Clockwork and Curiosities

While I’m plugging ineresting websites, let me get in a word for Cabinet of Wonders.  This site is a wonderful (no pun intended) aggregation of information on things true and/or quirky. It’s much better than my blog, so go check it out right now. It has photos! I always intend to have photos, but I usually type this up during lunch at work, and don’t have access to my camera. Not a good excuse at all.

I was looking at some excellent photos of clockwork at the Cabinet of Wonders site, and pondering the whole Steampunk genre, and wondering how clocks actually work, and found this great site that explains the mechanics of, er, mechanisms: http://www.flying-pig.co.uk/mechanisms/ 

I will be looking at that one a lot later today.

(Board) Gaming the System

I know it wasn’t long ago that I posted a list of podcasts I listen to, but I am going to review and expand on a few of them. In this blog post I’m only going to talk about board games, not tabletop/paper/war/rpg games (or electronic or card games for that matter, though I love my DS.). I am extremely blessed that I get to go to the “International House of Johnson” (aka The Secret Lair) and play board games every couple of weeks (weather/schedule permitting). It is a fun thing to play games face to face! This weekend my grandmother turned 81 (perhaps I shouldn’t have just blasted that over the Internet, but oh well), and I still forced her, my grandfather, and my dad to play Seafarers of Catan with me (and we had a good time – once we got past the “isn’t it set up YET?” part; this is why I don’t own Battlelore).

 

The Dice Tower

This podcast offers a massive amount of information. The two co-hosts are Baptist missionaries in Korea! I think this is just great, but even if you don’t, don’t let it scare you – I have never heard them talk about religion on the show. But it does ensure the show is very family-friendly. I said they offer a huge amount of information, and it’s true – every other week they have a series of segments in their show, offering a “top ten” game list, with explanations of why they were ranked the way they were, and since each host has a separate list there are usually many more than ten games discussed. There is even a “43 second review” of a game, and they answer listener’s e-mails, and have a lot of discussion about the difference between American and Euro style games. When you know more than 10 games will be described on each show, you can be sure you will get a lot of information! The Dice Tower is sponsored by Funagain Games, which is a good source for buying games, I assume, having not actually used it. They also have a guild on BoardGameGeek.

 

The Game Kennel

The Game Kennel is one of the podcasts under the “Pulp Gamer” suite of podcasts. It replaces the “King’s Court” which used to actually rate games from 1 to 5 stars ( “LEGENDARY” ). The Game Kennel, in order to be, I suppose, more “PC” instead describes a game, and how it is played, and who it most likely appeals to, and then allows you to decide for yourself whether it is the game for you. It’s still good info! Check out their other podcasts too, for industry interviews.

 

Have Games, Will Travel

I actually got to meet Paul Tevis at Origins 08, which was exciting. He’s the first podcaster I ever recognized by voice. HGWT is not producing any more shows – but you will still get a lot of information from downloading the old shows! Some of the shows were about board games, some were about rpgs, but all had in-depth information.

 

There are surely more board game podcasts out there, but these are the ones I listen to.

 

Of course you can buy a lot of games on Amazon, but if you can find one, it’s much better to support your local game store! Even if the price is higher, the relationship you build is worth it! My local game store is called Infinite Monkey Games, and they’re good people.

 

Another thing that will contribute massively to your enjoyment of board games is finding or forming a game group, so you aren’t consistently 1) inflicting the games on your immediate family and 2) buying games that you hate because you didn’t know until you tried them. This is ameliorated when you can play the terrible games someone else already paid for first!

 

Finally, a HUGE source of information is BoardGameGeek. This big forum contains player-submitted information on just about every game ever made. You can find links to acquire out-of-print games, and discover everything from game rating, and approximate play time, to age range, or even how many forum users played the game in the last month.

 

So whether you’re a newbie or a grognard – why not make time for a board game today! 

Sleepless in Ohio

This Friday is the “All Nighter” that happens once a year, with area teens (around 450 of them!) who come for a night of sports, evangelism, and lots more sports. This will be my third year of being a leader/chaperone-type-person there.

Anyone have any good tips on how to stay up all night and semi-enjoy it? (No playing WoW is not an option – but bringing those energy potions is.)

Mana Energy Potions
Mana Energy Potions

Main suggestions include energy drinks & eating chocolate covered coffee beans.

Will sleeping a lot this week let me store up for the overnighter? Does sleep work that way, even?

Tips and random blathering appreciated!

The Quest for Immortality… in Houseplants

I am plagued with very little natural light at home and very little natural light at work, so, through a many-years-long series of trial-and-error experiments, none of which were mad. NONE OF WHICH WERE MAD I TELL YOU.  I have divined a very VERY short list of the Absolutely Impossible to Kill NIGH-IMMORTAL HOUSEPLANTS.

 

Croton – this is a lovely plant that often has shades of red and yellow on the leaves.
Not to be confused with cubes of crunchy bread, or Cybermen. I can’t say much about it, but there was one that my mother got in a get well arrangement that hung around for months and months with very little care, so I expect they fall into the category of “thrives on neglect”.

 

ZZ Plant – it looks like a Cycad but it isn’t! I named mine Zeddicus Zu’l Zorander for obvious reasons (and also I name most of my plants after wizards. My [not very healthy] Hawthoria is named Howl.). Ok I’ll get botanical for a second.I really like Cycads, ever since I read The Island of the Colorblind by Oliver Sacks. So I sort of wanted a cycad. This is, as I said, not a cycad, but it is called ZZ which stands for Zamioculcas zamiifolia because it has leaves (foliage) that look so much like a Cycad of the genus Zamia – hence “zamiifolia“. And that’s how you decipher plant names, for the record. Anyway I give mine a good soak only once a month, and not much light, and it’s growing like gangbusters!

 

Snake Plant (also called Mother In Law’s Tongue) – several species of Sansevieria –  this thing “thrives on neglect” they say. And they are right! You can throw it in the dark corner and water it once every few months and it will probably still not die. My cat has knocked mine over twice, though, and attempted to bite the tough leaves. They also seem to have their own international society where they do… something. Most likely involving Death Eaters. I mean hey, it’s SNAKE PLANTS.

 

Dumb Cane – Dieffenbachia –  this one is so easy to grow you often see it in offices/get-well-soon planters. But don’t eat it! This one’s poisonous in a particularly painful way. Did you see the disgusting episode (or two) of House where the guy’s tongue was all swollen? Yeah don’t eat this. It has Calcium Oxalate crystals in it that form needle-like crystals right into the moisture in the tongue (throat, etc.). So does skunk cabbage and just about anything in Araceae. Don’t eat any of them. But I’m probably the only one around here that sticks wild plants in my mouth so I’m preaching to the choir. Since it is an arum it has flowers that look “like calla lilies”, with a spathe in the middle, and the ones in the office here have little red berries. Don’t eat those either.

 

Dracaena – these come in many forms and so I can’t tell you how to identify one, exactly. But some other person with a lot of time on his or her hands made a whole domain dedicated to them and so I shall link you.

 

All of these plants are easy to find anywhere from a nursery, to a hardware store, to a WalMart. So if you have no green in your thumb, take heart – some plants will grow anyway!

 

NOTE: If you Google “#1 houseplant” you will get Golden Pothos (Devil’s Ivy).

This is, in fact, living in my cubicle right now, but it isn’t mine – it’s the company’s plant. It was invading my cube so I cut a bunch off and made it into a “laurel wreath” to put on the IT guy’s head yesterday. So I will say it’s certainly another good, healthy plant, but I haven’t raised any myself to know how to care for it.

 

 

Steampunk Artisans, Inspirations, Resources [EDiT]

Oh! And just to plug the two other sites I know that use the Aspire WordPress template…
(And both are neat sites!)
http://steampunkspectacular.com and

http://steampunkwallpaper.com (great images! I’m using one right now!)
I’m not going to bother to explain what the Steampunk genre is all about this time.
Feel free to check out the Wikipedia entry. But what enthralls me about it, is the beautiful combination of craftsmanship, technology, history, magic, sci-fi… wow! No wonder it’s growing!
I want to do more in this style myself!

Steam-type Dragon by Rachel Ross
Steam-type Dragon by Rachel Ross
Now, to start linking to people.
Four folks on deviantART whose Steampunk stylings really inspire me:


Porkshanks also on Etsy.
Earthenwood Studio also http://www.earthenwoodstudio.com/
Her husband is a great fantasy artist, too.
And of course, some other resources for you – these already include just about everything:

http://crabfu.com/ (even includes drawing tips )

Brass Goggles

Datamancer

And don’t forget

Girl Genius comic! (I am so frustrated, I can’t find my copy of Volume 5)

Finally, PMOG is a free browser-based Steam-stylized game (only for Firefox)!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sound of Silence

I hopped merrily into my car this morning and fiddled around hooking my Zen: Vision to the trickle charger/fm transmitter, and let it charge during the hour commute this morning.

When I got to work I forgot about it, checked e-mail, etc. Twenty minutes later I tried to turn it on and it didn’t turn on – and it was blazing hot. And so, somehow, my poor Zen is fried. The IT guy at work took it apart and disconnected the battery, which was running hot without stopping. He thinks it is a circuity failure and not a battery failure. I don’t suppose it matters much.

Anyone have suggestions on a replacement?
I tossed this idea out on Twitter and got various replies.

High in the list are the new Zens and the Zen X-fi. Also high in the list is the Zune.
I have around $300 to blow prayerfully consider spending, and would like at least 30G space on the thing.

No, starting with the letter Z is not a prerequisite.

Meta

I am trying to add to this blog, if not every day, a lot more often than I did in December (or else how would anyone even find it?), so pardon me if some topics are kind of weak. While we’re at it, I’m sure it’s wrong and terrible to start a blog with an apology about its contents.

Do you have a blog? And does your blog have a topic? (plug your blog in my comments!) I am afraid this one doesn’t really have a set topic; it’s usually just about something I feel like writing. It’s not quite my LiveJournal (at which I fail) or NaNoWriMo, but I am trying to write more, until it is somewhat a habit. I should see if Mur Lafferty’s I Should Be Writing podcast says anything about how to write engaging blog posts.

I, Rachel Ross, sole author of Glimmerville.com, give you, dear reader, permission to SKIP this blog whenever you want, because I’m pretty bad about reading other people’s blogs. Stick it in your Google Reader or any other convenient RSS aggregator, and if the headline appeals to you by all means read it. But if it doesn’t I promise not to be mad at you for not reading it. There isn’t a single blog out there that I read every entry to.

But I don’t know much about crafting blog entries.

So I thought I’d check out a few lists of tips by people who do.

 

http://www.chrisbrogan.com/40-ways-to-deliver-killer-blog-content/

http://www.jackhumphrey.com/fridaytrafficreport/the-quillo-method-to-creating-killer-blog-content/

http://website101.com/RSS-Blogs-Blogging/blog-writing-tips.html

http://www.dailyblogtips.com/

http://www.instigatorblog.com/5-blog-writing-tips-to-get-more-comments/2006/10/04/

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2006/02/12/writing-tips-for-non-writers-who-dont-want-to-work-at-writing/

http://lorelle.wordpress.com/2007/05/07/best-blog-basket-101-ways-to-create-original-blog-post-content/

Now I’m off to take notes on these myself!
I’m sure this blog post violates all the principles of a good blog.

Also check out this authoring software:
http://www.spacejock.com/yWriter.html

 

Not Quite Spring Cleaning

I just finished “decrapifying” my desk at work.
It now looks slightly more professional, though I still have a colorful amalgamation of fantasy/steampunk items. (But hey, the hourglass is functional… and so is the brass rolling desk loupe… and the USB owl…and everyone needs potpourri, right?)

It was a lot easier to clean this “finite cubicle” than it ever is to clean the “craft areas” at my house (or my bedroom, for that matter). My problem is when I say “decrapify” or “clean” sometimes it ends up really meaning “Put the offending miscellania into a box and move the box into a closet/attic/car trunk/under the bed/out of sight until I find it again and discover ‘all this really cool stuff’, or until I take each item back out piecemeal as I need it and forget to put it away again.” I have a compulsion to buy “just one more Rubbermaid tote” to store things, but it is invariably the wrong size. And I will spray Simple Green on anything. (While we’re at it, both Tide sticks (that you can carry with you) and OxyClean really work at removing just about any stain I’ve ever had. It’s nigh miraculous).

I have seen people rail against clutter as everything from a psychological issue to a spiritual problem, but I really don’t mind a generous and eye-pleasing (to me) amount of artisinal clutter (ie. look at the artistic arrangement of stuff on the counters in an Early American Life magazine spread). I especially think it sparks creativity when I’m doing arts and crafts. If I see the pile of fiber laying next to the eyelets, and rubber stamps next to the deckle edge scissors and those “cute star-shaped brads I just had to buy” – it can spark a great idea!

Keep in mind I am not talking about “garbage hoarding” and I definitely did throw things away as I was going through my desk drawers. And the “perfectly decent” things I don’t want I will take to Goodwill. And hopefully I will not want them back again next week (but chances are high they will still be in a box in my car on the way to Goodwill for awhile).

Do you have any organizational tips/trials/tribulations?

 

 

Nouveau

Author’s Note: I tell you right now I am too lazy to put accents in every time I type the word “Faberge” so just imagine them.

 

I love the works of Mucha, Lalique, Faberge, Tiffany… I just got back from the Artistic Luxury exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art (going through January 18 – hurry, if you want to see it! Next it moves to San Francisco, I believe.)

That exhibit was worth every penny! Never since 1900 have the works of Lalique, Faberge and Tiffany been together like that. It was jaw-dropping to see so many gold, diamond and platinum encrusted items.

My folks went too, and my mom would have liked to walk out with the House of Faberge Snowflake Brooch  (c. 1900, diamonds, platinum) as did so many other people there. It was one of the most appealing items and so images of this brooch were on the signs advertising the exhibit. We were curious exactly how many carats were in that brooch (and other things), but museum cases don’t list details like that. Probably so fewer people are tempted.

 

Another amazing thing in the display was the “Adams Vase”. It was on loan from the Metropolitan Museum so I will send you to their page  (it has the information, and close up photos – for some reason we weren’t allowed quite that close to the 23 lbs of gold and gemstones).

 

But what I love is not the material, but the form! The organic whiplash curves, the suggestions of feminine shapes, the naturalistic leaves and blossoms, the snakes and herons, the butterflies, bats, frogs, wasps! Nature re-imagined.

 

If you are looking for references to make your own Art Nouveau-inspired designs, I highly recommend looking for the economical books by Dover press. Dover prints many books, most of which contain copyright free art you can even use as clip-art. Here (But when I bought them, they didn’t come with fancy-shmancy CD ROMs of the art) and Here  and of course Amazon (Hmm I just saw a book I don’t have. Oh the pitfalls of browsing the web! Uh…well now my cart has about three things in it…)

 

Another great Art Nouveau resource is this online exhibit from the National Gallery of Art. This site contains an “audio tour” of 18 beautiful pieces. It also shows a timeline of the Art Nouveau movement, which really only spans about 15 years.

 

Finally, here are some links to information on specific artists.


Alfons (Alphonse) Mucha

http://www.goodart.org/artofam.htm

http://www.muchafoundation.org/MHome.aspx

http://www.mucha.cz/

 

Rene Lalique

http://www.renelalique.com/

http://www.collectics.com/education_lalique.html

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/roadshow/tips/lalique.html

 

House of Faberge

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Faberg%C3%A9

http://www.pbs.org/treasuresoftheworld/a_nav/faberge_nav/main_fabfrm.html

http://sxuhero.com/faberge/

 

Louis Comfort Tiffany

http://www.metmuseum.org/explore/tiffany/menu.html

http://www.jlsloan.com/lct1.htm (interesting article about rivalry with John La Farge)
http://www.queensmuseum.org/exhibitions/tiffany.htm

 

But before I attempt to name EVERY Art Nouveau artist, just check out this list that good volunteers at Wikipedia already compiled: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Art_Nouveau (I tried not to link you to Wikipedia over and over, but I couldn’t help this one.)

 

 

When I got home I started bidding on Lalique perfume bottles on ebay. Keep your fingers crossed!

 

Edit: Just swept to remove “Fabrege”.