Here are a few of my favorite things: Nintendo, Penny Arcade, The Legend of Zelda, Mario, Pokemon, Harvest Moon, Fallout, Dungeons and Dragons, books, dice, Professor Layton, Shadow of the Colossus, Minecraft, and so much more. I'm going to talk a lot about video games, I sincerely hope you don't mind.

Newest paper sculpt project!

Sonic Screwdriver trio for my friend's birthday.

An interview with Adam Harum of Transolar Galactica.

They achieved their Kickstarter goal, and now the world gets more of their award winning sci-fi comedy!

Doctor Who themed lip balm!

Brought to you from Earthtastic! and A Bit of Geek.

Minecraft paper sculpt!

My submission to the Mojang community art contest. Watch the video!

A TARDIS desk lamp!

Instructions and babbling on how to make a TARDIS lamp from foam core!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

How Do You Backup Your Data?

I have had two major data scares in my life. Well, make that one scare and one actual incident.  The first time was with a 500GB external drive with its own power source. It was nearly full and contained every photo I had ever taken from 2003-2010. One time I accidentally dropped something on it and it started to make a strange sound but continued to work without issue. Eventually the day came when I plugged it in and nothing happened. I had a total break down and panic attack right then and there because not a single photo was backed up anywhere. I felt numb, with a ringing in my ears and I couldn't stop crying. A silent vow was made to never take a photo again in my life.

david tennant sobbing gif 
A reenactment of me clutching my hard drive. via emotiongifs

Fortunately, a small pool of sanity remained within me and I decided to make sure the power cord hadn't gone bad before giving up on the past seven years of my life. Aaaand it was the power cord. I believe I wept tears of relief at that point and immediately purchased a second external drive (this one a tiny version that ran off of the computer's power), copied every file over and also started to burn CDs of every photo. With my images in three places I felt safe again.

But disaster was lurking around the corner. Or rather, disaster was lurking three and a half years into the future. Late November of last year I noticed that my trusty travel external was getting full. I decided to transfer some things off of it to make space for my sculpt videos, as well as other abitofgeek projects and personal photos. It was around this time that the drive decided to take a shit on itself mid-transfer. Suddenly everything was gone. Something cracked inside of me as I remembered that I hadn't burned pictures to discs in over two years, and I hadn't backed up 2013 at all. What proceeded can only be likened to the wails of a dying animal. The cat was staring at me with sheer incomprehension. I sat exhausted on the floor, once again covered in tears and with hard drives strewn about me as I desperately searched for back up copies. After all was said and done I had lost all of 2012's photos to the backstabbing external hard drive. It remains locked up awaiting potential data recovery.

two broke girls gif 
My reaction after accepting the loss of 2012's photos. via sanzano-gifs

This is part dramatic (but accurate) retelling, part cautionary tale, and part question. I'm looking for some better, safer options. I've tried looking into cloud storage before but it seems very expensive. Google's is $85/month for 1TB (more specifically it's $0.085/GB up to 1TB), Amazon is comparable in pricing, and that is just more than I can afford.

How do YOU backup your precious data? Does anyone use cloud storage? And can anyone recommend affordable options? How do you secure your irreplaceable data?


*header and preview images from Penny Arcade

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Top 5 Best(and Worst) Castings in Marvel Movies

Recently, I got to watch “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” And while the movie itself was a stellar play of action, character development and social commentary, I couldn't also help but marvel(heh, heh) at the choices in character casting. Whether it was Chris Evans's portrayal of unwavering patriotism or Samuel L. Jackson being his normal, badass, Samuel L. Jackson self.....but with an eye patch. Marvel Studios has done a pretty good job of fitting the right actor/actress with the right character....recently, that is. But there were also the times when this wasn't the case. When the casting was so off that it nearly tanked(or did tank) the movies they starred in. So we're going to take a look at the times when Marvel had the perfect casting....and the times they didn't.

Note: These choices are selected from movies already out, so even if some future castings sound terrible(*cough*Miles Teller as Mr. Fantastic*cough*), they will not be merited here.

#5 Worst: Taylor Kitsch- Remy LeBeau/ Gambit


Starring in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” Taylor Kitsch was cast as everybody's favorite cajun mutant, Gambit. And while the whole of Origins was a turd with Wolverine claws, it was Kitsch that really sold the worst of it. Gambit in the comics is a sly, charismatic rogue who, despite his kleptomaniac hands, has a good heart. Gambit in the movies was “Friday Night Lights” with a fake Southern accent. All the teen angst, none of the charisma.

#5 Best: Patrick Stewart- Charles Xavier/ Professor X


It's arguable that the 2000 movie “X-Men” is what kicked off our modern fascination with superhero movies. And there's little doubt that had something to do with Patrick Stewart playing the leader of the X-men, Charles Xavier. Patrick Stewart, having already added Captain Jean-Luc Picard to his dynamite resume, took on the role of Xavier with just as much finesse. And he nailed it. You can not look at Stewart's performances and not say, “Yep, that's Charles Xavier, alright.” His portrayal just exudes the character's presence of control, intellect and pacifism that is to be expected of Professor X. Four for you, Patrick Stewart.

#4 Worst: Ben Affleck- Matt Murdock/ Daredevil


To be fair, I'm not going to mention anything about Ben Affleck playing Batman in the future Man of Steel movie. But let's face facts: Ben Affleck's Daredevil sucked. I mean really sucked. Try as hard as he might have, he could not pull it off. The lines were corny, the times he tried to badass failed and all the luster that could have come from a super powered blind man was leeched out by Affleck's poor acting. And this was in a movie where everyone was also bad. Affleck proved himself to be a shining example when superhero movies can fail.

#4 Best: Hugh Jackman- Logan/ Wolverine


If there are three things certain in life, it's death, taxes and that Hugh Jackman loves playing Wolverine. And I mean he REALLY loves being Wolverine. He's been the same character for six, going on seven, movies and there is no sign of him stopping. And you know what? I don't want him to. Hugh Jackman as Wolverine is awesome, not only because he can deliver the action and kickassery, but he also understands the character. Jackman constantly brings the lone wolf, desperado element that is so ingrained in Wolverine's being. But he also manages show Logan's humanity, err, mutantanity. Basically, I'll stop tiring of Hugh Jackman's Wolverine the day he decides to stop doing, never.

#3 Worst: Eric Bana- Bruce Banner/ The Hulk


Portraying Bruce Banner is a hard thing to do as an actor. You've got to successfully demonstrate apparent intellect, show crushing guilt and shame over your other half and also display a never ending desperation to cure yourself of being the Hulk. These are things that Eric Bana did not accomplish, not by a mile. His performance as Bruce Banner in the 2003 “Hulk” movie was dismal, at best. So much so that I would even say Bana wasn't even trying to act as someone else. He just saw the script was like, “A'right. Nottin' Eye Couldn't 'Andle.”(He's Australian). Don't get me wrong, normally he's a fine actor and has done other films where he's done great. “Hulk,” however, won't be showing up on his posthumous filmography montage, if you get what I'm saying.

#3 Best: Chris Evans- Steve Rogers/ Captain America


As I said earlier in the article, Chris Evans as Captain America was nothing short of amazing. So well done that it qualified him to join the Top 5 listing, in my opinion. And frankly, I was surprised by how well he's done in “The Avengers” and in both Captain America movies. If you had asked me before “Captain America: The First Avenger” came out what I thought about Chris Evans playing Steve Rogers, I would've said one thing: “The guy from 'Not Another Teen Movie' and the Human Torch? Now playing a different Marvel character? Give me a break.” But boy was I wrong. Evans has done a stellar job playing Captain America, in all his finer qualities. He shows Cap's honesty, his loyalty to what's right and his powerful presence as a leader so naturally that I'm nothing short of awestruck.

#2 Worst: Halle Berry- Ororo Munroe/ Storm


The X-Men movies have brought a lot of great actors into the fold to portray their characters. But sometimes, they bring in actors more for their star power and less for their talent to portray the character.....enter Halle Berry. Already a big name herself, Berry was brought in for the influential “X-Men” as Storm, the weather changing X-Man of the group. But holy hell did she bomb. She was a storm herself, but more like a shit storm than the mutant kind. Whereas Storm in the comics is a strong, African woman who even served as team leader for a time, Berry's storm was a passive, quiet character who, more than not, was a damsel in distress. How you can turn a woman who controls the weather into a damsel in distress is beyond me. But Halle Berry found a way.....she found a way.

#2 Best: Robert Downey Jr.- Tony Stark/ Iron Man


It goes with little saying that Robert Downey Jr. is, without a doubt, the perfect Tony Stark. He portrays everything the character epitomizes: charisma, genius intellect, a deeper sense of goodness and a notorious wit. When RDJ burst onto the scene in his debut superhero film, “Iron Man,” it was a performance like none we've seen before. He was perfect, down to every detail. So wholeheartedly did we believe he was Tony Stark that at this point, it's hard to distinguish the actor from the character. He's THAT good at being Tony Stark. There is only one greater casting Marvel has ever accomplished in their films....

#1 Worst: Topher Grace- Eddie Brock/ Venom


Topher Grace.......Topher fuckin' Grace. You have to understand something before we begin. Spider-man is my favorite superhero. And Venom, his crazed, symbiotic counterpart, is my favorite of Spider-man's villains. So for Marvel to have cast Topher Grace as Eddie Brock AKA Venom AKA my favorite villain ever was a huuuuuuge let down for me. And I'm 100% serious right here. Casting this 110 lbs sniveling twat as a character who's supposed to be a revenge-driven roid jock with an alien suit was probably the worst thing Marvel could have done, to me. Did we get a desperate, out of his mind revenge complex from Eddie? Nope, we got a whiny liar without the shred of a spine. What about the classic Venom/Spider-man dynamic of a psychotic game of cat-and-mouse? Nope, we got a boring “kidnaps your girlfriend” plot. Everything about Topher Grace was the opposite of who Eddie Brock/Venom was and that was the biggest disappointment. They took my favorite villain and turned him into a wimpy brat with jealousy issues. I spit on you, Marvel. It's only ironic that your saving grace comes from the very same series that spawned Topher Venom.....

#1 Best: J. K. Simmons- J. Jonah Jameson


Sublime. Godlike. Gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooood. These are the only words I have for J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson. Old Flattop may have not been a terribly important character in the Spider-man film franchise, but damn if Marvel didn't knock it out of the park with their casting for him. I mean, just look at him! J. K. Simmons's portrayal was everything it should have been for J. Jonah Jameson. Even the way he looked was perfectly matched in every way. As if J. K. had been born for the sole reason of playing Spider-man's arrogant, bully of a boss. It's so damn good that, with the hardest of my wishes, I hope J.K. reprises his role in the new “The Amazing Spider-Man” series, alternate universe as it may be. Because if "Spider-man 3" taught us anything, it's that a turd can at least be salvaged if it has one glittering diamond embedded in it.

That's the list, ABOGers! If you agree or disagree with the choices, let us know in the comments or share with us on our Facebook page


Header Image Source

Friday, April 25, 2014

Studio Ghibli Crossover Sculpt Video

The first in a series of 'practice commissions' that I'm doing for some friends. She asked for something Studio Ghibli related, so I came up with this Howl's Moving Castle and Spirited Away crossover piece! I have to say that I am SUPER pleased with it! The feathers were a nightmare and I don't ever want to do anything like it again. Haku was a dream, though. The whimsy of his design had me smiling the whole time I was cutting.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

You Have Died of Dysentery! A Walk Down Memory Lane.

The other day I had a sudden and visceral urge to play The Oregon Trail. You know what I'm talking about, right? The DOS masterpiece that involved loading up a wagon, naming the doctor after your best friend, and yelling out, "Hey Rachel! You died of dysentery!" while you and your classmates sat in a darkened computer room, basking in the soft fluorescent glow of twenty CRT monitors.

died of dysentery shirt 
Dying of dysentery is very popular as a result of The Oregon Trail.

If you don't have this memory then you are missing out. You are also younger than me, so congratulations!

Elementary school wasn't a great time for me, but those afternoons when we were led to the computer lab and were set loose to play The Oregon Trail are some great memories. I had to have a doctor on my team lest everyone succumb to the venom of a snake bite. Members of my team were named after my best friend, my crush, and two other people who I talked to. As a 10-12 year old it didn't occur to me how awkward it was to yell to random people in the room that they had died, but I wasn't the only kid that did it. I remember always being saddest when my best friend would die. I would stay on the tombstone screen for a while and mourn them.

the oregon trail character death 
May as well have a bit of a party while we're here.

In spite of the fact that only once did I safely arrive in Oregon, this game never got old. The glory days happened at the start of the journey when my wagon was full of meat. I was so rich in protein that I would hunt for the fun of it and cackle as pounds and pounds of meat would spoil. I really got mine when trying to ford the rivers though. My wagon sank like a brick every time.

the oregon trail ford the river 

To my delight, I can relive the glory days with a legit web version of the game! has the full 1985 version available for play on their website. How nice is that? It's also available on the DS and the Wii. I've been wanting it for my DS for sometime now because you just never know when the Trail urge is going to strike.

What are your best Oregon Trail memories?


*Header image components: computer lab and wagon.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Final Fantasy 8 Diary - Entry 10

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Reaction Diaries - Dammit, Bonnie.

Sometimes, a show is made better when you love to hate on a character.

-MJ and Rachel

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How to Teach Magic: the Gathering

This past Emerald City Comicon, I spent a day volunteering to teach people how to play Magic: the Gathering with the Lady Planeswalkers Society.  I've taught people how to play Magic before, but not in a convention-style environment. It was a lot of fun meeting new people and introducing them to one of my favorite games, but I realized that teaching Magic is quite different than teaching other games. Magic can seem daunting to new players, so unlike other games where an explanation of the rules is sufficient, you really need to show how Magic is fun to play. The hard part is that Magic is fun for different reasons for different people!

Before we start, I should mention that if you are wanting to learn Magic yourself, Wizards of the Coast puts out some great videos and tutorials for beginners, and I highly recommend getting Duels of the Planeswalkers. However, you may have a friend that wants to learn and they want YOU to teach them. Or maybe you have a friend that you've been wanting to teach Magic to and they've finally agreed to give you an hour of their time. In either case, the following is a simple guide with tips and tricks for successfully teaching Magic to new players. Note: I'm not going to write about rules and turn order, because as a teacher of Magic you should already be familiar with that. Rather, I'm going to give  an overview of my approach to introducing the game to others.


Step 1. Get your decks ready!

You will want to have decks prepared in advance  in order to jump right into the game. I like to use the 30-card Magic 2014 Sample Decks that are given away at PAX and other conventions, deck lists available here. Wizards of the Coast distributes these to stores and organizations for teaching Magic. If you don’t happen to have them lying around, don't worry, you can construct them or similar decks for relatively cheap. If you need to buy cards, I recommend You can copy and paste the deck lists into the Card Kingdom Deck Builder (under MTG Tools on the side bar) and you'll be able to purchase the individual cards for all 5 sample decks for less than $25 (I did not include basic lands in my search, prices checked as of 4/15/2014).

Alternatively, Wizards of the Coast also produces Intro Packs which contain ready-to-go 60 card decks. These will run you about $10 each, but they are solid, fun decks for beginners.

Step 2: Induct your student as a planeswalker.

This is a crucial step because Magic isn't just a card game: it’s a battle between two powerful wizards! Describing the flavor of the world of Magic is a good way to have your student connect with the game. While showing them their deck, explain that it is a book of spells that they, as a wizard, have "gathered" from their travels through time and space. Yes, you are a time-traveling, dimension-leaping, powerful wizard. Who wouldn't want to play after hearing that?


This is also a good time to explain the color pie. Give your student a rich and vibrant description of what each color stands for, and if you have decks prepared in all 5 colors, let your student pick the color that they feel the most drawn to. It's also a good idea to let them be as hands-on as possible in the teaching process. Let them roll their own dice, shuffle their own cards, and take the time to appreciate the art and flavor text if they're interested in it.

Step 3: Give a brief overview of the rules.

Scaffolding is an essential part of conventional teaching, and so it is the same with Magic. Start with only the very basics, the more advanced stuff can come later. I like to explain life totals, lands and tapping for mana, show the different types of permanents and briefly cover instants and sorceries and that's pretty much it. Ask your student questions to get a feel for how they like to learn new games. Example questions are: Have you played other card games before? How do you like to learn to play new games? Do you like to read all the rules first, or do you prefer more of a learn-as-you-go style?

Questions like these will allow you to adapt your teaching style to your student. If they learn as they go, start playing and pause along the way to explain things. Be sure that they feel open to asking questions whenever they have one. Magic can be complicated at times, and it has many aspects that beginners don't really need to know about, so try to keep your explanations limited to the basics. Remember, this is about sharing your love of the game, not about mercilessly beating your opponent. That will come in due time, you just have to teach them how to play first!

Step 4: Start playing, but take it slow.

I like to play the first game with my hand open and displayed, with my cards turned upside down so my student can read them. This allows them to see what I'm doing and ask questions. Narrate your actions, especially for the first few turns. The turn phases can be especially challenging for new players. Mistakes are bound to happen, but instead of being a rules lawyer, try to explain why things happen in a certain way. For example, when a creature with deathtouch comes onto the battlefield, you may want to pause the game and give an example of combat with deathtouch creatures involved. Avoid Magic jargon-y words and speak in plain English whenever possible.


Step 5: Play at their level.

Playing at their level means being a gentle guide through the game process. Provide encouragement for good plays and remembering turn orders and triggers. Don't purposefully lose the game, but try not to overwhelm your student with advanced combos or tricks that will leave them more confused than when they started. Playing at their level may mean holding back a spell in order to show a specific combat interaction. Playing at their level also means not calling out misplays or suggesting complex tricks that are beyond their level of understanding. Let them figure them out for themselves, that's the fun of this game!

And before you know it, the first game is done! Congratulations!

If they are getting the hang of it and seem like they are enjoying themselves, let them set the pace for how many games and how much longer they'd like to play. Offer to change decks if they like. Throughout the whole process, try your best to make their enjoyment your priority. If they enjoy the game, they'll be asking to play again and then you'll know you've done a great job.

Keep walkin' those planes!


Monday, April 14, 2014

So You Want to Get Into Dungeons and Dragons...

Welcome, brave adventurer! You've heard the tales, listened to other adventurers, and now your curiosity is piqued. You want to know: what is Dungeons and Dragons? Well rest your fevered brain, my friend. For I am the Good-Geek Tom, and I shall be your guide on this descent into madness and wonder. I will tell you all you need to know to get yourself started and even bestow upon you knowledge not found in any book, but from the fires of trial and error so that you may have the best time possible when rolling the die.

Dungeons and Dragons, in the most basic sense, is a fantasy role-playing game played through narrative storytelling and by tabletop pieces for representation. Players create characters by race and class who then proceed along a story of challenges and opponents set up by the impartial game runner, called a dungeon master. As the story continues, players level up, get better gear and do just about everything else you'd expect in an RPG. However, how the game is played is different from other RPGs. The game utilizes different sided die to measure success and failure. They're used for just about everything: determining how well you do a skill, how hard you hit an enemy, everything. But the almighty die in D&D is the twenty-sided die, called the “d20.” It measures outcomes from 1 to 20, 1 being a critical failure and 20 being a critical success. With these mechanics, the game functions and players and DMs have a way to play.

But let's assume you're somewhat familiar with this. You've heard about how it's played but now want to get into the meat of the matter. The next thing you're going to need are the supplies. We're talking the books, character sheets, miniatures, set pieces, the works. Don't be daunted by how much there is to acquire because a lot of it can be found easily, cheaply or can just be improvised.

The two books essential to the game are “The Player's Handbook” and “The Monster Manual,” with an honorable mention to “The Dungeon Master's Guide.” There are a lot of places you can purchase the books or sites you can find to download them online. Currently, D&D is on its 4th edition but there wouldn't be much harm if you played 3.5, 3 or even 2nd edition, depending on your prerogative.

Once you have them, you'll learn all about the rules of the game and the exact details of how to play. The rest of your D&D acquisitions can then move on to finding miniatures for your players and enemies, creating or buying tiles for them to move onto and buying whatever other D&D paraphernalia you want.

And thus you have everything you need to play! You have all the components and knowledge, now you're set to gather some friends and set off on some adventures.

But before you depart, allow me to offer some words of advice to help shape your game into a more fun, positive experience. I don't claim to be a seasoned D&D veteran, but even I can pick on some things that will help you and your friends out on your new journey.

1. Play with like-minded people.

When determining who to play with, it's best to pick people who share your values and enthusiasm for the game. Often times this will mean picking your friends, but sometimes even your friends can derail a game, either by being too antagonistic, too aloof, or what have you. It's also about a level of comfortability. If you don't like your snide coworker, don't invite him to play. Even if he has every book and miniature. Play with people you enjoy spending time with because ultimately, that's what you'll be doing with these people.

2. Don't try to memorize everything.

Let's get this straight: there are a lot of rules in D&D. I mean A LOT. There are a hundred different technicalities for every different situation, stats for leveling and damage scores, special feats your class has, so on and so on. At first glance, it's going to be intimidating. But don't let it deter you because the rules shouldn't be memorized all at once. Instead, learn the basic concepts of the game and the details of your specific class and character. Nichify your focus and let the rest of the rules come to you with time and practice. Once you play through a couple runs, the rules will seem less scary and invite you to understanding them more.

3. Don't take your role-playing too seriously.

Creating your character is a great thing. Thinking up a back story for them, even better. But what's not good is when you take your character portrayal so seriously that it bleeds into real life. Demanding your fellow players to refer to you by character name only, chastising someone for not properly playing the right moral alignment, it's all bad. It spoils the wonder of the game and leaves a sour taste everyone's mouths. You can be your character without being a dick.

4. Rules are good, guidelines are better.

Like I said before, there are a lot of rules in Dungeons and Dragons. So much, and this is personal experience here, that it's acceptable to forgo some of the rules if they hinder the smoothness of the game. If your game is getting hung up because of a technical rule on weight limits, then change it up if you so please. The rules aren't written in stone, so feel free to alter the way your party plays the game. So long as you keep the core concepts and the spirit of the game, everything should be fine.

5. And remember: it's all about fun.

At the end of the day, the whole game and all the effort gone into it serves one purpose: to have fun. This is the mentality you should carry throughout the game and let it be your foundation amidst petty squabbles, cheap calls or total party kills. As long as you're having fun, nothing else should matter. Because if you're not having fun slicing off the head of a troll with a flaming sword, what's the point?

That's all for now, adventurers! If you've got some input on this article or just want to share some of your D&D stories, let us know! Comment down below or find us on Facebook at


Header Image Source

Saturday, April 12, 2014

FF8 GF Sculpt Series Video - Quezacotl

Here's the first GF portrait from Final Fantasy 8! I'm working on creating all 16 of them as a personal project, and I hope to show them in a gallery at the end of the year!


P.S. Did you see the little video camera icon on the article picture and preview picture? That'll be a nice, extra indicator that there's a video waiting for you! :)

Friday, April 11, 2014

My Harry Potter Birthday Party!

My birthday was yesterday, and this year I really wanted to celebrate! Multiple parties, themed events, and general merry-making all week long. Since the actual day fell on a Thursday though, some tweaks were necessary. I informed Rachel that my deepest birthday desire was a Harry Potter party, it's what I would have seen in the Mirror of Erised, and she set to the task with alacrity.

harry potter party honeydukes station Cockroach clusters, butterbeer candies, Hermione's favorite sweets, cauldron cakes, Drooble's best blowing gum, Bertie Bott's every flavor beans, lemon drops, and acid pops!

harry potter birthday party photo activity 
Getting prepped for the Azkaban Wanted sign, just one of many activities perfect for a Harry Potter birthday party!

The festivities went down last Saturday night, and it was amazing! We had a Honeydukes counter, an Azkaban Wanted poster photo spot, a Sorting Hat ceremony, wands, house scarves, themed drinks, and many fabulous rounds of 'Who Am I?' played with Harry Potter characters.  The pièce de résistance of the night was, hands down, my incredible Snitch cake made by Rachel's mother! I have never before had such a gorgeous and detailed cake! I nearly cried.

harry potter snitch birthday cake

harry potter snitch birthday cake

It was a costume party, and everyone was instructed to come as a character from the books. We had Hermione, Slythern Harry Potter, Ginny Weasley, Filch, baby Harry Potter, along with a dead Lily and James Potter, Voldemort, two Professor Trelawneys, a young genderbent Hagrid, Hedwig, and my mom came as Rowena Ravenclaw! I was so impressed with the variety and enthusiasm of costumes, it made my heart absolutely soar! If you have a Harry Potter party then I highly recommend that you make it a costumed affair!

Rachel scoured the web for tons of games and activities, but only a few were feasible. The Sorting Ceremony was one of the best parts of the night. She printed off a piece of paper with each House name enough times to cover all of the guests.  She chose a heavy yellowed paper, the Harry Potter font, and cut each House name out onto its own slip. Then she burned the edges and stuck all of the slips into a goblet. It was a nice mix of Sorting Ceremony and the name pulling from the Goblet of Fire! She even had a Sorting Hat! So, we each took turns with the hat on our head while fishing around in the goblet for a slip of paper. After that, we were given a corresponding house color scarf (made by Rachel!) that we wore for the rest of the night.

harry potter party sorting hat ceremony 
Picard the cat looks on as my nephew pulls a Gryffindor slip from the cup!

harry potter party sorting hat ceremony 
My sister as Professor Trelawney.

harry potter party sorting hat ceremony 
My niece excitedly being sorted into Gryffindor!

We had the Harry Potter soundtracks playing in the background, and the first movie playing on the TV for a total Harry Potter audio visual experience. The majority of the night was spent snacking on our Honeyduke's haul, non-themed chips, veggies, and pizza, and refreshing ourselves with Butterbeer, Amortentia, and Veritaserum. Rachel found what is said to be the Butterbeer recipe from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and made a giant batch of it, complete with foam. For a greater drink variety it was easy and fun enough to turn Sprite and strawberry soda into Veritaserum and Amortentia, respectively, simply by adding new labels to the bottles. We did bare bones hand drawn things, but I know the web is crawling with awesome printables that we just didn't have time for! (A quick search for 'harry potter party printables' provides a gold mine.)

harry potter costume party 
Ginny has a mad crush on Harry Potter in spite of his being placed into Slytherin.

harry potter party hedwig costume Slytherin Harry Potter and Hedwig getting some social time together.

harry potter party the fat lady 
Sadly, he was never able to guess that he was The Fat Lady.

harry potter party game ideas 
Fluffy and Fenrir Greyback trying to figure themselves out.

The photo booth was really easy to make, and was a lot of fun for everyone. It also made for a sort of souvenir/party favor in the way of a personal photo, which I liked! Most stores have large pieces of cardboard from shipping boxes and they probably wouldn't mind if you asked to take some home. From there you'll need a box cutter, a long ruler, and a cutting surface. I'm sure you could hack at the cardboard sheet with scissors in a desperate situation, but the lines wouldn't be as clean. I dabble in sewing, and box cutters are quite handy, so I happened to have all relevant materials. After cutting out the large hole for actual photo purposes it was only a matter of decorating with a fat black sharpie. We took cues from another party and made a prisoner number sign for everyone to hold. After a few minute's deliberation we decided to go with my first and middle initial, as well as my birthday in the British format. It is a decision that I remain pleased with!

harry potter party ideas 
Hermione's excitement for education can't be dissuaded even by prison.

It was a magical, wonderful birthday party and I am so thankful for it! I haven't had a themed party... well, ever, maybe? I don't remember having any as a child, and I certainly haven't had one as an adult. Everyone should try it at least once! Honestly I may have to have a theme for every birthday from now on! If anyone out there has done a theme for their birthday, I would love to hear about it! I would especially love to hear from other folks who have had a Harry Potter birthday party!


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Mission Hill (or Being Poor, Awesome, and In Your Twenties)

Adult life is so damn weird. Everything changes when you stop living with your parents to strike out on your own. Being 25, I have to say that this decade especially is proving to be quite trying in terms of getting my life in order, finding my career, building a family, leaving behind my childhood, etc. Few things properly capture the feelings one has for particular age groups, but Mission Hill conveyed early-to-mid twenties perfectly.


This early-millennium animated series follows the lives of brothers Andy and Kevin French, as well as their roommates and close friends. Andy is an aspiring cartoonist -- specializing in social satire -- and living in the city the series is named for while holding down a job at the local waterbed store. Constantly wrestling with the notion of being a corporate wage slave, Andy still can't seem to break the mold of his slacker attitude. But when things are going alright, who needs to change?

Damn right. Source!

The meat of the plot stems from younger brother Kevin moving in with Andy as a result of his parents moving from a small suburb to the "wild west" of direct mail marketing, Wyoming. The decision was made wholly by the French parents so that Kevin could finish out his senior year before heading to college at Yale (hopefully). Will Smith would say that Andy's life got flipped and turned upside down. Earlier that day, he could do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. Now he has to worry about his dorky younger brother ruining his fun.

They really couldn't be any more different. Source!

While dealing with bigger issues than familial relations, almost every episode begins with brotherly conflict and ends with resolution. Unlike most shows, this shtick is saved from getting boring and repetitive by being punctuated with an episode format that manages to cover multiple story lines and some even being mostly secondary character-centric. Overall, the story arc of Mission Hill effectively tells one long story about two brothers. To me, this is far more entertaining than if it were to be a series of seemingly random events.

Finding out that you've got some things in common is a great thing. Source!

The series also doesn't rely on any sort of gimmick for plot progression. Other than the occasional social commentary and jabs the characters take at the notion of animated series', the show is pretty straightforward in its agenda. Where a show like Family Guy relies mostly on flashbacks for laughs, Mission Hill is almost entirely keeping with a progressive timeline with very few exceptions. Even still, when there is a plot device that takes you out of the moment, it is done quite tastefully and is necessary to the story. I find it quite refreshing to live the lives of the characters with them as opposed to gathering together little bits and pieces as you go along.

A cartoon by a cartoon-cartoonist within a cartoon about a cartoon-cartoonist. Source!

Andy's life may have changed substantially by Kevin becoming a new roommate, but it certainly isn't the source of every problem. The both of them go through the series sharing similar problems at the opposite ends of their social spectrums. Where Kevin may struggle with SAT requirements for college, Andy's boss is arrested for tax evasion, leaving the Waterbed Emporium employees without work. It's around this time that Andy realizes play time is over and he needs to grow up a bit. You may have seen this video making the rounds on the internet lately. It is a very effective scene that shows the turning point in Andy's life where he begins to leave his old self behind. Well, sort of.

You never really grow out of dumb jokes, I guess. Source!

Unfortunately, the series was cancelled with only the single season having been created.  Lucky for the fans (and the cult following that was gained), Mission Hill did end on a pretty good note.  Andy ends up landing a job with his roommate Jim at a marketing firm, someplace where he finally gets to have a creative outlet.  Kevin gets a stellar recommendation to his choice college, Yale.  It's a real shame that Mission Hill didn't get to pan out and show each character's scenario play through.  There are a few animatics of un-aired episodes available for online viewing that give a little more insight to where their lives were headed, and it makes me wish they could have finished just a couple more.  Perhaps it is better that it burnt out quick instead of suffering a slow and painful death.  One thing is for sure, I could never live in a world without at least the one season of Mission Hill.  I'd rather eat Skunch the for the rest of my life.

Which, by the way, contains eight essential forms of marrow! Source!

Special thanks to the minds of Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein for crafting what they could of this masterpiece, and the masterminds at [adult swim] for rerunning Mission Hill every now and then.  What once was a show I would turn to when I was having money problems (thankfully not so much anymore) is now a show I can relate to for entirely different reasons and will always be one of my very favorites.  Give it a watch if you never have before.  After you have (or if you have already), let me know what you think!

In the end, it will always come down to brotherly love. Source!


Monday, April 7, 2014

Final Fantasy 8 Diary - Entry 9

Twitter Facebook Stumbleupon Favorites More