Wire Wrapping 1


 

A Christmas (or three) ago, I bought a wire-wrapping handbook: Pop with Pizzazz Jewelry, by Raymond S Ihrig. Finally, I got around to trying it for my first wire-wrapped gemstone project.

I have a piece of green fluorite from the Nature Company store, that I got in a box of mineral/gemstone samples, oh ages ago. Back when there were still Nature Company stores. :/

The book is very good, although its first and primary technique is for wrapping faceted quartz crystals. You can see below that my stone is very rounded.

Wire Wrap 1

Eh, I’m not happy with how it turned out. Especially as it turned out like a bug-eyed, green alien weeble. :X But, not the fault of Ihrig’s technique, just me being a little clunky with it.

I somehow got the wires too tight around the side about mid-way through the work. That made it hard to put the gem in (it can slip in and out during the initial phases), and/or made it too easy for it to fall out. I’m thinking a rounded gem needs a wider ‘cage.’

The bail is wayyyyy too long. But I was following instructions, and it said wrap it all the way up. So I did. Well, at least I didn’t mis-measure the wire and end up with it too short!

My spirals are lacking… I haven’t been able to do good spirals lately; I don’t know why. My pliers won’t grip the wire enough for me to bend it any more… unless I really squeeze and deform the metal. I ended up doing most of these spirals with my bare fingers. (Ow.) I got nylon jaw pliers to not mar the wire, but they won’t grip enough either. I used to be able to do this!

I’m thinking I need a spiralizer for my WigJig.

I had a really hard time with the slipping a blade between the middle wires to rachet them open. I finally got a razor blade in, but I ended up cracking it. Not sure what I can do for that. :/

Now for the parts I did well… first, measuring! Got that right at least. Also, I got the binding wires on really well. Those little coils that hold the frame together at the 4 points. I’m proud of those.

 

I think I will have to try a different type of wrap next time. I’m thinking of an S-shaped curve going up the front and back. Not sure how I will manage that, but I will doodle.

 


Bloodsong’s Obsession: Star Stable


Okay, it is with extreme chagrin, yet pride, that I announce… I am addicted to Star Stable. What is it? Well… it’s basically riding horses and playing dress-up. :X Yes, it IS a game geared towards younger girls.

You may laugh. Go ahead. But I’ll tell ya, until Alicia Online comes out in the USA/European market… this is what I’ll play. (And no, I don’t want to steal Korean social-security numbers to get onto the original server to play Alica Online. :P )

The game is free to play, but limited. You can get to about level 4, and you can ride around at the base stable lands and a mid-sized town. But you can’t unlock other areas or do other quests until you become a Star Rider. Important quests like learning how to jump with your horse.

You can buy Star Rider membership by the month, or you can become a Lifetime Star Rider. Depending, of course, on how long you think you’ll want to mess around with this game. I got my lifetime membership on sale, so it was 55 US$ and came with 2400 Star Coins, which are the elite (real money) currency. There’s in-game Jorvik Shillings, too. But you can’t buy more horses with them. ;) (Also note: besides being able to buy Star Coins separately, Star Riders get a weekly stipend of 100 SCs per week.)

My friends looked at me as if I were ten kinds of crazy (and not the good kinds), but frankly, I’m happy I bought it.

Once you unlock the roads to the rest of the country of Jarlaheim, there’s a HUGE world to explore. And it is very pretty, too. I find it a little disconcerting to occassionally see a car drive by on the roads… and the combine harvesters scare me… and I did almost get run over by a bulldozer once…! But it’s not supposed to be a medieval fantasy game.

Also, there are tons of quests. Now… some of them are, quite frankly, really goofy. Like the bridge-building quests. Donald the Builder is afraid of heights, so he can’t go out onto the bridge to survey the damage that was done to it. Why don’t you go do that?

Okay, the bridge needs planks. There were plenty of planks in the warehouse, but they were on the top shelf, which of course, Donald the Builder couldn’t climb up to, so… he has no planks. That’s okay, you can MAKE planks. If you take these tools and go unpack and assemble his plank-making machines for him.

Once that’s done, you need logs. No, fortunately, you don’t have to cut down any trees yourself! But go take your horse and haul a log over here. That’s really good. Then Donald the Builder puts the log under his truck wheels to keep it from rolling. D’OH!!

That quest was quite irritating. There’s another quest line with this stuck-up snotty little brat named Loretta. She insults you, your intelligence, your riding ability, and your horse’s name. Then she disappears. (There was great rejoicing.) And, as far as I’m concerned, she can stay gone!!

Sadly, to unlock the bridge quest area and the rest of the country, you have to do the “Find Loretta” quest. Sadly, she did not get flattened in the rockslide. But once you find her, you don’t really need to talk to her any more.

Although, yes, eventually, I will. The quests are rather linear, really. Not optional. Oh well. I’m told Loretta eventually becomes your friend and lets you into her club. Not me, sister. Sorry, I do not make friends with stuck-up snotty brats. And I don’t want to be in their stuck-up snotty club.

Another thing I like about some of the quests (although at times it can be annoying), is that some require you to come back another day. In the game, you can pay to ‘stay overnight’ at one of the stable lodgings (for a fee) and get to the quest that way. But I actually like how it slows the game down, and doesn’t let you glut yourself and play for 5 hours straight and finish the whole game in a couple of days.

The Star Stable Online Ridethrough blog has a whole list of quests, by which day they become available. Going at full speed, there’s at least 68 days worth of play, there.

 

Now, if you’re not a young girl, here’s some things you ought to know about the game. First, your character can only be… a young girl. Well, a young adult woman. A friend of mine also mentioned there’s only white folk in the game. While this is not 100% true, the game was developed in Sweden, so… it is not exactly ethnically diverse.

You can only pick a first name from a list, and build a last name from two lists. The first names, of course, are all girl names, even if you wanted to play a boy. Though some can be somewhat androgynous. And some look like boys names. (I keep reading Svea as Sven.) Horse names are similar. This, of course, prevents anyone from inputting any inappropriate words or names.

There is no live chat moderation, but they implement some form of ubercensor that bleeps out any unrecognized or unsanctioned words. And typos. This has it’s own problems, as half the names the game uses don’t seem recognized, and for some reason the other night I couldn’t say the word “stables.” Numbers are not allowed either numerically or typed out. (I presume this is to prevent people stating their age, grade, or telephone numbers.) But it’s also annoying trying to tell people how long until an event, for example.

The horse implementation is very well done. The animations are fantastic. And I can be very picky about my horse simulations! I like the controls, and I like the stats they set up for the horse and rider. Of course, you need special gear to boost your stats to compete in races, and you need higher levels for some of the gear, so you have to keep doing quests and levelling… It’s very engaging.

That, and the playing dress-up. :X Because you can go to any shop/stall and preview any/all gear for you or your horse. Mix and match, find the best styles, your favorite colours…. :X If you like catalogue shopping, there’s also a database of all the gear in the game.

And did I mention there’s pets? There’s adorable bunnies and puppies and kitties you can carry in a saddlebag with you! (Okay, actually, the kitties look a little wired, but the other pets are sooo cute.) And there’s fishing. I haven’t found out WHERE I can fish yet (or if I need a quest to unlock it that I haven’t gotten to yet), but… OMG… Horses, Pets, and Fishing? This is like the Xanadu of my gaming loves!!!

You can check out my picks on my Flickr, under Ponies & Horses.

 

Hah, so anyway…. It’s free to give it a look, so why not? My name on there is Tanja Darkforest. (But call me Tarja, because that’s the name I actually wanted. Although one or both are probably censored out.)


R.I.P. Firefox


and now, a moment of silence, for my dearly departed firefox…

 

 
…..

 

for so many years, i have cheered the champions of open source, of alternatives to The Man (microsoft), of freedom from tyranny of popups and ads, of customization and add-ons for the masses. but no more.

i stopped updating firefox on my old machine at version 19, just before someone decided that hitting the ESC key should NOT stop all gif animations on a page. why? because… something. someone, somewhere, believes this is not proper behavior for an ESC key! clearly, this someone is not a cat. nor owns a cat. nor ever tried to swat those bouncy thingies going nuts on their screen.

i kept updating firefox on my new machine, in the forlorn hope that maybe someday they would return that functionality. or, perchance, someone would make an add-in to do so. (there is one, but you have to hit ctrl-m instead of esc.) HAH! fat chance. despite the population of users who believe ESC *should* stop animations, mozilla will not listen, and continues onward in changing their interface around. and making it worse.

oh, like the new ‘find in page’ monstrosity they have. i use that a lot with spellcheck.net on my fics. search for ‘alistiar’ on the page, fix it, and presto! and then when done, hit the little X right next to the find box to get rid of that bar. no more. someone decided that the X should go allllll theeeeeeeeee waaaaaaaaayyyy overrrrrrrrr on the riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight side of my screen, nowhere near the other controls for the find box.

then the straw that broke the camel’s back. they stuck the downloads page into some window with the bookmarks. and also made it NOT pop up when you start a download. it does something else instead. and has glowing arrows somewhere or something. it’s just ugly crap. BUT, the good news was, you could go into the config and set it to use the old download UI, and get your clean, functional download window back.

until last update. where they totally castrated the old download window from firefox. on purpose.

 

and frankly… i have been wondering… with all this new, useless, ugly crap that i can’t stand going into firefox, and now not being able to even CHANGE that, as a user… why the hell don’t i just use IE??? mozilla used to be a bastion AGAINST the corporate monster shoving crap down our throats. no more. they’ve joined the bandwagon.

so.

now i’m on palemoon. it is, in fact, the ‘firefox’ browser engine, only they’ve tweaked the open source, and threw out all the trash. no, ESC doesn’t stop the animated gifs; they still think that is ‘right.’ (bah.) and they don’t have that new thing with the array of your most-visited web pages in a grid when you open a new tab. (which is a darn shame, because i really liked that.) OH OH OH! I found where to turn that on! It is in the Tabs Options! OMG, Bloodsong is happy!!! ::dies of shock::

you can read the details on the pale moon page; but supposedly they took out all the bells and whistles (though the ‘themes’ still work, and now i have a dozen :X ), and the ‘accessiblity features’ (though they still have page zoom), and parental controls and stuff. they’re supposedly leaving out all the fluff and running a lean workhorse of a browser.

best of all, since it is the same open source code, switching to pale moon is insanely easy. you move/copy your user prefs and whatnots from the firefox directory to the palemoon directory. you start up palemoon, and shazaam!! you can’t even tell the difference.

except the top bar buttons are an older ‘look’ and the downloads window is right. :X

and yep! my adblock plus and noscript are all right here! my add bookmark here plugin, the status4ever plugin (to correct another visual blight mozilla put in), my silverlight; all right here.

 

we’ll see how long this honeymoon lasts…. but for now, pale moon is heading in a direction i like!


How To Motivate Bloodsong’s Brain


After looking at my poor Second Life sales records of late….  I decided I need to put out something new this Winterfest season.  And, having gotten a pretty good handle on 3D Coat, I decided that “something” would be a rideable polar bear.  Yes, in sculpties, not mesh.

Meanwhile, I sorta got sucked into creating some Arrow fan works.  And while working on some writing one day, I came across a line that reminded me of a song.  And then re-listening to the song made me want to do an Arrow music video.  Well, I mostly resisted that.  Mostly.  :X

Then I wanted to find a song to make a Dark Archer video.  You know, something Heavy Metal, violent and… well, that matches the Dark Archer’s personality.  And I drove myself nuts for weeks, trying to find something.  You’d think Blind Guardian would have some sort of heroic/dark archer character, wouldn’t you?  No.  Manowar?  Pfft, all hammers and swords, them.  What about Def Leppard’s “Die Hard the Hunter”?  Oooh!  Killer song!  Buuuuut, it’s about returning from war.  Which might work pretty well for Oliver returning from his 5 year exile, except it’s totally gun-centric.  Bah!

Judas Priest?  No.  Fight?  No.  Sabaton?? No.  Hammerfall?  No.  No no no.

Then it hit me!  I remembered this Dragon Age video for “The End of All Hope” by Nightwish.  Aha!  I never would’ve thought of Nightwish!  And I never would have put archery along with “The End of All Hope.”  But oh yes, it sooooo works!

 

Okay, back to the point!  I want to make this video, BAD.  But I said no.  No, you can’t work on the music video until you finish the Polar Bear!

Do you know how fast I been cranking out this thing?  It’s amazing!  I got the model done, I got the sculpties pulled off it, I got the legs posed.  Tuesday, I got the textures painted for everything except the legs.  Once I get those painted (I tried this afternoon, omg, they are a pain), all I have to do is finalize everything, import it into SL, assemble the sucker and throw in the scripts!

Now, Monday, I needed a “Green & Black” chapter finished up.  (That’s my Arrow fanfic.)  Brain was not cooperating.  I had to grab it by the scruff of its neck and shove its nose in it!  But that got done!  I was so happy, I let my Brain work on the intro pics for the music video.  And my Brain went nuts doing all that, plus assembling it all into Sony Vegas until late at night.

Tuesday, like I said, I did the textures.  I also got the next chapter of G&B started, up until some parts that were already written out.  So as a reward, I let my Brain do the sound FX for the intro.  Now the intro is totally killer!

Wednesday, I edited the textures a bit better, and fixed the rotation point of the jaw.  Now today, I needed to work on B&Z, plus polish up and post chapter 3 of Dragon Age: Torchwood 1.1.  So I told my Brain if it did a whole page of B&Z, it could put the music track into the video.  Lo and behold, I wrote a whole page and a half this morning!

 

But I’ve had to put my foot down.  No actual Music Video video work until the Polar Bear is DONE.

And my poor little Brain tried to paint the back leg this afternoon, it really did.  But I was a bit too tired to get that done properly.  Don’t worry, Brain.  This weekend, we’ll get it done.  Take a little break.  Oh, and write some more of that B&Z, and get the G&B chapter done so I can post it this Saturday.  :X

 

I’m just afraid of what will happen after I finish this video…  THEN how will I motivate my brain?  :/


My Spiral Nautilus Hat


So… my first hat was crocheted and VERY thick.  I like it very much, but the fact is, when I take it off and fold it up, it does NOT fit into my coat pocket like my store-bought hat does.   I finally finished my black/glitter leg warmers, so now it was time to dig out the special order of 4 skeins of Red Heart Super Saver Grape Fizz I got from WalMart last year.

 

  I wanted a thinner hat, so I went trawling around the web and found this:
A Noro Spiral Hat by this nice Swiss person.    Whose “pattern” is a little advanced for me, so I traced the original pattern, Marnie MacLean’s Nautilus Hat.

 

I like the Swiss version a bit better, because it ends at the top and you can close up the hole, and it seems to have a ridge on the spirals.  However, since the MacLean version was easier to follow, I did that one.  Ah.. piccie!

 

Spiral Nautilus Hat

 

I did the medium/100 stitches version, because it was looking awfully small.  I thought it was still going to be too small, but Awen encouraged me to keep going, and lo and behold, it DOES fit!  It came out to a very nice size.
And I just did some ribbing for a fold-up brim, kept short so it didn’t cover the design.  I was actually doing ten stitches and a hole for the pattern, so that ended up being a 2/2/2/3 pattern, which ended up getting goofy, but… ha-ha!  I learned how to knit vertically!

 

Yes, instead of un-knitting backwards around and around and all the way down to where the purls changed to a knit and vice versa, i just dropped the stitch at the top of the row, and kept dropping it down until I could pick it up and form it the other way.  Hah!  Yeah, I’m Hot Stuff.  :P
 
Today, I tested the hat!  I was worried about the ‘ventilation,’ there, but Filambulle says the hat is nice and warm for winters in Switzerland, so hey!  Ha-ha, don’t think so.  I was taking the dog out, and I could feel the breeze on my forehead through the holes!  And that was before we got outside!  It’s freezing out today, and this hat is definitely too thin.

 

Ah well.  I still have 3 1/2 skeins of Purple Fizz left!  I can try another hat.  And now I’m making a neck gaiter out of the remainder of that skein.  Then I can make wristies and leg warmers, and have an entire set that matches!

 

Soon as I figure out the legwarmer pattern.  The one I tried to make was supposed to be a sort of slouch-style legwarmer, but uhm…  It doesn’t slouch so well, so it is just too huge at the top.  Today I wore them upside down, which makes the wide part fan out nicely over my black slippers, but… they’re going to get worn out dragging on the floor at the back   :X

3D Coat SL Sculpty Retopo


3D Coat v 4.0.07B(gl)

OMG, I actually learned something today!  And became COMPETENT at it!!!

 

So here’s the deal.   You can’t export a Sculpty map from 3D Coat (you can import one).  So what you need is to get your voxel-sculpted object to be square-mapped, so you can use Blender or something to generate the sculpt map.  And all you need to do that is a flat-mapped cylinder, sphere, or — what I like to use — a capsule, exported as an obj file.  You import that into the retopo room as a retopo mesh.

Now I can’t find the blasted video, but the workflow goes like this:

  1. Import the retopo mesh; scale, rotate, move it into place over your voxel piece.
  2. Do NOT tell it to autoconform to the mesh.
  3. Turn OFF AutoSnapping to the mesh.
  4. Use the Brush tool to massage things into shape around your object, including smoothing.
  5. Then turn on AutoSnapping and use the smooth (shift) Brush to make the retopo mesh glom onto the model.

My probelm always is, I hit the smoothing, and the retopo mesh starts glomming, but then parts of it go nuts and start to spike out.  And then I get weird crap at the ends, and pieces crossing the symmetry line, and the mesh all folding under and over itself, and getting knotted up…!!!

 

Today I taught myself how to do it PROPERLY!  Same as above, but once you get it placed over the model, with no snapping, you can use any/all of these strategies…

There’s no “pose” tool or soft selection for transforms.  So if you want to taper one end of your retopo mesh….  Grab the select tool, go into face mode, and pick the rectangular selection.  Grab the end of your mesh, Transform, squish… Click the Select Tool, (at the top:) Clear Selection, Face.  Grab a little less of the mesh.  Transform to scale down… repeat…  Yes, irritating.

Then you’ll get this stepped shape, but don’t worry about that.  grab the Brush and used shift to smooth the steps out.  This smooth is da bomb.  It not only smooths the shape of your mesh, but it works miracles in straightening out your lines and evening out the quad rows.  It’s really brilliant.

Use the Brush in its regular mode to shove chunks of the retopo closer to the model surface.  Even out with smoothing.  Get it really close to the voxel model, but don’t sweat the little details and variations.  Also, if you have symmetry turned on, you might get the centerline of edges sticking up as you move the mesh.  Don’t worry about that, the smooth will take care of those no problem.

 

When you’re ready to glom the sculpty mesh onto the model, start at the poles.  These are the major trouble spots!  You might already have weird crap at the poles, like triangles sticking out of the mesh.  Try selecting one face or edge with the Select tool (remember to shrink the fool brush down to nothing, or you’ll grab a whole area), and then transforming it so it is a better size and orientation.

Next, use the Brush in smooth mode (holding Shift), and fairly small, and wave it over the pole.  If it goes nuts and spazzes out into a crazy spiderweb of crossing lines, hit undo!  Try turning OFF Auto Snapping again, and nudging the pole closer to the surface by hand.  You can also try to keep using smooth and see if that manages to untangle the lines… sometimes it will, sometimes it won’t.

Once you get the pole to glom onto the model, use a small-radius Brush and work in outward circles, smoothing to make the quads glom.  Remember to let up your mouse button every so often!  In case you need to hit undo at any time, you won’t undo 10 minutes of work.  :X

As the center of the mesh jumps down to the voxel surface, you may notice spikes and crossing lines.  Do Not Panic.  Remember to let up the mouse button, then smooth the messy area.  It helps sometimes to change the camera angle.  I don’t know why…  But especially if you find one of your vertices crawling under the mesh to halfway across the model somewhere…  Rotate the camera and smooth it again.  It might come back.

If not, undo is your friend.   So is Ctrl-S (save), when you get something working right.

Make sure you clear up any messes before you expand the radius of your glomming.  After you get about 1/4 of the mesh around the pole glommed, remember to stop and go to the other pole.  Do the same thing there.

Clean up by smoothing the heck out of everything.  Anywhere the lines are too tight, smooth.  Anywhere the lines are crooked, smooth.  Anywhere the mesh is a little thin over a surface feature, smooth.  Smooth everything!

 

The only thing I can’t figure out is how to more sophisticatedly (and with more control) bend and manipulate the retopo mesh to, say, go around corners (like a leg to a foot).  I managed with the paltry Retopo Room Transform tool and Brush, but it came out pretty wiggy.  :/

 


Amazon Prime: One Year Review


Amazon.com lets you review and rate anything you buy on their mega-super-store-site… except Prim Membership. Odd, that. But I can always post it here in my little corner of the universe.

I got Amazon Prime last year during Holiday Shopping Season. Handy during that, you know. There are three major benefits of Prime Membership:

     
    Free 2-Day Shipping
    Free Streaming Videos
    Kindle Lending Libray

And I have been wondering, off and on throughout the year, if my Prime Membership was worth this stuff. Let’s take a closer look.


 
Kindle Lending Library:

This is the weakest link of Prime Membership. You can borrow ONE Kindle eBook per month. But, not just any Kindle eBook. They have to participate in the whatever program they participate in to make it available to borrow in the KLL. The latest bestseller in your favorite genre probably doesn’t.

Secondly, you have to FIND the titles that do. That you might be interested in. There really isn’t a good way to do this. You can go to the KLL on your Kindle (but not on the Amazon site, that I’ve found), and pick a category, and trawl through the 300 some-odd titles that category might have.

What I have found works better is to just bop around on the Amazon site, and if I see an interesting title, and it happens to be labeled for Prime lending, then I throw it into a wishlist named Kindle Lending Library.

This, of course, takes a lot of time to build up a selection of books to borrow. I didn’t get around to borrowing a book until about four months into my membership.

Borrowing them is kinda a pain, too. You can BUY a book with one click on the Amazon site, but you can’t borrow it in any way, shape or form. Instead, you have to remember you need to go onto your Kindle device, go find the KLL, and search for the book title there. Then you can borrow it. Why they don’t have a one-click borrow button and slated delivery that works like a purchase, I don’t know. You’d think that would be easy.

Also, you do not get to keep the book for 30 days. You get ONE book per month. So, if you borrow it on the 25th… you get 5 (or 6) days to read it.

At first, one book per month sounded pretty cheap and shoddy. After all, when I go to the local library, I get several books per month to read. But really, between all the free stuff and purchased books I got on my Kindle, I’m actually kinda pressed for time to read one ‘extra’ book per month.
 
Bottom Line: The Kindle Lending Library is a neat little perq, but not a cornerstone of the Prime Membership.


 
Amazon Instant Video

I have Netflix, so the big question for this year was: How does Amazon compare? It’s a little hard to tell. In the question of title availability… It is VERY close. Here are some comparisons:

     
    Red Dwarf: Amazon had the full series first, but Netflix got it a few days later.
    Doctor Who: Amazon has Series 7 (part 1), while Netflix still only has through 6.
    Arrow: Netflix has this. Amazon has it, but it’s not included with Prime Membership.

Generally speaking, if I can’t find a movie on Netflix, I can’t find it on Amazon Instant Video, either. EXCEPT…! Sometimes a title will be in the Amazon Streaming library, but it will not be included with Prime Membership.

For example: Avengers is out on Netflix and Amazon. Netflix also has Thor and Captain America, but not any of the Ironman movies. Amazon has those, but they’ll cost you $2.99 to watch them. While it goes against my stingy nature to pay for individual movies/TV shows on top of a Prime Membership… the fact is, it’s nice to know that if I really, REALLY want to watch them, I can fork that out and do so. On Netflix, there is no alternative option like this. (Unless maybe you have the Netflix DVD service… but who still has that? :X )

 

The layout and format of Amazon Instant Video leaves a bit to be desired — if you’re used to Netflix. With Netflix, you get one big long playlist of titles. With Amazon, you get a watchlist that has several pages of a grid view, showing the thumbnail of the movie/show cover image. You can change the order of stuff on Netflix. I don’t think you can on Amazon. That I found, anyway.

Netflix does not separate TV shows from movies. Amazon doesn’t either, but it does have a toggle where you can select one or the other. So if you want a movie, click on movies, and pick from those. You can also select the Prime toggle and see only those that don’t cost extra. But that will show both movies and TV.

Searching for titles is basically the same. Amazon doesn’t have the nifty pop up display after you add a title to your watchlist, that shows you a bunch of other titles you might like, that Netflix has. So it might take you a while longer to build up your queue. :X I have 170+ titles in my Netflix queue. I have about 70 on my Amazon watchlist.

I find it easier to watch stuff on Netflix. There, it’s pretty straightforward. You hit play, it goes to a new page with the video playing in the whole browser window. You click to go to full screen.

On Amazon, the video plays in the same page as the title listing, which has a small letterbox type strip across the page. That’s pretty small. You can click to get a pop-out viewer, and/or fullscreen mode. Well, basically you have to, if you want to see anything.

Also on Netflix, when you watch a TV series… when one episode gets to the end, it will automatically play the next episode. (It will eventually stop and ask you if you’re still actually alive….) On Amazon, you have to go out of fullscreen mode and select the next episode in the list manually. (I know, the horror of all that manual labor!)

But what’s really cool with Netflix is, every time I click ‘Play’ on my TV show, it remembers where I left off. I can watch a whole series and never have to remember what season/episode I’m on!

On Amazon, I can see by the different font weight which episodes of a series I have seen, and which I haven’t. But for different sessions, I do have to go in and pick which one to start playing.

Amazon also tends to list each season/series of a show separately. However, once you get in to the list of each season, you can select other seasons underneath the viewer. So while you may have Doctor Who Series 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 part 1 in your Watchlist, you really only need one there. You can access the others from it. Netflix doesn’t separate those out. You can go to the show listing and pick a season from a drop-down list, but it is all under one title in your queue.

 
Bottom Line: I can’t imagine giving up Netflix, but I do like Amazon’s options as backup. The fact that I can buy/rent shows/movies on Amazon that I just couldn’t get on Netflix is a bonus. Um, the fact that I have to buy/rent some shows that I don’t on Netflix is a turn-off.


 
Free 2-Day Shipping

Who doesn’t hate shipping & handling charges? When you’re shopping online, grabbing those 50-cent deals on eBay… only to get clobbered with the shipping. That used to drive me nuts as a seller, too. Offering cheap used books, then totally getting killed on the shipping, which I always underestimated! (Well, back in the old days before we had all that standard flat rate shipping stuff going on.)

An not JUST free shipping, but free 2-Day shipping! That’s like half as cool as overnight! You will feel a big smile every time you’re browsing Amazon and see that delightful little Prime icon on it!

(Note: 2-Day shipping isn’t always 2 days. Especially in the holiday shopping season. Those orders came in on a ‘normal’ schedule, which doesn’t bother me one bit. Free is free!)

But all right, do we REALLY spend that much on shipping? Aside from a huge Winter Holiday burst, I don’t really shop that much. And the kicker is… it is really difficult to figure out what you are saving with Prime.

I went to my Order History and looked at all the charges. Shipping & Handling? $0.00, naturally. But what would I have paid? I go to the item listing; it doesn’t say. I log out and look at the item, and it still doesn’t say. It doesn’t calculate this until halfway through your shopping cart.

So I asked the Amazon Help folk if there was a way I could view the shipping & handling savings of my Prime Membership. I mean, hey, if I’m saving a boatload, that would be a really good selling point, right?

First, they told me to look at my order history. I said, I did that, it all says zero. Then they gave me a link to the Shipping Rates Page and they also told me what 2-day shipping on each of my orders this year would have been. Well, that’s nice and all, but no way would I have paid for 2-day shipping!

So, armed with the Shipping Rates table, and my Order History from October of last year forward, I calculated what I would have (actually) paid. There’s a bit of room for leeway, as it’s not clear what all my items are classified under (I did get a total of $17.10 where the 2-day rate was listed as $14.33, so I guesstimated that one down to $12.) But my final total….
 
$78.45

Which, considering Prim Membership is 79 bucks, and I got to watch some videos on top of that… Hey, I’m happy!
 
Bottom Line: Your shipping & handling may vary. If you don’t have Prime yet, go through your Order History and check what you’ve been paying on that over one year. (To get an exact figure, make sure you check if the items you ordered are elligible for Prime shipping.)

 


 
The Bottom Bottom Line

I had my doubts about my first year of Prime membership. The eBook lending? Pfft. The streaming video? Ehhhh…, if I want to see the Doctor Who 50th anniversary episode sometime this year, I probably need that. Is that worth 80 bucks to me? Hrmm….

I had serious doubts about the shipping savings. But these days? Those suckers add up! I’m pleased that I did end up saving so much, enough to justify another year of Prime. Because, you know… Doctor Who 50 years, man! And, heh… shopping with no shipping! BOOYAH!

A pleasant surprise.


3D Coat 4.0.07B Retopo Experiment Notes


These are some notes to myself on today’s foray into 3D Coat. I’m using Version 407B(GL) version. Today I’m attempting to use the Poser Michael 3 head to retopologize a head I sculpted from the 3DCoat bust.

 
TOPO W/ MESH
======================
(instructions from video)

Retopo Room
Import Mesh, position & size.
ENTER.

Transparency: at top slider.

Transform to make minute position adjustments.

Turn OFF Auto Snap at top.
Use BRUSH to move stuff into shape,
close to the voxel surface.

Turn ON Auto Snap at top.
Use Shift-Smooth, low setting, to
‘tap’ mesh into place.

Turn OFF Auto Snap in trouble areas,
like nostrils, lips, eyelids…

 

 
My Foray Notes
============================

Import MilManHead.  Scale HUGE.

hide inner materials, eyebrows, etc.
merge lips, nostrils, lacrymal to SkinHead.

Position and Scale w/ Transform.
voxel brow sticks out a bit.  ears are lower.  everything else inside the MM mesh.

okay, brush doesn’t have falloff, and i don’t know how to select/mask the ears.

nm, i just shoved them all around and hideously deformed them… :/  and the upper eyelid…  i’m going to turn on the snap… and see what disaster befalls.

i’m going to use snap to closest along normal…

okay, shift-smooth snapping on the cranium going okay…

the jawline went okay, but the chin spiked out.  ears went nuts.

forehead and cheekbones spiking out too.  i don’t know why.
oh… using regular brush and nudging got rid of those.

 

all right… everything went okay except the ears and eyelids.  the nostrils need some care along the inner rim.  and the lips need the split to go in the centerline.

i don’t know what i’m going to do with the ears, they are pretty much destroyed.  the eyelids are… well, they won’t move when i try to grab them.
i’m a little worried about the centerline.  not sure if the smoothing made it cross or…???  :/
um… yeah, a whole lot collapsed to the forehead centerline :(
i’ll have to count how many points are on the top of the forehead, because the more i keep pulling, the more lines and triangles pop out of the centerline…!

 

CHJ-3DCV4.2j2

 

okay, i exported ‘retopo mesh’ to a test obj.  i didn’t turn on the inner mouth and other materials.  the SkinHead layer was selected.
wrong number of vertices. ::sigh::

importing the mesh, not centered et al… hrm… yeah… it’s the size of planet jupiter.  i think. i can’t see it.  just its shadow, out to the horizon.  :X


Blueberry-Cherry Striped Pie


 
Happy Equinox!!!

So for autumnal equinox, I have decided to make a pie. No, not from scratch. :P But I have decided to make Blueberry-Cherry Striped Pie. No, I never heard of it, I just made it up. So I got me a can of cherry pie filling, a can of blueberry pie filling, and a pair of pre-made crusts. What do you want? From the person who just burned soup last week? Eh? It’s entirely experimental, anyway!

I’ve been trying to figure out how to get the blueberry and cherry stripes to lay out correctly. Well, duh, make the stripes horizontal, going across the slices, not down them. If you put the filling in concentric rings, that will take care of it.

So, one glop of blueberry in the middle. Then a ring of cherry around it. The blueberry filling is thicker and steadier than the cherry. I corralled the cherry with some spatula action, then made a blueberry wall around that. That was it before I was almost to the crust, so the cherries went into the last canal before the pie wall. They almost didn’t make it. Which is odd, because both can’s of pie filling said to use two cans for one pie, and I had leftover blueberry. Even after I topped off the two blueberry rings!

I was going to take a lovely picture of my masterpiece — er, experiment — but the camera is busted. I got new batteries for it, but the lens doesn’t extend out any more. Yeah, it stopped working after my mom showed me how to use the zoom on it… Oops. :/

Okay, no pictures. But I should start heating up the oven! I plugged in the oven, and turned it on. Not clicking igniter. None. Nada. Yes, the power cord was ON. I tested it with the top of the stove; those clickers worked.

So now I have to figure out if I can light this thing by hand. Without blowing up my hand, or the rest of me.

Okay, so you turn the oven on, and the pilot light gas comes out. No more gas comes out until the thermometer sensor senses that the pilot light is lit. So I have a long-handled barbecue lighter thing; I get the pilot light lit. And… then nothing happens.

So, I don’t know what. The clicker AND the sensor is dead? The wires are loose? I’m shining the flashlight in the thing, behind the thing, I don’t know! I tried jiggling the wires, I tried lighting it again. Nope.

NOW what was I going to do? I got the top crust on, I got it all slit to let the steam out, I got the cinnamon sugar topping on it…. I even put the aluminum foil strips around the crust. So I wrapped plastic wrap on it and put it in the fridge. I guess I’d have to give it to mom to take home and bake.

Except I tried the pilot light one more time. It lit. No whoosh. Then I tried closing the broiler thing. THEN it lit up! Oh, thank goodness!

 

So now I have a Blueberry-Cherry Striped Pie! Um, I haven’t actually tried it yet. It’s been cooling off all day. But the crust came out sooo nice and not burnt. Can’t wait for dessert tonight! (I hope it’s edible! :X )

 
UPDATE:

Blueberry Cherry Stripe Pie

I fixed the camera, so I finally got a pic. Oh, and it turned out quite delicious, actually. It’s not a golly-gee-whiz-wow, zomg-I-have-to-make-this kind of recipe. But it was good. It’s actually rather like eating a blueberry pie in one bite and a cherry pie in the next.

 


I have Officially Burnt Soup


So my cucumbers are done and gone, my tomatoes are dwindling, and I had a buncha chopped carrots and celery. So I decided I would throw it in the slower cooker with a chicken leg, and make some soup. With rice, I thought. That would be different from noodles, and I haven’t had chicken and rice soup in forever.

So I snooped around Google to find slow cooker recipes for this. All the ones I found said to cook it 8 hours on low. Well…. I was starting at lunch time and only wanted to cook it for five hours. And I didn’t have fancy condensed soups or half and half to make creamy chicken and wild rice whatever, so… I improvised, picking directions from this and that recipe.

I threw in the carrots and celery, then the chicken, added some ‘soup mix’ frozen vegetables, and then 2 cups of rice. Spices, boullion, blah blah blah, then water to cover it all. Set it on 275 and let it go.

 

I was concerned that after five hours, the rice would have absorbed all the liquid and turned mushy-pasty. But oh well, it’s a learning experience, right? Instead, when I dredged up the rice from the bottom of the pot… it hadn’t absorbed ANY water and it was crunchy.

Seriously!? How does that work? (Or fail to work, as the case may be.)

 

I put the lid on the pot and put it in the fridge. I was going to try to leave it for another hour or so, but I figured that if it needed to be fixed, I could just dump it in a pot and actually boil it.

I had to go out, so I didn’t try that for dinner. The next night, I threw it in my big pot to boil. Because, no, the rice STILL hadn’t absorbed any water. As I shoveled it into the pot, I figured I had perhaps better change the name of the soup to “chicken and rice dumpling.” Because apparently, some of the rice absorbed the chicken fat, and turned into great sheets of glop.

Here’s another tip… when the recipe calls for boneless, skinless chicken breast, throwing a frozen chicken leg with fat and skin on it is probably not a real good idea… especially if you have no method or plan of scooping the chickenfat out… :X

 

Yet still, there were crunchy grains of rice. Boiling this sucker for ten minutes did indeed make the rice finally absorb the water. As I was stirring, I felt a lot of the rice “dumplings” coating the bottom of the pot.

Now, these are my new stainless steel NON-no-stick pots. No Teflon! I’m very happy to not have the Teflon any more, because you even look at those things with a metal spoon, or even the plastic scrub brush, you end up flaking that stuff off. But in this instance, it probably didn’t serve me too well…

Actually, come to think of it, perhaps I should have used a metal spoon or something to scrape the pot as I was stirring. I’m so trained not to… perhaps next time I will remember.

 

I scooped out some of the soup… perhaps I should consider calling it chowder now. It was still boiling hot, so I left the majority in the pot, and took my bowlfull off to eat it. After it cooled down. Nothing is worse than hot soup — not even lukewarm pizza. You sit there waiting and waiting for it to cool down, then you can’t wait any longer and burn the heck out of your mouth!

Anyway! It was very tasty! Oh, and I was extremely surprised to bite into a carrot and find it was NOT turned to mush. It wasn’t crunchy, per se, but it had some body. The celery too. Not what I expected.

Then later, as I was scooping s– er– chowder out of the pot, I got to the bottom coating and got it scraped up. And yes, it was burnt on the bottom.

 

So there you go, I have achieved one of the most difficult cooking results! Burnt Soup!