6 Reasons to Switch to Streaming

Our Switch

About 1-1/2 years ago we realized that we were wasting money every month paying a cable bill just for fun.  The realization came on night when we looked around and discovered that no one had turned the cable on in a whole month.  What a waste of our money!

At that point we were already Netflix members as I had signed up when I took a Film and Politics class at Portland State University.  Since we were watching a movie a week and they had almost all the movies in their collection it was a good investment.  When we gave up cable we switched to Netflix for our TV viewing entertainment.

In all honesty we have not missed out cable at all.  I should share that we are not a sports watching family so there were no games for us to miss out on, and even for you sports people out there I hear that this year the Superbowl will be live streamed online so there are really no excuses anymore.

6 Benefits to Streaming

Since we gave up cable we have noted some benefits to our lives that had both been expected and unexpected.  Here is our list:

1) No more cable bill.  Even with the changes to subscriptions that Netflix has undergone the savings is considerable, especially as we dropped the DVD portion when they split them (we weren’t watching them anyways).

2) No more advertisements at Christmas time.  I have two school aged kids and while they hear about stuff from their friends they are shielded from the onslaught of commercials for the latest chunk of plastic or useless electronic that barrage our favorite shows come fall.

3) No more political ads.  For us this has been a great and unexpected benefit, especially heading into an election year like this one.  Right now we are having a special election for a new Senator and since we haven’t seen adds our decisions are based on what is on the ballot, their websites and our voter’s guide.  This allows us to make a decision without hating the idea of voting due to negative ads before out ballot even shows up.  For us this is a good thing.

4) No more missing the show.  This is great for all of us, if you doze off or have to run a kid to an event before the show is over there are no issues, just watch it later.  Sure you get this with DVR but then you probably have a higher bill than I do.

5) I know what the kids have been watching.  They have the chance to cruise the available shows and movies on Netflix and there are some that they are simply too young to watch.  Since everything you watch kicks over to a “Recently Watched” section we all know what each other is watching.  A much easier way to keep tabs on things, though my kids haven’t tried watching anything they shouldn’t.

6) Exposure to new shows.  I have found that documentaries that interest me are far easier to come by then they used to be with my cable provider.  This also means my kids have gotten into “How It’s Made” that they would have been unlikely to run across before our switch.

Do you stream?

While it is not the best answer for everyone, the switch to streaming TV has been great for us.  So tell me, have to switched to streaming and if you have what benefits have you seen, if not, why not?

 

 

Modern day wands

What is a wand?


According to my recently purchased copy of The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Signs and Symbols by Adele Nozedar, a wand is a symbol of power.  Adele writes “The wand is an essential tool for anyone who aspires to a position of authority and power: witches and wizards, druids, bishops, and the monarchy”.   I had always considered wands to be associated with wizards and fairies and the like, but had never carried that notion over to bishops and monarchs before.  What an interesting idea.  It made me wonder what modern day items would be considered wands based on this definition of a wand as a tool representing authority and power.

Modern day wands

Gavel by creationc

The first that comes to my mind is the gavel.  I can’t help but see this as a wand based on Nozedar’s description.  Considering the authority we consider a judge to have, and certainly the authority considering they can hold your life in their hands.  Though I must admit while I can easily tie a judge’s gavel to power and authority, I have trouble imagining it providing any sort of magical ability to the wielder in the way I typically visual a wand doing.

The next that comes to mind is a school teacher’s marker.  This, of course, has changed over time and depends on the circumstances.  In many cases today it is the dry erase marker or the greatly feared red pen.   While teachers are not the figures of authority to adults that they are to school children, there is still power in the red pen that marks your mistakes and your grades on each paper you turn in.  A small wand by most standards but perhaps a stronger level of magic due to that.

I am sure there are other great modern day wands out there, what can you think of?

Bring it to you RPG


So neat idea but how does it apply to your RPG game.  I can see this being a great tie in either in a ShadowRun or Champions game.  Any of your major NPC’s could be a closet magic user, implementing their wand as a focus item without letting on to the world their true nature or abilities.  It could be used as a surprise for the characters who may not see it coming.  Back in the day I played in a Champion campaign where many of the major politicians were magic users, they just used them to gain and keep their positions and only as much as needed so that it was not well known to the general population.  Just goes to show that magic users can wield their power in a low-key, yet highly effective way.

What creative ways have you used wands or focus items in your games?

Train your evil geekling

Welcome to another addition of Wacky Wednesday where I bring you one crazy item or article I have read online.

Doctor Who Ride-in DalekThis week I wanted to share with you the perfect way to start the early training in ultimate destruction of, well, everyone for your young geekling.  I bring to you the Ride in Dalek toy available at Think Geek.  Just when you thought you had seen it all in the Dr. Who fandom items, they dig a little deeper, but why not kids can love Dr Who also, right?

Personally, I would rather have put my kids in a sound effect laden Tardis, but I bet that is available somewhere too.  Who knows maybe your little one won’t turn out evil after all even after riding around in this ride!

Cheap and Easy Sci-Fi Convention Costumes

Costumes galore…

One of the aspects of the Science Fiction convention we go to each year, Orycon in Portland Oregon, is that people dress in all sorts of great costumes.  And while most of them are more inclined to be grouped with a genre, such as Steam Punk or Pirates, there are others that pick a specific character from a movie or television series and dress as them.  Depending on the movie this could be either super simple or terribly challenging to manage.

Here I will cover a couple ideas that have struck me this weekend that I think would be fairly easy to accomplish, even on a tight budget.  And for some of them the reference is back in time about 20 years and will make people have to stop and ask you who you are supposed to be.

The Jetsons

The JetsonsSo The Jetsons may be an animated cartoon, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t use it for costume ideas.  Any of the family members, outside of Rosey the Robot, would be fairly easy to dress up.  You just need some clothing in the right styles which may be found at your local discount retail store or resale clothing store.  If it isn’t the right color don’t worry, just get it in the lightest version you can and use some RIT Dye to dye it the color you need.

George Jetson – White, long sleeved, high collared shirt with the collar up and added black cord for trim work; Blue pants that are tighter fitting, and a dark green, wide belt should do the trick.  Then just a matter of getting your hair the right color and a standard guys style.

Jane Jetson – A bit harder to manage, but a tighter fitting, flared skirt dress dyed purple and add a collar of starched white triangle.  Then a pair of purple tights and a center part medium hair do in light red and you are good to go.

Judy Jetson – A red sleeveless, short crop shirt with the added red, starched triangle collar and a pair of snugish red pants and you are good to go.  The hardest part of this one is the white, high ponytail hair – afraid I am not sure how to manage that one, but if anyone has any good ideas please share

Elroy Jetson – White t-shirt, and some green overalls complete with green shoe covers and you are almost there.  Add in a red, starched full-circle collar and the baseball hat adorned with the antennae and you are good to go.  Standard boy cut hair in yellow is the last touch.

Inspector Gadget

Inspector Gadget
From www.mycomicsandstuff.com

Here is another cartoon from my childhood that crosses over to the sci-fi realm, guess it isn’t too much of a wonder how I got into this stuff huh?  Since the setting of Inspector Gadget was modern day, at least for the 1908’s when it was created, the costumes are pretty easy to manage.

Inspector Gadget – A gray double breasted shorter length trench coat, if you can’t find double breasted then get single and replace all the buttons with a matched set to make it look double breasted.  You will also need a gray belt, and may need to add belt loops for it if the coat didn’t come with some.  A blue pair of pants, and some gray shoes.  Oh and don’t forget the dray hat, brown gloves and black fly-away hair.  Since you obviously can’t do all the gadgets you could pair it down to jazzing up the gloves with the Gadget Phone look and that should do the trick.

Penny – A basic T-shirt in red and you can add the white stripe or get a shit shirt and figure out dyeing it red in top/bottom stripes.  Then green pants and some red shoes, which may require dyeing white shoes or making shoe covers.  Then some basic blond pigtails and you are good to go.  If you could locate something that could be her watch or her computer book that would help the costume along to make it obvious you are in costume, especially if you had the computer book worked out.

That’s a wrap…

So ends another costume idea blog post.  I hope you enjoyed this way-back, flash-back to my youth as much as I did and if you get a chance to work out any of these costumes for your next dress-up event send me a picture and let me see how it turned out!

 

 

 

Get your geek on for less

For many of us our Library is an untapped resource for getting our geek on.  Today I started small and borrowed my first DVD’s from the library.  So, for the price of nothing beyond the taxes I pay anyways, I brought home 4 movies that we can watch for free.  Today’s focus for my movies was Disney as I am a huge Disney animated geek.  We watched some older Goofy shorts that my kids giggled at heartily and The Great Mouse Detective (Mystery in the Mist Edition) which I hadn’t seen in ages and my daughter hadn’t seen at all but rather enjoyed.

Next I am planning to cruise through the online catalog and find a video game or two that look interesting and put them on hold.  One of the down sides is that many of the more popular games are usually on a wait list, but on the upside I can easily place them on hold from the comfort of my home and get a friendly email when my name eventually makes it to the top.  This will allow me to play a variety of games without the expense of buying them.  If I find I really like the game I can go pick up my own copy, otherwise I can just play it until my time is up, then return it all for free!!!

In addition, I know a number of libraries in my area that are also are supporting Manga and anime clubs, in addition to board game nights for the teens, kids and families.  What a great, free resources us geek families have in our local libraries!!!

A Seamstress’ tribute to the Safety Pin

A Brief History of the Safety Pin

I have been gone from my site for a while as my attention has turned to costuming and prepping for our upcoming convention.

But tonight I felt that I needed to put into pictures why I love the safety pin as part of my standard kit of sewing supplies.  I can’t imagine an easier way to install elastic then with this wonderful little invention.

According to IdeaFinder.com, the safety pin was invented in 1849 by inventor Walter Hunt.  He is said to have sold the idea for $400, which allowed him to pay back a debt to a friend, but ended up missing out on the boat load of money he could have made.  But thanks to him we now have a super handy device that works great to add another set of hands to the equation of elastic installation.

How to use Safety Pins to Install Elastic through a Casing

Tonight I was working on the sleeves of my daughter’s Princess Jasmine inspired costume.  This requires elastic bands on both sides of the sleeves.  Here is a pictorial step-by-step of my process for installing the elastic bands.  It isn’t anything terrible earth-shattering, but once you know how to do it the process is so much easier.

Step 1

Put the safety pin through the end of one side of the elastic band, and secure closed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 2

Insert the elastic into the casing.   Push the safety pin in while pulling the material further away from the pin.

 

 

 

 

 

Step 3

Keep working the elastic until the lose end lines up with the casing entrance you started with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 4

Pin the lose end into place with a safety pin so that it will not accidentally slip into the casing and cause problems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 5

Here I have worked the elastic from one of the casing to the other using the safety pin I attached in step 1 to give me the grip on the elastic I needed.  Once I have it to the other end I pin it in place to the fabric.  Now I know both ends will stay put until I can sew them into place as per the sewing instructions.

 

 

 

 

 Questions/Comments

I hope that this mini-tutorial has been informative and helps you with the struggle of getting elastic into and through a casing when sewing clothes or costuming.

If there are any other step-by-steps you would like to see please let me know.

Favorite Sci-Fi author – Sheri S Tepper


I discovered Sheri S. Tepper as an author when I was in middle school.  My mom had taken me to the Downtown Portland Public Library and in the Young Adult section I found the book Jinian Star-Eye sitting on the display racks.  The cover intrigued me, and the Title and short synopsis cinched it and I took the book home.  I tore through it like crazy and completely fell in love with the character of Jinian as well as the world in which she lived.  I ended up checking out the book several more times during the years in Middle and High School.  Honestly I can’t even remember how many times I read the book before I discovered that it was really book 9 of a 9 book series.

So begin my love affair with all of Sheri S. Tepper’s Sci-Fi/Fantasy books.  I have virtually all of them, though some of her first works are harder to come by these days.  Due to my school schedule over the last couple years, as well as the rest of life, I have fallen behind on reading her latest works though I am starting to get caught up.  Right now I am reading The Fresco, which is proving to be yet another excellent book.  While I love her style of writing and how she tracks the story from several different angles by jumping between characters from chapter to chapter eventually bringing them together as the story unfolds, I also love her underlying themes.  Her themes resonate strongly with me especially those about how we treat each other, what it means to be a creature that is truly part of our world, and even what it means to be human as well as how we treat the planet we call home.  I find that her works really cause me to rethink how we as humans are managing, or not, ourselves and what could be done to fix many of the social ills we suffer from.

If you are looking for a new author to try out in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre then I highly recommend Sheri S. Tepper, My favorites are Beauty and Gate to Women’s Country, though The Fresco and The Family Tree might be an easier jump in for some people as they take place on Earth.  I know I am one of her biggest fans, I named my daughter Jinian after the book that started it all for me.

Plots from the Past

There are so many places to gain inspiration for the plots that a DM throws their character group into. For me I find much of my inspiration comes from the books have read as well as the movies I have watched, that combined with my own vivid and active imagination. Since I run primarily Fantasy Genre games there is not much from the modern day that I draw from. However, my husband has introduced me a show that, while a number of years old, would provide plenty of plot ideas for the modern or near future genre DM.

Mission Impossible


Our current old TV show on Netflix is Mission Impossible; which aired from 1966 to 1973. For me this puts the show airing before I was even born, but it is still awesome enough to deserve watching. I would dare say that we have all heard of it, especially the “this message will self destruct” quote, but many of us have not actually watched it; at least I hadn’t until this last month. The show definitely shows it age in the dress and manners of the actors, but the plot is top rate, as is the scripting. It is an excellent training for anyone looking to run a Shadowrun game or better yet a D20 modern game. The situations are great, and far better than what I could think up. And even if your players were complete Mission Impossible buffs the randomness of the dice rolls and character skill sets would prevent them from following the script of the show exactly. Heck, even in the show it often doesn’t go as planned and they have to fake it and fly off the cuff to get through and out again.

In the last episode we watched, the group of agents had to infiltrate a foreign group looking to do something in the way of an attack on America.  To infiltrate the group to learn what it they were doing and stop it, they captured another group of people who were supposed to go to the training session and then pretended to be them.  In the end this had he agents pretending to be foreigners in a training environment learning how to be American’s.  I won’t give away the whole plot, but just this group of American agents pretending to be foreign agents who were to be pretending to be American’s was rather enjoyable to watch.

So if you are looking for new and fresh plot ideas for your games, then I suggest you take a look at some older TV shows and movies to see what they have to offer.  Not everyone sitting at your table will be in the know of the show’s plot and you can add fuel to your creative GM imagination bringing your games to life.

99 Cent Costume Workshop – From Orycon

99 Cent Costume Workshop

Every year that I have been to Orycon (which is the last several) the Portland Costumer’s Guild has put on the 99 Cent Costume Workshop.  I am sharing this great idea so that other groups might stumble upon this post and decide to do the same thing at their convention as well.

So what is it?

Well the guild brings in multiple boxes of scrap material and other various bit and pieces of electronics and other stuff.  All of it are things that no one really wants anymore.  Some of the fabric is sizable, like a half to full yard, but most are smaller pieces like remnants from a pattern cutting.  All of these items are dumped into a mound on the floor in the front of the panel room while the attendees gather in the chairs for instructions.

Once the appropriate time has come and everyone that needs to be there from the Guild is there the “workshop” begins.  Each year there is a different theme and we are instructed to not only make costumes from the items in the heap, but also generate a short back-story for our character.  While there are not many kids that go to this workshop it is a shame as my kids have really enjoyed going to this every year.

We are given about 45 minutes to generate our costumes and stories.  In addition to the various scraps of fabric, ribbon, electrical cords and the like we are provided with glue guns, duct tape, and scissors to assist our endeavors.  There is a good amount of teamwork that happens as people see where others are going with their costumes and either offer to help them or find items in the heap that would add to their décor.

Is it a contest?

In a manner of speaking it is, but the prizes are generally low key.  The first couple years I did it the Costumer’s Guild gave out prizes that they made during the event pulling from the same material that we used to make our costumes.  Of course to do this requires you to have enough base material to draw from.  One year they decorated CDs, another year it was hats, and one year it was these odd disk shaped things (see the picture from 2009 below and look at what my kids are holding).

There are also usually other prizes that are given out for things like “Best Costume”, “Best Back-story”, “Best Robot”, “Best Animal”, and “Best of anything you can think of”.  Usually there are enough small prizes like kid’s books, candy bars, or light switch plates that everyone gets something.

And then when all is said and done there is the packing up of the event and the endless encouragement from the Guild to take home anything you want from the heap.  This is because if they wanted this stuff it wouldn’t be in the heap in the first place.

Themes and Pictures from Years Past

2010 – Alice in Wonderland

This time we were to make characters that would be auditioning to be in Alice and Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

This is my daughter in her completed Multi-Color Cheshire Cat Costume

My son made himself into a robot which would protect Alice from the Red Queen.  He did pretty much all of this himself, I only assisted with a small portion of the hot gluing until he figured out how to manage that himself.

My entry was of Little Blue Riding Hood who was rather upset about having being beat out by Little Red Riding Hood for the other gig and decided to try out here instead.  Sadly as I was wielding the camera I didn’t score a picture of me.

2009: Alien Dreams

We were all aliens whose alarm clocks had sadly woken us each up from a great dream, and as we rushed to get ready for our day we had just enough time to piece together the great inspiration of our dream that we had been having prior to waking up.

Here are the three kids that attended the workshop in 2009. Left is Z, who dressed as a kind of robot complete with his weaponry.  Right is my son, who was a statue that was protecting someone (this picture does not show the great lampshade head armor he had engineered).  And Center is my daughter who was a teenage princess complete with her cell phone crown.  [Note: I just finally got the piece of material she is wearing as her dress removed from her dress up bin this last weekend]

Sadly, again, there is no picture of me and my great costume from this year that I have a copy of.  I was so busy helping these 3 with their costumes I didn’t have time to work on my own.  So in the last 5 minutes Guild members and the kids were throwing together a costume for me.  It included a dress type look, complete with two Earth idols, one of each from the great icons of the planet as understood from space, Indiana Jones and Sponge Bob.  I believe I still have both of them around somewhere.

Beyond Orycon

I think that this is not only a great idea for a Science Fiction Convention like Orycon, and I sincerely hope it will be back again this year as me and my kids look forward to it all year, it can also carry over to a birthday party or other gathering.  I can see this working well for a pre-teen or teenager Birthday party.  I can even see it working at something like a bachelorette party where you make wedding gowns.  The possibilities are virtually endless.  So have you been to an event like this one?

 

LARPs in Pacific Northwest

LARPs in Pacific Northwest

Before you head off into the land of LARP you need to understand the two basic types of LARP that exist. The first is Boffer LARP and the second is Non-Boffer LARP. Let’s look at these a little bit closer.

Boffer LARP

Most Boffer LARP’s I have encountered are based in a medieval time frame; usually a fantasy setting that includes some form of magic. There are a group of people that run the game, they decide the plot and play out all of the NPC’s from the wench at the inn to the dragon in the cave. Then there is a group of players, they dress up as their character and attempt to navigate the various plots that are thrown their way. Some events are single day and others are weekend long where you are your character both day and night. Typically there is an over-bridging story arc that carries from one event to another, while smaller stories come and go along the way.

Links to Boffer LARP’s in the PNW

Alliance Oregon
Alliance Seattle
Amtgard
SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) – Kingdom of An Tir
Legacies

Non-Boffer LARP’s

Non-Boffer LARP’s come in a greater variety of setting then do their counterparts; everything from -cavemen to vampires are covered this way. Resolution of skills is usually done via Rochambeau or through other means that do not involve actually swinging a weapon or rolling dice. Usually these events are single day events, and some carry a story arc that covers multiple events. This variety of LARP lends itself well to a convention setting as no weapons are required making it more hotel friendly. Costuming is strongly encouraged to help set the mood and make staying in character easier.

Links to Non-Boffer LARP’s in the PNW

Shag LARP