My new toy: a laptop actually made for gaming

For a couple of years now, I haven’t really owned a decent computer I could play games on. I mean, sure, I had my work laptop, Jadzia, who was a powerful behemoth when she was new, built for video editing – but she was my work computer, and I felt guilty installing video games on her, even if I never played them at work. I’ve got Nog, an old Lenovo ThinkPad that I inherited from Ross when he got a new work computer, but he’s nearly seven years old, and was never meant for gaming. He runs Stardew Valley pretty well, and Terraria runs alright too.  Sure, it took about five minutes to create a new world in Terraria, but neither of those games are too resource-intensive. I wanted to play more than just Stardew Valley and Terraria.  I wanted to be able to play more modern games, and maybe have a computer that could do some light video editing on top of it all.

Enter Sharon.

Sharon (named after Sharon “Athena” Agathon in Battlestar Galactica) is a brand spanking new Lenovo Legion Y520. And I love her.  She’s so lightning fast compared to most of the other computers I’ve used recently, and definitely the fastest computer I own. She can play Elder Scrolls Online with some pretty high graphics settings. She also handles video editing pretty well – I was able to use her to give a demonstration on how to use Adobe Character Animator, which is a pretty resource-demanding program, and everything ran really smoothly.

There’s Character Animator, doing it’s thing, picking up me smiling at the camera!

As with every piece of technology, Sharon has her pros and cons…

Pros:

  • Boots up ridiculously fast. I think she goes from completely off to functioning in less than 10 seconds. (I haven’t timed it, though.)
  • Everything in general is lightning fast, with a 7th gen i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM, and a 512 GB solid-state drive. It’s fantastic.
  • For a gaming laptop, she’s rather light – she’s definitely lighter than the Dell Precision I had as my work laptop up until last week, and that was built for video editing.
  • Lenovo laptops offer Conservation Mode, which helps laptop batteries live longer if said laptop is primarily used while plugged in.  It’ll keep the battery charged between 50 and 60%, which’ll help the battery live longer.  You can turn Conservation Mode off and charge the battery to full if you anticipate using it unplugged in the near future.
  • There’s a lot of open vent space on the bottom of the laptop, to help increase airflow and vent out all the heat that builds up when you’re gaming.

Cons:

  • With all the vents being mainly on the bottom, if the laptop isn’t propped up on some sort of cooling mat (or even something to just get it off the desk), it’s a little hard for it to vent out the heat properly.  I ended up getting a cooling mat, but have only used it while playing Elder Scrolls Online since it’s a rather graphics-intense game.
  • The fans are a little loud – and the system’s a little aggressive about keeping things cool, so the fan does kick on a fair bit.  I don’t mind it too terribly much, but Ross said he noticed it from the other room.
  • The laptop body picks up smudges from my hands pretty easily – it’s only a minor annoyance, but I do find myself having to wipe it down every so often to get rid of my smudgy handprints.

I was lucky enough to get the Legion Y520 on sale – the configuration I got typically retails for $1499 before tax on Lenovo’s site, but there have been multiple sales lately bringing the price below $1000 – which is a great price for such a good laptop.  If you’re looking for a sub-$1000 gaming laptop that’s ridiculously fast, and aren’t too concerned about having the latest and the greatest processors, then the Legion Y520 is a good choice.  I’m certainly pleased with it – and my friend Kasi even bought one for herself after I showed her how well Elder Scrolls Online runs!

Speaking of said laptop, though, I might have to go disappear to play some Stardew Valley. My farm is calling…

Legion Y520 Gaming Laptop – Lenovo

What I’m watching: March 2019

Here’s the March edition of What I’m Watching! Only two shows this month, but I’ve got a lot to say about both of them.

First off, I’m still watching Battlestar Galactica – I’m in the middle of season 3, and oh my god the feels. Not just about what’s going on in the show, but about the entire show in general. I’m not sure how many of my readers have already watched Battlestar Galactica, so I’m not going to talk about potentially spoilery things, but I will talk about some of my favorite aspects of the show.

One of those favorite aspects is how insanely talented the entire cast is. I may dislike some of the characters – Gaius Baltar, I’m looking at you – but gods, when it comes to playing Gaius, James Callis does an amazing job of bringing that beautiful idiot to life.  It’s the same with all the actors – I can’t think of a single one that makes me think “ugh, this guy again?” Plus, all the characters are so human – the entire show is full of the characters doing what they think is right.  There’s no black and white, no absolute wrong or absolute right. President Roslin, Admiral Adama, Starbuck, and Lee, everyone’s so human it almost hurts at times. Everyone’s just trying to do what they think is right. And each actor looks like they’re pouring their heart and soul into their roles, and it makes for one hell of a compelling story.

Speaking of characters being human: I love how Admiral Adama is a father figure to practically everyone on Galactica. (There’s a reason I call him Space Dad!) Sometimes that results in rough situations, especially with Lee, and sometimes it results in such heartwarming scenes that it almost makes me want to cry.  Space Dad is best dad.

I haven’t just been watching Battlestar Galactica, though. I’ve also been watching The 100, a show I started a few years ago when only season 1 was available on Netflix. I recently picked it back up again, and I’m really enjoying this show too.  So far, I’m in the middle of season 3, and the show definitely evolves over the course of the episodes I’ve watched – it’s gone from “juvenile delinquents doing stupid things while trying to survive in the woods” to a really solid and interesting sci-fi drama.

The show takes place almost 100 years after a nuclear disaster wipes out almost all life on Earth, and starts out in space: specifically, on the Ark, which is a massive space station constructed from existing stations after humans fled the disaster and went to space. Humans have been living on the Ark since the nuclear disaster occurred, and things aren’t going all that well when the show starts.  Overpopulation is becoming a problem, and while steps have been taken to try and slow down population growth (couples can have only one child, and criminals are sentenced to death by getting sucked out an airlock), the Ark is still in trouble: specifically, their oxygen supply is dwindling, and drastic measures must be taken to keep everyone on the station alive. Chancellor Jaha and his advisory council think that maybe Earth might be an option, but they want to make sure that the planet is safe before they send everyone down there to make new lives.

Enter the 100: a collection of kids and teenagers who’ve been put in detention for various crimes they’ve committed, all waiting until their 18th birthday to be re-evaluated and either released back into the population, or “floated” out an airlock. Instead of keeping all these kids and teenagers around until they hit 18, they’re chosen for a special mission. The 100 are sent down to Earth to see if the planet is livable again. The first part of the first season focuses on the 100 as they deal with their new situation, and find out that they might not be the only humans that survived.

The cast is full of talented actors, and includes some of my favorites, like Alessandro Juliani (also known as Felix Gaeta from Battlestar Galactica) and Henry Ian Cusick (who played Desmond in Lost). The story is really gripping, and I really love where the writers are going with the plot.  Speaking of writers: The 100 is based on a series of young adult fiction books by Kass Morgan, and I definitely enjoyed the books – but after book 1 and the first part of season 1, things really start to diverge.  It’s been interesting to see how very different the show is from the books, and see what the show writers do with the source material that Kass Morgan wrote.

And that’s what I’ve been watching this month!  Stay tuned to see if I ever finish Battlestar Galactica, or to see what other shows I end up picking up along the way!

Review: Stardew Valley (the mobile version)

Oh, Stardew Valley. You’re one of the reasons I bought a new gaming laptop (although you can still run on my old ThinkPad). I’ve spent many hours planting and taking care of farm animals and trying to get friendly with the villagers. And now, I can do all that on my phone, thanks to the recent mobile port of Stardew Valley! It finally made its way to Android a few days ago, and was released for iOS a couple months ago.  My review focuses on the Android version, but I’m pretty sure everything’s the same on iOS. For those of you who’ve never played the game before, Stardew Valley is a farming simulator, similar to games like Harvest Moon, where you’re responsible for taking care of a farm. In addition to making sure your farm succeeds, you also get to make friends with the villagers, as well as eventually start a family if you want to. You even get a pet! (I’ve got a cat.)

I’ve been really pleased with the mobile version so far – the developers did a good job of making it as enjoyable an experience on a mobile device as it is on a full computer.  The controls are easy to pick up – you can either tap a location on the screen and your farmer will move to the tapped square, or you can hold your finger on the screen and your farmer will follow in the direction of your finger. The entire interface in general has been customized for small touchscreen use, which definitely makes playing easier. For example, your entire inventory is visible on the left side of the screen, and you can scroll through all your items and tap on the one you want to use to make it the active item.

Farmer Ëlinyr, about ready to start her day, while Robin is hard at work building an expansion to Ëlinyr’s house.

The interface for shopping has changed slightly, too – while it’s not universal for all shops (for example, Marnie’s shop listings are displayed a bit differently than the items in Pierre’s general store), it’s definitely geared towards mobile use and makes it easier to tap on what you want to buy.

Let’s buy a chicken! Because everyone needs chickens.

The crafting menu, as with other similar menus, are also mobile-optimized:

Let’s make ALL THE THINGS for the farm!

Another thing I’ve really enjoyed that’s exclusive to the mobile version is the ability to zoom in and out on the map, which has come in helpful when I’m looking for things to forage or just want a large overall view of an area.

Oh hey, there’s a spiceberry down on the lower left corner of the map!

Plus, it has all the original story and townsfolk you’ve all grown to love, plus the new farm types that were released when co-op mode became available! It’s very easy to lose a few hours playing on the phone, that’s for sure.

That being said, there are a few things missing from the mobile port – specifically, co-op mode, saving games to the cloud, and the ability to sync games between devices and computers. While they’re not a deal-breaker for me, some folks might really miss these features. There is a work-around to make it so you can play save files from the desktop version of Stardew Valley on mobile (link focuses on iOS version of the game), but it’s a little labor-intensive and involves a lot of shuffling files around. I’ve just been setting up a different type of farm on all the devices I’ve been playing on, so I get to explore all the different farm types.

There are also a few things that have taken some getting used to, like the automatic tool choosing – sometimes it doesn’t work as intended, and you’ll need to manually choose the tool you need to do a job (like when cutting grass, you’ll need to manually select the scythe before attempting to cut anything down). There’s also an auto-fight monsters mode in the mines, but in order for that to work well, you’ll need to select your sword before starting to do any mining – otherwise, you’ll just end up attacking with your mining pick, which isn’t as effective. Also, I’ve found that it’s really easy to accidentally select an item from my inventory while trying to navigate to the left side of the screen, and if you’re not careful, you might accidentally end up giving it away to a villager if you don’t switch away from said item before trying to talk. (for example, I accidentally gifted Penny an artifact that she really didn’t like, whoops)

Overall, the mobile version of Stardew Valley is great! There are some bugs, given that the game just got released, but I’ve only encountered them when trying to play on my Chromebook (which I was able to fix by restarting the Chromebook), and the developers are working hard to get them fixed. If you love Stardew Valley, are okay with not having co-op mode and cloud saves, and have a little extra cash laying around, you should definitely pick it up for your mobile device.

Stardew Valley on the Google Play Store – $7.99

Stardew Valley on the iOS App Store – $7.99

It’s a cat picture kind of week.

I totally had all these grand plans to finally put together the Toothless shawl I’ve been working on for… well, I can’t remember how long now, and write up a post about it.  But then I ended up having to present at a conference, and I’m still trying to kick this stupid cold I’ve been fighting for three weeks now, and every night this week I’ve come home with absolutely no energy.

So, instead of an actual post with substance, I bring you Steve, helping me make an English paper piecing quilt out of tiny hexagons.

“oh hey, this is a new craft, how can I involve myself in it?” -Steve

Thanks for bearing with me as I’ve been dealing with a complete lack of energy – it’s much appreciated.  I promise I’ll have something more substantial for next week.

State of the Nerd - Winter 2019

The State of the Nerd, winter 2019

I’ll be honest, I hit a bit of writer’s block with the original post I was writing for this week – and between that and the cold I’ve been battling, it’s been a bit of a rough week.  I’ve managed to get something posted every week so far this year, though, and I really don’t want to end that streak, so I figured I might as well do a State of the Nerd post.  It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, and I’m pretty sure some of you folks are curious about what I’ve been up to!  So, without further ado… the State of the Nerd!

This winter’s been a particularly rough one, mostly due to the weird weather we’ve been having. I’ve been trying to keep my spirits up with as many nerdy and crafty pursuits as I can, though.

  • I’m still working on learning how to play Magic: The Gathering – and I think I’m just about at the point where I might be able to play a game without “training wheels”, so to speak. I’ve still only played against J so far, and since he knows I’m still learning the game, he doesn’t mind when I stop and ask him about how a specific card works or how many creatures I should attack with. I’m definitely still enjoying the game, and I’ve got a post in the works in the “keeping organized” series about how I keep myself organized when it comes to Magic.
  • I’m itching to get Ëlinyr’s stuff out of the garage and play in Kishar this season. It feels like it’s been forever since I’ve worn the bright red dress that’s been dubbed “Ëlinyr’s stealth dress” and put the sand dragon mask on my Toothless plush, and gotten ready to play.  I’m especially excited about this season, as Ëlinyr bought a house in-game with a couple of her friends, and also bought a business! Plus, there’s a whole bunch of new plot lines to explore, and new people for Ëlinyr to meet. Before all that, though, I’ve got some new costume pieces to make for her.  I really need to get on that, since I think we might start playing again next month…
  • I’m actually going to try to play more board games, especially the ones Ross and I have bought at past Gen Cons or through Kickstarter and then let sit on the shelves in the living room, gathering dust. Board games are fun, and I think it might be a good way to add some variety to our weeknight evenings. (Currently, our evening routine involves watching an episode of Battlestar Galactica or two and then going off to do our own things – I’ll go read a book while Ross goes off to play with the flight simulator he bought recently.  Which isn’t bad, but it’d still be fun to do something different now and then.) I’ve pre-ordered a game from Amazon that I’m really looking forward to – Scram by TeeTurtle! It’s about collecting cats – how could I say no to that? Plus, the artwork looks adorable, and I do have a soft spot for cute things.
  • I think I finally settled on at least one cosplay for Gen Con – I think I’m going to dress as Lapis from Steven Universe.  I still haven’t decided on whether I’m going to wear her old outfit or her new one, but I think it’ll be a fun costume to put together either way.
  • I actually finished a craft project recently!  I finished the Russell Street shawl that I started late last year – I struggled with it a bit in the second half of the pattern, and as a result I’m not entirely too thrilled with how it came out, but hey, it’s finished! Of course, I finish one project and then start two more – I’m working on another shawl, and also picked up English paper piecing and am making a quilt out of tiny hexagons. It’s a good break from knitting, that’s for sure.

And, well, that’s about all the interesting stuff that’s been going on with me lately.  Here’s hoping writer’s block doesn’t last a second week on that one post I’m trying to write, as I think it’s another one people will really enjoy.

What I’m Watching: February 2019

I’m back with another edition of What I’m Watching! This month, I’ve got three shows in my TV-watching rotation, although what with being sick this week, I’ve been binge-watching the heck out of one of these shows.

First off, I’m still working my way through Battlestar Galactica – somewhat slowly, because Ross and I have had a busy couple of weeks at work and by the time we get home, we don’t have much energy to process an exciting and action-filled episode of BSG.  We’re just about to season 3, though, and I’m still loving the show!

Another show I’ve been watching this month is RWBY! You might remember that I started watching this last year, and I ended up having to take a break from it because I had a bit of RWBY overload. Now I’m watching it again, and I’m up to season 5 – where things are starting to get even more serious.  And seriously badass.  I won’t mention more because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone (and also because my brain is fuzzy on the details, curse this nasty cold). I’ll just say you should watch it for yourself.

Now, to the show I’ve been binge-watching while I’ve been miserably sick this week: Lucifer. I stumbled upon it through Netflix’s suggestions for things I might be interested in, and a week or so ago, I figured “eh, what the heck, I’ll watch this while I knit.” And I fell in love with it.

Lucifer is a comedy/crime drama with a dose of fantasy thrown in the mix for good measure. It follows the story of Lucifer Morningstar, the devil himself, and his adventures after leaving Hell to set up a nightclub in Los Angeles – and help solve crime as a consultant for the LAPD. He’s partnered up with Chloe Decker, a detective who seems to be immune to Lucifer’s charms. He’s got irresistible sex appeal, and can make you tell him your deepest, darkest desires just by looking into his eyes – yet none of that works on Chloe, and Lucifer’s very curious about why that is.

With a great cast and a great story, Lucifer has been making my week home sick with this miserable cold much better than I thought it would be.  If you haven’t seen it yet, you should check it out – the first three seasons are on Netflix, and season 4 should be coming out soon!

Cosplay musing: the 2019 convention season

Well, the 2019 convention season is near, and with that, the eternal question: what costumes am I going to wear this year?

That’s actually a really good question – and one I’m not entirely sure of the answer to. There’s a lot of factors that go into figuring out costumes for conventions: if Ross and I are driving to a convention daily from home or staying in a hotel nearby, what the weather might end up being like, how detailed a possible costume might be, and how faithful I want to be with my representation of a specific character.

Given all the effort I put into Sailor Moon for Gen Con last year, do I want to try and do something elaborate again this year, or do I want to do something more casual? The hotel Ross and I currently have for Gen Con isn’t nearly as close as the one we were at last year (although we might get lucky and snag a closer hotel!) – will I want to deal with being stuck in a costume that might not be all that comfortable for hours on end? Just thinking about wearing the boots for my Sailor Moon costume for more than a half hour is making me cringe, how could I deal with that for an entire day? Plus, I have to plan out costumes for any LARPs I might be involved in, too. Do I want to try to do multiple costumes in a day? And can I quickly swap costumes if I decide to do that?

Those are all things I’ve been thinking about when it comes to my cosplay for this year’s conventions. So far, I’m definitely planning on going to Gen Con and the Indiana Toy and Comic Convention for sure, and I might also go to Indy PopCon. Whatever I choose, it’ll need to work out for at least one convention, if not three. With all that in mind, I’ve narrowed things down to three possible cosplays for this year’s convention season.

  • A casual version of Usagi from Sailor Moon: This could be a fun cosplay to do – you don’t often see people dressed up as Usagi. I’ve got some clothes in my closet that I think would work pretty well for a casual version of Usagi, and I could easily find clothes that match some of her outfits from the anime if I wanted to do something more show-accurate. I want my beautiful Sailor Moon wig to get some more use, and I think casual Usagi would work out pretty well – especially if I don’t end up with a nearby hotel for Gen Con, since I’d be wearing comfortable clothes and can handle wearing that wig for hours at a time, even with how heavy it is.
  • Lapis Lazuli from Steven Universe: I originally wanted to try cosplaying as Lapis last year, but Sailor Moon ended up eating up all my focus for costuming, and therefore Lapis ended up being set aside. However, this is another one I could also do pretty easily, if I don’t go all-out with body paint and such. I found a skater dress on Etsy that would work pretty well if I wanted to do a more casual Lapis, and there’s a wig on Arda that I could get in blue that with some styling would make a pretty good Lapis wig. A short wig and a comfy dress would make for a really comfy cosplay, that’s for sure. Plus, if I do end up feeling crafty and want to make the outfit myself (or with some help from my mom-in-law, who’s a great seamstress), I don’t think it’ll be impossible to make a Lapis costume from scratch.
  • Bring Pinkie Pie out of retirement: For those of you who haven’t followed the blog since I started writing, my first big cosplay was Pinkie Pie. I originally wore the first version of Pinkie Pie to Gen Con 2012, and made some much-needed updates to the costume in 2013. In 2014 I perfected my Pinkie Pie outfit, wore it to all of the 2014 and most of the 2015 conventions I went to… and then quietly retired it. To be completely honest, I’m not even sure where all the pieces are – the tutu is under the bed in my craft room somewhere, the wig (which seriously needs replacing) is on a wig head in my living room, holding up my hats, and I think the leggings and shirt might be in my costume closet somewhere. If I find all the parts, though, and get a new wig, I could easily bring back Pinkie for another convention season. It’s a rather comfortable costume, and people recognize it, so it could be fun to wear it again. (Plus, maybe I could convince my friend Rachel from The Five(ish) Fangirls Podcast to take her Pinkie costume out of retirement so we could be ridiculous together!)

Of course, these probably won’t be the only costumes I wear – especially at Gen Con, where I also have to plan for costuming for the LARP I’ll be playing in. And who knows, I might end up coming up with other ideas before convention season is in full swing! For now, I think I’ve got a good collection of cosplay ideas for this year, and a pretty good chance of wearing them all at least once at conventions this year – and I’m definitely looking forward to putting these cosplays together! (Or, in the case of Pinkie Pie, hunting down the various parts of her costume from assorted spots around the house.)

Happy 6th birthday, The Crafty Nerd!

Wow, has it really been six whole years since I started the blog? Wow, time sure does fly when you’re blogging.

Screenshot of what The Crafty Nerd looked like shortly after the blog was first started, back in 2013.
Things have sure changed since 2013…

That’s right, six years ago I posted my first post here, and started what would ultimately end up being a pretty big chunk of my life.  Heck, if it weren’t for the blog, I probably wouldn’t have met Ross!  (And that would be a huge bummer, having a life without Ross.)  I’ve gone to many conventions, played lots of games, and made a bunch of craft projects, all for my wonderful little blog.

Now, typically I write about the stuff I’ve done during the past year on the blog’s birthday, but I recently rambled about all that in my new year’s post – so for this year, I’m going to do something a little different. I’m going to indulge my inner data nerd this year and share some stats about The Crafty Nerd!

Over the past six years…

I could share more random bits of data about the blog, but I think they might be more interesting for me than for everyone else, heh. Thank you all for reading and commenting on the blog over the years – it makes me a very happy nerd!

Blue Rose: the romantic fantasy RPG that I’ve fallen in love with

I’m no stranger to tabletop RPGs – I’ve played in a number of different systems, including Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, and White Wolf’s World of Darkness.  However, in all my years of gaming, I’ve never played anything quite like Blue Rose.  For over a year, I’ve been part of a group that plays Blue Rose somewhat regularly, and I’ve been enjoying every minute of it.

What is Blue Rose?

Blue Rose is a tabletop RPG published by Green Ronin, and is labeled as a romantic fantasy game. It’s set in the world of Aldea, and players can play as a number of different humanoid races or as a rhydan (which encompasses many different types of psychic animals). Player characters have three classes to choose from: adept, which is your typical magic-using class; expert, which includes scholars, spies, tricksters, and negotiators; and warrior, which is your classic fighter class.  There are plenty of other aspects that go into developing a character, including their background, goals, destiny/fate, and, of course, their relationships with others – including friends, family, and romantic relationships.

The main focus of the game is on developing relationships, but depending on the storyteller, there may be a fair bit of exploration and adventuring involved as well.  The world of Aldea is definitely large enough to do plenty of exploring in, and the core book includes details about many countries outside of the Kingdom of the Blue Rose.

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Keeping organized: the role-playing game edition

It’s no secret to you readers – I enjoy a good role-playing game, whether it’s tabletop or live action. It’s also no secret that I’m not exactly the most organized person at times – I try really hard, though. If I’m not careful, I lose track of my game stuff easily – just ask me how many character sheets I made for my Blue Rose character before I finally figured out an organizational system. (Pretty sure there’s four of them floating out there, including two versions of the digital character sheet I keep as a backup.) I can also get distracted pretty easily during games, and if I’m not careful, I’ll miss something important. After years of gaming, I’ve figured out a few ways to help keep myself organized when it comes to the various role-playing games I’m in.

Interested in learning about them? Read on!

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Projects I’m working on – the winter edition

I recently had the idea to write about the craft projects I’m working on – not just to show them off, but for other reasons as well.  I’m thinking sharing what I’m working on might help keep me accountable, and remind me “hey, I should probably finish these things at some point”.  Plus, it’ll be good to see the progress I’ve made on some projects – like the Hue Shift blanket, which is slowly but surely getting bigger.  I don’t think I’ll make this a monthly series, but I do want to make a post like this semi-regularly – so we’ll see how well this works out.

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Another new hobby – Magic: The Gathering

I’ve been meaning to write a bit about how I’m finally learning how to play Magic: The Gathering – and, well, what better time than now?

My first attempt at learning to play was back in 2005, when I was in college – a couple of the guys in SUNY Potsdam’s Gaming Club built me a simple deck, I watched them play one game, and then I think I got pulled into a new Dungeons and Dragons campaign and forgot about learning Magic entirely.  I had that deck for years – I think I ended up donating it to Goodwill a few years ago, before Ross and I moved into our house.  (I’m kicking myself for that now – I wonder how much some of those cards might be worth now!) I was still vaguely interested in learning, eventually, but I didn’t know anyone that played – until I met J, anyway.

Last year, I finally decided maybe I should try learning to play again – and J was more than happy to teach me.

A Magic: The Gathering game in progress
The beginning of a game where I got whomped by a pile of merfolk. And yes, I do have a Doge playmat.

I’ve been learning for a while now – I think J started teaching me the game last summer, and I only recently got to the point where I decided “okay, I’m going to stick with this, maybe I should get a deck of my own instead of borrowing one of J’s many decks every time I play.”  So, with J’s help, I picked out one of the 2018 premade Commander (or Elder Dragon Highlander, depending on your preferences) decks and did a little tweaking to make the deck a little more powerful.  I ended up choosing the Exquisite Invention deck, after looking through J’s copy of it – I’ve been calling it the Thopterpocalypse Deck, because when my deck is behaving, I can generate a lot of thopters and servos to rain down doom on my opponents.  (I say when my deck is behaving because the last two games I’ve played, all my land has ended up at the bottom of the deck, no matter how many times the darn thing gets shuffled.) Now that I’m getting a feel for the game, I’m comfortable enough to be silly – like giving personalities to creatures I play, for example.  It’s ridiculous, I know, but sometimes it’s fun to say “oh, the Master Thopterist is in a bit of a mood, so he’s going to attack with his two thopter buddies.”  It’s fun to be a little sassy while I’m playing, haha.

One thing is for sure – I definitely don’t know nearly enough to make decks on my own.  Deck building is insanely complicated.  You have to think about how all the cards interact with each other, and how certain cards can trigger combinations that may or may not wipe out another player’s creatures.  It’s mind-boggling.  I don’t know J does it – then again, he’s been playing Magic for far longer than I have.

I will say, sometimes it’s hard for me not to just buy all the cards I can. I like collecting things, and if there’s something I’m enthusiastic about, I end up wanting to throw money at it and buy all the things. I’m really glad J is guiding me in what to buy and what not to buy, because otherwise I’d probably end up with a hot mess of somewhat useless stuff because I think the card art is pretty. Also, good lord this hobby involves buying so much stuff – not only did I end up buying a deck of cards to play with, I had to get a deck box, and I bought Saheeli-themed card sleeves (since she’s the commander for my deck), and of course I had to get that Doge playmat, and yesterday I just picked up some token counters because Saheeli likes to make ALL THE THOPTERS  – and speaking of thopters, I got lucky with that blind bag draw!

Three Magic: The Gathering token counters - one with a dinosaur on it, another with a thopter, and the third with Liliana.
why yes, Saheeli, let’s make 50 thopters and rain down the thopterpocalypse, yesss

I sort-of knew what I was getting into when I got into the hobby – at least with the fact that cards can get expensive and there are LOTS of them, heh – but I didn’t quite absorb just all the little things you need to play Magic. It’s kind of ridiculous, but it’s not stopping me from wanting to play.

I’m really enjoying learning how to play.  Each game is like a constantly shifting puzzle that you need to solve. Sometimes you get lucky and can solve the puzzle early and knock out your opponent, and other times you just end up stuck waiting for a needed card or two that never come up.  It’s fun, and exciting, and sometimes overwhelming – and I love it. I’m really glad I got into this hobby.

What I'm watching: January 2019

What I’m watching: January 2019

Hi folks, and Happy New Year!  You might remember a post I made a few weeks back, about some resolutions I made for the blog for the year — one of them was writing more reviews, especially for TV shows. I watch (or at the very least, listen to) a lot of TV while I’m crafting, and I mean a lot. While I don’t know that I’d be able to write great, in-depth reviews on the shows I’m watching, I could at least share some of the shows in my Netflix and Hulu queues and share my thoughts on the shows without too many spoilers.  (And possibly share some shows I tried out but didn’t quite get into.)

So, here’s what I’m watching this month: Battlestar Galactica and The 4400.

Battlestar Galactica (2004)

The main cast of Battlestar Galactica.

Battlestar Galactica is a show I’ve been meaning to watch, well, since it came out almost 15 years ago. I had friends in college who were obsessed with it, and I’ve had friends in the years since who were big fans. When I started dating Ross, he was working through re-watching the series and was somewhere in season 2 before Neftlix lost the licensing to it.  Now it’s on Hulu, and we’ve started watching it together as our evening “let’s watch this together” show. I’m sure most of you readers have at least heard of it before, but if not, here’s a short summary from Hulu (who explains it better than I could):

Battlestar Galactica continues from the 2003 mini-series to chronicle the journey of the last surviving humans from the Twelve Colonies of Man after their nuclear annihilation by the Cylons. The survivors are led by President Laura Roslin and Commander (later Admiral) William Adama in a ragtag fleet of ships with the Battlestar Galactica, a powerful but out-dated warship at its head. Pursued by Cylons intent on wiping out the remnants of the human race, the survivors travel across the galaxy looking for the fabled and long-lost thirteenth colony: Earth.

We’ve only watched the first six episodes (and the miniseries) so far, but I’m already ridiculously attached to many of the characters. When Starbuck ended up in mortal peril in episodes 4 and 5,  and then managed to get herself out of it and back to Galactica, I cheered with the rest of the crew and got a little misty-eyed. I feel for President Roslin and Commander Adama as they make some tough decisions in order to keep what’s left of humanity alive and safe. I’m always looking forward to the next episode — and I’m glad Ross and I are watching an episode or two a night so I don’t binge-watch the entire thing over a weekend.  I like being able to enjoy each episode, process it, and then go watch the next episode tomorrow.

Battlestar Galactica on Hulu

The 4400

The main cast of The 4400.

The 4400 is a show I stumbled across on Netflix while trying to find something to watch while crafting.  I’d just blasted through Season 3 of Travelers (a show I really enjoy) and was looking for more sci-fi to watch, and Netflix suggested this.  The premise seemed alright (albeit a little cheesy): 4400 people, each of whom disappeared in a beam of light anywhere between 1938 and 2001, are deposited on the shores of a lake in Washington state by a bright ball of light.  None of these people have aged a day since their disappearance, and some of them have come back with special powers (such as the ability to heal or see the future).

The show follows Tom Baldwin, an agent of the National Threat Assessment Command (NTAC) as he and his partner, Diana, investigate events involving the 4400.  It also follows a handful of the 4400 themselves, including the following:

  • Maia, an 8-year-old girl who disappeared in 1946 and returned with the power to see the future
  • Shawn, Tom’s nephew who disappeared in 2001 at the age of 18 and returned with the power to heal/kill
  • Richard, a 29-year-old Air Force pilot who disappeared in 1955
  • Lily, who disappeared in 1993 at the age of 27 and returned mysteriously pregnant

While the show does have some cheesy moments, it’s pretty enjoyable.  It also doesn’t hurt that the show’s creator, René Echevarria, was a writer on Star Trek: Deep Space 9, and one of the producers (Ira Steven Behr) also worked on DS9. (And speaking of DS9: Jeffrey Combs, who plays Weyoun and Liquidator Brunt in DS9, also stars in The 4400!) I’m in the middle of season 3 right now (I think I started the show sometime last week), mostly due to all the time off I’ve had recently, and I’m curious to see where the show ends up going.  If you’re looking for something in the sci-fi realm to watch and don’t mind if the show gets a little silly at points, you should try The 4400.

The 4400 on Netflix

Five free craft patterns to keep busy with over the holidays

It’s the holiday season — a time when many of us have some time off from work, school, or other obligations.  And if any of you are like me, you’ll want to spend that spare time crafting, so I’ve pulled together a collection of five free (and in many cases, easy) craft patterns to keep you busy with during the holidays!

The World’s Simplest Mittens by Tin Can Knits

A set of four knit mittens in different sizes and colors.

If you’re looking for a way to keep your hands warm this winter, and have never tried knitting mittens, check out this pattern from Tin Can Knits!  With sizes from toddler to adult, you can make mittens for just about anyone.

The World’s Simplest Mittens – Ravelry

Hermione’s Everyday Socks by Erica Lueder

A foot on tiptoe in the grass, showing off a sock made from the Hermione's Everyday Sock pattern

Here’s another free and simple knitting project — this one’s actually been in my queue on Ravelry for quite some time.  And come on, what Harry Potter fan wouldn’t want to make these simple socks inspired by Hermione?  You could even try making them in Gryffindor red and gold, too.

Hermione’s Everyday Socks – Ravelry

Lazy Waves Shawlette by Dedri Uys

A shawl with a simple wave texture pattern.

I love this pattern — in fact, I love it so much I’ve made two of these shawls.  This pattern works especially well with yarn that has a slow color change to it, like the Lion Brand Shawl in a Cake yarns, as it results in a really pretty striping pattern.  The shawl works up quickly, and the rhythmic pattern is somewhat soothing to do.  If you’re looking for a quick and simple shawl to make, this one’s for you.

Lazy Waves Shawlette – Ravelry

Finn and Princess Bubblegum Cross-Stitch Pattern by Monica

Finn and Princess Bubblegum from Adventure Time, hugging.

Who doesn’t love Finn and Princess Bubblegum?  Here’s a quick little cross-stitch pattern of them hugging.

Finn and Princess Bubblegum Cross-Stitch – by Monica (site is in Italian)

I Aim to Misbehave by Quaternion Creations

Cross stitch pattern with the quote "I aim to misbehave" from the movie Serenity.

A great quote from a great captain, from the movie Serenity.

I Aim To Misbehave – Quaternion Creations

2018: the year in review

We’ll just pretend that in the featured image, Steven and friends are getting ready for the new year, haha.

It’s December!  (Well, it has been for two weeks now, actually.) And with the end of the year nearly here, I figured there’s no better time to look back at some of the more exciting things that happened here in Crafty Nerd land, and look forward to next year and where I’m hoping to go with the blog!  So, without further ado, here’s a look back at 2018!

  • In January of this year, I took part in my first ever crochet-a-long!  It was an interesting experience, especially trying to focus on one specific project for roughly two months. Eventually, I got distracted by other projects (as is often the case with me and crafting), and finally finished the darn blanket in June.  Given my propensity to lose focus on a project and switch it out for something else for a little bit, I’m not sure if crochet/knit-a-longs are for me, but I did have fun making the Woodland Blanket!
  • Back in May, I started learning how to play Magic: The Gathering!  FINALLY.  It’s something I tried to pick up back in college, way back in the day, but the guys from the Gaming Club who were going to teach me Magic got distracted by another game and I never actually learned to play — until this year, when J started teaching me the game.  I recently picked up my first deck, and did some customizing to it (with J’s assistance, as he’s been playing for many, many years), and won the first game I played with it!  I’d been meaning to post about how I started learning how to play, but I only got so far as a half-written draft of a post.  Ah well — I’ll likely do a post soon that goes into a little more depth on my start into the crazy world of Magic: The Gathering.
  • I read a fair amount of books this year, too.  I beat my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 25 books, and I’m on my way to having read 29 books this year (I’m almost done with Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay).  I really should talk more about books here on the blog, given how much I love reading and how much I tend to read in a year. (If anyone’s interested in keeping up with what I’m reading, you can find me on Goodreads here.)
  • One of the biggest things I focused on this year was putting together my Sailor Moon costume for Gen Con. This is a cosplay I’d been dreaming about doing properly for, what, half my life now?  And I was finally in a position to actually get all the pieces I needed and put together a costume I’d only dreamed about up to this point.  Heck, my Sailor Moon cosplay even won a Hall Costume Contest award at Gen Con, which made wearing those terribly uncomfortable boots so worth it.  (Next year, I’m investing in a good pair of gel inserts for those boots.)
  • I started collecting fountain pens, which has been a fun hobby to get into.  Granted, I’m not planning on buying incredibly expensive pens or anything, but I’ve got a couple nice ones, and I do love that I can keep using a favorite pen while putting new ink into it to keep things interesting. My 9th pen is due in the mail any day now, and I’m excited to fill it up and add it to the collection!
  • I started 16 different yarn craft projects this year, and managed to finish 10 of them — which, for me, is actually pretty impressive. I made a lot of shawls, a couple of blankets, and worked on a couple of sock projects I started last year (and still haven’t finished).  I still need to block some of those shawls I made, and I really need to give my neighbor the mitts I made for her, but overall, I’ve made some pretty darn good progress in my yarn crafts this year.

As always, I have a lot of ideas of where I could improve and what I want to do in the future.  Granted, I may not actually end up following up on everything (my eternally distracted brain will probably throw me off track a few times), but for next year, I’m going to try to…

  • Post more reviews: I read a lot, play a fair number of different types of games, and watch a heck of a lot of TV — which has largely been an untapped resource for interesting blog posts.  However, I’ve got that reviews category here on the blog, and I should fill it up with posts on things I’ve discovered that I want to share with everyone.  I’m going to try to do one review post a month next year, in hopes that’ll give me something to write about when I can’t really think of much to share on the blog.
  • Finish more craft projects: While I managed to finish ten of the projects I started this year, there’s still a whole bunch of unfinished projects lurking around my craft room, waiting to be completed.  I want to make a list of all those projects, and try and get them all crossed off if I can.  (It might be a good use for that craft project database I’ve been working on over on Dreaming Pixels, my personal website.)
  • Maybe start a Crafty Nerd podcast: I’ve been wanting to do a podcast of some sort for The Crafty Nerd for ages.  I do a lot of video and audio editing at work, and I really love it — and I’d love to incorporate it into what I do here at The Crafty Nerd.  I’ve been learning how to work with Adobe Character Animator, and I’d really love to use that for a video podcast of sorts here on the blog.  We’ll see what next year brings!

So, that’s what happened this year and a little of what I’m hoping for next year!  I hope everyone reading this has a happy holiday season and a fantastic new year, and as always, thanks for reading The Crafty Nerd. Here’s to making next year awesome!