March 31, 2011

Shiny Webcomic Thursday - Twilight Monk

It's the last Thursday of the month, and at my blog, this means featuring a shiny* webcomic.

You want adventure and fantastic art from a webcomic?  Check out Twilight Monk by Trent Kaniuga.

The tale is about a cursed monk who must find a cure for his affliction.  To do so, he must leave his home and monastery.  It's a relatively new comic, and the story is still charging up.  It only took a few pages to hook me though, and I keep coming back.  I mean, just look at the those backgrounds.  It's a beautiful thing to look past the characters and word bubbles and see a world with depth and life.  This is the kind of comic that I enjoy going back to look at again and again.  The use of color and brushes also grabs my attention.  Kaniuga also uses different textures and brushes.  It sounds like all these elements would be fighting against each other, but they knit together to create a seamless image.  I'm looking forward to seeing this story continue for a very long time.

You can start at the beginning, here.

Twilight Monk
Updates every Monday, 1 or 2 pages

*As in the Firefly 'verse definition.  If you don't know Firefly... go rent, buy, or Netflix it now.

March 30, 2011

WonderCon Schedule & Things to See

WonderCon is coming up this weekend, and I'm going for the first time.  Yes, I'm excited.  Some of my favorite artists and writers have tables, there's a mess of panels and events I want to get to, and so many friends will be there!  Did I mention I was excited?
I love attending smaller conventions because I will actually get to see most of the things highlighted in my schedule.  Here's a few events/panels that I will definitely be attending, say hi if you see me!

6:30-7:30pm - Let's Do the WaRP Time Again: Wendy Pini and Richard Pini  - The Pinis talk about progress on the the final Elfquest quest and Elfquest movie!

10:30-11:30 - Archaia Comics Presents: 2011 and Beyond

1:30-3:00 - Comics Arts Conference 5: Life After Trauma -- To Be a Superhero or Supervillain

5:00-6:00 - The Clone Wars: Secrets Revealed

7:00 - ? - GeekGirlCon Meetup - Lots of staff from GeekGirlCon will be at WonderCon, meet up with them at The View in the San Francisco Marriott hotel.

11:30-12:30 - Kids' Star Wars Craft Class - Yep, I'm crashing Bonnie Burton's craft panel for kids.  I won't be the only adult there. (speaking of Bonnie, her Star Wars Craft Book was just released today!

I'll be checking out BarBot 2011 too, probably on Friday night.

March 29, 2011

Review: Here at Hogwarts

My cat approves of this comic.
A comic about life, Harry Potter, and the Wizarding World theme park in Florida?  Yes, please.  As soon as Lucy Knisley and Nora Renick-Rinehart announced this crazy idea on their blog, I was all in.  The two artists/creators share a studio space; they've both recently been through break-ups and they escaped to the fantasy world of Harry Potter.  They thought it would be great to visit Wizarding World and write about the trip and the above things and American consumerism and more!  They started a project on Kickstarter to raise funds for the trip to the Wizarding World.  I donated immediately.  I've read Lucy Knisley's Stop Paying Attention comic for a while now, and I enjoy her insightful and funny writing.  I knew her take on all of the above would be entertaining.  Other people agreed; Lucy and Nora blew past their $2,500 goal in no time and ended up raising over $7,000.

They planned their trip to Wizarding World and because of the extra money raised, they planned a few side excursions that they would also discuss in the comic.  When they returned from their trip, they wasted no time in finishing "Here at Hogwarts."  They had to create the comic, screenprint four different covers (you can choose among the house colors for the cover), sign the comics, and Lucy had a stack of drawings to complete for backers that contributed over a certain amount.  They emailed a completed digital copy first, and the book arrived shortly thereafter.

The book goes through Lucy & Nora's visit day by day.  It's a travelogue but in comic format - which in my opinion is pretty genius.  Lucy illustrates the rides and shops and details conversations with employees and people they run into at Wizarding World. They talk about the good things and the urge to buy things and the strains of heartbreak.  I actually learned more about the theme park from this comic than I have from any article I've read on it.  This comic makes me hope that someone, someday will create and publish a series of comic book travel guides.

Besides Wizarding World, they visit Disney, a manatee refuge, and the Holy Land Experience.  The comic is more than just a play by play of what happens throughout their trip.  It's bigger than that.  It is full of human moments, not all of them wonderful and shining, but worthy of being examined nonetheless.  If you like Harry Potter, theme parks, or travelogues and comics, I think you'd enjoy this book. 

Buy your very own copy of "Here at Hogwarts" in paper or digital format at The Burrow Studio Store.

March 28, 2011

Marian Call Backyard Concert

Overcast Saturday afternoon, a cozy backyard, and Marian Call and her music.  Some things just go together perfectly.

Don't know Marian Call?  She is a folk singer from Alaska who also happens to be a geek.  She plays a typewriter, uses a rainstick and sometimes a kazoo, and you'll like her music.  Really.  Last year, she toured and played in all 50 states and performed at houses, coffee shops, and any venue fans could come up with.  She wrapped up in December and among other things since then, she's been working on a new album.  She is in Los Angeles recording for said album, and like she does, she arranged a few concerts in the area.

I saw her perform a handful of songs at w00tstock 2.4 at San Diego Comic Con last year but missed my chances to see her in a solo concert.  Now I know that when Marian Call announces a concert in your area, clear your calendar immediately.  You should experience her music live, and the best way to do so is in a close environment like a house or in this case, a backyard.

The backyard was just the right size and lawn chairs and blankets covered a much of the available ground.  My friend and I didn't bring chairs, but we managed to score a front row space with our blanket.  The ground was wet from recent rain, but we didn't so much mind having damp jeans.  Marian and her guitarist, Bryan Ray, set up in a small alcove in the corner of the yard.  A few brick steps led up to their umbrella-covered stage.

Marian played songs we knew, songs that are from the new album, and songs by request.  She explained that "Got to Fly" is long because she was explaining all of fiction, how avocados are like $4 in Alaska, and about how "Vera" is a folk story that happens in the future, in space.  Obviously.  Her rainstick kept away the rain, but by the end of the concert it was chilly enough for everyone to be wrapped up their warm things and Ray (guitarist) had trouble keeping his fingers warm.  Marian delighted the audience with her vocal skills, her humor, and her overall good-human-being-ness (I like making up words).  For the encore, she asked if we wanted to hear something old or something new.  Someone in the audience joked, "How about something borrowed or something blue?"  Then Marian launched into an a capella rendition of Joni Mitchell's "Blue."  We all watched in awed silence.

Small concerts like this are amazing not only because you get to experience the music in such an up close and personal way - they also bring people together.  Everyone was friendly and so excited to be there.  I overheard at least one couple saying that they were new to Marian's music, and they were gushing about the experience.  You get to talk to nice people that you most likely have things in common with and you all have a grand time.

If you can see her live, do it.  There is usually a suggested donation, and I'm confident that you'll feel like you get an experience worth every cent you donated.  Until then, visit her website.  You can listen to all of her music for free, though I highly encourage you to put some money in her tip jar or to purchase her albums.

"This is a song about spaceships.  Because I like spaceships." - Marian Call
How could you not adore this woman?

cross-posted at Geek Girls Network.

March 27, 2011

Rambling Round-Up

Here's some articles I posted around the interwebs this week!

Taking Tabletop Games to the Next Level - If you like playing board games but want to try something that's not from the department store shelf, here's how you can discover a whole new world of games!
I Want Samantha Carter on My Team - I've started a series of posts in my weekly column for, and last week the spotlight was on Samantha Carter.  I really do want her on my team.
Game of Thrones Primer - Are you looking forward to watching HBO's Game of Thrones?  If you haven't read the book the series is based on (or even if you just haven't read it in a while), check out this primer so you can get to know the key players.
Review: Finder Voice - Review of Carla Speed McNeil's incredible science fiction comic, Finder.
Review: Love & Capes Ever After 2 - Review of the most recent issue of Thom Zahler's Love & Capes.

March 23, 2011

L.A. is a good place for a Star Wars fan

I gripe about Los Angeles. It’s a big, stinky city and I feel like I spend a lot of my life here sitting in traffic. One day I’ll move back to a place with trees and rain, but for now, this is home. Fortunately, lots of cool and geeky things happen here. Just in the next few months, there are enough awesome Star Wars events happening in the area to make any fan drool! Right now, this city is a good place to be.

March 31 – Star Wars Miniland opens at LEGOLAND in Carlsbad, CA
I’ve been meaning to visit this amusement park for a while, and the inclusion of a whole miniland just for Star Wars seals the deal. There will be seven murals depicting scenes from the films and from the animated series, The Clone Wars. Here’s a picture of the Milliennium Falcon being moved in!

June 3 & 4 – Stars Wars in Concert at the Hollywood Bowl
Shaky YouTube videos have been my only experience with this concert so far. The sound was spotty, but it was still powerful and left me awestruck at the edge of my desk chair. I can’t imagine what it will be like in person. Check out this video for Duel of the Fates from a 2009 concert.

Star Wars In Concert: Duel of the Fates from Matthew Rex Downham on Vimeo.

June 3 – Star Tours 2.0 opens at Disneyland
The classic Disney ride is getting a makeover, and fans in Southern California get to see everything soon! We know that passengers will get to visit Coruscant and Tatooine, and more destinations are still a mystery. Boba Fett, Leia, Chewbacca, and more familiar faces will make appearances. Yes, this is one of few rides I will stand in an hour or longer line for.

View more concept art in this LA Times gallery.

I know it’s a stretch of a few hundred miles, but WonderCon is April 1-3 in San Francisco. You can find a list of all the Star Wars panels on the schedule at

Yeah, I'm a pretty happy fan right now.  Hope to see some of you at these events!

March 20, 2011

Geeky Links of the Week

Star Wars Craft Book - io9 gives us a sneak peek of Bonnie Burton's new Star Wars Craft Book.  You can bet I'll be talking about this too when mine arrives.  You can pre-order it on Amazon for just $12!

CMYK Starship Enterprise - This is one of the better uses I've seen for expired print cartridges.  Check out the link to see the other sculptures the artist built!

Nerdy jewelry links - Yes, I'm linking to a collection of links.  Jen of Epbot found some neat jewelry on Etsy, and I liked all of them so it's best just to send you to the list.  Pi/e earrings, cute pendants, and a Hogwarts ring.

Evolution of Video Game Controllers - Video game controllers have come a long way.  Check out this poster (you can zoom in for details), and see how many controllers you recognized and how many you've used.

Star Wars Miniland at Legoland - Geek Dad has a very cool time lapse video of the Geonosis Arena coming together for the new Star Wars area at Legoland.

Make a Pet Mynock! - My friend Autumn (of Geek Six) made a suction cup mynock for her car. Yes, she is awesome. Go read about how she did it. Stuff like this fuels my desire to have a geek craft party!
3rd Conference on Middle Earth - Did you know there's going to be a Middle Earth conference in Massachusetts next weekend?  I didn't.  You can attend panels, such as
“Blondes Have More Fun!: Images of Legolas Greenleaf," eat seed cakes, and otherwise celebrate the world of Tolkien.

Rambling Round-Up

Here's some articles I posted around the interwebs this week!

Clone Wars Citadel Rescue Recap - A recap for Newsarama of all the exciting events in the last Clone Wars episode, Citadel Rescue.  Count Dooku micromanages, Ahsoka gets off the hook, and Tarkin and Anakin bond.  The exciting season finale for Clone Wars is coming up on April 1.

Why I Love Elfquest - For my latest column, I talk about my admiration for Elfquest.  The comic was groundbreaking for its time for many reasons, and there were some strong female characters.  Crazy!

Four Reasons to Love Stargate SG-1 - In my first post for, I talk about why SG-1 is dear to me and why I think other people should give it a chance.

Galactic Kiss - Check out this new take on the famous V-J Day in Times Square!

March 18, 2011

Bars & Coffee Shops That Speak Geek

We all want to find the bar where everyone knows your name. But when you can’t find that, just head for the place where everyone will recognize your Rebel Alliance necklace.

If a bar or coffee hang-out has anything geeky, I will go. Build a Stargate, we will come. Besides the fact that it is just cool, it’s also a giant welcoming mat for people that might feel out of place at hipster joints. Proprietors don’t just put in a TARDIS because it’s cool. Well, they probably don’t. Chances are they are a huge, passionate fan. You walk in knowing that you’ll have something to talk about, that there’s already a connection, that you have a place. That you might even get to geek out with someone about the exact scale of Slave I. It makes a big difference. Here are some places where you can get your geek on.

Waystation Bar - This steampunk-y bar recently opened in Brooklyn; it has a TARDIS. I’m sure you’ve seen it around the internet lately. It’s not just a faux front either. The TARDIS is the bathroom. For reals. I hope someone takes pictures of the inside soon and that the bar keeps running with a Doctor Who theme. Just think of the drink possibilities! Sonic Screwdriver, Gallifrey Sky, Dalek Exterminator… I wonder if I can mail away for a “Geek Mixologist” certificate.

Wormhole Coffee - Reviews state that this Chicago coffee shop lives up to its cool name and that they serve tasty coffee. No, they don’t have a Stargate. They have a DeLorean though, and I think that’s an okay substitute. You can also find movie posters, Ghostbusters gear, and some old Nintendo games. If I lived in Chicago, I might camp out here regularly. Please spill the beans (ha, get it? Beans!! As in coffee beans!) if you know of a place like this in Los Angeles.

 Starbucks at Lucasfilm - This Starbucks is at the Presidio (specifically in George Lucas's Letterman Center). The location can’t help but absorb the geekiness from Lucasfilm. There are Star Wars trinkets and also, just look at Ackbar. I would love to overhear some of the conversations that take place there!

Miracle of Science Bar & Grill - Periodic table menu. Enough said. This place in Cambridge could take the theme a little further though. It’d be extra awesome if they served beverages in beakers and shots in graduated cylinders.

Wayward Coffee - Just look at that list of nerdy drinks. That is enough to make me pick this shop above all the other coffee holes in Seattle. What can I say? Sometimes a girl just wants to order a Muad’Dib Latte. I can’t admit that I knew all the geeky references on this list (Kryten stumped me). How many do you know? It looks they are temporarily closed, but as their site says “Our hope is that we can resume providing the best coffee in the 'Verse as soon as possible.” Yeah, admit it. You love them a little too.

Do you know somewhere fabulous that I left out? Leave the information in the comments, and I’ll keep adding to this list!

March 16, 2011

LEGO Coffee Table

Sometimes you just need to transform your living room coffee table into a LEGO surface.  It was an easy job.  Remove the glass from the Ikea table, measure carefully, buy Luan plywood from the hardware store, buy plenty of LEGO plates, cut the plywood and LEGO base to fit, and glue the LEGO plates to the plywood.  Tada!!

Put a bucket of LEGO bricks beside the coffee table for maximum enjoyment for you and your guests.  Remeber to put LEGO bricks away at night so that your cats don't chew on them.  Or try to eat them. 

from the Harry Potter Hagrid's Hut set

March 14, 2011

Costume for Edwardian Ball

If you read my post about attending the Edwardian Ball last week, you might want to know how I put together my costume.

I waited until the absolute last minute.  I know that it was unwise, and it could have ended badly but I had back-up options so I didn't worry too much.  I considered a few options in my costume closet first - a corset with a bustle skirt or a Gunne Sax black dress that I like to call my "Lizzie Borden goes to the prom outfit."  None of them conveyed the right feel though.  I wanted something a little more period.  I'd pored through dozens if not a couple hundred photos from previous Edwardian Balls to see what everyone else chose to wear.  The costumes ranged from Victorian to spot on Edwardian to safari to steampunk to even sort of Renaissance Faire.  I couldn't go wrong unless I showed up in jeans and t-shirt (some folks did that too).

The night before the ball I scouted out a few costume stores, one in particular came up when I searched for the Los Angeles Edwardian Ball and I hoped that it would fit the bill.  I also made a list of a couple of vintage stores to visit, and as a last resort - the mall.  You just never know what you can find to modify and make work.  The next morning (the day of the ball) I started with the costume rental store - Etoile LA.  It was everything I've dreamed a costume store should be.  I knew that a place like this had to exist in L.A.  Besides offering standard costumes and accessories for purchase, they have affordable rentals for everything you can imagine - Edwardian costumes to Starfleet uniforms to multiple Carmen Miranda hats.  You can rent shoes and accessories in addition to the main part of your costume.  I wanted to drool over everything, but I had to be focused.  In the Titanic daydresses section, I found two that I loved but since the sizing back then was very tiny, only one really fit.  And it happened to come with a bag.

Now that I had a green over daydress and a bag, I just had to fill out the rest of the outfit.  It was easy.  Here's a breakdown of where everything else came from, head to toe.

- The hat is from The Icing.  I went there to look for suitable necklace and was surprised to find this hat that would absolutely work.  I bought green ribbon from Michael's to attach to the band with hot glue, and I also got small flat backed green Swarovski crystals to glue randomly on the hat's netting.  They added a nice extra sparkle.

- The necklaces and earrings were also from The Icing.  The skull cameo was from an artist at Long Beach Comic Con.

- The black dress under the green daydress was a simple, spaghetti strap dress that I've had in my closet for a very long time.

- Black lace gloves were from a store in the mall called Sidecca.

- Stripey tights are Music Legs brand; I bought them in a costume store a while ago.

- Basic black heels (and short ones!) were also from Sidecca.

I liked this costume much more than the other options I had, so for me it was a win.  And as a bonus, it wasn't constrictive in the least.  Though I had to run around to collect all the pieces, it was still an easy costume.  I like the way it came together.  Maybe next year I'll actually plan an outfit more than ten hours in advance.

March 13, 2011

Geeky Links of the Week

Doctor Who Papercrafts - A whole, beautiful gallery of Doctor Who Cubeecrafts that include all the Doctors, companions, Daleks, multiple TARDIS designs, Ood, and more.  Yeah.  It's that awesome.  AND you download them for free.  I have a TARDIS to put together soon!

10 James Bond Cakes - Huh?  Decorating a cake with a James Bond theme never occured to me, but it has to other people.  Here are 10 007 cake designs.  Who knew?!

Dear Sriracha - A love letter in comic from (from The Oatmeal) to Sriracha hot sauce - aka rooster sauce.  So utterly true.

LEGO Medieval City - Being a fan of LEGO and also not being great at making up my own things to build, I am always impressed by creations like these.  It would be enough if it was just the castle, but no - it's a mini city and the attention to detail is crazy.  Click the link to see lots more images, including close-ups, of these beautiful bricks.

Grant Gould's Pencils to Digital process - Even though I am not an artist, I love seeing the process behind finished images.  Artist Grant Gould (talented Star Wars, Clone Wars webcomic, and other awesome stuff artist that you should check out) shows how his pieces go from pencil sketches to a finished, digitally colored piece.

7 Deadly Sins as Disney Princesses - The princesses make the deadly sins look pretty!

March 12, 2011

Rambling Round-Up

One of my goals is to write for every website on the internet.  Okay - not really, but I do write for a few other places than just my blog.  I post most of the links to my Facebook page, but I don't think I catch all of them.  I'll start posting a round up here of articles posted within in the last week so you guys can check them out if you'd like!

Clone Wars "Counterattack" Recap - My recap for the last week's episode of the Clone Wars, Counterattack.  Read about how Anakin and Tarkin are becoming BFFs.

‘Firefly’ farewell? One Browncoat says a revival would miss the magic - My guest essay for the L.A. Times Hero Complex about why I'm okay with no more Firefly.

I'm an Adult Dealing with a LEGO Addiction - In which I discuss my reignited love for LEGO bricks and how I store and display all the stuff I build.

Review of New Spring - My review of the graphic novel adaptation of Robert Jordan's New Spring.  Read about how I was unexpectedly moved by the author's notes.

Don't Be Scared of Theme Parties - In which I explain how easy it is to put together a costume for a theme party.  Nothing to stress about at all!

Clone Wars and Female Role Models - In my latest column for, I talk about all the cool new kick-butt ladies in the Clone Wars.  They would make Leia proud (even though they exist before she does...)

March 11, 2011

Gorgeous Nerd Jewelry by Kyrie McKnight

I love when people email me links to shinies, and if it's jewelry and the designer emails me - even cooler.  Artist Kyrie McKnight sent me an image of her design for a Browncoat ring.  Yes, I said Browncoat ring.  She is a jewelry designer, and a lot of her works tends towards the geeky side.  I loved drooling over the designs, and I bet some of you will too.  Here are a few of my favorites:

For those rings, I would bling myself out to excess.  Would it be too much to wear a different design on every finger?

You can view the rest of her designs - there's lots more to see - at her Facebook page or at Deviant Art.

March 9, 2011

Attending the Los Angeles Edwardian Ball

Edwardian era dresses, top hats, Cirque Berzerk, moody music, rooftop vending, and absinthe.  Just another Saturday night in Los Angeles.  The venerated celebration of Edward Gorey made its second appearance in Los Angeles last Saturday.  In San Francisco, the Edwardian Ball is a weekend long celebration.  Maybe L.A. will  get there one day.

The Music Box hosted the ball this time around.  If you had to choose a setting for such an event, I don't think you could do better.  After a bit of a wait outside, I entered a dimly light lobby.  The walls were covered in all manner of sconces.  It set the right mood.  A sign proclaimed that it was the Edwardian Ball; just beyond that, the line for the bar was already stacking up.  They were proudly serving absinthe.  They set up cups underneath small jars of water with nozzles and let the water run over a lump of sugar on a special spoon.  As it turns out, I enjoyed the preparation (ritual is good) more than the actual beverage.  At least I tried.

Just past the bar was a big, mostly empty dance floor.  A DJ dressed like a swami spun tunes, and a few couples took to the floor immediately.  The sides of the dance floor were lined with booths for the VIPs.  I looked at their cushioned sets with longing.  Yep, I chose inappropriate footwear for the evening.  I stood as long as I could taking in the atmosphere and gazing upon the vast array of costumes.  People trickled in for a long time, and the lobby was a perfect place to hang out to see all the outfits.  I eventually wondered upstairs with my date, following the signs for vending and a lounge.  Cut-outs from Edward Gorey stories were placed along the way.

The signs led to the rooftop.  It was a beautiful L.A. evening and the fresh air was welcome.  Vendors offered corsets, hats, gloves, feathered hair pieces, skirts, blouses, art, and jewelry.  I'm not much of a shopper until you put me in place like that.  Maybe it's something about shopping for period(esque) things while in costume?  Not sure.  Shopping on a rooftop also had a certain appeal.  Adjacent to the shopping area, we stumbled upon the lounge.  It was a closed in room on the side of the rooftop, and it was filled with couches.  I've rarely been so happy to see a place to sit.  It was relatively quiet too, even though the portrait area was inside.

My costume
Back on the main floor, the show had started.  The evening was filled with multimedia acts, and you could pop in and out according to your whim.  Dark Garden Corsetry showed off their fashions with a short titled the Neglected Murderesses.  Music acts such as Rosin Coven and Jill Tracy took the stage and got costumed attendees spinning around the floor.  The Vau de Vire Society and Cirque Berzerk took the stage solo or with musical acts and dazzled the audience with aerial antics and circus feats.  Even if you didn't stay indoors in front of the stage the whole night, you didn't really feel like you missed anything.  I had just as much fun wandering around the roof and dodging bustles and trains as I did attempting to dance downstairs.

I found the ball to be decadent and whimsical and relaxed.  I'd go just to look at the costumes; the rest of the experience was the frosting.  And it was damn tasty frosting.
I don't have a clue about taking photos in low lighting, but fortunately other people have it down.  Check out these photos by an Edwardian Ball regular.

Sign up for the newsletter on the home page of the site to keep updated on the dates for the Edwardian Ball in 2012!

March 7, 2011

Maester's Path Scent Kit

HBO has done it.  They've created the coolest kit and immersive marketing campaign/experience ever to promote the upcoming premiere of Game of Thrones.  About a week ago, carefully selected recipients started to receive an elaborate box containing a flight of scents.  The kit was the necessary for figuring out the first step of The Maester's Path.  The Path is a game and once you figure out each part, you forge another link of your Maester chain.  In the books the show is based on a Maester is a person who possesses an incredible breadth of knowledge.  They wear a chain around their necks, and each link is forged with a different metal that signifies mastery over a different art.  It's the ideal set-up for a campaign, and so far, HBO has made it impressive.  If they treat promotion with this much care and detail, it bodes well for the series.

But, I digress.

I was lucky enough to win a scent kit via a contest on Twitter.  I know, right?!  I received the package within a couple of days and then patiently waited to open it until yesterday when I was with geek girl friends from the LxL.  The video is coming as soon as I can upload it to YouTube (it's taking forever), but for now, here are pictures and descriptions of the contents of the gorgeous kit.  I should mention that you can use my photos of the vials to unlock the first step in The Maester's Path.

Maester's Path
The wooden box came carefully packaged.  A letter from HBO greeted me first.  I slowed down to read the brief letter about the Maester's Path and the Game of Thrones.  It cautioned me to keep it out of underage hands and to follow the instructions set forth on the scrolls.  I think I might insist that people always give me directions on scrolls only from now on.

Maester's Path
I carefully opened the lid and instantly inhaled the scent of leather and parchment.  It was almost too lovely to take apart.  From the top left going clockwise the box contains: scrolls, a leather pouch full of strips of paper you can use to smell the fragrances, two shiny funnels, two larger glass vessels wrapped in muslin, a folded map, and six wax sealed fragrances.

Maester's Path
The map is stunning.  The texture of the paper is crinkly and the lands of Westeros are emblazoned with house sigils.  Click on the picture above to embiggen and see the details.  As you can already see, each item in the box was perfected down to the last aged detail.  Even the back of the map is aged to stained perfection.  I'm not sure how many kits were made, but I bet that most of the work (if not every last bit of it) was done by hand with painstaking care.  I really think that whoever came up with this design deserves a raise.  Or at least a cookie.

Maester's Path
I untied the twine of the biggest scroll.  "Being an accounting of the Great Houses and their seats" is a brief overview of the kingdoms of Westeros.  Look at this image full size to read it.  It closes with a word about the Targaryens - "for once they played the Game of Thrones and lost."  Chills, folks, I got chills.

Maester's Path
I unrolled the smaller scrolls until I found the instructions.  In case you wondered, these scents are only for smelling, not for wearing.  I was especially anxious to see what scents I received. I read reports about Pentos and Winterfell at Think Hero and the Dothraki Sea from another blog. I received the vials to make King's Landing and the Dothraki Sea.  I dipped a strip of paper into each vial and inhaled deeply.  As it turns out, that wasn't the best idea for the vial labeled Khal's Herd.  Kudos to the mad scientist that captured the scent of the horse barns I spent hours mucking out in my childhood.  Wow.  The other scents are just as authentic.  Campfire takes me outdoors in front of a warm, roaring blaze.  Parchment makes me think of my oft-neglected stack of parchment and quill and ink.  Summerfruit reminds me of a sweet wine that will be pleasant and then suddenly sneak up on you when you've let your guard down.  It's a King's Landing smell so that's appropriate.

Maester's Path
These are the three scents you combine to make the smell of the vast grasslands known as the Dothraki Sea.  You use the provided funnels in the larger bottles below to mix the scents.  When they are mixed, you have the captured essence of each location.

Maester's Path
I was blown away by the quality of this kit.  I do feel like I got to experience a bit of Westeros.  I'm really excited to see what future weeks on the path will bring as we approach the April 17th premiere of Game of Thrones.

Edit - Unboxing of the kit with fellow members of the @LeagueofLadies

View the full set of photos of the scent kit  here.  I'll add video by tomorrow at the latest.

Thank you, HBO for this amazing kit!  For a fan of the series, it is an absolute treasure. 
Now I must go watch all the existing trailers and try to work out the next step on The Maester's Path.  Winter is coming.

March 3, 2011

Tips for Getting a Place to Sleep at San Diego Comic-Con

It's becoming harder and harder to actually get to San Diego Comic-Con.  If you make it through the gauntlet that is purchasing tickets, you have another quest to face - getting a bed to sleep in.  Hotels set aside huge blocks of rooms each year for Comic-Con attendees, and they're at a discounted price.  Even with a lot of rooms reaching from next door to the convention center to several miles away, they disappear fast.  It's not easy to accomodate a sudden influx of 125,000+ people.

Comic-Con uses a system that seems convoluted but apparently works.  They release the block of rooms to the general public at the same time.  We fight tooth and nail to get through on the set day by internet and phone.  It's bloody - bloody frustrating.  I actually can't complain; I really lucked out last year and got the fifth hotel on my list.  I read about plenty of issues getting through and lost information though.  This year, hotel rooms go on sale Wednesday, March 9, at 9am PST (2013: It's February 26 at 9am PST).  I don't have any magical solutions to help you get a room at the Hilton, but here are some tips that will make your life a little easier next Wednesday morning:

- Read all the information on the Comic-Con hotel page about how registration works.  They even have a handy, downloadable PDF documenting the process.

- Don't wait until an hour before tickets go on sale to do your hotel research!  You can find a premlinary list of all hotels in the block here.  The list shows the rate, mileage from the convention center, and whether there is a shuttle to and from the convention.  Remember that the rate only includes the room.  If the rate is more important to you than proximity, visit each hotel's website.  Look at parking costs (it can range from $10-$30 a night), internet costs, nearby food, etc.  Look at the trolley route to see if it's an option when the shuttle isn't.

- After you've looked at hotels, make a list of twenty in order from most preferred to least preferred.  You will need to enter these or pick them from a dropdown menu when you make your reservation.
2013 update: it's now 6 hotels instead of 20

- If you are planning to share a room with friends, don't leave it to just one person to book the room.  You should all try to increase your chances of getting what you want (or getting anything at all).  You do not have to pay a deposit immediately, but even if you commit to a room and pay a deposit, you can cancel the room and get a refund until May 10.
2013 update: the refund date is April 30

- The buddy system in general isn't a bad idea.  The positive is that the more people that try to book one room, the greater likelihood of success.  The negative is that you're adding even more people to an already busy queue.

- Have all the information you might need for the reservation saved in a document and ready to copy/paste before registration starts.  Include your name, address, email address, phone number, names of all people that will be sleeping in the room, your list of hotels, credit card number, expiration date, CVV code, and the dates you want to stay.  It's less stressful and a little faster to just copy/paste everything in rather than typing.

- If you can't get through on the website or phone (though I think the internet is the best way to go) try, try, and try again.  Once you get into the online registration do not for the love of all things holy click Back or Refresh.

Go in with reasonable expectations.  Lots of people will get screwed, and you could be one of them.  Chin up though, lots of rooms do get canceled - especially around the last day of refundable cancellation.  In 2009, I scored a room at the Hilton across the street from the convention center in June.  June!! 

If you still don't get a room, use Twitter to make a friend in San Diego! - Gallifrey One Recap

My full recap of the Doctor Who fan gathering, Gallifrey One, is up at  Read about my experience at my first Who convention, the cosplay, tips I learned from the Cosplay 210 panel, and an overview of the the other panels I attended. 

After you read my recap, you can view the full gallery of images from Gally at my Facebook page.

One more recommendation for you - you should check out photographer Rachel McCauley's post and photos from the event.  You might even see a familiar face in her photos!

March 2, 2011

In Which Captain Harkness Dresses Like Captain Reynolds

I recently finished series three of the new Doctor Who.  I met The Master for the first time.  He has some issues, and I look forward to learning more of his stories.  Anyways.  I couldn't help but notice that in Utopia and The Sound of Drums, my dear Captain Jack Harkness was dressed quite a bit like another favorite Captain of mine - Malcolm Reynolds.  The button down shirt, the suspenders, and the cut of the pants all resemble the finest in space Western attire.  Captain Jack just needs a brown coat.  Maybe he should raid the Tenth Doctor's closet sometime.

For no good reason (other than procrastination enabling), I gathered some proof.  It's Captain Tightpants-esque, right?  Or am I just seeing Firefly everywhere?

Doctor Who screencaps from Sonic Biro.

No, you don't want to know how many screencaps I looked at to find the right images.
Yes, I sometimes go to extreme lengths to avoid writing.
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