Thursday, October 21, 2010

Time out

My favourite part of the day at the moment, is those ten minutes I spend cross-legged on the hearth, lighting the fire, feeding the tiny flames kindling until they're big enough to consume logs. It's peaceful and the fire dances.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fuss budgets

I was pretty disappointed with this tool - a do-it-yourself government budget cutter. It's quite fun and all: take that, Scottish & Welsh devolution* (while NI goes unscathed due to family loyalties), mwhahahaha, take that, Trident!

But why aren't there some boxes about raising income? I know the tool is for reviewing spending, but surely a wider remit would have been more balanced. Yes, I'm complaining about a frivolous internet tool** not doing more than it's designed to, but really - the presentation of this just says cuts are the only way, and seemingly buys into the government line completely. It has to be this deep and this quick?!

* This is just being provocative in a tongue-in-cheek way, for specific audiences who know who they are.
** Blue-pencil's sake, this is from the Guardian!


I was reading an online message board where the advantages and disadvantages of threading, tweezing and waxing eyebrows were under discussion. Methods of reducing the pain, or just getting used to it were mentioned, with some of the women claiming they no longer feel any pain & pondering if they might have deadened the nerve endings over the years. Stretching the skin, applying ice-packs, applying hot towels, doing it quick, just gritting your teeth... How the new growth can look like black-heads and the difficulties of extracting them.

Well, I felt like I was in a foreign land, disembodied and alienated. I wonder why it's accepted that this is normal and something women do. Why are eyebrows sculpted or removed and redrawn? Why are we wincing and tweaking into the mirror for hours on end? Isn't it just a bit ... weird?

You only really notice eye-brows when they're badly done. A natural eye-brow doesn't draw attention to itself. I mean, there are monobrows, but really the proportion of women who 'need' to pluck can't be that big, can it? And who exactly goes that close to someone's face and studies their stray hairs?

Absurd standards of conventional beauty, you have no greater illustration than a bunch of women discussing the masochistic practices they put themselves through.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Instead of bad-ass vampire books ...

... We have baaaaaaad vampire books.

What is it about vampire fiction that terrible sloppy writing seems to get a free pass? I am currently reading Jane Jordan's Blood and Ashes and I want to slap her publishers silly. Don't they employ proof-readers anymore? Spell-check is no substitute.

Repeatedly through the first half of the book there's 'jealously' used as a noun. Slap! Take that 'l' out. Don't you know how much ink that errant 'l' is costing you? Think of the savings if you won't think of the poor much-abused language.

Also, someone please hand that author a thesaurus, there are other words than 'everlasting/eternal love' and 'disturb' and 'irritate'. It disturbs me that anyone could allow disturbing and disturbance in the same sentence*.

And what made me stop reading in a huff last night, "the seed I had planted in Kitan's mind [...] had beared fruit". Blue-pencils! Borne! Borne! Borne! Benny & Bjorn!

I have a vision of a pair of grizzly bears with blue-pencilled baskets of berries. With gingham frou-frous.

As for the heroine of the novel, well, you know Twilight's Bella? Well, this un is possibly more passive, inert and subservient to men(male vampires). I am hoping against hope that she redeems herself in my eyes and does something other than be dominated and raped (although the r word never crosses her mind, nor apparently the author's).

I am tempted to take this book back to the library, or possibly drive a crucifix through its very pages, but I feel obliged to find out whether she does actually do anything or whether it all just continues to happen to her.

I shall let you know.

edited to add (19/10):

She did do something! Spoilers (highlight to read):

She set him on fire and escaped! Yay.

But she felt guilty about the harm she did to him in order to escape. Booo. Poor widdle psychopath.

Maybe she was suffering Stockholm Syndrome.

* You see what I did there, huh?

Friday, October 08, 2010

Shouldn't laugh really

Message Board poster:
"I make no apologies for using this thread to remind people to get themselves checked out for this disease [...] Sorry for the hi-jack."

Making Darth Maul

I've been spending the last couple of days going hairless, trying to make two costumes for heroes/villains dress-up day for Book Week.

Son chose Darth Maul.

The good news is, this was totally simple to do. The basic costume is a black tunic and trousers. I decided to cheat on this bit and use ready-made clothes, and just make the accessories and cloak. It's not easy to find plain black trousers or tops in children's sizes, nor to get the right sort of style, but I checked through his wardrobe first! In the end, I bought a cheap karate suit from a martial arts place. It cost £12.99, which is still cheaper than most children's fancy dress costumes off the rack. It had an embroidery badge on it, but I just snipped that off, no problem.

Darth Maul has leather gauntlets, a wide leather belt and long leather boots. I bought some black leather-look fabric, which is excellent stuff. Instead of big gloves, I decided leather armbands would give the look without the awkwardness of trying to find/make gloves in his size for something he'd take off after about two minutes. He had some black woollen gloves he could wear with it as well if he wanted.

Making the armbands was very easy - just measure around the arm at the wrist and forearm where you want the band to finish, and measure the length between those points to get your sizing. Make sure you do this while he's wearing the tunic, so the sleeve will fit under. Then it is just snip-snip, cut out rectangles for each arm. To fasten them, I used stick-on velcro. It's good stuff, sticks to the shiny side of the leatherette firmly, while the fabric side might need a couple of stitches to keep it totally secure.

The belt is exactly the same process as the armbands, only round the tummy, haha.

With the legs, well, obviously I'm not going out to buy long boots for the boy, so again the leatherette comes into play, with his black shoes. Again, measure round the leg at the ankle and at the calf where you want the 'boot' to end, then measure between these points. When you measure, make sure the child is wearing the trousers, so the 'boot' will fit over them. Then when cutting your rectangle for the height of the 'boot', make it an inch or two longer. Apply the velcro and once you have your cylinder, with the shoe to help you gauge it, snip a curved triangle from the front and back, so it will sit atop the shoe in a similar way to stirrup pants. I did consider adding some black elastic to go round the bottom of the shoe, but it actually worked very well without it, so I didn't bother.

The hooded cloak was a bit more of a challenge as this involved actual sewing. The hood consists of two long triangles sewn together all the way along on one side (call it the 'A' side), and part way on the other long side (call it the 'B' side). You could cheat and use hemming tape for this. Turn the right way out and you should have a hood.

The cloak itself is effectively a square of cloth. To get the right size, drape the cloth over the child's shoulders or use their dressing gown as a guide. Hem the edges. Decide which side will be the top edge, and find the middle. Pin the hood at that point, starting where the B seams meet, and pin the spread-open ends of the hood along the top edge, making sure the material's straight. Then check it works, before sewing on carefully. At this point, you need the child to try it on again, so you can work out where you need to put a fastener. You can use the velcro again - or go wild with poppers or buttons - or just use a badge or brooch.

Then it's just face-paint! Yay.

You could probably make Darth Vader using the same basic costume and a mask.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Musical motoring

Subject: The Renault Clio advert that features a beardie chap who is singing along to Chesney Hawkes' "I am the one and only". He then meets the father of his girlfriend, who turns out to be the disapproving driver that saw him pratting around at the traffic lights.

The tag-line is "Life is too short to be boring".

Oh get on! If singing along to Chesney blue-pencilled Hawkes isn't boring, I don't know what is! There's nothing inherently boring about singing along to music, but it's scarcely living on the edge.

But this version where he's doing claw-hands and mad faces to the Cranberries' "Zombie", well, that's funnier. And you could see why that would be embarrassing. The Chesney Hawkes one is so mild, it doesn't work for me.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Schmancellor's child benefit cuts

Listening to George Osborne chunder on about how taking Child Benefit away from the 40+% tax bracket is about all sections of the community mucking in and taking the burden makes me sick. Millionaire baby baronet.


On the surface it looks not an unreasonable policy, but it's totally cock-eyed. They can't be bothered to properly means-test it, so dual income families who are both under the threshold will still be able to claim, yet if one person is earning just above it (but could be the sole earner), they won't be able to claim it. This means stay-at-home mums, that the Tories supposedly love, could lose it if the husband earns approx. £44 000 - while a pair of working parents can theoretically earn up to £80 000 and still get it! It's loopy.

It looks like another policy that disproportionately affects women & children. It was protected money intended for children. What if it's the only money the woman has free access to? We aren't gone from the bad old days of housekeeping money, for some families.

And is the home responsibilities protection (on National Insurance) going to be affected by this move? Currently stay-at-home parents get some of their stamp paid for home responsibilities, and that protects their future. Is that going too for those people affected?