Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving Round-Up and Advent Calendar Garland (Geek Edition)

Jason and I had a great Thanksgiving, with lots of food and laughter. The Mystery Science Theater marathon was great. It was hosted by Joel, who was dressed as the Frugal Gourmet, but without the beard he ended up looking more like Chris Kimball from America's Test Kitchen. Anyway, they alternated between Mike and Joel episodes, with a little trivia game after each movie giving hints for the next one. Here's the lineup:
-Space Mutiny (a classic! One of my favorites)
-I Accuse My Parents (the only one I hadn't seen before; it was great to see a new one)
-Werewolf (most notable for the song medley they sing over the end credits. Tusk!)
-Cave Dwellers (the host segments are great in this one, especially the one about foley artists)
-Final Sacrifice (one word: Rowsdower!)
-Mitchell (everyone thought it was going to be "Manos: The Hands of Fate" but "Mitchell" is included in the latest DVD set they were advertising, in addition to being Joel's last episode)
The marathon ended with a cameo from the 'bots (who didn't have any lines) and then Joel encouraged everyone to have...a Patrick Swayze Christmas:

I wonder if this means they're going to do another online streaming event for Christmas. That would be AMAZING. 

When I was a kid, my parents would buy us candy-filled advent calendars, with one piece of chocolate each day in December up through Christmas Eve. We had an ornament calendar, too, that we re-used every year until the cardboard holder fell apart. I think we still have some of the ornaments, though. When I got older we traded in the candy for a garland of socks, with a piece of candy or small gift in each sock. We also did activity advent calendars for a few years, which is what Jason and I came up with for this December.

We came up with a list of holiday activities, which I typed up and printed out. The garland is made from stuff I found in the dollar bins at Target. The ornaments and gingerbread cookies were from separate garland kits, and they are pre-cut paper shapes. The penguins were from a foam decoration kit, and I had to punch the holes myself. After trying to perfectly center my quarter-inch hole in the top of each hat, I discovered that I already had a much smaller hole punch that would have been perfect for punching holes in the hands instead. Oh well. It looks fine as it is, and I would rather not re-string the whole thing.

I wrote the number on the front of each piece and glued the day's activity on the back. Then I decorated the front with the stickers that came with the garland kits. I ended up stringing it on thin yarn instead of the string that came with the garlands.

So what kind of activities do we have planned? It was kind of tricky to find things that work for us, because (A) We don't have kids (yet) and (B) We're both gone by 8 in the morning and don't get home from work until after 7. That leaves us with a limited amount of time during the week. For the weekdays, we'll both have several chances to choose a favorite holiday movie (like Die Hard!) Jason wanted to include Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem on our holiday movie list, but I nixed that. I can handle scary movies, but I don't like gore. We also came up with things like making hot chocolate or cutting paper snowflakes. I spaced out our "big" activities for the weekends, like baking cookies and going to see A Christmas Carol in Klingon.

Yes, in Klingon. 

This is going to be hilarious.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Stuff I Find Exciting

1. An Adventure in Space and Time: Jason and I watched this docudrama about the creation of Doctor Who back in 1963. It's very well-written and acted, with lots of good information for old fans and new fans alike. It might even be a good way to introduce people to the show!

2. Chi-Fi: Chicago's getting a brand-new sci-fi convention! And you'll never guess who they got as special guests. Well, unless you click the link. Or I can tell you now: Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy, AKA Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo from MST3K. I am SO excited! I have been a fan of MST since high school and I would love to meet anyone connected with the show. Jason and I have been watching a lot of Mystery Science Theater lately, because their 25th anniversary was just one day after the Doctor Who 50th. 

Now, the question with Chi-Fi is, how do I pronounce it? Is it pronounced "shy-fi"? Or "chai-fi" like the tea?

3. Turkey Day marathon: Speaking of Mystery Science Theater, their annual Thanksgiving marathon is back! I never got to see the annual twelve hours of bad movies when it was on television, because by the time I started watching the VHS collections it had already been off the air for several years. Jason grew up with it, though, and he assures me they're great fun. I expect nothing less. This year it will be streaming online at

4. Leverage is back on Netflix! Now is a great time to check the show out if you haven't already. Think Robin Hood meets Mission: Impossible.

5. Christmas is coming! I love everything about Christmas: buying gifts, making cookies, singing Christmas songs, decorating, watching the snow fall...December is probably my favorite month of the year. Jason and I are starting a new tradition this year. I made an advent calendar garland, which I will be writing about soon. Check back on Friday! Speaking of, if you are going to brave the crowds on Friday, please be careful. Personally, I will be doing most of my Christmas shopping online.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

"The Day of the Doctor" Review

This first part is going to be spoiler-free. I know some people are waiting to see it in theaters on Monday or streaming it whenever it's available, so if you didn't watch it live, no worries. Read on! Spoilers will be after the giant picture of River Song.

The Internet is abuzz with Doctor Who-related stuff. The Google game is fantastic (Jason says it's easier to navigate by clicking rather than with the arrow keys). Cake Wrecks has their Sunday Sweets feature up a day early, with a baker's dozen of AMAZING Doctor Who cakes

Jason and I have been re-watching key episodes to get ready for the 50th anniversary. Our normal Friday tradition is to order pizza and watch Doctor Who online, so last night we watched Remembrance of the Daleks, with the 7th Doctor and Ace, which ran at the beginning of season 25 of the original series. Then this morning we decided to do a crash-course review of the Time War, so we re-watched The End of Time with David Tennant (sob!) and this season's The Name of the Doctor. 

We got to the sports bar hosting the meetup around 12:15, with the special starting at 1:50. More than half of the place was taken up by fellow Whovians. Jason and I sat down at a table of complete strangers wearing Doctor Who t-shirts and struck up a conversation. There was a college football game playing on some of the screens, with the sound on, and BBC America on the rest, with the sound off. We were assured that all of the screens would turn to BBC America after the game or at 1:50, whichever came first. The game was still going on as the countdown started, and they must have changed the sound exactly at 1:50. Our side of the restaurant was full of cheers.

I had very high expectations of this episode, and I have to say it was even better than I expected. Seriously, The Day of the Doctor can only be described as epic. I loved the way everyone interacted, all of the stories within the episode meshed very well, and I'm looking forward to the new direction the show is headed in.

10/10. If you haven't seen it, DO. Then come back and read the rest. xD

Mmmmkay. As Professor Song would say, "SPOILERS!"

Here are some of my favorite moments from the special:

I loved that they opened the show with the original 1963 opening. The original theme song is one of my favorite versions and it was a great way to tie it in to the beginning of everything, especially since the episode begins in the same place as the beginning of An Unearthly Child. 

I'm so glad they didn't give away all of the jokes in the trailers and clips. My favorite bit was when John Hurt meets Ten and Eleven for the first time. "Are you his companions?...My God, did I have a mid-life crisis?" And when Ten denied any knowledge of the phrase "timey-wimey." Their character arc--initially uncertain and sharp with each other, then deciding to work together, then coming to respect each other--was reminiscent (in a good way) of The Three Doctors. One of the things I love about Doctor Who in general is that, with all of their problems with keeping continuity straight, it's very self-referential. And even the continuity problems can be chalked up to that wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff.

And the biggie: 

My initial thought when they were getting ready to press the button was that it reminded me of Ten and Donna from Fires of Pompeii--they're stuck in a bad situation, and there's no way around it, but they can get through it together. I was actually kind of annoyed when I realized they were going to Take A Third Option, because pressing the Reset Button on the Time War undoes a major part of the Ninth and Tenth Doctor eras. Not to mention that the Doctor did it to stop them from wiping out all of time itself. And, as John Hurt pointed out, his guilt over the Time War serves as a motivator. 

Still, they managed to pull it off very well. Doctor Who has always been set in a universe that is inherently optimistic: bad things happen, but the universe overall contains more good than bad. And really, to celebrate half a century of Doctor Who, there was no other way this could have gone. Everybody wants the Doctor to win and find a way to end the Time War without wiping out his entire race. It just took three of him to do it. As for the Time Lords wiping out all of time, the Doctors used their Third Option on that problem too. They wanted to end the Time War no matter the cost, and they've got an ending that costs significantly less than their original projections. An eternity in a pocket universe should give cooler heads a chance to prevail.

As I said, I'm very excited about what this means for the future of the show. I would love to see Romana return, for example, or the Master, or even some new Time Lord characters who weren't in the classic series. It gives the Doctor something new to search for. He's found his redemption; now he needs to go and find his people.

And now we are only one month and a couple days away from the Christmas special! They had already turned the sound off by the time the promo aired, but from what I could see it looks like the whole rogue's gallery of monsters will be there. It will also be time to say goodbye to Matt Smith and hello to Peter Capaldi. All in all, I would say 2013 was a great year to be a Doctor Who fan. Now I'm off to make pasta for dinner--bow tie noodles, naturally.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

TARDIS Hat (Vworp Vworp!)

Keep your ears warm wherever you go in space and time with this timey-wimey hat!

I made this hat using yarn in my stash. The blue was Lion Brand Wool-Ease worsted weight, and the white and black were acrylic. I found the pattern here as a Ravelry download (you'll need to be a Ravelry member, but the membership and the pattern are both free!). Here's a photo from the designer:

I made a few modifications to the design: the windows on my hat are larger, and the text is smaller. That meant I could repeat the letters three times around my hat, as opposed to twice in the original. It's easier to read that way. I also did a pompom instead of an I-cord for the top, because I have a pompom maker and they're fun to make. ^_^

I love the square top on the hat, which makes it look even more like a box. It's done by placing stitch markers at the corners, and then decreasing on each side of the marker on almost every round. Here's a close-up of the top:

Jason and I have a Friday night tradition of eating pizza and watching Doctor Who. Last night we pulled up The Daleks, their first-ever appearance from all the way back in 1963. I didn't start watching Doctor Who until 2010, and my first Doctor was David Tennant, but I love going back and watching the classic series. Of the classic Doctors, my favorite is probably John Pertwee (yes, even more than Tom Baker!) but I honestly like all of them. It's interesting to watch William Hartnell, especially because he came before so many of the show's iconic elements were established. 

And we are one week away from the 50th anniversary!! I have been watching and re-watching the trailers, as well as "The Night of the Doctor" mini prequel with Paul McGann. I really, really hope the special is as good as I think it will be. Still, we've got Matt Smith and David Tennant, so there's almost no way that can go wrong.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Movie Review, Pac-Man Crochet, and Doctor Who Excitement

Today's post comes to you in three parts. Part one: Ender's Game review.

Jason and I went to see Ender's Game on Sunday. We had both read the book in the past, though Jason admitted he only remembered the basic plot. I remembered more of the details.

For those of you unfamiliar with the story, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin is a teenage boy who is part of a military program to fight a war against the Formics, ant-like aliens who invaded Earth half a century ago. The Formics nearly wiped out the human race before a sound defeat that sent them back to their home planet. Ender is sent to the elite outer space Battle School to become a great military leader.

As a book-to-film translation, it works very well. The biggest change they made was to condense the story time-wise. Ender is older when he leaves for Battle School, and the entire course of events takes place over no more than a year or two. In the book, Ender is seven or eight when they ship him into space and the book takes place over four or five years. There are many reasons for making Ender older, and overall I think it makes the movie better.

I do think they could have either made the movie longer (it clocks in at just under two hours) or even broken it into two parts. The subplot between Ender's brother and sister, Peter and Valentine, is cut out entirely even though it is a significant part of the book. The other big omission, and my biggest disappointment with the film, was the most of the zero-G battles were cut out. We get to see a few scenes, and they look fantastic. I definitely would have wanted to see more, especially since they take up a good portion of the book as well.

Overall, I would give Ender's Game 4/5 stars.

Part two: My latest crochet project!

I found both of the patterns on Ravelry. The ghosts were originally a Halloween decoration in white. In addition to the color change, I eliminated the original bead eyes and the finishing mouth stitches. I attached the googly eyes with my trusty hot glue gun. Pac-Man was originally all in yellow, but I thought he would look better with a black mouth. This was a quick, easy project. The ghosts take about half an hour, and Pac-Man was probably an hour start to finish. You can find the (free!) ghost pattern here. If you're on Ravelry, you can find the (free!) Pac-Man pattern here.


The Day of the Doctor is coming, people. Next Saturday. And I am so. Flippin. Excited.

Can you tell?

Jason and I have plans to see it with the Chicago Nerd Social Club. They're having a meet-up for lunch and viewing. This is great, because we don't have cable. We don't even have an antenna--our big-screen TV is used exclusively for DVDs, video games, and Netflix. Of course, it makes no sense to get a cable subscription just for one show.

So since we're going to be out and about, in the lovely Chicago winter, I decided that I needed to knit myself a TARDIS hat. I started on it last night and I will post pics when it's all done!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Clockwork Droid Complete!

I finished my clockwork droid costume in time for Halloween. Here's a reminder of how the dress looked when I started:

And now the final product...drumroll, please...

Ta-daa! The dress is surprisingly comfortable. I wore it all day on Halloween, minus the mask. I told the kids at my daycare center that I was Cinderella. I also wore my hair down and added a pair of long white gloves. Unfortunately I forgot to get someone to take a picture of my full get-up.

The only problem with the dress is that the shoulders tend to fall down. When I wore it on Halloween, I wore a long-sleeve shirt underneath and pinned it at the shoulders, which solved the problem, but I would like a more permanent solution.

Jason and I went out in costume on Halloween. There's a great retro game arcade in our area--Galloping Ghost-- and they advertised that they were having a costume contest. So I went in my droid costume and Jason went as Smoke from Mortal Kombat.

Galloping Ghost has all of the Mortal Kombat machines, so this led to some very meta pictures.

Flawless victory!
Smoke is also an accomplished light saber duelist.

I posed for a picture in front of the Nerd Fighter game. DFTBA!

Yes, I know it's really called Aero Fighters.
Jason and I decided to play through the TMNT game together. One of the great things about Galloping Ghost is that you pay an entrance fee, but all of the games are on free play. So instead of adding a quarter every time one of us died, you just need to press the "credit" button. Anyway, we were between levels when the owner came over and let us know we had won the costume contest! We won free passes for our next trip. Good times.