Sunday 27 September 2015

Making this month - September 2015

When I restarted the blog I promised some crafting-type posts about making 'stuff'.  I've not really covered much of this yet, so I though I'd start posting a regular update on what I've been up to.  I did think about doing something once a week, but I know this will last for about two weeks before I fall behind, so I'll start with aiming at once a month!

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Cardboard - King of Tokyo

[Salvaged and updated from the old blog, here's a review for King of Tokyo, the kaiju-monster-smashing dice game by Richard Garfield.  Since writing the original review we've added the Power Up! expansion to our collection, so I've updated the post to include this.  Working on this really makes me want to try followup King of New York!]

When it comes down to it, I'm pretty sure that most nerdly-types like nothing better than rolling a hand-full of dice. If possible, two hand-fulls of dice. Even better, giant dice. Especially if those dice happen to roll up some damage and cause chaos for your friends...

If this is true of you, then I'm sure you'd love King of Tokyo.

King of Tokyo box art | Random Nerdery

Sunday 20 September 2015

The Handmade Fair - September 2015

The Handmade Fair - Hampton Court Palace September 2015

This week I spent a lovely Saturday with my friend Pam visiting The Handmade Fair at Hampton Court Palace, in the hope that we'd pick up some new craft skills and get inspired to make more shiny things!

Friday 18 September 2015

Podcast Love - The Black Tapes Podcast (Pacific North West Stories & Minnow Beats Whale)

Adding another creepy documentary-style podcast to my list of subscriptions, The Black Tapes follows investigator Alex Reagan as she gets caught up in an investigation of Dr Richard Strand (a paranormal investigator who doesn't believe in the supernatural) and his collection of unexplained cases.

I've been listening to Serial recently, a brilliant and critically acclaimed (factual) podcast by journalist Sarah Koenig that re-investigates the murder of an American teenager and subsequent conviction of her ex-boyfriend. Listening to The Black Tapes at the same time, you can't help but compare the two podcasts for style; even the music sounds the same. This is no bad thing - the episodes are professionally produced, interesting and well written (if a little over-scripted at times during the 'spontaneous' interview dialogue).

As well as the Serial influence, The Black Tapes is a little bit X-Files and a little bit found-footage horror. If you liked Limetown from my previous review, you'll love this. Head over to and have a listen (in a well lit room - I made the mistake of starting to listen in the dark and did actually manage to creep myself out!)

The Black Tapes Podcast review | Random Nerdery

Tuesday 15 September 2015

Pokémon Go announcement!

Otherwise titled 'How I end up helplessly lost with a flat phone battery in 2016'!

How had I not heard about this sooner?! Pootling through my Google+ feed I came across a Pokémon themed post by 8bitoctopus featuring this Nintendo trailer announcing Pokémon Go for Android and iOS devices:

Oh my goodness! I can catch a Pikachu on my way to work?! I am far more excited than I should be about this, but eee!

It's over 15 years since I first played a Pokémon game, and I was probably too old then. Now I'm charging into my mid-thirties and still planning to have fun with ridiculously age-inappropriate games! I hope whoever intercepted the memo I was supposed to get about growing up has fun with it, because I definitely never saw a copy. Luckily I know lots of other like-minded people, and these days I even have a small child to share with/blame...

I'm encouraged by the Niantic association with the project - this former Google startup was responsible for Ingress, the augmented reality sci-fi mobile game that splits the world into two opposing factions fighting for control of 'portals' made from real-life landmarks. I played this a lot for a while, and it was really good fun until the annoyance of constant phone battery drain made it impractical. The game itself was well implemented and supported by a raft of other media that you discovered as you played. Lots of clever ideas in there, only limited (for me) by the hardware it was implemented on.

This could make or break Pokémon Go for me - the constant GPS and screen-on time must hammer any current smartphone battery. From what I understand the little Pokéball wearable peripheral (Pokémon Go Plus, apparently) is intended to minimise screen time, letting you know (via Bluetooth from your phone) when something is going on nearby. Perhaps this will help with the energy consumption, although I can see this being consigned to the 'random stuff' drawer along with my old Pokéwalker (remember those?!), amiibos and pretty much every other gaming peripheral I've ever owned that wasn't a controller.

I suppose I'll have to wait and see when the game comes out in 2016. I so want this to be good! After all, gotta catch 'em all...

Pikachu polymer clay and Pokéwalker!
Polymer clay Pikachu modelling his retro Pokéwalker! The battery may have died long ago...

Monday 14 September 2015

A long time ago in a shoe shop far, far away...

This is the shortest post ever, but I needed to put these up:

Star Wars Irregular Choice R2-D2 shoes!
R2-D2 awesomeness!

I thought I loved Irregular Choice shoes before, but these R2-D2 themed Star Wars shoes are awesome; I can't wait to see the rest of the range!

Here's a link to the Irregular Choice blog post:

Cardboard - Hanabi card game

The sky is dark, the party is underway, but somebody forgot to set up the fireworks display... Time for 2-5 people to save the day (in around 25 minutes)!

Hanabi card game
Hanabi - a co-operative fireworks card game

Wednesday 9 September 2015

Scribble - Anatomy of a Geek Doodle

In my last blog-themed post I talked about attempting some artwork using the shiny Wacom tablet (Intuos Pen & Touch S) that I got for my birthday. The idea was to make a header and some title bars to brighten up the boring empty blog template, but I got a little bit carried and ended up with a geek-based doodle that's far too big to use! It was still good practice though, and a good test run for the tablet.

I thought I'd have a go at documenting the random workings of my brain by taking pictures along the way. For the pencil drawing part these were taken with my phone, so please excuse the picture quality! For the computer part I was able to use screenshots, so these look a lot neater. Then I squished them all together in Windows Movie Maker, and voila - a slightly shoddy YouTube video!

The original drawing was made with pencil in a sketch book, and then I scanned it into the computer. In Photoshop I used the scanned image as a background, created a new layer and then traced over all the lines using the tablet. I'm not sure if this is the best way to digitize a pencil drawing, but it gave me a nice clean copy and it was easy to make amendments.

As an alternative method, I did also try duplicating the original background in 'mulitply' mode to darken it each time; this did give nice dark lines but it also amplified all the pencil smudges as well. Definitely not as tidy as I wanted, serves me right for trying to be lazy!

Here's the final version in the digital world:

Geek Scribble
The finished random article!  How many geek things can you count?

My next project should really be the blog artwork that I was supposed to be doing in the first place, although I have been wondering if I should attempt to colour this doodle in in the meantime. I've never really used colour before, but being on the computer instead of on paper gives me the chance to experiment without breaking anything. What do you think?

Thursday 3 September 2015

Podcast Love - Untitled Patrick Rothfuss

I'm a huge fan of Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicle books, so I was excited to find out that he'd been working on a podcast. The episodes of 'Untitled' are basically weekly chats between author Patrick Rothfuss and his friend Max Temkin, creator of the awesome (but NSFW!) Cards Against Humanity game. I think the idea was for the audience to suggest names to replace 'Untitled', but at time of writing I've listened all the way up to the seventh (latest) episode and they still haven't picked anything!

Taking place over the ten weeks leading up to this year's Pax convention, the podcast episodes cover everything from discussion of the creative process to the merits of bacon. This sounds a bit random, but Rothfuss and Temkin are both such clever, imaginative and funny people that it makes a really interesting podcast and gives you a great insight into their respective industries. You also get a deeper understanding of their characters as both parties are really open and sometimes painfully honest.

I had always thought that being an author would be such an amazing job (if I had the imagination to think of something to write about), but this 'peek behind the curtain' has shown me a new perspective. It's often easy to forget, when you're complaining that the latest book in your favourite series isn't finished, that behind the story is a real person with a family and feelings trying hard to hold things together. At times while listening I found myself feeling unexpectedly sorry for these super-successful people. It seems so unfair that you can work so hard to get everything you want and yet still struggle to be happy.

I'm making the podcast sound gloomy here, I realise, but it's really not! It can be very funny, and there's a positive, productive feel to every episode. Each week the pair set a challenge for themselves with the aim of making their lives a little bit happier and more fulfilled, from delegation of work to making more family time.

There's also talk of how Rothfuss is handling the film and television rights for his books. His opinions on the money and creative process involved are really interesting, and the prospect of filming the story hadn't really crossed my mind until that point, so now I'm really excited!

Check out the podcast at and let me know what you think.

Untitled Patrick Rothfuss podcast