Saturday, November 29, 2014

Loot Crate Review: Battle Theme, November 2014

This was my third month receiving a Loot Crate subscription.  Loot Crate is a monthly mystery box subscription.  For a little less than $20.00, subscribers receive a selection of themed items geared towards geeks and gamers.  The boxes are mailed around the 20th of each month.  If you are interested in learning more or signing up, check out the Loot Crate website.

This month's theme was Battle!

Loot Crate's social media accounts teased the items, as always.  A Megaman item.  An Assassin's Creed item.  A t-shirt.  And, on top of all the stuff they include, a code for a Steam game worth $20.

Knowing that The Boyfriend loves Megaman, I told him about the item and promised that it would be his.  I was hoping this crate would have something he would be excited about, and it seemed like the Megaman exclusive would fit the bill.

I received the tracking email on November 17th and the box was scheduled to arrive on Saturday, November 22nd.  Instead it arrived on Friday, November 21st - what a surprise to find it waiting on the front porch, when the tracking info said it was still at the post office!

Friday, November 28, 2014

5 Fandom Friday: November 28th, 2014

That's right, kids, it's time for another

Today is Black Friday... has anyone gone shopping yet? Stayed up all night in line?

This week's 5 Fandom Friday topic is: 
Black Friday purchases I would sacrifice a night of sleep for!

I am not a Black Friday shopper.

In college I worked at a JoAnn Fabrics, where I ended up working the entirety of the post-Thanksgiving weekend.  2005 was the height of popularity for those tied fleece blankets, and I worked the cutting counter... which meant I was cutting fleece all day, every day that weekend.  My hands were dried out from handling the fabric, I didn't get a break, on my feet in one spot all day, getting treated like garbage by customers... And then I got to do it two more times!

It was the worst working experience of my life... and I spent a week in 2011 ankle-deep in literal horse crap, mapping and doing magnetic resistivity in a horse paddock on an archaeological dig in 80% humidity, so that's saying something.

I seriously hate these things... pic via 

After that, there is no way you will find me out on Black Friday, and definitely not losing a night of sleep.  Saving a few bucks isn't worth it to me.  Instead, I stay in, eat leftovers, watch Christmas movies, and maybe start decorating if I've stayed home that year.  Then I do my shopping online!

But I might be persuaded to go out in the dark and cold and stand in line all night for a few items...

1. A real, legit, functioning Light Saber
I mean a REAL one.  In purple, like Mace Windu's.  I don't know what I would do with it, but it would be so cool to have.

But to be honest, I would just want to use it in ways that would create some paradoxes, and that's not good for anyone.

3. A personal teleportation device
Because I'm sick of sitting in a car or on a plane for 6+ hours to see any of my loved ones. Seriously, they all live at least that far from me!

4.  A lifetime 4 day + preview night pass to San Diego Comic Con, with a room at the Hard Rock included
No more panicking about badges or what days to go or getting/affording a hotel near the convention center!  Of course, there would be a lot of competition, because if SDCC attendees are good at one thing, it's standing in line overnight.
via Disney.wikia

5. A genie bottle with three wishes
And I already know what wishes I would make!

Apparently there is nothing in this world that will make me stand in line on Black Friday... I like sleep too much! But who am I kidding, if any of these things actually existed there is no way I'd be able to afford them anyway!

What would you stand in line overnight for?  
Have you ever done that for a Black Friday deal?  
Were you successful?

To learn more about 5 Fandom Fridays, check out The Nerdy Girlie's blog or Super Space Chick's blog!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Mockingjay RAGE. Only read if you've finished the books.

Okay, I can't wait a year to get this out there...

Do NOT click below the cut if you haven't read Mockingjay all the way through and don't want the ending of the Hunger Games series seriously wrecked for you.  I am not even kidding.


Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

I went to see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 with The Boyfriend this past weekend.  I enjoyed it very much, and though I wouldn't say it is my favorite movie in the series thus far, Mockingjay Part 1 is still worth the ticket if you are a fan of the Hunger Games series.  It effectively combines the action of the early Rebellion and Katniss's mental anguish following the events of the Quarter Quell and unlike some other movies that share the honor (misfortune?) of being the "Part 1" in their series, Mockingjay Part 1's conclusion is satisfying, while at the same time leaving viewers with the desire to return and see how the story ends - it is a waypoint, meant to offer us a climax worthy of pausing the story, but keeping us wanting more.

Unfortunately, we will have to wait a year for the final installment in the Hunger Games series!

Apparently this movie has had the biggest opening weekend of the year, much like Catching Fire did in 2013.  I am glad to see a movie with a female lead kicking so much butt at the box office!

This review is written from the perspective of someone who has read the books, so while I do not spoil the ending of Mockingjay or the events that will be shown in the final film, I do offer comparisons to the book and what I think the film did better or worse than its source material.  There are also big spoilers for the movie, Mockingjay Part 1, so please don't click the link if you don't want to learn how the movie ends.

Spoilers ahead.  You have been warned.

Friday, November 21, 2014

5 Fandom Friday: November 21st, 2014

It's 5 Fandom Friday time!
This week's theme is: Characters I would invite to my Thanksgiving Feast!

I'm really struggling to come up with a list of five characters I would want to invite over to my house.  I would want a somewhat-balanced group of men and women, who would provide stimulating conversation, be up for drinks and board games after dinner, and would get along pretty well.  No one who is too far into the lawful-good range that they would be a judgey goody-goody killjoy all night.  No one who is so chaotic evil that they would just make the evening unpleasant for everyone else.

Anyway, here's the list.  It's pretty obvious which of my favorite books/movies/tv shows they come from, and they are all fan favorites, so I don't think I need to go into much detail about why I love these characters.

1. Indiana Jones

2. Han Solo

3. Princess Leia

4. The Tenth Doctor

5. Captain Marvel

All of these characters would have great stories to swap, and have similar enough personalities that I think they could get along for an evening, but are diverse enough that the conversation would stay interesting.  And who knows, maybe we'd abandon dinner in favor of having an adventure together.

I'm not going to visit family for the holiday.  While I would love to see my Grandma, it's a 12-hour round trip in the car and I had my fill of my extended family back during my sister's wedding.  I think The Boyfriend and I are just going to chill and play video games all weekend.

However you're spending it, I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!
Safe travels, enjoy your family or whoever you're going to spend the holiday with, and good luck if you're braving the crowds for Black Friday!

To learn more about 5 Fandom Fridays, check out The Nerdy Girlie's blog or Super Space Chick's blog!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Movie Review: Big Hero 6

Last weekend The Boyfriend and I went to see Disney's Big Hero 6

In short: it was FANTASTIC.

Adapted from the comics by Marvel, Big Hero 6 is the story of a 14 year old boy name Hiro Hamada.  He is a kid genius, graduated from high school at age 13, and spends his time developing and fighting robots in his home city of San Fransokyo.  He lives with his older brother, Tadashi, a college student studying robotics at the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology, and their Aunt Cass, who has had custody of the brothers for the last 10 years, since the deaths of their parents.

There are some minor spoilers ahead.  None of the major plot points, but some character details and a description of the opening scene.  Don't read if you don't want to see them.

For real.

Friday, November 14, 2014

5 Fandom Friday: November 14th, 2014

Topic: Smartphone apps I cannot live without!

Confession: I was a "dumb-phone" holdout.  I only got my first smartphone back in July, in preparation for San Diego Comic Con.  I wanted to be able to Tweet from the con floor without relying on the convention center's internet connection.

But in spite of my fondness for flip-phones, I am quite familiar with iOS and which apps I like because I have been using the iPod Touch since the first generation and I have an iPad mini.  If I hadn't switched to the iPhone, I would probably be writing this post based on how much time I spend on my iPad - which is way too much time!

1. Twitter  - iTunes  -  Android
It is the reason I switched to a smart-phone, after all, so it had to make the list.  I hate pretty much every social network site, but I love Twitter.  It's ephemeral; you post something and it fades into the background pretty fast.  But it's also engaging; anyone else can reply, start a conversation, answer a question, or retweet to boost the signal.

2. Polyvore
Despite never being really into clothes, I have had so much fun with this app.  It's like playing dress up.  By playing around on Polyvore, I'm discovering what styles I really like, which will be useful since I really need to overhaul my wardrobe.

But my favorite thing is to look at the closet cosplays people make - check out Leslieakay (DisneyBounding), TheNerdyGirlie, and Fandom-Inspired-Fashion for some great sets.  There is a lot of creativity and inspiration to be found in this app.


3. Sudoku
This is my favorite way to waste time.  My favorite version is Tap! Sudoku, which I've been playing since I got my first iPod Touch, and I can beat the hardest setting in less than 3 minutes.  If I could only have one game on any device, it would be sudoku.  (A close runner-up would be Mahjong.)

4. Alien Blue
The (recently) official app for Reddit, I only just started using this, but I really like it so far.  It works much better than the iReddit app I used to use, and it's easier to stay logged in and look at links without losing your place in a thread than when I used Safari.  I don't spend much time on Reddit anymore, and when I am it's to look at the subs for my favorite hobbies, look for cosplay tips or Comic Con links, or check out the fashion/makeup/skincare subs, but this app makes it more enjoyable.

5. FitBit/MyFitnessPal  -  iTunes  -  Android
Like lots of people, I struggle with my weight.  And of all of the diet trackers I've used, I like MyFitnessPal the best.  They have a huge database of foods for tracking, the interface is uncluttered and easy to use, and there are no fake points or forced social aspects like other sites.  There is also a barcode scanner, which I LOVE.

It's also compatible with my FitBit One - so I track my food in MFP, which then imports to the FitBit app.  It's really nifty, and this is the first time since starting my PhD that I am losing weight instead of gaining it.

Haha 1337!

What are your favorite apps?  Am I missing anything that will blow my mind or make life easier?

To learn more about 5 Fandom Fridays, check out The Nerdy Girlie's blog or Super Space Chick's blog!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Cosplay: Bespin Leia #1

For SDCC 2015, I have decided to cosplay as Princess Leia once again (last year I cosplayed as Leia and wore her Endor poncho).  This time, I will be making her Bespin tunic and cloak.  I love this costume - the colors, the silhouette, the details.

Leia wears this outfit in Cloud City, when she, Han, Chewy, and the droids arrive on Bespin after their escape from Hoth, through the asteroid field.  After they arrive in Cloud City, they are greeted by Lando Calrissian.  I think the Millennium Falcon crew was shown to an apartment and given some time to clean up and relax, and Lando or one of the servants gave Leia this outfit to replace her Hoth gear.  Leia is wearing this when they learn of Lando's betrayal and the presence of Darth Vader in Cloud City, but she changes back into her Hoth gear once they are taken prisoner.

This costume consists of the tunic and pants, a belt, matching flat shoes, and the embroidered overdress/cape.  The Rebel Legion costume criteria describe the costume elements as: 
"Burgundy or maroon-colored tunic in a non-shiny fabric that falls to mid-thigh. Fitted sleeves end in rounded point just past the wrist. Neckline and wrists have copper metallic trim." 

"Loose harem pants."  

"Off-white cloak in a non-shiny fabric with a padded yoke with standing collar and metallic copper trim, along with a sheer non-shiny lining the same color as the tunic and pants and a copper metallic trim. The off-white fabric of the cloak is decorated in a stylized, paisley-like pattern filled with a “fish scales” design complete with rosettes of varying sizes at the waistline and hem in shades of yellow, pink, burgundy, and brown."

Useful links I have found include:
Leia Organa Bespin Gown page on the Rebel Legion
Rebel Legion Forum posts (eg. 1, 2, 3)
The Padawan's Guide - Bespin Leia page
Maggie's Costume Site - Leia Bespin Costume
Padme's Closet - Princess Leia's Bespin "Gown" (ESB)
Rebels Haven - SWFFAQ Bespin gown photo page
Sarcasm-hime's Cosplay - Bespin Leia and Lando Calrissian

Maggie's page is great because she has some in progress photos and discusses what worked for her and what didn't, so I'll be using her page as my primary reference.

Pattern ideas:
Simplicity 1593 - knit tunics, would need hem and sleeves lengthened, pattern is made for knit fabrics and might need some adjustments
Simplicity 5259 - harem pants, view B/C

I still need to source materials.  Silk georgette and twill were mentioned on various posts, but Joann's has their Casa crepe in burgundy and that seems like a good weight and color... maybe... perhaps I should order some samples of other fabrics and colors online...

And the most daunting part of this costume?

Yeah... All that embroidery!
This is going to take a while, so I'm getting started asap.  All I need to do is figure out what fabric I want to use...

I'll be making progress updates and organizing resources here on my blog.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

SDCC 2015: It Begins

Congrats to everyone who managed to buy badges in today's SDCC 2015 pre-registration sale!

We were able to buy two four-day badges.  We didn't do preview night last year, and selected not to this year - we'd rather take it easy, explore the Gaslamp, and have an early night before the rush begins on Thursday, so I'm sure whoever bought them instead of us will put them to good use!

Preview night sold out about ten minutes after I bought our badges, then Friday and Saturday were gone about ten minutes after that.  By 12:48 EST everything was gone.  There was speculation that it went so fast because there were fewer badges available for the pre-reg sale, but SDCC tweeted that it was because things were running so smoothly.  And they really were - other than some tweets about people having issues in the waiting room and a few people complaining about their internet connections, I haven't heard of any major problems.

I've been a big ball of stress all week - AcWriMo (I'm behind already), a side project my lab adviser was emailing me about (the reason I'm behind), and just general life stuff - so it helps that the pre-reg is over and that we were successful.  It always helps to have something really exciting to look forward to, too.

And now I get to reward myself with cosplay planning!  First up is Bespin Leia.  I'll be starting this asap, depending on my AcWriMo success... so much embroidery... so much writing...

Wish me luck with my writing!  And good luck to everyone planning on participating in the general badge sale this spring!

Friday, November 7, 2014

5 Fandom Friday: November 7th, 2014

It's hard to believe it's November already.  Time for another:

Topic: Comfort foods that always make me feel better.

While I could say things like my grandma's dinner rolls or my mom's oatmeal cookies, I don't actually associate those foods with calming stress or bad feelings.  Yes, they taste like home and make me feel good, but if I was having a rough time due to work or my relationship or whatever, they would not have the same effect as some of the things I've decided to list.  So here is my legit list of foods that actually lighten my mood and make me feel better when I eat them if I've been having a crap day.  I also hate cooking when I'm in a bad mood or had a rough time (mostly because I hate the clean up), so everything on this list can be bought or made very easily.

1. Melty Cheese-based Food
You might say that comfort foods should be something small, or baked goods, but dangit, when I start feeling stressed and anxious I crave cheeseburgers.  And then I eat one and feel better.  Or mac & cheese.  Or grilled cheese.

(this one time I was visiting my parents and my mom and I made grilled cheese with this smoked gouda she had and they were phenomenal. I have dreams about those sandwiches.)

via Wikipedia

2. Coca Cola
Coke has a calming effect on me.  I can feel my mood lighten as soon as I've had my first gulp.  This might be a sign of addiction...

via Forbes

3. Happy Meals
My mom would always buy me a Happy Meal after a doctor's appointment if I had to get a shot.  Now, I buy one for myself if I've had a bad appointment (like the doctor blew off my concerns or just left the room without finishing the conversation or the mean man took my BLOOD!)  And sometimes if I had a bad day teaching, I would get a Happy Meal to cheer myself up.  It works.  I grew up in the 80s and 90s, and I guess I was successfully indoctrinated...

via Consumer Affairs

4. Little Debbie Zebra Cakes
I eat these when the painters are in.  I crave them and a few times in college I ate a whole box in one sitting - which is really disgusting to think about.  I think it's the sugar and fairly neutral flavor that makes them so appealing.  They help with cramps, tender feelings, and irritability.

via Amazon

5. Tea
I drink a lot of tea, but I really drink a lot of tea when I'm tired, feeling stuck or just down on life, or stressed out.  The act of getting up and tending to the kettle, letting the tea steep long enough, adding milk/sugar/lemon/whatever, and then the warmth soaking through the ceramic cup into my hands has a purpose and a calming effect.  While I am creative and think well on my feet, I really like logic and directions and order in my actions, so the steps of making a cup of tea lend me a focus outside myself.

I also associate tea with my friends in England. My friends who taught me to "scald the cup and steep the leaves" - heat the cup with some of the boiling water before adding the teabag and water.  The process of putting the kettle on in my dorm or hotel room after arriving home on a cold day, then relaxing with a cuppa and a biscuit.  Thinking about my friends and the sense of belonging I feel when I'm in England helps me feel centered and like I matter, that I'm not worthless.  This is something I am reminded of when I drink tea.

This is my favorite cup for tea. There is a great story behind it, but this entry is getting kinda long...

What are your favorite comfort foods?  What helps you feel relaxed, or homey, or happier when you eat it or smell it cooking?

To learn more about 5 Fandom Fridays, check out The Nerdy Girlie's blog or Super Space Chick's blog!

Saturday, November 1, 2014


November has become National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, when participants try to write an entire novel (50,000 words) in the space of a single month.  There are forums, Twitter hashtags, and an official website to help authors along as they complete this first draft - and emphasis is placed on just getting the words out, not on final draft perfection, which is the most important part in writing.

Inspired by NaNoWriMo, the blog PhD2Published started AcWriMo (Academic Writing Month) for those of us who would love to participate in NaNoWriMo... but have too many other writing obligations hanging over our heads.  Like journal articles.  Dissertations.  Reports.  Grant proposals.  And it's not just limited to grad students or established academics - undergrads working on theses or term papers are encouraged to participate and interact with the other participants, and learn good research and writing skills from the resources provided.

I saw the AcWriMo hashtag on Twitter last year, but wasn't in a good place research-wise or mentally to participate.  In late 2011 my dissertation topic blew up in my face.  I won't go into details, but basically I lost two-and-a-half years of research.  I was left questioning why I was still doing this PhD and what I was doing with my life.  This contributed to the horrible period of depression I experienced in 2013.  As a result, I didn't get much work done on my new dissertation topic.

This year I am ready to participate and have already signed up on the official spreadsheet.  I need to finish my PhD proposal - this should have been finished over a year ago, I should have been defending right when I was shutting down from depression.  Which only made me feel worse...  So I am focusing on completing that this month.  I am already 30% done with the writing - unlike NaNoWriMo, this isn't about starting and finishing a piece of writing within one month, but about making progress on something that maybe has been neglected or whittling away at the to-do list.

I would LOVE to participate in NaNoWriMo - I have so many ideas! - but this needs to come first.  My goal is to finish my proposal and send it to my committee on December 1st.  I won't be around much on here or Twitter - I'm going into hermit mode.  Haven't done that since I was finishing my Masters thesis!  I pre-wrote all my Five Fandom Friday posts for this month and will be taking a few hours every weekend for myself, because I have been in the academic world long enough that I know I need a little time for myself to craft or play on my PC or something.  I'm pretty sure everyone needs that, it's just so easy to forget when you have a big work project or a major deadline looming.

Good luck to anyone participating in NaNoWriMo or AcWriMo!

Halloween is over...

I'm sad that my favorite holiday is over for the year.  But it was a great time!

We had over 100 trick-or-treaters!  I almost had to break into the bag of Tootsie Pops I bought for myself!  But we didn't run out of candy, which was a relief.

The puppy was very well-behaved too!  He barked a lot at first, but The Boyfriend held him by his harness in the living room while I answered the door.  And as the night wore on, he barked less - but would bolt towards the front door to see who was there whenever there was a sound outside.  He just wanted to see what was up, though we continued to hold him back for his and the kids' safety - we didn't want anyone getting jumped on, or him running into the street.  One little girl asked if he bit, and I said no, but he barks very loudly!  She said he looked like a nice doggy.

I hope everyone had a Happy Halloween!!!