Monthly Archives: April 2010

Two weeks of crochet

With Stephen gone the past two weeks, I had a lot of time to practice my new hobby.

The hat took way longer than it should have but I learned a ton in the process. Like you have to count the stitches. Not just guess. It’s the difference between a rug and something you can actually wear on your head.

Or rather, something Liza can wear on her head. I used the wrong yarn so the finished product is too small for me and too big for Liza but it’s so cute with the unintentional chevron pattern about 3/4 of the way down. I love it though because it’s my first finished project.

From the hat, I decided to move on to kid’s toys. Because my kids don’t have enough toys!

I’m loving the Lion Brand yarn website as they have a TON of fun patterns that beginners can do. The yarn they recommend is economical and sturdy for toys.

Surprisingly, the alien is Liza’s and the ladybug is Eli’s.

I don’t have an in progress photo of the ladybug. I was working against the Eli bedtime clock last night. He kept coming out to check on my progress until I finally had it done. I learned a ton with the ladybug as well. She’s got some flaws, so I actually might try the pattern again now that I kinda know what I’m doing. Or maybe, I’ll just take what I’ve learned and apply it to my next project of the Adipose Fat Baby from Dr. Who. Because my husband doesn’t have enough toys either!

I’ve gotten a ton of amigurumi patterns from the internet. Enough patterns to keep me busy for ages. I love working on them because they are fast, I learn a ton from the different ways the patterns are written and at the end they are so cute! Still no good robot patterns though — gonna have to buy the book.

I thought I might be getting good but then I attempted to start a purse pattern and couldn’t get past the second row of stitches. Jess, guess what you’ll be doing on Tuesday night!

Lastly, the obligatory cute kid photo:

Just Call Me the Amazing Kreskin

When I wrote Fragile Shells, my latest work of interactive fiction, I labeled it science fiction. Reviewers, too, called it science fiction, comparing it to pulpy 50s science fiction and talking approvingly of how the game had real science as part of its science fiction. Who can blame them? I mean, a story where you run around a space station with a prise bar removing bolts and screws?

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Spacewalking astronauts had to pull out a hammer and pry bar while attaching a big, new tank full of ammonia coolant to the International Space Station on Sunday, successfully driving in a stiff bolt after two frustrating hours.

To which I can only say: science fiction? Or science prediction?

Eli Loves Technology, while Liza Gets Specific

I’ve joked before that Eli is a child of technology. For instance, he doesn’t understand why only some TVs can serve up hot and cold running Imagination Movers. He does read books, but he views even that activity in a computerized light. He was engrossed in a book one morning, and I had to tell him, “Eli, it’s time to go to school. Put up your book.”

“Okay,” he said, putting it down while open, creasing the spine and making certain breeds of book-collectors wince. “I’ve paused my book.”

On Monday Geof visited and brought his new iPad. He was brave enough to let Eli play with it, and in minutes he was selecting pictures, zooming in on them and panning like a high-speed Ken Burns, before he discovered he could play Bejeweled on the iPad. I’d heard people joke that the iPad interface was simple enough for a child to use; now I’ve seen that that’s true. I guess that’s why Geof bought on. Ha, zing! Take that, Mac-lover!

Liza is doing well, though she’s going through a spell of night terrors. We’ll hear her knock on the wall, and when we go in she’s crying and whimpering. Thankfully she settles down quickly.

She’s reached the first age of defiance, which I understand should last until she’s 90 or so. She’ll ask Misty a question, like “Where are we going?” If I say, “We’re going to Ari’s house,” she’ll say, “Nooooo, dad, I’m asking mom. Mom, where are we going?”

That bothered me for a while until Misty told me what Liza said while I was at work. “I miss dad,” she said. “When I’m scared he makes me feel better.” So I can’t provide information, but I can make people feel better.

Fourth Time

Coach Mike Krzyzewski hugs Lance Thomas after Duke wins the 2010 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship

That was far more nail-biting than I would have liked. Congratulations to Butler, which played an astoundingly great game.

I’ll be off now to recuperate from watching Duke win last night.

(Photo by Robert Deutch, USA TODAY)

The Video Game Marketplace Explained in One Short Scene


STEPHEN and his six-year-old son ELI enter. ELI is instantly captivated by Super Mario Brothers Wi-hee! on the Wii next to the door.

Hey, Eli, are you going to stay here by the Wii?

Look, I’m moving Mario all around the map!

I’ll take that as a yes.

STEPHEN wanders over to the Xbox games. He sees that Assassin’s Creed II is on sale for half-off. He dithers for a bit before picking it up and taking it to the counter to buy it.

Behind the counter, GAMESTOP GUY eyes the Assassin’s Creed II box and nods. He’s in his early 20s, with slightly scruffy hair and the standard Gamestop polo shirt.

Hey, good choice. That game’s great.

Oh? Excellent. So it’s awesome?

Well, there’s a bit of side-boob at the beginning, but after that it’s all killing.

Oh, uh. (beat) I guess that’s plenty of awesome, then.

STEPHEN pays for the game and shuffles away. He manages to get ELI to stop playing Super Mario Brothers Wi-hee! and they exeunt, pursued by a bear.


Easter morning. Eli’s surprise face. This is the toy he says he’s been wanting his whole life. I think he was excited about it.

Yes, Liza has pink in her hair. Yes, we did it on purpose. She wanted it there on Friday so I put it in. It still isn’t completely gone but it is a great deal lighter. I think it makes her look punk and Stephen wants to keep it there. My problem is I want the same streak in my hair.

My pile of practice stitches. I did accomplish a granny square yesterday. I’m getting better but it’s definitely going to require a lot of practice!

Digital: A Love Story

Here’s the thing: I very quickly figured out what Digital: A Love Story was on about. I could see where the story was headed. I suffered through some sketchy story mechanics.

None of that mattered. In the end, Digital: A Love Story told an affecting story superbly, bolstered by its evocation of a specific moment in online history.

A BBS registration screenshot from Digital: A Love Story

It’s set “five minutes into the future of 1988”, and takes place entirely in the proto-cyberspace of bulletin board systems. You’ve been given a brand new Amie (an Amiga-alike) with a modem, leading you to dial into your first local BBS. You read through the posted messages, replying to one user, Emilia, who’s posted a bit of poetry. As your relationship with Emilia deepens you find yourself hopscotching across multiple BBSes, using phone codes to steal long distance so you can call the ones that are further away.

And that’s all there is to the gameplay, really. You dial into BBSes; you read messages; you hit reply. You don’t even see what you write, only what (if any) response you get. At first I found that approach very distancing, since I didn’t know what I was saying. But as the game went on, I became more and more of a fan of this approach. It helps immersion, since you’re less likely to say, “Hey, I wouldn’t have written that!” It keeps you focused on the other characters in the story. And in one notable exchange between Emilia and me near the end, I was replying to messages as fast as she was sending them and felt like I was having a real conversation.

Long distance calling card codes for dialing into BBSes without paying for the long distance

That helped counterbalance the other glaring weakness in the game. Since the gameplay hinges on you replying to others’ messages, there are times where the story pauses while the game waits for you to read and reply to the right message. At those points, I quickly began lawnmowering through the messages, dialing up every BBS whose number I had and hitting “reply” for every message until the story proceeded again. It’s the same problem often seen with dialog trees in games, where you select every dialog option without paying attention, pressing the conversational lever until you’re rewarded with a food pellet of story. More side-discussions would have helped, like my argument with a guy who introduces his thesis that Japan is taking over everything by saying, “Ni hao, bitches!” At times the game’s world felt empty, every message read and my replies gone unanswered. But, then, that was part of early online culture, where you might send a message to Usenet and see no replies for days, or log onto BBSes with ten users who were more interested in playing door games than chatting.

Why does the game work so well? Digital: A Love Story does two things absolutely right. One, its interaction fits the story being told, even if there are sections that you lawnmower through. The story unfolds, paced by the rate of messages and the occasional light puzzle that you have to work through. Two, it’s rooted in a very particular time and virtual place. It captures the heady days when being able to talk to people on a computer was new and amazing. It’s a tour de force that’s made more astounding by Christine Sarah Love, the author, having been born in 1989.

Digital: A Love Story is free to play, and will take about an hour of your time. It’s a neat demonstration of how digital storytelling can make stories more visceral, and it’s touching and poignant. Go give it a try.


I’ve not said much here lately. I’ve had a lot going on in my head. I think I needed a bit of time to catch my breath and think about a few things. I guess I’ve had a season of personal growth but I’m not sure how to put it all into words. My take away is that: Life is Big. I know, profound, huh? I’ve spent the last few weeks feeling so incredibly blessed by the people around me and the life I am so fortunate to get to lead.

Tuesday night we learned that one of our fellow crafter’s children has a terminal genetic problem. It is sharp blow for us in the group and all of us are searching for the right way to support our friend. Watching Becky deal with this and talk about it is so far beyond inspirational I think she might has single-handedly created a whole new category for mother bravery. If these are the times we learn what we are made of, Becky is made of amazing stuff indeed.

Spring is starting to happen. Finally. The Bradford pear trees have exploded into solid white overnight. Liza has asked twice a day for a week when we will hunt Easter eggs. Sunday is Easter, ending my first ever Lenten practice. I never thought I would undertake Lent and certain not give up what I gave up but I am so glad that I did. It has made my days richer and fuller in ways I haven’t completely processed yet. But I know that I am thankful. So thankful.