Saturday, July 28, 2012

Saturday Steam 7/28/12

Now, on the surface, a program that makes your computer keys clack like an old fashioned typewriter sounds a little ridiculous. (pun intended) SO WHY DO I WANT IT?

And did I mention it's free? It only works for us Mac users, though. Go grab it here. And then tell me how easy it is to uninstall, because I'm terrified I'll install it and then it'll get stuck on and the sound of clacking typewriter keys will slowly drive me insane. Hee.

My Epbot inbox is both my favorite place in the world and the most torturous. It's my favorite because I get to see SO MUCH COOL STUFF from all you lovely readers, and torturous because I've been working all day and only managed to get the total number of e-mails down to 79. [whimper] But let's focus on the positive here. You know, like Rhiannon L.'s super steamy costume!

Rhiannon, don't take this the wrong way, but MRRROW. Ffffft. Ffft. I'm pawing the air at you, Rhiannon. Like an appreciative cat. Because you look AMAZING. 
(That was clear, right? Or did I just come off like a deranged stalker?)

The boots, the pinned skirts, the cut-off gloves - it's all perfection! And kudos on finding the perfect backdrop, too!

Remember that steampunk Mr. Potato Head that was all the rage a year or so ago? Well, Natalie G. helped her fiance make their own version: a slightly more dapper spud named "Mashter Russet."

 Check it out: he has a real smoking chimney! Natalie tells me they'll also be adding a warm LED inside for a "steamy glow." Too cool! You can check out more of their pics and detail shots here.

Jeanna H. sent in a steamy necklace make-over that is brilliant in its simplicity. One of her favorite pendants had a clasp that kept breaking off:

So she got a little copper wire, a nifty key charm, and voila!

 Steamy make-over!

If you like Jeanna's style you should check out her Etsy shop, too; I spy some sweet Victorian necklaces over there!

Sue A. has been keeping me updated with progress pics of her amazing steampunk outfit - all of which she's made completely from scratch - and now she's done and I get to show off the finished product! Woot!

Check out those pleats on the skirt bottom. I tell ya, Sue, you sewing people are like WIZARDS.

Here's Sue herself in the whole ensemble (although she upgraded to a sturdier corset), and a side view of those fabulous skirt ruffles. It's amazing to think that all started as just bolts of fabric!

Sue also made a matching purse, plus this fun pocket watch and custom spats for her boots!

Head over to Sue's blog for all the details and more pics. And thanks again, Sue!

I first discovered David C. Roy's kinetic sculptures years ago, but I forgot all about them until Ellen reminded the other week. He's got some new designs out now, and this one is going to blow your mind:
Well, ok, the picture might not, but wait 'til you see it in action:

My MIND IS BLOWN. And hey, the design is called "Labyrinth." I APPROVE.

Here's another new one, "The Monarch." I think I like it even better for the simpler shape, although the patterns aren't quite as dizzying and complex:


No, I take it back: I'm still dizzy.

Head over to Roy's site,Wood that Works, to see lots more examples. Oh, and if you feel like you could stare at these all day, but don't have the funds to buy one, Roy offers free screen savers!

And finally, remember how I mentioned my mom was making a bunch of steampunk hats for Dragon*Con the other week? Well, all your comments and demands for pictures made her positively giddy, and she immediately set out to stage a photoshoot just for you guys. So, without further ado: here are my mom's hats:

"Fabulous, Harry, I love the feathers."

 This one's my favorite - and not just because the feathers in front are a hair clip I bought her last year. :)

In case you're wondering, it's on a mannequin head, I think. Or possibly a lamp shade. And the tulle covers the whole face.

My dad repairs antique clocks and pocket watches as a hobby. Needless to say,  his stores of supplies have recently been depleted. Ha!

So there you have it! I often forget my mother even reads this blog, until she mentions it during our phone calls. So, if you have questions for her, ask away in the comments! I'm sure she'll be reading them to see what you guys think of her handiwork. ;)

Have something steamy to share? Then hit me up on Facebook or via e-mai!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

"Geek Cred" - Stop Qualifying, and Start Celebrating

It seems the new way to drum up a lot of nerdy outrage online these days (and therefore a lot of page views) is calling out "fake geek girls." The latest is this article by Joe Peacock over on CNN, which rails against booth babes (who are paid, although Peacock doesn't seem to know that) and other girls who don skimpy costumes solely for male attention, in essence "pretending to be geeks."


I've been asked to comment on this trend several times, but I've avoided it because I like Epbot to promote geek girl culture through positive means, not negative ones. Meaning I'd rather point out and applaud the good stuff, and not dignify the bad with more press. I like to think if we all subscribed to this philosophy, then most haters would pack up and go home once they realize they're not getting the attention they're trolling for.

Still, I'm going to weigh in on this quickly, just so I can refer back to this post later as my "official stance" on that elusive thing called "Geek Cred."

Here it is: 


Ok, that's more of a question than a stance, but I'd love it if everyone would ask themselves that before writing any more articles or comments calling out "fake" geeks. Who is that article helping? How is it improving anyone's experience or life or attitude toward their fellow fans? 

At best, you'll have people agree with the author and shake their fists angrily about all those awful "posers" who are "ruining" the con experience for the rest of us. Woohoo. Let's all get angry and congratulate each other on how wittily we're tearing other people down, thereby making ourselves feel somehow superior.

At worst, however, these articles and the attitude they represent will lead to further judgement and hatred of female geeks, who in turn will feel an increasing need to somehow "prove" themselves. 

So let me get this straight: We've gone from being ostracized as geeks to accusing the "cool people" of pretending to be geeks? Is this some kind of generational revenge? Are we trying to get our day in the sun as the popular clique now, dictating who can and can't eat at our metaphorical lunch table?


With that said, I'm not sure I'd call writers like Peacock "misogynists," simply because I hate hateful labels, and - at the risk of inspiring some ire myself - sometimes I find myself agreeing that the whole booth babe mentality is pretty repugnant. And, yeah, when I see a hot girl in nothing but Batman underwear getting more attention on the con floor than the non-hot girl who spent months crafting an amazing costume, I get a little irked. But you know what? THAT'S NOT THE HOT GIRL'S FAULT. Hot girls make awesome costumes, too. And being hot certainly doesn't disqualify someone from being a "real" geek, for Stay Puft's sake. So who am I to judge? Who are any of us to judge?

Look, instead of decrying the fact that guys will always like boobs, and instead of judging any woman who dares flaunt a little sexuality as being somehow less of a fangirl, let's focus on the good stuff:

Times are changing, and with them comics, video games, and nerd culture. As women flood the geek and gamer market, content producers are being forced to make their content fit a more diverse demographic. That means stronger female lead characters, and more of them. It means more women being involved in creating that content. It means, quite simply, that geek girls are on the rise.

So don't let the Geek Police get you down, ladies, because things are looking up. Look at Katie with her Star Wars bottle. Look at 6-year-old Bryden with her Spock cosplay. These girls and others like them are going to grow up into a geek culture more open and accepting and female-friendly than the one we're in now, because they will make it that way just by being themselves. And frankly, I couldn't be more excited about that.

In fact, I think I just found a better stance on this geek cred thing:

"Stop qualifying, and start celebrating."

And that's my final word.

So let's go celebrate, my friends.

UPDATE: If you're interested in further reading on all this, John Scalzi and Forbes both posted their own rebuttals/reviews today, and Joe Peacock has posted a response to all the criticism.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Book Review: The Stepsister Scheme

I recently figured out how to check out library books on my new Kindle, and wow is that the best thing ever. Granted, almost every virtual copy of almost everything I want to read is almost always checked out, but hey, there are waiting lists!

I started out with the fourth (and final?) Tiffany Aching novel, I Shall Wear Midnight, by Terry Pratchett. I mentioned how much I liked this series in my last recommended reading post, so believe me when I say I was shocked - SHOCKED - by how much I disliked this book. At the halfway point I even put it down in disgust, but then soldiered on through sheer determination. 

I prefer writing long reviews for books I actually like, so suffice to say the story made me too angry for too long. I just can't handle constant bullying and degradation of a main character. It's fine for establishing a villain or moving the story forward, but in this one it just ground on and on until I wanted to scream in frustration. (Imagine Delores Umbridge bullying Harry for twenty chapters straight.) It only let up sometime *after* the book's halfway point, and then the story's resolution was far too weak to make up for all the grief. (Plus it was jarring to have gritty issues like child abuse and pre-teen pregnancy make up such a large portion of the plot.)

To be fair, I know I internalize fiction too much, and I have a hard time with most dramas because of that. (There's a reason I read mostly YA fantasy, after all.) So I guess I just prefer the lighter, quirkier, and younger Tiffany Aching.

After dragging myself through the ending of I Shall Wear Midnight, I was desperate for something - anything - to cleanse my mind palate, as it were. Next on my Kindle was The Stepsister Scheme, a title recommended by you readers:

(This is the first time I've seen the cover art, and I have to say I'm glad I didn't see it before reading the book. Yech. Trust me, this cover does NOT do the story justice.)

This book was a veritable breath of fresh air, and I was drawn in by the first chapter. I love stories that incorporate and twist around classic fairy tales, so it was a delight to have the opening pages be from Cinderella's perspective just after her marriage to the prince. 

Of course, very soon after all hell breaks loose, and Cinderella joins forces with two other classic fairy tale princesses to kick some hienies and take some names. It's a rip-roaring adventure story, and yet the princesses have this amazing depth, with unique personalities and painful back stories that eek out bit by bit as the story goes on. I expected fairytale fluff, and got...well, people

I think it was that darker tinge of past pains that helped balance all the fantasy in the story - and it definitely made the characters more real and relatable. [Note for parents: there's a non-graphic mention of assault.]

There were also unexpected moments of humor - at least one of which made me laugh out loud - and the twists on the classic stories are brilliant, weaving in familiar elements with something wholly creative and fresh. (I won't spoil anything, but I will say I loved the incorporation of Cinderella's mother. Really beautiful story-telling.)

And get this: NO CLIFF-HANGER ENDING! Woohoo!! Bless you, Mr. Hines. Bless you. It's always refreshing to read a book that can hold its own as a stand-alone story. 

That said, this is one of Hines' "Princess Novels," and it looks like he takes the same characters into his next fairy tale retelling of The Little Mermaid, The Mermaid's Madness:

(Ok, this cover is better.)

It's going on my Kindle waiting list.

So, to sum up: I loved it. Definitely read The Stepsister Scheme when you can.

By the way, I'm slowly working my way through all the titles you guys have recommended on my previous review posts (like this one). Last time I looked for nearly thirty titles listed in the comments, and of those three were in stock for a digital check-out. (I'm currently on the third: The Iron Thorn.) All that to say, I plan to eventually read pretty much everything you guys have ever recommended; the order I get to them just depends on what's in stock at the time. :)

I really need to compile a master list of titles at some point, too, so that we can all reference it. Hm. Yep. That's going on the "to do" list!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

DIY Maleficent Shadowbox

I love making little papercraft figures, but when it comes to displaying them or giving them away, I'm always worried they'll get crushed or lost in the shuffle. So this past weekend I made a little display case to house my latest creation, Maleficent by Gus Santome. Check it out:

Isn't she adorably evil? 

She's in a dimensional shadow box with a curved mirrored backing. Here's a side view so you can see inside it a bit better:

The best part is how easy this is to make! All you need is a small cardboard box and a sheet of mirror foil paper from the scrapbook aisle. You can display any kind of papercraft in it, of course, but I highly recommend Gus's designs; they're a great size, and he has dozens of fabulous (free!) geeky characters to choose from, from the Ninja Turtles to the Avengers.

Ok, so.

First, you'll need to print out and assemble your papercraft character:

These particular designs are super easy to make, so they're perfect for beginners.
(Sorry I don't have any size reference here, but she's only about three inches tall.)

Next, find a sturdy cardboard box that's large enough to house your papercraft:

This box was a little tall, which is why I ended up adding the flames. (And now I'm glad I had to, since they're my favorite part!)

Next, measure and mark a half-inch border around the face of your box:

Then use a utility blade to cut out the center panel.
[PRO TIP: Instead of forcing your utility blade all the way through the cardboard, trace your lines lightly with the blade first, then go over the grooves again. It should only take two or three traces to get a perfect, clean cut.]

I was in a hurry to finish this for a friend, so I forgot to grab photos of the next step. Oops. So just visualize with me, if you will: You're taking the box outsiiiiide. And now you're painting it with spray paaaaaint. WoooOOoooo!

If you're making your own Maleficent display, or some other character who would benefit from a ring of paper flames, then print out your paper flames next. I used this graphic:

Just open it in Word or some other image software, and size it so it's slightly wider than your box. (Yes, slightly wider.) Then print it on the color paper of your choice (I used green and black) and cut out your flames:

I used scissors, which is why some of my edges are a little bent. If you use a sharp craft blade instead, you should be able to avoid the crinkles.

Now here's the fun part:

This is a mirror/foil sheet of card stock from the scrapbook aisle. I think it cost 80 cents. Cut your sheet so that it's the same height of your box, but wide enough that it will be forced to curve in a nice arc when you slide it inside the box. Does that makes sense? Imagine the sheet forming the letter C, with the back of the C touching the back of your display box. That's what you're aiming for.

At some point you're going to want to hide the corrugated edges where you cut out that front panel from your box. You could use ribbon, foil tape, more paper, etc. I used silver foil curling ribbon, since it looks just like the mirror backing:

Glue the ribbon so it hangs over the edges just a hair. You can still see the corrugated edge if you look down on it like this, but not looking straight on. (And if you wrap the edges with a fabric ribbon, you can avoid this issue all together.)

I've also installed the paper flames here. To do this, just curve them a little and use a bit of clear tape to adhere them to the side wall of the mirror backing. (You could also install them in a straight line, but I thought the arc looked nice.)

Here's what we've got so far:

Now all you have to do is add your character!

Since most papercraft has a flat/square head and the mirror backing is curved, you'll first need to glue a paper strip like this to the back of your papercraft's head:

(This is looking down on Maleficent's head.)

Fold a tab under on each side of the paper strip, and glue it in place so it gives you a nice curve. Then glue the curved strip directly to the mirror backing in your display. The papercraft may bobble a little if you jostle it, but it's a surprisingly strong support.


You can glue a sawtooth hanger to the back of your display box and hang it on the wall, or just set it on a shelf as-is.

Of course, the final step that I didn't have time for was installing a tiny green LED behind the flames. But just imagine with me for a moment how awesome that would have looked. [imagining] Mmm. Yep. Next time.

This was a gift for my friend Christie, who, in cast member terminology, is "good friends" with Maleficent at the Magic Kingdom. (So give her a wave for me if you ever see the castle show.) That means I have to make one for me next - and I've got my eye on the Evil Queen. What do you think, guys? Make the box edge look like the Mirror on the wall? Eh? Oh! Or I could make Iron Man, with a jet plume shooting out underneath him, like he's flying. Oooh, the possibilities...

I hope this sparks some crafty brain-storming of your own, and as always, please send me photos if you make one yourself! I love seeing what you guys come up with!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Jen's Gems 7/23/12

This is hilarious. Presenting "SPOCK-TOPUS!"

This fascinating-yet-illogical creation is the brain child of Karen over at Sew Much 2 Luv. Karen has an etsy shop here, but I don't see any Spocktopuses for sale at the moment. Maybe if we all asked nicely? (Thanks to Vivienne for the link!)

- Next, one of the most spectacular interactive wedding invitations I have ever seen:

Words and this tiny portion can't even begin to describe it, so click over to Jess & Russ' site and just keep scrolling down. The use of graphics by so many different artists is beyond amazing. [via]

- Some of you may recall that I harbor a crazy dream of remodeling an old RV and meandering around the U.S. in it with John. So naturally I flipped over this unbelievable trailer makeover by Reddit user imakethenews & his girlfriend.

They literally tore the thing down to the chassis and rebuilt it from the ground up! You've got to click over and scroll through all 100+ of his process pictures, but here are a few shots of the finished interior to start you off:

The retro colors and design are just delightful. So cheerful!

The countertops are my favorite; they were made by gluing plywood strips together, edges up, then sanding and staining. The result reminds me of bamboo, only better:

The couch in the back folds down into a bed:

The couple put over 350 hours of labor and $6,000 in materials (including the original trailer) into the project. WOW. Talk about inspiring! Hit the link up there to see the rest.

And finally, if you follow any other geek sites then I trust you've heard about last week's debut of Written by A Kid, the new show on Geek and Sundry. If not, then allow me to correct this grievous oversight by telling you the show is brilliant, it has both Dave Foley AND Joss Whedon in it, and you need to take four minutes to watch it. NOW:

See? It's kind of like Drunk History, only with kids and less puking.  
(Dude. I should totally be in PR for these guys.)

(Confession: it took me way to long to figure out why the SQUAT team was, well, squatting. Ha!)

And while I'm on the subject, allow me to rave a little about Geek and Sundry, the Youtube channel behind this and other shows like Felicia Day's Flog, The Guild, and Wil Wheaton's Tabletop. I've never been much of a Youtube person - other than a few makeup tutorials and the usual viral funnies - but this channel is changing that. I'm delighted every Monday when a new Flog comes out, and I'm so impressed by the quality of all their shows (though admittedly there are a bunch I haven't seen yet.) So...yeah. Go check 'em out!