Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Unit #3

To say I have mixed feelings about moving into my parents' house with my husband and two cats would be an understatement.

Mostly cleaned up and almost ready for moving in.
At first, I didn't feel any shame about it, but now I kind of do. It's not my age that's a factor (twenty-six years old), it's that I'm married and have my own family unit now. When I moved out three years ago to our first apartment together, my parents' house was feeling too cramped for me. I felt too grown up to be in my old bedroom anymore, as much-loved and beautifully purple as it was. I never completely unpacked after college and more than a year after I graduated, I finally shoved some boxes into the attic crawl space and took the rest of my junk with me.

Last year, I moved us all on my own. That's not true though, I had a lot of help from both of my families. Even with three weeks to orchestrate the whole thing and move some things over bit by bit (just one block away made it SO much easier), it was incredibly stressful. It took me a few months to unpack and put away everything just because I couldn't stand to deal with boxes anymore.

Now, I don't have to do it alone, but it's so daunting. There's some relief in knowing the space that we're moving into so well. I was there when my dad finished the attic and made it a livable space out of storage land. I remember the skylights being put in. I remember having sleepovers up there before the carpet was put down. I remember the stairs when they were less deep and more creaky. I don't have a hard time envisioning our things in that room, but I do have a hard time seeing us living there.

How will the cats manage? Fae doesn't move around much, she could probably stay in the attic 24/7 and that might be best for her (not sure her arthritic hind-quarters can handle stairs now). Pumpkin, on the other hand, does laps around our apartment a few times a day. She's still pretty skittish, even after four months with us. Maybe she always will be. What happens if she gets outside? What if she doesn't get along with my parents' cat, Gallifrey, or the easy-going ancient-looking dog, Sasha? I know a lot of this worry is me latching onto something I can try to control, but this is a stupid choice. The cats will manage, they have to. We're moving either way.

It is weird to think that most of our kitchen will be packed in boxes and put in a still to be determined storage unit. My favorite chair might be in there too, staying safely away from wet basements. There's not enough room for it where we're going.

It was not until we'd come home after doing some cleaning & tidying in my parents' attic that I realized how much I'll miss this apartment. I am ready to move, but my heart is not ready yet for a new home to take its place.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What happened to Nameless?

I'm thinking of retiring my alias.

Nameless Wonder, and variations thereof, has been my primary internet alias for probably about eight years now.

I am an active internet persona. I don't know how else to describe it. I sign up on a lot of websites and post in a lot of places. It's easiest for me to use the same username over and over so I don't have to remember them. Not the most secure method, I suppose, but these are not major sites. To lose those accounts would not mean much to me personally.

But, like a lot of people, I post some fairly personal information, if not particularly identifying. Imagine my surprise when I got an email this morning from someone who had followed some links, Googled an old username of mine, and found a reference on a current journal that I maintain on another website. I submitted a request to have the cached result removed from Google, since I've edited the entry to remove the referenced name & URL that probably lead this person to me. They seemed pretty harmless, just verbose. It was still kind of freaky. At first I thought they were someone I interacted with online ten years ago, who in a way became a bit of an internet stalker, but no, just another person who identified with my teenage-self.

I wonder what kind of steps popular bloggers take to protect their identity. It was off-putting enough just having someone find another snippet of me on the internet, from a username that I retired so long ago. I can't imagine what it would be like to receive mail to my home or have my relatives contacted because of something I wrote online.

Though there was that time I received some brochures about Texas not long after talking about how it might be nice to live there (before they passed some absurd anti-abortion laws).

I'm not nameless anymore. I share my first name, at the very least, with internet friends pretty regularly now. Since getting married last year, I feel more secure in my name than ever. My last name was never part of the issue of me feeling like I didn't have a concrete identity, but changing it helped me realize how I am becoming who I want to be. It was an act of reclamation in some ways.

I have no idea what will happen to this blog. I barely post nowadays anyway. I am finally more interested in my own life than sharing with others what's going on with it. I seek validation from others, but it's not going to help me attain my goals unless this became some kind of source of income. That's unlikely, I'm fairly boring and not good at networking.

Anyway, all I know right now is I'm going to start being more careful about the information I put online. I also need to come up with some easy to remember throw-away usernames for the odd sites I sign up on. The LastPass application will probably help with that, so I don't even have to remember my password!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Silkscreen stenciling, the lazy way

For our one-year wedding anniversary, I decided to decorate a t-shirt for my husband with the logo of our most recent favorite band, Twenty One Pilots.

My source image
I did some Googling on silkscreen printing and found a process that I felt would work for me. Since this was my first time, it's kind of messy, but my husband and I are both very happy with the results.

(Sorry in advance about the poor lighting in the photos)

What you need

  • Silkscreen paint (Speedball is the brand I bought)
  • Foam brush or a sponge would probably work too
  • Freezer paper or preferred stenciling paper
  • Pen or pencil for stencil tracing
  • Sharp implement like an Exacto knife (or the blade from a multi-tool if you're me)
  • Source image, printed out at the size you want it on the t-shirt
  • (Optional) Ruler for any straight lines in your stencil
  • T-shirt, clean & dry
  • Piece of cardboard to put in the t-shirt
  • Masking tape
  • Iron

After you've gathered all that, you realize that you stuck at tutorials and you've already done half of the t-shirt design!

So scroll ahead to see how to do all of this. If you have separated colors like my image does, you can make a couple of stencils and apply in separate sessions. Just remember that any paint you are going to apply another stencil over has to be completely dried. I waited a full day before continuing. In this method (and this particular image), you could probably do all of the colors at once, but I didn't want to have to worry about painting in the wrong spots.

So, trace your image onto your freezer paper and then cut it out. Toss the cut out parts.

Voila. The knife on this multi-tool was pretty sharp, but really an Exacto knife is the only way to go.

Here, the inner part of my stencil has been lined up as close as I could manage onto the t-shirt and then ironed on. That's why I use freezer paper for fabric stencils: the shiny side can be temporarily adhered by ironing. It peels off really easily. This means it's not reusable, but that works for me. For the red & blue parts, I actually measured the image & the t-shirt to try and center it as much as possible.

Here, I attempted to line up the outer stencil as best as I could with the pre-painted parts & measurements I put down with pencil and then ironed it down. Getting circles placed is really obnoxious. Time to paint!

This paint is pretty thick. I tried to apply only with dabs to reduce the risk of bleeding underneath the stencil edges, but it wasn't perfect. I think the application probably takes some practice.

After applying the paint, I removed the stencil right away so the paint doesn't dry the stencil onto the shirt. I didn't know if that would happen, but wasn't taking any chances! I realized at this point that I needed a way to remove the inner stencil without smudging anything. I took a sewing pin to lift up an edge and then used a gloved hand to pull off the inner stencil.

Nearly done! With silkscreen paint, it has to be heat set. I let this dry for 24 hours and then ironed over it, using a sheet of brown paper to protect the t-shirt & paint. I also flipped it inside out to iron the inside so it could be set as possible.

The last step is DON'T WASH THE SHIRT FOR 5-7 DAYS. I guess there are ways to set the paint in other silkscreen methods that don't require all this waiting, but really this is great for a lazy crafter like me. I'll probably make the same shirt for myself! I haven't washed this one yet (t-minus 3-5 more days), so hopefully I won't be updating this post next week crying about how the image washed off.

Also pictured, the tungsten ring I bought him for our anniversary.
Have fun!

(This post includes an affiliate link. To get to Amazon normally, click here.)

Monday, May 19, 2014

Godzilla - a scattered review

Massive spoiler alert for anything below this text because there's really no other way to review this thing.

Characters: Most, if not all, of the characters in this film were really one-dimensional. Pretty much all of the characters are defined by their professions. The main soldier guy is just a good-guy soldier. The admiral is just a trying-to-do-right-by-my-country-and-citizens admiral. The wife/nurse/doctor woman is all of those things, but she has no quirks. The relationship depicted between her and soldier-guy was so empty. I wanted to see him do something really in-joke between them, something that made them real, if they were going to exploit people's emotions by introducing some kind of romantic thing into the movie. I was annoyed that it was yet another Hollywood standard issue movie that they like to give the contrast of the hero & his support at home. And then it's all set up for a happy reunion at the end! It was under-played and pretty useless. More effort on the impact of the MUTO presence on the military structure would have been more interesting than the romance angle.

My favorite character was probably the scientist guy (the Japanese one, not the American, I don't know any of their names) because of how horrified he was about the whole business. It seemed like nobody really took him seriously, which was stupid, but he also wasn't making the most compelling arguments. Mostly, I enjoyed when everybody in the theater giggled every time a character said "Godzilla".

Hulky pointed out, "How would an EOD Naval lieutenant know how to do a paradrop that is strictly a special forces thing?"

Plot: Throughout the movie, I kept making guesses about what would happen. I was wrong most of the time, by the way. Godzilla did not eat the bomb at the end and disappear into the depths, but he did disappear into the depths after taking a dirt nap in ruined San Francisco. Okay, so the movie had a lot of unintentionally hilarious moments filled with dramatic music. This would be a good movie to watch while intoxicated, I think. I also guessed

The movie could have focused on the problem of nuclear energy. Hell, it could have been some been some epic drawn-out thing that resulted in nations trying to rid their nuclear waste or bombs in order to avoid drawing the MUTOs to them. The whole "let's lure them with this bomb" thing was beyond idiotic. Yeah, really, Armed Forces? You could not think of anything else? I mean, I realize these things are massive, but c'mon. The whole secret organization thing was stupid too. They just kind of toss it in there, but the ramifications of that organization coming to light could have been a WHOLE huge part of the movie. Instead, they were just like, "Thanks for being here, we're going to ignore you now."

Really, what the movie needed, was less people and more monsters, or at least more focus on the monsters. We got plenty of shots of male- & female-Mothra moving around, but not many of Godzilla. What does it look like when he swims? Does he paddle his feet? What does he eat? There are so, so many problems with the monsters in these movies, it's hard to tackle them all.

I loved at the end when the news thing said, "King of Monsters: Savior of our city?" and everybody cheered as Godzilla got up from his nap and swam away. Yeah, I'd probably cheer if I was well away and it looked like he was leaving, but if it's only been one or two days? I'd probably still scream in terror first. More about how the media handles the whole thing would have been really interesting. The only snippet we get is that one line, really. Keeping the public perspective positive about the PTSD-causing experience would probably sell more than the truth: no idea if this monster will come back to eat our power plants, no idea if there are more monsters that might ruin our cities. Godzilla will save us!

Monster design: Most of the people who encountered Godzilla or Mothra (they don't name the two other "MUTOs" in the film, but that's what they are) in the film would have been deafened, or worse. The force of male-Mothra's cry would have blown people away. They show female-Mothra blasting these lanterns in Chinatown and it is definitely hurricane-force winds. I am also pretty sure that the force of these creatures walking around would have ruined a lot more than was depicted in the film. Godzilla's steps are not going to leave the streets uncracked. A lot more people would have been killed.

This isn't even beginning to cover how it's physically impossible for a creature of that size to exist on this planet. Scientists know that the one of the reasons why giant dragonflies and dinosaurs existed is that the oxygen content of the atmosphere was much richer back then. The largest creatures on our planet now are blue whales and elephants. Godzilla is a hell of a lot bigger than an elephant. How could a creature like that exist and presumably not change very much over millions of years (since that's how old they're saying his species is, not saying he's that old) and be able to breathe in and out of water, be able to swim down 2 miles AND walk around on land, and then they didn't even cover the biology of WTF is that breath attack?


Godzilla's roar was great. So many tones & parts of it. I love the after-rumble. That is what gave me anxiety, just watching the trailer! The movie didn't make me anxious at all, fortunately. Unfortunately, Godzilla's body design was not as impressive. He looked like a guy in a suit to me, especially with those arms. They were too big to be T-Rex-like, but too small to seem really useful. The stocky legs made sense for his upright posture, but I feel like he should have been more dino-saur like. I did like the whole stegosaurus tail-smash move, but there should have been more like that, things that made me seem completely foreign and ancient.

In conclusion: Pacific Rim did all of that stuff better, in my opinion. Plenty of giant robots and giant monsters. Even the people were more interesting. I still enjoyed Godzilla and would totally see another if they make a second (aw hell yeah, just found that while writing this up).

Totally unrelated, watch this video if you are a fan of Hugh Jackman and/or Les Miserables and/or X-Men/Wolverine.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Introducing: Snuggle Pumpkin

4 weeks ago, Hulky and I headed to the Northeast Animal Shelter in Salem, MA to pick up a little gray cat.

When we first met this little fluff-ball, she was shy and terrified of everything. The shelter people put her on Hulky's lap and as he scritched her neck, she started to stretch out and roll around. He fell in love and I saw potential, so with some back and forth, we got our landlord to approve another cat with the shelter, and we brought her home. She spent a lot of time hiding in the bedroom we designated for her.

Aggressively ignoring me.

Lucky us, this furball came with friends: fleas and tapeworms (we found out a few days after taking her home when the shelter called with stool test results). A trip to a local vet office (fortunately with a coupon for a free exam) got us a pill for the worms and Advantage for the fleas. She has the STINKIEST poop I have ever smelled from a cat. I've started adding the contents of a probiotic powder to her food, thinking maybe the medicine did something weird to her gut. It seems to be helping. Right now, she gets a mix of dry food and canned food, because she ate the dry food too quickly and was vomiting, and she needs to put on weight. She was 5 lbs 12 oz at the vet. Eventually, I'd like to get her on an all raw diet, like Fae.

To get Pumpkin to warm up to us, we started off just spending time in the same room as her. We didn't hold eye contact with her much, or try to approach her. Over time, she'd let us approach her when she was curled up in the cat cave or in her box with the faux-sheepskin. When she's cornered, she welcomes pets and scritches and will start to roll around. It's become easier to approach her when she's exposed, but she still sets her own boundaries. We make soft noises ("pss pss" and kissy noises) when we approach her and she seems to associate those noises with getting pet now, which is exactly what we had hoped would happen.

Rolling around during scritches

The first time we allowed Pumpkin out of her room into another part of the apartment (with Fae secluded to the back), we lost her. After a while, we brought Fae in, but she turned out to be a pretty useless bloodhound. I found Pumpkin hiding inside a closed door for the entertainment center below the television. With the door open, she dashed back to her room and hid. After another week, she was getting more friendly in her room, so we let her do more exploring and made sure all hiding spots were opened up so we could always find her. She's still nervous about interacting with us out in the open, but she's improving.

Fae and Pumpkin will hopefully tolerate each other over time. We've seen progress already. At first, Fae was hissing at the closed door to Pumpkin's room all the time. We've let them interact face to face a few times and they are now mostly sharing the apartment (as of the last two days). They hiss and Fae chases, but Pumpkin is lithe and just jumps up to a high point (like the top of a five-drawer dresser) and gets away. aFae is fairly old, at eleven-years-old, so it's not that surprising that she'd be somewhat unhappy about an interloper. She lived with another cat for eight years at my parents' house, so I had hoped she was be a little calmer.
Look, they're close to each other!
I think the most frustrating part of this whole acclimation experience with Snuggle Pumpkin (Hulky named her, okay?) is that the shelter did give us some information about her background (was on a farm to be bred for $$, so not much human interaction), but they didn't use the term "feral". The vet's office did. I think that there's a big stigma with the concept of feral cats and feral cats CAN become very loving and sweet companions. For that reason, I understand why the shelter didn't use the term, but I still kind of feel like they should have.

Our biggest concern at this point is how we're going to clip this cat's claws. She doesn't let us her her or stay still when we pet her. Her claws are like needles right now and the scratching post isn't cutting it!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

One year later - Boston Marathon Bombing

I am trying to limit my consumption of media today, but it's hard to tear myself away. It's the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. One year ago today, a little before 3 PM, I saw some odd notes online from friends and started searching the news. The tweets came in fastest. Not 5 minutes after the bombings occurred, the story started: some kinds of explosions had occurred by the finish line at the Boston Marathon. A couple of people texted me about it, but there wasn't much information yet. Maybe 15 minutes later, a co-worker started walking around telling everyone there had been bombs in Boston! I was angry. No one knew yet if they were bombs or not. There was a very brief period of time when people thought it might have been gas line explosions, but now I think back on that a laugh a little. That's the kind of explanation that authorities use to cover up some other kind of explosion, at least in the movies. I think my anger was apparent when I told him, "We don't know yet." I'm sad that I was wrong, but glad that I said something. It would have been stupid to freak everyone in the office out. I'm not sure anyone got much work done for the last few hours of the day anyway.

On Wednesday of that week last year, I left work early. I realized that I had not spoken to anyone much about the bombings and was feeling a lot of strong emotions. My fiancé, now husband, and I went out for lunch in Harvard Square. He had avoided going to class the day before, not wanting to be on the crowded subway just yet, and I was more than okay with that. To go on the train with him was okay, at least we were together if something happened. I saw the armed forces that were in all of the subway stations, searching bags and occasionally patting people down. Seeing guns in my subway was more than a little unsettling. It's something that other parts of the world deal with everyday, something that may seem commonplace to them. To me, it felt like someone had ripped away my security blanket and torched it. I didn't want them to have to be there. I limited how much I was reading of the news that week. There was only so much tragedy I could expose myself to.

Thursday night, we met up with friends at the Cheesecake Factory in Boston for a birthday celebration. I don't think we talked about the Marathon much, but it was certainly on all of our minds. We saw police cars racing out of Boston, sirens and lights blaring, late into our dinner. Later that night, some of them discovered that the manhunt had begun. I found out in the morning, when my supervisor called to tell me that the office was closed. Waltham was within the large circle of the shutdown. I worked from home, watching my Facebook news feed for responses. Some of my friends were only blocks from where the chase had occurred. No cars were allowed out on main streets in my town, thought it only neighbored the shutdown towns. In the afternoon, I followed the posts of a friend listening to a police blotter as they narrowed in on the one surviving suspect, getting a nearly instant play-by-play of the capture. I don't think I felt relieved until some weeks after the arrest.

This morning, I flipped to a radio station that was interviewing people and focusing on memorials. I felt immobilized as I listened to the raw emotion in the voices. As the DJ mentioned their upcoming interview with a bombing survivor from the Marathon, a voice in the background at their station said that the interviewee was on the line now. It was an odd reminder that those are real people, (nearly) live-streaming their thoughts and reflections. It's still amazing to me that something that did not affect me directly has still had such a profound impact on my sense of safety. I feel unsafe in public, but I also feel resigned. There's nothing I can do about terrorists and wannabe-terrorists if they choose to take action around me. I can only try not to waste every day.

Boston Strong. I hope for a safe and joyous event on Monday.

I wrote previously of my thoughts on the bombings here and here.

Friday, April 11, 2014

London Honeymoon: Last Day

Our last day in London (March 14) was pretty uneventful. We headed to Hyde Park and walked down towards Buckingham Palace. We would have caught the tail end of the changing of the guards, but the crowd was pretty massive so we left.

We headed over to the Natural History museum in Kensington, which we'd passed on our way out of the city for the day trip. Apparently, the building was made to be a natural history museum, but it looks a bit like a retired cathedral. Each window (and there were many) had a little sculpture of some kind of animal below or above it. I was too tired to take pictures. The museum inside was nice, pretty friendly in terms of educational access, but some information was outdated (some depictions of the posture of dinosaurs, no mention of feathered dinosaurs at all). The layout was less confusing than other buildings we'd been to so far (cough cough the science museum), but you were mostly forced to follow paths instead of being able to wander freely in larger rooms. I was disappointed to note that a lot of the fossils and skeletons were reproductions and not the real deal, including the stuffed Dodo bird. It was a very kid-friendly place, I think.

This might have been the day that we went back to Harrods to buy treats, but I can't remember now. I got two macarons, which I've been wanting to try for a while. They were DELICIOUS. The cookie part is made with almond flour so it has a natural sweetness to it. The outside of the cookie is a little crispy, the inside is very soft. The filling between the "cookies" is made from ganache and I don't even need to explain how delicious ganache is. I mean, it's basically fudge. I got to eat the second one at the airport when we flew out. I need to find more now that we're home, they're so good.

Later in the day, probably after more reading & resting, we finally went on our trip on the London Eye. It's a massive ferris wheel right on the Thames and just a few minutes walk from our hotel in the County Hall area. We splurged for "fast track" tickets so we didn't have to wait in line to board. Definitely worth the extra cost.

We timed it a little early for sunset, unfortunately. The smog and low sunlight made for pretty terrible views! It was still fun. They had some cool interactive screens in each capsule so you could identify landmarks, but it was hard to make much out.

After, Hulky grabbed an ice cream from a vendor on the street. A friend had told us to try the street vendor ice cream cones w/ the chocolate sticks in them. It had a very rich creamy flavor and I wish we'd tried it sooner because we would have had one every day! Maybe it's best we didn't.

That night, we went to an Italian restaurant in the County Hall area. I had beef cheeks, which made me giggle when I ordered it, but it's actually the facial cheek muscles. It. was. so. tender. The tiramisu was great as well, no too rum-y and not too bland. Overall, we saw a lot more French places than Italian, especially when it came to pastries. Hulky was disappointed, but I guess we're spoiled by the Italian-laden North End of Boston. I enjoyed more than a few croissants on the trip, but could tell they weren't made with real butter. The flavor just isn't right without butter.

And so concludes our trip. On Saturday the 15th, we took the Underground back to Heathrow. We returned our Oyster cards at the end of the trip and got our deposits for the cards back, as well as some of the cash we'd put on them. The 7-day passes for zone 1 and 2 were definitely worth it, even if they were pretty pricey, since we used the Underground every day we were there, sometimes several times in one day. We checked my bag on the way home so we wouldn't have to lug it around and were able to get our seats moved together for both flights before boarding. We had lunch at the airport (had some delicious elder flower soda) and had uneventful flights home. Customs at home took an hour to get through and the desks were woefully understaffed, but at last, we were home, and the cat was happy to see us.