Monthly Archives: August 2010

My Dragon*Con 2010 Schedule

Looking for me at Dragoncon? I move around a lot, but here’s where you can definitely find me. C’mon, stalk me at the con. You know you want to.

What the Cast – Live!
Saturday 11:30 AM, Hilton Room 204
Brian, Crispy, Stephen and Patrick (also of Dragon*Con TV) bring their chaotic and hilarious “What The Cast” back to Dragon*Con.

(These are always a lot of fun, since it’s us being geeky about random things and it’s far looser than our normal semi-scripted episodes.)

Physics of the Whedonverse!
Saturday 7:00 PM, Hilton 202
Picks up where Ouellette’s “Physics of the Buffyverse” left off by
covering Dollhouse, Firefly and Serenity, too.

(It’s me and three others (including Jennifer Ouellette, the author of “Physics of the Buffyverse”) trying to shoehorn physics and other science into Whedon-run shows. Come see if I play Mr. Grumpy Physicist and just shout “There is none!” before storming off!)

Make Yourself Invisible!
Sunday 10:00 AM, Hilton 202
Can we finally build an invisibility cloak via the wonders of metamaterials? Or will we never be able play Predator and sneak up on Adrien Brody?

(I’m excited about this topic. Metamaterials and transformation optics are hot hot hot right now.)

There Ain’t No STEALTH in Space!
Sunday 2:30 PM, Hilton 203
Sci-Fi is big on invisibility for space ships. We’re here to tell you it can’t happen. You just can’t hide a ship in space!

(Why, yes, I am trolling con attendees to have them come argue with me.)

Autonomous Technology in Robotics
Sunday 5:30 PM, Hilton 208/209

(There’s no panel description yet, as far as I know, but it’ll be me and a couple of other people talking about robot eyes and robot brains and OH GOD THEY’RE TAKING OVER EVERYTHING.)

The Granade Family vs. the World

You may remember that, a while back, Liza fell and had to have stitches in her lip.

Liza in her hospital gown with Ellie the elephant tucked inside

A week later, I rolled my ankle while exercising. It swelled up like an angry pundit and I spent the weekend with it propped in the air. Even now I am wearing this crazy ankle brace which, if science had any compassion, would let me leap hundreds of feet in the air before landing without harm.

Stephen's swollen ankle

Last Thursday night, one week after I rolled my ankle, Eli came running into the kitchen, crying. “I hit my head,” he said, holding his hand to his forehead. Blood covered nearly his whole face.

Our responses, in order, were, “That’s going to have to have stitches!” and “How did you do that?”

“I was jumping off of Liza’s bed and over her Dora dollhouse and I hit my head on her dresser,” he sobbed.

So it was that we bundled him up, left Liza with our friend Alana, and drove to the nearby Urgent Care. There we once again got to confirm that the only thing urgent at an Urgent Care is your feeling of anxiety, as we waited for a little over an hour to see the doctor. Eli soon felt good enough to play with another kid in the waiting room, returning to us every once in a while to get the blood wiped off of his forehead.

Eli's gashed forehead

When the doctor asked him how he hurt his head, he repeated his story, with one twist. “I wanted to jump over Liza’s dollhouse and the third time I hit my head.” At the words “third time” both Misty’s and my heads swiveled towards him as if we were wrathful owls.

We’ve now had enough of doctor’s visits and emergency stitches for a while. If anyone needs us, we’ll be hiding inside of giant hamster balls trying to avoid getting hurt by anything.

Weekend with LanaBob

Alana has been visiting us this weekend and we’ve had some big fun. Friday we went to Build-a-Bear to celebrate 50 years of Sanrio.

From left to right: Alana’s new Yorkie, Rooney, My Hello Kitty, Eli’s Keroppi, Liza’s Tropical Kitty, Liza and Eli. Notice Eli’s band-aid on his forehead, that’s where the stitches are.

Having LanaBob here when Eli smashed his head was invaluable. She cleaned up dinner (since we had just finished eating when it happened) and stayed with Liza while Stephen and I took him to the Urgent Care on the corner. Thanks, LanaBob!

This is dip night. When Alana visits, we always make at least one dip. This time we decided to have a whole dinner of dips. Clockwise from top left: pizza dip, spinach dip, salmon spread, cheese dip and spinach artichoke dip. It is all awesome and I’m going back to eat some now!

Hello! Kitty!

As you may have noticed, we’re a wee bit obsessed with the white kitten overlord around here. As proved by my constructing an idol this past week:

Many thanks to K & J Dolls for the pattern and to Glass Eyes Online for the official Hello Kitty! eyes and noses.

Me and My Healthy Lifestyle

The honeymoon is definitely over between me and my new “healthy lifestyle.” During the first six months and 30 pounds and four pants sizes we got along great but now the bickering has started.

This past week, I sorta gave it a rest. I didn’t exercise much. I ate a bunch of crap and guess what? I gained three pounds.

It was depressing to really realize that this is something that has to be different for the rest of my life. I’ve hated my metabolism this week with a passion I usually reserve for the love of my favorite crafts and sports team. I’ve hated the fact that I can’t totally give up food. The thought has crossed my mind that maybe an eating disorder for 6-8 months would solve all my problems.

But the truth is I think I kinda already have an eating disorder at the other end of the spectrum. I’m an emotional eater.

I eat when I’m happy. I eat when I’m sad. I eat for entertainment. I eat to celebrate with friends. I eat when I need something to do with my hands. I eat because it tastes good. I eat because I like food. I eat. I eat. I eat…I eat too much.

Add that to a spectacularly slow metabolism, a lifestyle that doesn’t provide much exercise and here I am: massively overweight.

This is something I started to realize back in January. It was in the mix of what got me started with getting into shape. The first couple of months I was really good about questioning myself every time I went for something to eat:

    • Am I physically hungry?
    • Is this food I am choosing something that will nourish my body?
    • Am I willing to spend the calories on this food right now and not eat something else later in the day?
    • Is there something I could do with my time that would satisfy me just as well as this food?

Asking all those questions before every trip to the kitchen is exhausting. Especially since I live in the kitchen with two kids needing meals and snacks and more snacks and oh, wait it’s supper time already? So over the past few months I’ve lost that question and answer session before sitting down to eat. I was still doing pretty well because of the amount of exercise I was putting in but this past week I decided I just didn’t care any more. And it showed in how I felt about exercise, how I felt about eating, and how I felt about my body. And so I gained weight.

I have hesitated to call this a problem for more than 10 years. While we lived in North Carolina I had a good friend who was a binge eater. She attended Overeaters Anonymous and often urged me to go. I declined on the grounds that I “just liked food,” not that I had a problem. I know, classic denial. Just because I studied psychology, doesn’t mean I can’t still miss the giant cheesecake sitting on my plate.

All of this has been swirling around me in the past six months. Several friends have also come out to me about their struggles with weight issues recently as well. So I wanted to get this all down here. To rededicate myself to my relationship with my health lifestyle. To remind myself that it’s a continual process and that there are other ways to cope. To let others know that talking about it always helps and that it’s always a good day to walk a few miles.

Some resources:
Emotional Eating
Binge Eating
Overeaters Anonymous
Are you a food addict? Yeah, some of these questions made me cringe a little bit.

Liza Versus the Sidewalk

It happened when none of us were looking, and it was my fault.

We’d gone out shopping on Sunday because it was tax-free weekend and I needed pants. How could I resist the lure of tax-free pants? On the way back from pants, we stopped by Michael’s so Misty could buy some yarn to knit Liza an amigurumi animal that will certainly look nothing like Hello Kitty, a product of the fine Sanrio corporation.

Come to think of it, maybe it was Hello Kitty’s fault.

I stopped outside the store, entranced by wooden dinosaur kits. Misty came back outside to find me, trailed by Eli and Liza. The next thing we knew, Liza was wailing loudly.

Misty picked her up from where she fell, and I took Liza from Misty. “Oh, you’ve cut your lip,” I said, looking at the fine line of red just above the right side of her lip.

“There’s a lot of blood,” Misty said.

“I hope her teeth are okay.” I gently lifted her upper lip and quickly realized that, one, there was indeed a lot of blood, and two, that was because the corner of one of Liza’s teeth had gone all the way through her upper lip. The cut I was seeing on the outside was where her tooth had poked through.

The pediatrician confirmed that we should go to the ER and get some stitches. Every time I said the word “stitches” or “hospital” on the phone, Liza went into hysterics. Not even her beloved Ellie the elephant could calm her.

Huntsville Hospital has a pediatric ER, which means that there are old Playstations in the lobby and Disney Channel on the TVs. Two efficient triage nurses had us in a room in five minutes. A short time later they taped a cotton ball to her upper lip with a numbing agent on it. I was excited. “This is going fast,” I said.

Two hours later, I took Eli so he could get something to eat and I could return with food for me and Misty. That meant, of course, that I missed Liza getting her stitches. Misty and a nurse held her down while the doctor sewed and Liza screamed. I imagine it was a lot of fun.

Liza in her hospital gown with Ellie the elephant tucked inside

She calmed down immediately after, since they gave her a small teddy bear and a popsicle. When I got back to the hospital with a cold, greasy bag of Moe’s burritos, Liza saw me, ran to the car, and promptly fell on her face again.

You know, I think I’m going to blame this on her feet.

For entertainment, I’ve been telling Eli and Liza stories of me versus various objects. There’s the story of me versus the manual typewriter, in which one-year-old me fell and split my head open on my dad’s typewriter in his office. There’s me versus the air conditioner, in which I scratched my stomach on a corner of the air conditioner. There’s also me versus the curb and me versus the street. Now Liza has a story of her versus the sidewalk. At least she waited more than two years longer than I did before having her first ER-worthy accident.

P.S. Her stitches had tiny ends on them that stuck out of her lip, which led to us calling her Liza Cat. She played with them all yesterday. This morning one of them popped loose, so Misty trimmed the long end. Evidently even that wasn’t enough for Liza, as she showed up for lunch saying, “My stitches were bothering me so I took them out.” Indeed, she now has no stitches.

School Supplies

The day before the day before school starts. Eli starts First Grade tomorrow and he declared that Stephen would walk him in, but only that first day.

This past week I bought what felt like mountains of school supplies. First, I bought some for Eli. And then I made a second trip to buy for a local elementary school where 95% of the children get free or reduced price lunch. 475 kids out of the 500 that attend there don’t have the means to buy paper and pencils to take to school to learn.

I have been over and over this in my head this week in relation to Eli. How would I feel if I couldn’t buy him the things he needed to comfortably get an education? What would it mean to me to not be able to afford shoes for him to run and play in? How devastated and ashamed would I be to not have the money for my son to eat lunch while he was at school? And how that daily grind would eventually make me not care very much if he received a good education while he was there.

I’ve loved school supply season since before I started attending school. I love office supplies and have since I was about three — at least that’s my earliest memory of loving paper.

Paper takes me to my happy place. For me, it is the basis of creativity. Starting with a blank page and making something beautiful. Or making something not beautiful. It doesn’t matter because the process of putting pencil or brush or scissors to paper is the magical part.

Now think of the 475 kids that don’t have the means to do that. And in some cases have never even had the experience of a beautiful white blank piece of paper and a brand new pencil.

Every time I’ve thought of it this week, I’ve nearly cried.

So before you go out to buy school supplies this fall, find out where you can drop off a few items for a school in your area that needs help. Or ask your child’s teacher if there is a boy or girl in the class that needs a few things to help him/her get started. A package of paper or a few pencils don’t seem like much, but to one child you just might be opening a magical door.


GET LAMP, Jason Scott’s documentary-slash-love-letter about text adventures, is now available.

I was lucky on two counts: I’m one of the about 80 people interviewed for the documentary, and I got to see an early cut of it at PAX East this year. GET LAMP is funny, affecting, and informative, which isn’t a bad trifecta to hit. If you have any interest at all in early computer games, in how technology can shape lives in unexpected ways, check this documentary out. It’s a labor of love, and the details from the metal coins that come with every order to how the DVD itself is structured like a choose-your-own-adventure story, add richness to the subject.

You Don’t Understand Fair Use

Fair use is one of those US legal concepts that, like the first amendment guarantee of freedom of speech, gets badly misused on the internet. Chances are you don’t understand it. That’s okay; I don’t fully understand it, either. But there are some misconceptions that you absolutely positively should rip out of your brain.

The most common and most pernicious one is that, if you only use a little bit of a song or excerpt a tiny piece of a novel, that’s fair use. Well, no. That can be a part of a fair use defense, but there’s more to it than that. Saying “I only used a bit, so it’s fair use!” is like going up to a cow in a field and saying, “Look! I made a hamburger!”

There are four things that go into fair use. Yes, length is one of them. If you use a short excerpt compared to the entire length of the work, you’ll more easily be able to claim fair use. But there are three other things you need to be doing for you to claim fair use.

What are you using the excerpt for? You need to do something transformative with it. You also need to use it to comment on or expand upon the original work. Using it for criticism about the actual work? Excellent. Using it because it would sound cool in your movie? Not so good.

What’s the nature of the work? Are you excerpting facts? Or are you taking pieces from a work of fiction?

Finally, what’s your excerpt going to do to the copyright holder’s ability to sell the original work? If you’re using the excerpt in something that will compete with the original for market share, you can’t easily claim fair use.

Those four elements are only guidelines, though. Take the restriction on length. Copying an entire TV show to watch it later? Fair use. Using just over one minute of a 72-minute Charlie Chaplin film in a new report of Chaplain’s death? Not fair use. About the only way to really know if something is fair use or not is to fight it out in court, at which point you might as well turn large piles of cash into bonfires.

Now I will sit back and wait for my lawyer friends to correct this post, because Aahz’s law doesn’t just apply to Usenet.

(And in case that last sentence doesn’t tip you off: I am not a lawyer, and this does not count as true legal advice. Consult your lawyer if fair use lasts for longer than four hours.)