Planet Systers GSoC

October 07, 2015


OSB 2015 - Bringing Security to Your Open Source Project (Video & Slides)

This is crossposted from, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

I gave two talks at Open Source Bridge this year, and they’ve recently put the videos online. Here’s the more serious and informative of the two:

Bringing Security to Your Open Source Project

Abstract: With high profile breaches in open source projects, the issue of security has become one of great import to many people. But many projects, especially smaller ones, are intimidated by the idea of a security audit. This talk will discuss ways for smaller projects to experiment, learn, and even have fun improving their security. No PhDs in security required!

Video embedded below:

[ video Link] [youtube link]

I’m a bit sad that they cut out the introduction I got; it was pretty hilarious.

The motivation behind this talk is that when I tell people in open source communities that I do security for open source projects, I get a lot of interest but people always say they don’t know where to start and quite a lot of them buy into the idea that somehow just being open source makes you secure. That can be a big push towards security for some projects, but it’s not a panacea, so this talk is an intro to how to do a security hackathon and be welcoming to folk who want to help with your security.

[Bringing Security to Your Open Source Project (Slides)] The slides are in the video as well, but sometimes this is easier! If you look at the slides, you can also see a rough version of what I’d planned to say in the notes section.

One of these days I’ll transcribe the talk and set up a blog post with slides as images for folk who don’t aren’t into videos for whatever reason (I know I don’t watch very many myself unless I’m multitasking), but I thought I’d share the video first rather than wait. Hope you like it!

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October 07, 2015 04:13 PM

October 05, 2015


A simple hat in progress

This is crossposted from, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

Most of my energies have gone into the house lately, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been making things too, just that I haven’t had as much time for writing up of late. So here’s what’s currently on the needles while I start sorting through the backlog of photos and creations:

A simple hat in progress

This is from a little ball of Misti Alpaca that I picked up on the last day of my tatting class (more on that later!) as a treat. And it *is* a treat. I wish I could justify the cost and time of a sweater made out of this stuff — its light, soft, and seems pretty warm. Maybe someday.

The plan, half-executed, is to make a little tiny soft hat that can be stuffed in a jacket pocket. A thin tuque, I guess. Since it’s dark, it currently reminds me of what my sister and I called “crime hats” on Buffy (due to her penchant for putting on a tuque before doing anything vaguely criminal in a several episodes).

Pattern so far:

Yarn? Misti Tui from Misti Alpaca. Sport weight, chains of thin alpaca.

What’s the gauge? 6 st/inch on US 7 (4.5mm)

What’s my head circumference? Around 21 inches

Since I didn’t want much negative ease (i.e. stretch), that meant 21×6 = cast on 126 stitches

Brim ribbing: k3, p1, k1, p1 repeat 21 times

Repeat brim rows until you reach an inch or so then switch to stockinette

My plan is to continue the stockinette without decreases to make slight kitty ears. We’ll see how it works out!

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October 05, 2015 06:59 AM

October 04, 2015


Current state of the house/me

Sorry about the crummy and poorly written update, but since people keep asking me:
  1. Hardwood floors are in and don't stink so much any more from the finishing (it was really bad for a week or so)
  2. Tile floors are started, but the decorative tile bit is apparently slow-going. No ETA.
  3. Still no baseboards, but they'll happen after the tile is done.
  4. I still want to do one more coat on the laundry room but ugh, so tired of it all.
  5. Still some touch-ups where we got wall paint on the ceiling but I need John for some of them so they'll keep 'till after he's back.
  6. I think we're probably hiring pros for the rest.  Definitely for the tall parts, but we've been so wiped out lately that I think paying pros is the right compromise.
  7. Unpacking has started, but it's slow because I can't carry that much on my own and we don't want to put up all the shelving until the baseboards are in.
  8. There's still a *lot* of cleanup needed from the construction and reno; there's drywall and sawdust everywhere and tape and paint buckets and ladders in random locations around the house.
I'm without support this week to deal with cleanup and minor unpacking.  Let's be honest, I was without very much support last week too because he had demos to prep, and the week before that because he was getting artemis ready, and there was the week where J's parents were visiting (which was a nice break!) and there was some travel before that too.  J's doing the best he can given his travel schedule but between his travel and mine we're looking at only a handful of days of overlap where we're both in the same city for all of October.

We got some living room furniture up while we were both here so I can sit and read in my big comfy chair, and that's nice.  And now when I clean things they don't immediately get covered in sawdust or drywall, which is an amazing luxury that has not been true for all of September and some of August. Hopefully we'll be able to find a new cleaning service, but there's not much point at the moment.

I did get my desktop up and running so I can play video games for some escapism.  Still haven't found most of the cables or my keyboard and mouse, so it's kind of cobbled together and has no sound, but we made do last night.

Did some digital cleanup today too.  Reviewed a couple of ebooks that I won't repost here because frankly, they were both in need of editing (The down side to getting free books off the internet in exchange for fair review, I guess), but you can read them at that link if deeply flawed larpers and psycho-magical crime-fighting lesbian vs lovecraftian horrors are your kind of thing.  You'll be disappointed, though; I was.  Answered some emails that had been sitting in my inbox; if you were expecting an answer from me on the subject of something or other, re-send because I'm pretty sure I answered anything that still needed answering but I might have been heavy-handed with the archive button.  Declined some job interview related requests.  Unsubscribed from a lot of mailing lists, probably should unsubscribe from more since I'm not really reading them.

I've got a bunch of of posts I need to write and queue up on my maker blog, but not sure if I'll get started on those tonight.  Want to hit up the farmer's market and I'm betting once I'm outside coming back in to sit at a computer for hours won't seem so appealing!

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October 04, 2015 06:40 PM

September 14, 2015


Painting continues

Painting is much more fun now that we're past the annoying part of the ceiling. Because of all the holes the ceiling was retextured, and slightly off-white and stupidly obnoxious to get paint in all the nooks and crannies but impossible to see when it wasn't daylight. So yeah. Crankypants T and J. After 3 coats, it is looking ok, but I still kind of want to spray paint the ceiling downstairs rather than do this again.

Anyhow, main floor is starting to look good.
1. Hallway is now light blue (but needs another coat).

2. My office is mostly done in a lovey medium blue that turned out exactly like I'd hoped. We'll take the tape off tomorrow and do some touch up (mostly to cover a few blue spots on the ceiling).

3. The powder room is now a lovely teal that, as I hoped, goes pretty nicely with the wood in there. It also needs tape removal and touchup.

4. The laundry room and pantry ceilings are done (white, because the floor in there will be terracotta coloured tile and I didn't want to push J's colour palette too far) but only one wall of the laundry has a coat of paint on it, because we were rather eager to have a washing machine again (and the new machines are great! They even sing a little song when they're done, which is adorable.)

5. There's a couple of closets that need doing. I prepped one last night and J's dad gave it a first coat, but the other two aren't prepped.

That's all we're planning to do on that floor right now. I'm going to do the kitchen after I refinish the cabinets and know what colour they will be, and we're going to pay pros to do the two-storey parts of the house (living room, dining room, upper portion of the stairs and probably the hallway up there too because the walls connect). We're taking a break after this floor because coming home and painting every night is exhausting, and because the basement is full of stuff and it'll be easier when the main floors are done. Hopefully the flooring guys will be able to come in shortly after we get the painting done!

Other than that, got some stuff going on in lives that intersect my own that's going to make this a hard week, but please don't ask about it because it's not mine to share, just don't be surprised if I'm quiet at a time when you might think I'd be showcasing photos of the newly painted house.

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September 14, 2015 06:33 AM

September 10, 2015


Painting has begun

We got some minor dents and holes filled yesterday, and taped a lot of things today.

I have learend that scotch brand blue tape is inferior to 3m "original" blue tape (despite being made by the same people), because the former has "scotch blue" written all over it in yellow, making it much more annoying to see if you've got a nice straight edge.

We have a first coat of ceiling paint on my office, the hallway, and the powder room. The laundry and pantry are on the todo list and I actually got them taped but not painted. I hate textured ceilings a lot and look forwards to making paid professionals handle the 2-storey rooms, but I am trying to remind myself that the ceilings are the worst and it will be more fun when I get to the walls. Paid professionals likely can't show up 'till october and I am eager to be done with some of this before the flooring guys come back to finish.

Anyone who requests pics can click here.

(Actually, that's true any time. I'm a photographer, and I like taking pictures of things. So when I don't supply a picture, there is typically a reason. Seriously, I got asked for pictures of an entirely theoretical concept project that I had just invented while in the airport and I was not pleased.)

The plumber is coming tomorrow so there will at least be laundry again soon. I'm wishing John hadn't ripped out the laundry sink; it would be really useful right about now. (He plans to replace it but hasn't done so yet)

But yeah, exhausted, cranky, and do not want to hear about the bright side of anything from anyone unless you are willing to show up at my house for the next 4 days and paint.

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September 10, 2015 08:45 AM

September 08, 2015


#SheridanCommute: Morning hot air

Balloon LandingBack when we lived in Vermont, hot air balloons flying over the house and even landing in our field, were a fairly regular event for us due to our proximity to the tiny Post Mills airport. But they are rare here in Sheridan, or have been. I’ve heard this guy outside the house a few times lately and caught a glimpse or two. But Labor Day morning, we had a good view as it floated in low and slow to a landing across the gulch from us.

by ag at September 08, 2015 08:52 PM

September 04, 2015


In which I finally give up and put out some bloody chairs

We've had the house for 2 months, and I finally couldn't take it any more and put out some bloody chairs and a table that's actually inside. (previously I had to sit on the deck for breakfast)

Not *literally* bloody chairs, although I did smash up my pinkie finger pretty badly today, the only blood shed by me this evening came from a scratch on my ear and didn't reach any chairs. (Although there was a close call with a mosquito...)

So, yeah.

But more precisely, here's the state of renovations:

- The wiring inside the walls is done, but not everything has a terminator and cover panel. J is doing that so we'll be paying the low-voltage wiring guy tomorrow and letting him be done. Yeay!

- The drywall folk have closed all the holes, but there appears to be sanding and texture work to be done. I am hopeful that we will be painting this weekend but won't know for sure until J talks to them tomorrow.

- The plumber didn't want to put the connectors in for the washer/dryer hookups until the drywall was done, so we have had no laundry since we moved. Hopefully the plumber will be in next week, but J didn't want to call until he's talked to the drywall team.

- The flooring is on hold until the drywall mess is cleaned up, which is quite sensible...

....but OMG I've been living in a single bedroom for 2 months because the rest of the house either has no floor or is filled with boxes we can't unpack and I'm sick of it.

So in summary:


Seriously, I know no one loves renovations and having contractors tromp all over their house, but I think it's significantly worse for me than it ought to be. I haven't had any predictable quiet solo time since more than 5 months ago when J's dad moved in with us and I need to introvert so hard that some days I don't even want to deal with J, let alone a bunch of smelly strangers who make everything filthy. But then on top of that (and that would have been more than enough), I'm finding that my lingering PTSD from the breakin two years ago is making the constant stream of strangers an actively terrifying experience in little ways that I can't always anticipate and prepare for. I'm also on day 3 of post-travel headaches so I'm a bit generally cranky.

So yeah, hating on the reno with a passion that I don't think the average person can even understand.

One kind of awesome spot, though:

Our low-volage wiring guy is so passionate about this work and such a good friend to J that he's been pretty much acting like a general contractor for us while we were out of town this weekend, going way above and beyond in making sure the drywall guys didn't slack off. What a nice guy! I've told J we really need to give him a bonus!

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September 04, 2015 07:24 AM

August 25, 2015


#SheridanCommute: Baby turtles on the move

The wind was so strong the last time I rode my bike to work that I came down the hill on the Holly Ponds pathway, which is the most sheltered of my options. As I came across the bridge right behind the hospital, I dodged a decent-sized pebble on the pathway, then another. Then I realized the pebbles were moving!

Baby turtles, snappers I think, were working their way down the pathway towards the ponds, making pretty good time on their stubby little legs. If you look carefully, you should be able to spot five of the six in the photo below. The closeup is of #6 who was trailing far behind the others and looking a bit weary.

by ag at August 25, 2015 05:31 PM

August 19, 2015


Albuquerque scars

Sometimes I am reminded of the scars Albuquerque left upon my mind.
As I remind my boyfriend that when he closes a window he must latch it
because that one time, a man saw me alone in the house and tried all the windows until one opened.

Sometimes I am reminded of the scars Albuquerque left upon my mind.
As I hear a car slow behind me and brace myself for the catcall,
thinking "I should have put in earphones" so that they might believe I cannot hear them.
So they won't honk or swerve in front of me, because they think they deserve my attention.

But here the car turns without anyone rolling down the window and I breathe a sign of relief.

Sometimes I am reminded of the scars Albuquerque left upon my heart.
As I listen to a story about an unknown device a coworker found,
and I think "that would be a great whatsit for the 2600 meeting"
only to remember I don't go to those since I moved. They wouldn't be the same.

Sometimes I am reminded of the scars Albuquerque left upon my heart.
As I sign the paperwork to donate part of my salary to my old library there,
and think about how poor my neighbourhood was and how many of those kids could use more books.

Sometimes I am reminded of the scars Albuquerque left upon my heart.
As I gather parts for my latest project and wish I had a Sunday hacknight coming up
so I could show it off even though it's not working, and people would still be excited.

Sometimes I am reminded that it is micro tears that make muscles strong.
And the heart is a muscle.

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August 19, 2015 08:37 AM

August 17, 2015


Birchbox July 2015

July's birchbox is an eye searing art deco piece:

Birchbox July 2015

I actually love the idea, but I think they could have used better colours. (It actually looks better in the edited photo than it does in real life)

Birchbox July 2015

But enough about the box, let's talk about what's inside...

Birchbox July 2015

amika Un.Done Texture Spray

I didn't love the smell of the last amika product I got, so I wasn't too excited to receive this one. Even more so when I found out it was a "texture spray" which is completely not a thing I use or even want, since I associate "texture" with the way my hair felt when I used to wash it in hard water. Thicker and heavier are not things I want with hair whose predominant styling influence is gravity.

So perhaps I didn't give this product much of a chance. I used it lightly because it stinks and I don't love this type of product, and perhaps as a result not only does it smell but it also didn't seem to have any effect at all. (But again, the pull of gravity on my hair is rather hard to resist.)

Regardless, not a product I'm going to ever use again. I'm never sure what to do with these, so it'll likely languish in my guest bathroom. Maybe I'll get a nice bin with a note saying "free" on it to put in the bathroom and hope that visitors will take it off my hands?

Birchbox July 2015

COOLA® Classic SPF 30 Cucumber Moisturizer for Face

I do think it's a bit crappy of Birchbox to put this sample in after we just had a coola moisturizer last month, but I suppose summer is only so long. It's a product I liked enough that I wasn't too sad, anyhow. Just like last month's mango-scented offering, this manages to be light enough on the scent that it's a nice alternative to generic sunscreen. This scent is probably even easier on the nose than the mango, which I guess might make sense as it's a facial moisturizer. Given the choice, I'd probably go with the mango one, but I really like mango.

Birchbox July 2015

dr. brandt® microdermabrasion skin exfoliant

This is a fine-grained skin exfoliant that seems to work really well on my skin. I've now had a few chemical exfoliants that felt more like snake oil than effective products, but this one left my face very much scrubbed clean. It's of the variety that feels like super fine sand in moisturizer, which I guess seem to be the physical ones that work best on me. It has a very light fresh scent, maybe a little citrus-y or mint-y?

I even tried it on my lips, which were pretty chapped from being in Las Vegas (neither deserts nor air conditioning are easy on skin) and it seemed to help without actually pulling chunks of skin off. (I imagine lip balms are a better solution, but it's been days since we left and I'm tired of them being chapped so I thought I'd try a quicker method.)

I like this enough that I'd probably consider buying some when my supplies run out, but I use so little exfoliant per use, and exfoliate so irregularly now that I don't live in the desert that I anticipate that all my exfoliant needs will likely be met by birchbox samples. Probably just as well, since at nearly $80/2oz, this is a pricey one.

Birchbox July 2015

Juice Beauty® STEM CELLULAR™ CC Cream

As far as cc creams go, this is a reasonably nice once, and I am pleased that "desert glow" the colour I recieved, seems to match up well enough with my skin tone. It uses zinc oxide, so it's more of a physical sunscreen, and it leaves a little bit of a sparkle.

Unfortunately, the big down side is that I don't love the smell, which smells like like old sunscreen mixed with maybe a hint of spilled juice. Disappointing given the company name.

Happy to use it and it seems like an effective product, but the smell is off-putting enough that I'll stick to other products in the class of cc/bb/moisturizer/sunscreen.

Birchbox July 2015

stila look at me liquid lipstick trio

I chose the colour "Venezia" which is a coral colour, because I already owned "Beso" (the red) and have a decent number of lip sticks in pink.

Unfortunately, I think I chose poorly. I like my red version of this product, but the coral colour doesn't suit me, and with it being such a bold product, it's kind of awful. I have pictures somewhere, but again, I don't know where my little camera is at the moment. They're awful, anyhow.

As far as the formula goes... "stay all day" is definitely an exaggeration, since it doens't make it through a meal with me, but very few lipsticks do so I don't think it's fair to expect that of it. I'm starting to suspect that there's some art to eating in some ladylike manner that I've never learned, since only lip stains tend to make it through a meal with me. It doesn't tend to smudge on my face, though, so it stays at least in one very important respect.

It is completely unforgiving on chapped lips, highlighting any line of dry skin. They recommend you plump up with a lip balm first, which does help some, but still not a great option if you're in need of some lip repair. There's a reason I keep sticky lip balms around: they're forgiving.

I'm very sad I didn't choose the pink, as I love the little tube and get a kick out of the opaque effect, but I'm probably going to have to do some experimentation to modify this colour if I'm going to wear it. Thankfully I don't mind experimenting with lip products so this could be fun, or perhaps I'll give up and offer it up to someone with a different complexion. Or maybe I'll use it as a cheek tint?


Nothing too stand-out in this box. Liked the exfoliant and the sunscreen, turned off by the scent of the cc creme and the hair texturizer (although the latter was probably doomed to fail), and totally got the wrong colour of lipstick. Alas!

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August 17, 2015 08:01 AM

Birchbox June 2015

Summer being what it is, only more so because of the move, I haven't really kept up on reviewing stuff here, so my apologies that there's going to be a bit of a review dump this evening as I see what photos I took and what hasn't gone up yet.

So, June's birchbox had a few possible options, and I got the "say yes" version:

Birchbox June 2015

I admit to disappointment with the box part of things: "say yes" is not a motto that I appreciate in the context of the overwhelming number of things I'm asked to volunteer for. Don't even get me start on the feminist critiques of this push to have women say yes to more things. Frankly, it's gotten to be one of those vapid pieces of advice that I could do without. I thought both other boxes were better, since they were on more of an adventure theme.

Crankiness about the box it came in aside, though, I was pretty pleased with the samples.

Birchbox June 2015

COOLA® SPF 50 Sport - Mango

When I heard about this product, I thought "like the world needed more obnoxious scented products you're supposed to slather on." Do you know how much sunscreen you're supposed to wear for maximal effectiveness? Adding scent to that is a landmine.

But this product won me over. The scent is light, on par intensity-wise with the usual smells that exude from my sunscreen, but way more pleasant because it's reminiscent of a delicious fruity drink rather than something I associate with sweat in my eyes and sunstroke. But beyond that, it's just a really nice sunscreen. Not too greasy, seems to work. I'd still prefer unscented when possible, but this is a nice way to change things up and make sunscreen feel like a treat rather than a chore. That actually might be enough reason to add some to my collection of go-to products.

Birchbox June 2015

Temple Spa Good Hair Day Shampoo and Temple Spa In Good Condition Conditioner

The shampoo of this set is so-so for me: it's too gentle for my hair (as in, it leaves it more oily than I prefer), and there's something about the scent that I didn't fall in love with. They claim it smells like ylang ylang, eucalyptus and patchouli. I think maybe it's the patchouli that isn't for me, but I don't know ylang ylang that well.

The conditioner, on the other hand, I absolutely love. It's much more effective for my hair than its counterpart, and the smell of peppermint, rosemary, orange and lavender smells refreshing and awesome to me.

I'm not much for buying higher end shampoos since it gets pricey with my long hair and frankly, easier to get supermarket brands like Herbal Essences or Garnier generally do me fine in both the smell and effectiveness categories.

But a bottle of conditioner lasts me a *long* time and this smell is enough of a treat that I might consider picking some up. Of course, that would mean I'd have to actually use up the many products I found languishing in corners during the move...

Birchbox June 2015

L. Erickson Narrow Grab and Go Pony

I had a good laugh when I read the accompanying card that said this would be a "bold pop of colour" -- that hair tie is pretty much exactly the colour of my hair. I guess maybe some of the colour options had more, uh, colour.

Generally speaking, I don't see the point of overpriced hair ties. I lose a lot of them, and paying more than a few cents each would just make me more sad about losing them. That said, this is a really nice hair tie. The bead doesn't catch on things, it's wide enough to wear around my wrist comfortably, and the texturing seems to help it stay in my hair without being so tight that I sigh with relief when the thing is taken out. This became my go-to hair tie as our weather turned hot, although I'm not sure where it's gotten since the move and I am, of course, actually sad about that.

Is it wrong that I kind of want more of them? They're more than a buck each even in the larger pack, but I still might spend some birchbox points on them anyhow.

Birchbox June 2015

Skyn Iceland Hydro Cool Firming Eye Gels

Somewhere I have pictures of myself wearing these, but I'm not sure where my other camera has gotten to right now so you'll have to do without. They look silly as these things generally do, but they're very nice and cool and relaxing. One set is not enough for me to decide if they're actually effective, but they were pleasant and I enjoyed using them!

Birchbox June 2015

Marcelle Mini Waterproof Eyeliner

Again, I may have pictures of me wearing this, but they must be on the other camera. Sorry!

This is my first real foray into wearing coloured eyeliner and I'm sold on the concept. As someone with fairly deepset eyes (the Japanese heritage helped with those), I find that getting eyeshadow to stay put is a pain and no one can see it at all when my eyes are open. I have some nice primer so I can play with looks when I've got time (which, honestly, is usually Saturday morning before I go to the library or Sunday before I go to the farmer's market. I live a glamorous life, let me tell you), but it's not a thing I wear daily because it's very low reward for high investment.

This blue eyeliner is rather the opposite: a few strokes of this creamy pencil along my lash line and I've got brilliant colour that people can actually see even when my eyes are open. It's fun, easy, and creates a look I was happy to wear at DEFCON or even in my office, where most technical women are pretty light on the makeup and it's only the marketing and manager types who wear much. (Dress like the career you want, and all, but I tell people makeup is part of my social engineering skills and I love hilarious face colours more than I love conformity anyhow.)

The colours are great, the effect striking but not off-putting, and my only complaint is that under some circumstances, the formula doesn't entirely stay put, so I do have to be careful about checking my eyes for little blue smears. I want to buy the little set from Marcelle that birchbox has available, and since they've got a nice offer with the Marcelle eye-makeup remover in August's box I may just go for it. But I do feel like maybe I should try offerings from other companies with different formulae too.


I guess you can't judge a box by its cover: despite my distaste for the packaging, this box had a lot of really great samples in it. I loved the eyeliner, the sunscreen, the hair tie and the conditioner enough to consider buying more, thoroughly enjoyed the eye mask even though I probably won't get any more of them, and only the shampoo really wasn't a product for me. Pretty good!

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August 17, 2015 06:40 AM

August 16, 2015


Concrud in the eye?

Came home from Defcon and promptly got another eye infection.

Yup, peri-orbital cellulitus, again. Last time was January, so at least they didn't have to give me different antibiotics. If I catch it again, they're going to CT scan my head to see if there's something wrong with my sinuses.

Between the exhaustion from moving, the exhaustion from con, exhaustion from renovating the house, the exhaustion from the infection and now the exhaustion from the antibiotics (which are much stronger than regular ones so they destroy my gut biome)... let's just say I'm having a lot of trouble being civil. Or doing much beyond sleeping and wanting to murder things.

Here's hoping the coming weeks are better.

Rather than going on about everything sucks, here's a few good things:
  1. The antibiotics are working, so I don't have to run to the ER for antibiotics via IV.
  2. J figured out why the laundry room smelled funny and fixed it.
    • (When he took out the sink, he didn't think about filling the sink trap to stop sewer gas from coming in.)
  3. I got a departmental award!
    • This is especially impressive as security folk rarely get these, so it was super cool of the team I worked with to include me.
  4. I bought a bike today!
    • It's not an impressive one, just a cruiser-style putzing around town kind of deal, so it doesn't really replace my road bike.  But it *does* mean I'm not horribly trapped when J takes the car without warning me first, and it does mean I can go back to taking my sweet time on finding a road bike that fits me perfectly.  (This has been a struggle; I'm both small and reasonably picky, and thus I haven't had much luck test riding things.)  I should get it tomorrow; they're going to put the fenders and rack on for me.

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August 16, 2015 04:39 AM

August 13, 2015


#SheridanCommute: The fun and beauty of Rodeo Week linger on

20150725_100515Before and during Rodeo Week this year, several teepees were raised around town, the most prominent being this one still up at the historic Sheridan Inn. The bike and I made a detour on the way into work, the other day, to catch a picture in the clear morning light.

by ag at August 13, 2015 03:38 PM

July 25, 2015



Some quick house updates with pictures from twitter/g+:


The broken AC that I was very worried about turned out to be a small burnt out part that cost $88. Since I had visions of replacing $10k worth of AC, this was a huge relief.

The walls still have holes, although the cabling work is mostly done as is the plumbing. Drywall repair is going to be $$$ but we budgeted for that going in, so that's ok.


My friend A points out that we have lots of space for ceiling cats.

The wallpaper is gone by my hand, including the horrible painted over wallpaper. I declined to remove the cheerful wallpaper in the Harry Potter Room below the stairs because it amuses me.


I found some mildew in the drywall. It seems like everything's dry behind in the wall, so I'm hoping we can replace the insulation we ripped out and close it back up, but we'll probably have someone look at it first.


Alas, since the walls aren't closed yet, we can't get painters in. In the end, it's looking like I'll be painting the basement myself while John's out of town.

The carpet is gone, except for the living room.


Nothing's been done with the living room yet because it's full of boxes and we need somewhere to move them before the flooring guys can proceed.


The floors are going in now. We did some of the removal, but have hired folk to put in the new stuff. It looks great so far!


Not sure we'll have floors by the time the moving truck comes on Tuesday and deposits the remainder of our stuff in the new house, but our lease is up so we'll just have to deal!

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July 25, 2015 06:02 PM

July 11, 2015


Yarn of the Month Club review, June 2015

This is crossposted from, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

I knit all these samples right away, got them blocking… then had houseguests, bought a house, and generally didn’t write this blog post. But the package for July arrived today, so I guess it’s time!

Yarn of the Month Club, June 2015

June’s theme seemed to be “Linen” which seems like a decent summer theme. I hadn’t really felt linen until recently, only heard about it in stories, and it sounded soft and light there. But linen yarn, when you first get it, is usually sort of stiff and hard. I gather it gets soft with age, and I know it has lots of great properties, but I haven’t gotten over this faint feeling of disappointment every time reality clashes with the imaginary linen in my head. Maybe working with it more will help, though!

Yarn of the Month Club, June 2015

Note: I’m using the new flickr sharing code, which uses javascript to add a header/footer after the image is loaded. I can’t decide if I like it aesthetically or not, and it seems to leave the page loader spinning forever, which I definitely don’t like. But I figure I’ll try it for this post anyhow. Comments welcome!

The pattern: Garden Party Headband

Ooh, a crochet pattern! It’s a cute little scalloped thing and something I might actually try, but I haven’t tried it yet.


Yarn of the Month Club, June 2015

Berroco Linus

“Delicate and textured fabric for breezy garments”

5 sts/inch on US 8

50% Acrylic 20% Linen 18% Nylon 12% Rayon

159 yds color: 6812

Yarn of the Month Club, June 2015

So right after telling you that linen is stiff, I’ve got to say that this totally isn’t. It’s a delicate little ribbon of fabric that knits up into something that feels strangely like a kitchen curtain to me, light and yellow and letting lots of light through.

Yarn of the Month Club, June 2015

I enjoyed working with this, even though you have to be careful where you put your needles so as not to tear the delicate threads in the center of the ribbon.

Yarn of the Month Club, June 2015

The pattern chosen is definitely not square, and doesn’t stay square even after blocking. The photo above is after blocking, the photo below is in-progress, and you can see that there’s a definite lilt in both. I’m sure it won’t matter for a blanket square, but worth noting if you were making a breezy summer scarf with this swatch pattern. Although honestly, a little tilt would probably just make a scarf look more modern, anyhow.

Yarn of the Month Club, June 2015

Overall, I enjoyed this more than I thought I would, and I think this experiment has made me feel more interested in trying other ribbon yarns or lighter linen blends that aren’t just the typical linen/cotton.


Yarn of the Month Club, June 2015

S.Charles Collezione Audra

“Indulgent and silky with strong stitch definition”

5.25 sts/inch on US 4

76% Linen 12% Silk 12% Viscose

205 yds color: 04

This is a really weird yarn, with that core of stiff linen combined with silk and viscose. I’m not sure about the colourway, which is 3 separate strands of grey, off-white, and peach wrapped together.

Yarn of the Month Club, June 2015

That said, it was kind of fun to knit with. The stitch definition is amazing and the swatch interesting enough to showcase it. Although I was worried about it initially, it wound up blocking pretty close to a 5×5 square.

Yarn of the Month Club, June 2015

Verdict? I would be happy to work with this yarn again as long as I could get another colourway. But I’m honestly not sure what I’d make with it, given how stiff it is. Maybe if I trust in it softening up it would make a great summer lacy overlayer thing — it certainly holds a pattern pretty nicely.

Creative Linen

Yarn of the Month Club, June 2015

Rowan Creative Linen

“Undemanding work horse of a yarn which is easy to wear”

5.25 sts/inch on US 7

50% Linen 50% Cotton

219 yds color: 643

This is a hefty linen/cotton blend where I feel that the cotton feel dominates, so it feels sturdy but not quite as stiff as some. It was lovely to work with, and really shows off the swatch pattern.

Yarn of the Month Club, June 2015

I’d say that their assessment of it as a wearable work horse yarn seems reasonable.

Yarn of the Month Club, June 2015

I’d consider this as a possibility for lighter toddler knits and for amigurumi toys for kids where you know there’s a good chance they’re going to get chewed on a lot. I’d probably wear it myself, although I think given the climate where I live, it’s unlikely that I’ll be knitting too many cotton sweaters. I could see doing dishtowels with it, which is more likely to happen. Especially with the swatch pattern included.

Yarn of the Month Club, June 2015

I really love that swatch pattern, although the reverse side is pretty boring.

Yarn of the Month Club, June 2015

In summary, this is a cotton/linen blend that I’d consider adding to my arsenal.


Yarn of the Month Club, June 2015

These swatches took some serious blocking to try to get them to 5×5 squares, and they didn’t even quite make it. I was glad I’d finally invested in some blocking mats so I had a more sturdy surface for pinning them!

Yarn of the Month Club, June 2015

They were all different experiences and showcased a pretty wide range of linen options, which was pretty neat to me as someone who hasn’t worked with linen much. Plus, I quite liked a couple of the stitch patterns which were also new to me.

Yarn of the Month Club, June 2015

Overall, quite happy with this month’s mailing!

PS – I took a lot more photos than usual for this month’s mailing and didn’t use them all. If you’d like to see the swatches pre-blocking with rulers and such, here’s a link to the full yarn of the month collection.

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July 11, 2015 06:07 PM

July 04, 2015


#SheridanCommute: Kendrick Park Summer Colors

20150702_072534The flower beds in Kendrick Park are reaching their peak and make the morning bike ride even more of a pleasure.

by ag at July 04, 2015 07:17 PM

June 30, 2015


Exciting times chez moi: public talks, house, houseguest swap

- I gave two talks at Open Source Bridge. I think they went well! Links to slides and stuff on my speaking page:
- J and I took possession of our new house (on the same day as I was giving both of said talks!)
- J's dad moved into his own lovely 2 bedroom apartment on Saturday and we helped him get it set up
- Also on Saturday, my friend R from Ottawa came to visit for the weekend
- Also on Saturday, our friends C and M arrived from Denver for the week
- We had our first bbq at the new place on Sunday
- R took off today (Monday)
- GSoC midterms are due this week
- my day job workload is heavy (but not yet unpleasant) this week
- our yearly "invitational open source community leadership summit" is happening next weekend (that's what the Coloradans are up for)
- J is the best and has been handling most of the finding of contractors for the new house
- R is awesome and helped us move some pretty significant amounts of stuff while I was too headache-y to walk up and down stairs.

J and I had apparently mis-remembered when our lease is up, so we only have 1 month of overlap with the new house. This is not a problem since J's travel schedule meant we'd planned most of the stuff before August anyhow, but it does mean a bit less wiggle room.

The house is awesome and the yard is more awesome and I'm sorry but I'm too wiped out to deal with requests for pictures this week so please don't ask. I'll put some up when I've got the spoons for it, but I have a touch of concrud/headache/nausea on top of all the stuff going down this week and it's not going to happen for a while. Thanks for being understanding!

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June 30, 2015 07:26 AM

June 20, 2015


Book review: It's Raining Men (or maybe just succubi)

It's Raining Men: Slacker Demons Book…
It's Raining Men: Slacker Demons Book One
by Jennifer Stevenson

Chloe's been dumped by yet another loser so she turns to sympathetic bartender Archie, who suddenly claims that it's the fault of terrible sex demons (including himself) and she's been selected to receive a rain of good men as part of victim's compensation. Wacky hijinks ensue.

The demon-lover trope of paranormal romance is usually a big yawn for me because they usually pair it with a "he wants to be better for her" style plotline that takes itself entirely too seriously, but this book is silly and flippant enough about it to be fun. I don't know that I'll bother with any more of the series, but this was a fun summer read on its own.

I received this one free from Librarything in exchange for fair review.

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June 20, 2015 08:31 PM

Book Review: Knit Wear Love

Knit Wear Love: Foolproof Instructions for…
Knit Wear Love: Foolproof Instructions for Knitting Your Best-Fitting…
by Amy Herzog

I really loved the idea of Amy Herzog's Knit to Flatter book, which is about finding and adjusting patterns to suit you. It's a great book (from what I can tell without actually following any of the patterns since I just had it from the library for 3 weeks), but I found that the patterns didn't inspire me, so it hasn't gone on the list of things I want for my personal knitting reference library.

Knit Wear Love has solved this problem for me: rather than focusing on body type, the designs are more heavily focused on aesthetic: classic, sporty, bohemian, etc. She's got some really cute details, and it's showcased by lovely photography. Plus, of course, huge numbers of charts, advice about fit, etc. It's pretty much everything I wanted in a sweater book. I borrowed a copy from the library to check it out, but this one is going on my personal library wishlist for when I'm interested in tackling a sweater for myself.

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June 20, 2015 07:29 PM

Book review: Powers vol 1 and 2

A few books going back to the library today:

Powers: The Definitive Hardcover Collection,…
Powers: The Definitive Hardcover Collection, Vol. 1
by Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Avon Oeming (Illustrator)

This graphic novel is an exploration of what it would be like to be a cop in a world with superhero celebrities. It's decent, and I know lots of folk who like the grittier, broken superhero genre who would enjoy this. I felt like there were some really great world and character ideas set up and it was worth reading for that, but I also felt like the pacing and the genre didn't quite do it for me. I'm happy to recommend it to people who like the genre, though.

Also, I want to note that I don't really recommend the "definitive hardcover collection" for light reading. It's a huge coffee table book, lovely but hard to read in bed.

Powers: The Definitive Hardcover Collection,…
Powers: The Definitive Hardcover Collection, Vol. 2
by Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Avon Oeming (Illustrator)

I liked the first volume enough to pick up the 2nd book, but I found the pacing even more off in that one, to the point where I was tempted to just flip through pages until it got to the point. Too much media retrospective, not enough story. I feel a bit bad complaining about this because I think the media treatment of superheroes is part of the point, and the puff piece media clips feel like they've been dropped from an alternate reality in a good way. But the problem is that I dislike reading/hearing these things normally because I don't care about the celebs in real life, and thus it didn't help me care about fictional celebrities any more than I do about the real ones. I guess they are a clever device but ultimately not one that worked for me. Your mileage may vary. Still quite the story, but a bit hard to get through at times.

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June 20, 2015 07:17 PM

June 18, 2015


Definitely a right-brained brain hat

This is crossposted from, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

I actually did complete this hat before giving it to M for Christmas 2013, but apparently I can’t find pictures of it (or the kraken hat I made for S the same year), so instead you get this one photo of it with only one side completed:

Definitely right-brained

BTW, I chose the title for this post because of my half-finished picture. But for those of you who don’t know, the whole “right brained / left brained” thing is kind of BS and you might want to read up on it. The myth comes from some research on epileptic patients where the two halves of the brain were severed and they don’t seem to generalize to humans with normally connected brains.

From the article linked above (because I’m not looking up pubmed for a knitting post):

There is a misconception that everything to do with being analytical is confined to one side of the brain, and everything to do with being creative is confined to the opposite side, Anderson said. In fact, it is the connections among all brain regions that enable humans to engage in both creativity and analytical thinking.

“It is not the case that the left hemisphere is associated with logic or reasoning more than the right,” Anderson told LiveScience. “Also, creativity is no more processed in the right hemisphere than the left.”

Anderson’s team examined brain scans of participants ages 7 to 29 while they were resting. They looked at activity in 7,000 brain regions, and examined neural connections within and between these regions. Although they saw pockets of heavy neural traffic in certain key regions, on average, both sides of the brain were essentially equal in their neural networks and connectivity.

(tl;dr: Brains are much more versatile than pop culture might have you believe.)

So there’s your science tidbit for the day. Let’s go back to talking about knitting.

The pattern

Brain Hat (KNITTING PATTERN, not actual hat)

by Alana Noritake
($5 on Ravelry)

This is a pretty simple pattern: make a skullcap, put a lot of i-cord on it. But it’s worth buying yourself a copy of the pattern because it includes a bunch of pictures of the hat in progress and finished, as well as photos of brains and insight on how to make it look good. I definitely felt like I got my $5 worth and had a much better hat for it!

My notes

I made the brain hat for M, who’s allergic to animal fibers, so I was somewhat limited in my choices of yarn. I think I used knitpicks comfy, which is a cotton-acrylic blend that’s quite nice to work with (soft and a little more stretchy than straight cotton). This worked pretty well, to be honest, but doesn’t make for the warmest of hats. This makes it not so great as an all-winter Canada hat, but ok for warmer climates or indoor costume use.

If I did this again again, I’d probably make 50% more brain icord and take more time pinning it to be absolutely perfect. I just didn’t allot quite as much time as I should have before xmas so I was frantically making this on the plane to Ottawa and at my parents’ house before it got packaged up as a present.

Overall, though, a fun pattern and one I’d be happy to make again, given a lot more time or a knitting machine that produced icord.

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June 18, 2015 04:09 PM

June 15, 2015


Twilight Sparkle for Katie

This is crossposted from, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

I made this Twilight Sparkle for a friend and then, uh, took a year or something to get it to her. I am the worst at mailing things (in the end, J gave it to her in person and I never mailed it!)

The pattern

This is a pattern I made myself, and this Twilight Sparkle is actually one of the first ponies I made after I had actually published the pattern. (I also have a set of teensy tiny felted ones that I haven’t finished up and photographed yet… someday I’ll get through my backlog of projects to document!)

[Crochet Pony Pattern inspired by My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic on my website (]

[Crochet Pony Pattern inspired by My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic on Ravelry]

(You can tell it’s been a while because she’s still just a unicorn!)


Since I wrote the pattern, I don’t have much more to say about it, so here’s a bunch of pictures of the pony!

Body only:

Violet Pony for Katie

I do love that she’s a bit posable….

Violet Pony for Katie

Those legs are surprisingly bendable!

Violet Pony for Katie

If I wanted to her to have a bigger range of positions I could have wired her legs, but this is just the qualities of the yarn and stuffing.

Violet Pony for Katie

Her head also moves, although maybe not as much as the legs

Violet Pony for Katie

And here she is with a mane and tail and cutie mark: I don’t love her eyes (I haven’t found a great way to do them; these were drawn on fabric and sewn on), but she does look more expressive with them!

Twilight Sparkle for Katie

Closer look at her rump so you can see the cutie mark. Or make jokes about butt-shots, whatever.

Twilight Sparkle for Katie

Did you notice what book it is?

Twilight Sparkle for Katie

I chose it for photos because of the colour, but it does seem like something she might enjoy, eh?

Twilight Sparkle for Katie

Maybe one day I’ll do a version with the wings…

Twilight Sparkle for Katie

Or at least one for myself!

Twilight Sparkle for Katie

Overall, my biggest regret on this one was not sending her out sooner. Sorry about the delay, Katie!

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June 15, 2015 04:10 PM

Book reviews: Two books I'm not sure how to write about

I haven't really been on top of book reviews. That's somewhat intentional in that I decided to focus on documenting my maker-y projects instead, but I noticed today that it meant I haven't been doing a great job of keeping up with the books I've been sent in exchange for fair review, so I guess I'd better get back into the groove if I want to keep getting free books. Here's two from the library as a warm-up.

Both these books have somewhat unusual protagonists. They're challenging in different ways.

When Everything Feels like the Movies…
When Everything Feels like the Movies (Governor General's Literary…
by Raziel Reid

I heard about this book because it was on Canada Reads, although being out of country I didn't manage to actually catch the episodes talking about it when they were broadcast so I still went in mostly not knowing what I was in for. The idea of coping with high school by imagining it as a movie set intrigued me.

I'm finding myself at a loss as to what to say about this book. It's authentic in that way that people don't always like to see high school depicted, with swearing and sex and violence and feelings with raw edges. For all that intensity, it's as playful as it is painful, as well as insightful and hard to put down. It takes "gay (trans?) kid not fitting in to small town" and pushes it out to an extreme that YA isn't often allowed to go. I loved it and was horrified by it at once, and I guess that's the point. I kind of hope it actually does get made into a movie.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick…
The Slow Regard of Silent Things
by Patrick Rothfuss

This is a book that's so hard to pin down that the author's forward warns you that you probably won't like it. Which honestly, I think is a brilliant piece of marketing gimmick in that it challenges you to try. (Perhaps I am being too cynical here, but it's true.)

Since it doesn't exactly have a plot so much as a gentle unfolding of the life and mind of one small woman, I found it very hard to get into it when I was reading it in dribs and drabs. If you're going to give it a try, set aside an evening where you can immerse yourself in Auri's world, magical and strange as it may be. I doubt anyone would promise you'll like it, but at least you'll have given it a fair chance.

I highly recommend accompanying the afterward with some Dar Williams, which seemed during my reading to be the musical equivalent of what they were talking about.

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June 15, 2015 05:28 AM

June 11, 2015


February 2015 Knit-a-long: A very belated part 2

This is crossposted from, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

You might remember that I posted week 1 and 2 photos from this KAL, but forgot to post the other two weeks of photos and finished object photos here. I finished this back in March at the end of the KAL, so it’s a bit late!

Pattern: Fern Lace Shawlette

Fern Lace Shawlette by Michele Bernstein ($6 on Ravelry)

Michele is also known as PDXKnitterati. This is the first pattern of hers that I tried, but definitely not the last!

Week 3 photos

February 2015 KAL (Week 3))

I don’t normally block as I go like this, but the KAL had prizes for folks who posted photos every week (I even won one early on!), so I wanted them to be beautiful. I actually sort of think I should do this “block at the end of each week” thing a bit more often, since I was forever pulling out the lightly blocked end to admire it or show it off.

February 2015 KAL (Week 3))

The teacup pincushion was made by a friend of mine, isn’t it adorable? She sells them online if you want your own! Just check out Flying Corgi Studio on Etsy.

February 2015 KAL (Week 3)

Week 4 photos

I love those beads! I wasn’t too sure if I’d like having a mix of colours like this, but I really really do.

February 2015 KAL (Week 4)

Look at this week 4 photo… it’s hard to believe I finished in time, but it went so fast once I started decreasing!

February 2015 KAL (Week 4)

Week 5 photos… with the designer!

The designer who created this absolutely lovely pattern was doing a trunk show at Twisted during the Rose City Yarn Crawl, so I scheduled our shop visits so that I’d get to meet her.

February 2015 KAL (Week 5)

She’s a super talented designer, and I highly recommend you check out her other patterns on Ravelry. Her patterns are really well-described, she always has great photos, and good tech editing. And of course, they’re utterly beautiful! She had a few on sale earlier in the year and I bought a few and picked up yarn during the yarn crawl to make them, so expect to see a few more of her designs featured here!

February 2015 KAL (Week 5)

Also, I’ve got to say that I think her knit-a-longs are really fun and well-run. She’s got a great crew of people who participate and I found it super motivational to see everyone’s photos and comments. Plus she keeps the momentum up with weekly prizes and always has good advice if you need it, including for ways to modify and adapt a pattern to suit you better. I haven’t done a lot of knit-a-longs so I can’t really compare, but I can definitely recommend joining one of hers.

Finished Object!

February 2015 KAL (Week 5)

I am so pleased with myself for finishing! I’m not a fast knitter, so I was worried I’d never keep up with the KAL.

February 2015 KAL (Week 5)

And finally, a wingspan shot:

February 2015 KAL (Week 5)

Thanks to my friend M (the same friend who made the teacup pincushion!) for taking the photos with me in them! She’s the best friend: she flew all the way from Ottawa to come to the yarn crawl with me.


Great pattern, great KAL, and I love my finished shawllette. I wasn’t too sure how much I’d wear it, but it turns out that the weather (and sometimes the excessive air conditioning) is surprisingly conducive to shawl-wearing. I got a shawl pin to go with it so I can wrap it around my shoulders and not think about it, so it’s just like having a slightly lighter cardigan.

I think I’ll be making some more shawlettes in the future now that I know how much I like them!

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June 11, 2015 04:09 PM

June 08, 2015


Yarn of the Month Club review, May 2015

This is crossposted from, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

Apparently the Yarn of the Month club is *not* a secret society after all: there’s a Yarn of the Month Ravelry group. I am so pleased to know it exists, and mystified as to why I couldn’t find this when I was searching for information before subscribing.

May’s Yarn of the Month Club package was all about the cottons and the ocean colours:

Yarn of the Month Club, May 2015

Very pretty yarns, all told!

The Pattern: Seaside Tee by Sarah Lucas

Ravelry link for Sarah Lucas, but this particular pattern doesn’t seem to be on Rav.

Here’s a picture of the pattern page:

Yarn of the Month Club, May 2015

I’ve redacted much of the actual pattern, but I wanted to show you the state of the mailing since I’ve talked about it a few times. The cut across the top is my fault (overzealous in opening the package!) but those sheets of paper really do get crumpled up in the mail, don’t they?

Anyhow, this is a cute baby pattern with a picture of a cute baby. I like the wide neckline and use of the patterned and solid yarns. I don’t think it’s going to the top of my to-make list since I just made a baby sweater, but it’s a nice thing to have in hand. I wish it had a link in Ravelry so I could dump it in my queue more easily!

Eco Baby Prints

Yarn of the Month Club, May 2015

Debbie Bliss Eco Baby Prints

“With these beautiful liquid colours you can practically smell the beach”

6.25 sts/inch on US 3

100% Cotton

135 yds color 56010

I really love the subtle colour of this one: it’s a very watercolour blue tonal. The yarn is a soft cotton, a bit easy to split but not unmanageable.

The problem here was mostly in the swatch pattern:Yarn of the Month Club, May 2015

If you do a bit of math, you’ll see that row 1 grows: there are two yarn overs adding two stitches, but only one k2tog. Row 3 doesn’t fix this, so if you knit it as is, you’d wind up with an ever-growing trapazoid instead of a square. Not great.

I though at first maybe the sl1 was supposed to be passed over the following k1, which at least gets us back to even, but that doesn’t really give you something that lines up. I tried it anyhow to see if it was interesting but it didn’t really do it for me:

Yarn of the Month Club, May 2015

So I switched it instead so the sl1 became an ssk so that everything lined up, and I got something much more what I had in mind:

Yarn of the Month Club, May 2015

One remaining complaint, though, it didn’t quite produce a 5×5 square even after blocking. You can see above that it’s almost done but not very close to square yet. I took the photo below at a bit of an angle so it wouldn’t be so obvious, but the finished piece is 4×5 instead of 5×5. Oh well!

Yarn of the Month Club, May 2015

Isn’t the corrected stitch pattern lovely? I’m pretty sure I got it right, since here’s the swatch photo on their website:

Eco Baby Prints swatch from the YOTM website

Eco Baby Prints swatch from the YOTM website

Overall, I love the colour of this yarn and found it pleasant to knit with even when I was a bit frustrated, so it’s something I’d consider buying if I needed a pretty cotton.

Prima Kuri

Yarn of the Month Club, May 2015

Mirasol Prima Kuri

“A solid worsted summer cotton”

5 sts/in on US 6

100% Cotton

208 yds Color: 18

This is a much thicker yarn than the first, but still pretty soft because of the many small strands in the loose twist. As usual, the upside is soft, the downside is splitty here. This seems like a nice workhorse cotton that really shines with textures.

Yarn of the Month Club, May 2015

Just look at how well it shows off the cable of the swatch. Deep texture, nice crisp holes even before blocking.

Yarn of the Month Club, May 2015

Cables and cotton aren’t something I think about together much, since I associate cables with making something thick and warm, and cotton with not being a great insulator. But if I were to make a sweater out of cotton or wanted to add a texture to a summer piece, this yarn would be a great choice.

Yarn of the Month Club, May 2015

Yarn of the Month Club, May 2015

Also, I really liked the swatch pattern and not only because unlike last month’s, it didn’t remind me of nostrils. 😉 As you can tell, this one also wasn’t very square, partially because I didn’t try to stretch it much in blocking. It clocks in at just over 4.25×5.5.

I’m not desperate to make a bunch of textured cotton things so I don’t think I’ll run out to buy this yarn, but if I ever do get the urge, at least I know a yarn that will work!

Cotton Soft

Yarn of the Month Club, May 2015

Mondial Cotton Soft

“Soft and funky colours”

7 sts/in on US 2


196 yds Color: 0876

First, a few more shots to show you the colours in this ball:

Yarn of the Month Club, May 2015

Yarn of the Month Club, May 2015

Isn’t that neat? This is another soft cotton, and again, it’s a “many tiny strands in a lose twist” deal, but I found this one a bit more manageable than the others. But obviously what really makes it stand out is that colourway, which is a really neat self-striping pattern that totally evokes beaches.

Yarn of the Month Club, May 2015

I do wonder exactly what this yarn is intended to be used for, though, given how perfect the stripes look in my 5×5 swatch and that’s a pretty thin width for any real project. Do people knit cotton socks with it, maybe?

Oh, also, I deviated from the swatch recommendation here, sort of. I actually did the swatch as written, but they claimed row 1 was RS and row 7 was WS which, if it was true, would have made this bands of stockinette and seed stitch. But what was written went knit side of the stockinette to seed to purl side to seed and then repeat. I thought this was fun, so i did it that way.


A great batch of samples this month, especially due to the colours!

Yarn of the Month Club, May 2015

As always, I like that this is introducing me to yarns I hadn’t even heard of before doing the sample: Mondial is an Italian brand, Mirosol is spun in peru. And while Debbie Bliss a name I know because it’s so easy to find here, I hadn’t tried this yarn out, so it was still fun and new to me!

Plus, I don’t know about the rest of you, but as someone who used to get most of her yarn from Michael’s where they only stock one brand of cotton, I’m pretty excited to broaden my cotton horizons.

In summary: I’m feeling very happy I renewed my subscription, and can’t wait for the next mailing to arrive!

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June 08, 2015 04:06 PM

Birchbox May 2015

The box design May's Birchbox is definitely one of the classier ones:

Birchbox May 2015

And the products inside mine were similarly svelte-looking in design:

Birchbox May 2015

Juliette Has a Gun Not a Perfume - 50 ml

Birchbox May 2015

I was intrigued by the idea of a "not a perfume" but alas, this is still too strong a scent for it to be pleasant. Apparently when they claimed it was "minimalist" they were referring to the complexity of scent, not the intensity of it. They claim it "has a single note: elegant, spicy Cetalox."

Birchbox May 2015

They aso claim that it's allergen-free, which I find interesting and also unbelievable. It doens't seem to trigger my sniffles, so that's something, but it still smells like impending headache.

Birchbox May 2015

I like the packaging, but that's about where it ends. This doesn't smell interesting or spicy to me, it smells like generic perfume and triggers my usual reaction of "you should get away from this as fast as possible before it triggers a headache."

Birchbox May 2015

I really wish birchbox would let you opt out of scents entirely, as they are not useful to me: I can't wear them to work because there are quite reasonable no-scent policies in my office building, I won't wear them around other people because I know what it's like to be allergic to someone else's perfume, and I won't wear them myself for fear of triggering headaches. So, uh, I have a small collection of these samples wrapped in plastic bags and lying around now. I can't use them. Anyone want me to mail them some?

Naobay Oxygenating Cream Moisturizer

Birchbox May 2015

This is a pleasant enough thinner moisturizer that leaves a slight residue on your skin, just enough that you can tell it was applied but not enough to feel seriously greasy. It's got a light but definitely noticeable smell, predominantly of roses.

I did try it as a makeup base, as they recommend, but didn't notice anything particularly special about it compared to other moisturizers, so I don't think I'll try it again because I prefer unscented lotion especially on my face.

Overall, it's nice and I'm happy to have the sample, since it's probably inoffensive enough to wear at work, and it's got nice clean gender-neutral black-and-white packaging. But I'm not in love with it enough to purchase this one for myself.

W3LL PEOPLE The Expressionist Mascara

Birchbox May 2015

This is a fairly light mascara. It's not hugely lengthening or thickening, so it's probably great for natural-but-enhanced looks. It's definitely the type of mascara I prefer. It even comes with my current favourite type of mascara brush, the ones that look like little spiky maces.

Birchbox May 2015 (well people mascara)

(I'm a mascara noob and find the rigid bristles easier to control so I don't leave dots on my skin and also easier to not deposit too much crud on my lashes.)

But even though it seems to have everything going for it, honestly, it might be a bit too minimalist for my tastes. Here's some before and after shots:

No mascara:
Birchbox May 2015 (no mascara)
Birchbox May 2015 (well people mascara)

Or again with eyes open.
No mascara:
Birchbox May 2015 (no mascara)
Birchbox May 2015 (well people mascara)

It's not invisible, but on my already dark and fairly long lashes, it's not exactly a big difference.

Because I wore it on some pretty hot days where I got salt in my eyes, I've rubbed it a fair bit and I can tell you that it's not completely smudge-free, but it's not going to leave you with giant marks either.

Overall: it's nice enough to use and enjoy as an option, and I'm happy to have a new mascara since they have relatively short shelf lives due to bacteria growth, but it's not standout enough to buy more.

Beauty Protector Beauty Cream Body Lotion

Birchbox May 2015

This is a thicker "body creme" moisturizer lotion that blends in pretty well leaving skin feeling kind of slick but not heavily greasy. It smells exactly like the other beauty protector products, a scent I like ok, but I think the scent in this lotion is a bit too strong to be really pleasant unless you're only applying in a very small area. So, uh, maybe if you wanted smelly elbows or heels or something? I don't think I'll be buying this one.

Macadamia Professional™ Nourishing Moisture Oil Treatment

Birchbox May 2015

This is a fairly thick scented hair oil. It worked quite nicely when I rubbed a few drops into the tips of my hair, smoothing down the rough ends and leaving it looking great. I actually quite liked the product and would probably use it for when my ends need help, except that my boyfriend is deathly allergic to nuts and rubbing nut oil into my hair seems like a rather rude and dangerous thing to do on a regular basis. (As was, I applied it before I went to work, warned him, and washed my hair when I came home that day.)

I guess I could use it when I'm traveling without him, maybe? But I should probably just pass this sample on to someone who can use it without risk.


I was happy to try everything in this box except the perfume, but the only product I thought was really standout could kill my boyfriend. (That's not why I liked it, promise.)

So... obviously not a winner of a box, but I feel like I got to try some nice products even if they weren't for me, and the trying part is why I have the box, so I'm not disappointed by what my $10 got me.

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June 08, 2015 06:46 AM

June 04, 2015


Rippy and Chompy the Gators

This is crossposted from, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

Rippy and Chompy

These two gators got named Rippy and Chompy after the Arrogant Worms’ classic children’s song Rippy the Gator. The girls who recieved them might give them other names, but I suspect these might stick given how many times their dad and I went to Arrogant Worms shows over the years! For those not familiar with this particular musical gem…

Billy and his family went on a holiday

They went down to Florida to laugh and dance and play

Bill went in for a swim, he didn’t see the harm

But when he came back out again, he was short an arm

‘Cause Rippy the Gator went chomp, chomp, chomp!

Rippy the Gator went chomp, chomp, chomp!

Passing the time by ending children’s lives

Down in the bottom of the swamp, swamp, swamp!

and so on.

The Pattern

Rippy and Chompy

[Baby Gators on Ravelry]

[Baby Gators pattern on Mochimochi land]

One of my complaints about amigurumi patterns is that it’s hard to find ones that really take advantage of the range of textures and shapes that are possible. Now, don’t get me wrong: there’s a lot of cute things you can make with balls and cylinders, like good old Hello Kitty, but when I was working on the My Little Pony-inspired amigurumi pattern I made, I had a lot of trouble finding good techniques for some of the shaping I wanted to do.

So when I saw this creative pattern with the textured stitches and the nostril and eyebrow shaping, I knew I had to try it.

My Notes

Link to my Rippy and Chompy the Gators as a project on Raverly

I used Caron Simply Soft for this, because I like that it’s soft, washable and reasonably hypoallergenic. Since these were going to two kids under the age of two, those are all important things!

One thing that’s interesting about this is that it’s knitting, not crochet. In my experience, knitting tends to be a bit stretchier so knit animals tend to have less interesting shapes because they squish out when they’re stuffed. As a result, I rarely love them the way I like the crochet ones! But this one was cool enough that I wanted to try it anyhow.

You do have to be a bit careful with stuffing this one because of the properties of knitting, though. When I first stuffed the nose, it lost shape and you could barely see the nice nostril shaping, and you can tell if you look at the photos that the tails are different widths. Under-stuff rather than over-stuff on this one.

Rippy and Chompy

The pattern is very clear and easy to read. It’s increases, decreases, knits and purls, with something a bit fancier for the bobbles (the nose and eyebrows), so it’s doable for a relatively new knitter, but probably not an absolute beginner unless they have help on hand (or patience and youtube videos!).

The only thing I might have changed is that I found the legs a bit long once I had them sewn on. I decided I didn’t care enough to re-knit, but if I do this again I might think about taking out a row.

Also, as usual with amigurumi, don’t be afraid to experiment a bit with how you sew things on. A little movement can make things look way more cute or a bit uncanny, and I found this was especially true with the legs on this one: in some places, they made it look like spider gator!

Rippy and Chompy


In conclusion, great and interesting pattern that knits up quickly because it’s so small. I may make this one again!

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June 04, 2015 04:45 AM

June 02, 2015


Birchbox April 2015

Can you tell I was playing with some shaped bokeh in these shots? Sorry they're not great product photography, but look at those hearts! ;)

Birchbox April 2015

Short reviews because I'm kind of behind and haven't even photographed my May products yet...

Birchbox April 2015

Beaver professional shampoo and conditioner

Totally acceptable shampoo and conditioner as far as these things go, not too much scent and the smell was inoffensive. What was offensive is this whole "amino acids will fix your hair when applied topically" nonsense on the label. Also, it's made in China, which isn't bad in and of itself, but that seems a long way to import shampoo when it's not really anything spectacular. Overall, I'll use it, but I wouldn't buy it.

Birchbox April 2015

Hello Body Butter

I liked the body scrub with this scent, so I was kind of pleased to get this, although to me it doesn't actually smell quite the same. Still, it's a reasonable enough creme, a bit heavily scented by nicely effective without being super greasy. I have it on my desk at work, although I do worry that it's too strongly scented. (I needed something less greasy, and birchbox isn't so great at low-scent moisturizers as scent is one of few defining features for the genre.)

Birchbox April 2015

POP beauty eyeshadow trio

This is the sample I got to choose, and I'm glad I did!

This is a lovely set of eyeshadows. My sample was all neutrals, which I found a bit amusing given how loud the birchbox box itself was in comparison:

Birchbox April 2015

They go on fairly lightly unless you've got a base coat for it to stick to, but I don't think that's entirely a bad thing if you want to build up a more subtle look. Swatches below without any base coat: you can barely see anything but a sparkle, which is a fun look on eyes, I think.

Birchbox April 2015

Anyhow, they're not heavily pigmented, and I found them really nice to work with, and they worked very well with the eye primer I have. As my birchbox points build up, I'll probably be buying the full-sized one to try some of their other colours, even though I seldom wear eye sparkle. Maybe having more colours will tempt me?

Birchbox April 2015

Cynthia Rowley lip stain

I was pleasantly surprised by the formula here: a lot of lip stains seem to me to be a bit drying, but this was pleasantly moisturizing. Unfortunately, the colour of my sample was too close to my existing lip colour to be very interesting...

Birchbox April 2015

Can you even tell I'm wearing lip shade? I can't.

I'd consider trying another shade someday. Maybe several if they release a set of minis, as this is a great pocket size! Actually, to be honest, I'd buy a lot more lip products if they came in this kind of size instead of giant pen-sized. The small samples get used way more often than the big ones in my life!

Birchbox April 2015

The eyeshadow kind of made this box, for me! But the other products are all things I will use (perhaps more than the eyeshadow, even) and good examples of their respective genres. Nice samples this month, Birchbox!

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June 02, 2015 07:38 AM

June 01, 2015


Small Starry Sweater / Baby Astronomy Sweater

This is crossposted from, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

My friends are having their 2nd child, and since I actually kind of love making baby sweaters (so small! so cute!) I decided to prepare something to welcome her into the world.

Baby Astronomy Sweater

The Yarn

This sweater is actually the first thing I’ve made from my Rose City Yarn Crawl haul. The yarn crawl is a whirlwind weekend++ of yarn shopping. This year (2015) there were 15 shops in the Portland area participating. Believe it or not, that’s not even all the yarn shops in this area! I convinced a friend of mine to come out to Oregon for a visit just to do the crawl and have an excuse to see parts of the area I hadn’t visited yet.

I went a little overboard with the buying, since you got a free pattern (sometimes two!) in each store with purchase. But they had so many neat special “trunk shows” on and so many lovely yarns I’d never tried before, so I kind of bought a year’s worth of fun new experiences for myself, and I don’t regret that at all. Can you spot the yarn I used in the photo of my whole Rose City Yarn haul?

Rose City Yarn Haul

The yarn is Cascade Sunseeker, a 47% cotton/48% acrylic/5% metallic yarn blend. Colourway is “Nautical Blue” (22). The blend is a bit less stiff than many cottons, and less scratchy than many sparkly yarns. It’s not the softest thing I’ve ever worked with, but it’s got a nice balance of feel, look, and easy-care. And strangely, although Cascade is a very popular yarn mill, and I’ve made at least one pattern from their popular books, I think this may be the first thing I’ve made with their yarn! (but not the last: I even have another project completed from another blend of theirs, but it’s a christmas present so you won’t be seeing it for a while!)

I knew at the time of the crawl that I’d be making a baby sweater, but I hadn’t decided what it was going to look like exactly, despite having queued up a bunch of patterns so I’d have some idea of what yarn requirements I had for each. But when I saw the blue sparkly cotton yarn, I knew I wanted to try it for the baby sweater. Starry sweater!

Starry Sweater Sleeve

(I might just love stars. Hey, that second photo was taken on a trip with dad K!)

The dad of the incoming baby once said he’d like me to be a force for science in his kids’ lives. I don’t get to see the family much since I don’t live in the same country any more, but I try to think about that when I prepare gifts for his family. This has been awesome because it gives me an excuse to look at science toys everywhere and claim it’s research for the kids. (Most recently at the big Maker Faire in San Mateo!) My gifts haven’t been all that science-oriented yet since even the eldest is a bit young for some of the building toys that I’d like to get her. But that blue yarn said space, and astronomy is science, so thus the sweater was born!

The Pattern: Offest Wraplan

Offest Wraplan pattern link on ravelry

This pattern has a big warning saying it’s not tech edited, but lots of people have figured it out and I didn’t have too much trouble with it. I do remember there being something a bit weird about the way they handled the ribbing: I think the pattern was done where the ribbing is written with the right side flipping, so in one section you’re purling where you knit in another section, and it seems confusing or wrong until you sit down and work it through.

I made some changes to do a more mistake-rib style ribbing on it in the end, because I liked the way it looked in that yarn in my test swatch. That change was a bit annoying to translate because of the way the pattern reverses things so I had to flip where my twisted stitches were, but I figured it out.

The one thing I should say is that you should pay attention to the number of stitches you pick up for the front panel. When I picked up every one, I got this:

Slightly lopsided starry sweater

So I had to rip that back and try again, skipping a few stitches when I picked up to make it straight.

The details: Buttons!

I had originally planned for there to be a big star on the side of this sweater and then regular buttons, but when I saw the star buttons in the store I changed my plans:

Baby Astronomy Sweater

How cute are those?

I do feel a teensy bit guilty, though, as they’re a bit annoying to use in conjunction with the ribbing I chose. If I’d planned in advance, I could have chosen an edging that was smoother. But they’re so cute, and even after I realized the flaw I figured the cuteness was worth it. At least my friend’s a photographer and he’ll likely get a chance to admire the cuteness in family photos long after the experience of actually using the buttons has faded? (Dear K – I will not be offended if you use this as a pullover after trying to use the buttons once, and I’m sorry I sacrificed function for form. But they’re so cute!)

The details: Appliqué

But now I had a problem. If I put a shooting star on the side as I’d originally intended, would it be just too repetitive? Would I have to futz over making the star exactly match the buttons or it would drive me crazy?

I could have just left it as an offset sweater without appliqué, but that’s such a big space on the side there…

Baby Astronomy Sweater

I’m not the one who hit on the solution. I think it was either my friend M or my sister when we were on Teamspeak playing diablo/knitting/gossiping who suggested the crescent moon:

Baby Astronomy Sweater

And that’s at the point where it went from “Small Starry Sweater” to “Baby Astronomy Sweater.”

I was reminded that it’s a bit annoying to sew something perfectly smoothly onto unfelted knitting because the stitches provide texture that doesn’t line up with your appliqué, but I decided to go for “look handmade” with chunky embroidery stitches. It’s baby clothes, so it’s bound to get messed up anyhow! I do hope this one get re-purposed to doll clothing or something, though, it’s so cute and it’s a shame that at that size, it may only get worn once or twice before it’s outgrown. Ah well, that’s the risks of making baby clothes!

The details: fait avec amour

I’ve never really added clothing labels to the things I make, but I saw these cute “fait avec amour” labels on Knitpicks and thought they were too cute to pass up. I always am pleased when I see French down in the US at all, and the baby this is for has lots of francophones in her family tree!

And while I was at it, I figured I might as well add a washing instruction label. Never hurts to be sure of how you should care for a handknitted piece, although knowing her dad it was bound to be machine washed and dried no matter what!

Baby Astronomy Sweater



The sparkles in this are absolutely amazing in person, and the yarn was easy to work with. I love how it holds crisp corners, so I think it was a good fit for this pattern even though there exist softer cottons I could have tried.


Despite the dire warnings about tech editing, it’s not bad. Not entirely beginner-friendly, in my opinion, but fine if you don’t mind thinking your way through it and have enough experience reading patterns to do so. I love the shape of the final project with the wide neckline, and I liked the way it left space for my own themeing. You could make hundreds of these and not feel like any of them were really the same.


When I gave this to the family, big sis was kind of upset that this sweater wasn’t for her. (I wonder if I could scale up this sweater to her size and do it in some other pretty yarn…) It may be just the grabbiness of a (then) almost-two year old, but I take it to mean that the baby astronomy sweater is an object of desire. That’s good, right?

Whims of almost-two-year-olds aside, I liked this and will almost certainly make this pattern again!

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June 01, 2015 04:31 PM

May 14, 2015


Yarn of the Month Club review, April 2015

This is crossposted from, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

This is my third yarn of the month club envelope, which is significant because I only paid for 3 months up-front and promised myself I’d make a decision thereafter. Only two samples once again, but I liked them!

The samples for April 2015:

Yarn of the Month Club, April 2015

Pattern: Spring Showers Hood

Yarn of the Month Club, April 2015

This is a cute little pattern that I’m tempted to make just to see if I’d use it. I’m not much for cowls, but I like hats, so maybe? No author given, no reference to it in ravelry, so I guess it’s just a YOTM special.


Yarn of the Month Club, April 2015


“This is a great blend. The merino gives it bounce and the yak adds just a little haze.”

6.25 sts/inch on US 3-4

85% Merino Wool 15% Yak

153 yds Color: 13

I love this yarn. Soft but shows off the stitch pattern nicely. I’ve definitely pet yak-blend yarns before, since J has a particular fondness for Blue Moon Fiber Arts’ YAKSI Fingering in Tardis Blue, but I hadn’t knit anything with yak in it myself. This was definitely a treat!

Look at it, even before it was blocked:

Yarn of the Month Club, April 2015Yarn of the Month Club, April 2015

I liked this stitch motif for the swatch, which makes a nice zigzaggy cable across the top of each rib. It’s nice and stretchy, but a little more solid than a regular rib because of the teensy zig-zag cables. I may have to find a way to use this in a pattern!

And here it is blocked:

Yarn of the Month Club, April 2015

Yarn of the Month Club, April 2015

I wouldn’t mind picking up some more of this, and I’m definitely interested in trying some more yak blends now, even if they are pricey!


Yarn of the Month Club, April 2015


“Soft and strong cotton”

5.5 sts/inch on US 6

100% Printed Cotton

262 yds Color: 207 Monet

This is a really nice soft cotton. Not fuzzy the way the yak yarn is, but easy to bend and knit. It tends to unwind a bit; the loose twist that helps with the softness doesn’t do you favours in the “staying together” department, but I think the balance in that tradeoff was ok.

What I don’t like about this yarn is the way the colourway looks when it’s knit up. It looks ok in the ball. Interesting, at least. But put it together into a stitch pattern and it seriously makes this look like a grimy paint rag:

Yarn of the Month Club, April 2015

Yarn of the Month Club, April 2015

I’m not a huge fan of the “bluebell rib” swatch pattern provided, as it once again looks like a bunch of nostrils to me, and I think I probably should have flipped my yarn overs so that both holes worked out to be the same size, but I decided to just run with it rather than re-knit.

I don’t think this colourway does any favours the bluebell rib, unless you figure providing camouflage so you can’t see stacks of noses in photo is good. It’s a bit easier to see the shapes in person than in the blocked photos below, but it’s still not great.

Yarn of the Month Club, April 2015

Yarn of the Month Club, April 2015

I think I actually like the reverse side better in this case! But I did enjoy the yarn even if I think the colourway is too much and the stitch pattern is too nasal. I would consider buying this in another colour if I had a project that could use a soft cotton.


Even though there were only two samples this month, these two were both really fun yarns to try out and they weren’t very much like other yarns I already have, so I’m pretty pleased! I definitely feel like I got more bang for my buck than last month.

So in the end, I’ve decided to continue the subscription. It’s $9.25/month for a fun little surprise in the mail, and I’m not having trouble making sure I knit the samples every month at least so far. I was worried these might pile up with all the travel I do, but in practice I really like having quick knit projects when I want a break from my bigger works in progress, or as a palette cleanser while I decide what to work on next. It’s actually kind of changed my attitude towards swatching, too, since I can just add my other swatches into the pile I’m building up from yarn of the month samples.

All my samples are going to make one *very* strange blanket, though.

Yarn of the Month Club, April 2015

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May 14, 2015 04:04 PM

May 12, 2015


#SheridanCommute: Spring, Snow, Sunshine

Spring: Snow + Sunshine

Spring: Snow + Sunshine

We’ve been in a remarkable cycle, for us. Two and even three grey days in a row. But eventually the sun does come back out and light up the snows that fell in the mountains and foothills. Then back to grey and moisture in the air. Can’t complain about moisture in the air!

by ag at May 12, 2015 09:38 PM

May 05, 2015


Summer Sweater for S (Sleeved version of The Cherry Variations)

This is crossposted from, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

One of my personal goals for 2015 was to try knitting an adult-sized sweater. And I’m happy to say that I’ve managed it, although I admit I cheated a bit in making it for my sister rather than for myself, as she’s a few sizes smaller than I am.

S's Cotton Sweater

The Yarn

The yarn is KnitPicks Billow, which I picked up because my sister prefers things without animal fibers so that they won’t be bad for her boyfriend, who is allergic. It’s soft yarn and lovely feeling, but it’s a bit weird to work with because it has variable thickness. After a few test swatches, I decided it would be nicest in a simple stockinette that showcased the homespun feel of the yarn, since the other things I tried seemed to be fighting it.

The pattern

This is based off The Cherry Variations [ravelry link], a most excellent free pattern from Knitty’s Spring 2003 edition. (I didn’t even know how to knit back then!)

However, if you go look at that pattern, you’ll notice mine’s a fair bit different from the original…


So what happened?

1. Stripes. These are simple, 8 rows wide, 3 colours.

2. I decided to add some sleeves. I actually didn’t plan to do this, but when it got done the sleeveless version I decided it would be nicer with some sleeves. So I picked up stitches around the arm opening and did them seamless-style. I think there were 35 stitches the way I picked ’em up. I knit the sleeves straight at the top, with stripes to match the body. (My stripes are 8 rows wide.)

When I got down to a bit before wrist length, I decided belled sleeves would be hilarious in this yarn because of the way it drapes. To do this, I divided the stitches into 3 (it wasn’t quite even but close), placed markers (since I was using 2 circulars at this point) and increased at the stitch markers every 3rd row, approximately, for the last two stripes (so last 16 rows).

I cast off using some ludicrously stretchy bind-off from this page comparing bind-off methods. I think it was Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off.

S's Cotton Sweater

3. The thing you might not notice immediately is that I decided to add a crochet border along the neckline. I found that the sweater as was tended to be a little too off-the-shoulder on me, and since my sister has much less wide shoulders, I figured that would be annoying and would eventually stretch it out to the point of uselessness. So I looked up stabilizing methods online and settled on a simple single crochet.

S's Cotton Sweater

I didn’t think to take a picture of myself wearing it, so no modelled shot. I figured it would just look ill-fitted anyhow, as the shaping around the bust line was made with my sister’s approximate measurements in mind, so it was quite tight on my rib cage, let alone my bust.

I don’t know how much she likes it, but it does fit, at least!


I kind of fell in love with the yarn as I was knitting it, and I like the pattern enough that I’m strongly considering making one for myself, even though it’s cotton and not exactly the most suitable for the Pacific Northwest’s soggy weather!

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May 05, 2015 06:47 AM

April 15, 2015


"but it is not going to be installed"

Playing with docker and the mailman bundler today in an attempt to get some images running, and I hit a point where I got this:

root@fd97a058ea83:~/mailman-bundler# apt-get install python3-dev
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done
Some packages could not be installed. This may mean that you have
requested an impossible situation or if you are using the unstable
distribution that some required packages have not yet been created
or been moved out of Incoming.
The following information may help to resolve the situation:

The following packages have unmet dependencies:
python3-dev : Depends: libpython3-dev (= 3.4.0-0ubuntu2) but it is not going to be installed
Depends: python3.4-dev (>= 3.4.0-0~) but it is not going to be installed
E: Unable to correct problems, you have held broken packages.

It was very non-obvious to me what was going on and google wasn't super helpful, so I'm posting in case someone else searches for the same "but it is not going to be installed" installed error message.

Turns out, what happened is that I needed to run apt-get update, and now it's happy.

Well, at least relative to that... buildout in mailman-bundler is complaining about numpy so I've still got some work to do!

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April 15, 2015 03:19 AM


#SheridanCommute: Turtle for Tots

Turtle for Tots at Kendrick Park

Turtle for Tots greets visitors to the playground at Kendrick Park

Even in the flat light of a high overcast, this little guy and his playground strike a cheerful note.

by ag at April 15, 2015 12:52 AM

April 09, 2015


#SheridanCommute: April morning

Big Horn mountains with April Snow

The Big Horns from our offices

Yesterday afternoon a dreary slide from grey drizzle to hard cold rain to mixed precip. This morning glorious Western spring sunshine with snow in the foothills and a waning moon above.

by ag at April 09, 2015 03:28 PM

April 07, 2015


Yarn of the Month Club review, March 2015

This is crossposted from, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

Well, no one’s come after me for spilling the secrets of the Yarn of the Month Club, so I guess it’s time to post another review. This is for March, so I guess I’m not surprised that there’s some green yarn.

Here’s the two samples:

Yarn of the Month Club, March 2015

With this came a Beanie Cap pattern and instructions for two squares using the yarn.

Pattern: Beanie Cap

No author given for this, probably because it’s too simple to claim ownership of it. It’s a basic toque with a k2p2 ribbed edge and stockinette body, a nice staple to have in one’s collection but probably not something I’ll be knitting up immediately.

Here’s the yarn in their baggies, so you have the names:

Yarn of the Month Club, March 2015

Let’s talk about the white one first…


Yarn of the Month Club, March 2015


“Fun and funky fur”

7 sts/in on US 5

100% Polyester

98 yds Color 471 or 470

This is a pretty typical fur/eyelash yarn. I’ve done enough variants of fluffy yarn that I’m pretty comfortable with it, and it was nice that this wasn’t of the sort that sheds. I’d be kind of disappointed in getting this since it wasn’t exactly a new fiber experience for me, but I did learn something due to the swatch pattern:

Yarn of the Month Club, March 2015

The swatch has every 4th row as a sl1 p3 pattern, and it *really* tightens up the piece (which is otherwise garter stitch). That’s a good technique to know if I ever do a scarf out of an eyelash yarn again!

The swatch pattern leaves faint lines across the piece. I couldn’t seem to get them to show up in my photos, since the light characteristics of the yarn mean I’d have had to be more selective about my lighting, but you can feel them under the fuzz and I kind of like the effect.


Yarn of the Month Club, March 2015


“Soft and superwash – a workhorse of a yarn”

4.25 sts/inch on US 7

20% Wool and 80% Acrylic

447 yds Color 57 or 73

This is a wool/acrylic blend that didn’t really work for me. It’s got too much acrylic to block very well, and the “leaf” pattern of the swatch suffers for it, although it does result in the back looking especially like nostrils to me:

Yarn of the Month Club, March 2015

(Sorry about the excessively small depth of field; I forgot to switch camera settings)

Frankly, I think it does better as a nostril pattern than it does as a leaf, with them all running together like that, but it’s an old standard, I guess.

Pattern aside, I’m not sure what niche the Rübezahl yarn fills: it’s got too much wool to be useful for folks who can’t handle animal fibers, and too much acrylic for you to experience the greater flexibility in a wool fiber. I guess at least it has nice stitch definition, and it seems like it might be warm and hard-wearing for stuff like slippers?

I am, however, very pleased that I remembered how to do an umlaut on my mac, so there’s that. ;)

Yarn of the Month Club, March 2015

Here’s the finished piece being held down by pins for blocking, but frankly it rebounded back to look almost like it did unblocked.

Yarn of the Month Club, March 2015

And here’s both of them so you can see it unblocked:

Yarn of the Month Club, March 2015

You can also see there that the white swatch is really not square. Oh well, it’s going to be hilarious when I put these squares together in a blanket because of the density, so why not the shape as well?


I’m not going to lie, with only two samples and one of them pretty meh, I’m not very impressed with this month’s offerings. But I still enjoyed knitting up the samples for the purpose of trying new stitch patterns, and I learned a useful thing about making eyelash yarn knit up more densely, something that I think will be useful for scarves and hats in the future.

If this had been my first sample, I’d probably be on the verge of giving up, but since I enjoyed the first one, I’m willing to be optimistic. I only bought a 3-month subscription, so after next month I’ll have to decide if I want to renew!

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April 07, 2015 04:31 PM

Birchbox March 2015

This Birchbox is much prettier than last month's eye-searing box. (I'll post pictures/reviews of last month's later; I was busy with a visiting friend and didn't do it on the usual timeline.)

Birchbox March 2015

I actually managed to catch the "choose one sample!" email, so I chose the hair stuff. It was a good choice!

Now, to the reviews:

Birchbox March 2015 2015

With the muslin cloth included, it seems that this is intended as a whole facial cleansing ritual, and it's a pleasant one. I like the eucalyptus and plant-y scent, and the whole experience with the hot cloth makes it feel fancy and thorough. It's like a little mini spa treatment every night, which is a bit more work but I kind of enjoyed working it into my nighttime rituals. I'll consider purchasing this when my current facial cleanser runs low, but I would plan to buy a few extra cloths since they recommend laundering them every other use or so.

Birchbox March 2015 2015

It's a 10® Miracle Leave-In Product

This is the sample I chose!

This is a leave in hair product fitting a similar niche to the beauty protector one that I sampled earlier and now use regularly. I like that the scent is a bit lighter and dissipates faster in the It's a 10 product, making it more suitable for low-scent environments like my workplace. I wish I knew why it makes me think of berries every time I apply it! I don't think it's quite as good a detangler nor do the effects last as long as with my existing product, but the lighter smell is enough of an asset that I'm quite happy to have it as an option in my hair care toolbox!

Birchbox March 2015 2015

Elite Therapeutics Rosemary Eucalyptus Body Crème

This is another plant-smelling moisturizer. Seems like a reasonably effective lotion, takes a bit more rubbing to blend in than some. I quite like the combo rosemary-eucalyptus smell when it's going on, but I found the lingering scent of eucalyptus on my hands started to drive me nuts after a while. Thankfully, though, it's got a nice gender-neutral packaging, so my boyfriend was happy to take it off my hands (har har) and make good use of it as a convenient travel-sized lotion for his kit.

Birchbox March 2015 2015

Roloxin™ Lift Revitalizing Facial Treatment

With only a few exceptions, I enjoy trying out new face masks. Sadly, this is one of those exceptions: it dries to a powder finish, and then removing it made me sneeze like I'd been going through dusty books. It felt tightening as it dried out, but I couldn't tell much difference in my face after except for redness caused by needing to rub and rinse a lot of times to get rid of the dust. Despite my best efforts, it left chalky residue in my eyebrows and around my hair line, making them feel dirty and weird. The drying to powder experience was fun, though, it was just the removal that was too annoying for me.

I have a second packet if anyone wants to try it, although given my review, you're probably not going to be too tempted. ;)

Here's what it looks like dried on my face:

(when it's wet it looks like sunscreen or moisturizer you haven't blended in)

And here's what it looks like when half-removed, so you can see the difference relative to my skin colour:


Entertaining once, but too annoying to open that second packet. If anyone wants me to mail it to them, just ask. ;)

Birchbox March 2015 2015

Jelly Pong Pong GLOW GETTER Highlighter

This is a little jar of sparkle for your face! You'd think I'd be totally into this, but since my moisturizer-sunscreen already has a sparkle-vampire kind of effect, it's a bit excessive for regular use. Still, the effect is fun, and I've had a good time blending it with my matte cheek colours to try out new effects.


Nothing in this box is going to change my life, but I had a good time trying most of it, and that's what sample boxes are for, right?

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April 07, 2015 05:33 AM

March 30, 2015


Mirror App — Look at Yourself. Snap a Selfie. Totally Private.

The Mirror App lets you look at yourself

or whatever your device’s main camera happens to be pointed at. It’s a mirror in your web browser, which you can use on various devices.


It works in your browser online, offline, AND…from your home screen like an app! Mirror App AdHTML5 makes all this possible from a single web application.

Total Privacy

Mirror App uses your device’s video feed within your browser. No server ever handles, touches, sees, or even sneezes in the general direction of your video feed, meaning it is entirely local to your device and entirely private.

So you can check your hair without Google peeping on you.

Snapshots: Why not a selfie?

Mirror App also lets you take transient snapshots, which are also hosted entirely as data strings in your browser, and therefore, also, totally private. Your picture exists only as long is it is open (or perhaps cached) in your browser. Close the tab and it’s effectively gone. (Clear your browser cache and it’s totally, annihilated-ly, reduced-to-primordial-non-existence gone.) How’s that for user privacy? Take that, SnapChat.

However, you have the option to save your snapshots to your device too! Your glamorous face need not vanish as dust in the wind.*

The Catch: Limited Support

The Mirror App requires an up-to-date version of Chrome or Firefox. Also, and unfortunately, iOS does not yet support HTML5 or the getUserMedia api. We created Mirror App to test out these new web standards, so, understandably, support is spotty.

(Browser compatibility for HTML5 can only increase in time.)

Click here to try Mirror App.

*Note of interest: If you save your snapshot, no EXIF data gets stored with your file. If you’re really really concerned with image privacy, then this allows you to take some truly anonymous photos! This means the image file does not contain information including device/camera, timestamp, geotag, or camera settings!

by Bret Norwood at March 30, 2015 07:48 PM

March 02, 2015


Hello Kitty Amigurumi ("Bring me the head of Hello Kitty!")

This is crossposted from, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

Hello Kitty Crochet is a book I have coveted since I knew it existed, in part due to nostalgia as I remember getting little cute Japanese things on occasion as a kid, but also because it just looked like a fantastic set of amigurumi crochet patterns with lots of details and cute photos.

Hello Kitty Crochet: Supercute Amigurumi…
Hello Kitty Crochet: Supercute Amigurumi Patterns for Sanrio Friends
by Mei Li Lee

J’s parents were sweet enough to get me a copy for my birthday. So of course, the thing to do is to make the titular character and send her back with a thank you note! I have no idea what they’re ever going to do with a little Hello Kitty, but what has one ever done with Hello Kitty other than admire her, really?

I finished her head pretty quickly, then got side-tracked by something else so there was just this severed head lying around the house for a week:

Hello Kitty Amigurumi

Eventually, though, she got some more body parts:

Hello Kitty Amigurumi

The strange one there is the bow. I am quite sure that there’s an error in the book, because they have you doing 4 sc and then 3 sc in one, which would give you a total of 7 sc across… but then the next line says you should turn and do 9 sc plus another 3-in-one. Does not compute, Hello Kitty. Through looking at the pictures and some online research my best guess is that you’re not supposed to turn your work front to back but rather make an oval by crocheting around the other side of the original chain, so that’s what I wound up doing.

Here’s a picture where you can see it better:

Hello Kitty Amigurumi

And here’s one so you can see that she does indeed have a tail:

Hello Kitty Amigurumi

What you can’t see is that she has washers in her butt to make her a bit weighted and not top heavy. I debated putting a rare earth magnet in there too, but I couldn’t really think when that would be useful, so I went with just the washers.

To fill out the post, here’s some photos with a Hello Kitty Makeup box I got when it was on sale at Sephora:

Hello Kitty Amigurumi

Very kawaii, indeed. I’d originally intended to felt her, but once I got her features on I didn’t want to mess them up. Maybe next time!

Hello Kitty Amigurumi

Hello Kitty Amigurumi

If you don’t know how big that box is, it might be hard to tell how big she is. Here’s a shot with a ruler, although the one I have with the ruler up and down didn’t turn out so well, so you’ll have to guesstimate from the one where it’s beside her. She’s a little under 3in high.

Hello Kitty Amigurumi

Aside from the issue with the bow, I found the directions pretty clear. They’d be suitable for a crochet/amigurumi beginner if you’re eager to try her out. I can’t wait to try some of the other patterns in the collection!

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March 02, 2015 05:30 PM

February 27, 2015


Blue starry math pony (using @valleyviolet's pattern!)

This is crossposted from, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

Ever since I saw Valleyviolet’s Pony Pattern collections, I’ve wanted to make one. I finally bought the collection in order to make the Pink Fluffy Unicorn mascot for Quelab (who is apparently MIA right now, likely stolen by the same person who vandalized the room sign; much sadness. She was a lot of work!), but I didn’t want to jump right into fighting with fun fur, and I’m fortunate enough to know a little girl of around the right age to enjoy a pony, so…

Custom my little pony for V

I went with blue and stars not out of any particular reason other than I liked the way the two fabrics looked together. The recipient’s young and lives far away from me, so I don’t know much about her preferences yet! However, I *do* know that her mom’s a mathematician and that her dad would like me to be a science role model for her. So the pony came with a book:

Custom my little pony for V

The book, as you can’t quite see in that photo, is “The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdős.” I was super excited when I first heard of it, as it’s a beautifully illustrated children’s book about a rather famous mathematician. One of the things he did was travel the world, collaborating with mathematicans all over the place. Mathematicians sometimes talk about their Erdős Number, which indicates degrees of collaborators on your published papers leading back to the man himself. (I published a paper with someone who’s number is 2, so mine is 3, a number worthy of bragging about at math parties!). My Calculus prof, an excellent storyteller, used to tell us tales of Erdős at the end of class sometime, and I was totally enchanted to hear more of them through the book. And the art works a lot of careful math and real people into the story, which is amazing. I also love that it doesn’t shy away from the fact that he was a man who couldn’t do his own laundry but helped do so much math that people were willing to welcome him into their homes.

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life…
The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos
by Deborah Heiligman, LeUyen Pham (Illustrator)

I highly recommend it, especially if you’ve got a kid in your life who could use a gift!

It’s also a kind of funny pairing with this pony, as some folk have this theory that one of the My Little Ponies with somewhat similar colouring also really likes math. Not an intentional joke on my part, but I’ll take it!

So back to the pony construction…

Much like how representations of humans can have an uncanny valley effect if things are close but a little off, my experience is that this is a pattern that can go kind of horribly wrong if you don’t pay attention to the details. I originally sewed her head on in a weird way and was totally disappointed with the end result. I wasn’t even going to give it to V, it was so awful. I didn’t even take pictures (which is a shame in hindsight because the comparison was so striking). But after ruminating a while, I tried again, and with her nose tipped up just so, she got the curious look I was hoping for.

Custom my little pony for V

Valleyviolet’s instructions are very detailed and clear, and there’s a lot of work put into the shaping that really shows in the final product. There’s also just a lot of thought put into the instructions. I’ve actually never worked with a pattern that was so careful about explaining things, and I’ve got to say the patterns are worth every penny as a result. You can can buy her pony patterns here, and I promise you can make much more polished ponies than I did!

Custom my little pony for V

I think when I do my next one, I’ll have to be a bit more careful about marking the notches and just generally careful about the stitching. I also need to invest in some heavier weighting for her legs since, as you can see, she doesn’t quite keep all four feet on the floor sometimes. (This was right after she came out of my suitcase from my flight to Ottawa, though, so I can’t blame her for looking a bit disheveled!)

Custom my little pony for V

I don’t know how much the recipient cared for the pony, and to be honest she’s a bit young for the book yet, so I didn’t win any gift giving awards here, but it was fun to do and I really loved the pattern.

I think I’m going to try out the shoulder pony pattern next, once I find some suitable beanbag filling!

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February 27, 2015 05:31 PM

February 24, 2015

Anne Irrigation Supply Domain Name Available ( Too!)

Premium Domains and Up for Sale!

[UPDATE 05/29/2015: TurfCalculator is SOLD. is listed at GoDaddy.]

[EDIT 04/03/2015: Now listed at!] and are going up for sale! These two fantastic exact match domain names will go to auction on within the coming weeks, but we will be willing to consider reasonable offers for these domains up until bidding begins.

An Irrigation Supply Store’s Dream Domain

A 4-yr aged category killer for the drip timer market.

An irrigation timerA drip timer is a device for scheduling or timing a drip irrigation system, and usually refers to either a hose-end timer or to mounted controllers for home and garden irrigation. is the ideal domain for an irrigation or home-and-garden supply store to capture drip timer keyword searches and make sales.

Drip timers usually sell between $30 (a simple hose-end timer) and $80 (for a mounted AC station) per unit.

Keyword facts

Drip timer – 1,900/mo. @ $1.09 CPC
Drip irrigation timer – 880/mo. @ $1.24 CPC

Market facts

Drip irrigation – 110,000/mo. @ $1.84 CPC
Drip irrigation system – 22,200/mo. @ $1.91 CPC
Drip watering system – 18,100/mo. @ $1.86 CPC
Drip irrigation supplies – 2,900/mo. @ $1.77 CPC
Garden irrigation – 40,500/mo. @ $2.15 CPC
Home irrigation – 
18,100/mo. @ $1.66 CPC

Make Hay with

The Best Domain for a Sod, Grass, or Turf Area Estimator

A turf calculator is a tool for estimating surface areas for grass seed, sod, or synthetic turf in landscaping. Many landscaping and turf suppliers offer online turf calculators on their websites. With this rare .com domain, you could own not just a turf calculator, but the turf calculator.

Keyword Facts

Turf calculator – 1,600/mo. @ $1.77 CPC

Market Facts

Sod  – 4,090,000/mo. @ $1.60 CPC
Sod cost / Cost of sod – 33,100/mo. @ $1.44 CPC
Lawn grass – 1,220,000/mo. @ $1.57 CPC
Grass seed  – 301,000/mo. @ $1.57 CPC
Bermuda grass – 90,500/mo. @ $1.56 CPC
Kentucky bluegrass –  49,500/mo. $1.44
Zoysia grass – 40,500/mo. @ $1.27 CPC
Artificial turf – 110,000/mo. @ $3.35 CPC
Synthetic turf  – 74,000/mo. @ $3.30 CPC
Artificial grass – 165,000/mo. @ $3.37 CPC

All keyword stats courtesy of

Image “Garden Irrigation Computer” by Wikipedia user Jarlhelm. CC-BY-SA-2.5

by Bret Norwood at February 24, 2015 11:39 PM

February 23, 2015


Yarn of the Month Club review, February 2015

This is crossposted from, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

This month, I joined a yarn subscription club that No One Talks About on the Internet. So of course, I’m going to talk about it on the internet. I hope I’m not breaking some unspoken rule by telling you about it. Oh heck, who am I kidding? I’ll probably be pleased if I broke some rule. Knowledge for all!

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015

First, though, let’s back up to how I wound up joining this club. I’ve been intrigued for a while by the idea of yarn subscriptions.

On the plus side:

+ Surprise yarn!

+ Trying new things!

+ Learning about new dyers and mills and whatever!

+ Getting some patterns to inspire me!

+ And having enough yarn to complete the projects!

But on the down side:

– Most of the boxes are moderately expensive. Around $40/month is pretty normal, and you can pay much more.

– … so if you hate what you get, you’re going feel like you’ve wasted a lot of money

– I don’t think I actually use 2+ skeins of yarn every month, so it’s going to start to pile up

Some pricing:

Knitcrate has 6 subscription types, ranging from $22.50 for 5 minis/month to $65/month for indie yarns. Likely subscription for me would have been $55 for an intermediate/advanced box.

Yarnbox: $35.95/month, more for the luxe version (presumably)

There are lots of others, but those were the two that came up the most.

In the course of doing some research about options, I encountered Yarn of the Month, which sends out little teensy yarn samples instead of full skeins. Because it’s only a taste of yarn rather than a full meal, it rings in as a $9.25/month subscription (less if you get a few months at once). That hits that sweet spot on subscription boxes for me, where it’s easy to write off a bad month and won’t result in rapidly growing pile of stuff in my life. I’d miss out on some of the advantages, in exchange I’d basically wipe out all the disadvantages I listed, and instead miss out on extras that fancier boxes throw in. (That’s actually kind of a shame because I haven’t been knitting long enough to acquire a lot of the small tools that show up as extras!)

What finally pushed me to the decision brink was the assertion that you’d be able to do little 5 inch swatches from your teeny yarn balls, and put them together to have a blanket at the end of the year. So it wouldn’t even be a pile of craft clutter when I was done admiring them, and I’d be motivated to actually *use* the yarn. Awesome!

The problem is, I couldn’t find pictures of the yarn, the swatches, or even many people talking about this club. It was a giant social media void. I could find pictures for yarnbox, pictures for knitcrate, pictures for random yarn of the month clubs on etsy… but only a few forum stale threads for Yarn of the Month.

What to do? I contemplated for a bit, then figured I could afford to try it out and see what happened. But in the interest of helping others, I was darned well going to post some pictures when (if?) I actually got a shipment!

So here’s a review. Hopefully the lack of posts about the yarn is a lack of social media marketing rather than a sign that I have paid money into some sort of mysterious yarn cult that will be upset at this breach of unspoken social etiquette.

First, let me show you the yarn again on a different background to give you a sense of colour:

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015

I guess February was kind of red themed for valentine’s day.

Not pictured: the February Socks pattern from Birgitte Zeuner and instructions for 3 square swatches. Frankly, they’re printed on thin US letter paper and just not that attractive as a photography subject after being mooshed through the mail. Totally legible, but I might have invested in stiffer paper if I were running YOTM.

February Socks by Birgitte Zeuner

The February Socks pattern looks cute enough. I would have liked better pictures, but obviously I can find them on Ravelry so that works out.

Unfortunately, having just finished my first pair of adult socks, I’m not actually that excited about starting another one, so I think this is getting shelved indefinitely. I’m going to have to find a binder I can put these in! Maybe I’ll find a friend who’s super excited about this and I can pass it on, though.

Angora Lace

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015

Angora Lace

“Luxurious with a delicate bloom”

6.5 sts/inch on US 2

50% Merino Superwash 20% Angora 30% Nylon

462 yds Color: 102

This is soft and lovely in the ball as one would expect for Angora, and quite pleasant to knit with. It’s not fluffy and doesn’t seem to shed (ask me about my experience knitting pure angora bunny fur sometime) but instead just results in beautifully soft yarn. It’s tightly wound enough that it doesn’t split on those little size 2 needles, and it held up to some unknitting as I tried to end my swatch as close to the end of the ball as possible and mis-calculated.

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015

It’s not the easiest thing to photograph since it is subtly fluffy and catches the light a lot, but that’s only annoying for the purposes of this post and not in general. (Actually, I’d totally be into anti-photography yarn… I should work on that with some retroreflective stuff.)

The swatch pattern provided uses double-wrapped knitting stitches, a technique I hadn’t tried but a video tutorial wasn’t too hard to find. I actually usually prefer non-video tutorials, but this one is short and clear. You put the needle through as if to knit then wrap the yarn twice instead of once around and knit those, leaving two loops on. then when you come across it in the next few rows, you don’t bother trying to keep those doubled but instead slip stitch through them, leaving you with one longer stitch floating over the fabric.

Here’s one regular vs one weirdly processed photo to show you the floating stitches:

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015

The finished piece is super soft and pretty light. I suspect it'd be pretty warm, but it's hard to tell with just a swatch!

Saki Bamboo

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015

Saki Bamboo

“Soft and yummy with great stitch definition”

7 sts/inch on US 0

50% Merino Superwash 25% Nylon 25% Rayon from Bamboo

230 yds Color: 203

This one feels great in the ball, all silky smooth, but I found it actually a bit odd to work with. While I’m knitting it, it has that sort of squeaky/roughish feel that I associate with some acrylics, even though the finished piece feels nice.

I was so pleased when I figured out the swatch pattern:

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015

I’m thinking that I might see if I can incorporate this into the hem of a baby sweater in the near future. I’m not sure I’d buy this yarn, though. It wasn’t hard to work with and it does as promised have great stitch definition, but with so many yarns in the world “feels a little weird to knit” is enough to drop it off my personal to-buy list. I’ve never knit with bamboo before so I don’t know if that’s a function of the fiber or if I just didn’t love this particular blend, but I suspect the latter so maybe I’ll try some other bamboo blends out.

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015

And finally here is is, blocking on my chair, so you can see the repeats better:

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015

The finished, blocked piece is smooth and very light, so it might be a great for summer knits. To be honest, I like the stitch pattern best when it’s a single row, but the swatch was still fun to do!

Saki Silk

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015

Saki Silk

“Beautiful, subtle sheen and drape”

7 sts/inch on US 2

55% Fine Merino 25% Nylon 20% Silk

440 yds Color: 305

Silk blend yarn is one of my favourite treats for myself. I’m not sure that the stitch pattern really showed off the drape at all, though:

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015

It’s kind of a bumpy rib pattern with twisted stitches. It’s quite dense and doesn’t drape at all! What’s neat about this pattern is that it’s very reversible and feels completely different on both sides.

The bumpy rib side:

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015

Much smoother back:

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015

The smooth side is where this yarn really appeals, since it’s got that little bit of silky slippery-ness.

I would strongly consider using this to replace ribbing on worn items like sweaters and mitts, since I like the look of the one side and the feel of the other.

The one thing that this pattern does show off is the yarn’s stitch definition:

Yarn of the Month Club, February 2015

Overall, I liked working with this yarn a fair bit: it’s soft, easy to work with, doesn’t snag too much, and the results are reasonably striking. I do wish I had a way to see if I actually like the drape, but I enjoyed the swatch pattern so much that it’s hard to really mind.

So in conclusion…

Do I still want a fancier, more expensive, larger yarn subscription?

Heck yeah, they sound lovely. But while I can afford more, this seems like a good balance of price and quantity for me. I think I’ll aim to spend money in my local yarn stores (there are so many here!) rather than risking it on a larger subscription at the moment.

Am I happy with this month’s box?

Heck yeah! I *loved* making the swatches. I’d never done any of those stitch patterns before, and I’m glad to add to my repertoire. And I’m glad to have tried all the yarns, although I’m not sure I’d run out and buy more of any of them unless I had a specific project in mind. But I really like having samples of them all so I can tell if they *would* fit a given project.

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February 23, 2015 05:31 PM

February 16, 2015


February 2015 Knit-a-long: week 1 and 2

This is crossposted from, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

A local designer (PDXKnitterati) started advertising her February Knit-a-long (KAL) and I thought I’d give it a try. It’s an excuse to try out one of her lovely patterns, to take more pictures for sharing (I definitely need more practice photographing my knitting projects to best effect) and there are even prizes, which is fun. This one came at just the right time for me, since those rainbow socks (see previous post) had been almost ready to come off the needles and I needed a push to get them done.

I’ve never tried a KAL before, although I guess I did have a mutual “create as many crocheted angry birds as possible before PAX East” pact with my friend M one year, which I guess is sort of similar, maybe?

Feb 1st, I gathered up my ingredients… The pattern I’m using comes out of the Knitpicks “under 100″ (as in under 100g of yarn).

February 2015 KAL prep

The yarn is Knitpicks Gloss fingerling in the Kennai colourway. (Two 50g hanks, you see?)

February 2015 KAL prep

I had 3 bead options, all of which I liked. At a suggestion, I tried a swatch with them all to see which ones worked best for me:

February 2015 KAL

The silver and gold were clearly better than the blue/greens (which barely showed up) but what really decided me was thinking of ferns and what the fruiting bodies look like:

Fern fruiting bodies (pairs of them running along the underside of the frond) from  A Digital Flora of Newfoundland and Labrador Vascular Plants Fern fruiting bodies (pairs of them running along the underside of the frond) from A Digital Flora
of Newfoundland and Labrador
Vascular Plants

The pattern beads are designed to go in the center, but I liked the idea of brown to remind me of real ferns anyhow. Perhaps someday I’ll work on some fern lace with pairs of beads, though!

Here’s what it looks like in the shawl:

February 2015 KAL

After a few false starts and times where I had to rip back to where I went wrong, I finally made it through a few repeats of the pattern. Here’s how far I was near the end of the first week:

February 2015 KAL

I guess I must have been tired since I blocked it upside-down. Thankfully, that doesn’t matter!

Now that we’re at the end of week 2, I’ve gotten much further! Here’s one to show the current length.

February 2015 KAL (Week 2)

I was actually the lucky recipient of the week 1 prize, which was a pair of bead aids. This has made it way easier to put on the beads, as previously I was using a teensy crochet hook that didn’t quite grab all the yarn, so sometimes it would take me 2 (or more!) tries to get the bead on. The bead aids are much easier to get right, so that’s helped a lot. Here’s a wingpsan-y view to show the beads and the detail of that blocked tip while it’s rightside up!

February 2015 KAL (Week 2)

And finally, here’s a photo with real live ferns!

February 2015 KAL (Week 2)

Those last photos were taken along the Columbia River Gorge, since we have an out-of-town friend visiting and since she’s a photographer and it’s been a gorgeous weekend, we’ve been trying to hit some prime photo spots. So to round this out, here’s a picture of the famous Multnomah Falls:

Multnomah Falls

It’s a bit of a unusual photo because the falls are usually photographed vertically to show off how tall they are. I was showing off my new very wide lens to my boyfriend, which is why I took this one, but I kind of like it because it’s not a shot you see that much! (Sadly, I didn’t get it perfectly horizontal, so clearly I’ll have to try this again another day…)

Want more KAL photos? I have an album for them which has a few that I didn’t put here. More waterfalls will probably show up in my flickr photostream shortly as I process the weekend’s photos.

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February 16, 2015 05:56 AM

February 09, 2015


Making my own yarn swift

This is crossposted from, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

A yarn swift is something that holds a hank of yarn so you can wind it into a ball or skein. Here’s a useful link on the typical ways to package yarn, in case you’re not familiar.

Yarn swift

When I was mostly buying relatively inexpensive yarn at the craft store for amigurumi, I’d get it in skein form and be ready to go. Which is awesome! But those ultra-washable bright coloured acrylics that I enjoy for crochet don’t work as well for some of the fancier knitting patterns and colour work I want to do now — it really helps to have some forgiving natural fiber that can be wetted and reshaped to look just so.

(Yarn snobs here might give me a hard time over the synthetic yarns, but they still have a place in my repertoire!)

So the end result is that I get a lot more yarn in “hank” form, and while I find winding balls to be pretty relaxing, I don’t love trying to wrap the yarn around my knees and keep it from getting tangled as I do it.

February 2015 KAL

Thankfully, the internet knows how to make a yarn swift. I modified this a bit, because I didn’t care as much about portability and I wanted something a bit smoother with some real ball bearings in there, so when John and I were wandering around the hardware store finding parts, he came up with the idea of using a Lazy Susan bearing.

This one was a joint effort between me and John, with him doing a lot of the heavy work and me doing more of the detailing. I feel a bit silly about this, as I’d intended to do it myself, but he’s got much steadier hands and greater strength so it’s probably safer to have him to it. He did teach me to use the router, though, which is one of the few pieces of woodworking equipment we own that I’d never used!


But mostly I took photos and measured and turned things over to John for drilling or cutting:

Measure twice...John at the drill press

I also cleaned the garage workspace, vacuumed, and at least tried to keep him company. I also did some sanding and hand filing for things that didn’t quite match up. As you may have noticed in that earlier picture, neither of us is super precise at the routing.

Doesn't quite fitThe base

I asked John to round the ends so they wouldn’t catch on the yarn, and he did a lovely job, then I stained the whole thing up, let it dry, and reassembled it… only to find that the pegs for holding the yarn no longer fit in the holes due to expansion. Oops. A bit of drilling later, though, and we got it up and running.

Stained pieces:

Stained yarn swift piecesStained yarn swift pieces

First test with yarn!

Yarn SwiftYarn swift with wool!

You might recognize the stain as the same one I used on Puppy K-9, as this is the only stain we own.

Here’s the final product:


I’m pretty happy with it! I wish I’d looked for a smaller bearing than the lazy Susan as I found out that it’s possible to fit a yarn tail into the bearings where it gets all slimy from the lubricant. But that’s what the store had, and it does make this a pretty solid device. And I only got the yarn tail caught once out of the 5 balls I’ve done on it so far, so it’s reasonably avoidable if you know you need to wind up the tail on a pole.

I do like how it looks so fancy all stained up. I was worried that I’d find it too bulky and be sad I hadn’t gone with the collapsible version, but I’m actually kind of tempted to try sticking it to the wall with that 3m wall hook stuff and seeing if I can use it as functional art!

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February 09, 2015 07:46 AM

February 08, 2015


Birchbox January 2015

I finally dropped my Wantable subscription, since I'm at the point where I didn't really need more soft bras, sleepware, or even probably socks for a while.

To be fair, I don't need makeup either... but Birchbox is fun and only $10/month. :)

Here's January's box:

Birchbox January 2015
My blush brush is in there for scale (not included in the box).

Birchbox January 2015

Davines OI / Shampoo

This was a very generous sample! The shampoo lathers well, cleans nicely, and the smell doesn't linger too strongly once my hair is dry. But it is pretty strong while still wet and honestly, the smell just wasn't for me.

Davines OI / Conditioner

The instructions for this suggest you towel dry hair, apply, and then rinse out. I agree that this needs a rinse out because the smell is much too strong otherwise. But that's way too much work unless the product does something amazing, or smells so great that you'd want to be in a cloud of it all day. Sadly, I don't love the smell, and my existing leave-in does just as nice a job on my hair while being less hassle.

Davines OI / Oil Absolute Beautifying Potion

Given my dislike for the smell of this, I couldn't really bring myself to use it as directed and put it directly in my hair. I may eventually try it as an overnight hair mask, but only if I've got enough time to wash my hair thoroughly in the morning.

Birchbox January 2015

Sweet Science Invisible Daily Tint SPF 35

Nice, simple tinted sunscreen, smells vaguely fresh and citrus-like. Cute container. Hard to blend because it's so thick and sticky, but that might mean good things as far as being effective sunscreen.

You can see how thick it is by how the sample is a giant blob on the lid:
Birchbox January 2015

Still, it looks hilarious while I'm putting it on:
Birchbox January 2015

Birchbox January 2015

Mirenesse Mattfinity Lip Rouge

I love the cityscape packaging! (I tried to get a picture of it but it's more a thing you see as you turn it in your hand. Lovely, though!) All of these are named for cities and I got the "New York" colour, which is a bright red with a hint of orange to make it more coral-like. I was worried because the applicator looked kind of sketchy (think gooey velvet) but the product itself is nice.

Here's a picture of the brush. It's sort of scoop shaped with a slimy velvet cover. Works, but not exactly a texture sensation. (You can also see that the silver "new york" lettering on the cap is suffering some from a few trips to work in my pocket.)
Birchbox January 2015

And here's a very simple look with me wearing the tinted sunscreen and the lip rouge (note how it looks more orange on my lips than it does in the tube):
Birchbox January 2015
I like it!

Birchbox January 2015

Essentiel Elements Wake Up Rosemary Body Lotion

The old school medicine bottle really works with the slightly medicinal scent of this body lotion, while still feeling fancy. I am strangely taken with this little body lotion as a result! Birchbox combined with J's mom kind of keeps me in more body lotion that I'm going to use, but I'd consider buying this because I find it amusing.

Birchbox January 2015

Harvey Prince Hello Liquid Loofah

Normally I complain about scents, but I actually kind of adore "Hello" which is some sort of citrus-y thing. I feel like it makes me feel more awake in the shower, although I suppose that could be the caffeine. I'm not so sure about the whole "liquid loofah" thing, though: this is such a light exfoliant that I can barely feel it if I apply it to my face, which is usually too sensitive for such things. But as a shower gel, it works and I like the smell, and that's basically all I want.

Birchbox January 2015

In conclusion...

I disliked the scent of the hair products, but the rest was pretty good!

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February 08, 2015 10:12 PM

Book Reviews, the novels and the nonfiction, January 2015

Night Broken (A Mercy Thompson Novel) by…
Night Broken (A Mercy Thompson Novel)
by Patricia Briggs

This wasn't my favourite Mercy Thompson book since I'm not a huge fan of passive-aggressive relationship crap (and there's plenty of that as Adam's ex wife comes to stay with them), but the rest of the book is good, and Coyote's in fine form as always. Definitely not the finest book of the series, but not one to miss if you're already a fan!

Closer to Home: Book One of Herald Spy…
Closer to Home: Book One of Herald Spy (Valdemar)
by Mercedes Lackey

This is a book that seriously pleases my inner teenager, although my adult self notices and wishes for more for the women of Valdemar. I don't know how well it would stand up if you weren't already familiar with the world, but if you loved Mercedes Lackey as a kid, this is a nice journey back to Valdemar.

Ashes of Honor (October Daye) by Seanan…
Ashes of Honor (October Daye)
by Seanan McGuire

I'm a big fan of Seanan McGuire's InCryptid books (as well as her books written as Mira Grant) but I'd found the October Daye series hard to get into because poor Toby takes so much abuse. So I would read a novel, think "that was amazing but I can't take another of those" and wait 6 months before spotting one on a library shelf and thinking "oh, right, I should figure out which one I read last..."

Toby's still getting beaten up a lot, but in this novel especially I feel like she's finally getting into her own, and directing her destiny rather than just getting tossed around. But what made this particular book amazing to me was that it marks the first time where I read an October Daye book and thought "I need the next one right now."

Chimes at Midnight (October Daye) by Seanan…
Chimes at Midnight (October Daye)
by Seanan McGuire

(... so of course, here's the next one!)

In this book, Toby gets her whole network of friends an allies working to save the world, and you can finally see where she really shines. I found it very satisfying to watch all those threads come together and see the major and minor reveals for so many characters. It does feel a lot like this is the book that the series has been heading towards, whether you knew it or not. In some series, this would be in the end, but for October Daye, this seems to be a new beginning.

The Iron Trial (Book One of Magisterium) by…
The Iron Trial (Book One of Magisterium)
by Holly Black, Cassandra Clare

I've really enjoyed both Holly Black and Cassandra Clare's books, so I was really excited to hear about this one. It's a pretty standard magical-high-school setup in a lot of ways, but plays with the tropes and tosses in red herrings to keep it interesting.

Unfortunately, I got this as an audiobook and the reader didn't exemplify what the voice in my head said Callum should feel like. I've never had this problem with an audiobook before! It was *really* distracting to deal with this constant dissonance, and I think I enjoyed the book less as a result.

I'm curious enough to still be anticipating the next volume in this series, but I think I'll get a hardcover instead of an audiobook.

And then, finally, a couple of non-fiction knitting books that I checked out as possible additions to my library:

200 Fair Isle Motifs: A Knitter's…
200 Fair Isle Motifs: A Knitter's Directory
by Mary Jane Mucklestone

This collection of Fair Isle motifs is nicely laid out, well photographed and explained. I can definitely see this being a worthwhile reference book for those doing a lot of colourwork. I'm not really there yet, but I'm happy that my public library has a copy.

Knitter's Handy Book of Top-Down…
Knitter's Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters: Basic Designs in Multiple…
by Ann Budd

I've got a goal of doing a sweater for the first time this year, and got this out of the library to get a better sense of pattern design. I found it clear and helpful, but I have a feeling that I'm going to have to actually construct a sweater to really grok how to apply the advice. I will probably put it on my list of books to own for my personal library, though.

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February 08, 2015 08:52 PM

February 02, 2015


Rainbow Socks

This is crossposted from, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

When I started knitting, I promised myself I wouldn’t bother making socks. It’s just too much work for something that wears right out, I told myself. But gradually, I’ve started to notice that sock patterns have a lot of technique in them that I wanted to learn, and they’re much smaller and more manageable than a sweater.

So here’s my first adult-sized socks:

Rainbow Socks

The pattern is “ballet socks” from Melissa Morgan-Oakes’ book “Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks” (yes, I bought a sock book in a sale). I wanted to get some more complex cable practice, learn how to turn a heel, and make use of the lovely chroma yarn.

Rainbow Sock

It was slow to start and I kind of put these away in September when I started a big Christmas project (which I’ll show when I organize the photos!)

But I’m almost done. I was going to cast off a bit back, but the colour lengths aren’t *exactly* identical in the two balls of yarn and I knew it would drive me nuts if one side hit the green and the other hadn’t, so I’m doing another repeat so they’ll both be in green.

Rainbow Socks

The plan is to finish them tonight so I can start the next project today. But it’ll be dark by the time I finish, so you get pictures now. :)

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February 02, 2015 12:54 AM

January 31, 2015


Brief Comic Reviews, January 2015

It looks like I've read ~20 books this year already, although a lot of them were graphic novels so that's not quite as impressive as it might seem. Still, I'm going to break this up into a couple of posts and putting all the comics in one is as good a way as any to do it.

Oh, and remember that list? This first one ticks off a few boxes:

✓ A book with a color in the title
✓ A book by a female author
✓ A book from an author you love that you haven't read yet
✓ A graphic novel

I expect some of those are going to be ticked off a lot of times on my list. Obviously the last one is *so* done now. ;)

Red Sonja Volume 1: Queen of the Plagues by…
Red Sonja Volume 1: Queen of the Plagues
by Gail Simone, Walter Geovani (Illustrator), Simon Bowland (Contributor)

I've never been particularly into the barbarians and had been turned off the chicks-in-chainmail overly sexualized look of Red Sonja covers in comic books stores, but I bought some Humble Comics Bundle specifically for this book, as I've liked Gail Simone's other work.

Reading this book brings me back to that time when S decided to carry a dead cat through all of Icewind Dale. She'll know what I mean, but maybe most of you won't.

So instead I'll say that I wasn't disappointed. This book features a Red Sonja that makes her strangely reminiscent of my sister: fierce in protecting her friends, determined to see things through to the end, occasionally capricious, and also quite happy to disregard the opinions of others when they're stupid. ;) I'd never really thought of the barbarian fighter in this way except when S is playing them.

It's a fun read, both a little subversive and a tribute to the genre.

Wolverine Volume 2: Killable (Marvel Now) by…
Wolverine Volume 2: Killable (Marvel Now)
by Paul Cornell, Marvel Comics (Illustrator), Alan Davis (Illustrator), Mirco Pierfederici (Illustrator)

From the "Wolverine's lost his healing powers and his enemies have found out" setup you'd this this book would be an epic battlefest, but the authors actually thought about what lost powers meant not only physically and tactically but also emotionally, not only for Wolverine but also for his friends and allies. This one has some surprisingly sweet and bittersweet moments.

I have to admit, though, it wasn't vividly memorable for me and writing this review weeks later is hard.

(This may tick off "✓ A book by an author you've never read before" judging from the list they have for him on wikipedia)

X-Men by Brian Wood - Volume 1: Blank…
X-Men by Brian Wood - Volume 1: Blank Generation
by Brian Wood, David Lopez (Illustrator)

Loved the art on this one, but I felt like I'd missed too much back story to really enjoy it, which is weird since it's a "volume 1" kind of deal.

Gambit, Vol. 1: Once A Thief by James Asmus
Gambit, Vol. 1: Once A Thief
by James Asmus, Clay Mann (Illustrator), Diogenes Neves (Illustrator)

To be honest, I barely remember anything about this one other than the art was nice.

The Dreamer: The Consequence of Nathan Hale…
The Dreamer: The Consequence of Nathan Hale (Pt. 1)
by Lora Innes

High school drama crossed with historical romance via Very Intense Dreams. I got drawn to this one as a webcomic because of the art, but Lora Innes' sheer joy in history makes it worth sticking around for. (Also worth going to read her blog posts about the real history behind the story!)

The Dreamer webcomic has just started up again after a hiatus, but if you're going to check it out for the first time right now, go back to the beginning, because those last few comics really don't make any sense unless you know the characters.

Oh look, there's ✓ A book by a female author again!
Also, ✓ A book based on a true story, although perhaps this isn't exactly what folk mean when they say that.

Young Avengers Volume 3: Mic-Drop at the…
Young Avengers Volume 3: Mic-Drop at the Edge of Time and Space (Marvel…
by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie (Illustrator)

I actually kind of hated volume 2 (too much chaos not enough depth for my liking), but this pushed past the "running aimlessly through dimensions" and into the "time to turn around and fight our mind-controlled parents and save the world" point. All in all, a nice wrap-up to the story arc.

Hawkeye Volume 3: L.A. Woman (Marvel Now) by…
Hawkeye Volume 3: L.A. Woman (Marvel Now)
by Matt Fraction, Annie Wu (Illustrator), Javier Pulido (Illustrator)

After the last volume, I'd been kind of wondering why this series had been getting so many accolades. (It's not awful, it just didn't seem as amazing as I was hearing.) But I understand now: it's not just about the Clint Barton Hawkeye, it's been the Kate Bishop hawkeye that makes the whole thing fit together and work. The comics were actually interleaved in original publishing, this book collects #14, 16, 18, 20. I understand why they collected them separately, but I think I would have enjoyed the Barton Hawkeye story so much more if I'd read it contrasted with the Bishop Hawkeye story. Kate's story is funny, clever, and so very human.

The Infernal Devices 3: Clockwork Princess…
The Infernal Devices 3: Clockwork Princess
by Cassandra Clare, Hyekyung Baek (Illustrator)

I think the manga adaptations of these books are kind of adorable, and this one does not disappoint. I'm not sure it'll be as meaningful without having read the novel, though.

Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal by Marvel…
Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal
by Marvel Comics

After a poor experience trying to read the new X-men series as single issues (The format's a bit too short for me and I found the advertising was outright disruptive), I waited for a collected volume on this one to avoid making the same mistake. As I started hearing more and more hype, I started worrying that the book itself would never live up to the things I'd heard.

Thankfully, that wasn't my experience. The book is sweet, hitting some nerdy superhero teenager tropes I like, and playing off the non-white north american experience in a way that felt unsurprising after reading Secret Identities and getting so many comics recs off Angry Asian Man, but it's nice to see these things in such a big title. And Kamala isn't just written as a minority, where it's that part of her that defines her: she's also practical, smart, adorkable, and just enough introspective to give her sudden superheroism a depth that sometimes you don't see in the first volume of a new series.

I look forwards to more, and I guess having chickened out and gone with the library copy instead of buying it the day it came out, I may go invest in my own copy now. ;)

Black Widow & The Marvel Girls by Paul Tobin
Black Widow & The Marvel Girls
by Paul Tobin, Salva Espin (Illustrator), Jacopo Camagni (Illustrator)

This is a series of shorts about Black Widow teaming up with other women of the Marvel universe. I wasn't sold on the first tale, but the others were kind of neat looks into different depths of her character.

Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic, Vol. 1 by…
Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic, Vol. 1
by Shinobu Ohtaka

This inspried-by-arabian nights manga just didn't do it for me. Too many over-the-top OMG REACTION moments, too much chaos and silliness, not enough story or character. It's a genre for low-attention-span boys, though, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I suspect this one could deepen to more, but I couldn't even make it through the first volume without wanting to skim it.

Soul Eater NOT!, Vol. 1 by Atsushi Ohkubo
Soul Eater NOT!, Vol. 1
by Atsushi Ohkubo

This one's cute: A new girl starts at a school for humans who can transform into weapons and the human "meister" (weaponmasters) who will pair up to become superheroes. I expected this to be kind of silly, but there was just enough in this to make me curious as to what happens next. I guess I have to find the next volume!

✓ A book set in high school
✓ A book with magic

The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith…
The Adventures of Superhero Girl
by Faith Erin Hicks, Various (Illustrator)

The intro describes this as a story about being human, but also a superhero. This is exactly what gives it such charm, and Faith Erin Hicks' adorable art makes it perfect.

It also doesn't hurt that it's also very Canadian. (Why do the cats like the prime minister so much? Is a superhero qualified to work at Tim Horton's?) I think this is a book I need to own!

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January 31, 2015 10:11 PM

January 27, 2015

Anne “Appraised” for $2,350, Sells for $6 [ A Domaining Update]

Sherprog Goes Domaining…

This winter, we’ve leapt into “domaining.” Domaining is the hobby or business of participating in the domain name aftermarket. 

Last week our first domain name auction on closed. Anne decided this winter to thin out her domain coffers, and the first auction to go live was a lot of two related domains: ($60, Estibot) and ($55, Estibot).

They were both English-language exact-keyword-match .com domains. It looked good to me.

The Generous Appraisal, or the “Wisdom” of the Masses

Just for kicks and vanity, I submitted to Flippa’s crowd-powered estimation forum. You can amuse yourself with the results here. While a few Flippa users made earnest stabs that fell close to our Estibot and GoDaddy appraisals, e.g. the $60-90 range, the majority of participants tossed out four-or-five figure numbers, with $10,000 capping things off. We were…flattered, I guess, by the enthusiasm.

(It turns out if you appraise 15 domains a week, you can get one free listing per week, so maybe I should start throwing out some fun numbers too just to circumvent that $9 Flippa listing fee…)

Just one lay-appraiser voiced the con I was worried about. I was aware trademark issues would limit the potential uses of the domain to only those that could be considered “fair use” of the Android brand name. at Auction

After a $9 listing fee and another $9 for “promotion” (Bold listing title? Heck, yeah, I want it bold), the auction went live. And dormant. For 14 days.

With two hours to go on Day Zero, our first bid came in. One crisp and green US dollar! Well, one digital and insubstantial PayPal dollar–or, more accurately, since it cost eighteen to list, negative seventeen dollars. But, hey, it felt good to have a bid.

Fortunately, another bidder chimed in, taking it up to $6. Unfortunately, someone I opted against a reserve hoping to attract more interest by doing so. Oh well, I guess I can feel good about giving one lucky bidder a heckuva sweet deal…and hope that my boss can too, ha ha (nervous laughter). Ha. … ha…


Appraised: $120.00 (both domains)
Sold: $6.00
Profit: -$12.00.

Domains for Sale

Watch our current and upcoming domain name auctions! — Active Listing — Coming Soon — Coming Soon — Coming Soon

by Bret Norwood at January 27, 2015 08:30 PM

January 26, 2015


Pastasaurus and friends

This is crossposted from, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

Continuing in my quest to process more photos, I’ve started aiming to do the Active Assignment Weekly challenges on Flickr. I think some of my favourite photos came from doing their challenges, but I hadn’t participated in a long time.

Here’s this week’s, the Pastasaurus:


He normally lives on our microwave so he’s ready whenever pasta needs stirring!

And here’s some from last week, the robots that make our neutral-toned rental less boring:

Robot blast off!  +100Robot light switch

I also uploaded some older photos from the Flock and Fiber festival, as part of my campaign to get old photos processed, but frankly I wasn’t that thrilled with them. Still, I got to experiment with some processing tricks I wanted to try, so that was cool!

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January 26, 2015 03:41 AM

January 21, 2015


Publishing Apps on Google Play Versus Apple App Store

A Rage Comics Infographic

This is why, when you’re crossing the great platform divide and producing both iOS and Android versions of your app, you should trial run on Google Play first. Then, when all the kinks are worked out, you can submit it to the time-consuming Apple process. We find that if you need to make revisions to the app after publishing, the time involved in the Apple process adds up.

{Click image to embiggen}

publishing apps on google play versus apple itunes - a rage comics infographicPublishing an App on Google Play Versus the Apple App Store: a Rage Cartoon Infographic by your friends at Sherprog




by Bret Norwood at January 21, 2015 10:51 PM

January 12, 2015


2015 Reading Challenge

I got this list from popsugar. Well, actually from some social media post long forgotten, but I tracked down the original source. Here's a link.

It's a fun list, but I'm irked that it's an image that doesn't have enough space for me to scribble down notes in between. So here it is in text, for my use later. I doubt I'll chase down all of them, but it might be fun to search for a few of the ones I wouldn't have checked off on my own!

❑ A book with more than 500 pages
❑ A classic romance
❑ A book that became a movie
❑ A book published this year
❑ A book with a number in the title
❑ A book written by someone under 30
❑ A book with nonhuman characters
❑ A funny book
❑ A book by a female author
❑ A mystery or thriller
❑ A book with a one-word title
❑ A book of short stories
❑ A book set in a different country
❑ A nonfiction book
❑ A popular author's first book
❑ A book from an author you love that you haven't read yet
❑ A book a friend recommended
❑ A Pulitzer Prize-winning book
❑ A book based on a true story
❑ A book at the bottom of your to-read list
❑ A book your mom loves
❑ A book that scares you
❑ A book more than 100 years old
❑ A book based entirely on its cover
❑ A book you were supposed to read in school but didn't
❑ A memoir
❑ A book you can finish in a day
❑ A book with antonyms in the title
❑ A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit
❑ A book that came out the year you were born
❑ A book with bad reviews
❑ A trilogy
❑ A book from your childhood
❑ A book with a love triangle
❑ A book set in the future
❑ A book set in high school
❑ A book with a color in the title
❑ A book that made you cry
❑ A book with magic
❑ A graphic novel
❑ A book by an author you've never read before
❑ A book you own but have never read
❑ A book that takes place in your hometown
❑ A book that was originally written in a different language
❑ A book set during Christmas
❑ A book written by an author with your same initials
❑ A play
❑ A banned book
❑ A book based on or turned into a TV show
❑ A book you started but never finished

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January 12, 2015 11:23 AM

January 10, 2015


Birchbox Dec 2014

Birchbox December 2014

It's silly, but I'm always pleased when they send out special-coloured birchboxes. This one is especially pretty and will probably be used to house sewing notions in my craft room so that I can leave it out where I will be admiring it regularly. Sadly, the products inside didn't all live up to the promise of the pretty box, although there was one gem!

Acure Organics Lip Lush
Birchbox December 2014

The science of this product is crap. Plant stem cells aren't going to do anything meaningful for your skin, and the papers that claim so are highly suspect (a brief search suggests that they may be the scientific equivalent of tabloid stories about elvis giving birth to bat boy written by someone who's offering to sell you pictures for only $9.99). The company should feel bad and require everyone involved with approving this product to take remedial science classes.

I actually liked the lip gloss just fine -- birthday suit is a terribly boring colour, but it smells ok and is a pleasant enough gloss for when your lips are sore and sticky seems like a good idea. It's not an exceptional lip gloss, but it's not a terrible one either. The sample tube did leak a bit so I'm afraid to keep it in my pocket, but it's not great enough that I want it with me all day anyhow.

However, no matter how inoffensive the product itself is... As a PhD carrying scientist myself, I absolutely cannot support nonsensical bad science claims like these, so I won't be buying this and I'll be telling anyone who asks that it's bull.

[I'm betting birchbox won't publish this review...]

Davines Replumping Shampoo, Davines Replumping Conditioner and Davines Replumping Hair Filler Superactive

I didn't take pictures of the shampoo and conditioner because they were uninspired packets, and I wanted to make sure I used them before time was up on the reviews (you only get birchbox points for writing reviews if you do it before the 10th of the month!). But here's the "hair filler."

Birchbox December 2014

While the shampoo seemed effective enough, this made my eyes water before I even started lathering up my hair, and the smell lingered so much after that even my boyfriend, who has a damaged nose and can barely smell things, commented that I smelled weird. To my nose, not only was it too strong, but it smelled... old and musty, I guess. Like really old makeup that has probably gone bad or something. Not for me.

Similarly, I thought this did a nice enough job as a conditioner, but it was simply too strongly scented for a leave-in. I wasn't even sure if I should go to work the next morning without washing it out.

I wanted to give the spray a fair shot, but to be honest I had to wash it out of my hair after a half hour because the smell was driving me crazy. It was both too intense and just not a scent I want others to associate with me.

Benefit They're Real! Mascara

I already had a sample of this from Sephora, so I gave the one from my Birchbox to my sister.
Birchbox December 2014

Facegoop panned this one for the dreaded panda-eye, and I was really perplexed, as I've never had that problem. And if anyone would have it, it would be me, since I am terrible about touching my eyes during the day. But I've finally figured out the discrepancy: I don't wear creams or anything around my eyes usually, but I received one in another birchbox and was trying it out and... voila, panda eyes. So this mascara dissolves in at least one type of eye creme. Mystery solved! So yeah, don't wear under-eye concealer, or try it out for a bit before you go out with both on in case you also have one that dissolves this mascara. As I dislike undereye concealer, this isn't really a problem for me.

Birchbox December 2014

Their crappy review aside, I like this stuff so much that it has taken me from "eww, mascara" to "hey, maybe I'll wear that sometimes for fun." I guess the idea behind "they're real!" is that this mascara doesn't look that much like you're wearing a pile of eye product. And indeed, it extends the heck out of my lashes (so much so that they brush my sunglasses!) without making me look like I'm trying too hard. It's fun and not too over-the-top to wear to work or the library.

I expect makeup samples will fill all my mascara needs unless I stop the subscription box, but I would consider buying this if I ever *did* need to purchase mascara!

Color Club Art Duo Pen

Birchbox December 2014

This was definitely the winner in my birchbox this month! Great little polish with both a thin nail art-brush and a pen applicator where you squeeze the whole bottle. The brush is pretty neat, but it's that teensy pen applicator that really makes this easy to use. I loved my first manicure with it, and I think with a bit of practice, I'm going to be able to make some pretty neat nail art with this!

Birchbox December 2014

I'm usually pretty hesitant about dotty manicures since anything non-smooth doesn't last too long. One of the nail artists I follow on tumblr says hers last maybe 2 days, and I expect my nails to last around a week. But I put dots all over my nails and they lasted better than expected, so yeay!

Birchbox December 2014

Yu-Be Moisturizing Skin Cream

Birchbox December 2014

There was a project a few years back called "Significant Objects" that tested whether people were willing to pay more for an object when a talented writer wrote a story to go with it. I feel like the marketing folk for this moisturizer must have taken those lessons to heart, given the included tale of the Japanese pharmacist's secret and how travelers discovered the cream.

That said, I can't help but like the stuff. I like glycerin moisturizers when my skin has been a bit damaged. This one is effective enough, the quickly-fading medicinal scent makes it interesting to apply, and the story *is* good. I may even buy more!

Birchbox December 2014

(Final picture to show how strangely yellow it is.)

Overall, I *really* hated the hair products and was insulted by the lip balm, but the mascara and nail pen are great and I'm pretty pleased with the weird moisturizer too!

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January 10, 2015 06:27 AM

January 08, 2015


Candy Cane Cupcakes (to tempt those with new year's resolutions)

This is crossposted from, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

Ah, January, the month where one can buy a big box of candy canes in the grocery store for 44 cents. It’s also the month where everyone’s made new years resolutions and don’t want cupcakes. I’m guessing some of my coworkers aren’t going to be impressed with me tomorrow when I bring these in…

Candy Cane Cupcakes


My plan for this was “make chocolate cupcakes, dip in candy canes, take to work” but here’s a more descriptive version in case you don’t, say, have a favourite chocolate cupcake recipe.

1. Make chocolate cupcakes

Candy Cane Cupcakes

I use the following “wacky cake” recipe:

Dry ingredients:

1.5 C flour

1 C sugar

3 tbsp cocoa

1 tsp baking powder

0.5 tsp baking soda

Wet ingredients:

1 tsp vanilla

1 tbsp vinegar

1/3 C oil

1 C warm water

Preheat oven to 350F

Mix the dry ingredients (and get rid of any lumps in the cocoa).

Add wet ingredients and stir well.

Spoon into baking cups. (around 1/2 to 2/3 full)

For mini cupcakes, cook 10 min. For normal sized ones, cook around 18 mins, or until a toothpick inserted can be removed cleanly.

Note that I actually make mini and normal sized cupcakes in the same batch. In this case, just pull the tray out of the oven after 10 minutes and grab the little ones off (the silicon liners make it possible for me to do this bare handed, but your mileage may vary), then put the rest back in once you’re done. This may make the tops of the big ones look a bit less than perfect (as you can see in the back of the picture above), but it doesn’t matter since you’ll be covering them anyhow.

Candy Cane Cupcakes

Make vanilla icing

I don’t use a recipe for this exactly, but…

Spoonful of butter

Splash of vanilla

Then add alternating icing sugar and milk until you have enough icing. You don’t actually want that much for this, as the extra candy on the side will make them pretty sweet.

My cake is actually vegan, so if you wanted to replace this with some sort of vegan icing, you could change this up. I suspect a water-icing sugar glaze would be enough to keep the candy canes on if you were so inclined.

Crush up some candy canes

We used wax paper and a rubber mallet for this. (When I lived in Canada, I’d use a small milk bag instead of wax paper, ’cause those things are stronger, but alas, this part of America does not have milk that comes in bags.)

Candy Cane Cupcakes

John helped with the unwrapping and crushing duties!

Put the icing on the cupcakes then roll the rim of the iced cupcake in the crushed candy canes

You could, of course, dip them and cover them entirely, but they’re already pretty sweet and crunchy so I figured less is more here.

Candy Cane CupcakesCandy Cane CupcakesCandy Cane Cupcakes

Garnish with tiny chunks of fudge

I had some leftover fudge so we used that as a final garnish for maximal abuse of new year’s resolutions.

Candy Cane Cupcakes

And finally…


Here’s a few extra photos I took in aid of this week’s AAW assignment, which is to use foreground/background to tell a story about two (or more) items, one in focus and one blurred. I thought the rubber mallet we used for crushing candy canes was kind of a funny contrast with the finished cupcakes.

Candy Cane Cupcakes

Candy Cane Cupcakes

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January 08, 2015 08:30 AM

December 07, 2014


Puppy K-9

This is crossposted from, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

So, remember a while ago I posted about a work in progress? She's still a work in progress, but while I don't have full setup for her internal hardware, her chassis did indeed get "finished" in time for ABQ Maker Faire, so here's a picture of her on my table:


This picture care of the fine folk at Quelab. I've kind of forgotten who actually took the picture. You can tell it wasn't me because that's my elbow in there!

You know how people joke that building ikea furniture together as a couple is the ultimate test of your relationship? Try designing steampunk robots together! With a deadline looming! I think we did most of this in around 2 weeks, although we had batted the idea around for a while.

The germ of the idea was my fault. I wanted a puppy k-9 who would be less hassle to travel with than John's full-sized k-9 replica, which weighs over a hundred pounds when you include the 3 pelican cases needed to ship him. And I wanted her to be steampunk, because it would break us away from being show-accurate and make her amusingly photogenic. Her job, by and large, is to convince people to come talk to us, although we have some other functional plans for her too! However, it's a long path from idea to finished project, and I have to say that John did the bulk of the execution while I handled the details -- he got the c&c machine to cut out dog panels and engineered it so I could have the wing doors I wanted without compromising structural integrity, while I convinced the c&c to cut out a modified minnowboard logo for the resin inlay, and figured out the hinges and staining. I admit, we might have done some arguing, but we worked her out!

I am quite pleased with the details we managed to get in. I insisted she have ears and a tail because John's larger k-9 replica still doesn't have those details. Her tail is a functional USB wireless antenna, and John even inserted a proper usb port into her butt so it's detachable when she gets packed for travel or so you can plug something else in easily while leaving the case closed. Her ears gave us a different kind of trouble, and we were running out of time until I started digging through the recycling bin and found a pair of 7-up bottle bottoms which I painted gold.

The computer on top there is the Minnowboard MAX, which will serve as Puppy's brains. We didn't get it mounted inside until after the show, and you can see the nice laser-cut mounting plate (again care of Quelab; thanks Morgan!) in front of her (it's the smokey grey piece with all the holes). That's all inside now, with a whole lot of hardware attached.

More pictures to come eventually, but since she's gotten side-tracked by xmas present projects, it might be a while before we get back to her!

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December 07, 2014 11:54 PM

December 06, 2014


In which I am both awesome and not awesome at blood donation

I guess all those years in Albuquerque have made me extra resilient to blood-oxygen changes. I donated blood yesterday and I could barely even feel it today, even going up stairs.  Not even a bit of huffing and puffing! If it hadn't been for my sore finger and arm, I would have forgotten that I was supposed to still be drinking lots and taking it a bit easy.

Awesome part number two is that I have barely a bruise.  This is normally true for me, and wouldn't be surprising... except for the  less awesome part, which I'll put behind a cut for those who might not appreciate details about my blood donation.

It sounds more unpleasant than it was, honestly. )

End result, I have successfully donated blood yet again, I have suffered even fewer ill effects than one might expect, and I got to feel all heroic about having a hole in my arm and maybe saving a life. So yeay!

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December 06, 2014 06:19 AM

November 11, 2014


Book reviews: more brief than usual

Hawkeye, Vol. 2: Little Hits by Matt…
Hawkeye, Vol. 2: Little Hits
by Matt Fraction, David Aja (Illustrator), Javier Pulido (Illustrator), Steve Lieber (Illustrator), Francesco Francavilla (Illustrator)1 more, Jesse Hamm (Illustrator)

This was decent, but I found it a lot more confusing than the last volume and was starting to wonder if it was overhyped the way some movies are when people don't understand them and don't want to admit it.

X-Men, Vol. 1: Primer by Brian Wood
X-Men, Vol. 1: Primer
by Brian Wood, Olivier Coipel (Illustrator)
X-Men Volume 2: Muertas by Brian Wood
X-Men Volume 2: Muertas
by Brian Wood, Terry Dodson (Illustrator), Kris Anka (Illustrator)
X-Men. Vol. 1, Primer and X-Men. Vol. 2, Muertas

My goodness, it's much nicer to read these in collected volumes instead of single issues full of ads interspersed every few pages. Seriously, I don't think I'm ever buying single issues in this series again.

Other than that... it's X-men. This series made a minor splash because it's really the x-women -- the main team is pretty female dominated, just because that's the way it happened to be. But they don't make a big deal out of it. I liked the first volume quite a bit, but I think I was missing some key backstory to really feel for the characters in the 2nd. This is unfortunate because I'd thought this was supposed to be a pretty good starting point for new readers, but I'm not sure it really is... and I'm not even a really *new* reader. Still, if you don't mind feeling like there's some history you haven't seen, the art is great and the story is interesting even if it feels a little all climax no backstory without knowing the characters better.

Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 8 by Kiiro…
Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 8
by Kiiro Yumi, Kiiro Yumi (Illustrator)
Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 9 by Kiiro…
Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 9
by Kiiro Yumi, Kiiro Yumi (Illustrator)
Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 10 by Kiiro…
Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 10
by Kiiro Yumi
Library wars : love & war. 8-10

I can't remember if I reviewed this series before, but it's set in a future japan where censorship has run rampant and only public libraries stand in the way of the censors. We're following the story of a young woman who is the first woman on her library's Special Defence Forces, a paramilitary organization that protects the libraries, the books, and the patrons. These volumes dive more into the politics and machinations around the library, and I'm really enjoying the series.

Late Eclipses (October Daye) by Seanan…
Late Eclipses (October Daye)
by Seanan McGuire

After the previous novel in the series, which I found good but incredibly disturbing, I needed a break from the October Daye series. But I was reminded of it when I encountered a short story from the author on tumblr that gave a sweet little happy ending to part of this story, and realized I wanted to know what else had happened. The series is great, but dark, however, this was less nightmare inducing than the last book, and left me eager for more. Maybe it's time to finally get caught up again!

Due or Die (A Library Lover's Mystery)…
Due or Die (A Library Lover's Mystery)
by Jenn McKinlay

The second in the series of library mysteries. It's a pleasant little cozy set in a town with our main character as a librarian and periodic sleuth. It's got pretty much everything I want from a cozy: fun characters, mystery, a nice backdrop and now even a cute dog. I've already gotten the 3rd one out of the library!

Chosen (Alex Verus) by Benedict Jacka
Chosen (Alex Verus)
by Benedict Jacka

In this 3rd book in the series, we're starting to delve more deeply into Alex's (disturbing) past in order to figure out what's going on in his present. I'm a bit worried that this will go all grimdark (my problem with the Dresden Files, which this series clearly and even explicitly was inspired by), but the book is ultimately as much about friendship as it is about dark pasts. Looking forwards to the next in the series.

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November 11, 2014 07:09 AM

October 21, 2014



This is crossposted from, my personal maker blog. If you want to link to this post, please use the original link since the formatting there is usually better.

Buttons buttons, rah rah rah

The first time I got to use a button machine, I was a kid. It was at the Ex (a fair with livestock, music, and a midway, not unlike state fairs in the US only with fewer deep-fried things), and I was kind of astounded by this giant button press because I’d never really thought about how a button was put together, let alone that this might be done by a human-powered machine.

Fast forward, years later, and one day it just occurs to me that as an adult with some income (not much; I was still a student) there was absolutely no reason I couldn’t just buy a button machine and make silly one-off buttons whenever I wanted.

Buttons! (Push button; receive bacon)

I’ve used them for costumes, for befriending random people off the internet who like snarky kitten commentary, for hanging out at abq maker faire and helping people make their own, and for anything else that might amuse me.

Since I sometimes bring the whole machine with me to places like quelab or abq mini maker faire, I often get asked about where I got it and how much it costs, so I figured I’d make myself a post that contained all the info so I can find it easily. This is that post!

The button machine

Here’s what my personal machine looks like:

The button machine

I have a 1.5 inch button machine. It has a visible “top” area of around 1.37 inches, with a bit more visible space wrapping around the edge of the button. The circles I cut are 1.87 inches wide.

Although I realize this listing won’t stay live forever, here’s a current listing equivalent package I bought. It’s the Tecre model 150 1.5inch button machine with 1000 button blanks, and as of this writing it costs $264 (although I think it might have been a bit less when I got it).

For when that link no longer works: The vendor is called “button boy” and goes by the username “politicsstinks” on ebay. Here’s a link to the ButtonBoy ebay store. The latest stuff I bought from them also recommended the ButtonBoy etsy store.

It’s a small machine although very heavy, but I did a lot of research and the Tecre machine seemed to be the best type of machine for my needs: It’s physically easy to use, hard to damage, reasonably well designed so that with a bit of adult supervision kids can make their own buttons. I went with the 1.5 inch size because it was large enough to have reasonably legible text or enough space to colour, but small enough to be cuter and easy to fit on a bag strap.

If I were to buy a second machine I’d probably go with the 1″ because I’d love to try the magnetic jewelery stuff they have now, but I expect I’d still want my 1.5 inch because visible text is important a lot of the time!

Recommended Accessories

Button punch

My number one recommendation is that if you’re going to do any larger runs of buttons, it’s worth investing in one of the button hole punches. Especially if you’re letting people colour their own buttons, it’s annoying to colour a teensy piece of paper, so I find it’s more pleasant to punch things out on the spot after the colouring is done rather than cutting the circles in advance. The punch is also great for using magazines or wrapping paper, like I did for these Christmas buttons (although I didn’t have the punch at the time so these were done by tracing circles with the mylar and cutting them out with scissors):

Christmas Buttons


Scissors work just fine. Invest in a comfortable pair rather than doing like my sister and I did on our first big button run where we gave ourselves bruises cutting out 200 buttons by hand, though.

I do *not* recommend trying to use a a cheaper adjustable circular cutter from the craft store. I have one, and there’s a couple of problems with it:

1. The center has a point, which makes a teensy but noticeable hole in your design. I can feel this through the mylar cover on the finished button and it annoys me. I stuck a piece of rubber on it to compensate, but that just makes it more finicky.

2. It’s very hard to line up the design nicely (at least compared to a hole punch or scissors)

Basically, it turned out to be more annoying than drawing circles and cutting them out with scissors. The punch, however, is way better.

Some folk at my former hackerspace have pointed out that a cricut machine would be excellent for this, and probably the laser cutter would work as well. Both of these are a lot more expensive than a punch, but if you’ve got them, why not? The only downside is that neither is as convenient for on-the-fly button making using magazines or quite as convenient for maker faire purposes.

Paper Guillotine

If you’re printing 8.5×11 sheets of buttons to cut out, you may also want to invest in a paper guillotine. This is handy if you want to hand out smaller segments for kids to colour, and great if you’re using a button punch that can’t punch holes in the middle of a piece of paper.

Again, scissors work just as well, but when you’re spending all day making buttons, little things that make life easier like that are worth it. So once again, I recommend it if you find you’re doing a lot of buttons, but it’s not needed for small runs.


I’ve found inkscape to be the most consistently good tool for making buttons because it’s so easy to whip up a template (1.85in circle with inner 1.375in circle) and import things into it. It lets you do things like fit text to a path, trace bitmaps so they can be converted to fewer, easier to read colours, etc. It’s fast for duplicating buttons and laying them out as a sheet for printing, too. And it’s free software that runs on linux, mac, and windows, all of which I occasionally use to make buttons.

Really, any drawing program will do, but I think Inkscape is particularly nice for letting you set sizes and fix alignments quickly and easily, so although I’m also reasonably capable a few other art tools (I use photoshop, for example, to do photography work), Inkscape is my tool of choice for buttons.


Non-button things!

If you look through the Tecre catalog, you’ll notice that depending on the size of machine you have, you can make a few things that aren’t buttons. Not all of them are available for my size of machine; for example, some of the larger machines can be used for small hand mirrors and some of the smaller machines can be used for jewelery-buttons.

I’ve thus far tried the flat-backed magnets (the magnet goes inside the button) and the smaller split-ring keychains. Unfortunately, neither came with instructions so here’s some notes on what did and didn’t work for me:

Flat-backed Magnet instructions

The way the button machine works, you crimp the top half together, then you crimp the top onto the bottom. In the case of these magnet blanks, the magnet part goes with the bottom half (because the machine doesn’t have space for it in the top half die). It’s a nice strong magnet… which unfortunately means that it can pull the top half down if you’re too slow when you flip the machine around and crimp it the second time, and if it gets pulled out of alignment you get a messed up button. I messed up two before I figured out what was going on, and since then it’s been pretty easy to avoid the problem, but hopefully I can save someone else some annoyance.

I don’t know if this is true with other magnet backs, which may have less strong magnets, but if you’re having trouble it’s worth trying to go faster and see if it helps!

I am *very* pleased with the feel of the flat-backed magnets. They’re smooth and strangely pleasant to hold in a way that I was not expecting.

Short split key-ring instructions

In this case, the bottom half of the blank has a small hole in one side. You crimp the top and bottom together, then insert the keychain clip into this hole (note to self: take some pictures of this later).

Things to note:

1. The instructions I found online implied that you had to be super careful about how much you crimp. It seems like the version I have is pretty well designed to avoid this problem, because the bottom half has a slightly raised edge over where the hole is, and clamping the machine all the way down does not seem to squash the hole, so don’t be *too* nervous about getting it right.

2. While the clip can be inserted either way, if you insert it so the sticking up part of the clip faces the front of the bottom, the piece sits more flat relative to the back of the button.

All in all, I found the magnets harder than expected and the keychains easier.

Button jars, overflowing


When I bought the button machine, I really wasn’t sure how much I’d use it, but it’s turned out to be even more fun than I hoped. The highlight was probably that first big giveaway my sister and I did at the Cute With Chris show. When we walked down to the front to give out buttons before the show started, people actually cheered for us! And then we went around talking to each person at the show while they chose their designs, which was pretty neat.

But there’s been lots of fun stuff since then. In the past year alone, I’ve made buttons for open source projects (real and most desirable), given out slightly subversive buttons at defcon, made silly buttons for one-off jokes and IRC bots, watched literally hundreds of kids and adults make buttons with my machine, even wound up making some blank ones to serve as a temporary whiteboard-style expression-changing doll face for a friend’s guerrilla photography and crafting project!

It’s a bit of a weird hobby, but each button is so cheap that it’s one you can share with a lot of people! (At the current rate of blanks, each button costs me under 10 cents) And as someone who always enjoyed getting free stuff, it’s fun to be on the side of designing and giving! :)

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October 21, 2014 05:01 PM

October 09, 2014


Back from France!

I was in France last week for work, but I've been home for a few days now.

I am pleased to report that my French was adequate for basic stuff like getting directions and translating menus into English for my Polish colleagues. My French colleagues were highly amused that I spoke the language at all, since I guess no one warned them that I was moderately fluent. No one was offended by my weird accent, or even seemed to have much trouble understanding me. I couldn't handle full on eavesdropping on the train, but I could get the gist of a lot of conversations when I had some idea of the subject.

I didn't try to carry too much stuff because my ankle is still sore from hurting it after my trip to Poland, but I was able to walk quite a bit even if I had to do it carefully and a bit slowly. 100k steps! It's especially impressive given that my leg still hurts all the time. Walking, as always, is much easier than standing still, so the 30 minute walk to the office was easier than standing in line at the airport. I am sore, but it seems to be mostly the usual chronic constant thing plus some bonus knots from sleeping on planes and trains and strange beds.

They stole my knife-free Leatherman at the Charles de Gaulle airport. It was especially frustrating because several of the agents pointed out to the guy who took it that it was absolutely fine under their rules, but he decided it wasn't despite their best efforts. The thing's under $20 and I sort of assumed I'd lose it eventually, but I was still upset because it was just so unnecessary and wasteful. Have ordered a new one. I may give up on traveling with it outside north america, though, as I expect I'm going to have to fly through France again. (Amsterdam, mind, had no problem with it.)

Jetlag is hitting me hard this time, with the headaches and all. I miss when this wasn't a guaranteed thing, but at least I have Serious Painkillers and coworkers who are pretty understanding about travel miasma. I did not donate blood this week because I was not well enough and not because I am miffed at the red cross for phone harassing me all week (seriously, I think they called 7 times without ever leaving a message) and then after I told them I was unwilling to schedule an appointment because I often get sick when I travel, they gave me two days of silence then called me at 4am while I was adjusting to the time zone in France. So now they're a blocked number, and I'm not sure I'm going to unblock them, although I'll probably donate again when I'm not cranky about it.

Anyhow, recovery will go better with more sleep, so I'm going to do that now!

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October 09, 2014 07:24 AM

October 06, 2014


WorkLight Flashlight App for Android

A Free Flashlight App for Android

That doesn’t collect or share your data

Get WorkLight at Google Play

Does the world need another free flashlight app?

We didn’t particularly think so either. But then you find out many flashlight apps are designed not as flashlights but as user information gathering devices so that your data can be resold to marketers. You also find a bunch of apps named dumb things like “World’s Brightest Ever Flashlight App!*”–as if the brightness didn’t depend on the phone’s hardware, but on the software…Gee…”marketing,” I guess…We were starting to think maybe the world did need a flashlight app.

So please join us in welcoming our latest app-bundle of joy into the world: WorkLight, a free flashlight app for Android.

It’s a light. That simple.

The WorkLight free flashlight app toggles your camera flash / lamp. You can also use the light from a (mostly) white, red, or blue screen as your flashlight. There are no settings or bells and whistles besides the choice of screen color.

Hang it from the hood to work on your Chevy. Bring it out to find the right @(#$* door key at night. Use it to hail spaceships while adrift in interstellar space. We don’t care. That’s what it’s for: makin’ light.

There’s only one permission required. Google requires you grant WorkLight permission to use the camera and/or microphone at install. But WorkLight doesn’t actually take photos or record sound–we’re not that kind of app. We just need it to use the flash.

There are no other permissions required and we collect no data through the app. It’s just a flashlight app. That’s all. And it’s free.

Oh, and there are no ads! Not one!

* “World’s Brightest Ever Flashlight App” does not appear to be an actual trademark at the time of this writing. We don’t want to point fingers here.

Related Posts

by Bret Norwood at October 06, 2014 08:22 PM