31 January 2010

Etsy Heart Contest

This is the easiest contest ever. My Etsy store has 99 Hearts (i.e. fans) but I want a few more...

...so just go to my store and give me a heart (click on "+Add seller to favorites" in the right hand column, registration is required). The 100th and the 123rd and the 147th people to heart my store will get a free Creative Miscellany gift* in the mail!

If you are already a fan -- Thank You! -- you can still win: just tweet or blog or share on Facebook your favourite listing in my store and leave a comment below that points/links to it. I'll use a random number generator to pick up to three comments for more free gifts*!

Become a Fan of Creative Miscellany on Facebook and I will draw up to three more names for free gifts* from there.

Finally, if you do all three things, you'll be put in a grand prize draw for a yet-to-be-sewn, one-of-a-kind Huggitz doll!

*Free gifts will be stuff I can ship flat or in small packages including ACEOs, greeting cards, Monsters and Aliens colouring books, Coffee Haiku mini-books, or even finger puppets!

You have until midnight PST on Wednesday Feb 3, 2010 to enter.

29 January 2010

Kids being kids

Tonight we took Kiddo to one of the PAC* "social nights" which is basically an excuse for the kids to be out of their uniforms and ramming around in the gymnasium. One of the first things the kids went for were the "scooter boards" (photo to the right) Here's where I get to look my age because these are totally a new thing for me as far as gym equipment goes.

As you can see, they look kind of like an oversize cutting board with casters on the bottom and handles on the sides. Well, without gym teachers and rules, the first thing the kids did was make themselves into real-life bowling balls, ramming themselves on the scooter boards into the large plastic pins. Next, they found hula hoops and skipping ropes. Before long, they were tying the boards together to make longer centipede like creations and winging each other around the room, because it's more fun when you make it dangerous! (As I was searching for these, I found that some models are made to interlock, presumably to offer a safer alternative to the DIY combos.)

At any rate, it was about 15 minutes before the first kid flew off and skinned their knees. Happily, since it was parents and not school administrators, no one overreacted, or put an end to things (well, I did tell Kiddo at one point not to tie the ropes to the board but instead to slip the rope through the handle); everyone pretty much just let their kids be kids. There were a few tears amid squeals of pure glee, bumped heads, parents who will be feeling a few aches in the morning, and near misses between different sets of kids being wung around in offset circles; from above I imagine the place looked like a Busby Berkely musical influenced by fractal theory.

Actually, it was pretty close to that at ground level.

*(PAC = Parent Advisory Council -- the type of group that used to be known as the PTA -- Parent-Teacher-Association -- ... which reminds me of Harper Valley PTA and Barbara Eden. Weird that I remember that.)

27 January 2010

giggles and Photoshop fun

OK, so I have to start with the fact that Apple needs to send the iPad name back to the boardroom for reconsideration. Almost immediately, the topic #iTampon leapt into the trending list on Twitter (and stayed there throughout the State of the Union Address).

I just put together the above image using a photo of Steve Jobs by James Mitchell, a source image of Kanye West that has been kicking around since the meme went viral, and my fave of the Twitter hacks courtesy @WewillroastU. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I will point you to this Squidoo list that gathers all of the jokes flying around the 'net today, along with the MadTV sketch that lampooned the name before Jobs launched it.


EDIT to round-up some of the stuff said by people who paid more attention to the hardware than its name:

From Gizmodo: 8 Things that Suck about the iPad
From Core77: The iPad, they're on to something... we're just not sure what.

And one that paid attention to the name, but not in a feminine hygiene way:

From the NYT: iPad? That's so 2002, Fujitsu says. (i.e. not only did Apple not check for stupid names, they didn't check for trademarks.)

25 January 2010

Work Hard and Be Kind

This odd fragment of a speech, of sorts, is spreading like proverbial wildfire. It was part of Conan O'Brien's last words as host of the Tonight Show (hence the Keep Calm and Carry On - inspired graphic at right, designed by Clay Larsen).

Say what you will about pop culture and the manufactured distraction of the "Late Night Wars" but it really was a shitty way for NBC to deal with low ratings that, from my point of view, were entirely their own doing.

Watching the last week of shows, I felt sad about the situation -- and while Conan kept telling people not to feel sorry for him I couldn't help but feel sorry for his staff (190 people all got their pink slips because NBC thinks Leno is a better bet for late night).

And, as often happens with this kind of public circus, I got wrapped up in it all. When Conan sat at the Tonight Show desk for the last time and actually said nice things about the company that was currently kicking his ass to the curb, I got teary-eyed. In fact, just re-reading his closing remarks, I got teary again, especially over this:

To all the people watching, I can never thank you enough for your kindness to me and I’ll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask of you is one thing: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism — it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen. As proof, let’s make an amazing thing happen right now.

Is that amazing, or what? He followed it with a monster of a jam session, perhaps a nod to the band which played even as the Titanic went down.

So, yeah, I think as an addendum to not paying for the gloom, I'm going to rethink my attachment to cynicism.

23 January 2010

a change in course may be required

I think I may have come to the end of my fascination with the end of the world. At least I think I need a break from it. We saw The Road on Thursday evening -- at times, I could not even watch the screen it depressed and infuriated me so much. I told Hubby on leaving the theatre, "if it comes to a time where all vegetation has been destroyed, I'm out."

Honestly, I think it's the first time I've left feeling anything other than "entertained" by an apocalyptic film and that's saying something because I've seen a lot of them -- several in the last year alone, including Knowing, 2012, Daybreakers, and Zombieland.

I spent my teen years convinced our world would be obliterated by the exchange of nuclear warheads between the US and the USSR, with Canada being collateral damage in the middle. By the time I was in university, the Cold War was drawing to a close and the hands of the Doomsday Clock were drawn back. I relaxed a little. Sure, I was still convinced we were going to hell in a handbasket but not at full speed.

However, since 9/11 (and OMG, how I hate that phrase, but I promise I am using it only in a historical context here) Hollywood has been pulling out the stops, greenlighting movies that forecast the future, however bleak. Sure, they still crank out the mindless fare, but I've always considered fluff not worthy of big-screen viewing. Maybe I've got it all backwards. Maybe I need more Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock.

So bring on the happy, Hollywood, I think I'm going to stop paying for the gloom.

19 January 2010

Thank You TCM

For unearthing and sharing this lovely time capsule: travel bumf for Victoria and Vancouver from 1936 -- almost 75 years ago!!

16 January 2010

Where have all the junk stores gone?

(long time passing.... sorry, got distracted there)


As the child of two pack-rats, I inherited their habit of never passing up a yard sale or second-hand store. My favourite stores were always the ones where you never quite knew what you might find and where the hunt was part of the fun: rummaging through bins and baskets; lifting up one piece of junk to reveal whatever was hiding underneath; finding the perfect teacup and then finding the matching saucer three shelves over. Sometimes you left with a treasure, more often with nothing more than the thrill of participating in urban archeology, building stories for "who owned this stuff?" as you go.

In more recent years, the thrift store circuit has become more popular. It may have started with hipsters but now, "in these difficult economic times" (ACK!), I'm hard pressed to find anyone who hasn't at least wandered through the aisles of a thrift/second-hand store or pawn shop, etc.

Over the same time, thrift stores started getting picky about what they would accept -- for example, I don't think there is a single store in Victoria that will accept used sofa beds, even in pristine condition, despite the fact that there are many people who would be happy to have a spare bed. (Hence the rise in Freecycle and postings on UsedVictoria and Craigslist for free items.) The stores also started to de-clutter, adding better retail shelving and displays, putting aside the "good stuff" in an area close to the service desk, and ditching the bins-of-bits sorting method.

The most recent example of this is Re-Store here in Victoria. Re-Store is a second-hand store that focuses on the home-renovation market and supports Habitat for Humanity. When it opened, I was in heaven -- aisle after aisle of hard to find hardware; replacement doors, windows, cabinets and lighting from every imaginable era; all manner of funky plumbing fixtures; flooring; and a huge supply of paint. Last year, they closed up the Douglas Street location and moved out to a warehouse in Langford. Today was the first time we had a chance to investigate the new location and I was very, very disappointed.

I got a little worried when I read all the things they are "not currently accepting" but I thought perhaps they just had too many of those items. However, instead of overflowing we found the shelves to be well organized, the aisles wide, and the selection.... thin. Sure, if you were looking for cabinet doors, bathroom sinks, or paint you would be in luck. But, where the old location had shelf after shelf of used lighting fixtures, there was a pallet loaded with what looked like contractor returns. Where before there was a wall full of bathroom fixtures (faucets, towel racks, even bins full of washers and those chains that hold plugs) the new location had one small area on one shelf dedicated to the same items. Even the one thing we most wanted to grab, a mid-size single pane window (to build a seed-starting greenhouse) was nowhere to be found because they only accept and sell double-pane windows now.

Needless to say, we left empty-handed.

The photo at the top was taken last October at a junk shop in Sooke. That place had all the junk you could ever want to find -- from huge satellite dishes to 1980s era microwaves to a mountain of Coleman camping stoves to bins full of every size wrench ever made. Stuff was packed floor to ceiling in a huge warehouse with more stuff out back. It was amazing and maybe that's where we will have to go to get the junk we need.

12 January 2010

Tin Foil Hats All Around!

Sometime in my late teens or early 20s I started planning for the inevitable -- the collapse of civilization as we know it. (I had high hopes for Y2K but, alas, it was not to be.) I started learning how to do stuff myself and to collect books on pioneer and DIY skills. An earlyish version of my website included my luddite skillset -- stuff like building fires, growing my own food, and knitting. Heck, years back Hubby and I even joined Victoria LETS (Local Exchange and Trading Society) -- basically a barter group -- but were disappointed by the lack of variety and activity in the group. We also tried making tofu and could do that again, if we had to -- right now, I'm happier to pay the $3 for someone else to do it.

seeds Tonight, I spent some time sorting through and doing an inventory of my seeds, spawned in part by a discussion on Facebook about the movie Collapse (my take: the guy is probably a nutbar but has some decent insights, too. It's playing at Cinecenta next month and I plan to go see it, despite its potential effect on my psyche) and in part by some Frankenfood Fear thanks to finding a study that revealed organ damage in mammals linked to three varieties of Monsanto corn currently being used for food and for animal feed out there. Gah.

Happily, now that my seeds have been inventoried (there were almost 60 packets, varying in age and amount used, ranging from personally saved seeds to some purchased at local markets to certified organic to basic, er, over the counter seeds) and my goal this year is to use as many as I can through the season. I have a LOT of mesclun mix seeds -- probably because I like having greens available year-round -- and I am planning to grow at least some on the deck where I can pick them in any weather. I also sent Hubby some tutorials on mini-greenhouses for starting seeds and to extend the growing season (right now my cabbage and broccoli are struggling but the leeks have perked up).

Outside of gardening, I am still proud of the number of things I know I can do if need be, though there are a few I have yet to master, or even try. While I believe I could maintain or even (re-)build a home and make do with what I had on hand for some time, I am lacking some pioneer skills. (For instance if there is no one with whom I can barter meat or fish after civilization falls, I will become a vegetarian pretty fast. ) I think I could manage to raise chickens as long as I didn't have to kill them so at least I could have eggs. If I could figure out how to shear a sheep (this does not look comfortable for either party), I could probably get from there to yarn somehow. And I might be willing to try my hand at raising a goat I could milk.

**While I am on an agriculture tangent, I have been considering whether I can donate to the Land Conservancy to save Madrona Farm (I really do want as much local farmland as possible to stay as such) without getting on a sucker list. (Oooh, looks like I can give money to some lawyer-types to hold in trust. Pondering.)**

Anyway, if I had the right supplies I could make or mend clothing, make candles, soap (though I've never tried, I understand the principles), and bread. I can preserve food, make paper, and perform basic first aid (Hubby is the star on that front though). I can do math long-hand, use most hand tools and make a bird-feeder out of a milk jug.

So, start saving your tin-foil kids, you're going to need it for the hats.


p.s. Would you rather celebrate the end of the world? Do it wearing a Haiku for the Masses t-shirt. ;)

10 January 2010

thoughts over tea

I'm sitting here enjoying a cup of tea as I type (basic orange pekoe, Salada, I think), reflecting on a busy weekend.

Friday night was pizza and a movie (date night -- we went to see Daybreakers). We almost gave up when we got to the theatre; a combination of the credit union debit card system being down across BC and the armies of people buying tickets for Avatar (when we arrived at 7, all showings up to 10:30 were sold out; by the time we left, it was sold out until sometime on Saturday) the line-ups stretched almost to the parking lot. We persevered though and saw the movie which, I am not sure was worth the full admission price (now up to $11.50).

Saturday started off nice and lazy but worked up to a small panic when we realized the dryer was no longer working (after weeks of the washing machine limping along, I never guessed the dryer would give up first). We have purchased a new set and are awaiting their delivery later in the week.

We also found time to see another movie on Saturday, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (whole family, at Cinecenta -- btw, you need to check out their new website, it seriously rocks) -- which was better than I had been expecting.

Today, while Hubby helped a friend film a short subject, Kiddo and I went shopping (with a purpose -- she needs some boots with heels for riding). We struck out at the mall (in all of Mayfair there were only two places selling kids shoes in her sizes and neither had anything close to appropriate footwear) and after some consideration, decided to bus into town to check Value Village -- I should have checked there first! We found two pairs of short boots (but with the right heels, hooray!) and a few other things that, together, cost less than one pair of boots new would have cost, even on sale. Yay!

07 January 2010

Ribbons and Bows

As a rule, I don't wear ribbons or rubber bracelets, or poppies, or crosses, or much else that says anything about my beliefs, support, or alliances (aside from sassy t-shirts). I also don't generally play along with the other sheep when asked to "copy and paste this into your status update" so when status updates among my Facebook friends started showing up as a single word that was a colour, I was suspicious. When it was revealed to be viral marketing for "awareness of breast cancer" I was irked.

If you have lived in the Western Hemisphere at any point during the past two decades and you are not already aware of The Cause, please raise your hand.

Yeah. That's what I thought.

Problem is that most of these campaigns, they don't do much. Maybe they help some people feel better but not everyone (thank you Anne for that link). For example, I am the kind of person who gets angrier when someone tells me to "turn that frown upside down" and I am pretty sure that should I ever fall prey to breast cancer, a pink ribbon is going to mean jackshit to me.

I am not anti-research (though I may be anti-pinktarian -- thank you, Chair, for that term) but I am really tired of the constant focus on boobs (and let's be clear, it is boobs society is fixated on; no one talks about men who get breast cancer) -- lots of body parts can fall prey to cancer.

And while I am at it, please, for my daughter's sake, lay off all the pink. I don't care what anyone thinks, wiping one's ass with pink toilet paper is not helping anyone.


01 January 2010

Ten Year-end Lists

In no particular order, here are the lists that I've been reading today -- some of these will be re-read and referenced for some time.
  1. Core77: Our Favorites from 2009 -- my favourite design blog
  2. Best Films of the decade -- care of Roger Ebert. I have seen 3 of his top 10 but half of his full list.
  3. Great Best of 2009 Recap -- Lifehackers best of the best including DIY, photography, re-purposing and more.
  4. Top 100 Craft Tutorials of 2009 -- bookmarked!
  5. 50 Best Albums of 2009 -- from NME, apparently I am out of the loop as many of these artists are completely new to me.
  6. Buzzwords of 2009 -- from the NY Times; while American in focus, a number of these made their way north of the border.
  7. Top Scientific Breakthroughs of 2009 -- from Wired.
  8. Top 25 Censored Stories for 2009 -- from Project Censored
  9. 20 Worst Foods of 2009 -- Eat This Not That lists its top 20 "calorie bombs"
  10. Google Zeitgeist 2009 -- billions of searches aggregated and compiled into a snapshot of global curiousity.