I* got the mother lode of time wasters for you:

Hair Color Ideas

The archives are MASSIVE, too, so kiss your next few days' of free time goodbye.

If you harbor a secret or not-so-secret love for Penn & Teller, then you'll love this Tumblr blog, which is filled with fabulous pictures like this:

(found via Teller)

There's also a .gif on there of them dancing that pretty much made my entire week.

I *think* I found this next gloriously geeky time-waster via my friend Amy Ratcliffe. It's a fashion blog... about Star Trek.

In other words, Fashion It So is a hilariously snarky look at all the ridiculous things the cast and guest stars of TNG were forced to wear.

It's not just the clothing, tho; this thing is full episode recaps, with plenty of commentary on plot points, hairdos, funny facial expressions - the works. I can't believe I've never heard of it before now, considering the archives go all the way back to...uh...[clicking]...June 2010?! Wow. Now I have a goal for today. (Fair warning: the site may be NSFW due to language.)

And here's another TNG goodie I stumbled across this week via SuperPunch: TNG Season 8, "Plots from the unaired 8th season of Star Trek: The Next Generation."

Yes, it's a Twitter account, but you can read it without making an account yourself. And since each entry is limited to 144 characters, you can pop in for a quick chuckle anytime you've got a spare moment.

And finally, my new favorite thing on Youtube comes from the one and only David Hewlett (aka Rodney McKay on Stargate: Atlantis). About a month ago he started a web series called Assasidate, which he writes and stars in with his equally talented sister Kate, and it is hysterical. Sadly there are only two short episodes so far, but they're each packed with so much clever dialogue that you really have to watch 'em a couple times to catch all the lightning-fast wit flying by.

I'm not going to tell you any more. Just watch:

Now go subscribe to David's Youtube channel so you'll know when he releases a new one!

Alright, fellow geeks: I've given you the tools, and you've got the talent. Now...

Available as a t-shirt here.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Cherry Blossom Nursery

As promised, I have the first shots of my (mostly) completed cherry blossom tree mural!

Now, there are tons of cherry blossom tree murals and wall decals online to choose from, so after looking at a bunch my friends Ray & Julianne decided they wanted a modern style, like this:

So here's what I ended up doing:

You can purchase the inspiration wall decal from the original artist on Etsy for around a hundred bucks with shipping, (and you should check out the rest of her store regardless; all of her kids' murals are soooo cute), which really isn't a bad price. I just wanted to try my hand at painting a kids' mural myself! When we were faux finishers I did lots of things: stripes, stencils, every finish you can imagine...but I never sketched something free-hand on a wall before this.

To begin we painted the room a very pale pink. Even with high quality paint, it took three coats to cover the dark beige already on the walls. (Blurgh.)

We did all our work over three nights, so most of these process shots will be blurry iPhone pics. Sorry.

Next I used one of the decal photos as a reference while I sketched a tree shape onto the wall using pink sidewalk chalk:

Chalk is great for this, since it wipes off easily and doesn't mess up the paint sheen. (Keep in mine we used satin for the base coat, though. Flat paint wouldn't be so forgiving.)

Next I filled in the trunk with a soft brown paint:

The trunk isn't really that small; that's just a giant paintbrush on the ground.

For the blossoms I found a simple clip-art shape of a five-petaled flower. I printed out three different sizes (I winged it on the sizes), traced them onto clear plastic report-cover sheets (the thick ones, not the flimsy page protectors), and cut those out to form stencils.

From there it was a matter of plotting out the three different sized flowers and filling them in with the two shades of pink we picked out. (We pulled colors from the crib bedding.) I used chalk again to get the flower placement started, and then later John marked some areas with blue tape:

For the stencils I used two tiny foam rollers - one for each shade of pink - and rolled from the edges in to avoid the paint bleeding underneath. I still had to touch up a few with a small brush later, though.

The final touch was adding centers to some of the larger flowers for a little added detail, plus a few buds to some of the branch tips.

Which gave us this!

Taken in daylight so you can finally get an accurate idea of the colors. :)
And here's a close-up of those flower centers:

I used a pencil eraser to make the large center dot, drew the stamen lines out with a small artist's brush, and then tipped each of those with another tiny dot made by dipping the wooden tip of my brush into the paint. It was a little time consuming, but the extra detail really made the flowers pop.

Next I'm working on a coordinating mobile, and we plan to add more painted flowers around the room once we get the furniture placed.

I gotta say: even though I'm not a kid person, I love working on nurseries. I'll take one of these over a boring formal dining room ANY day.

Speaking of which, this room is just across the hall from the Ninja Nursery we did a couple of years ago. I think the occupant approves; Julianne tells me that two-year-old Isaiah actually tried to hug one of the ninjas on his wall the other week. :D

When this nursery is completely done I'll be sure to take more pictures, so look for that in another month or two. (I just got an LED cherry blossom branch to use for a night light. Woot!)

Oh, and if you're looking for a much simpler way to make cherry blossoms, check this out:

Mind: Blown. Check out the full tutorial here. (And thanks to whichever one of you it was who sent me the link last week!)

Friday, March 9, 2012

In Which I Attempt to Embarrass My Cat

Today I'm working on a cherry blossom tree mural for a friend's nursery, and the pressure's on because I already mentioned it to those of you on Facebook, which means I'm committed to posting pictures of the end result, and I've never free-handed a big tree on a wall before, and this could end up being that thing we're still talking about ten years from now in a "Wow, I never knew a tree could look like a demented platypus doing interpretive dance" kind of way, as opposed to a "JEN IS THE NEW DEMIGOD OF CRAFT PAINT" kind of way.

So, to distract us all from the impending judge-Jen's-artistic-talent-a-thon, here are some *other* really embarrassing pictures.

Of my cat.



If this angle confuses you, just know that John took the picture, and Lily (the cat)(obviously)(I hope) is wedged in between my belly and my desktop. Because like most cats, Lily has determined that where there's a will, but no lap, there's still a way.

She's also determined that my hair is an acceptable cat toy:

"I don't always bat playfully at dangling objects, but when I do, they're attached to my owner's head and I'm sprawled out on my back like a drunken weasel."

I'm not sure any of this is having an affect on Lily's dignity.

So how about a video of her SNORING?

(Turn up your sound!)

She sounds like a happy Tribble. Which is kind of awesome. And while I still refuse to believe that *I* snore (AHEM JOHN AHEM), I will accept the term "Tribble purr." As in, "Wow, Jen, last night you were Tribble purring sooo loooud!" Then I could be all, "Heck yeah I'm even adorable in my sleep! LL&P, bee-yotches!!" And so forth.

Ok, I think I still have some cherry blossoms to paint.

Wish me luck, and happy Friday, everyone!