Friday, September 7, 2012

8-bit Allergy Fighter

Chronic Geek isn't just a silly name for my blog, as I've written about from time to time I have a number of long-term health problems that greatly impact my life. Managing my health is a full-time job and my love of gaming, comic books, sci-fi and the like helps me as a distraction and sanity saver. I've also found a lot of welcoming and understanding in the geeky community.

Over the past two years one of my health problems that had formerly been under control went wild! My allergies amped up and began really altering my life. Without insurance I had worried that I was just going to suffer, but thankfully I found a clinic that charges according to income. Huzzah! Then I found out that my seasonal allergies had branched out into Oral Allergy Syndrome. This can strike any adult with allergies, at any time, and causes us to become allergic to foods that are related to our pollen problems. Great, I thought, I already have Celiac Disease and had thought I was getting off lightly with all the gluten-free foods available now, as compared to sixteen years ago when I found out... Well, jokes on me as I found I was allergic to potatoes, corn, apples, and even avocados, among other things.

As my allergies have grown worse I have made changes to try to combat them. I moved to a new apartment surrounded by cement and that helped a bit. I bought a special vacuum, tried various new prescriptions, and kept the AC running all the time (poor environment, I'm sorry!).

Finally, I was able to afford some other things to try to help my allergies. Today, I received a Vogmask in the mail. Wow!

This 8-bit beauty is amazing. As you can see it's almost too big for my face, but luckily it just fits. Not only is the pattern great, but I also love that it's black since I'm fairly gothy in my style. The top of the nose seam has a soft wire inside of it that you can pinch together to fit it to your face. This is brilliant and completely comfortable. One of the reasons why I bought this mask was that every review stated that it didn't fog up glasses. I don't use contacts, so it was important to me to find something that wouldn't impede my vision. Well, I can report that it DID NOT fog up my glasses. What a relief! I was worried about spending the money and getting something that didn't work, but I'm very pleased with this thing.

Like a total dork I went outside to model it and test it out. I can tell you that as soon as I put it on I felt a complete difference in air quality. It was amazing. I never want to take it off. However, these are not washable and it will need to be replaced at some point when it becomes clogged with pollen. Given that I live near a huge freakin' forest that will probably be within months. We'll see. They do make a washable, organic cotton variety that I may try next, but it's not very Goth looking.. ;P

Even outside in the almost 90 degree Fahrenheit weather it was still comfortable and so much easier to breathe!

I plan to take this out hiking sometime this weekend and see how it does surrounded by plants, most of which I'm allergic to. (I'm not kidding).

So, that's the Vogmask. You can check it out on Amazon here.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Remember the Skyrim Relase?

The night in question. I was ready for action!
During the release of Skyrim I had the great pleasure of running a modified Pathfinder style game. One of the managers at Gamestop asked me if I knew anyone who could run a game and I said, "Yes, me!" Here's the story!

I was asked me to run a game with a Viking/Skyrim theme that would be suitable for people that had never played a table-top RPG. So I printed a map of Skyrim and a map of snowy terrain that I added my own custom hex schme to. I created a small village that a group of wanders had crash landed at (by boat). To repay the village for healing them the village elder, a fierce older woman told them they had to go take care of a creature that was harrasing the town. It had killed several people and a group of five warriors from the village had left three days ago to kill it, but no one had heard from them. To find the monster they would have to go up to the top of a nearby mountain, but first they would have to stop by the hut at the base of the mountain to learn more. Living in the hut was a wise old man who had a beautiful young wife. I really played up the wife and the four guys playing the game were stoked to go check out this hut (i.e. "see" this woman)

By the way, the players included 2 old hats and 2 n00bs. It was a great combo actually.

As the four PCs made their way to the hut I had them roll checks and hear wolves all around them. They were terrified, especially one of the guys who is a regular DM. He was bracing for a massive wolf attack.

Instead, they slog through the heavy snow and reach the base of the mountain untouched. Hey, I only had a little over an hour to make this game happen. So they reach the hut with the beautiful young woman and the old wise man. The old man bursts out of the hut, puts his arm protectively over the door and says.

"What do you want! Why are you strangers here?"

The ranger rolls sense motive. He gets a 1. I tell him. You suddenly think you are at your grandpa's house. You love your grandpa and try to run up and give him a hug.


Wizard, "We want to see your wife! Your beautiful wife that we have heard so much about"

Wise Old Man, "Hahah. Foolish young men! She is indeed gorgeous!"

Wizard, "Let us see her."

Wise Old Man, "Oh yes. But she is visiting her mother in town"

Hahahahah. Oh man. Those players faces just dropped. Hahaha. What's more the wizard gets enchanted by the wise old man and feels a strange attraction to him. Finally, the fighter tells the old man why they are there and all is fine.

Anyhow, they go inside. The old guy feeds them and then casts a frost resitance on them, which I explain as them feeling suddenly warm and able to withstand the cold better (I also tell them they have a +4).

So they ask what the monster could be, not knowing that hidden in my purse was a figure of the monster itself. Hohoho. The old man tells them he doesn't know, but it leaves dragging marks in the snow and that he had never seen it. After an hour passes in game they leave and continue up the mountain. The ranger keeps wanting to break away to scout the other side of the mountain, but the group convinces him to stay and soon they come upon an object hanging in a tree. The tree is at the base of a steep incline that leads up to a rocky outcropping. On closer inspection it proves to be an arm, frozen, but bloody. Oh yes and they can hear more wolves.

The group sets up the incline, splitting into two to go up both sides (trees separate the center). They reach the top and find weird mounds in the snow. Ahead of them is a sheer rock wall with outcroppings of boulders and a crack down the center. Suddenly the ranger can tell that the mounds are torn apart bodies. Then five huge, snarling wolves jump out from the tree line and advance towards the men. The wolves howl and a strang cracking noise errupts from between the rocks. Long, clawed arms appear and then are followed by the body of a huge injured white dragon. It still has arrows in its side from fighting the first party. The dragon snatches a wolf up in its claws and then dashes it dead on the rocks. The other wolves whimper and run away.

So, the party fights and fights. They do their best and the wizard's fireball spell really helps them in this situation, as does the fact that I had the dragon's HP already lowered from its fight with the first party. After an epic struggle in which the cleric forgets to do his buffs or heals and almost gets the ranger killed until I cough *healing* in his direction, the dragon is finally taken down to a few HP. The fighter rolls and gets the damage needed to slay the dragon. I tell him. You rush towards the beast, jumping in the air as it falls to the ground at your feet. Your axe bites through its neck, severing the head and spraying blood in the air over you and the rest of the party.

They each cut a tooth out to take back for proof of the kill. The village holds a huge party for them and they each take turns dancing with the mysterious older woman who runs the village. Here is the last line. "As you each dance with her in turn, spinning drunk and relieved with happiness that you are alive she confides in you 'I knew all along what it was and I didn't think you'd make it back alive'"

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Star Trek Exhibit

 As I stood looking into Captain Picard's ready room, a ship's hallway stretching out behind me, a rush came over me. Then there were a few tears. How much of my childhood did I dream of being on the Enterprise? I was a faithful viewer of TNG when it was on air. Back then Star Trek novels filled my bookshelves and action figures littered the floor next to my girly pink bed.

So, how did I find myself visiting such wonders as the 1701-D bridge and the transporter room?

This spring I had the chance to visit Star Trek the Exhibition at the St. Louis Science Center. This traveling museum exhibit features everything from costumes to sets from the entire breadth of the Star Trek television show and movie franchise. Going to this exhibit was a dream come true.

As you entered the exhibit the captain's chair from TOS is awaiting you with a green screen behind it. We had our photo taken and then made our way into the first part of the exhibit. A large table full of scripts greeted us. The walls were covered in sketches, diagrams, photos, and a mixture of real science facts with information about the Star Trek universe.

Photos were not permitted inside of the exhibit. I wish I could have snapped shots of the large models of ships used in exterior shots on the show. There were also plenty of props from communicators to phasers.

One very cool, large piece was Data's torso inside of machinery used to work on androids. I have to admit I started singing "I Can Make You a Man" from Rocky Horror...

Seeing the costumes on display was pretty shocking because most of them are tiny! It's amazing how slender even male actors are.

Probably, the coolest item I got from the visit was a picture of us on the transporter which had an effect added to it.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Beautiful Geeky Wedding!

We had a fantastic weekend! The greatest highlight was our friends' beautiful civil union ceremony. I wish marriage was legal across the United States for everyone, but I'm glad our state has civil unions in the meantime.

So, how cool was this wedding? Well, the vows mentioned Adventure Time and zombies. Yes, they were also heartfelt and moving, but I loved that all the deep emotion was tempered with a glorious sense of humour. I laughed. I cried.

The wedding programs featured line art from Portal and one of the bride's did beautiful comic style characters for them. Later in the night we all got a chance to draw ourselves for the guestbook.

This was a great idea as it kept the children entertained and gave the adults a chance to be creative and whimsical. We really got into the spirit of the fun to decorate the two sides with a drawing of ourselves and the brides.

As the night wore on it was time to cut the cake. One of the brides is gluten-free, like me. I didn't realize that my Portal cake would be the one that the ladies cut. I was incredibly touched by this. Around me I could hear the gamers talking about how it was a Companion Cube. I kept telling people "the cake is a lie" because it was gluten-free and vegan.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Cheaply Geekly

What is a geek on a budget to do? Being a geek is often synonymous with being a collector, a techie who wants new gadgets, and a traveler to cons. All of this takes money. Over the last year I've had to scale back considerably in my life and its given me time to muse about geeks and materialism. It's easy to feel like an outsider if everyone around you is buying things that you can't afford and going to events that you just can't go to. Sometimes I've had to miss events due to my chronic health problems, but lately it's been about a lack of gold. I stopped blogging here last August, in part to focus on other areas of my life, but also because I felt disillusioned about reviewing new products and extolling the virtues of things that cost money.

Since then I've found ways to work within the limits of my disability, but to manage things in my life I've also had to sell a lot of things. No more subscription gaming, no more comic pull-list, no more con adventures, for now. Things are looking up, but I thought I'd share some ways to get your geek on without breaking the guild vault....


Oh yes. Want to find a wealth of DVDs, free internet, and plenty of graphic novels? Then head to the library. Some libraries even check-out games now. This time last year I was living in an area with no library district, but I've moved and having a borrower's card again is amazing. Often libraries have fun events and free classes and even anime clubs. Check out the great manga and graphic novel selection I get to enjoy. There are four more shelves not pictured.

Universities and Community Colleges

Find the nearest center of higher-learning near you and reap the low-cost or free benefits! Check out the calender for your nearest college and you'll find events that are free and open to the public. Most community colleges also have low-cost classes that are not part of their Associates program. Nearby I can take 8-10 week session classes on everything from art to ghost-hunting for around $40. While this isn't free, it's cool to try out things like silver-smithing that you usually only get to do in games. A lot of schools also have organizations that are open to the public. The astronomy club here has free nights for the public to use their amazing equipment.

Hulu, Crunchy Roll, Netflix Streaming and YouTube
I don't have cable and haven't for years. It's great. I may miss out on instantly knowing what's going on in shows, but I save a lot of money. Some networks have shows for free on their sites. This will probably change soon, requiring a cable subscriber password, but for now it works. Netflix has a wealth of great shows as well and doing just the streaming service is low-cost.

Free Online Games

I've been playing a lot of League of Legends and Allods Online. Yes, LoL does have items you can buy with money, but there are also many items that you can pay for with IP instead. You earn IP as you play the game. Not having a monthly subscription and not having to pay for a game at all, is amazing. Other sites worth checking out are New Grounds and the game Rusty Hearts.

Thrift Stores

Don't underestimate the stock at your local thrift stores. I've found great gamer and band t-shirts at thrift stores. They're also a great source for finding pieces for costumes. In addition, you can find sci-fi and fantasy novels, used toys, and even games. Sometimes the games won't end up working, but paying a couple of bucks for an atari game that can be used in a craft or just put on display is still cool. I found these at my local Goodwill:

Selling Your Stuff

Over the past year I've sold things on e-bay and at pawn shops, but don't forget about Amazon trade-in. A lot of things from external hard drives to CDs and books can be traded in to Amazon. They pay the shipping and while some items don't go for a lot, it adds up. I was able to trade-in things that the pawn shop didn't want and get enough money hoarded to buy a pink 3DS for my birthday.

So, what are you tips and tricks for surviving as a cheapy geeky?

Companion Cube Cake: Gluten Free and Vegan!

This weekend two wonderful women are getting married! One of the bride's is gluten-free, like me. A few months ago we were at a big gamer birthday party and taking shots of vodka when the subject of her civil union celebration came up. I immediately offered to make her "groom's" cake, a Portal Companion Cube.

Having never made a decorated cake before in my life and not being a huge baker did not give me pause. I've taken a lot of crafting courses over the years and am comfortable working with a variety of tools. There was no question in my mind it would be a challenge, but I felt with the right planning I could do it.

Over the weeks I collected four boxes of gluten-free cake mix. Chocolate. Of course! I purchased four disposable 8x8 cake pans. Then I ordered the fondant and got supplies for icing. To get the shapes I wanted I bought a heart cookie cutter and a cross. The cross was incredibly useful to create the corner pieces. In the end the heart was only useful for the top piece. I needed smaller hearts for the sides. For the circles on the companion cube I ended up using a wine glass and for the large, top circle I used the lid from a container of Smart Balance.

Here's the cake! I simplified the design, leaving out the pink lines and the smaller corner pieces. To be honest I was worried about ruining the silver icing color and did not have the right tool to pipe out icing. Each cake inside has a layer of icing between it and the next cake and there's icing on the outside to hold the fondant to the side.

I used Ener-G egg Replacer to replace the three eggs per cake that the recipe called for. It worked beautifully, as usual.

So, rest tight little cube. You'll be decimated soon! Muhahahah!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Winner and Websites

We have a winner in the IronDie steampunk wedding contest! It's Kieko!!! Congratulations on winning this fabulous purple D6!

Now, what should I have for the next contest?

Gen Con is fast approaching and before it hits I'll be taking a train into Chicago for a very fun weekend and a stay at a hostel. I'm so glad I can stay at such an inexpensive place and I've heard good reviews about it.

In the meantime I've been in demand doing work from home. A lot of it is for my last course as an IT student, so it's not paid. I've been building websites for several important departments at my school for an independent study credit. It's taken a lot of my time, but I've learned so much. Here's a screenshot of one of the sites in progress. I designed the banner.

Graphic design is a passion of mine, but in all the technical work I do, like coding, it usually gets pushed to the background.

I'm also designing logos and labels for someone else and have been making banners and Photoshop work for someone in trade.

Well I have some more work to do right now, so more later!

Monday, July 18, 2011

ENnies !

Don't forget to vote in the ENnies! Go here to vote now.

Dragon Chow Dice bags are up for an ENnie and I certainly hope Dragon Chow wins! I will be at the ENnies at Gen Con and I'm looking forward to it tremendously.

In other news the winner of the Iron Die contest will be announced later today.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Harry Potter Premiere

I am actually going to wait to see the last film. However, I am going to dress up as my own version of Bellatrix!

What are your plans for the premiere?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Steampunk Ring

Check out the jewelry of Jenna Scifres! Just click on the banner to go to her shop.

Jenna makes high quality jewelry at very reasonable prices. She's recently listed this very neat ring with movable hands! There's only one currently available so check it out here.

A few weeks ago I bought the gothic angel wing ring from her and she did a great job customizing the size to fit my small, hobbit fingers.

You can add Jenna's page on Facebook here.

Ok, that's all for now. Don't forget to enter my contest to win an awesome metal D6.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pathfinder: Carrion Crown

Our Carrion Crown game is on a break. We finished the first book and I have never been so satisfied by a gaming experience. It was perfect. In fact, the path we just finished The Haunting of Harrowstone is up for an ENnie. I hope it wins! Our gaming group will be at the ENnies again this year and I'm looking forward to it. Last year it was so much fun hearing from the RPG industry speakers and meeting some of the writers/creators of the products I love.

In the game I'm playing a Gnome Alchemist named Adaleet (she has several more names that she refuses to let me reveal here). Adaleet was drawn by my talented pirate friend Captain Balfour and this coloring was done by his co-Captain Crystal. When I described her I wanted her to sound as much like the Fourth Doctor as possible and I think Chris really got what I wanted!

Until our Pathfinder game starts up again we'll be playing a Dresden Files game. More details on that to come!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Time and Space Bridal Shower & Contest!

Thanks for the good wishes about my bad news post yesterday. I think it was important for me to get that off my chest and get back into blogging with an honest start.

Yesterday turned out to be an awesome day as a gaming friend of mine held a bridal shower. My friend Beth arrived at my house looking pretty and glam to drive us to north to the event. I completely forgot that people dress up for stuff like this and was wearing a Victorian Tron shirt to try to fit the theme of the upcoming wedding.

Once there it was an awesome time of sitting around a table talking about gaming and anime with a bunch of other ladies. I'd never had the experience of just hanging out with a group of girl gamers without a dude present and while not super different than any other gamer conversation it was a positive experience. We were surrounded by movie themed decorations and by a very supportive family.
As the afternoon progressed we filled out a 2-page document that would be used to generate a custom RPG about the bride and groom. When the presents were open your sheet was used to fill out an ongoing story about the bride fighting her way across the world. At one point she defeated a book club and a mad-scientist surrounded by enchanted bunk beds! When it got to my answers...
My sheet was a little all over the board and once my present was open she had to face...ENCHANTED PROSTITUTES! (Hey, it said profession and that was the first that came to mind since I'd already used lawyer for a job title in a previous question).

Now on to my present. While I did get the Bride something for her house (ok Dragonfly decorative lights...) I also gave her a dice bag with a space print and an IronDie. What is that you ask?
Oh look there's my antique Tron shirt! Ok, and what's that I'm holding? That's an IronDie. It's an all metal D6 that retails for $5-$6 and can be used to replace your typical D6s or can be used as part of the IronDie Game. I included a different more steampunk looking one with the bride's gifts, but this lovely purple one is what I'm giving away!

To win the D6 leave a comment about what you would hope to see GO WRONG during a wedding that involved actual time travel. The contest is open until Sunday July 16th at 11:59 PM CST. The winner will be randomly chosen (using dice of course!) and announced on Monday July 17th.

Good luck! I leave you with the awesome cookie jar someone gave the bride. It makes the Tardis brake noise when you open it!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

It's Been a Hard Year

As my lack of posts may indicate and the fact that I did not get to celebrate my one year blog anniversary it's been a bad few months. In February I had two consecutive gluten exposures that sent me to the hospital for a week and I've been ill off and on ever since. It's no secret that the name of this blog Chronic Geek comes from the fact that I have chronic illnesses, but it's something I try to leave out of the blog. I would rather be the Chronic Geek because I've been a fan of something since childhood, and well, that's part of the reason for the name too.

Since my health has worsened I have quit working and am doing the odd research assistance and web design work from home. I have also found out that I cannot get financial aid for the upcoming school year since I already have a Bachelor's and a Master's. This means I will not be in school for I.T. any longer.

Let's not be down though! Anyone who has read my entries knows that this blog is a positive space. For the most part I DO NOT do negative reviews and I promote people and businesses on here that are awesome.

My blog is back up and running now. I may not be able to get out a lot to do stuff, but I am going to Gen Con and I was able to get a hotel connected to the ICC so that I can easily go back and rest as necessary.

So, let's get to some posting. Thanks for listening!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Flooding and Dandies

There are three roads going out of the town I live in and one is closed due to flooding. My area of the US is having record flooding right now and I wanted to share a bit of that. The science geek in me would love to take some samples and study them. In high school I got to take a summer science survey course that did surveying for the state rivers and wetlands. It was so fun. This situation, however, is not so fun. If the other road floods I won't be able to make it to school or even worse, to work.

Well, check it out:

This video also links to a new channel on Youtube that I made to showcase my silliness, i.e. making characters and cosplaying as them. more on that later!

Here is another road that is getting close to flooding over. If this one goes then I can't make it out of town. My town has a gas station and a flea market, so prospects aren't good for getting stuck here, but I can always cosplay some more. Whew. This river is usually low and all the water you see was a farm field that I have never seen flood.

I took this photo earlier in the week and the water has actually advanced up to the pavement since then. I don't have an updated picture right now, but I did snap a quick image of the eastern side of the road which is also flooded. The water was up on the shoulder on Friday, having advanced without any rain falling.

It's been raining for several hours and is forecasted to continue into Monday with up to 5 inches so I'm expecting to lose access to this major highway very soon.

Custom Zombie Art Contest!

My friend Lupe Posada is a wonderful artist that you should check out. She's holding a contest right now. What's it for?!

"A custom portrait of yourself zombified! It will be done with acrylic paint on an 8"x10" canvas board."

Visit her site to sign up. The winner will be chosen at random. While you are there be sure to browse her galleries. You can also go to her etsy store for more goodies.

Lupe's art shows in Southern California so be sure to look for updates if you live in the area.