Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Gift Quilt

The Christmas season has been survived. Let there be rejoicing! Now I can share with the 'Net what I've been spending the last month working on.

This quilt is based on the "Nough Said" Layer Cake Quilt posted over on the Moda Bake Shop site and was designed by the talented Cindy Sharp. It's a ~ 67" x 67" machine pieced quilt made for my youngest sister Lindsey. I did a bit of hand quilting of the yellow & orange diagonals, but not all of them due to time. Oops.

Lindsey knew I was working on a quilt for her but I didn't discuss much with her beyond collecting the initial input. She wanted "Arizona" colors: turquoise, red, tan. And black, which I forgot. She likes "traditional" looking quilts and "geometric" ones... presumably she would have liked more triangles but I had just seen Cindy's quilt posted when I was about to start and couldn't shake the urge to try it. It's my first quilt pattern followed and I've learned a lot.

There were some hiccups along the way. First the flooding of the basement, which mangled a couple squares. Then my killer cold, which made bending over a sewing machine and breathing at the same time rather difficult. Then I bought not enough border fabric- first time ever. Then I ran out of time quilting the already limited area I planned to quilt. I purchased fabric 11/15, finished cutting 11/28, started piecing 12/12, finished piecing 12/19, and wrapped it up on 12/23.

Overall I'd rank it as a success. Never would have gotten it done in time if I hadn't been unemployed. I've no desire to rush anything like that again, but I am interested in perhaps trying another one at a slower pace that I get to keep this time. Never mind the fact that the Catan Quilt still isn't "officially" done-- not all the tiles have snaps, nor have all the snap bases been added to the quilt.

I'm most happy with the border- which came about due to two failures on my part. First- I've never cut 2.5" squares before and it's soooooooo easy to do that I cut quite a number more then I needed. I wound up with enough to edge the entire quilt, and then some. I also, as mentioned, didn't nab enough border fabric and was forced to fill in the gaps with scrap yellow/orange pieces. These things combined really makes the quilt pop I feel. The strong blue/orange contract is definitely a Rebecca-ism I couldn't prevent from leaking in.

I wish I'd gotten better "final product" photos. Alas. The colors are somewhere between the flash brightened images and the blurry muted no-flash images. I hope the images remain available- they're in a Google+ album... not sure how good of long-term that solution is. Not pictured (how?!) is the backing fabric which was a PERFECT print of cow skulls, lizards, and red diamonds. Very Arizona and it matched the top colors dead on.

Some of the things learned along the way:

  • Iron. Iron everything. Iron before sewing, iron after sewing. Leave the iron on the entire time you're at the machine.
  • Rotary cutting is amazing. I already knew this, but it was a refresher course. Also- having exactly the right plastic guide shapes helps a lot.
  • It never hurts to have & cut extra pieces
  • Always collect input from others when picking out fabric in the store- even if you only have strangers on hand
  • Never spare thread. Always sacrifice thread in place of time/effort. Tangle? SNIP IT- don't bother to untangle it. Always cut more then you think you need when quilting by hand.
  • Quilting cotton is not that expensive. DO NOT SKIMP. Having extra is so calming and I *know* I'll find a use for it- in this case it was "sooner" rather then "later".

The important thing is that Lindsey claims to love the quilt. She said it was a good "Rebecca take on Lindsey interests" or something like that. I hope she enjoys it and puts it to good use while studying.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Happy Holidays : 2012

2012 SF Christmas Tree
Christmas is almost there. Hard to feel the season in San Francisco with its year-round crowds of shoppers, non-stop sunshine, and international and not particularly "seasonal" selection of food. Adam and I did at least secure a tree on the 2nd to get in the spirit of things.

I miss our midget tree of last year with its popcorn and yarn. This year has candy canes, official glass ornaments, and Adam's dapper hat as a tree topper for lack of anything better.

Spending my free time getting pummeled by a cough & cold. Ick. Did manage to get a lot of gift shopping done early though, which is nice. Presents wrapped more then 24 hours in advance! How novel!

All craft energies (which have not been lost to said cold) are being channeled into secret home-made-gift which will be mentioned after the 25th.

In other news I accepted an offer at Rdio. Am very psyched for a number of reasons. Some of which are : everyone I've met so far has been super awesome, I actually use the service on a daily (near hourly!) basis, and it's approx. 10 blocks away from where I live. My first day should be Jan. 7th... wow...

On that note, let me link to the top songs stuck in my head this month on repeat.

  • Thrift Shop (feat. Wanz) by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
    Just too much fun. TOO. MUCH. FUN. (I enjoy several other tracks on The Heist as well- Ten Thousand Hours, Same Love, Wing$, Starting Over)
  • Revival (DJ Skee & THX Remix) by Neil Davidge
    Good electronic/techno music is soothing to the soul

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The joy of a fine looking gentleman

Dr. Sketchy's was last night*! Again I must state that it makes me stupidly happy to attend the event and that ever lasting mad props needs to go out to Alice Stribling and Diane Olivier for all the hard work they put into organizing it.

Last night's theme was Dapper Tweed Gentlemen and our models were the delightful Colin Fahrion and heavenly Randal Alan, both of whom I'm sure I've seen about the city at some point. Colin runs SF Tweed Ride, something I'm going to keep an eye on going forward. They were ambitious models who struck great poses and held them like pros. Costume changes abound and a hearty soundtrack (of course featuring Fighting Trousers) made it one of the best Dr. Sketchy's in a long time- and there have been some mighty fun ones this year so that's no trivial feat!

Dapper gentlemen : Contest entry
Brought my Inkling pen out in full force (also intentionally forgetting my pen purse at home so that I couldn't back out). The sketches definitely were weaker no doubt in part due to lack of practice but also because the ballpoint ink in the pen isn't that fancy and the sketch looked a little weak. Oogled some lovely brush pens people were doing and had to struggle to not convert. Wonder if I can get different/heavier/darker ink...

Dapper gentlemen : sketches
I cheated and used pencil for the rough base sketching, but I think it helped more then hurt. The No Maps picture was my entry into the 60 Days Around The World contest and I placed first! Booyah. I pieced together the bits to resemble the original sketch, but a lot is missing. Digital coloring is so not my thing... The gentlemen are in their shorts because the 2 20 minute poses were somewhat "Strip Poker" themed. There was a brawl poise pair for the 10 minutes as well as a billards shoot and a penny farthing mounting. Shirts were ripped, umbrellas used, and the line "Lay back and think of England" put to good use.

Finally found the photography of Mr. Johnny Crash, our session photographer. He takes great photos, people. Seriously, check him out. His Dr. Sketchys SF gallery is a great representation of how awesome it is to attend the event.

One of the things he has started to do this year is photographing the contest entries as well as the winners. Very kind of him- nothing makes you feel more like a winner then getting your photo taken. And let me say, I know this, for I shall be a smug bitch and now proceed to list/link to the (small) set of photos of me winning. (for the record, there used to be two sessions a month)

Thus concludes my gloating.

Now, seriously, if you enjoy sketching or dapper gentlemen, you should go check out Johnny Crash's gallery for this session

* Written Wed 12/5/12, delayed in posting so that Johnny Crash might update his photo gallery for further images for me to link to.
Saw Randle at the Dicken's Fair on 12/09/12. He was well dressed and "acting" in the home of Charles Dickens- a set from which I'd been shooed away from in previous years by being called a street urchin while I looked through the window. :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

New Powers

So I have finally bought an Inkling.

What is an Inkling? It's a product by Wacom- makers of fantastical tablets for digital drawing- that is an actual real life pen and sensor combo that digitally records sketches. This is different from the AMAZING Livescribe pen which is great for text and audio (for, say, lectures or meetings!) but only works on special paper (the science behind it is really neat). Wacom works on any paper and is basically magic.

The Inkling came out around this time last year and it was for about 5 seconds a big hit. And then it imploded. If you see side-by-side comparisons between the original sketches and the results it's wince worthy horrible (especially by people who don't respect the requirements-- like line of sight between sense and pen for one thing). If your style of sketch is a single pure line, this is not the product for you. Luckily I am more forgiving. When using a pen, I do the scribbly sketch style (not as well as some) but enough scribbles that the occasional drift looks just fine.

The Inkling product is lovely, compact, and just what I need given my apathy these days for scanning in artwork. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with all my digital doodles though. I feel that my posting of many sketches in college helped me maintain artistic momentum, which I desire, but I lack the copious quantity of angsty posts to go with them. Am contemplating a tumblr account for just images... (although the odds of me posting an image without going "blah blah blah" are rather slim.)

The images are recorded at stupid high resolution- click on the above image of the Hugz Monster and then download the image to see the full scale of what maybe a 3"x3" sketch on paper. At least you can see that the lines are pressure sensitive as advertised. I've found that routinely reducing down to 12% brings the image down to near (enough) the original size and looks best.

I've consciously decided not to post side-by-side comparisons. The originals look better then the digitizations, but dwelling on that is not productive. I need to just focus on working with what I got.

I enjoyed using it at last night's gaming session- I always doodle during them and it's cute to be able to access the results so easily. Game sketches are often low on quality but highly pleasing to me for the memories they trigger.

I've taken to carrying it with me all the time now so anything is possible.

Along with the Inkling, I am always and even more so carrying my Kindle around. Have I ranted here yet about how much I love that damn thing? (joking- I know I have) Made super good use of it during my recent trips, travels, and not-working-ness. I hope that the sketching and reading can be tied together... For example, a doodle covering my "Ugly Boys" reading (as opposed to my "Red Women" selection)

  • Immortal Lycanthropes - I absolutely love the style of writing in this- grab the Kindle sample and you'll see what I mean. Ugly characters make me smile. The world and story were interesting, the action fast paced, and the conclusion cute and neatly tied up. (avoid being spoiled at all costs) This is a stand alone novel about a young boy and shape shifters. No romance, just action and fun writing. Recommended!
  • Warm Bodies - around the time I saw the horrible World War Z trailer, I also saw a trailer for the movie adaptation of this book. It looked cute and I had the time (12 hours on a plane back to be exact) so I grabbed it. It's amusing and fun like cotton candy. The ending is rather sloppy and doesn't make that much sense, but that's not the point you're reading it for. Zombie/Human RomCom story. Recommended for die hard zombie or cute YA romance book fans.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Fall 2012 Europe trip

Upon recent reflection, both Adam and I are somewhat appalled with how much travel we've done this year. That sort of life style isn't really "us" and I think we both look forward to doing less next year. As silly as that may sound.

This most recent trip was mostly due to Adam needing to go to Munich, Germany for work and then to Lyon, France for a conference. It was a great motivator for me to finally quit my job (something I'd been talking about doing for quite some time) and away we went for 3 weeks in late October to Europe.

A lovely collection of photos from the trip has been posted to my Flickr account over here.

I could have many comments on the trip in abstract, many of which I wrote down in order to help myself sleep, but a fragment of what I wrote summarizes it best -- "This I think about frequently when I'm across an ocean. It doesn't feel right, but no one wants to hear that." I had a good time, but not a great time. So lets focus on the highlights:

  • Munich, Germany : 10/21 to 10/26 & 11/4 to 11/11 : Downtown feels like a giant shopping mall. There are great museums. I went on a bike tour and it was fun. Sadly the weather was shit.
    Bike Tour! Beer! Drama!
  • Strasbourg, France : 10/27 to 10/28 : We showed up and it was snowing. Balls. The cathedral there was lovely in the snow however and climbing the next day with improved weather was delightful. Two days/one night seemed like the idea duration for a visit. We went on a boat tour- it was touristy but warm and therefor fun. It was great to get the chance to visit a place we passed up during our 2006 Europe tour.
    So excited! View from the water
  • Lyon, France : 10/28 to 11/1 : As much as I can love a French-speaking place, I loved Lyon. It reminded us both of Seattle. The weather improved for the first time and I enjoyed my chance to walk about. Turns out museums about printing aren't the best idea... it's just like reading a text book smeared throughout several rooms. Informative! but sadly not well suited to the medium. I reconnected with my childhood love of Special Effects.
    Beauty For Nate Church on a hill
  • Switzerland is awesome. Best non-English speaking place yet. Looks like Colorado with French countryside draped over it. So damn beautiful, I can seem myself going back another time. Turns out start of November is a terrible time to visit. The 4 day Swiss pass worked out perfectly for us.
    • Geneva : 11/1 : shitty natural history museum, perfect science museum! Pretty town
      Sock Probability! Rebecca has arrived Cuddly
    • Montreux : 11/1 to 11/2 : We stayed up on the hill that night and learned two things [1] Cheese fondue is definitely a thing in Switzerland but not chocolate fondue. Insane [2] It is possible to eat yourself ill with cheese fondue. Luckily I know my cheese limit.
    • Zermatt : 11/2 : Trains are awesome! Mountains are awesome! Everything is made of happiness and joy. And really expensive.
      Awestruck Adam's so high!
    • Bern : 11/2 : Bears! There is a bear park! Best balance between bear happiness and humans' need to gawk that I've seen. Cute town!
      Contemplate Switzerland
    • Lucern : 11/2 to 11/3 : Sometimes just walking into a hotel and asking for a room works out really well. Cute tiny natural history museum, lovely bridges, fantastic transit museum.
      Transit! Swiss clocks Touching
    • Zurich : 11/3 : lame
    • Stein am Rhein : 11/3 to 11/4 : Adorable tiny little tourist towns appear to be the right speed for Adam and Rebecca. Riding cows is great fun. It's hard for farmers in Switzerland. Train back to Munich was hell.
      Rejoice! Tails

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Some basic mental warmups

Am back in Munich for another week. Switzerland was exceptionally lovely and fun. More words and photos on that later.

Have finally started spending some quality time with my laptop, trying to kick my brain back into shape. Decided some simple math/graphics projects would be a good warmup. I know that I'll need to tumble into the interview circuit at some point soon and I know I *can* be good at it... but it (at least the white-boarding part) is definitely a skill that I need to retrain up.

On a whim I was interested in animating vines unfurling/growing. Some basic Googling failed to provide me any existing algorithms so I had to figure out what I want. Turns out the Logarithmic spiral [x = aebtcos(t), y = aebtsin(t)] is what I wanted (as opposed to the Archimedean spiral) and so I waded into battle against Javascript, logarithms, and trigonometry. As I put it to Adam last night, it felt like I was doing one pound dumbbell curls with my brain. It was hard (despite being simple) but I felt good when things finally fell into place.

Used jsfiddle when working, which was pleasing. Here's the link in case this iframe doesn't work...

If you go to the Result tab you'll see the demo curl I made. Am still struggling to wrap my brain around what all of the parameters do/mean but this widget makes it a little easier. Next step: cleaning up the code and diving into b-splines (which, I will confess, I have already found helpful code/algorithms for here, for the vines)

Interesting (to me?) to look back at the little things I stumbled over:

  • Omg- trig! Bane of my high school math experience! The problem I ran into here was that I wanted to rotate the spiral so that I could hold it's "tail" in a fixed position. (left alone it just spirals around the origin). That meant I spent *at least* half an hour trying to solve for θ (x′, x, and y being known) : x′ = xcos(θ)-ysin(θ) I was pulling my hair out trying to figure out how to isolate that fucking θ... the key to success was realizing I was solving for when x′ was 0 and that sine over cosine is a tangent. Sounds simple, but that took some time...

  • I swear, every time I look at the canvas element and then look away, I forget everything. Another (smaller) stumble I had was keeping everything on the canvas... turns out that when you've got logarithmic stuff, things just fly off the page with astounding speed. Took longer then I'd like to admit to figure out what value I need to scale to and then to remember/realize the scale method call had to happen before the path. (turns out putting the scale right before the .stroke() doesn't get you much). Also had to remember to scale line width. If you check out the equation for the spiral you'll see that the value a is supposed to scale it... which I realized later, but found that the animation was smoother when I let the canvas scale it rather then squishing the equation myself.

  • Pinning x=0 to one location was pretty neat, but wasn't actually the look I wanted (the spiral sat atop the point rather the to the right of it as I hoped) so I had to add in a "tail". The fact that I STILL can't figure out how to just solve the equation for a value when x is, like, -50 or something shames me but... whatever. I just manually added a fixed number of "steps" and computed that end point. Lame, but some times programming is about finding a solution and moving on rather then dwelling on the optimal solution mid-project.

  • As I move out of jsfiddle and try to make this code usable, I'm finding Javascript Function Invocation Patterns to be a fun/helpful read. I feel like I know most of it, but it has helpful points/gotchas.

In other news :

  • I am now 29.

  • I saw Skyfall last night. It was pretty sweet. Highly recommended if you're an action/Bond fan. Best Craig!Bond by far, plus evil!Javier Bardem. That man is golden, no matter how bad of hair-cut you put on him! Vague internet rumors of Idris Elba as a potential future Bond make me happy and maintains my interest in the franchise. I loved Noamie Harris in this film as well, she plays kick-ass so well (see: 28 Days Later)

  • I rode a cow this last Sunday.

  • I wish I didn't like Taylor Swift but damnit, I do.

  • The US Presidential elections. Need I say more? Adam and I will be up, watching late tonight, as the polls close in the US. We both voted before we left. GO VOTE. I WILL THINK LESS OF YOU IF I EVER FIND OUT YOU DON'T VOTE (of course I'm pro-Obama, but having things/people I don't like pass/win is much easier to swallow if there's high voter turnout. Then that *really* means "the people" want such a (stupid/silly/evil) thing... but when (stupid/silly/evil) things pass/win with low voter turnout it's just... really fucking depressing)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Gaming withdrawl...

Jaya has subdued the mysterious stranger

My friends and I are in the middle of a free-form table top game that has gone on TOO LONG without a session. Seriously antsy here, folks. I desperately need to know what happens next. If a certain person by the name of N-------- F--- doesn't GM a session soon, I may have to, as one may say, "cut a bitch".

Above's illustration* is my vague recollection of where I last left my character-- Jaya had just subdued a mysterious woman where 'subdued' here means beat the shit out of and cuffed. If I recall correctly, her nose got broken in the process... Everyone else is exploring the room we're in and a mysterious hatch has just been opened, releasing a cloud of smoke/gas/vapor. WHAT IS IN THE HATCH?!? -- for the record, we're basically glorified BART police in a dystopian? post-apocalyptic? future/alt world.

In other news, let me try out Rdio's embedded functionality... Have I mentioned I love Rdio? Because I do. Gets me through the day! Anyway, not sure how well Blogger (or Reader?) + iFrames gets along...

First embedded attempt- Kiss With A Fist by Florence + The Machine (Jaya's theme song)

Second embedded attempt- my July/August 2012 playlist. Starts out epic/dancy/techno, heads into "good" lyrical territory, then swerves into crazy land at the end. I enjoy this pair of months' mix/breadth of music.

(Edit: Looks like it works! Plays 30 second clips of every track, which is certainly enough to get the idea of what each song is like)

* Insert obligatory disclaimer here about how I'm so out of practice sketching and I really mean to do more and get better. Course, I'm missing Dr. Sketchy's tomorrow much to my sorrow so... yeah... I'm really doing a great job there..

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Still Alive

I am still alive.

I was in New York two weeks ago.

I gave notice at work last Friday.

I moved this last Sunday.

I'm going on an extended trip to Europe shortly.

There's a lot of things going on in life that do not lend themselves to crafting/blogging/recreational coding. At some point (soon!) I'll be able to return to these activities.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Just one monster

[animated... wait for it...]

Finished my red monster... wired jaws and wired fingers make for happiness.

The dowels in his legs and the grippy mesh I sewed to the bottoms of his feets means he's very stable. Oddly hunched forward when he stands, but still stable. Arms are wired a bit. I almost didn't give him eyes, but he looked too unfinished without them. Also added a fuzzy tummy at the last minute to hide the oddly shaped body.

Don't have a lot to share. Some health issues reared up and ruined my week. Lame. At least I'm getting better. Yay for having health insurance!


Wish I had more to say. Better yet- more results to show what I've done... Tried to get scanner set up but it wasn't meant to be-- stupid thing is now headed towards the junk yard and I'm out a scanner. Not sure what I should do- I need a fladbed scanner if I do get one (none of those single page feeders) but I'm not sure I want to give up that much desk space. Does that just mean I'll never again scan a sketch? That feels... odd.

I guess the temporary solution is to start comp. sketching again. Which I have started! Got new craft room set up a bit- photos later.

In minor news, I saw my family in Wisconsin which was awesome. Visited my sister in Madison which turned out to be a far cooler city then expected. I LOVED THE ZOO!!! And it was free! Later, my mother and I had a bake-off and Adam told me he thought I won. Which was good to hear. (I think hers was better). Back to basicsIn other baking news I have failed one too many times at making cookies from scratch I'm in a self-imposed exile back into recipe land. Sad. Following recipes isn't all bad, I guess- I did manage to produce some tasty Mango chocolate chip cookies which definitely satisfies my "must not be easily store bought" requirement of food. There's another cooking party coming up this weekend- am not sure what to make yet but my brain gears are definitely a-grinding...

So... yeah... nothing much here. Not reading anything good, not listening to anything good, not watching anything good these days. Recommendations welcome.

[animated... wait for it...]

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Away-From-Things Time

Once again, hard to craft or code when I am not at home.

For one weekend I went berry picking with friends. On one hand it felt odd to pay for the privilege to pick berries- something I grew up doing in our back yard- and on the other it was so fun to be picking berries again! I delighted in all the blackberries I brought home. Pulled some of my Amish Bread Starter, mixed some things into it and got myself some dough. Rolled it out, laid out the super fresh berries, and rolled it up. Most tasty bread so far! (rather sweet)

That was one weekend, no time for crafting. Next up was my first trip to Yosemite ever. Went with a bunch of friends, interesting times. Forest MonsterSpent a lot of time reading. I recently stumbled across two new Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood books that I'd missed! Am caught up now on the book series (stopped watching the show mid season 3 and have no intention of resuming it) There is something immensely pleasing in those Stackhouse books... I think it has to do with how grounded the main character is and the amount of mundane life/detail describing her actions when she's not being hassled by vampires, weres, witches, and fairies.
Adam brought along his new guitar and he spent some time playing on it. Our friend Vince also played a number of tunes which was rather awesome.

The highlight, for me, of the trip was my first stab at camp baking. I brought 2 bags of starter (one sweet, one not), flour, some yeast, salt, oats, and dried fruit. I also picked up a Dutch Oven on the way out of town (What camping trip is complete without a final stop at REI?) I love my new Dutch Oven-- I actually greatly enjoy boiling water in it. I look forward to making some sort of soup thing next trip. This trip was bread though.
Camp fire bread!
It was... enlightening. I knew when we moved the *entire* fire onto the oven that it was a bad idea. But whatever. No regrets! After approx. 30 min I pulled it out to find the fruits of my labor. Once you got past the centimeter + thick crust of char there was some really tasty bread in there!
There was bread in there, somewhere
We also made bread-on-a-stick which turned out much better. In fact (since I used the sweet starter) it wound up standing in for the marshmallows that night. Took longer to toast, but it browned all nice like, just like a marshmallow. I was too impatient (no surprise) so mine was burnt outside and undercooked inside. Yaron however mastered it on his first attempt and made several rounds of tasty real (if tiny amounts) bread.