Monday, August 24, 2015

4th Terminus Quilt aka Decision Fatigue

While snapshots of quilt progress have littered my Tumblr and it pops up frequently in conversations about what I'm doing, I apparently failed to blog about it here. Given that I finally started the quilting part this last week, I figure now's a good time to do so.

Quilt Sandwich!

The project has been percolating in my brain for a while, not sure exactly how long. There were many motivators/reasons behind it:

  • I was on the prowl for a new quilt project. I apparently need a very personal, focused reason to work on one (the Scrabble Board quilt and Pythagorean Theorem quilt remain unfinished- not abandoned but decidedly low low low priority)
  • Nate said the game was going to end this year and I thought it was worth commemorating
  • I've known about Spoonflower since 2008 and have just been waiting for the perfect project to come along so that I could try them out
  • I love generating artwork for the games I play
  • I've long desired to have more practice/reason to embroider phrases. My font is kinda' ugly, but whatever. Still learning, practice makes perfect.

Iconography Print Medical Print Science Print Gun Print

Looking back over posts and emails, the timeline looks approximately like this:

  • Late 2014, I get it into my head to do a 4T quilt featuring the transit map and the character silhouettes I've drawn
  • Jan 21st 2015, pestered Nate till we got a revised/blessed/final take on the transit map. Posted to Tumblr.
  • Early February 2015, pulled both Suko & Nate into the project for feedback/input. Good decision.
  • Late March 2015, started designing first pair of custom prints. Posted to Tumblr
  • Mid April 2015, designed final pair of prints.
  • Late April 2015, decided to undertake the task of embroidering every chapter title for boarder. Posted to Tumblr.
  • May 3rd 2015, first test yard of fabric arrives. So strange to see digital content brought into reality. Posted to Tumblr.
  • May 28th 2015, bulk fabric order arrives! So much pretty, all of my choosing! Posted to Tumblr.
  • May 31st 2015, cut and sewed the blocks together. Then settled into the long slog of embroidering all the chapter titles. Posted to Tumblr.
  • July 29th, 2015, buckled down and did pile of work, most notably sewing down the transit line. Posted to Tumblr.
  • August 21st 2015, finished back, slapped some batting between the piece, and started quilting! Verified that, yes, my stupid bulky quilting frame is actually exceptionally awesome/useful. Posted to Tumblr.

So exciting!

It has been a fun and educational process. It also has been extremely exhausting. Every fucking step along the way has been a decision point. Which fabric color to pair with each chapter title? Which color tones to use for the prints so they are visible but not too attention-grabbing? Which shade of red? Which shade of purple? How wide to make the lines? Which characters will stand next to each other? Which chapter titles will surround them?

See the idea come together

This number of decisions and their continuous nature (as opposed to all being resolved at the start) differs greatly from my (admittedly little) quilting experience so far. Now that I'm onto the quilting bit, it feels as if a weight has been lifted. There are very few decisions left. Before me now is just the clear, uncomplicated work of stitching along lines that I have already decided upon. I remain happy, but am glad to have finally clear the worst of it.

Making it happen

The take aways from the project so far:

  • Let it go. Just decide on something. Something is better than nothing.
  • Spoonflower is great! Higher contrast produces better results.
  • Wash away fabric pens were kinda' a let down. Wound up using mostly white charcoal art pencil to outline most my text
  • Rotary cutters FTW. We already knew that. Never hurts to repeat great advice though. I finally upgraded to a super-large cutting mat. I feel like a grownup.
  • Always buy more solid colored fabric than they think you'll need. It never hurts to have too much and it hurts A LOT to not have enough.
  • I don't like the long-stitch/split stitch font I chose for my chapter titles. Next time I want a smaller back stitch for my text. (something to keep in mind for the Pythagorean Theorem quilt)
  • I invested in those plasic perfect circles for my station dot applique. No regrets. They didn't turn out perfect, but that's my fault I think. Next time I need a smaller running stitch when basting around the edge, for the gather.
  • Adam is a good sport for letting me litter so many craft supplies about the house for this, for so long. The drying rack has been in the TV room for several months now with the chapter titles and fabric prints draped over it.
  • Learning how to make repeating patterns in Photoshop makes me happy.

The quilt top

It's just... really, really exciting to have an idea in my head spool out so damn slowly and yet stay as I envisioned it. It's just a collage quilt, but it's a project I'm proud of. Few endeavors strain and stretch my creativity in so many different ways, it's a feeling I highly value.

Monday, August 17, 2015

1870: The Board Game

Resource management games can be found on both computer and on the board. I prefer the board variant because there's a limit to how much time you can sink into it before the game ends. Yes, I've had a couple Civ video game binges, but I never come out of those feeling good. And while you can video game with friends, it's better in person over a board.

1870 sort of puts this to the test. Unlike other super-long board games it doesn't overly rely on randomness (Risk) or excessive politicking (Diplomacy) which I'm no good at. It however far exceeds any normal board game in duration. How far? I've no idea. We've tried to play it twice so far and after 6+ hours each time we've yet to reach the end. We've yet to even really get the end in sight. Rather than infuriate me, I'm more determined than ever to play it through (and win, damnit! I'm a winner. Things are gonna change, I can feel it.)

One of the best things about the game is the ridiculous complexity that all sort of makes sense. It seems like half the game is just learning and remembering the rules. Towards that end I whipped a cheat sheet for our second attempt this last weekend.

They're meant to be 5.5" x 4"- here's the Google Doc Cheat Sheet that has them laid out 4 a page.

Above is the "Operating" phase, below is the "Stock" phase (aka, excellently named the President and Person phases by Allison)

Why is such complexity tolerable? I'm not sure. Maybe once we finally reach the end I'll throw my hands up in disgust and come to the same conclusion that I have with Power Grid. Why play resource management games at all? There's just some sort of itch that it scratches... the idea that it can all be done correctly. Both times I've played so far I feel like I failed not due to a bad draw or poor luck or because someone was uncooperative (try as some might to be a thorn in the side), but rather because I fucked up. And if I fucked up that means maybe next time I wont fuck up and then I'll win. And then I'll have won because I'm a winner and I did it best.

But who knows... maybe next time we'll actually reach "mid-game" phase and I'll be able to get a better read on things. To give you an idea of how little progress we made, here's two pictures from our first game.

They're almost 4 hours apart. Can you see how not-covered by tiles that board is? Yeah. Next time... or maybe the one after that...

Interested in the rules? Check them out over at the publisher's site.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Extracting comments from Google Docs

One of the best parts about Google Docs is the whole easy-to-share aspect of it, which includes an excellent commenting system.

Google will happily let you export your document, but this extra info is harder to get ahold of. From the drop-down menu you can currently export your file as: PDF or RTF (has formatting, lacks any comments), TXT (has comments, lacks formatting), or HTML (has comments and formatting). However, check out what the HTML output looks like:

That's really close to what I want, but it lacks the highlighting to indicate exactly what the comment is referencing. Or does it?

Here I've marked up all the <p> tags with a green border and all the <span> tags in blue. You can see that there are spans wrapping the formatted text, but also where the highlighted text would be. Most notably, see how "obnoxious" is split across two tags.

Unfortunately, there's no markup in the <span>s themselves to indicate which comment it goes with. There's the tag/link right after it, which will have to be enough.

<sup><a href="#cmnt1" name="cmnt_ref1">[a]</a></sup>

But now, how to tell how many of those previous span tags, working back from the link, is part of the comment? For that, you gotta' lean on the Google Drive API. Specifically, the comment's list endpoint.

Look at that! It even has the user who made the comment and the timestamp. All we could ever want. It also indicates there was a reply, which the [b] comment is. The important field it has though is context. It doesn't tell me *where* in the document that context is (that's okay, we've got the HTML) but it does tell us how much of the content the comment spans.

And that's it. Well, the basics at least. From there, it's a bunch of corner cases about character escaping and sticking together the spans the right way so you can match the context string. Haven't ironed all those out yet, myself.

For some specific examples (and some gnarly code) you can checkout some segments of my project on Github, specifically grabbing file information, content, and comments and pairing comment with highlighted text in a very brittle way.

If there's a better way to do this, I was unable to find it and would love to hear about it! Seems odd that it was this convoluted... am likely missing something.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

One Month In

So I've had a month to myself now. Have I squandered it? Probably. Lets review:

Visit all the public library branches in SF.

Am at 10 of 28 now.
Library Progress : 1
I've picked off all the easy ones, they're just getting further and further away from here on out. Mostly the western half of the city left, with a few far north and south to check out. I still believe it's a good idea, gets me out of the house. I've discovered that the Teen section of the library is much larger than I thought/remembered it was. There's apparently a non-trivial section/genre called 'Urban Teen' that I've never encountered before. Also, the graphic novel section is pretty neat. And there's a *lot* of romance novels there, more than I even expected.

Today I flipped through Emily Post's enormous Etiquette book. It was fun and enlightening.

Try to walk more than 5 miles a day.

Working out reasonably well... Travel had an impact, but I'm not beating myself up over it.
Fitbit Data
One thing that I find particularly interesting is that it's not so much that the distances increased that much (I used to walk to and from work, and then frequently out to dinner or activities), but that the "active time" is what most noticeably jumped up. Even sitting at home crafting or cooking, I'm moving around around so much more than when I sit and code.

Finish piecing/appliqué of quilt so I can start actually quilting it (and taking it with me when I travel).

Quilt progress continues, slower than I'd like. But it is progressing. There's just so much work to do. I still have about 7 station dots to sew down. And two track bends to correct. And some more border to piece together. And then the whole thing to assemble. And then the back to assemble. And then the quilting can begin. And then, yeah, there's that whole second quilt I'd like to kick off real soon here. Hmmm. Quilt progress, as it comes along, can best be tracked via the #quilt tag over on my Tumblr.

Wrap head around food/cooking.

Eh, going reasonably well. I cooked chicken for the first time ever in the oven. Pathetic, but at least I'm trying to correct the situation. I made some super awesome sourdough bread using just starter recently. Sour and chewy and delightful. Am going to take another stab at it soon.
Super tasty sour dough

Draw more.

Fucking failure. A huge gaping hole in my pretty picture of intentions. I don't know what's wrong with me. I've sat down several times, both at the Cintiq and with my pencils. Aside form Dr. Sketchy's, I've not been able to produce anything. It's getting to be a little disturbing... Not tracked in inital post, but worth mentioning:
  • Code for fun : going quite well. Have been really enjoying my Google Doc-to-LaTeX document converter project. Will make a stand alone post for that soon. Just got set up today (Tuesday) to run locally so I can start working on that again. Gah, I've forgotten how much I for (no good reason, really) dislike Backbone. Also, after bumping into a swarm of ex-Rdio co-workers, one after another, I feel an urge to clean up my animation patch for Thor. There's also some inventory management system project mentioned in passing by Logan and the joke-but-maybe-not-a-joke idea of contracting for a friend. And finally I'm starting to bump into enough minor nits that I don't like about Stalk like Stecker that I might need to re-write it.
  • Be more social : Seems to be going reasonably well. I have friends. They're pretty fucking awesome. They'll even hang out with me some times. There are things on the calendar. A number of them. I'm excited. Will post separately about it so as to not forget. Remember, future Rebecca. Life and friend can be good.

(written Tuesday night)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


"Keep your shit together," I tell myself as I gaze at the limbless bust of a male mannequin. "I'm past all this. I have all the miscellaneous art crap I need." And then I wander down the next aisle. And I lose my shit.

A little slice of heavy, in Scrap

It's a meltdown with screaming and sobbing in delight. All in my head. Externally I calmly ask the lady next to me where the bags are because I stand before a wall packed tight with fabric scrap rolls and there's a sign that says 15 for $1. I feel tears of joy prick my eyes.

She points me in the right direction. Her glasses rest cartoonishly low on her nose. Because it's the way things are, we start talking. She repeatedly invites me to join the SFQG. I smile and express interest and will never do more than glance dismissively a the website. We ask about each other's projects. She makes scarves out of beautiful fabric bits. I find it hard to express the quilt idea but she helpfully and insightfully suggests that it sounds like a collage project. Old people, they're so smart!

We both discuss how the real value and emotion is in the process, not the final project. She leaves. I spend the next REDACTED minutes picking up fabric, stroking it, sometimes putting it in my bag, some times putting it back on the shelf only to do it all again several more times. I leave with only 30 small roles. I will be back.

A dangerous wall

I return less than a week later. I leave with fewer rolls but more fabric. There is no more purple fabric left.

If you want to live dangerously, I highly recommend checking out Scrap in SF. It's not just a fabric store. It's an everything-I've-always-wanted-to-hoard-for-potential-art-project store.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Kiel, Wisconsin as a True Detective location

For family reasons, I spent five days in Kiel, Wisconsin. It was interesting. It was hard. My phone had weak signal and no data. The only wifi I could connect to was at the public library. There is no Starbucks, the only chain here is a Dairy Queen, and I spent a lot of time quilting. Things improved when, on the suggestion of a friend in passing, I looked at the town through the lends of True Detective (season 1 only, 2 does not exist). Here are some photos and notes that I took.

My Handiwork

Walking down a road. On my left there’s a hum on power lines, on the right is the rustling of leaves in the wind. Down the road there is what looks to be an abandoned housing development. Bird cries and cicadas. The roar of Harelyes and trucks.

Everyone sees you. They are looking, they are watching, and you will know it. Unlike in San Francisco, where you can walk passed someone a foot away and their eyes will not track you, in Kiel there will be eye contact. And possibly a smile.

The Tracks

Of course the truck that drove, at speed, down the gravel road had a billowing confederate flag off the back of it. True, there’s some sort of printed text over the flag but... I’m skeptical that it was a statement condemning the flag it crossed.

There are many discussions about food. What did you eat? What did they eat. Opinions about the quality of food, how filling it was, and how much it cost. Is there really anything else to talk about?

The Marsh

The yards are large. Each house has one to five trees on it, and these are not light weight trees. These are testaments to how long this neighborhood has stood. These old houses’ architecture harkens back to German architecture, houses built by folks to remind them of where they came from, lived in by people who will never go there. All of the houses have basements and I am continuously reminded of Silence of the Lambs.

We’re in the back of a church-run thrift store. It’s a flock of old ladies, ranging in age from old to very old. There’s whispered discussion about how the church is trying to raise four million for a new roof or some such and folks are going to start to go door to door, asking for funds. There’s also the pie stand at the city fair to raise funds. One of the women scowls and mutters under her breath that she’s not going to bring a pie this year. Moments later a lady across the room loudly asks what pie she’s baking this year. “Oh, I don’t know yet...” the first calls back with a smile.


The women fill out nicely here. And then they keep filling in.

There are signs of breeding everywhere. People aren’t having just one kid and there’s whole jungle gyms being constructed for each brood. Toys litter all doorsteps and yards. The names are listed here on sign-posts in the yard. Custom little wooden slats, presumably hanging in birth order, one under the other. It’s unclear what happens to the dead.

A Family of Artists

On Wednesday, I started talking aloud to myself.

Don't get me wrong, it was great to see family. I got a tour of my Uncle's office and saw a picture hanging on the wall, made by my cousin in his youth. My heart warmed to see how fucking creepy it looked. Talking to my blood... forever interesting. My Aunt said something that struck me, something about "that typical Stecker coddling" in regards to making a sport of watching their friend dying of ALS trying to eat. You know, in a friendly way. Sounded very much like something I would say.

The Scene

I found myself walking a lot, to get out of the house, to get away from the TV, to not go mad, to not get mad. On one of my walks I wandered by the Sheboygan river that snakes through town. Giving into a whim, I constructed a hanging stick triangle construction, binding it with just river grass and hanging it from a tree. You know, to reflect my thoughts onto the landscape.

The towns sprawl until they just sort of peter out for no discernible reason. A thin sort of sprawl. Crawling but uncrowded across the rolling landscape. Panning shots of residential girds bursting with trees. Patchwork fields on the horizon. I am so happy to be flying home.