Archive for November, 2009

Work in Progress: My First Quilt (Top)

November 23, 2009 1 comment

I have completed my first patchwork quilt top! It’s actually been completed for a couple of weeks, but I didn’t get around to taking pictures of it very quickly.

Ta da!

I cut three 2.5″ squares from each of 40 different fabrics, which I put in a bag. I shook the bag until they were thoroughly mixed, then pulled them out, stacked them, and proceeded to make rows of ten squares each by just pulling them off the stack. I didn’t count how many fabrics I used, so I’m lucky it came out in a number easily divisible by ten — I had no squares left over. I then took my mish-mash to The Quilt Tree and picked out the border fabric (thank you, Shannon, for advice about the color).

It’s sewn by hand, and I eyeballed all the seams (’cause who wants to mark that many pieces of fabric?), so… some of the squares came out a bit rectangular, but I’m pleased with it, overall. It’s just for me and my learning experience, so it doesn’t have to be perfect. I was more interested in how the colors would look together. This was a modified version of the first “lesson” in the book Color from the Heart: Seven Great Ways to Make Quilts with Colors You Love; the book wanted me to do that, but instead of just sewing them together randomly, I was supposed to put the whole thing on a design board first. That book, like most I’ve found today, assumed I was going to be machine quilting in a work area, not hand sewing on a bus.


All of my corners came out nice and sharp... but they didn't always match up perfectly.


I learned much in the course of sewing this together. I’m sure I have more to learn, since I haven’t quilted it yet. And probably won’t before the new year… I have multiple craft projects in the works that are to be given as gifts. When I do, though, my plan is something like the following picture — though less crazy in color. Though honestly, if hand-quilting thread came in crazy colors, that would be different. I want to get the hang of doing this in the first place before I experiment with using weaker thread, though.


The actual quilting will also drape with the cloth instead of looking retarded in terms of perspective.


Although no two adjacent squares in the quilt top are made of identical fabric, there are several spots that have two of the same fabric flanking a second fabric. Quilting it with the plan above will help hide that. I love the little sandwiches, but I also like the idea of being able to blur their existence with a little bit of thread. (Muahaha!) The quilting I do on the border should show nicely, since my hand-quilting thread is light in color.

The border’s not planned as much as the middle. I want to outline the corners to cover up a mistake I made trying to set in the last little bit. I don’t know what I’ll put in the corners, though. I’m toying around with ideas like sakura blossoms, goombas, and wedges of cheese. Not all together, of course, I mean to pick one and use it in all four corners. The center of the top, bottom, and sides, are going to get the kanji for north, south, east, and west. East and west will be backwards on purpose; it was a suggestion of my brother’s that amused me. I can never remember which way is which anyway, so why not? That’s So Raven Lena! I haven’t decided what to fill the rest in with.


Making the Accessed More Accessible

November 23, 2009 Leave a comment

Since my World of Warcraft posts are so popular, I just added an entry to the menu for WoW. That page links to all of my World of Warcraft articles. Enjoy.

Bright Green Gaijin Pants, Post 3-4

November 18, 2009 Leave a comment

Bright Green Gaijin PantsMy first blog, titled Bright Green Gaijin Pants, was a chronicle of my time as an exchange student in Kushiro, Hokkaido, Japan. I’ve decided to repost its contents on this blog. For a full list of all these posts, click Bright Green Gaijin Pants on the menu, above.

The first blog post of any real worth that I published from Japan was far larger than it had any right to be. It was actually several posts combined and posted at the same time because I didn’t have internet access when I first got to Japan. I will be reposting them seperately, as they were meant to be.

Haha! Finally in Kushiro!

Originally published on October 16, 2005.

This is the college I went to when I was in Japan. If I recall correctly, I took it while leaning out one of my apartment's windows. Angle looks right for that. (Photo added to post on Jun 23, 2010.)

So anyway, when we landed I was sadly reminded of my lack of baggage. I went past the baggage claim and out to where you meet people and started looking for a piece of paper with my name on it. Before I saw it, I heard “Lena-san!” from my left. Lo! It was Utsuki-san! She lived in my dorm building at UAF last school year, though my shy-ness with the Japanese language meant that I didn’t talk to her nearly as much as I should have. Still, seeing a familiar face was so much more awesome than I could have imagined, even if I’d put two and two together and thought that maybe Utsuki might be there to meet me at the airport.

Utsuki-san wasn’t the only one, of course. There were Hiruta-sensei, a biology teacher, and Sayaka-san, a second year English major who is to be my tutor while I’m here. The fact that all three knew some English helped at first, ’cause my brain wasn’t exactly working very well. I have forgotten basic words and some grammatical structures (though I am picking them up again very quickly).

As Hiruta-sensei drove us from the airport to the college, we talked about the sort of things people chat about when going from airport to wherever. Where did I stay last night? What did I know about Kushiro? Hey, what bird is that? General stuff. I also found out that an apartment was not already found for me, and that that was the goal of the day. They found out that I hadn’t had breakfast.

So we got to the college. Hiruta-sensei went to his office while Sayaka-san and Utsuki-san took me to a room for students of English and foreign students — a place where I could drop off my stuff temporarily. We then crossed the street from the college to go to the convenience store right across the street (how convenient!) and I got breakfast. There were some things that looked like doughnut holes that I grabbed, along with some apple juice. 210 yen total, 105 yen each. We took it back to the room where we dropped my stuff off so I could eat.


Japanese Sunkist Apple Juice: 4
It’s not like American apple juice, though. I don’t know if it’s a lack of preservatives or what, but the apple juice itself is not quite clear, and actually tastes more like apple flesh than its American counterpart.

Japanese Doughnut Holes: 4
They actually turned out to taste like cake doughnut holes, which rate a 4 at home, too.

Operation: Find Lena A Home, Yo

Originally published on October 16, 2005.

After that, we went to talk to Hiruta-sensei in his office. We went over the fact that I wasn’t too particular about where I live as long as I have room to sleep and the fact that I can cook. Turns out that Sayaka’s landlord owns multiple buildings, and had a couple of places open in a building about two blocks from the college. We hoofed it over to Parkside Q to check the places out. One room was on the second floor, the other on the third; generally I prefer to be lower to the ground because I’m a lazy bastard who doesn’t like steps, but the third floor room was nicer. It was almost identical, really, but it came with a shelf/rack thing on wheels (hereafter referred to as the shlack) and the second window faces out with a nice view instead of looking at the stairs on the building. The apartments are both the same size, and both bigger than I expected. A bit bigger than I need, perhaps, but not unwelcome. (Haha! A place for Conrad, Jordan, and their friends to sleep when they visit!)

My apartment was on the third floor, directly above the red sign advertising that they were looking for renters. Having the end apartment meant more windows for me. Woot! (Photo added to post on June 23, 2010.)

Once I’d decided on that, we headed back to the school, then past it, to the landlord’s office — which I think was actually in his home. I wouldn’t swear by that, though, as I didn’t try to poke my nose around and we were taken to an office right off the entryway. As a foreigner, I needed a guarantor. My sponsoring teacher is to be one Hideo Ishida-sensei, I have been told, but I was not to meet him until the next day. Hiruta sensei arranged to sign for him somehow (legal lingo in Japanese — I didn’t really understand it), and we fill out paperwork.

My monthly fee is to be 29,000 yen for the room, plus 3,000 yen for water, plus whatever I work up in gas and electricity. Better than I expected; I figured it’d be about 10,000 yen higher than that. I was given a key and instructed to take my payment to that office once a month. The landlord also called someone in my building, a Korean named Kim. At the time, I thought she was calling someone in charge of the building, but I have since met a Korean named Kim who’s another exchange student at the school and also lives in my building so… I dunno. Either way, she told the Kim person that I only understand basic Japanese.

:'( I’m just out of practice! There are so many words I’ve encountered that I just need to recall, and I’ve noticed that any time I say, “Please say that again,” the person I am talking to assumes that the way they said it was too complicated, rather than that my brain is just not used to processing Japanese and I didn’t actually quite pick up what they were saying. That’ll change soon, I figure, but for now I may as well just let them think that. It’ll certainly help impress them if I perform above expectations.

Anyway, after that we returned to the University. Back in Hiruta-sensei’s office, I was told that information on classes and the scholarship and such would come the next day, when I met Ishida-sensei. Sayaka-san used her cell phone to call United about my baggage, and I found out it’d get here in two days. I am to meet again with Hiruta-sensei, Utsuki-san, and Sayaka-san in Hiruta-sensei’s office at 9:00. Given that, Utsuki-san, Sayaka-san and I left. The three of us went to the cafeteria; I didn’t eat anything, but they had lunch. Then Sayaka-san left us to go to class. I asked Utsuki-san about dropping my baggage off at my new place (get this heavy stuff off my back!), and she said that she had a friend coming.

Making the Best Use of Recount, Part 5: Damage Taken and Friendly Fire

November 15, 2009 4 comments

This is the fifth in a series of posts about Recount, an add-on for World of Warcraft. It gathers and reports on data taken during combat.

Segment List:

  1. The Introduction
  2. Display Window Basics
  3. Damage Done Details
  4. The DPS Report
  5. Damage Taken and Friendly Fire
  6. Healing Done

The next two reports I cover, again clicking to the right in Recount, are not complicated. Their formats are similar to those of reports covered previously.

The Damage Taken Report

The Damage Taken summary chart lists players in order according to who took how much damage. Each player’s bar shows how much damage they took, followed in parentheses by what percentage of the total damage taken by everyone was taken by that player.


Clicking on a player’s name in the list brings up a detail window similar to those for the Damage Done report.


The window is split in half, horizontally. In both halves, each item in the list is assigned a color for use in the pie chart to the left.

The top half lists the mobs which damaged the player according to how much damage they did, with those mobs doing the most damage at the top. The Damage column lists the flat number of damage dealt by all enemies with that name for the duration of the data collection, and the % column shows how much of the total damage the player took that damage is.

The lower half shows more details about the damage dealt to the player by the mobs of the selected name. It shows a list of the mobs attacks, with the attacks that dealt the most damage to the player at the top of the list. It does not show details about the mob’s critical hits, misses, and the like.

Why the Damage Taken Report Matters

The damage taken report can be used as a tool for diagnosing threat problems (though — to be completely honest with you — it’s not usually necessary, since the kind of problems it shows are usually pretty easy to diagnose without any help).

The tank(s) should be on top with a rather large chunk of the damage taken. If a damage dealer is pulling aggro, a quick look at this chart can tell you who that is so that the player can adjust his rotation or what have you and prevent further problems. Even the best tanks have trouble competing with damage dealers in superior gear going all-out on mobs — sometimes the damage dealer needs to back off a bit. A look at the Damage Taken detail window for a player can help determine if the player needs to be more careful on certain kinds of fights or against specific mobs.

The Friendly Fire Report

The Friendly Fire report doesn’t usually have anything to show you. The only times friendly fire comes into effect is when a player is mind controlled or has one (or more) of their spells reflected. When there is data, its summary looks more like the Damage Taken summary than the Damage Done summary. It only shows the amount of friendly fire damage done by a player and what percentage of the total friendly fire dealt that said amount was.


In contrast, the detail window is pretty much identical to the detail window for a player’s hostile attacks under the Damage Done report.


The window is split in half, horizontally. In both halves, each item in the list is assigned a color for use in the pie chart to the left.

The top half lists the player’s damaging abilities according to how much of the player’s total damage they composed, from greatest to least. This amount is shown in the Damage column as an exact number, in the % column as a percentage of the total, and graphically in the pie chart. The Count column tells you how many times the ability hit something, not how many times it was used. So a multi-target ability (such as Blizzard) would add to the Count total every time it hits a mob.

The lower half shows further detail for the damaging ability selected. It shows how many of the counted hits with the ability were hits, crits, misses, dodged, parried, resisted, or what have you. They are listed by frequency, with most frequent at the top and least frequent at the bottom. For each type of hit, the minimum, maximum, and average damage dealt is shown.

Why the Friendly Fire Report Matters

In boss fights such as, say, Yogg-Saron where you have the potential to have multiple players mind controlled at once, you can look at who’s doing the most friendly fire damage to determine who needs to be taken care of first.

In situations where you’re dealing with spell reflect, however, it can really only serve as a reminder to casters to watch out for spell reflect. It could also be used by an individual to track his progress in avoiding spell reflect.

Coming Up Next

Next time I start getting into the healing charts. They’re the charts most often looked at after the Damage Done and DPS charts — and, likewise, the ones most abused after the Damage Done and DPS charts.

Netflix — On Mah PS3!

November 14, 2009 5 comments

My History With Netflix and How Now is Better than In The Beginning

I first took up Netflix eons ago, when there was no service hub in Anchorage. Turn around time on my new rentals, from the day I dropped a DVD in the mail for return to Netflix, was about a week. I was thinking it wasn’t really worth it when Netflix produced the ability to stream movies straight to your computer from their web site. Hooray, I thought. Only… I have to use Internet Explorer? And I’m not even interested in any of these movies!

So I cancelled my service and went on my merry way. My friends told me when they put the Anchorage hub in, but at the time Netflix and my lifestyle weren’t going to jive, so I just catalogued the information for future use. A few months ago, I got an e-mail from Netflix. Come on, they said, give us another chance. We’ll even give you another two-week trial. Netflix would very much jive with my current carless lifestyle, I figured, so I said yes.

I am so glad that I did. Turn around is now two days — one to the hub, one back to me — and their streaming library is vast and ever-changing, losing some titles here and there but always getting more in their places. They also offer more ways to view streaming media. In addition to the ability to view movies on your computer from one of multiple browsers, you can get Netflix’s streaming service delivered to your TV through one of various devices. For a while, those various devices have included the Xbox 360, but not the PS3.

As of a several days ago, that changed.

Setting My PS3 Up for Streaming Netflix

On Tuesday, I received an e-mail from Netflix letting me know that their service can now be streamed to the PS3.


To be honest, I expected this to come at some point. Shortly after taking Netflix up again I was asked to participate in an online survey which asked, among other things, if I'd use streaming Netflix services on the PS3.

I eagerly clicked the obvious blue “Get your FREE disc!” button, and was taken to a page that basically told me they’d ship it to me post haste. I assume they had a large number of eager clickers, because I didn’t get the e-mail saying it had been shipped until Thursday. For Fri: Instant Streaming Disc for PS3. And so it was that on Friday it arrived. (I wanted to play Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction yesterday, though, so I didn’t actually pop the disc in until this morning.)

The envelope looked, on the outside, exactly like every other Netflix envelope, complete with the circular sticker and perforated edge to be torn. Is this borrowed, as well? Will I have to return it later? That seems kinda silly, I thought. Apparently the folks at Netflix agree, because pulling the flap open revealed the following.


We don't want'cher stinkin' disc back.


Shortest manual ever.


The instructions are repeated on the slipcover for the disc.

A friend of mine had theorized that the requirement of a disc indicated that you use it like a Gameshark to hack the console code during the boot process. This is not the case, which (in retrospect) makes a lot of sense. Now that consoles have gone profile-based and support downloadable games, fewer people are setting their consoles to load discs as soon as they turn on. Besides, the Playstation 3 doesn’t allow you to take out a disc without turning the console on, making having the disc in during boot up a potentially tedious process.

Anyway, I took Ratchet & Clank out of the PS3 and popped the Netflix disc in. The Netflix disc comes up, appropriately, under the movie submenu instead of the game submenu. Selecting it gave me the familiar streaming Netflix loading screen, after which I was told to go to and insert a six-character code to activate the service for my PS3.

Well, poop. The PS3 won’t connect to the internet through a hub, so I had to turn it off and give the internet back to my computer for this, hoping all the while that I wasn’t required to have the PS3 and computer on simultaneously for the activation.


You have a PS3 disc. Something wrong? Need another one? If not, put in your code, please.

The next page told me it should take about three minutes to finish activating so I can use it. I took the next thirty minutes preparing pictures for and writing this post up to this point.

I decided to try running the PS3 through the hub again without checking to see if the activation worked with the PS3 offline or not. I’m glad I did, because the PS3 seemed to connect well enough when it was plugged into port 1 on the hub… and the activation screen with the code came up again, showing a different code than last time. On the plus side, it took 3 seconds to activate, as opposed to the 3 minutes Netflix generously gave itself.

My Take on the Service

If you’ve seen the Xbox 360 version of the Netflix service, you know that in the past its only shows movies on your instant queue as options for watching — you can’t simply browse what’s available like you can on the web site. The PS3 service works the same way. The visual aesthetic of the menu is different, though. On the Xbox 360, the movies in your queue are listed the way everything in the system menus are listed, as stacked pages which flip. On the PS3 it looks more like the Netflix web site’s film strip galleries of available movies with their cover pictures

You can either use the arrow buttons to scroll left and right one movie at a time or use the L2 and R2 shoulder buttons to page left and right, respectively. When you select a movie, you are shown a detail page with all the info you get from the little mouseovers on the web site. There’s a button to click to play the selection, as well as an option to remove it from your queue. If you choose a TV show, an additional option lets you select a different episode than the one it wants to play for you by default.

If you select something you were in the middle of watching recently, you have the option of resuming playback or starting from the beginning. This works across platforms. I found out about this because I wanted to watch Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, which I started watching the other day on my computer, to test the streaming service.

The quality of the streaming is excellent. There’s no lag between visuals and sound, and no noticeable choppiness. If I didn’t know better, I’d think I was watching a DVD. Granted, I have a good internet connection; I don’t know how a poorer connection would fare.

Overall, I am extremely pleased. It would be nice, perhaps, if a list of commands useable during playback had been included on one of the Netflix envelope flaps, but since the commands are fairly intuitive to people familiar with playing DVDs on a PS3, I can’t really complain.

Bright Green Gaijin Pants, Post 3-3

November 12, 2009 Leave a comment

Bright Green Gaijin PantsMy first blog, titled Bright Green Gaijin Pants, was a chronicle of my time as an exchange student in Kushiro, Hokkaido, Japan. I’ve decided to repost its contents on this blog. For a full list of all these posts, click Bright Green Gaijin Pants on the menu, above.

The first blog post of any real worth that I published from Japan was far larger than it had any right to be. It was actually several posts combined and posted at the same time because I didn’t have internet access when I first got to Japan. I will be reposting them seperately, as they were meant to be. And hey, this segment isn’t as long as the others have been. Whee!

On to Kushiro

Originally published on October 16, 2005.

When the alarm went off, I reset it for 4:35. When it went off again, I reset it for 4:40. Then I got up. I did morning things, then went down to the lobby. Before checking out, I got on line and checked some Neopets stuff, as well as sending an e-mail to everyone to say, “Yo, I am alive.” It seemed like my contacts on gmail did not include someone, and it wasn’t until I got to the part about the hotel key card in writing this that I realized that for some reason, Zeal was totally not on there. Sorry, Zeal. m(_ _)m Did Gokuiroth tell you? :s

Anyway, I checked out in time to catch the 5:40 AM shuttle to the airport. No lateness again for me! Everything happened smoothly. The young woman at the ticketing counter seemed to be in training, but there was no slowdown of services. Even if there had been, I would have been fine with it. I usually am fine with new trainees, but even if I wasn’t, the service I had received the day before was so good that I’d have been patient anyway. At one point they informed me that there was a flight change charge. It didn’t surprise me, so I was like, *sigh* “Hai.” Then they told me the charge was 100 yen.

What do they charge you for stuff like that in America? I doubt it’s as low as like 90 cents. That’s a rough equivalent of how much I paid. Delight!

So anyway, I got through that with a pink airline ticket and a Yokoso Japan! ticket envelope. I went straight to my gate — skipping food because I wasn’t all that hungry and I was damned if I was gonna miss this flight — and sat down. I was at the lower domestic gates. And very early.

While waiting for boarding time, I took this picture of a TV that was playing ads for those who waited. In retrospect, I wish the picture I had gotten was of the segment boldly labeled “Space Station TV”, but by the time it came around again I was heavily enmeshed in starting this blog post in notepad.


Gate, gate, gate, television!

The Japanese domestic boarding seems both less organized and more efficient to me than its American counterpart. See the picture below for how close the “gates” are to one another.


They remind me of the concession stands at a movie theater.

This is, indeed, where boarding passes were collected. But they didn’t start taking people until 15 minutes before the plane’s scheduled departure. When I got through the gate, I got onto another Friendly Airport Limousine. The bus left for the plane 10 minutes before the scheduled departure, completely full of people.


Couldn't be friendlier if it waved. Hello!

That took us straight to the plane, a trip of about 2 minutes. There were two doors open on the plane, and thus, two staircases. Somehow, a plane big enough to have three seat sections filled up with everyone stashing their bags with plenty of time to leave on schedule 8 minutes later. None of this, “Now boarding section 3,” crap. Just pure, unadulterated, “All aboard!”

It was a short plane trip, 1 hour and 20 minutes. I’m pretty sure the seats on that Japanese plane were wider than the seats on its American counterparts, since my hips didn’t feel squished for once. No leg room, but it’s Japan, so I expected that. Got work on the blog post in up to… some point. I was gonna remember exactly where so I could tell you, but I’ve forgotten.

The Birth of a Quilt Log

November 11, 2009 2 comments

I went to the Loussac Library‘s fall book sale last weekend. I was hoping to find good Japanese reading material, but they were pretty much cleaned out on that. I did find some quilt books, though. I only ended up with one because this one lady snapped up every quilt book but the one I was holding while I was flipping through it to decide if I actually wanted it or not. I’m very happy with my one book, though.


The copyright on this book is over twenty years old, and there doesn't seem to be a newer edition. What would you call it, anyway -- The New New Quilting and Patchwork Dictionary?

The New Quilting and Patchwork Dictionary by Rhoda Ochser Goldberg is a nice quilting resource book. The first third or so of the book is information on different quilting supplies and techniques. Concise introductions all around. The rest of the book is quilt block patterns built on grids to make drawing them out at any size for templates a piece of cake. There are pre-drawn templates for basic geometric shapes at the back, right before the quilt block index.

The real gem in this book, though, is page 1, which I’m sharing with you.


Click for legible size. It's worth the read.

A quilt log! Plans for quilts to make in the near future and others to make eventually when I have the appropriate skill have been circling around my head and scattered through text files on my desktop since I first bought cloth. A quilt log gives me a single place to keep all that information, in addition to the above-mentioned benefits. You’d think something as simple as a quilt log wouldn’t be that important for posterity, but between my recent world history class and having a genealogist for a friend-sister, I’ve come to realize just how important such things are to really understanding the people of a given era and area. I’m not exactly representative of the average, I don’t think (one of the pages going into my quilt log is for a fussy-cut Super Mario Bros. quilt I’m planning for the distant future, for instance), but maybe that’ll make my quilt log more interesting to anyone who bothers to read it later.

Like the author of the book, I’ve opted to keep a three-ring binder. I will (hopefully) fill it to overflowing at some point in the future and have to split my log into multiple binders and/or transfer it to a bigger binder. For now, however, I’m using one of my ridiculously old binders that I’ve been keeping since middle school — or maybe earlier — simply because it’s a shame to throw away a good one.


The shark and headless horseman stickers glow in the dark.


Behold the power of adolescent doodles!