Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

I love Halloween. It's a toss up for me if I like it more than Christmas, although Halloween might have a slim lead for my favorite holiday.

This year, I'm attending a Star Wars themed Halloween party. And so, in true Quartermaster fashion, I finished the costumes at about midnight last night. Let's hear it forthe last minute!

The roommates flak vest for his X wing pilot costume actually came out good. For the past three days I've been extremely frustrated by how it was turning out. I attempted 3 or 4 different methods of construction, none of which worked. Yesterday, I had the epiphany to just cut strips of fabric, fold them in half, and sew them on to the vest to create the ribbed look. It was tedious but not difficult. I wish I had thought of that 3 days ago.

His orange flight suit that I ordered off of Ebay hasn't arrived yet. I'm nervous about that since it is the main part of the costume. If it doesn't arrive, the backup plan is to get a pair of orange sweatpants and shirt from Wal-mart. It will look cheesey, but it will get the job done. I really hope I don't have to go that route.

I still need to put on the straps. We bought some grey ribbon that will look the part. I'm just going to loop it around him and sew in some velcro closures.

I got the lenses glued into my mask for the Jawa eyes. I think I'm just going to tape the leds into the lenses. If I have time when I get home from work, I'll sew a pocket into the hood to hold the battery. Otherwise I'll just wear the battery around my neck necklace style.

I should (operative word, should) be getting out of work today around 3:30. That will give me a little time to do the finishing touches on the costumes.

Friday, October 24, 2008

More On The Halloween Front

You get extra special credit if you just read the title as 'Moron, the Halloween Front'.

I have to keep telling myself that this is a Halloween costume, not a convention costume, so I don't have to be spot on. That's good, since I'll be possibly the galaxy's tallest Jawa.

Jawa Robe - Done! It's more like a Jawa dress then a robe, though. I was going to have it openable in the front (like a bathrobe) but I think it will be less work to just leave it closed. This means no hemming the slit and and not having to sew in velcro to keep it closed.

Hood - Mostly done. It's all sewn together and hemmed. I just need to sew to snap closure on the neck part and put in the velcro for the face covering. Speaking of which, I still need to cut out and hem the face covering.

Eyes - I ended up buying these already assembled from Ebay. They work great. I need to figure out how to mount them. I'm thinking I'll just fut some eyelets in the face covering and mount them in the eyelets.

Shoes - Not started yet. I did locate a pair of hard bottomed slippers that I have but never wear. They'll be sacrificed for this costume and covered with scraps of left over burlap. My intention is to sew the burlap on, but I think I may take the easy way out and grab a bottle of fabric glue.

Badoliers - Started but not done. The pieces are cut out. I put one of the pouches together last night. It didn't take too long but they're all going to have to be hand sewed. I was trying to avoid that. I might just do a couple of real pouches to hold my stuff (car keys, ID, money, chap stick) for the evening and do the rest as 'fake' pouches, like the fake pocket flaps you sometimes see on blazers.

Ion blaster - Not even started. I think I'll take a look at toy guns at the dollar store this weekend. If I can't find anything worakable, I'll just nix the entire idea.

As for the roommate, he's finally committed to being an x-wing pilot. I threatened to put a box over his head and call him an AT-ST if he didn't make up his mind. His original idea was to be one of the imperial guard. The costume itself isn't bad, really just a red velvet cloak. The helmet is the tough part. It turns out that these things are pricey, somewhere in the $300-$400 range.

I ordered the rebel pilot helmet on ebay earlier today. We had talked about getting just a generic white helmet and putting on rebel alliance stickers/decals. It turns out that the cost of the decals isn't much less than buying the completed helmet. Go figure. Since I'm not artisitic enough to paint the things on, ebay it is.

Now he just needs some orange coveralls and a few accessories. Looking through my box of scrap fabric, I found some grey vinyl that would work well for the flight suit scraps and also possibly the vest thing that the pilots wore. We also need the chest box, which will probably be a box with some miscellaneous switches and buttons swiped from the odd parts bin here at work glued on.

We've got a week to go. I think we can pull this off. I'm looking forward to seeing the whole group together. It should be a geeky good time. Hopefully, we can win best group costume at one of the local costume contests.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


It's not even Halloween yet, and I awoke to white flakes falling from the sky. What gives? Well, the Old Farmer's Almanac did predict a long, cold winter in the northeast.

On a related note...
My personal pet peeve of the day: people who claim global warming doesn't exist because it's cold outside. Or even worse, people who claim that global warming is a good thing because it's cold outside.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Star Wars Halloween

I've been invited to a Star Wars themed Halloween party. That in itself is pretty cool. The factt hat said party has been in the planning stages since about March is even cooler. I guess it's about time I started working on my costume.

That's not really as bad as it seems. When I first heard about the party, I was going to be unable to attend, since I would be taking the Clinical Engineering certification exam early the next morning in Boston. It turns out that one of my references didn't get turned in on time so that I'll be taking the exam next year instead. Which means I now have Halloween open. Yay!

My original plan was to do Jabba the Hutt. That would have been awesome and I had even started some of the preliminary planning. However, I would have had to start that costume in, oh, August, to pull it off. Plan B is to be the galaxy's tallest Jawa.

It will still look cool. I planned on rigging up some LEDs for eyes. The circuit is basically a couple of LEDs, a resistor, and a 9v battery. I actually found soeone who sells these already put together on Ebay, so for $5, I didn't have to deal with it.

I got the robe and hood cut out and sewn together last night. It's coming together nicely. I still need to hem everything, but the beauty of the Jawa costume is that it's ok if it looks sloppy. I'm planning on velcro-ing a piece of black burlap over the opening in the hood. I can still see through it, but you won't be able to see my face.

I haven't figured out how to mount the LEDs yet. I'll probably just wear the battery like a necklace under the robe. I also need to make the bandoliers. I may or may not get around to makiing a passable ion blaster. I've never liked lots of accessories with my costumes. It's always annoying carrying stuff around all night.

I'll post some pictures when it's completed.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Getting Lost In the Corn

Last saturday, myself and a few others traveled to the Great Vermont Corn Maze in Danville. For those of you not in the know, this is a 7 acre corn maze located in Vermont's northeast kingdom.

My roommate had never been to a corn maze and was pretty excited about it. I had never done one either, but it sounded like it could be fun. And we had beautiful weather to do it in; possibly the last real nice days until spring.

I had a blast and I'm pretty sure the others did, too. At the very beginning of the maze, you pick the trail that you want to start at, aptly named Eeny, Meeny, Miney, and Moe. The group split up right at the start. For the record, I took Moe. We found each other and lost each other several times throughout the day.

One of the nice features of the maze is the different shaped punches along the trail to mark your progress. The idea is that you can mark your progress on the map after you solve the maze. Also, when you come across the same shape that you've already punched, you've walked in a circle. After seeing the same shape 4 or 5 times in a row, I stopped punching.

Another feature is the bell of frustration. At the end of the maze is the bell of success. The bell of frustration is somewhere in the middle of the maze. I found it many, many times.

The website says that the maze will take an hour and a half to two hours plus to solve. Because our collective sense of direction is so fantastic, we were in the maze for about 4 hours. Around the 3 hour mark we decided to break down and ask the maze helpers for directions. Still, it was a blast. I will be doing it again next year and I recommend it to anyone who wants some good, inexpensive fun outdoors.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Where Did That Come From?

Have you ever pulled something out of your pocket and had no recollection of putting it there? I just pulled a black pen out of my pants pocket. I find this odd for the following reasons.
  1. I pulled these pants fresh out of the closet this morning. They went into the closet after the last time I did laundry. I do not recall ruining an entire load of laundry with ink stains.
  2. I tend to use blue pens for some reason. It's a strange preference. The lack of black pens in my immediate vicinity makes it doublely perplexing where this one came from.
  3. I'm pretty sure this pen wasn't in my pocket when I got dressed. Which means that the mystery pen entered my pocket some time in the last 5 hours.
  4. Also, I have been in the office all day so I haven't had a real good reason, nor an oppurtunity, to walk around with a pen in my pocket.

Strange. Either I have been visited by the pen fairy, or I suffer from unconscious cleptomania and shouldn't be trusted around office supplies.

Friday, October 03, 2008

My Take on the VP Debate

I watched the vice presidential debate last night. This post is really more for me to sort my thoughts on what went down. As a disclaimer, I went into this already being an Obama/Biden supporter.

My initial thought, and what was reported in the papers today, is that Sarah Palin did a better job than I thought she would. In fact, the headline in this morning's Burlington Free Press is "Palin Stands Ground in VP Debate" with the sub-headline "Republican holds her own vs. Biden". This all sounds warm and fuzzy for the McCain/Palin ticket until you realize that the expectations for Palin were really, really, really low going into the debate. Honestly, the fact that she could string at least two coherent sentences together and manged to go the entire hour and a half not humiliating herself means that she performed better than expected. Following up on that thought, if the bar was set so low for Palin as to be on the floor,what does this tell us about her ability to lead this country?

Some other random thoughts from the debate:

I will never understand why news outlets continue to poll people on who they thought 'won' the debate. How can you win a debate? If news outlets want to poll people on who they thought did better in the debate, that's fine, but can we stop this who won the debate nonsense?

Sarah Palin appeared nervous, but spoke well. Towards the end, she seemed to grow more and more anxious.

Joe Biden performed well as expected. He was careful not to come across as overly harsh, while still telling Palin why she is incorrect and getting in some zingers, such as comparing McCain's health care plan to the bridge to nowhere. He seemed frustrated with Palin's repeated use of disproven talking points.

One of my favorite moments from the debate was when the moderator, Gwen Ifill, called both Biden and Palin out for not answering the question. I think that she should have kept calling out the candidates when they danced around question without actually answering.

Joe Biden came off as very knowledgeable. For the most part, his answers were direct and contained as much policy substance as can be crammed into the 90-120 second answer period.

Sarah Palin, on the other hand, did her best to avoid actually answering a single question (although she may have answered one by accident). Asked about the economy, she talked about Iraq, asked about health care, she talked about...something not remotely connected to health care; unfortuantely I do not recall exactly what. It may had something to do with Ronald Reagan.

Palin looked like she prepared answers for theoretical debate questions, and was determined to use those answers whether or not the questions were asked. At one point she made the statement to Biden, 'I may not answer the questions the way you or the moderator want to hear'. No, honey, you're answering questions that haven't been asked.

My personal favorite rebuttal was given by Biden, responding to Palin's wandering aswer on the environment and climate change, claiming that we don't really know what is behind our changing climate. Biden responds with 'If you don't understand what the cause is, it's impossible to come up with a solution.' I had the same thought about 5 seconds into her answer.

Biden looked relaxed and comfortable. He addressed his answers to Ifill, which makes sense, since she was the one asking the questions.

Palin addressed the camera. And winked a lot. What was up with that?

Another great moment came at the end of the debate. When asked about Dick Cheney's definition of vice presidential powers, Palin responded that she agreed with him. Biden responded by saying Cheney over stepped his power, citing Article I of the Constitution. Thank you, Biden.

Palin sure likes to mention Reagan a lot. In fact, in her closing statement, she said "It was Ronald Reagan who said that freedom is always just one generation away from extinction. We don't pass it to our children in the bloodstream; we have to fight for it and protect it, and then hand it to them so that they shall do the same, or we're going to find ourselves spending our sunset years telling our children and our children's children about a time in America, back in the day, when men and women were free." It was pointed out to me earlier today that Reagan made this statement warning what would happen if Medicare was enacted. This might not have been the best choice of quotes, since a major difference between the two candidates is their position on health care.

More random thoughts...
The ever popular debate drinking game.
This debate, take a shot every time Palin says the word 'maverick'. Take another every time she winks at the camera. Take another shot every time Biden says the phrase 'middle class'. Sorry, that's the best I can come up for with Biden.

The moderator should be able to throw flags like a foot ball ref. When a candidate doesn't answer a question, call them on delay of game. Throw the penalty BS flag whenever a candidate spouts off an obvious lie or disproven talking point.

Also, don't forget to vote November 4th. And don't forget to register if you haven't done so already. The deadline in Vermont for voter registration for the general election is October 29th.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Computers and Baked Goods Don't Mix

The following cake came from a bakery with an on-line order form that is directly linked to an edible ink printer. In theory, this is a very cool piece of technology. In practice, well, sometimes things go wrong.

The above picture came from Cake Wrecks, a great blog with a level of snark that I can only aspire to.