“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” -- Carl Sagan

Category: hobbies (Page 13 of 15)

Last Remnant

I rented Square Enix’s Last Remnant from Gamefly, a service I very highly recommend, to try it out because I currently am not playing some long JRPG at the moment on the Xbox360. I feel a little dirty because of all the systems I own, I love the Xbox360 the most, but there it is and I rented Last Remnant for it.

I don’t know what Square Enix is thinking any more. This is not the first game I sent back in disgust after 10 hours in. It’s worse than a bad game — it is a wasted game. The game starts great: interesting characters, an actual interesting plot (!!!), half decent voice acting, helpful subtitles, an interesting squad-based combat system, the potential for an interesting component system for upgrading weapons. When dealing with one squad with four guys, the game plays great. No real issues. I got up to 3 squads with 9 guys total and the game manifested draw-in problems, slow downs, stutters, long load times and an annoying camera that doesn’t allow you to see the field very well. And the component system turned out to be both confusing and just a reason to make the game longer by forcing grinding. Worse, there are boring sideplots that you have to play otherwise your guys are just too weak to continue with the main plot, and you must do these side quests constantly.

It went in my book from a 9/10 to about a 4/10, and I sent it back.

This is just fingernails on a chalkboard. Square’s game quality lately has really been slipping and now they are shipping stuff that isn’t even finished. There’s no reason that combat 10 hours in the game should manifest stutters and load-time issues. That’s trivially easy to catch during play testing. This is why we rent — if I would have bought the game I would have taken it back to the store.

Anyway, I started a Fallout 3 game instead. And got wasted by Raiders last night. Sigh.

Unbelievably Busy Weekend

This weekend I got through…

– Vacuuming the house.

– Doing about seven hours of gardening. This included laying down 2 more bags of mulch, building an entire veggie garden (3×3 raised box), planting 36 vincas, 6 calibrochias, 1 overgrown lantana, 36 carrots, 3 cucumbers (which did not survive I don’t think), 2 tomatos, 2 jalapeno peppers, 2 basils, and 2 cilantro plants.

– Teaching myself enough of the basics of knitting to be truly dangerous.

– Knitting with a basic garter stitch, some boucle and some fun fur 4 feet of fuzzy, goofy scarf for Katie. I just can’t sit and watch a movie.

Meanwhile my parents came over and stripped 90% of the baby wallpaper off the walls in Katie’s room and put up chair rail in preparation of turning it from a nursery to a little girl’s room. This is sort of wimpy but the paper had to come down. Sooner or later, the bears and blocks must be upgraded to bright pink dancing fairies. (Sigh)

I am extremely sore.

S7S Review — By Katie Rose!

Yesterday, Katie stole my brand new copy of Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies and flipped through it three times!  She was very interested in the pictures.

She was very happy to see the game has:

– Princesses

– Knights

– Skeletons

– Pirates! Especially pirates.

She was very concerned the game did not have:

– Goblins

She was quite adamant that the game would only work with goblins.  Other than that, she declared it “interesting” and then headed off to play with other things.

Terrifying Baby Dragon and Bag of Noro

Two completed projects:

1. A terrifying baby dragon! He’s terrifying. And made of yarn. He also sat for a side view to show off his awesome back spines, wings and tail! He was made of many individually crocheted pieces but he is very cute. I will do more dragons in the future! He is looking at me RIGHT NOW.

2. This fat-bottomed bag is made out of 2 skeins of green and brown Noro all the way from Japan and stuffed in luggage! The first picture does not do it justice so here it is, filled with bunnies. It is a bunny-bag ratio! This bag is basically exactly 2 skeins of Noro — no more, no less. I was convinced I was going to run out for a while. I could snazz up the bag with some ribbon and a pin, I think.

The Pink Elephant

I had some pink yarn, and I wanted to do an experiment with it, so on a whim I gave in and decided to make a stuffy pink elephant. However, the pink elephant was (much) larger than I expected him to be, so I ran out of the original color mid-ear. So she is part-pink and part-purple.

Here is the pink elephant staring right at you in a pink elephant sort of way. She also sat for a nice side portrait. Then I did a size compare between the pink elephant and an ANSI Standard 4 Year Old. As you can see, the elephant is relatively large compared to the 4 year old.

My biggest sin: I am being too conservative with the stuffing. It leaves the stuffy very squishy but too floppy.

Dob Update

We took the Dob out for real this evening because the evening was incredibly clear just as the sun went down. While Katie Rose was antsy while the telescope was positioned we were able to see:

– Some amazing cratering on the moon.
– The rings of Saturn and Titan.

The Dob was able to split the rings. Of course, nothing stayed in the view for very long because the Dob is manual and doesn’t have a worm gear to hold tracking, but for a little telescope, the optics were quite spectacular.

Katie got to see lunar details and the rings of Saturn from the driveway. Orion was a bust, but all in all, a pretty amazing success.

Museum and Gardening

We took Katie to the Maryland Science Center on the Inner Harbor on the diagonal on the water from the National Aquarium in Baltimore. The Maryland Science Center is a hand’s on science museum focusing on dinosaurs, general Earth Sciences, Newtonian physics, (incredible amounts of) Biology, Space Sciences in cooperation with NASA and whatever special exhibits they are showing that season — right now, surviving Antarctica. My impressions:

  • Four year old pro-scientists can run free and touch everything. This makes this the best place on the planet.
  • The exhibits were pretty comprehensive.
  • They have a full wet bio lab for kids, but it’s a very much “7 and up,” which made 4 year old who really wanted to wear a lab coat and play with microscopes have a meltdown.
  • I liked the Planetarium.
  • All in all, we will return to the museum. It was accessible from 95, straight forward with parking, and lots of things to mess with. It was about the same size as the National Aquarium, so it’s a 4 hour museum, not a two day mega-haul like Air and Space down on the Mall. I want to look at what the benefits of being a member are and weigh if I want a family membership or not.

    My tiny proto-biologist got out with a Cat in the Hat book that is an introduction to basic human anatomy, a second Cat in the Hat book with an introduction to Space Sciences, and a Discovery DVD on anatomy. (Katie is obsessed with how the human body works, and today’s organ was the lungs.)

    Then I came home to resume my war. My Mom thinks I garden because it’s relaxing. I know I garden because I get to destroy my enemies, the weeds, with extreme justice. I’ve been working on it for the last month and I’ve actually de-garbaged it, pulled weeds, cut back plants, cut back the Rose Bush of Doom, planted more bulbs, and finally started laying down mulch. But right now I am out of mulch so I have been thwarted by reality. I don’t know what annuals are going to go into it this year. I haven’t thought that far. I am thinking things that grow big and aggressively instead of little sedate, timid things. And I am tempted by clematis on the side of the house just to see how insane the vine goes. It will need something to climb…

    I’m doing a very small 3×3 vegetable garden with Katie Rose this year as an experiment in horticulture. It turns out Aerogarden has a vegetable seed-starter kit so we’re doing the daily observer-and-record cycle in the dining room while starting plants from seed. I find that I don’t care if I get a tomato out of it this year or not, but if Katie learns about how plants grow then it’s a score. After the seedlings move outside, the Aerogarden is going to be repurposed for cherry tomatoes.

    It is very clear out so we’ve promised Katie Rose astronomy night. The Dob will go into the driveway and we’ll look at the Moon and see what else we can see…

    Amigurumi!

    I buy yarn and turn it into stuffies!

    I have made several things — scarves, mostly — but they haven’t been terribly interesting. Katie really liked the one I made for my Mom but otherwise they’ve just been scarves.

    Then I decided to graduate to much more difficult crochet and started making amigurumi! These stuffies are tons of fun to make and they’re utterly adorable when they’re done. The first one I completed was a purple octopus but I didn’t have plastic eyes yet so I had to make the eyes. He turned out pretty good, and I am likely going to make him a pal. Katie immediately kidnapped him and now the purple octopus lives in Katie’s bed.

    The more impressive amigurumi I made was the pink bunny in the white dress. The dress came out so-so, but the bunny came out spectacularly adorable. I can always make another dress, or a couple of dresses. The bunny is small and squeezable. By tomorrow morning, the bunny will also be stolen.

    I love yarn you can squeeze! Yay!

    DinkyScope

    One of Katie’s very first words was “Moon.”  She’s been fascinated with the moon, and now Jupiter, Saturn, Venus and Mars, since she could point up at the sky and point out that there were holes up there through which light passes.  We figured she was old enough to understand basic instructions, so we were bad and bought her a present.

    We bought Katie her very first piece of serious scientific equipment, the Orion SkyQuest XT4.5 Dobsonian telescope. It’s an interesting scope because Orion advertises it as their starter/kids pack to get kids started.  It costs just as much as a crappy refractor from the Mall but it’s a real scope that can do real scope-like things. And sure, she’s only 4, but one cannot be too little to have a telescope!

    Here’s what we have learned in the whole 6 hours from owning this scope:

    – It is an awesome scope for the price.  The scope is only $200.  Because a Dob is just a light bucket, Dobs are cheap.  They have high mirrors – cost ratios.  The one doesn’t have any electronics, but it is exceptionally well built, sturdy, and all the gears work like they have been greased with butter.

    – It was easy to lift, easy to set up, and took about 5 minutes to get going and shooting things.

    – Even without the mirrors properly aligned, I took it out, put it on the driveway, got it pointed at the Moon (in daylight!) and let Katie see the Moon through the eyepiece.  This was a moment of extreme excitement.  It wasn’t even a full Moon, or in the dark, or with one of our high-quality eyepieces.

    – If I had this Dob, even without electronics, when I was a kid I would still be in the backyard.

    – This is seriously making me consider one of the big Dobs with all the electronics and gears. We have a Mak-Cass and it is awesome but it is mostly for planetary viewing.  The big Dobs will get you the best Hercules Globular Cluster you’ve ever seen where you can make out about 10,000 stars.

    If you have a little kid and you want to get out and look at the planets and the Moon and some real easy to find deep field objects, this is a hell of a piece of starter equipment.  It’s a ton of telescope for the price, and it’s good for Mom and Dad, too.

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