Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!!

John and I spent our New Year's Eve playing video games - which was fun - and then I was up 'til dawn clutching a heating pad and cursing the day God invented uteruses (Uterii? Uterpodes?) - which was decidedly less so. But hey, today is a new day, and I'm kind of awake, and our neighbors are STILL setting off fireworks (Dude, it's daytime. YOU CAN'T EVEN SEE THEM), so...


I know this photo has nothing to do with the New Year, but it's my favorite shot from our Christmas trip to Epcot with my parents, so I'm sharing for the eye candy. :)

I hope you all had a wonderful 2012, and that 2013 will be a year filled with more creativity, joy, screaming geekiness, peace, laughter, inspiration, power tools, friendship, happy colors, new adventures, and extra-long hugs right when you need them. Thank you for making 2012 all of those things for me and John, even if most of the hugs had to be virtual ones.

And on a random note of Brony geekery, if you're looking to lose a good hour playing with a virtual paper-doll game, then go check out this custom My Little Pony generator my friend and fellow blogger Amy Ratcliff found. It's insanely addicting. And here's *my* little pony:

You can even import a graphic to make your own custom cutie mark, although I didn't go that far. (Mostly because I looked at the clock and realized I'd been playing with this for 45 minutes already. Ha!) Be sure to share your creations over on the Epbot FB page so I can see!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Redbook Makes It Right

This is the e-mail I woke up to this morning:

Dear Jen:

I was distressed to learn this morning that we ran your shoe-hanger idea in our January issue without crediting you. When the idea was pitched to us, we were unaware that it had been taken from your site, and certainly never dreamed that we were running it without attribution. It was an inadvertent error, and one that we obviously should have caught. You have every reason to be upset-- I'm upset, too.

We work hard to make sure this type of thing doesn't happen. Creative women like you are key contributors to our magazine, and our policy is to ALWAYS give credit. And I want to assure you that the choice to illustrate the story was purely aesthetic, to unify the ideas on the page.

We will fix this online, with a link to your site, and run a correction with the appropriate credit in our March issue (our next issue to go to press). We'd also like to compensate you, as we do all our contributors. Will you tell me the best number to reach you on, so I can call you directly?

Please accept my heartfelt apologies, on behalf of the entire Redbook staff. Your ideas are wonderful, our readers love them, and we look forward to working together in the future.

Meredith Rollins
Executive Editor, Redbook Magazine

Needless to say, I'm utterly relieved to see such a speedy and gracious response from Redbook - if for no other reason than because you Epbot readers are just a little bit terrifying when mobilized. Heart-warming, supportive, and terrifying. These past 15 hours or so have been simply overwhelming for me, and I could never thank you all enough.

For the record, the only thing I ever wanted from Redbook was recognition for my work and images, so I'll be asking Ms. Rollins to donate any compensation they wish to offer to my Give Kids The World campaign. I will also ask her to re-examine the rest of the article in question with thoughts toward crediting other bloggers whose ideas and/or illustrations they may have used. And if they want to get really serious, an article on Pinterest and how it drives traffic to smaller blogs and helps spread ideas would be extra awesome.
It's my hope that this situation will pave the way for *all* print sources to be more quick to credit online sources, so that no one else has to go through the heartache of seeing their work appropriated. Most bloggers out there don't have you guys, or a second blog that happens to be popular enough to garner lots of online attention. Most bloggers might get lost in the shuffle when they've been wronged. I'm hoping that, after today, those bloggers' odds just got a bit better.

Thank you to Ms. Rollins and to Redbook Magazine, and thank you again to everyone who read, commented, e-mailed, tweeted. There are no words, so here are a bunch of acronyms: LL&P, MTFBWY, & TTFN.

Now, let's get back to playing with our Dremels and video games and Portal crafts, shall we?


PS - I just realized that I accidentally & incorrectly called Good Housekeeping "Better Homes & Gardens" in my original post. I...am an idiot. Please feel free to spread a little love to Good Housekeeping for being the original good guys, and my apologies to BH&G for inspiring a barrage of very nice - but no doubt very confusing - messages of support on my behalf.

REDBOOK UPDATE, 1/5/13: Redbook amended their online article today to include credit and source links to several of their printed project ideas, including, of course, Epbot. They also issued an official apology on their Facebook page, and have assured me there will be a correction in the next print issue and that my payment of $500 is being donated to Give Kids the World, as I requested.

What started as a crappy week last Sunday is wrapping up to be a pretty darn good one, and it's all thanks to you guys. THANK YOU.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Shame On You, Redbook Magazine

UPDATE: Redbook has since responded, and you can read the e-mail their executive editor sent me here. (In short, they stepped up.) They have apologized, sent $500 to Give Kids The World at my request, and promised to add a correction notice in the next print issue. However, the damage is done: my feature in Good Housekeeping has been pulled as a result of Redbook's initial theft, so I won't be getting my first Epbot print credit after all. (Well, unless you count Redbook's correction.)


You guys know that one of my most popular creations here on Epbot are my flip-flop hangers. They've been re-pinned on Pinterest thousands of times, so naturally I've seen my share of websites re-posting my pics without credit - but that's kind of par for the course with the internet, and usually easily remedied with a polite e-mail.

However, today reader Beth pointed me to a whole new low in my experience: Redbook magazine not only took my idea and printed it without credit, they also hired an artist to draw a picture from my photos to get around the copyright issue. The artist made a few differences - perhaps enough to hold up in court, I suppose - but it's blatantly obvious that my photos were used as a direct reference. 

Here are the photos from Epbot that I believe Redbook used, originally posted back in April of 2011 on my flip-flop hanger tutorial:


  And this is on page 102 of Redbook's January 2013 issue, on shelves now:

Those are pretty clearly my flip-flops, complete with the little side buckles, and it's even the same hanger shape and silver bar from my photo. Though the flats pictured are different, that idea was also mine, as you can see in another photo from my original post:

Here's a side-by-side comparison of the flip-flops:

Even the shadows line up.
Again, I think it's pretty obvious where this drawing came from, even if the differences in the overall image may make it technically legal. (I honestly don't know, so if you do, feel free to weigh in in the comments.)

As bad as this is, it gets worse: Just last week I agreed to have my flip-flop hangers featured in Good Housekeeping for their Spring issue. (I was hoping to save it as a surprise, too. *sigh*) Now that they've been "scooped," as it were, it's possible that Good Housekeeping may pull the feature, depriving Epbot and myself of both proper credit and Epbot's first mention in print, which I've been ridiculously excited about. The added exposure would be huge for this blog. HUGE.

Oh, and remember how I mentioned how popular my hangers are on Pinterest? Well, when you look at the rest of page 102, it's pretty obvious that's where Redbook got all of their ideas:

Any regular pinner will recognize these as being some of the site's most popular pins - and I see no credit for any of them, either. To be fair, the pillow case storage and bracelet rack are easily copied, so there are lots of versions out there, but I'd be curious to know if those reference photos are also copied from bloggers' photos. (Please let me know in the comments if you recognize them, so I can link sources.) And just to be clear, I've yet to see anyone do a different variation on my flip-flop hangers, so there should be no question that I am the original source. (And an easily found source, I might add.)

So my question is this: Does Redbook just assume all of these ideas came from lowly bloggers who don't have the audience or clout to protest when their ideas are stolen? They can't think this content simply appeared out of thin air, so that's the only conclusion I can come to: that the Redbook staff think they're free to use our ideas and images just because they're bigger than us.

(This is also a good time to mention again how critically important it is to properly source your pins, although I doubt Redbook bothered looking for sources, anyway.)

And finally, this may seem petty, but dangit, I'm going to mention it anyway: Redbook was the only print source to ever publish a negative review of my book Cake Wrecks. It happened during the book release, and we all expected something positive, but instead they slammed me with a two sentence review, saying "You know the blog-to-book trend has gone too far when you find this title on shelves."

So, yeah, I'm starting to think someone over at Redbook doesn't like me. 

I don't expect anything much to come of this, guys, although I do hope my bit in Good Housekeeping isn't jeopardized. However, if any of you would like to contact Redbook to remind them that properly crediting sources is just good manners, you can do so via their Facebook page, Twitter, and/or e-mail at redbook@hearst.com 

Obviously nothing can be done about this current issue, but a correction in the next one, along with a source credit and link on their website now, would be a lovely amendment on their part. And in case anyone from Redbook ever reads this, let me just say that while drawing slightly different versions of popular images on Pinterest may get you around the law, it certainly won't win you any respect from your readers. It's far better to credit - and credit freely - so that others can see you as the good guy, instead of just another content thief. 

Step up, Redbook. Make this right.

[Note: I accidentally and incorrectly called Good Housekeeping "Better Homes & Gardens" in my original post. I feel like a complete idiot as a result, and I'm terribly sorry for the confusion. On the plus side: BH&G just got a whole bunch of nice messages from you guys that they will no doubt be utterly confused by.]

Amazing Mechanical Ring Box With Hidden Compartment

There seems to be an unspoken competition online these days to make the best engagement ring box, and I for one couldn't be happier about it. From a miniature version of the house from UP to last week's geektastic TARDIS, these custom boxes never fail to make me all squeaky with glee.
There's just something about secret compartments, am I right? That little "A-ha!" moment of surprise - and combine that a dash of geekery and a dollop of romance, and, WELL. 

Which brings me to the most amazing, labor-intensive, and gear-filled ring box yet.

On the outside, Reddit user curtisabrina's creation appears to be a simple jewelry box: 

Open the lid, and you'll find a typical - albeit lovely - jewelry tray:

Those two brass heart keys fit together to form a single key, which Curtis gave to his sweetie a full seven months before giving her this jewelry box to propose. (Talk about a long-term planner!)

Now, the real magic starts when you lift up the jewelry tray. 

Hidden underneath:


 Curtis designed and machined every piece of this himself, by the way, estimating he spent over 200 hours on the box's creation.

So, where's the actual engagement ring box? Well, insert the double heart key:

Give it a twist, and the iris on the left opens...

...revealing yet another custom box with a heart insert and laser engraving. 

Oh, and the engagement ring. ;)

Simply amazing.

There are lots more pics and details over on Curtis' Imgur gallery, including one more custom box he built to house the heart keys, so definitely go check those out!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Lady Vadore Goes Chibi!

My family doesn't really give Christmas gifts anymore since we're all adults now, but I still have a Christmas haul to show off! Check out all the stuff in my PO Box last week:

Yep, several of you sent me cards and homemade gifts! Pamela made the jewelry using nail polish (orange and teal!), Sophie of GeekMom made me the Ghostbusters cross stitch, the "Venkman is my spirit animal"magnet is from Sarah, and Heather sent over a few steampunk charms I forgot to include. There were also a few other cards, although the Wibbly Wobbly TARDIS from little Claire & Eleanor was the geeky champion. :)

Then, on Christmas Eve Erin N. e-mailed me some of her artwork, saying I might recognize the character:

"Come to the Chibi side. We have cute."

[gratuitous Kermit flailing] AIIEEEE!! 

It's no exaggeration to say this made my whole Christmas Eve, so I just had to share. Look at all the details! The feather epaulettes! The pin-hole lights on the cane! THE EYELASHES ON THE GOGGLES!

Erin didn't actually call this a Chibi Lady Vadore, but that's what came to mind when I first saw her. You can check out more of Erin's work over on DeviantArt, although I don't see this piece there yet. Maybe if you ask her nicely? [Update: A-ha! She's added it now!]

Which reminds me: Victoria G., who made my very first Lady Vadore fan art, has added it to her DA account, so you can see that here, and even buy a print if you're so inclined.

So now I have a Lady Vadore Art set! I'm going to try to get them both framed and hung in my office this weekend. And just for the record, you guys are NOT helping my ego - but I'll try to remember I can't force-choke any of my enemies, just the same. ;)

Ok, those of you who also got Christmas or Hanukkah gifts: what was your favorite? How many of you got crafting tools and/or Dremels? Eh? [eyebrow waggle] Any corsets or geeky jewelry? How about video games? Details, people: I NEED DETAILS.

PS - I'm playing Deathspank: The Baconing this weekend. It's hilarious and awesome. Especially since you can set the level to Mega Wimp so you don't die all the time and get frustrated and throw your wireless controller across the room. Not that *I* would EVER...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Printable Pocket Watch Faces!

I'm still easing back into a regular blogging schedule over here (translation: being lazy) but here's at least one thing I got done today:

 I finally took pictures of my favorite antique watch faces!

These pocket watch guts were a gift from my Dad last year, but I've been hesitant to do anything permanent with them just because I love the porcelain faces so much. Then it occurred to me that I could probably do some neat things with printed copies of them.

These are perfect for you fellow crafters, steampunks, and steampunk crafters: all you have to do is print them out at the size of your choice, and then either coat them with a bit of epoxy or add a piece of clear plastic on top. Instant faux watch face! You can layer clock hand charms on top, use them for scrapbooking, set them in lockets, decoupage them over boxes, or even use them for functioning clock faces. Really, the sky's the limit.

All I ask is that you only use these for personal use, and that you credit/link back to Epbot when applicable. Oh, and send me pictures if you make something cool with them. ;)

Thanks, guys, and enjoy!

Click on any pic to see full-size, and then right-click to save the file.


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

Monday, December 24, 2012

DIY Mini Wall Portals & Companion Cubes

Happy Christmas Eve, everyone! The last of my family left yesterday morning, so of course I immediately got to work finishing up my latest geeky craft project:

Mini wall portals!!

I first got this idea back in November, and originally planned to make them into hanging ornaments for the tree. It's a bit late for a Christmas craft, though, and I suppose it makes more sense to have them attached to a wall, anyway. (That said, you could easily add a loop to the back and turn them into ornaments for *next* Christmas.)

The illusion is fairly convincing from the side, and considering this set is only my first prototype, I'm pretty chuffed with how it turned out!

I'm sure you can tell HOW I did this - it's basically just a companion cube cut in half and attached to an oval mirror - but you may be wondering where I got the supplies.

The mirrors are 4X3 oval craft mirrors I found on ebay. I bought them in bulk, but you might be able to find them sold individually at your local craft store.

The cubes were a lot trickier, since I had to cast and paint them myself. I cast them using ThinkGeek's excellent silicone companion cube ice tray (which is only $5 right now, so I'm kicking myself for spending nearly $20 on it with shipping) and some Amazing Casting Resin :

This casting resin sets up in about five minutes, and is, hands-down, the coolest craft thing I've ever played with in my entire life. When I popped out the first cube, I literally yelled in delight and danced around the kitchen, cackling like an evil mastermind. SO FUN!! You pour in a liquid, and five minutes later pop out a hard plastic object. It's MAGIC, you guys.


You can use any silicone ice tray or candy mold for resin, but keep in mind that once you do, you can never use it for food items again. Of course, with ice trays you could always cut the tray in half - just be sure to mark which half is which.
The finished cube. This resin has a surprising heft to it, so it isn't nearly as light as you might expect. I have two cubes sitting next to my keyboard right now, and I keep picking them up just to admire them. :D

Next John cut my cube in half with a power saw, and I painted the two halves with acrylic craft paint. It took three or four coats to cover, though, so I really should find some better quality paint for next time.

I used a glue strip to attach the cube halves to the mirrors, but super glue or E-6000 would work just as well or better.

The orange and blue outlines on the mirrors were achieved using a layer of colored glass paint topped with acrylics. I would have only used the glass paint, but you could barely see the blue, even after four coats. The orange showed fairly well, but even so adding the acrylic really deepened the colors. I also used some yellow and light blue to add a little dimension to the interior edges:

I purposely made the outlines rough, to try and echo the smokey nature of the portal edges:

Next time I might try sweeping the paint inward more, to get that flame effect a bit better.

Oh, and even with the glass paint underneath this finish can scratch off pretty easily, so be careful if you try it. There's probably a clear top coat you could apply to protect it, but I haven't researched that yet.

For now my mini portals are on the wall beside my monitor. I attached them using Blue Stik, a reusable putty, so I can move them if I find a better spot later on.

Like I said, over all I'm pretty pleased with how these turned out, but I'm still not satisfied with my portal edges. I'm going to experiment a bit more with the glass paints to try and get more translucence, but if any of you have suggestions for other techniques or products I should try, please let me know in the comments! If I can make the portals just a bit better, then I'd like to make several more sets - perhaps even do a give-away here on the blog? Eh? [eyebrow waggle]

Friday, December 21, 2012

My HDR Learning Curve

I'm having an early Christmas with my family this week, so thanks for being patient while I catch up on posts, guys! In the mean time, here's a little more botched-up Disney HDR for you. ;) 

I know now what I was doing wrong with these shots (I had a camera setting goofed up), so I hope to try them again the next time I'm out at Disney. Still, even though they're plagued with technical errors, I thought you fellow Dizgeeks might like seeing a few shots, if only because it's always fun to see crowd-free photos of the Magic Kingdom. (Well, fun for ME, anyway. It always reminds me of my Skipper days there, walking through the silent streets, and it never stops being magical, either.)

There's no real secret to getting people-free shots at Disney: all you have to do is stay past closing. They start clearing the park out around an hour past park close, and you can stay in the hub or on Main Street for an hour and a half or more. You'll see plenty of other photographers with tripods around, and it's kind of fun to see this whole other fan group emerge as the regular tourists slowly trickle out.

I'm pretty shy around the photogs, since I know practically nothing and end up staring wide-eyed when asked anything even remotely technical, but John will strike up a conversation with anyone toting a big camera. He's actually picked up a lot of tips and equipment recommendations that way.

This is my most true-to-life shot of the night; it doesn't have the typical HDR surrealness to it. It's also not very interesting, which is a shame; I think I failed to capture the real majesty of the Liberty Tree.

You can really see the technical problems in these next few, and I'm absolutely kicking myself for not getting those settings right:

Ug. So grainy. (But a neat view, right?)

And try to imagine how pretty this next shot would have been if I hadn't messed it all up:

John and I waited a solid 30 minutes to get this shot, too, poised over the timer, having countless takes spoiled by guests wandering down the corridor or in front of the carousel... Oh, the pain. 

(Don't worry, I'm not TOO broken up - I know we can always go back and try again. Heh.)

At least this black and white is a little smoother:

And I purposely made this next one surreal, since the graininess was killing it anyway:

My favorite shot of the night was actually the over-exposed version I took for an HDR pic:

Everything looks like colored glass!

And here's the resulting HDR of the same shot:

It's, you know, not great. But like I said, I'm learning, and sometimes it's fun to share the "failures" along with the successes.

Some of you have asked for tips or tutorials on HDR, but I think it's obvious from this post that I don't have any to offer personally. :D I can tell you I use a Canon 7D with a 17-50 lens, and I could probably show you how to take the bracketed photos necessary for HDR now, but that's about it. So, if any of you have suggestions for good online tutorials, please share them in the comments!

Today John and I are heading out to Epcot with my parents, and we'll all be toting camera bags and tripods. (So if you see a nerdy family standing around discussing F-stops, be sure to say hi.)

[UPDATE: I've had a few requests to add the black & white castle shot to my DeviantArt gallery, so you can see it here, and even purchase a print, if you like. Thanks for the kind words and for making my ego inflate, guys; it's the ultimate compliment to have someone request a print of your photo!]

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Open House!

Ok, guys, I think I'm finally ready, so...

Who wants to see my house?

(Because, really, it's not nerve-wracking at ALL to let the whole internet see your whole house and judge all your stuff and decorating skills and/or lack thereof. Nope. I am SO calm and at ease and please pass the eggnog.)

[slamming down glass]


Our tour begins here, in this gallery front room:

I'm especially excited to show you guys that back wall, because I just finished those gears two days ago!

John and I cut them from MDF at the same time we made the tree topper one a year or more back, but they've been sitting in the garage ever since. I based them in copper, and then used three different spray paints - a hammered copper, metallic bronze, and gold to create this finish:

 This one's a bit dark. The others have slightly more variation:

 That's an LED branch with peacock feathers left over from last year's tree topper in the vase.

Doo-dads. (Technical term.)

The art and clock are new, too. The clock was a recent gift from my parents' collection, and I bought the print here on DeviantArt (and for cheap! I love DeviantArt.)

K, now the other side of the room:

I don't think I've ever shown you guys my hot air balloon hooks behind the front door. When I bought them they were bright white and shiny, so I beat them up with a hammer, sanded them down, and slopped black glaze on to grunge them up. They're a real bugger to photograph, since there's no light over there, but here's my best shot:

 Here's the view from the front door:
We have a relatively small house (1400 sq ft) but this big open area makes it feel a lot bigger. 'Course, you ARE looking at the vast majority of the house right now. :)

Ok. So. Straight ahead is our back room, with the kitchen to the left and the dining room to the right:

 You've seen my dining room before, but here it is again, decked out for Christmas:

Alas, still no steampunk light fixture - although John's been drawing up blueprints for one just this week!

There's actually a plasma globe in that lantern next to my ray gun. It doesn't really show, but the purple streamers of light in it look really cool next to the gun. (The post the lantern is sitting on is just a painted piece of PVC pipe. )

This was the hardest - and last - vignette I put together. I scrounged through the house looking for anything fuchsia. (The star is sitting on a cup I hold my makeup brushes in, turned upside down.)

Here's the top of that cabinet:
 I like all the sparkly clear glass and silver. 
(The plexiglass NOEL is edged in silver glitter, so you can only see it clearly from an angle.)

Random close-up:

Sometimes you lovely readers will send me an antique key or two. I just want you to know they're all being put to good use. :)

I've had several requests this past year to post more pictures of my kitchen, so I did my best! Here's the side you've seen before:

And now the other side:

John and I gutted the kitchen down to the studs about four (or was it five?) Christmases ago, and rebuilt it all ourselves using Ikea cabinets. It's a really tiny galley kitchen, only about four feet wide, but I love it dearly. (If you're wondering where we keep the food, there's a pantry/laundry room through the bifold door at the end. And the ceiling is flat; the wide-angle lens just makes it look sloped.)

Further proof of how tiny our kitchen is: I can't actually stand IN the kitchen to take pictures of it. This was taken through the window over the sink. Note that we only have a two burner stove top over there. Note also that we don't cook, so this has never been an issue. :D 

We painted the wall finish ourselves, too. It's modeled after some ridiculously expensive tile of the same shape and colors.

And finally, our back room, complete with my treadmill desk eyesore:

See the giant tree through the windows? It's so big that you can stand in one place and see it through three of those windows. Pretty awesome.

When John and I bought this house (which is also our first house) it was high-gloss Pepto pink inside and out, with dark wood paneling and shiny pink ceramic tile throughout. Some day I should post before and after pics for you guys, because they're really fun to look back through, just to see how far we've come.

BUT, that's definitely enough rambling and pictures for now - and this is my last Christmas show-and-tell post, promise! I hope you had fun, because now I'm off to grab all the junk I had to hide in other rooms and strew it around the place again. (Just keeping it real, yo.)

One last night shot of my front room, since it's prettier with the curtains open:

 Mmmm. Glowy.

Happy weekend, everyone!