Thursday, June 30, 2011

What I'm up to

I'm working on making my first quilt. Well, I mean, my first human sized quilt. It'll be a queen size when it's finished (at least, that's the current plan), and it's made from my grandfather's shirts. It's based off the charm quilt "My Charming Neighborhood," but since my grandpa didn't have 600+ different shirts, it's not an actual charm quilt. I'm calling it "My Grandfather's Neighborhood." It's going to look freaking sweet when it's done.

The idea behind the quilt is that you have alternating dark and light rows, the light rows representing the sky and the dark rows representing houses in the neighborhood. Here is my first block of 4 patches sewn together.


I actually re-did this block twice after this picture was taken. They were actually necessary fixes, I wasn't just being super anal about seams. Here is the first row of the quilt laid out. It's not sewn together yet.


I know it looks like it's going to be crazy huge, but keep in mind that you lose 1/4 inch from each block in the seams, so it'll shrink up quite a bit. My strategy is pretty much just to sew one light patch to one dark patch, and then move them around to see where they look best. I have enough blocks cut out for over two rows now. Ten or so more rows to go. This guy is my favorite block so far:

I took the pockets from a lot of Grandpa's shirts, because I could be guaranteed to get at least one patch from each pocket. And since I'm the only one doing a charm-style quilt, everybody else needed more than one block from each shirt. I love the pockets that have designs on them, but the duck is by far my favorite.

I really like quilting, because it's something creative that really compliments my meticulous and detail oriented nature. I've always liked putting together puzzles, and that's kind of what quilting is. It's a puzzle you put together, after you design and cut out all the pieces. And I know not everyone feels this way, but there is something very zen about sitting in front of your sewing machine.

I've actually already designed my next two projects. The first is a table runner I'm going to make to compliment my black, white, and red dining room:


The pattern is a disappearing nine patch, which is actually the same pattern I used in the doll blanket I made for my grandmother. It's fascinating how the same pattern looks so different depending on the fabrics you use.

The other project is a quilt sampler I'm going to make for my mother. I bought this gorgeous fabric on clearance a while ago, it's this tan background with orange and red flowers on brown branches (it'll go where the ugly floral pattern is in the design below, I just picked something with a large-scale floral to see how the layout would look). I only have a yard of it, so I don't really have enough for a full quilt, so I'm planning on making my mom a nice wall hanging. Something like this:


Obviously it's still a work in progress, but I'm really happy with it so far. I'm still getting used to using the Electric Quilt software. I really like that EQ calculates how much fabric you need of each style. It's so nice to not worry that I effed up the math. Alternately, it's nice to have something else to blame when the math is wrong. Also, depending on how sick I get of cutting out houses, I may make one of these projects before I finish My Grandfather's Neighborhood.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Spoiler Alert! You will either find this funny or boring!

Since my entire front page is now dominated by my cable downgrading saga, I'm going to post some silliness. Here's a conversation Abby and I had the other day via IM. This conversation took place on our own time and absolutely not while we were at work. The following convo is slightly edited for clarity.

[Discussing the end of The Wire season 4, and the only real spoiler in this entire post]
Me: I was also really sad that Dookie ended up on the corner. He was so good with computers! Kid had such potential!
Abby: Don't worry, you haven't seen the last of Dook. He's still around in S5. Spoiler alert, he's not a great drug dealer.
Me: I'm not sure that it counts as a spoiler if it's not surprising at all. Like Spoiler! Booth and Brennan have sexual tension!
Abby: Spoiler!! Mal's plan goes horribly awry.
Spoiler!! The most famous guest actor on L&O is the killer!
This could be a fun game.
me: Spoiler! Dt Briscoe makes a joke right before the theme song!
Spoiler! Dr. House almost kills the patient and then has an epiphany during the third act
Spoiler! It's not lupus. This really is fun.
Spoiler! The first suspect isn't the killer! (applies to any procedural)
Spoiler! Buffy saves the day/world.
Spoiler! When Maury says "You are NOT the father!" the man in question will react as hilariously as possible while the woman cries.
Abby: Spoiler!! McNulty pisses everyone off ever.
Spoiler!! Coach Sue makes .8 jokes about Will Schuster's hair per exchange with Will.
me: Spoiler! Remember what happened last week on Glee? None of that matters anymore.
Abby: Hee.
Spoiler!! Hilarity ensues because Lily cannot keep a secret on HIMYM.
me: Spoiler alert! Barney wears a suit. Unless it's a funeral.
Spoiler alert! The teens on 16 and Pregnant make bad choices!
Abby: Spoiler!! Marshall takes the Loch Ness monster/Bigfoot/other mythical beast too seriously.
Spoiler alert!! Orange Kors loves the ugly design that most reflects his own line.
me: Spoiler alert! Nina Ricci has bitchface!
Spoiler alert! Heidi Klum wears something that is at least two of the following: tight. shiny. so short it could be described as "gynecological." maternity.
Abby: hahahahha
Spoiler alert!! Tonights episode of Burn Notice features explosions.
Spoiler alert!! The good guys are sharpshooters and the bad guys couldn't hit a tractor trailer at close range! /every action flick ever
me: Spoiler alert! Shawn and Gus make pop culture references!
Spoiler alert! Blanche has sex and doesn't care if you think she's slutty
Abby: Spoiler alert! Ditto for Samantha on SitC.
Spoiler alert! Dinozzo makes movie references, Ziva misuses American slang, McGee is awkward.
me: Spoiler alert! It doesn't matter which team wins, because they all learn a valuable lesson. (Bad after school specials, or Bring It On)
Spoiler Alert! The acting on Secret Life of the American Teenager is sub-par!

Got a good one? Share.

Cable Downgrade

I've been talking for a while now about completely cutting my cable and sticking with my high speed internet. Well, I'm going with a different strategy.

I downgraded my service to the Digital Economy plans. My only concern is that my internet speed won't be sufficient for the amount of streaming video I watch. But if I find that it's not good enough, I'll call them back and change my service again. But going with this service plan means I get to keep a lot of the channels I would have missed the most (the networks, USA, Comedy Central, Weather Channel) but still save a shitload of money. Previously I was paying about $125 a month, now I'll be paying about $67. That's a savings of $58 a month, or $696 a year.

I'm watching an episode of Bones on Hulu Plus now, and I don't really notice any discernible difference. But for the amount of savings I'm getting without sacrificing too many channels, I think I can live with slower internet.

EDIT: My internet seems to have already been downgraded (according to speedtest.net), but I still seem to have all of my channels. The customer service rep I talked to did say it may take up to 24 hours for all the changes to be applied to my account, so i'll update again when it's all said and done.

UPDATE: Currently downloading the system update for my PS3. Definitely noticing the slower internet here. It's kind of annoyingly slow since I'm so used to the faster internet, but I just keep saying to myself "$700 a year." Takes the edge off my annoyance.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Brief Return to Cable

I haven't cut my cable yet, and I actually watched it for a little bit over the weekend. I have a good reason for this, and the reason's name is Scuttle.

Hey there. I'm needy, and I'm going to spit my food all over your carpet.

I was bird-sitting for my sister while she was in St. Louis this weekend. Last time my sister went out of town, she left Scuttle in our dad's care. My dad turned the light out and poor Scuttle lived in perpetual night for days. At some point Scuttle freaked out and broke two blood feathers and nearly bled to death. To avoid such a situation again, I followed all of Laura's Rules For a Happy Scuttle. I opened up my curtains in my front room for him, and also left a lamp on in the living room in case it was too dark. I made peas so that he could have some (and like a little punk, he would only eat them if I wasn't looking). So that Scuttle wouldn't feel alone all day while I was at work, I left the TV on for him. I even played Animal Planet, per Laura's recommendation. "I like to make him watch Animal Cops so that he can see how good he has it with us."

So turning Animal Planet on for Scuttle was the first time in a couple weeks that I've watched my cable. And you know what? I don't really miss it. For most of the weekend Scuttle and I watched Netflix. Specifically, we watched Hoarders, because it motivates me to clean my apartment.

And in case you're wondering, I have mostly gotten over the hissy fit I threw over the PS3 debacle. I decided not to return the Roku, though. I'm using it on my bedroom TV now, and I like not having to move the PS3 back here if I want to watch Netflix.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Cable Free Experiment: The Beginning

I haven't cancelled my cable yet, but I'm going to try not using it for a couple of weeks to see how I handle it.

My Roku arrived on Thursday. So far, I like it. I am having a weird issue where every time it comes back from the screensaver the sound goes out.... I'm assuming that it's something with how I have it set up, because Googling doesn't show anyone else having this problem. I do like the channel selection, I've added a few "private channels" that are helping me create a cable tv replacement. BTW, "private channels" means it's an unofficial channel, one that has been created by 3rd party developers that hasn't yet been approved for (or even submitted to) the Roku Channel Store. I kind of wish that they used a different phrase to describe these channels, because to me "private channel" sounds like porn.

Anyway- I'm currently watching an episode of House Hunters on my HGTV channel. The picture gets a little pixel-y at times, usually when a video first starts, but for the most part the picture looks good. I watched a movie on the Netflix channel the other night and the picture looked just as good as streaming via the PS3. I've read some complaints online about the sound on the Roku, but honestly I can't tell the difference. Maybe if I bought a big fancy surround sound system I could hear the difference, but that's not going to happen any time soon. I haven't used the Hulu Plus channel yet, but I'm assuming it's going to be the same as when I used my free trial on the PS3.

My favorite thing so far about the Roku is that it's given me a chance to use Amazon Video On Demand. Now, I recognize that I could have watched it on my computer before I bought the Roku, but I never did. I'm an Amazon Prime member, so there is a selection of movies and TV shows that I can watch for free. However, their selection is kind of weak compared to Netflix. But, if I do go ahead and cut my cable I think I might use Amazon VOD more. I discovered when I was using my Hulu Plus trial a few months ago that AMC's TV shows weren't part of the Hulu lineup. But while searching through TV shows on Amazon's website, I noticed that they have a season pass for the AMC show The Killing for 94 cents an episode. In HD. I didn't have HD with my cable subscription because I'm too freakin' cheap to pay extra for it. But Amazon had the HD and the standard version season passes for the same price (buying individual HD episodes costs more). And at less than a dollar per episode, I'd be paying less than $13 for a show I like in HD, which is much less than I pay for cable.

So far it looks like I'll be dumping my cable subscription at the end of the month. I'm starting Grad School in the fall and the city is going to raise my water bill (last I heard they were raising it by 43%). I've gotta save money somewhere, and cable, while fun, is inessential. It's not like I can cut electricity. Or groceries. I'll continue on with this experiment for a little while longer, but it looks like the Roku is a good device for me.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Forget You, PS3

I always liked my PS3, even though I'm not a gamer. I bought it on Black Friday a few years ago and I got a good deal on it. Mostly it gets used as my blu-ray/DVD player and my Netflix streaming gadget. But now I'm replacing it, because Sony has pissed me off royally with this hacking bullshit. They kept me from my Sam Waterston, and that is unacceptable.

I'm sure you heard about the Playstation Network being hacked and users' personal information being stolen. If you haven't heard about it, Abby, that's because you didn't read the email I sent you over a month ago, bitching about how it was nearly unacceptable that Sony let this kind of thing happen. But I decided I was okay, I wouldn't abandon my PS3, mostly because a) I'm poor, and b) I could still use the Netflix application without logging into the Playstation Network.

Well, all that has changed. Monday night I decided I would watch one of the movies that was "expiring" from Netflix Instant on June 1st. I examined my queue online and decided on The Killing Fields, starring a pre-Law & Order Sam Waterston. I went in to the Netflix app on my PS3 and it tried to make me log in to the Network. Only instead of giving up after a couple of failed Network log-ins, it told me that the device was deactivated and that I needed to update my PS3 software.

Ugh, ok, I updated my software. I thought maybe I was getting the "device deactivated" thing because I had just activated my Netflix account on my parents' fancy new TV. But I checked my terms of use and I can have 6 devices activated, and I only have 3. Turns out it didn't matter at all, because after the software update everything went to shit.

This time, when I went to use my Netflix, it refused to load unless I was logged in to the Network. But when I would try to log in to the network, it told me my password was invalid and that they would send instructions to my email on how to change my password. But when I went to my email and clicked on the link, I got a "Site Maintenance" error. I did a little googling and found out that Sony had to take down the password reset site because of fucking hackers.

So, I'm done. I bought a Roku player for streaming my Netflix (and my Hulu-Plus, when I get rid of my cable). I'll still be using my PS3 for DVDs and Blu-rays for the time being, but eventually I'll replace it with a cheap blu-ray player and only break out the PS3 when my sister and I make margaritas and Guitar Hero.