Friday, December 30, 2011

Those Resolution Things

I'm one of those "New Year Resolution" kind of people. Forgive me. A review of 2011's list :
  • Clean More : no change. Adam says I've accumulated more stuff, which makes it harder.
  • Try To Be Prettier : no noticeable progress. I did work on posture a bit over the summer, there was some exercise last winter and summer, and I have taken a couple stabs at shopping (REI for the win!).
  • Sketch Once A Week : negative progress. I draw less now then ever before. Have missed several Dr. Sketchy's. When I do draw, it's totally a mess- have lost my "style" it feels like and am randomly mimicking things I see (and like : Makani, Emily Carroll, Jen Wang, and Ray Frenden for example... I want clean lines and details apparently. And good costumes always)
  • Sew / Embroider More : success. 2011 is the year of the Settlers of Catan Quilt (even if I have to finish it in 2012). There was also Portal Turret embroidery and some cute little monsters made. I've got a pair of ideas to start 2012 with as well!
  • Socialize Less, But Make The Remaining Encounters More Meaningful : neutral. I've made more friends, I've lost touch with some friends that I'd like to keep. I like the people I know, but I need to be better at saying "not now" to some of the hanging outs (more as internal dialog for me) and be better about committing to the fun events (why am I so bad at replying to emails?). Major gains : continuing Mid Winter, the infrequent but fun girls craft get togethers, the D&D&D events, terrible movie nights with Andy and Ashley, and the art bitching hang outs with Mel
  • Read A Book Once a Month : Success! My favorite goal! See below for details
  • Show More Initiative At Work- Have a Project Worth Talking About Once I Leave : success. I took on a couple server side projects I feel I can talk about (nothing epic, but at least something) and we've recently been working on a HTML5 app that has really helped me grow
  • Wake Up Earlier, Sleep Less : neutral. Adam and I were definitely waking up earlier this fall- which was totally awesome. Tea and hanging out in the morning = fun times. Not so great on the sleeping less...
  • Save More Money : neutral, bordering on failure. However, I feel like I've got a healthy relationship with spending now- an improvement on years earlier. I've never had an issue with excess, but I'm not happy being a frugal person. At this point in my life I should be spending money to make myself happy. Time > Money. Given that Adam and I are currently lounging in Paris, I'll say no more.
  • No More Reddit : success. Easy enough to give up and I've no regrets. Google Reader was beginning to become a problem, but now that they gutted its functionality I barely check it once a day. I browse Hacker News frequently, but don't find it to be a problem. I'm sneering at the posts half the time, a fraction of the time they're actually quite useful, it keeps me abreast of new trends in my field, and it gives Adam and I something to talk about in the evenings.
Sketching full of fail... This was the last thing I drew and that was... two weeks and two days ago...? Sad times
I believe it was a bit overly ambitious... This year's will be smaller, more focused goals so that I can present a more positive report next December. As mentioned above (and earlier) I love the reading goal. Definitely had to work at it a couple times. The end results :
  • Jan : The Blade Itself: The First Law: Book One (First Law 1)
  • Feb : The Name of the Wind
  • Mar : The Hunger Games
  • Apr : Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games Trilogy)
  • May : Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games Trilogy)
  • Jun : My Blood Approves
  • Jul : Hollowland
  • Aug : The Forever War
  • Sep : Lucifer's Hammer
  • Oct : Jenny Pox
  • Nov : Darkly Dreaming Dexter
  • Dec : The Demon's Lexicon
There are a number of other books read through the year in addition to these. These are just the ones that counted towards the resolution. Perhaps I should be embarrassed at the number of them that are Young Adult books, but I can't be bothered. I read for fun and escapism. The best book of the year was without question The Postman. Highly recommend it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

And everything had been going so well…

...sick again. Not fun. Have stayed away from work for two days so far, here's hoping I make it in tomorrow...

Prior to all this current terribleness, everything had been going so well. The tree was further decorated, much to my and Adam's satisfaction. We tried really, really hard to be good Americans and spend money on ornaments, but we could not find (after serious mult-store searches) anyone selling basic white and red ball ornaments. Luckily a joke lead to an answer- we used selected yarn balls from my copious stash to decorate our tree. And Christmas was saved. Yay!

Also- popcorn chains are ridiculously easy to make and very pleasing. Highly recommend it. Don't make them the first couple days though- the spell of popcorn will dominate the delightful oder of tree. The 'ornaments' themselves are really simple and fun. All you do is take a ball of yarn, wind it up, use a yarn needle to pull the tail through the body at some point leaving about 3-6 inches dangling, and then wrap the tail around a branch. No hooks, no mess, no waste.

Click the image and then zoom on Picasa for all the fantastic details!

Continuing with the holiday theme, the most excellent Katie organized and provided for year two of the now annual epic gingerbread house making. She made and cut pieces for, like, twenty thousand houses. Most couples shared one of the larger houses, cooperating to make something beautiful.

It would be too much to ask Adam and I to do the same. We both made a mini house and, following Adam's most insightful lead, made them 'weird'. His gingerbread man SMASH! idea was divine and my squid-emerging-from-house followup was not really on par. I also took on the task of decorating one of the spare houses, with which I took a more traditional approach.

There were many interesting houses and different takes on the classic. We had the decrepit house, the butter mint igloo, there was a beach with tent scene, and several classic houses. Last year I experimented with different shapes- tried to make some dice, not sure what I'll try for next year... maybe a gingerbread boat, modeled after Andy's? Hmmm...

Sadly, our houses looked better then they tasted. It turns out fruit loops, crispix, and gram cracker just really don't age well out in the open air. The twizzlers used for the squid however has proven to remain remarkably tasty as the days go by.

The awesome didn't stop with that however! Work had a sort of offsite day last week where we all took a segway tour through Golden Gate park. Woah. Just... woah. Way more cool then expected. And I've been to Golden Gate several times. Highly recommend it. We did a tour with a guy who was super chill. $45 is the minium for 1.5 hours and if it wont break the bank, go for it. A group tour is probably best. Segways look ridiculously stupid but are in fact ridiculously awesome. When queried about the experience after being on one for under a minute my response was (and remains) : It's like riding science

... there was even MORE awesome to be had before I fell ill, but this post is getting too long, so I'll save it for part 2...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Happy Times

Thanksgiving has come and gone. Another fantastic pair of holidays looms on the horizon. To welcome them, Adam and I have set up a shrine in our front room. It's our first tree together- the first tree either of us have had outside our parents' houses. Kind of feels like "baby's first Christmas". Carried it the eight blocks home. Got a cute little squat thing and so far all we've done is drap it with white lights. Am hoping to get popcorn and cranberry chains up after this weekend. Going for a nice red/white theme to match the front room- decorating is fun!

Good times! Good times! Wrapped up the vacation weekend with more socializing. In the middle of it I wrapped up a tiny bottle cap monster from... yikes... started probably a year ago. Made some use of all those white feathers I got for the Halloween costume. Golly gee, but don't those teeth look fantastic on the little fellow? His throat extends quite a way- he lives at work now and has a quarter shoved down in there and you can't even tell.

Also- I've discovered a great new video game! It's called Amazon Mechanical Turk! Instead of earning points, you earn pennies! About as worthless as any video game out there. I've been picking up a couple tasks here and there as sort of mental cigarett breaks. About on par with playing Spider Solitaire, but with worse graphics. I like the tagging mini games the best. Adam doesn't really approve of it, but really, he hates all the computer games I play. This evening had a good quote from him:
I'm playing a game similar to your game. It has a bit higher stakes. It's called "Peer to peer lending".

... oh! And now I hear crab season is finally on! Sweet!
p.s. - in other "happy times" news, we decided to spend New Years in Paris. So there's that to look forward to...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Venn Diagram Pie & 2.6 pounds

I saw a picture on the Internet a while back. It was of a pie that looked like a Venn Diagram. Not sure where I came across it (probably Reader, may it rest in peace), but it struck me. It was a striking combination of:
* delicious looking
* nerd humor
* engineering challenge

Therefor, I knew several weeks ago what I would be bringing to Thanksgiving. I had idly thought about it off and on so when Thanksgiving morning rolled around and I still had not lifted a finger to start on this project, I was not worried. (Adam was)

All I had was (the memory of) a photo, Adam's book How To Cook Everything, and the experience of having cooked one apple pie several Thanksgivings ago under my mother's watchful eye.
The order of actions went thus- pie crust, shopping, apple half internals, pie tin, berry half internals, curst into tin, filling of pie. BAM! Done! You throw that sucker in the oven and you get out the tastiest damn pie ever. I've no doubt I'll make this again.

Given that all the edible stuff came directly from the above mentioned book, I'll not dwell on it. The pie tin aspect was surprisingly easy and fun. I traced it on paper, picked the degree of overlap, and marked the intersection point on both tins. And then... and then... I used the Dremel! Definitely improves the cooking experience- to go from screeching aluminum and safety glasses to the soft thump-thump of a rolling pin and the smell of butter. Contrast- the spice of life.

I cut the edge of the pie between the intersection points and then along the bottom edge up to the points. Being fantastic cheap pie tins, I was easily able to clean up the ragged edges with a pair of scissors afterwards. I would not recommend scissors for the whole thing even though it is possible due to the... twist? torque? scissors put on the material when you're making initial cuts into something. The tin was easy to deform and I did not want it so.
Afterwards I wove it together- the pie whose bottom is on top wraps its edges along the outside and the bottom tin's edges wrap along inside. Used clothespins to hold them in place while I wrapped the whole thing in tin foil (an initial layer wrapping from the bottom up, a second layer laying on top wrapping over the edges and down)

The actual pie assembling was fun, if rather brief. Apples and blackberries. Fantastic combination. The lattice top was fun- makes me think I would enjoy making challah bread...

Turns out apple slices you prepare for pie are super tasty when eaten straight up! All that sugar and... sugar.... Had enough left-over pie crust (the whole thing being just a single serving of the "Pie Shell for a Two-Crust Pie" recipe) that I managed to make use of my new little silicone baking cups which made me happy. Haven't cooked them yet, but I've faith it'll work out.

After all this we went to the GWS House for Thanksgiving. It was fantastic. Looked great, tasted great, had a great time. It may be hard to believe, but everything was made from scratch! (well, except for the gravy) Don't think that there was some sort of pre-event announcement dictating it must be so. That's just the type of awesome folks I hang out with. Everyone had pride in what they brought.

After a brisk walk in the cold, we circled back for dessert. A rough estimating exercise suggested that there were 10+ sticks of butter in total put into all the combined desserts. Yummie!

Afterwards people hung out. Adam got me a hookah for my birthday and there was a pleasant social inaugural smoking of it once the sweets were consumed. Then I took a nap while Adam played Starcraft late into the night.

It was a good day. I am thankful for the great life I live.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Grumpy Times

Super achy and ill for Halloween (actually the day before, but it carried over). Post about costumes made will be forth coming once I get photos back of them.

While pouting on the couch on Sunday, there was some up-sides to things. Reading indie books on my Kindle! I finished book 2 and started into book 3 of the Jenny Pox series. I would recommend them, but I feel the same hesitation that I read in the review that made me read them. It reads like a YA book but there are definitely some non-YA parts to it (sex, violence). In my opinion, the mix is probably the reason I liked them. Also, it was *perfect* Halloween reading material. And timed well with the recently released Contagion movie.

I also played some Triple Town, which is really really fun right up until the point that you run out of moves and need to wait for them to replenish. Then it really sucks. I however put the waiting time to good use :

Not sure if I've got the patience to keep playing though. Alas. Waiting makes me grumpy.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Making things more awesome

I have a craft room. This is an awesome fact. The best part of the craft room is that I can do things in there to organize my crafting process. I love to pour over decorating blogs, especially ones geared towards people with craft rooms. There's something divine in a well put together room that has been especially tailored to optimizing the crafting experience.

My room however has far to go. But today! Today I take one step forward in the "This is going to be awesome" direction. I've always had an idea about how my "current" fabric should be organized and dude! It totally looked something like this in my head:

Except, get this- it's not in my head any more! It's there! In the room! Bam!

Walking home from Dr. Sketchy's tonight (which was aaaaaawesome) I spotted the halves of a futon frame next to the public trash bit on our street corner. This half the frame was perfect and I didn't feel that bad about taking only part of it because the legs were no-where in sight. So it was trash. But I made (part of it) into something sweet and useful! How indy craft girl of me!

Along the topic of making things more awesome- I totally took some seeds a while ago and put them in the dirt. Then I managed to not neglect what came out of the dirt too much. Now I've got this!

I'm not certain you can see it so let me point it out to you. There's a god damn cherry tomato growing on that (root bound, very sad) tomato plan! I've not picked it yet... not actually, you know, sure when too... but soon! And there are more on the other plants coming along (no other one actually red yet though). Also note the actually-kinda'-healthy catnip next to it. That's growing (from seed!) too and continues to meet Duck's approval every time I give him a fresh leaf from it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Thrashing and Agile crafting

Am totally thrashing on crafting now. I've got intense urges to draw (with reasonable results), perhaps in feverish anticipation of the Inkling I plan to buy the second they go on sale. I've also got a half-skinned Zergling plush to finish, a Frankenturret plush to rev, a Frankenturret model to do final touches on, a Settlers of Catan quilt to limp along with, and a Halloween costume to plan. ... So instead I've found myself playing Mass Effect the last couple nights to chill. And any time I do pick up a craft, all I can think of is the other things I should be working on (or worse yet the nigglings of new ideas).

Despite this, I have been making minor progress. The weekends have been clobbered recently with socializing (parents in town! friends hanging out!) which leaves me only the evenings to squeeze in an hour or two of something (given how often Adam and I eat out and how much time that takes up... who would have guessed hanging out with your S.O. would consume so much time!)

I dislike the concept of Agile software development as I've actually encountered it so far. I think the ideas are nice and reasonable enough, but the way it has evolved at work is very displeasing... But! Let that not sully the entire Agile idea. I feel my recent (ongoing & diverse) Portal 2 projects sort of embody some of the basic ideas... Recently I was under the impression I could make a cute Frankenturret plushie that met the following requirements :

  • low complexity
  • machine sewable
  • durable
  • no non-snuggable parts
  • cute
  • small-ish
  • These are all things I'm bad at and need practice with. Which means it shouldn't be surprising that the first results look like shit:

    The scale is too small to be reasonably machine sewable... I've no experience with fleece (though I must say it is awesome!) and I've stared too long at frankenturret details to easily abbreviate it. So much failure... But the point is iteration! I can't just expect it to be perfect on the first go. I've got to rev my designs, put forward due diligence to get each rev as close to the "done" state as possible, but not obsessively dwell or grind to a halt if it doesn't turn out the way I like it. Try again! Am giving up on the machine sewable portion rule (at least for the head) but hope to hold onto my other goals. If anyone has any ideas, I'd be very open to them!! The 'less is more' design concept for 'cute' is a struggle I seem never to be able to win.

    At least I have my stalwart Catan quilt to stand by. It lives on the empty stereo box now and is mainly Duck's perch in the den. I'm down to 5 tiles to edge and then it's playable!!

    The darkening days has it's pros to counter the obvious cons. The season of coding approaches. I'm excited to be getting back to the Tichu project soon. Coding while the sun is up is ridiculous... but now it's well into dark by the time I get home... which means my time will have yet another contender. Along those lines, I was at work until 10-something tonight. Working on a KnockoutJS demo for our project as it shifts into the wondrous realm of JavaScript. Holy poop- Knockout is flipping awesome. Seriously! I've no doubt I'll be doing the Tichu client with it.

    Wednesday, September 28, 2011

    Minor addition to last post...

    Trying to remember how to draw better... hence the lack of exciting craft posts. (The weather is too nice to code- that's a winter sport) Am super psyched for the Wacom Inkling pen...

    I forgot! I had taken pictures at the start of the month of my one cucumber and never posted them... I cut up and ate a portion (though sadly not the whole thing) of this poor little cucumber after it showed no sign of change for several days... There was almost a seed inside it... almost... very tough little bugger... it did *not* give me a tummy ache, luckly

    Also, not everything from my garden was a complete failure. The peas did quite fine and the basil was actually used several times in cooking.

    I would also like to note that we are now in the awesome period of San Francisco. Remember- if you ever wish to visit, only do so in the spring or fall. This last weekend was icky, but during the week the days have been absolutely fabulous. Here's the Adam lounging on our sweet deck chair. Note the awesome vintage parasal he's using to protect himself from the sun- his mother got that for me last Christmas- haven't had a chance to use it yet, but will find one soon!

    Monday, September 26, 2011

    General bland update

    Too many projects all plodding along at the same time, with nothing finishing... Also, distracted with work and life and travel. All good things.

    In the good news, progress was made at last weekend's very pleasant craft day. Settlers of Catan quilt base is finished binding. Most the hex titles are done. Now for the tedious task for snap sewing... the results so far are very promising!

    Played Starcraft 2 this last weekend. Placed into Gold league with Vince and Adam, which is pleasing. Instantly turned around and started making a zergling plush... having never finished the hydralisk one of course. Am taking good photo-documentation notes however, and making progress. Am about... halfway done? Am "skinning" it currently... will post pictures next week. Main take away from that project though: Dude! Coins make perfect weights!!

    I was hoping to finish it in one weekend, but was distracted by Adam and his continuing quest to make our front room awesome. Previous weekends it was shuffling around furniture and rotating shelves. This weekend it was hooking up the record player and sound system.

    Was also distracted by going to see the movie Drive. A touch too graphically violent for my tastes. Adam and I both agreed we couldn't quite tell... what the director was trying to say with the film. Why was it made? The first half was pretty great though. No complaints about anything (acting, dialog, cinematography, music)... just... why? Best thing from it though? The soundtrack! Purchased from Amazon for $8, which seems very reasonable. Suggested tracks : Nightcall, Tick of the Clock, Wrong Floor, and After the Chase.

    In closing, sad, news... the garden experiment is coming to an end. Lessons have been learned. Notes have been taken. I haven't given up entirely- there's still the catnip and the plants in the front room, and a couple tomatoe plans outside. I hope to put out some snow peas, but that's probably it. Next year- no lettuce! More pruning! More climbing! Watering.... still confuses me. To wrap up the garden experiment, may I present the tiny rewards I have reaped...

    Monday, September 12, 2011

    Warrior Dash : 2011

    There is this thing called The Warrior Dash. It's this event that travels around the nation- part obstacle corse, part race, part party. This year my mother, her friend, a friend of her friend, and I all "ran" it. They ran, I sadly wound up walking most of it. I highly recommend it. [registration for this year's Northern California event is still open as of this blog post!]


    It's not unique and I can't actually claim that any of the obstacles were overly hard. It was a tough running course (very hilly) but that depends very much on your site. Despite the publicity photos, there seemed to be a lot of "normal" people there (as opposed to the ripped abs and hotties pictured). This made me happy and is a major factor in my encouragement for others to attend. It's as hard as you want it to be. No one is judging you, and everyone there had a great attitude- runners and staff alike.

    Awesome Man
    Anything you wear is fine, be it simple running cloths, a half-assed costume, or all out. I found myself having a particularly splended time because I chose to run in a nice dress. My mother jokingly suggested "Mad Women" as a theme and I distorted that into "I want to dress like Betty Drapper!". Recieved several complements while running and it turns out the dress was semi practical-- not nearly as much though as the gloves. Biking gloves are the secret sause, let me tell you.

    If you go to the site, it'll tell you all the obstacles. My summary of only a couple in short is:

  • Climbing over beat-up cars is exhilarating. I wish there had been rows and rows more.
  • The spring-boards were perfectly safe but *felt* thrilling and dangerous. I highly approve. I got giddy just thinking about how video-game like it felt to jump around on them.
  • The deadman's drop was dangerous. I did not like this (and only this) obstacle. I didn't need to see the person with the broken ankle to know it was a bad idea. Dropping isn't something you can do carefully, it was hard to "scale" this obstacle's challenge, which was bad.
  • The over-hurtle walls and under-barbwire segments was simple but very pleasing.
  • For some reason my mother was most challenged by the firemans' poles (a bit too far out for her to easily grab). They phased me not a bit, which is interesting. Everyone has their special weakness... what will yours be??

  • In the end, we all had a great time. Next year my mother and I want to go back with my sisters. I recommend it. It's a bit pricey (~$65?), but it was a well run event and only once a year. Definately go early (10:30 wave) on the first day though.

    More photos of the event at my Flickr site.


    Saturday, September 10, 2011

    Coding... just not recreationally...

    Things at work have been pretty fun lately. Normally our client is in Flash but we're poking at some web stuff. And by we, I mean me.

    Mostly I've been trying to work out some new visuals to display energy savings information. So graphs. The product people come up with the actual design ideas, but I've got to make the picture into an interactive page. I was pointed towards the awesome D3 graphing library by Adam but it's not compatible with IE before version 9, which we can't accept. Too bad, because D3 looks great.

    Instead I've been poking at the Raphaël graphics library. It's really easy to work in and I recommend looking at it. The internet has come a long, long way since I last poked at it back in high school.

    The neatest thing of it all is poking at graphics. Like, graphic stuff independent of whatever language you're in. In one of the rare cases of me actually finding something I don't know the name of, I started looking into some circle packing algorithms. While there is a JavaScript libray called moocirclepack, I think I'll pre-compute the packing on the server if we decide to use the visual.

    Am currently looking into fitting a nice curve to some data points, which has me reading up on Bézier curves. The program people just started talking to a User Experience? Interaction? contractor today so hopefully they'll have even more interesting requests for me to implement.

    Over dinner tonight, both Adam and I agreed Javascript is a pretty sweet language. It's the nicest untyped one I've experienced so far... it's so damn easy to work in!

    Thursday, September 8, 2011

    Portal 2 : Frankenturret replica round 3 (4?)

    Pre-mature posting, yes, but I wanted to get something out this week at least...

    May I present the (almost) finished round 3 of the Portal 2 Frankenturret! (It's more done then it looks- I have all the corners and edging cast and ready to go)

    Despite one minor hiccup, I'm extremely happier with this one. Itterating on a project can lead to better results! Who knew!

    Some quick facts about this puppy (a more in-depth post when I finish it off):
  • Better / newer cast pieces. Remember to sand. And sand some more. At all stages. And then dremel the sucker after you cast it. And then sand some more.
  • That's a sawed off tick-tack case for the body there. Always knew those suckers would be useful!!
  • The neck and leg joints/extensions are parts from my forever-useful ripped up type-writer (it was dead when I got it! and electric! and I would never think of harming my working non-electric one). That sucker is just a parts heaven. Not only is the metal/pivots from there, the springs at the end of everything are from there too.
  • Hot glue will look tacky. Doesn't matter how hard you try to be neat about it. Tacky. But what else can I use!?!
  • Tool dip & solder & thought-out electronics are not tacky. Yeah.

    Working on it Monday was really invigorating. Makes me want to do a couple more projects in the same vein. There's just something about it... I think it's a mix of how wonderful Portal 2 is as a game and how simple the designs are. They do a fantastic job of humanizing these little robots. Or, at least... animalizing them? There was a YouTube comment that- dare I confess- I liked which pointed out that the Frankenturret is basically like a pet hermit crab.

    It's not just me who's head-over-heals for these puppies... There are a number of (more) awesome projects out there then just mine. A couple links :
  • The much linked to papercraft one. I've not given it a go yet (paper's not really my medium) but I will at some point...
  • Not all replicas need to be very detailed to still be cute. I'm thinking of making a plush version based on this guy's clay model (already received approval to do so)
  • The number of people who humanize the turrets in fan art is kinda' surprising. Also, the fan art in general can be kinda' awesome.
  • This little future over-lord is pretty sweet, even if he is the original turret model
  • One could even adopt a frankenturret style of fashion

  • In closing, here's a video of me fidgeting with the work so far... I don't think you realize how fun flicking those little spring-legs is!
  • Saturday, September 3, 2011


    I went to Las Vegas with Adam! It was my first trip there and I enjoyed it very much. It was very facinating but I don't think I've a strong desire or urge to go back soon. The artificialness of it all is the initial delight and final detraction.

    Our stay was at the Wynn. We had a lovely room with a lovely view. The picture has been misplaced... The casino below was also one of my favorites.


    For the record, I only played slots. I put in a total of $11 and got out a total of $23 (all from a single win). Adam played Black Jack and while he came out down overall, he made it back by volentering to be bumped on our return Southwest flight.

    The first night we went to see Ka. It was fantastic, but that doesn't mean much because I'm a Cirque de Soleil major fan. It appeared less athletic then other shows I've seen, but it made it up with amazing set. Not just the rotating platform, which was boggling, but the whole arena and all props were great.

    The Spanish Knight

    The second night Adam caved to my irrational wishes to go see the Tournament of Kings at the Excalibur hotel/casino. We were seated in the "Spain" section which was thankfully populated by a handful of other way-to-old-for-this individuals. Our knight was a friendly individual who welcomed our over-enthusiastic cheering.

    While rediculously over-priced, the food throught the trip was very enjoyable. One of the highlights was the red velvet pancakes on the last day. They had cream cheese frosting! Totally unhealthy, like eating cake, no doubt about it. Fun.


    In the end, it was fun. Too expensive though, swamped with people, and very artificial. It was also insanely hot, which was so startling new it wasn't even bad. Great time, only need one go at it though. Am looking forward to some future Hawaii date. That's more my speed.

    [* not taken in Hawaii. Random bird just outside Treasure Island casino]

    Wednesday, August 31, 2011

    Review : Martha Marcy May Marlene

    The film Martha Marcy May Marlene is set to have a theatrical release October 21st, 2011. I would recommend it. It is a story about a young woman who has been with a cult but escapes into the care of her sister.

    Due to Adam's sweet SF Film Society membership we got to see a sneak peak of the film this Wednesday night. The director Sean Durkin and the lead actress Elizabeth Olsen were both there.

    The Film : Tense. Very very tense. Multiple people in the theater used that word. But not so much with the slasher style tension. It's just a gripping story. Well acted, well paced, great story telling, and an interesting subject matter. I'm normally an escapist kinda' film fan that enjoys CG monsters and... well.. awesome CG in general. This is the completely opposite of such films (not a spec of CG in sight-- apparently made on a budget less then $1 mil) although it doesn't go so far as to be based on a specific real life event. Which is good.

    I don't want to say too much about the story because knowing nothing allows it to unfurl wonderfully. I want to recommend it but it's both tense and intense in an emotional way. I would say if you like "movies" that can be "complicated", you should see it. Not a whole lot really happens in thriller-ish way... It's all about the characters. But that's good. The film doesn't really need to be seen on the big screen, but I would recommend seeing it in the theater anyway. Give Mr. Durkin money so he can continue to make excellent films like this. I would say that I walked away from the film contemplating things. Some things about the story and some things about the complications of life.

    In the end, let me use comparisons to describe it rather then a direct potentially spoiler-y description. Character interaction like Rachel Getting Married (Jonathan Demme) with tension flavored like Funny Games (Michael Haneke). I felt an anxiousness similar to what I feel in a Tarantino film, but Adam disagreed.

    The Talk : Hosted by the irritating fellow whose name escapes both Adam and I at the moment, but who've suffered through before. Thankfully he asked few questions and the ones he did weren't that painful. Highlight of his flubbing : "Next question... the gentleman in the back.... I mean lady.... ... ... I mean man" when addressing a single individual whose gender was in no way ambiguous in my opinion (other then some shoulder length blond hair).

    The director was awesome. He wasn't hilarious like some directors we've seen, or overly insightful or deep-- despite attempted prodding from the audience (a you-had-to-be-there joke). But he was very coherent, gave lengthy and valuable answers, and overall seemed like he had a very good head on his shoulders. The film had been made with less then a million in budget, stemming from six investors. Very start-up-y, which is cute. This is his first feature length film (two shorts previous). He wrote the script himself and said he was loosely inspired/helped by a friend (of a friend?) who had gone through a cult experience. The cult no so much, but the emotional reactions and confusion afterwards. Also he appears rather shy and nervous in his posture and mannerisms, but it in no way reached his words or voice.

    The actress was also awesome. This is surprising since often at the events we've attended the actors tend not to... contribute that much. To be fair, they are often given shittier questions. Elizabeth Olsen (yes, of *those* Olsens... she's a younger sister... which they mentioned not once- only realized it via imdb) seems just as practical and level headed as the director. She made it clear she enjoyed the roll but in no way associated with "method" acting. It was also interesting to hear that the script she was given was so precise and complete that she never really improvised or need help figuring out the character. It was all right there, in the script. As a fellow audience member mentioned, I too would be very interested in reading a copy of said script. A great speaker who took initiative and control of the conversation at points, in a good way. The talk of how well the grew got along during filming and what a great "family" they were was hilarious in my opinion given what we just saw.