Monthly Archives: February 2015
Craft Night: Gauge Swatching
Hey everyone! I’m going to be breaking up the written content with the video content. I was getting a little overwhelmed doing both at the same time. The videos will be sticking to the same schedule, but the written content will come as I have things worth writing about.
Code Camp: Burn Out is Bad, MMMKay?
One of my teachers taught me 2 very important lessons about burnout. The first, when you are stressed and no longer able to keep up with your commitments. Take a walk, try not to cry over it, find a companion and refocus. The second, it’s much easier to give that advice than it is to take it yourself.
The thing is, once you’ve reached burn out, it’s really hard to pull back. You’re torn by the passion you once had for the project, and your current dismay with all that’s gone horribly wrong. It could be something as simple as over committing yourself, or more complex such as you’re passion for a project not being compatible with those you’re working with.
Personally, I suffered from overcommitment. Between working WAY too many hours (anywhere between 50-80 hours a week), going to school full-time, and commuting over 3 hours each day, I didn’t have much time to myself and I didn’t know where to reenergize. The teacher I mentioned before got the brunt of it when I went to her office hours after receiving a bad grade on an assignment.
I was nervous and scared that I wouldn’t pass her class. And since I was paying for my classes, I couldn’t afford another bad grade. I really needed to continue forward, not get pushed by one more semester for this class. As I began to explain to her my life situation, the tears were unstoppable. I was exhausted, scared, and didn’t know how to keep moving. It’s like the years of abuse I was putting on my body and mind were all coming to a head in this one small 8’x10′ space.
What my professor said to me next stuck with me for the next 2 and a half years of school. She waited patiently for me to finish, looked at me with her cold blue eyes, and in her stern Russian accent said, “You have a lot on your plate. We can’t all do everything. I want you to not worry about this, you’ll have the rest of the semester to make it up. Now, go take a walk, it’s a beautiful day outside.”
Those were not the words I wanted, but they were the words I needed. I needed to put everything into perspective, and I needed to reevaluate my commitments. Honestly, those were the words that pushed me to push back on my “part-time” job and finally finish school.
Sadly, my professor suffered from the more complex of my given examples. She loved to teach, and she loved whipping students into shape. The downside to that is the generation I was going to school with didn’t care. There were two segments of kids in my classes, those who cared and worked hard, and those who were completely disrespectful and assumed that they’d just get an A anyway.
I had her for 4 classes throughout my degree plan, and as the semesters went by I saw her ability to handle situations calmly slip. The very last semester I took her, she would spend 20 minutes of a 45 minute class explaining to us how we were all idiots. I’m sure there were outside factors, but I truly felt that she’d lost herself along the way. She was in the throes of a mental breakdown (one of the many side effects of burnout), and no one was there to help her out.
I wish I could say I was strong enough to say something to her. To go back into her office and provide the same advice to her as she’d given me. But I didn’t. I was self-centered and worried more about my own grades than her mental health. Plus, as a student, I didn’t feel it was my right to say anything. She was a passionate teacher, who cared very much about students who didn’t give a damn about her.
If you think you’re experiencing early signs of burnout, take some time to yourself. If you can’t change your current obligations, find time to do something that energizes you. If things are bad now, whether by your own doing or not, you have time to make up for it. Now, go take a walk, it’s a beautiful day outside.
====== EDIT ======
A good friend of my requested some resources if you are experiencing burnout. I’m going to place them down below as I find ones I like:
Craft Night: A Tad Bit of Ennui
It’s when I don’t have time to craft, that I realize how much I miss it. I often think about it in the moments I’m waiting for a video to load, or waiting for code to compile. When I’m driving, I think about the two new arms I need to grow so I can complete the projects I want to complete. I love to craft, but lately my days have seemed long and I don’t feel I’ve had the time I want to just sit down and work on the things I love.
I’m also entirely too distracted in my crafting. While working on my Rainbow socks, I can’t help but think about the miniatures I want to paint and the next knitting project I want to work on. I’ve done more focused knitting in the past few weeks while working on this blog/vlog than I have in almost a year. I missed the creative outlet, and now I just want more and more time to do it all.
Maybe if I woke up earlier, took the bus to work. That’d get me a good solid 3 hours a day to work on knitting, write on the blog, listen to podcasts, and work on personal programming projects. But why would I want to extend my commute by 300%? I don’t know, writing it down seems crazy, but my brain still thinks this might be a solid idea.
What I really ought to do is take a few hours and go to knit night. I’ve not been to that in…at least a year (if not longer, oh no!). I need to be around fellow crafters. Feed of their energy and passion for the craft. Crafting is both personal and communal. And the communal part of crafting for me has been lacking. It has always been such a personal, spiritual tool for when I was depressed, that I forgot to nurture the communal portion.
The only question is when do I do this. I suppose, for now, it’s just one step at a time. Get Ravelry up to date, get back into the forums, reintegrate with the local yarn shop, and honestly just have fun. In the end, that’s what matter’s the most, right?
Saturday Morning Geekery: 2 Player Board Games
My sister and I always had board games growing up. We loved them, and it was probably the only time we didn’t fight. Ok, well we’d fight, but it was usually focused on the game, so at least it was a fight worth having? Looping Louie, Don’t Wake Daddy, Pretty Pretty Princess, if it was on the Target or Walmart shelves, we probably had it.
It wasn’t until I went off to college that I was first introduced to board gaming as a hobby. My first hobby board game was Settlers of Catan. How cliché is that? Guess that just speaks to the power of the game. I mean, if as a board game you can bring so many into the fold, you’ve gotta be good. Right?
Late nights playing Settlers of Catan with friends had opened my eyes to this world of board games I didn’t know about. I didn’t know there were shops that were dedicated to just shelves and shelves of board games. I was looking up board gaming podcasts, board gaming YouTube videos, ALL THE BOARD GAMING THINGS.
As you can imagine, I was ecstatic when Will Wheaton produced TableTop on Geek and Sundry. Finally, hobby board games were becoming popular, and I could talk about boardgames in the same way that comic book lovers talk comics. TableTop provided the medium for me to spread board gaming to other people. Board Gaming nights happened more often, and more spaces were being created for board gaming.
Through board games, I’ve made some amazing friends and expanded my world. Board games gave me the opportunity to hear other people’s truths, and to form bonds and memories that I can treasure. Board games don’t care what race, creed, sex, color, or gender you are. While playing a board game, everyone is under the same rules, and everyone can be who they are. Human beings, just trying to connect with other human beings.
What are your favorite board games? What about your favorite story as a board gamer? Also, what would you like to see from me in the future? (Both in my blog and on YouTube). I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
Code Camp: Origin Story Pt. 2
Coming from architecture, I didn’t have very big dreams as a software developer. Honestly outside of some bad movies with hackers in them, I had NO CLUE about how this whole software development thing went. I had dabbled in what I liked to call “web modification”, or in other words I copied the HTML of pages I liked and fiddled with certain properties till the colors were the way I liked them.
When I took my first computer science class I felt lost. I was attempting to decode a language and it’s grammar. I was just repeating what the book told me to do, and hoping I didn’t forget a semicolon, parenthesis or curly brace. I really pity my first TA, as he helped all the newbie computer science kids figure out why the code wouldn’t compile. How many times did he have to read our poorly written code and find every place we missed our punctuation or didn’t declare a variable correctly?
Every day for several weeks, the class would keep shrinking, and every day for several weeks I’d pound code away in the dark trying to understand. Copying examples, stepping through them with the IDE trying to crack the meaning. When the light bulb finally turned on in my head, I’d never felt so accomplished in my life.
I became addicted to the challenge. Every new prompt provided opportunity to improve my new skill. I was programming, writing code, developing software. Sure it was crappy, inefficient code, but it was mine. I created it, and it solved the problems given. I would express my creativity in variable names and how I outputted answers. ASCII tables and stylized text, everything had to be just so and I loved every minute of it.
To this day, I’m not sure how or why it started clicking. I also am convinced that the first classes you take for computer science are meant to weed out those who are just there to build games but aren’t willing to put in the time and effort. At my school, Computer Science was the degree you got when you couldn’t hack it as an engineer, but they also didn’t want the kids who weren’t willing to put in the effort either.
I am in awe of the people who go to developer bootcamps and come out a competent developer, or those who were able to just hack it and self learn. I’m so glad I went the degree route. I learned so much, and it provided me the tools I needed to understand software development.
Sure, I could have continued down the path of self-taught developer, but I don’t think I would have developed the passion for it. School gave me the opportunity to learn passion. School also gave me the chance to start at the same level as everyone else. My classes, teachers, TA didn’t assume I knew anything, and it didn’t shame me when I didn’t know something.
I’m forever appreciative of that experience.
Craft Night: My Goals
My goals when I started knitting were humble. Well, as humble as a knee length red dress knit in 2×2 ribbing can be. I wanted to learn how to knit, and just be able to use some of my leisure time as productive time. The dress that originally inspired me to knit was very quickly forgotten as I actually got into knitting.
As I advanced in abilities, my goals became loftier. I wanted to learn everything that knitting had to offer. I did intricate lace, and cables. Learned how to make sweaters, mittens, socks and hats. I even looked into doing the Masters program with The Knitting Guild Association.
Soon, it wasn’t good enough to just be good at knitting. I wanted to learn how to crochet and spin. I chased after those dreams with the same fervor as knitting. I bought hand spindles, crochet hook sets, piles of books and eventually a spinning wheel.
The only parts of yarn crafting I haven’t tried in some capacity are dying and shearing. Honestly, the only reason I never picked up dying yarn is because I don’t think I have enough open space in the apartment to dye without poisoning myself.
I still have a long way to mastery, but currently my main focus is not in my yarn crafting. The energy I used to put into knitting is now spent on my career and development as a software developer. With that said, I still have plenty of goals I’d like to accomplish as a crafter and I’m going to put them here for now:
Short Term (1-6 months)
- Make a Plan to Finish or Frog all current
- Get Ravelry Up to Date
- Knit a weeks worth of socks for myself (working on 2 out of seven)
Medium Term (6-12 months)
- Spin and Knit a shawl
- Knit a fair isle hat
- Knit Andy a sweater
- Finish Webs Knit-a-long
Long Term (1 year or greater)
- Become a certified Knitting Master
- Spin and knit a sweater
- Buy wool from a wool auction
- Work through the Principles of Knitting Book
Saturday Morning Geekery: Tribute to Monty Oum
I’ll never forget the day I first saw Dead Fantasy Part 1. I had been referred by a friend to watch this video, and I was enthralled. Every time Yuna would shoot, I’d hold up my finger pistols and shoot with her. Every time Tifa punched, I had to shadow box the enemies away. (Please keep in mind, I still have never played the Dead or Alive series).
I was obsessed. I watched it over and over like a child does her favorite film. I imagined the work it took to get the character skins, and then manipulate them in such a way that the fight scenes look physically possible (as long as you ignore a bit of gravity). Monty Oum was a master at cross over, and his attention to detail in his fight scenes were incredible.
Time passed, I was working through school and one day my friend came up to me and said, “Have you heard about RWBY? It’s by the same guy that did that Final Fantasy mash up!”. With the first trailer, I was hooked. The weapons, the art style, everything was polished and amazing. It was through RWBY that I also learned about Rooster Teeth, and my YouTube passion was ignited.
Monty’s imagination and ability to produce such high quality and well thought out animation couldn’t be matched. Even more than his craftsmanship, he brought a kindness and inspiration to the community of creative people. He was the key that unlocked so many dreams. For cosplayers, amazing costumes and weapons. For anime (and general animation) fans, great story, amazing humour, and the most epic of fight scenes.
Monty if part of the reason I want to be a creator. He’s why I want to try cosplay, animation, CG. He inspires me to work hard now, because if you have the dream you might as well try to create it.
My heartfelt sympathies go out to Monty’s family and friends and everyone at Rooster Teeth. I know personally that a tragedy like this rips a whole into your existence, and it will get better. Much Love, Mary.
Code Camp: How I Became a Computer Scientist
Despite growing up in a house full of computers, I did not always think I’d be a software developer. Sure, I played MMO’s and role-played in the Dragon Inn chat room. Also may have messed up a computer once or twice trying to erase a virus that I’d accidentally gotten after visiting some sketchy site….allegedly. I just didn’t have a clue about writing code, or developing anything.
My dad has always been a computer guy. I remember being real little and just watching him as he put together the next latest and greatest machine. I loved getting on our DOS machine and attempting to play Lemmings and MYST. Dad is also an avid gamer, I loved sitting in the corner of the room watching him play Doom, Half-Life, Warcraft, and just about any game that came out from Valve and Blizzard.
By the time I was a senior in high school, it never really occurred to me that I could be in the technology sphere. If anything, I figured I might do IT as a backup plan if nothing else worked. I was a poet, and a wanna be artist. I love the structure and design of buildings. I’d decided to try and be an architect. To me architecture was the best mix of art and engineering that I could be a part of. It was everything I thought I wanted in a career.
My second year out of high school I got into the University of Houston’s architecture program. It was intense, and a lot more art lessons than I realized. Despite trying my hardest, at the end of the first year my professor’s review of me could pretty much be summed up in her last words to me: “You should probably consider a different degree”.
I was crushed, but I knew she was right. I wasn’t naturally talented enough, and I didn’t quite have the same grit as other students. As I looked towards different degrees, I thought about business and decided against it. I also took an intro to Computer and Electrical engineering and realized that no matter how hard I tried, my grades were too poor to officially switch into the Engineering College.
The day I decided to switch over to Computer Science, I called my dad. I’ll never forget the joy in his voice as I asked “What would you think if I went into Computer Science?” and he said “I think you’d be great at it”. To this day, whenever we talk about a software development or systems administration (his profession), he gives me this I-told-you-so-grin.
Switching into Computer Science was the best decision for me and my career, and I love my job as a software developer. It’s everything I ever wanted in a profession: problem solving, bit of art, great design, and engineering. I took the long way round to get to where I am, but I’ve never been happier.
Craft Night Tuesday: The One Where I Fail At Knitting
I failed at knitting and crochet for 3 years. And when I say I failed, I mean the “BURN THAT PROJECT LIKE IT NEVER OCCURRED” type failed. (Ok, maybe not that dramatic, but I still can’t look at projects from that time frame without seriously questioning my ability to follow directions.)
9 years ago, I had just gone off to college and I wanted to make something nice for the boy I fancied. See, I grew up in a crafting family. We make things for the ones we love. It’s just our way. My mother tried to teach me crochet, but I just couldn’t get it. Even when I made the starting chain correctly, how you turned the fabric didn’t make any sense. My squares looked more like rectangles, my rectangles more like…triangles? No, I guess trapezoid would be a better fit.
All that to say, I thought I might have a better fit with knitting. None of my family knew how to knit, so I took to books and YouTube to find my answers. I saw a cute Lion Brand blanket I wanted to make, made with their Homespun yarn, a soft, warm, beautiful, finger cramp inducing, unable to really find your stitches, or manage to make any sense of what the hell you’re doing, yarn. My mother took me to get the supplies, and I began the attempt at making this blanket. Spoiler alert, it never was finished and despite multiple attempts all fabric made was donated to pets for snuggles.
Despite never finishing the blanket, I had figured out how to knit. I moved on to washcloths with images in them, and hats and fingerless gloves. For 3 years, I was a knitting machine. Even learned how to crochet along the way (only because I had acquired less than savory yarn I wanted to use up quickly, but that’s besides the point).
One day, after I was putting together the knit sweater for the new boy in my life (he became my husband, so no boyfriend sweater curse here!) I realized something didn’t look quite right. First I thought it was the yarn, so I searched revelry for that yarn used in similar projects. Every project I looked at seemed fine. Then I thought maybe I was just sewing the pieces together strangely, so I undid the sleeve I’d just set and repined the pieces together. Finally, as I was looking at the ribbed edging, I realized that every knit stitch was twisted.
I had a panic attack. I scavenged through all the finished projects I had in the apartment. Twisted stitches in every one of them! The projects began spiraling around me, all singing “Twisted stiches” as they danced. For 3 years, I had been twisting my stitches and I had NO CLUE. Of course, my mother at one point said something, but I thought she was crazy. It looked fine, I would say. Now I knew better. I had finally advanced from beginner to intermediate with the sound of a thud.
That sweater sits in the corner of shame, a reminder of how far I’ve come as a crafter. It’s the reason I will always try to teach a new knitter continental (picking) style knitting. Also, why I try to teach on yarn that will make clean and clear fabric. None of that boucle-“but it’s so soft”-bull.