Surprising and Impressive Feats

“The words I say, the actions I take, can be used for good.  Small acts can have a profound impact.  I’m the only one who can tell me I can’t do something, and I can achieve all manner of surprising and impressive feats if I can quiet that defeating voice.”

—Kim Werker, “Ugly on Purpose: Demystifying the Enemy”, Craftivism: The Art of Craft and Activism

VikingDad – Minecraft Blues #16 – Creeper

So, no kidding, there I was…

Just with any different media delivery systems of a particular game (whether PC, Console or Tablet) each one has its own idiosyncrasies.  We have Minecraft for the Xbox 360 edition as well as for the Tablet (called Pocket Edition).  I’ve tried to work it on my PC, but I have an outdated and sorely in need of being replaced desktop computer and it is horribly slow, to the point of generating a lag-induced coma.

That’s not the point of today’s story, however.  The point is that different versions have different methods of game parameters, say, like how to turn Mobs (aka hostile creatures) on and off. So, when you, say, play a game in the wee hours of the morning with Mobs on and then your daughter decides to start up your profile so that the two of you can play together that same evening, (but doesn’t pay attention to whether or not Mobs were on or off) it shouldn’t surprise you to find, as you’re headed to fetch a bucket of lava for your furnace in your previously saved “Peaceful” game (aka Mobs are turned off) so that you can continue the arduous task of creating a sky bridge to high above the world for ease of monster free access for when you DO turn monsters back on, a creeper waiting for you around the corner of your water elevator (aka a waterfall that you can ride up and down)… and yet it did… To deadly effect.

So, those 8 blocks (a block contains 64 of an item) of glass I was carrying (that wasn’t destroyed in the explosion), which, granted, is not that hard (but time consuming) to make, fell into the lava pit below and was destroyed.

Now granted, I was a bit upset and I felt justifiably so, since it took a lot of time to craft the glass blocks (from smelting sand in a furnace), not to mention both the large number of blocks of Netherrack (a red flammable stone that I used to line either side of the sky bridge, with the glass cubes in the middle so you can see down) and iron buckets I was carrying were lost as well.  Still, I remembered the advice I later gave to my sister to give to my niece, Sadie, who is an expert Minecrafter.   You can remake it better.  Sadie, who made a beautiful three story wooden lodge in Minecraft recently tried to make an addition of a sauna, using lava.  Unfortunately, the lava caught the wood on fire and utterly devastated both the house and her.  Hang in there, Sadie, I feel your pain. Keep calm and keep on building!

In any case, instead of turning the evening into a ragequit and horrid pity party for my lost resources, we decided to give back as good as we got.  Well, OK, not even as close as we got since I died like five times that night, but it was a bit therapeutic to beat the heck out of some zombies, skeletons, and, of course, creepers (VENGENCE IS MINE!!!!!! HOW DO YOU LIKE THEM APPLES MR. CREEPER!?!?!?!?!?!?!)

 

Tssssssssurprise!
Tssssssssurprise!

Also, since we’ve just downloaded the Skyrim mash-up pack for the Xbox 360 Minecraft, we’ve not returned to that world and been busy exploring the new one. I’ll keep you posted, though, on our progress.

Making it Work: Adjustments

It’s once again time to play “Just how poor are we?”  Since satisfaction, happiness, health and stress levels aren’t easily reduced to numbers, I’ll break down how much money we’re actually making off of this attempt to live by our creative efforts.  Our net earnings in February are below:

Etsy Sales $33.12
E-book Royalties $2.00
Commissions $98.00
eBay $100.00
Total $233.12

Royalties & Etsy are self-explanatory.

Commissions were all Stephan in February.  He started making chainmail in earnest last month and had several people request customized pieces.

I added eBay just because it’s income.  We had a book that we got for free and that neither of us wanted.  Rather than let it gather dust, we sold it.  I’d rather have books go to people who want them and will read/use them, than sitting unread on a bookshelf.*

It’s clear, after the disaster that was Fan Fest, that we need to make some tweaks to our plan.  We do believe that we can make the convention plan work.  But we need to actually make it to the conventions, which requires an influx of money.  To that end Stephan has taken a part-time job.

I was worried that taking a job would invalidate all our plans and hard work.  It’s not even three months into the grand scheme and we’re already failing our goals.  I’m afraid that we’ll give up on the idea of living off of our creative efforts before we even got a chance.

Stephan, as is his way, is more optimistic.  The job is only part-time, with a manageable commute.  This means he won’t be out of the house ten plus hours a day.  He’ll still be here for the kids (his hours are 10-4).  He’ll still have time for chainmail.  He’ll still be able to go to conventions.

So, this is just a course correction.  Our end destination—living on our own, in our own way—remains the same, our route has just taken a diversion.

Image: Success by Demetri Martin.


*This reminds me that I need to update my Bookmooch account.  I have several books I picked up at library sales specifically to trade and I know the list has fallen to disuse.

The monster and the hero

The monster is the most precious of enemies: therefore it is the enemy one goes and looks for.  Other enemies might simply attack us; the Giants, for example, or the Titans, representatives of an order in the process of being replaced, or looking for revenge for having already been replaced. The monster is quite different. The monster waits near the well-spring. The monster is the spring. He doesn’t need the hero.  It is the hero who needs him for his very existence, because his power will be protected by and indeed must be snatched from the monster. When the hero confronts the monster, he has as yet neither power nor knowledge. The monster is his secret father, who will invest him with a power and knowledge that can belong to one man only, and that only the monster can give him.

Roberto Calasso, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony

Planting the Seeds

I don’t feel it is an exaggeration to write that the recent warm weather has been like a miracle to me.  Last year winter lasted long after it was welcome, and I was worried we’d spend another six weeks gripped by freezing cold.

After the disappointment of Fan Fest I have been struggling with a sense of futility.  Jerk Brain has been having a field day, telling me all the ways in which I suck and am a failure.  I’m having a hard time combating all the negativity.  It feels like my well of optimism has dried up.

So on Tuesday, when we went grocery shopping, I added two more items and two more stops to our list.  First we swung by the Home Depot and picked up a bag of soil.  Next we hit the Dollar Store and picked up a couple of bags of accent stones.  We hadn’t planned on starting seeds until next week.  But the warm weather signaled it was time to do something productive that would shut Jerk Brain up.

All winter long I have been collecting empty toilet paper rolls, plastic containers, egg cartons, plastic bags, and other items I could use in gardening.  I have quite a collection by now; it takes up several shelves in the workshop.  I laid newspaper down on the dining table and set to work.

Toilet Paper Starter Pot
Cut an empty toilet paper roll in half. Make four cuts, about halfway up from the bottom and fold over. Voila! You have yourself a biodegradable starter pot.

I made starter pots from the toilet paper rolls.  The instructions I first followed has you taping the bottom closed, but I found that folding the cut edges together works just as well and then you don’t have the added step of pulling the tape off when it comes time to plant.  In those I planted tomatoes, cucumbers, yellow squash, honeymoon melons, bell peppers, hot peppers, marigolds and zinnias.

The egg cartons help hold the starter pots upright.  I spaced them out after learning the hard way that mold can grow if they are touching.

I also started some lemon seeds (because of Pinterest) and ginger.  I repotted some houseplants and started cuttings of more.  I planted three pecans that I gathered from a neighborhood tree last fall.  I hope at least one will sprout so that we can plant it in the front yard.  Finally, I started two containers of trumpet vine from seed, again collected from a plant in the neighborhood.

Marigolds in Detergent Caps
Marigolds started in washed detergent caps. I poked drainage holes in the bottom.

All of the seedlings went into plastic bags to start them.  When it was all said and done, I didn’t make much of a dent in my collection, there’s still numerous cans, yogurt containers, egg cartons, toilet paper rolls and more.  I have to pick up more seeds, as well.  But it is a good start.

The whole effort took a couple of hours.  Hours where I didn’t worry about how we would get by.  Hours where my Jerk Brain didn’t give me grief.  If the weather can continue to warm, I can start some outdoor work next week.  I’ll keep moving, keep planning, keep working: using what we have, doing what we can.  Maybe I’ll find my optimism sprouting as well.

Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, etc.
After a couple of hours work, this is what I have finished.
Ginger and Houseplants
The started ginger, as well as houseplant cuttings.

Convention Report: Wizard World Fan Fest

I want to be able to report that we headed into Wizard World Fan Fest like gangbusters and came out swaddled in a warm Snuggie made out of cash.  Alas, that is not the case.

The weekend started off great.  Stephan and I headed into the city Friday morning to set up.  We were hyped up on caffeine and sugar (and no sleep on my part).  Set up was super easy.  We got there before most of the other artists and got to drive right into the show floor.  Between the two of us we got everything ready in a couple of hours and we headed back home in good spirits.  It was pretty much all down hill from there.

Viking Dad hard at work
The Viking Dad hard at work at Fan Fest. He had a few on site commissions Saturday.

When deciding on shows to vend at, you look at a lot of factors: attendance, timing, who is running the show, cost.  With Fan Fest, I knew I was going into a brand new show—it was originally supposed to be the Bruce Campbell Horror Fest, but Bruce Campbell had to pull out—but I figured that Wizard World wouldn’t have gone ahead with the show if they didn’t think people were going to come.  And with it being in Rosemont, it meant we wouldn’t have to travel, pay for a hotel, etc.  With all that in mind (and after looking up the average attendance for other Wizard World shows) I went into the weekend with what I figured was a respectable expected sales figure in mind.

We didn’t even make a tenth of that.  In fact we lost money on this show.  It’s been years since I’ve lost money on an event.  I’ve broken even, or made less than I was expecting in gross sales.  But to lose money?  On a local show?  The attendance just wasn’t there.  I was assured by both our booth neighbors that the Wizard World Comic Con in August sees ten times as many attendees, and has four times as many vendors.  But I also heard that Wizard world has expanded their events so much over the last couple of years that vendors are feeling the effects and sales are down.

Rich Kunz
One of our booth neighbors, Rich Kunz, from www.diligentvisual.com, was upbeat and helpful all weekend long.
Brian E. Baity
Brian E. Baity, of The Creation Crib, our other booth neighbor had very positive energy.

None of that is really helpful knowledge now.

It’s hard not to feel discouraged.  I spent so much of my energy trying to remain positive leading up to Fan Fest that I don’t have much energy to combat the disappointment.  I am back to questioning the feasibility of my plan.  Jerk Brain keeps telling me that if I were smarter I would have anticipated this; if I weren’t lazy I would have researched more.

In struggling to find some sort of silver lining, I look to the time Stephan and I spent in the booth.  We had a good time with each other.  And when things started to get really bleak on Sunday, he made me a necklace in hopes of cheering me up.  Our booth neighbors were awesome and had lots of encouragement for us.  I saw some very cool and clever cosplay.  And I did have really cute convention hair on Saturday.

Also on the plus side, we won’t have to make up as much inventory for the next show in a couple of months.  Well, I won’t.  So far nearly every piece of chainmail jewelry Stephan has made has been bought.  So he might have to slave over some cold aluminum links for the next few weeks.

Cute Convention Hair
The best part of the convention was spending time with Stephan. Second best was my hair on Saturday.

The Making of Things

By bringing positive intention to the making of things and creating to soothe our own as well as others’ emotions, we can discover what it’s like to create for the greater good.  By making intentionally ugly things, we question conformity to media beauty standards, and we can see how difficult (and important) it is to create without pure aesthetics in mind.  Finally, by following our roots and connection to the DIY ethos, we see how our own work can unfold and allow us to find our best selves.

—Betsy Greer, Craftivism: The Art of Craft and Activism

VikingDad Pro-Tip #6 (Popcorn Trick)

OK, so if you have an infant/toddler who can eat popcorn but isn’t old enough to know not to eat the kernels, this is a bit more important, however, this trick is handy for those who don’t like to deal with the kernels at the bottom of the bowl when you make microwave popcorn.

Here’s the trick I learned.  Pop the bag as normal, but when you pull it out, don’t tear it open right away… open the bag just a little bit.  This may be a bit tricky since the bag is hot and may already be partially opened. See the picture below:

Open the bag just a bit, enough for the kernels to get out, but not the popped corn.
Open the bag just a bit, enough for the kernels to get out, but not the popped corn.

This bag was already partially opened, but like the instructions on the side of the bag say (who reads those anyway, right?), gently tug on opposing corners if it’s not open at all.  You want to make sure it’s big enough to let out kernels but not too big to let all the popcorn fall out.  You then shake it over a bowl like in the picture below:

Shake the bag over the bowl, occasionally tilting to get the ones that gather in the corners.
Shake the bag over the bowl, occasionally tilting to get the ones that gather in the corners.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  Do NOT shake the bag of popcorn directly over your garbage can.  While this may seem like a good idea to skip a seemingly pointless step, trust me, it’s not pointless.  What happens if you DO shake the bag of steaming hot popcorn and those steaming hot kernels go into your garbage is that they end up melting a bunch of little holes in your garbage bag (thus severely weakening the structural integrity of the flimsy plastic garbage bag) that makes garbage day at your house a bit more interesting when you try to pull it out (and it inevitably falls apart in mid air).  I speak from experience here.

So, shake the bag vigorously over the bowl tilting once in a while to either side to get the kernels that fall in those corners.  Once the kernels stop flowing while you shake (and have tilted) then you should be nearly kernel free and are able to enjoy a bowl of hot popcorn without worry that you’ll break a tooth when you’re watching your favorite movie and not really paying attention to what you’re putting in your mouth.

Enjoy!

Operation Overflow

There’s a mermaid who swims laps in the local rec center. I see her some mornings when Stephan and I sit in the hot tub. I’ve never felt the need to engage her in conversation, to ask her name, or compliment the green of her tail. I just appreciate her presence, the little boost of magic it gives to the rest of the day.

I feel the same way about our morning visits to the rec center’s gym. Or, more precisely, I feel that way after our visits.  Getting there is a struggle: the cold, the morning, the constant reminder of things to be done, they all work against me making the trip.  Stephan goes most days, taking Ben along so he can take advantage of the free childcare on site.  When I do make it, though, I am always happy that I did.

We have a week to go until Wizard World’s Fan Fest.  It’s our proof of concept convention: where we will peddle our wares to a larger audience than before.  We’re excited and nervous and scrambling to take care of the final details.  In all the hustle and the bustle it would be easy to loose sight of why we are doing this.  I’ve been there before, so wrapped up in getting to the convention that self-doubt gains a foothold when I’m not looking.  The next thing I know I’m heading to the event convinced I’m going to fail.  It’s a mindset that not only undermines my ability to sell, but it makes me miserable the entire time.

To combat those negative thoughts and feelings I’ve adopted a new strategy: Operation Overflow.  The idea is it fill our lives with so much joy and positivity there’s no room for negativity to flourish.  I have made an effort to concentrate on what is going right in our lives, to keep the house lit with candles and clean and good smelling, to feed us food that is good and warm.

It takes a concentrated effort to remain positive, while also working to get ready.  It’s an effort that has paid off so far.   The atmosphere in our home has been relaxed and happy.  We’re looking forward to the event, rather than dreading the looming deadline.  Even facing uncertainty as to whether this plan will work or not, our confidence has grown.

Over the next couple of days, should I lose that positive state of mind, I’ll head over to the rec center and watch the mermaid swim.