Tuesday, June 30, 2015

How I Fixed My Facebook Feed (And Made It Fun Again!)

It's amazing how much we all use a website we hate, isn't it? 'Cuz let's face it: a lot of us hate - HATE - Facebook.

And yet, how else can we keep up with all our family, friends, and favorite blogs/artists/interests?

I'm still dependent on FB because I blog for a living, and even with FB censoring Page reach down to a small fraction of my followers, there's STILL no better way to reach people. Because love it or hate it, everyone is on Facebook.

Sadly I have no solutions for my fellow Page managers, since FB is determined to run us all out of business. Here's a snapshot of what I mean:

(This is for Cake Wrecks, which has 424,000 FB followers. As you can see, Facebook is charging four THOUSAND dollars for a single post to reach about 35% of those followers. Wha whaaaa?)

However, for the rest of you, I DO have one or two tricks up my sleeve. 

See, as a reader, I've finally figured out how to use Facebook to see what I want to see, in the order I want to see it. I have two lists, which I'll show you how to set up and use. The first shows me only the friends' and family updates I'm most interested in - which is less than 50 people - in chronological order.

The second list acts as a quasi-RSS feed, and is my new favorite thing. It shows me, in chronological order, all my favorite websites, artists, cosplayers, humor sites, etc. etc. It's all the good stuff on FB, with none of the bad.

Ever get Facebook fatigue? You know, where you're tired of all the ranting and vague-booking and political sniping? That's the bad stuff I'm talking about. By setting up this new feed list, though, I can surf all the happy stuff in one place. And it's awesome.

So here's how to do it:

To Make Your Friends List:

Scroll down the left side of your FB feed until you see "Friends." When you hover your mouse there, a "More" will appear beside it:

Click that.

This will open a new page:

(For the record, I have no idea how Epbot or my old high school got in here [twice], and FB won't let me remove them! THANKS FACEBOOK.)

Now click "Create List," name it something snazzy like "My Fav Peeps" or "The Gang," and add in all the friends & fam you like. I recommend keeping this list small, since that's the whole point of making a curated list. Besides, how well do you know your 8th grade boyfriend now, anyway?

Once your new list is made, it will appear under the Friends heading in your left sidebar. Find it, hover your cursor over the little gear beside it, and select "Add To Favorites:"

("Favourites?" Is FB British now?)

This will put your new list higher up on the sidebar, under your name with your other Favorites:

That's your friend list done. Fun, right? Now let's do the Pages one.

To Make Your Pages List:

This one is trickier, since FB doesn't want you to see your favorite Pages without the Pages themselves paying for the privilege. In fact, you may notice there's already a Pages feed on your sidebar:

Trouble is, that default Pages Feed is just as censored and out-of-order as your regular "top stories" news feed, so you'll end up missing the vast majority of what you want to see. (Plus there's no "Most Recent" option, so you can't rearrange it to chronological order.)

Eventually I found a solution, though. It's under "Interests" in your left sidebar. Click the word itself (even though it doesn't *look* click-able) and you'll get this:

Now click "Add Interests":

And then "Create List."

This will bring up a pop-up window filled with all the Pages you already follow:

(Do I follow more Pages than Friends? Yes, yes I do.)

Scroll through and click all the ones you want on the List, give it a name, and you're done!

[You can also use this method to make a Friends list; just click down on the left from the highlighted "Pages" to "Friends", and you'll get a window full of all your current FB friends.]

Your new Pages list will appear under Interests in the left sidebar:

As with your Friends list, hover over the gear icon & select "Add to Favorites."

Now your two new lists are conveniently located at the top of your left sidebar, under your name:

So with one click you can get right to the most important updates, or, if you're having one of those "done with humanity" days, just skip the personal updates all together and go to your Favorite Pages feed.

If you have more time to kill, of course, you can always view your news feed the way FB serves it.

Ah, but what if you only check FB on your phone? Well, good news: these lists work there, too! In the FB app, just select the "More" icon in the lower righthand corner of the screen, and it will bring up your Favorites. Easy-peasy!

Need new Pages to follow? Start with all your favorite blogs (HI!) and websites, then add your favorite Etsy sellers, artists, cosplayers, and even stores like ThinkGeek. It won't take long 'til your FB feed is just as happy and fun as mine, promise.

Oh, and speaking for the rest of my beleaguered Page managers out there, please - PLEASE - remember to like, comment, and/or share those FB posts you want to see more of. This is our livelihood, and that interaction can still help more of you see what we post.

I hope this helps you guys get a little more out of Facebook! 

Now, go purge those Friends lists. You know it's time. ;)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Incredible "Floating" Howler Craft (From Harry Potter)

Every now and then I get something fun sent to the Epbot P.O. box, but this latest surprise from reader Linda F. simply MUST be shared:

It's a Howler!

More specifically, it's Ron's Howler from Chamber of Secrets:

Linda made the paper Howler herself, then suspended it with clear fishing line in one of those crafty snap-together ornaments:
 You can't see the line at all, so it really looks like it's floating in there!

 (This was a bugger to photograph! Finally resorted to a photo cube to cut most of the glare.)

Even the back side is perfect, with a little address label:

Linda finished it off with red ribbon bow and decorative wire hanger:


Linda sent this along for our Harry Potter Christmas tree, of course, but 'til then I'm hanging it in my office! It's one of my new favorite things. Love.

 Linda has craft blog here, btw, but sadly I don't see any mention of this beauty, much less a tutorial. I've seen some Howler origami tutorials around online, though, so maybe you could modify and/or shrink one of those down to make an ornament of your own?

Thanks so much for the inspiration, Linda, and for the howling good addition to our Potter tree!


Time to announce this month's art winners!

So, the winner of the Wonder Woman print is... Buncha Stuffes!

And my wild-card winner, who gets her choice from the Pinterest give-away board, is the Jennifer with the blog "My Fur-Real Life!"

Congrats, you two, and please e-mail me your mailing addresses!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Quick & Easy DIY Cat Onesie (For Over-Grooming Kitties)

While I don't believe putting your cat in a onesie is a long-term solution for over-grooming, I've definitely found there are times when it can help, and save you BOTH a little sanity.

Since I first posted pics of Lily in a hastily-modified baby onesie almost two years ago, I've had a bunch of requests for a tutorial.

This was Lily less than 10 minutes after being put in her first onesie.

This is a ridiculously easy DIY (all you need are scissors!), so here's a quick rundown, plus instructions for putting it on your cat when you're done.

Monday, June 22, 2015

June Art Roundup: Disney Valentines, Pony Centaurs, Cute Droids, & More!

Time for this month's installment of my favorite geeky art finds!

Artist KelogsLoops (who is only 19, if you can believe it) has been doing a "Disney Valentines" series, and WOW:

AHHH- mazing. They practically glow!

See more of her work on DeviantArt - which is all stunning - and cross your fingers she'll open an online shop sometime soon.

[Correction: Aha! She *does* sell a few prints online, though sadly not these. Check out her store here.]

Meanwhile, under the sea:

Angler Fish Love, 8.5X11 print, $22

You know you love it. :D

From angler fish to a creepy cute slow loris:

Hide & Seek, 9X9 print, $23 

That's by Alice Dufeu, who makes amazing fine art animal prints.

Here's another of hers: less creepy, all cute:

First Breath, 13X9 print, $23


Speaking of cute, hold on to your socks, 'cuz Erin Hunting is about to knock them off:

C3PO & R2D2, 11X8 print, $6.50

Bert & Ernie, $6.50

Catwoman & Penguin, $6.50

There's SO much more in her Etsy shop, too. Go see!

A stunning Elizabeth from BioShock: Infinite:

Elizabeth, 13X9 print, $21

I love how Bona Kim gave it that soft, vintage oil painting feel. I already have an Elizabeth print in the steampunk room, but man, this makes me want to add another!

From Animus-Rhythm, who focuses on mostly anime fandoms:

"Legend of Korra" 11X17 poster, $11.99

Attack on Titan, 11X17 poster, $11.99

And Kaitlin Reid, aka Sunset Dragon, has this fierce Rainbow Dash inspired warrior:


Plus she turned some of the Ponies into centaurs!

Your choice of 11X14 print, (and there are more to choose from!) $15

More BioShock goodness, this time from AllCityEmporium:

Big Poppa, 12X18 print, $20

Really diggin' all these great colors:

Rocket & Groot 4  & Harley 3, 12X18, $20 each

And finally, Lettie Bug has a suuuper fun Carousel series of Disney Princesses:

Plus some dreamy art nouveau designs:

 All of her prints are just under $18 each, so go see the rest!

K, that does it for this month! Now, as always, comment below to enter to win your choice of art from my Pinterest Art Give-Away Board!

And to keep the board current, I'll also be picking someone to win the oldest piece still on there: this signed 5X7 Wonder Woman print by Erica Taguchi-Newton:

So be sure to let me know in your comment if you like this one, so I can enter you in the drawing!

I'll announce my two randomly selected winners in a few days, and don't worry, internationals: I'll gladly ship anywhere!

UPDATE: The give-away has ended, and my two winners are Buncha Stuffes, who wins the Wonder Woman print, and the Jennifer with the blog "My Fur-Real Life"! Congrats you two, and please e-mail me your mailing addresses!
So, the winner of the Wonder Woman print is... Buncha Stuffes!
And my wild-card winner, who gets her choice from the Pinterest give-away board, is the Jennifer with the blog "My Fur-Real Life!"
- See more at: http://www.epbot.com/#sthash.pfCJDUTV.dpuf
So, the winner of the Wonder Woman print is... Buncha Stuffes!
And my wild-card winner, who gets her choice from the Pinterest give-away board, is the Jennifer with the blog "My Fur-Real Life!"
Congrats, you two, and please e-mail me your mailing addresses!
- See more at: http://www.epbot.com/#sthash.pfCJDUTV.dpuf
So, the winner of the Wonder Woman print is... Buncha Stuffes!
And my wild-card winner, who gets her choice from the Pinterest give-away board, is the Jennifer with the blog "My Fur-Real Life!"
Congrats, you two, and please e-mail me your mailing addresses!
- See more at: http://www.epbot.com/#sthash.pfCJDUTV.dpuf

Friday, June 19, 2015

Getting Used To Disappointment

I'm pretty discouraged today.

I'm also tired and fuzzy-headed, and the thought of doing anything other than slumping here in my office chair is just too darn exhausting.

Admittedly, I had a bad night last night, and the night before that, and the night before that. In fact, I can't remember the last time I slept through the night. I can't remember the last time I felt fully rested.

So that probably doesn't help.

Many months ago John discovered that I stopped breathing during my sleep a lot. It spooked him. I didn't think much of it, but then his sister - who has anxiety like me - told me how she learned she has sleep apnea even though she doesn't snore, and it was contributing to panic and insomnia and daytime fatigue. Once she got a CPAP machine, though, she felt amazing.

That convinced me to give it a try, so we spent the next several weeks arranging an at-home sleep test (which showed I *do* have apnea, yay), and then convincing doctors to prescribe a machine without a follow-up in the expensive overnight lab.

Meanwhile, my nighttime panic was getting worse, or maybe I just noticed it more. I'd wake up feeling like I was choking, heart racing, palms sweaty. This seemed to confirm that apnea was the culprit in my mid-sleep panic attacks.  I'd had those happen off and on for a while, but then they started happening almost every night. Desperate, I began sleeping sitting up, just biding my time until we could get a machine.

Finally, a few weeks ago, after months of insurance run-arounds and 4 different machine providers playing Hot Potato with my prescription, I got an APAP machine.

It's a bit of a blow for any woman, I think, to contemplate wearing a clunky mask and air hoses to bed for the rest of her life. I made so many sarcastic comments while we were picking out the mask ("Ooooh, SEXY") that John got a bit frustrated with me. But he still laughed when I mocked the "For Her" line, whose only differentiating feature are pink headstraps.


 Rats. No one told me I had to get matching pajamas.

Still, I'll admit I was excited. I couldn't wait to have the best sleep of my life, and to wake up feeling rested and calm. No more panic! Uninterrupted sleep! More energy!

But of course it didn't work that way.

No one told me it would take months to get used to the machine, and that at least half of people prescribed one never do. No one told me it would make the panic worse, and hurt, and feel like subtle torture in the wee hours of the morning, when your face itches and cracks and your breaths feel wrong and irregular and you just want to sleep, please let me sleep, but you can't.

Then, after 3 or 4 hours lying there, you do fall asleep... for about 40 minutes. And you wake up panicking, because something's on your face and you can't breathe and sweet Staypuft has your nose EVER itched this much in your entire life?? Plus now you have to pee.

Repeat that cycle two to four times a night, and that's been my life for the past 2 weeks. Except eventually it gets too much, and I rip the mask off, and sleep fitfully for a few hours before staggering out of bed like a zombie.

Lily is beside me on the desk right now, licking another raw, bloody patch on her back. She won't stop. So I put the inflatable collar on her:

Immediately she turns into The Most Pathetic Creature... In The World. She stares. At me. She tries - and fails - to rest her little head on my mouse hand.


She twitches down her back like she's in pain, and then slinks around with her tail on the ground. I can't stand it. So I take the collar off... and we're back to square one.

I'd hoped - perhaps irrationally - that fixing her hyperthyroidism with the radiation would also fix the rest of her occasional over-grooming, but it seems the stress of her clinic stay has brought it back full force.

And finally, after a long month of doing something I never thought I could do: going gluten *and* dairy free - I've had to conclude that the gluten makes no difference to my system. Another hope for better health, more energy, and even clearer skin, dashed.

I did feel better this past month, but it seems that was only from skipping dairy, because of my lactose intolerance. I've been back on gluten for almost a week, though, and have had no ill effects that I can detect. (I suspect some GF folks will tell me it's subtle, or cumulative, or who-knows-what, but I'm not sure I can continue without tangible evidence it actually helps.)

I have mixed feelings on this one: relief, I guess, because it's so much easier to eat this way, but also incredibly disappointed it didn't help. I always figured if I could just manage to try it, if I could ever muster that kind of willpower, then everything would be amazing. Then I did... and it wasn't.


So today I am sad, and discouraged. I'm tired, a little anxious, and not sure what to try next. My mom recommends sleeping pills and a chin strap. John's at the store buying me a couple bottles of Kombucha. The vet is going to give us some ointment for Lily.

Speaking of which, this is my view right now, looking down:

Lily has wedged herself between my belly and the keyboard. I've typed most of this with my arm on her back. I kind of hate to wake her.

At least one of us is getting some sleep.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Space Coast Nerd Fest

Last month John and I went with some friends to check out Space Coast Nerd Fest, a little convention out in Melbourne.

This was a pretty unique con, in that it combined a mini Ren Fair outside with a mini convention inside. Of course, it being summer in Florida, having anything outside is a bad call in my book. We were dying just waiting in the short line to buy tickets!

The inside parts were nicely air-conditioned, though, and consisted of a large packed vendor hall with a stage at one end for events. Plenty of vendors, lots of attendees - heck, they even had a little BSG ship you could take photos in for free:

I'm holding a little Daggit. LITTLE DAGGIT!

I'm calling this a little con, but that's in comparison to the behemoths like MegaCon and Dragon Con. Truth is, this was a great size for newbies, with just enough crowds to make it fun, but not so much to be overwhelming.

Now, a few costumes:



 (Gravity Falls!)

Luigi's Mansion! Here's a reference:

She really nailed that backpack, right?

This artist was doing amazing things with magazine clippings, if you can believe it:

And over in the Droid Builders booth, a steampunk R2 in the works:


I finally binge-watched all of Agent Carter, btw. SO GOOD. (Have you seen it? Go see it!)

An amazing group of Star Wars costumes showed up in time for the costume contest:

I've never seen anyone cosplay an Ithorian before - very cool! Love the feet.

And a perfect Jawa & Bounty Hunter:

 I happened to be in the right place just as all the Mandalorians got together for a group photo:

Later, we braved the heat to go watch a little jousting:

That's right: full-contact jousting! At a con!

The knights did a great job hamming it up and making us laugh. Sorry I didn't get any action shots, though; I was in the back of the crowd.

There were also a bunch of outside vendor tents, which we speed-browsed because did I mention how hot it was? Urg. Oh, and there was a big inflatable ring for, uh... doing this?

For a couple of bucks you could balance on a bean bag, balanced on a big inflatable bouncy house, and try to whack each other with padded bar thingies. (Technical term.)

That's John and our friend Jeff up there, and they proved to be so entertaining that the operators just let them keep going, even after their few minutes was up.

When I say "entertaining," I mean:

John tells me it was more fun falling down than trying to balance. So he did. A LOT. Ha! 

As the guys were getting their shoes back on, we watched an adorable little Leia & princess get into position:

They could barely lift the bars!
And then...


I hope this encourages you guys to seek out the smaller cons in your area; they really are fun, and are a great way to mingle with your fellow geeks without the crowds and stress of the bigger conventions.

Also, if any of you know of a good place online for *finding* local cons (besides Google, of course), please share in the comments! Even as plugged in as I try to be, I still miss stuff here in Orlando, so I know it's not easy to keep up.