Monday, June 4, 2012

Procrastination Station 6/4/12

Remember this photo that made the rounds online a month or two back?

(That's Tom Hiddleston, aka Loki from the Avengers, with a young fan on his shoulders.)

No? Don't worry; I don't remember it either. But it's still awesome. And even better, the story behind the photo (plus a few more at the link) is absolutely delightful, and will give you a big ol' goofy grin. It's the stuff fangirls and boys' dreams are made of. Besides, I love hearing about fan encounters that go this well; really restores my faith in geek-manity, you know? (And thanks to Amanda for the link!)

Do you love Calvin &Hobbes? Do you miss it as much as I do? Then you're going to flip, laugh, cry, and generally fall in love with Dan &Tom Heyerman's stupendous...homage? Fan strip? How do you classify this? Whatever. Just read:

 Don't cry yet, though, because there are three more strips at their site, Pants are Overrated. (Scroll down & click "newer entries" at the bottom right to see the rest.) The third one will totally make you get all teary-eyed, if you're not already. And while you're there, please petition the guys to make more of these! (Thanks for the link, Sanna-Maaria!)

And while we're talking fan comics, have you seen Pocket Princesses? I remember when they first started coming out, but thanks to Kelly D. I just caught up on the series:

These oh-so-adorable comics starring childhood versions of the Disney princesses are by Amy Mebberson, and you can see all of them at her site here. Amy's taking a break from the series right now, but she'll be back with more in July. Can't wait!

This next one is far less fun, because it's about an idiotic article from the New York Times crediting men - and only men - with inventing the Internet and technology as we know it, but Xeni Jardon's brilliant and blisteringly sarcastic response made me cackle. Here's her Twitter blurb:  "You guys, ladies suck at technology and the New York Times is ON IT." Go read her article on BoingBoing for the rest - and then read the comments for some great examples of women who've contributed to tech over the past fifty years.

And that's the perfect segue for my final goodie today: Drive Like a Girl.

After my Maker Faire post last week, I had several of you send me information on the robotics organization F.I.R.S.T., which allows high school students to form teams, build robots, and then compete against each other in statewide competitions - very cool. Then Francesca A. told me about her all-female team from New York, the Fe Maidens (pronounced "Iron Maidens") which starred in its own documentary last year. The editing is a little slow at times, but talk about an inspiring 25 minutes: you'll see this group of girls design, program, and build a giant robot completely from scratch, completely by themselves.

Here are a few screen grabs:

There's also some insightful interviews with the team's advisers and commentary on how the girls on co-ed teams are usually overshadowed by the guys, and therefore relegated to non-power-tools tasks. If you have daughters, grab 'em and watch this together; I bet it'll inspire them to start playing with robots and power tools. :D (I can't embed the video, so click here to watch it on the team's website.)

Sunday, June 3, 2012


Ok, so maybe that's a stretch, BUT... guess what I've been up to this past week?

I'll give you a hint:


I just realized what that sounded like.

To clarify: I have NOT been up to baby-making the past few days. [John, not a WORD.]


I have, however, been photographing a new baby: namely little Ellie, the new resident of the cherry blossom nursery and daughter of our friends Ray & Julianne. When I heard they weren't getting professional pictures done until Ellie was several weeks old, I begged them to let me practice taking some newborn shots for fun. Happily they've been extremely tolerant, since not only have I never photographed a baby before, I've never photographed ANYONE before. (Well, nothing besides snapshots at outings, anyway.) So after three 4-hour sessions and hundreds of photos, here are a few of my favorites:

 Can't decide which version I prefer on this one - but I think I lean towards the full color.

You can probably tell I've just figured out how to colorize things in Photoshop, too, huh?  (SO FUN.)

I got so many great shots in this little basket. I also learned how to pose baby fingers and hands and arms. Considering this was the most contact I've had with a baby in, well, ever, that was another first.

All of my backdrops were comprised of a sheet or blanket clipped to the back of two chairs and draped over the floor.  For these next shots John & I bought a few yards of stretch velvet:

This session was on Saturday, so Ray (the dad) was there for this shot and also for some awesome father/daughter poses:

Oh! And when we couldn't find a ruffly diaper cover at the last minute, I bought some eyelet lace at JoAnn's & attached several rows to the back of a plain one. I can't sew a straight line to save my life, but I did it! Isn't it cute? (I know most newborn shots are done with the baby naked, but Julianne and I just weren't up for that kind of explosive challenge.)

Amazing what a difference a few filters can make. Again, I can't decide between this and the more gritty black & white version. (Fun fact: Ray is very ticklish, so any time Ellie would move he'd start cracking up, which would make her move more, which make him laugh more...and so on.)

Ellie was 10 to 12 days old in these shots - a tad older than most newborns in pro photos, apparently - and she still has her umbilical doo-dad on her belly button. We did our best to cover or hide it, but for this shot I had to 'shop it out. How'd I do? :/

Other than removing that and darkening the blacks/upping the contrast, this photo is pretty much how it came off the camera.

It's always fun to try something new, and I had an absolute blast playing photographer. Thanks again to Ray & Julianne, and to you guys for letting me share the girliness! Hope you liked it!

Boring Technical Stuff:

For lighting we just set up in front of a big window around 2PM, and then I occasionally had John hold a reflector to aim the sunlight. (The reflectors are cheap pop-ups you can find on ebay.) I used my new Canon 7D with a Sigma 17-50 lens for all the shots, and then adjusted everything in either iPhoto, PhotoShop, or both.

I spent a few hours online researching newborn poses, and then saved a folder of my favorites on my laptop to reference during the shoots. This article on newborn photography tips was also extremely helpful, especially in explaining how to pose a newborn.

And finally, John tells me if I don't include this shot, he'll edit this post while I'm asleep and add it in himself. So, here's me cosplaying as a baby photographer:

Now the world has seen my glowing white calves. Happy, John?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Saturday Steam 6/2/12

First up,  some eye candy in the form of over two dozen steampunk portraits by Rebeca Saray:

 Most have been digitally manipulated to the point that you'd never know they started as photographs - and a few end up looking like the covers of cheesy fantasy paperbacks - but there's a lot more good than bad here.

Cheesy on the left, but super-duper awesome on the right. (Am I right?)

Even so, I found this before and after shot on Saray's blog to be the most fascinating of them all:

I could stare at stuff like this all day. Notice how she fixed the model's back roll? And added more eye liner? I'm in awe of talent like this! (Of course, the first thing I noticed was that the goggle lines on her face don't match the shape of her goggles, but that's just me being nit-picky. Heh.)

Katherine G. sent in this video, which she described as "charmingly dark." I'd say that description is bang on:

It's in French, so I have no idea what they're singing about, but the video has a nifty Burton-esque feel to it, plus a clockwork heart and some kind of Ent-like creature. So clearly you guys are going to like it. :D (And if any of you speak French, please post a translation in the comments for the rest of us!)

I've featured the octopus chandeliers of Adam Wallacavage before, but here's a new one:

 All of his chandeliers are gorgeous, colorful fun. Hit the link up there to see more.

For my fellow interior design lovers: 16 Submarine-Themed Rooms

 I was pleasantly surprised to see some new stuff here, like this room from an Extreme Home Makeover episode. I so wish themed rooms like this weren't seen as just "kid stuff" - they're so much more interesting, and show off so much more of your personality! (Thanks for the link, Kaitlyn!)

And finally, the coolest steampunk belt buckle I have ever seen:

"Rosenstein's Galvanic Matter Transpositor Belt Buckle" $165 at Clockwork Couture


Thursday, May 31, 2012

Jen's Gems 5/31/12

(The consensus last week seemed to favor Jen's Gems, so I'm giving that a whirl. )

Goody Goody Tutus has just unleashed my inner squealing girly girl:


And look how pretty:

And how cute!

"Storytime Cowgirl" complete outfit (except boots) $95

I am now a puddle of girly goo. Love it.

ImagineeringDisney just posted a fun "Then and Now" post comparing shots of Walt in different parts of Disneyland next to a current view. Now *this* makes my inner Dizgeek squeal:

Check out how much those little trees have grown!
Hit the link to see the rest.

And if you're a Disney art fan, then you're going to love all the sneak peeks WonderGround Gallery just posted on their website. WonderGround is a new art gallery opening in Downtown Disney in California, and I am insanely jealous of anyone going to their June 9th grand opening. The exhibitors at the show read like a Who's Who of some of my favorite artists!

Here's one from Matt Hawkins, my favorite papercraft designer:

And I'm going to have to find a way to buy a print of this beautiful Art Deco Mickey by Scotty Reifsnyde:

Hit the link up there to see lots more - and *all* of the art at the show will be posted on June 9th. (Can't wait!)

Here's the coolest craft tutorial I've seen this week: DIY Shrinky Dinks!

Michelle over at Rust & Sunshine shows you how to take a #6 plastic container and make a gorgeous bracelet:

Doesn't the shrunken plastic look like glass? I have to try this!

You guys are going to flip for this: Wired's Kickstarter of the Week is for a toy called Roominate - but it's so much more than a toy. It's fully customizable dollhouse that comes with electronics girls wire and build themselves. Here's the video, which explains it much better than I can:

Can I just say how much I would have loved this when I was a kid? (Heck, would STILL love it?) Not to mention it helps teach the foundations of electronics, an advantage I dearly wish I'd had back then.

Anyway, I'm thrilled to report that the Roominate crew has already far exceeded their $25,000 Kickstarter goal, and with over two weeks still to go I bet they're going to at least double that amount. Still, head on over and show 'em some love; for $59 you can get one room & reel, and that includes shipping.

And speaking of girls who know their wiring, check out this gorgeous illuminated photo slide dress made by Emily Steel:

Spotted on Fashionably Geek

Hit the link for more pics and information on how she built it.

As always, if you've seen something geeky and girly or just generally awesome, please share it with me in the comments or over on Facebook!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My Kawaii Cutie Bracelet

Last weekend I decided to clean out my jewelry stash, since it's once again grown beyond any semblance of decency or control. (I've been a cheap jewelry junkie since I was old enough to grab at sparkly things on chains. It's one of my many weaknesses.)

Anyway, as I was sorting through it all, I thought I might use some of these pieces to make a new charm bracelet:

Yucky dark night shot - sorry.

Only one of these cost more than a few dollars originally - and that one I've worn to death - so I didn't mind taking 'em all apart for parts.

So, I harvested the bits I liked, re-wired a few beads, re-painted the top of the giant cupcake charm (it had yellowed with age) plus the red Munny charm and a couple of the tiny pink hearts.

A few hours later...


I'm especially proud of the painted Munny charm. I just used regular acrylic craft paint on it and the little plastic hearts, and then top-coated them all with clear nail polish, which looks GORGEOUS. You'd never know they were painted - and they match the pink rose perfectly!

(I also used white nail polish on the cupcake charm, with acrylic paint & more clear nail polish for the sprinkles.)

Here are some much better shots during the daylight:

I really like the way it hangs; chunky charm bracelets are my favorite. (And I just realized I'm dressed to match today - how's that for a crazy random happenstance?)

I think my favorite is the yellow gumball bead with the white bow on it. It's so Kawaii and cute!

I hope this inspires you guys to re-mix your own jewelry cast-offs. Remember, never throw old jewelry away! Always keep it for parts or give it to a friend or thrift store. Also, if you have way too many necklaces like I do, consider using the pendants as charms on a bracelet - that way you can wear more of your favorite sparklies at once!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Mini Maker Faire! ...And a Cat Show

On Saturday I went to my very first Maker Faire - albeit just a Mini one - where I realized there is SO MUCH cool stuff out there I still want to learn. Then we went to a cat show next door, where I realized - again - that CATS ARE AWESOME. (And I want to pet a hairless cat. I do. I bet they feel like warm velvet. Mmmmm.)


If you've never heard of them, Maker Faires are a celebration of makers - DIYers, hackers, programmers, and other crafty types. At our little one here in Orlando we had a smattering of prop builders, artists, 3D printer programmers, model rocket builders, and other assorted scientists and geeky types. It was small - all housed in one giant warehouse at the fairgrounds - but John and I still managed to spend an enjoyable few hours browsing and chatting with the exhibitors.

The end where we entered had a robot arena, where kids were allowed to drive some of the 'bots around:

 Next to that, two larger robots were shooting baskets:


These toy robots were fun to watch: they can sit, stand, and walk on their own!

There were two or three excellent found-object artists at the Faire. Here's one of my favorite pieces:

A Klingon Bird of Prey! (I recognize the head as a tea ball. Your guess is as good as mine on the rest of it, though!)

 Then there was the adorable work of Robots Are Awesome:


This lovely lady was a fellow attendee, but she really stood out from the crowd:

I'm not sure if she's a steampunk fan or not, given her lack of gadgetry, but I do love that outfit!

Of course, it's not a Maker's Faire without a musical Tesla coil:

This was just a little one, but the purple arcs were mesmerizing, nonetheless. (And that purple balloon just happened to be floating on the opposite side of that banner - it's not actually touching the arcs.)

 For $3 you could buy a little pack of parts and solder your own blinking robot pin. SOLD!

The nice volunteer holding my pin for me was veeeery trusting. I also made a real mess of my solder: she had to fix it for me when my battery pack snapped off the second I finished. Heh.

Here's the finished pin:

 His eyes blinked red, but the battery died by the time we got home. Or maybe my solder just broke again. :D

Here's the most disturbing thing we saw at the Faire:

These animatronic fruit guys were singing, and the way their "faces" moved was both fascinating and reeeally creepy. Here, I grabbed a little video:

(Turn your sound down - it's kind of loud!)

At the back of the giant building behind a partition wall was "the dark side." In here almost all of the lights were off, and there were a few fun light displays around:

This is a large metal and plexiglass sculpture. The colored lights changed over time - quite pretty.

The droid builders were back here, too, along with some familiar droid faces:

I don't think I've seen this little guy before, though. AND I LOVE HIM.

 Chibi R2 unit? SQUEE!

Back in the lighted area, there were a few crazy-talented prop builders:


This is all by Jason of Fireblade Comics. He does a lot of custom work, and I love that he displayed several of his props alongside the items he'd made them from:

John and I talked weathering finishes with Jason for a long time, and now I have some new ideas to try!

And finally, here are two of my favorite art pieces :

I like how the heart is emerging from hot coals - and the "thinker" pose on the skeleton is pretty rad.

Both pieces are by Aleric Art, and are actually on sale at Etsy right now, if you're interested.

So that was the Orlando Mini Maker Faire! Hope you guys enjoyed visiting it vicariously through me. Sadly I don't have any pictures of the cat show - some of those cat show people are a leeetle bit scary, and I didn't want to chance it - so you'll just have to imagine me and John and our friends Scott & Missy tip-toeing down the aisles and peering longingly into all the cat houses while their owners glared at us suspiciously. Hee.

Oh, and Happy Memorial Day to my fellow Americans! Today I plan to practice some more painting finishes on my current craft project and then finish the 1,500 piece jigsaw puzzle I've been working on for months. How 'bout you guys?

UPDATE: I've had a few of you comment on the robots in my first two pictures, and Katie K. was kind enough to send in some more information about this great program for kids and teens:

"After reading your post today about the makers fair, I simply HAD to write to tell you about the robots at the beginning of the post. As I intently scrolled down the page, I immediately recognized the bots in your pictures. Well, not those  ones specifically, but the program they're with. FIRST Robotics is an international competition that brings young people together in the name of, well.... robots. And geekery. FIRST has several programs for different age groups, starting at 5 years old or so.
In the first picture, with the smaller robots, is the FIRST Tech Challenge, and the second with the big one is FIRST Robotics Competition. But both of these are completely comprised of high school students, so those fabulous bots were built by kids 13 to 18 years old! I know more about the basket-ball shooting one, because that's the one I'm in, so I'll talk about it. Beginning in January, teams are given six weeks to design, build, code, and test a robot to complete a given task (given at the start of the build season). This past year it was a more complicated version of basketball. Teams are given a basic kit of parts, but are expected to make or buy anything else they need to make their robot run. Teams then compete at regional and (inter)national levels. So, yes, those robots (and their teams) belong at a Maker Fair.
I'll make a shameless plug here and invite you to tell any kids you know who are inclined toward making stuff to look up a team in their area. And teams can always use the help of adult mentors and monetary contributions. *nudge, nudge*"

Thanks so much, Katie!