Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Resolution

As many people are, I have been thinking about this past year now that is almost...well, past. One thing I noticed is how many "firsts" I had in 2010. While a few of them were not ones I'd care to repeat (first time getting fired, first time filing a police report), many of them were good (first boyfriend, first trip to Six Flags, first time falling in love). I also spent a lot of time this year with older people, by which I mean people old enough to be my grandparents. I noticed that by the time you get to 70 or 80, you fall into one of two categories. The first category is people who are uncomfortable with change and tend to focus on how great things were in the past. The other category is people who roll with the changes and still seem to have more energy than people half their age. I definitely know which category I'd like to fit into in my old age.

My thought is that the best way to have an open mindset when you're older is to start out living that way as soon as possible. So my New Year's resolution is that, every day this year, I will do something new.

Technically, we all have "new" experiences all the time, because we have never lived this exact moment before. But I have noticed that most days are made up of doing the same things I've always done: wake up, go to work, come home, eat dinner, watch TV, go to bed. I would love to see the world, or drive cross-country to visit all 48 states (in the continental US; driving to Hawaii would be a bit difficult). But for now, I am going to start with one small thing every day.

It might be taking a different route home from work, or eating lunch at a new restaurant. It might be learning a new crafting technique (although I will not count new knitting/crochet patterns; that would be too easy). Every summer I make plans to visit different movie theaters; this summer that may actually happen. Every couple days, I will recount my new experiences here.

Question for the comments: What is the best New Year's resolution you've ever made?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Convention Wrap-Up: Chicago TARDIS 2010

I spent my Sunday afternoon at the Chicago TARDIS. For those not in the know, it is a fan convention for Doctor Who, which is the longest-running sci-fi show ever. If you have never heard of it (which I actually had not until earlier this year) that is because it is from Britain. New episodes run on BBC America, and reruns play on PBS (WTTW in Chicago; Sunday nights at 10). Do yourself a favor and check it out! If you need info on Doctor Who, check out the TV Tropes page (WARNING: TV Tropes is highly addictive. Proceed with caution) or read the AV Club primer.

I was hoping to get some good costume pictures, but there actually were not very many people in costume. This was probably because we came at the tail end; I expect there were some good costumes on Saturday. Jason and I wore our matching Doctor Who shirts, featuring David Tennant and most of the Tennant-era villains. Our first stop was the dealer room, where we found some great stuff. I got a Cyberman figure for my brother (who claims to not be a Who fan, but I think he's coming around), a Dalek pen for Jason, and a keychain for myself that plays some sound bytes from the show (two catchphrases each for the Daleks and Cybermen, one from K-9, and the TARDIS sound). Jason got me a Matt Smith figure; Tennant will always be my favorite Doctor, but Matt Smith is very good. I like him almost as much as Ten.

We skipped over the panel discussions and went to the screening room, where they were running episodes on a giant screen. I had planned to watch all of season 5 before we went to the con. I almost succeeded; all I had left was the two-part season finale. Jason and I got to the screening room just as they started Part 2, so we decided to sit in.

SPOILER ALERT: A discussion of the ending of "The Big Bang" follows.

At first, I just thought the scene where the Doctor was describing the TARDIS to Amelia was kind of cute. It was nothing I hadn't heard before: the paradox of it being both old and new; how he stole (or "borrowed") it; how it was "the bluest blue you'd ever seen." Then, when Amy puts the pieces together at the wedding, I was kicking myself for not figuring it out myself. The TARDIS fits all four conditions for the old wedding good-luck charms: Something old, something new, something borrowed, AND something blue. Brilliant! And thus, she saves him from being trapped on the other side of the cracks in reality. Then she and Rory fly off in the TARDIS for their honeymoon. Okay, I want like season 6. Right now. Especially because Neil Gaiman wrote one of the episodes!

Steven Moffat has officially stolen the title of "Evil Genius" from Joss Whedon in my mind. Evil because he scares the shit out of the audience, and genius because it somehow works out in the end. And he is a brilliant writer. I suppose there is room for more than one Evil Genius television writer, but I think "Magnificent Bastard" fits Joss Whedon better anyway.

After "The Big Bang" finished, we went back to the dealer room and met up with our friend Liz. Liz is awesome. She was there because she works for the prop-building company that had provided a life-size model of the TARDIS. Like I said, awesome. I got one picture of that, but it came out blurry.

There is one picture really I wish I had gotten. There was a girl waiting in line for an autograph with her mom, and she had a knitted Dalek plushie! I also saw someone with a knitted K-9; I think it might have been a purse. As soon as I finish some of my other knitting projects, I shall have to raid Ravelry for that Dalek pattern. The world needs a Dalek plushie. Also on my list of stuff to knit from Doctor Who: a 10-foot Tom Baker scarf. Anyway, I had a great time. This is the third con I went to this year, and Jason and I already have plans for another. Coming in March: C2E2!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Yarn: A Non-Snob's Guide (Part 1)

As I type this, the first snow of the winter is falling in Chicago. This means that, without a doubt, knitting season has begun. (Avid yarn crafters will point out that knitting season never really ends, but those who don't like to knit or crochet when it's 95 will agree that it's time to start up again.)

I was talking with a fellow knitter over the weekend and the conversation turned to elitism. We agreed that the presence of "yarn snobs" can make a knitting group less welcoming. Yes, knitters can be elitist. I have noticed that many of my knitting books were written by yarn snobs. It is not hard to tell from reading the "Guide To Fiber" section, or something similarly titled. What follows is a non-snob's guide to different yarn fibers.

Basic info: Acrylic yarn is synthetic, as opposed to coming from an animal or plant. It has a (somewhat unfounded) reputation for being cheap and uncomfortable for that reason, but technology has advanced enough that today's acrylic yarn can actually be quite nice. Lion Brand has two that I really like: Wool-Ease is 80% acrylic and 20% wool; Vanna's Choice is nice and soft and comes in a wide variety of colors.
Pros: Acrylic yarn is inexpensive and very easy to come by; most of the yarn at craft and fabric stores is either acrylic or an acrylic blend. It is also machine-washable.
Cons: The really cheap stuff can be scratchy. Before you buy a skein, pick it up and feel it. Try and get your fingers inside. If the yarn feels uncomfortable in the skein, it will not be fun to work with, and the finished product will not feel much better. Walking around with a big skein of acrylic yarn is also the easiest way to draw the wrath of yarn snobs.
I use it for: Afghans; craft projects like stuffed animals; Christmas stockings.

Basic info: Wool is the most common of the animal-based fibers (and Captain Obvious would like to remind you that it comes from sheep). There are two basic flavors of wool yarn. The original will shrink when washed in the washing machine, which is exactly what you want for a felting project but not so good for a sweater that you have been working on for two months. Superwash wool has been treated to prevent shrinking; if you have a felting project this is the kind you do NOT want.
Pros: After acrylic, wool is the easiest fiber to find. It is soft and warm and will keep you dry even when it gets wet. It is wonderful to work with. Price-wise, it is less expensive than the other animal fibers.
Cons: Just be careful when you buy it and when you wash it. If it says "Superwash" on the label, it can be washed in the washer (though you might want to do it with your delicates). If it does not, wash it by hand and let it air-dry unless you want it to shrink. Super-soft wools, like merino, tend to "pill" (those little tiny balls of yarn that appear after it has been worn for a while).
I use it for: Mittens and hats. Wool is the only thing I will use for mittens, because of its near-miraculous waterproofing abilities. Seriously, if you have kids who like to play in the snow, they need wool mittens. I only wish I had known that growing up. Superwash wool is also excellent for winter socks and sweaters.

Basic info: Cotton is the most common of the plant-based fibers. It can be hard to dye, so it usually comes in lighter colors than wool or acrylic.
Pros: Cotton is also easy to come by. It is pretty soft, especially if you think wool is itchy. It will not pill or shed like acrylic or any of the animal fibers. It is usually machine-washable, although the colors will fade after a while. It is the least expensive of the plant fibers. If you are worried about how "green" your yarn is, organic cotton is easy to come by.
Cons: Cotton gets heavy when wet. It can also be difficult to work with, because it does not have any stretch. If you make a mistake and need to rip out a few rows, the yarn will be more kinked than wool or acrylic would be. It is not very warm.
I use it for: Dishcloths and dish towels (one application where wool would be disastrous; you'd end up with fiber all over your dishes). It is also good for lightweight tops or a knitted swimsuit (no, I'm not kidding. There are patterns for it).

This post is becoming much longer than I thought it would be, so I shall finish there for today. Stay tuned for more; next time we will get into more exotic (and expensive) fibers. For the non-crafters, stay tuned for a post coming soon about the Chicago TARDIS convention.