Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Real Simple?

Near the check-out stand in a supermarket the other day I noticed and was intrigued by the cover of the January 2012 issue of "Real Simple" magazine. It promised the answer to all my problems was inside:

"How to Break Bad Habits"
"Reduce Your Debt"
"Lose Weight Faster"
"Clear the Clutter"
"Learn to Say 'No'"
"Cook Smarter"
"Re-energize Your Style"
"Be Happier Now."

 I have seen promises like those on magazine covers all my life, and bought the magazines, and I'm still not perfect. Also, doesn't a glossy magazine called "Real Simple" seem like an oxymoron?

Worst of all, I already know how to fix some of the the problems. I'm just not doing it.

"How to Break Bad Habits" -Identify bad habits and work out a realistic plan to change them.
"Reduce Your Debt" -Stop spending so much. Save more.
"Lose Weight Faster" -Eat less. Exercise more.
"Clear the Clutter" -Spend more time cleaning up than making the mess in the first place.
"Learn to Say 'No'"-Just say 'no'
"Cook Smarter" -Quit trying recipes whose ingredients are hard to find.
"Re-energize Your Style" - What style?
"Be Happier Now" -Quit wanting what you can't have and appreciate what you can have.

Free advice. Gratis. See if you can find a used copy of this magazine at your local library's bookstore for 25 cents. That's what I'm going to do. And afterwards, I can make a Christmas Tree out of it.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Memey Christmas

By the light of the silvery meme....
A meme is, according to the dictionary, "an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture". I found the Nyan kitty internet meme while looking for something else entirely. I merged the graphic with an idea from a Christmas card drawn by Eva Melhuish called "Star Gazer". The card was sold by the Smithsonian and the illustration was one page from a book called CHRISTMAS MAGIC. My apologies to everyone concerned.


At the first of the month I planned to make seven angel pins. So far I've only made two.
Pattern by Sally Lampi

Free pattern from Blue Heron

Highlights of LosCon 38, November 25th to 27th, 2011

LosCon is a science fiction convention put on by the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (LASFS). We started going to it back when it was held in Burbank (it is now held at the LAX Marriott) and it is probably our favorite local convention.

Please accept this review as opinion rather than fact. Your mileage may vary. You may be holding another part of the elephant.

Friday the 25th:

The Convention Hotel had the usual parking problems, but the room contained a phone book and a hotel guide and a mini-fridge. The Convention packet also contained a map of nearby restaurants, shops, and urgent care facilities. This was great!

Programming and Diversions:

"Feynman, the Graphic Novel":  The artist Leland Myrick talked about doing the artwork for the biography. (Jim Ottaviani wrote it, and Hilary Sycamore colored it). I am looking forward to reading the graphic novel, and I'm told it contains a good explanation of the QED theory.

It is always a pleasure to go to panels given by Carole Parker.  She is a costumer and fabric experimenter whose enthusiasm is catching. Grout resist? I've got to try that.

The panel "The Wonderful Future That Never Was" was given by Greg Benford and John Herz. They discussed the book of the same name which contains excerpts of Popular Mechanic's articles from the past. Very appropriate, as the theme of this years convention is "Where's My Flying Car?"

Saturday, November 25th

The panel "Hair, There, and Everywhere" presented by noted costumers Arabella Benson and Kate Morgenstern had a lot of good information, including "If you have a large head and are having trouble finding a wig that fits, try going to a shop that caters to transvestites." ( Men, on the average, have bigger heads than women.)

 "A Conversation With Louis Charbonneau" had the author being interviewed by Nick Smith. From the 50's through the 90's Louis Charbonneau wrote numerous books and the stories for two Outer Limits episodes.

David Gerrold's Auction to benefit Aids research is addicting.  If David Gerrold hadn't become a writer, he would have made a great auctioneer. I think he could sell snow to eskimos, and I know he can sell books to people who already have too many of them, because I bought some.

 I enjoyed the music of Marilyn Miller, Allison Lonsdale, and Eben Brooks.

Sharon King's presented "Unusual Behavior in Household Appliances". In doing further research I found out she also participates in the International Association for the Fantastic in The Arts. (IAFA) Conference. This is a serious convention with academics presenting serious papers on subjects like "The Decomposition of the Contemporary Family: Zombie's Role in the Transmogrification of the Nuclear Family." Wonders never cease.

At 8pm there was the traditional Masquerade, with fantastic intermission music by Jeff and Maya Bohnhoff, followed by room parties.

Sunday, November 27th

I attended "Making Your Art Work: The Right Medium for the Right Job" with panelists Dr. Laura Brodian Freas, and Julie Sczesny. We had a field trip to the Art Show and Ellen Shipley showed us her wonderful woodblocks and talked a little bit about the process of making them.

"Costuming Techniques" with several panelists. They discussed the do's and don'ts of presenting your costume on the stage with much practical advice.

Some unusual aspects of this convention.

The bad: The Con Suite: There wasn't one.  The Con Suite had been a large room where you could pop in and grab a soda or just sit and talk to people. I found out later that not enough people had reserved a room at the convention rate so the hotel did not want to provide the space. The Convention would have had to pay the hotel a $7,000 penalty because they had fewer rooms at the convention rate than contracted for, but they compromised by buying $5,000 worth of food from the hotel, which was served at an undisclosed time and location. Apparently a lot of people booked rooms online or through the 800 number at a lower rate than the "special" convention rate.  I also suspect some people also decided to stay at other hotels in the area because of the perennial "no parking" problem at the LAX Marriott on Thanksgiving weekend.

The Newsletter: "The Cartouche" had a weird distribution schedule.  The explanation given for it was that the printing service wasn't available.

The good: The Maker Room featured a wide variety of exhibits and demonstrations on subjects from cheesemaking to rocket making.

I've been trying to filk "A Con With No Suite" from Tom T. Hall's "The Bar With No Beer" (filking is to write new words for old songs - usually with science fiction or fantasy themes)

The Con With No Suite

There's lots to do at LosCon: shop, party, and play
But it's nice to relax and have breaks through the day
When you're thirsty and want to get off of your feet 
It's a blow when you find it's a Con with no Suite.

Forget hotels restaurants - you'll need a big loan
And you've left all the turkey and leftovers home  
And you don't want a lot, just a coke and a seat
But there is no such place at a Con with no Suite

There's a Green Room with snacks where the VIPs roam
And the volunteers, smofs, and staff all have homes
But the regular fan has nowhere to retreat
When he's attending a Con that's a Con with no Suite.

You can go to the lobby and freak out mundanes,
Get a $5 latte from 'Bucks for your pains
But there's no place to rest and get something to eat
When you're at a convention that has no Con Suite.

Now our hotel room's restful, but just has two seats
And there's parties at night if we just wanted treats
For main meals a Denny's is just down the street
But between tracks we're stuck in a Con with no Suite

If I'd known 'bout the hotel room quota in time
I wouldn't have booked my own room through Priceline 
I enjoyed the convention, but it seemed incomplete 
Because this year at LosCon they had a Gone Suite. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Trip Report - Houston International Quilt Festival - November 2011

The trip itself was in the nature of a pilgrimage.  I had been to four previous quilt shows, and everyone was telling me "You have to go to Houston." so I went.

The trip started badly. We were scheduled to leave San Diego at around 11am and arrive, after a transfer in Denver, around 6pm, but the departure from San Diego was delayed because they wanted to do some mechanical inspection. We finally actually boarded the plane in the afternoon, only to be asked to deplane because "you won't be able to make your connection" and put on another airplane to go to Dallas and then, finally, to Houston.  In the "It's a small world" category we ran into people we knew Dan Haslam and other people from Walkabout in the Dallas airport. They were on their way home from Nashville but had also had their flight plans changed by the same airlines.

We arrived in Houston after midnight.  My first class was at 9am the next morning.

The Convention Center is huge. Everything is red, white, and blue.
Sculpture with Convention Center in Background

It is a large show with nearly 1,000 vendors, plus days of classes, and hundreds of exhibits.

A tiny bit of the vendor space. In two hours, you couldn't see everything, even if you walked very fast.
A quilted car cover

Classes were in session before the vendor space and exhibits were open. The first class I took was Robbi Joy Eklow's Fabric Fusing.  Robbi writes a column "Goddess of the Last Minute" for the magazine Quilting Arts.

Part of the class fee included our choice of one of her quilt patterns. I chose a Steampunk design:

Steampunk by Robbi Joy Eklow

After she demonstrated her technique I considered my talents and bought an additional, easier, pattern.
Pattern by Robbi Joy Eklow

My next class was Creative Faces with Shiva Paintsticks with Patty Culea.  This was a half-day class and a lot of fun. I went out afterwards and bought a set of paintsticks so I could try it on my own.

My last class was on making a Sashiko Hanten Jacket was taught by Carroll J. Jones. She was a good teacher who inspires her students.  A young lady who had taken the class from her last year came in during the break and showed off her finished jacket.

Up to this time my husband had been being a tourist on his own, but he joined me for the Quiltapalooza. This was a big party with a "fancy shoe" contest and lots of prizes.  I didn't win a prize but I got some fat quarters, a calendar, and a free magazine. Cool! Here are some great photos of the shoe contest taken by Susan Brubaker Knapp.

As a general rule, I would recommend against taking your husband or significant other to the Houston International Quilt Festival if they are not really interested in quilting and you don't have a car.  There is not that much to do around the Convention Center.   Although there are many things to see and do in Houston, Houston is so huge and attractions are so far apart that you need a car to get around.  There is public transportation, but it seems geared towards bringing workers into the city during the week and taking them home afterwards. Many routes did not run during the weekend.

On Thursday we took the light rail to the Museum District and visited the Museum of Fine Arts, which was free that day.

Pedestrian walk near the museum district.
Art car in park near Convention Center

Mounted patrolman near Macy's

Entrance to underground shopping area. Only open Monday to Friday, and most shops closed around 2pm.

Unfortunately, on Friday night my husband came down with a very bad case of stomach flu or possibly food poisoning. On Saturday we spent several hours in an urgent care center, and the rest of the trip was pretty much spent in the hotel room. By the time he recovered, it was time to go home.

View from our hotel room, Houston