What I’ve learned from a year of blogging

I started this site, I think in comics, exactly a year ago today. It started as a place for me to vent my usually incoherent ramblings about my life– but since then, it’s garnered a couple dozen readers, a few thousand views, and even a post that went minor-league viral.

Spectacular, I know.

Regardless, I’ve published 126 posts this year (including this one) which, to me, is a surprisingly large amount. How did I even find the time to write all of those? What did I even write about? Did I gain anything from all of that work? Well, in all of this writing and drawing and blogging, I had to have learned something, right?

Right?

1. How to draw really fast

Between this blog and Minus One, I’ve had to draw a ton in this last year. Specifically, drawing with a tablet directly into Photoshop. Drawing with a tablet feels much different from drawing on paper, mostly because of the disconnect between hand and image. (You draw on one surface, but it shows up on another) As a result, I used to be very very slow and shaky with my tablet. But since all this year I’ve been all

I’ve gained the skill of

Despite all this, though, I haven’t become any better at drawing. Only faster. I’m afraid to say that in this coming year I will still continue to look like a misshapen munchkin.

2. I need to call my parents more

I say this because this happened once:

Yeah. I’m a bad daughter.

3. The internet is a big and scary place

So I started this blog for myself, but at the same time, have tried to promote it. I started a twitter, and a tumblr, and a Facebook page, but to be honest I have no idea what to do with them or what the proper etiquette is or how to make them equally fun and engaging. I am not social media savvy. 

More recently I’ve been posting my blog onto Reddit (while trying to follow reddiquette– I post other links too!) and people there aren’t afraid to be honest. It’s not a bad thing– people often offer tips and advice and corrections which I’ve found very helpful. You just have to have a thick skin sometimes. And I haven’t been trolled yet… knock on wood.

4. Even my parents read my blog. I have to watch what I say.

There are people who blog anonymously, or sometimes not anonymously, and treat their blog as the great confessional. And there’s nothing wrong with that. As for me, though, I have family and friends reading my blog. Therefore I’ve established a two rules for myself:

1. Ask before writing about someone else

My college friends can attest. I’ve often asked them permission to write about something before writing it. It would get awkward if people had to tiptoe around me, afraid that what they said was going to be blogged. The very last thing I want to do is to hurt, embarrass, or offend anybody from a post, even if it makes for a funny story. So it can’t hurt to check. Anyway, when I ask, the answer is usually

2. Don’t say on your blog what you wouldn’t tell someone in real life

I have bad days too. I’ve been tempted to write some emo posts. But I don’t enjoy getting all teary on people in real life, so there’s no reason I should do it here. Nobody wants to hear that.

These are my own rules, though, not anybody else’s. Some bloggers are fueled by writing about controversial topics, or by lambasting others, or by passionately writing about their greatest hopes and fears. I’ve seen these blogs, and tons and tons and tons of them are absolutely brilliant. But that’s not me.

5. Everybody’s life is interesting, if you spin it the right way

I know I’ve been to Japan and Germany, but usually my life is pretty ordinary. I go to college. Study. Hang out with friends. You know, normal stuff.

And there have been many, many times where I’ve been struck by the dreaded

What I’ve tried to do, then, is to find humor in everyday life. Like riding elevators. Or getting a helmet. Or having allergies. Not all of these posts are that hilarious, mind you. But it’s made me look at my life differently– to see how the mundane can, actually, be a funny story.

In other words, maybe my life isn’t so boring after all.

And that’s what I’ve learned after a year of blogging. And now, on to the next year!

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How a cosplay n00b made the Master Sword (a photo tutorial)

Want to know how to make a Hylian Shield? Check out the tutorial here!

Before we begin, let’s start with some disclaimers.

It is indeed. Never before have I attempted to create, well, anything. 

Due to my lack of skills, I made a lot of mistakes and did a lot of guesswork during the whole process. The results are passable in photos (though not inch-for-inch accurate) but looks kind of ghetto up close. Good enough for me!

So let’s get started!

No project is good without proper planning, which is why mine turned out so horrendously. I decided to sketch the Master Sword on a piece of poster board, using this tutorial and this picture of the Master Sword for reference. This guy, in addition to carving the Master Sword out of wood, also provides a nice sketch of the sword with the proper dimensions.

I cut out the design and traced it onto a piece of plywood.

Now to cut out the shape. I went to my dad for help…

So, using the jigsaw, we cut the plywood into this sword-like shape.

I then proceeded to smooth the edges with a file and some sandpaper…

Now, what to do? We have a nice piece of wood, but it’s a little flat. The handle, at least, had to be round!

And here’s where we get into failed idea #1:

I thought maybe carving some of that packaging Styrofoam might work. As it turns out, Styrofoam is darn tricky to carve precisely. Plus, carving it makes the little Styrofoam bits rain like snow. Would not recommend. 

It’s time for attempt two. You’re going to have to excuse these poor iTouch photos, but here goes…

I cut off some rubber hosing and duct-taped it to the handle part of the sword, like so:

I did this for the other side of the wooden sword as well, so we ended up with the handle looking like this:

So the handle is now 3-D. Congrats! But what about those wings on the side? Those are still, regretfully, spectacularly flat.

I somehow came across my 9th grade science fair project. Something about housing, and insulation, and the like. More importantly, my 9th grade science fair project was mounted on foam board:

I have no idea why I chose that title…

Using that same lime-green poster board template I had created earlier, I cut the shape of the wings out of the foam board and duct-taped it to the wooden frame. Like so:

I did this for both sides of the wood. I proceeded to cut out more of the wing shapes, and tape it to the wood again, and again, and again, layering the foam board to make it less flat. It looked kind of like this:

I also cut out this little shape for right above the wings…

…and also this diamond-type thing.

I thought this might be a swell time to add some details to the wings. Using total guesstimation (sorry– I don’t have a proper pattern for this one) I cut out one more layer of foam board. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

The bottom of the hilt is still woefully unadorned, though. What to do?

First, I cut out some short segments of that same rubber hose, like this:

I wrapped 4 or 5 of these around the end of the hilt, so it looked like this:

…and then I wrapped it in duct tape.

That wasn’t enough, though– the Master Sword has a fun little nub at the end. I turned to this decaying stool I had dragged off the street. (Dumpster diving, hooray!)

I sawed off the end of one of the legs…

…and attached it to the end of the hilt. With more duct tape.

Using the same cut-some-rubber-hose-layer-it-onto-the-sword-smother-it-in-duct-tape technique, I added another decorative lump to the handle close to the wings.

This Master Sword is looking a little patchworky, though. Solution: Add more duct tape!

There’s just one little problem, though: duct tape is tough. It’s waterproof. NASA astronauts have even repaired their spacecraft with it. As you’d expect, then, paint just rolls right off this stuff. Any water-based paint isn’t going to work on this duct-tape store.

My solution? Well, as a starter, I sprayed the entire thing down with plastic primer, resulting in a white, sticky hilt that smelled terribly of paint thinner.

Technically, now, paint will stick to the duct tape due to the primer. However, the plastic primer also caused the duct tape to start to peel and fall apart. Uh-oh.

So– very carefully, and very slowly– with the help of my skilled mother– I wrapped the hilt in a thin white cloth. The details I had cut on the wings were covered, but at least the hilt is now paintable!

Finally! It’s painting time! Using some acrylics, I painted the hilt blue:

Since the details on the hilt were lost when we wrapped the sword in cloth, I re-cut them out of foam board and pasted it on again:

Some yellow details, also painted with acrylics:

The bottom of the hilt was still looking a unshapely, though. I glued some string around the hilt, and painted over that as well.

And finally, the green wrap around the handle! I played tennis in high school, so I still had some tennis grip lying around. And this same tutorial said it works pretty well.

I cut the tape down the middle to get the right width…

…and cut out two strips. I painted the strips green, and wrapped one around the handle:

The other strip I wrapped around in the opposite direction, resulting in this:

And, finally finally finally, after an embarrassingly large amount of work that spanned several days, it is done! A Master Sword by a amateur cosplayer! 

And that’s how I made my first prop, ever. It’s not that sturdy and doesn’t look so great up close. I definitely took much more time than what was probably needed, and went through much more trouble than I probably had to. But you know what? I’m happy with the result.

If you do happen to be a Link cosplayer trying to make the Master Sword, however, I hope this helped even a bit! I know I get most of my cosplay help online, which is why I decided to write this post. The cosplay.com forums, in particular, has tons and tons of advice from experienced cosplayers.

It’s all in the palms (or so they say)

The Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire was having a 2-for-the-price-of-one day, so a couple of friends and I decided to head out to the countryside for a day.

I’ve never been to a Renaissance fair, so I had no idea what to expect. Basically, this little winery/estate is set up to look like a English Renaissance-era village. There are little booths, lots of food, stages, day-long performances. Professional actors roam the streets in full costume. There are “games”– and by “games” I mean getting to throw axes and ninja stars and knives at stuff.

Or, archery.

So I was thoroughly charmed by the whole affair. And by “charmed,” I mean spazzing with excitement for 8 hours straight and speaking only in a British accent.

But that’s besides the point.

While at the fair, my friends and I wandered upon a little fortune-telling booth. A trained psychic who, for the low, low price of $10, could read your palms for you. For a full $20, he’ll even whip out his tarot cards.

I’ve never had my fortune told. I was curious. At the urging of my friend, and with thoughts of this Reasonably Ludicrous Post in mind, I decided to do it. I had to try it just once, right?

So I entered the little gazebo the fortune tellers had set up and sat down next to a curiously mustached man. I greeted him. “I’d just like my palms read, please.” He looked at me expectantly, when I realized that this was the time to pull out my wallet. Fee paid, the fun began.

He stared intently at the lines in my palms, explaining what was what: here was the life line, the head line, the heart line. He decided to start with the life line…

He read on.

He changed the subject.

Uh-oh. He was losing it. He decided to take make a risky guess.

At this point I was trying very hard to contain my laughter. Perhaps he could sense it, because he then said,

This had me listening. I’m pretty introverted, I admit. He noted my interest, and, encouraged, made an aim for the dramatic.

The psychic said this with great confidence. He seemed genuinely concerned for my mental health, even. He suddenly dropped his voice into a plea:

I was obviously getting all sorts of revelations out of this reading. The psychic decided it was time for a final stab to mystify me.

Well, it’s not like the reading was a total bust. He correctly told me that I had a “deep appreciation for the arts and music.” I’m also “very intelligent,” except I’ve “done more with that intelligence than was expected of me.” He also told me that I’m highly “emphatic,” except I “know not to take other people’s problems as my own.”

Huh. Maybe I’m just too cynical for this kind of thing. The guy had some pretty good hits along with his misses– I’ll give him that. And it was quality entertainment for the ten minutes I was there. Can’t knock it ’til you try it, right?

On the other hand, maybe I should have just saved my money to buy a nice steampunk outfit someday.

Also, one of my hilariously witty friends has started a blog! Go check her out at One Bright Pearl— I swear her crazy stories never run out. 

I LOVE MY SISTER. Now go observe my supreme childhood dorkiness.

peachyfuzzmuffin

HEY Y’ALL!!!!!! Many of you know my dear resident blog-genius comic-extraordinaire uber-smart sister Vy.  Well today she turns the big ONE-NINE! (19!)

You may know me from VyVy’s previous blogpost about the loving, caring, torture-free, and completely non-manipulative bond that we share.  Over the years, my sister has been my confidante, my shoulder to laugh and  cry on, and my absolute best friend.

And as older her sister, I’ve seen her grow into a blooming blossom through time. And there are a few tidbits that you guys may or may not know about our beloved VyVy.

#1) VY IS A FASHIONISTA

2002: Dork extraordinaire

2007: Sunblock Stunna

2009: Still a dork extraordinaire

2012: STRAIGHT UP MODEL.

#2) VY FITS MANY ASIAN STEREOTYPES 

Driving a car

VY HATES DRIVING

Carrying around a camera and taking photos EVERYWHERE

WISHING SHE WAS PIKACHU

PIKACHUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU

#3) VY CAN DRAW MUCH BETTER THAN HER SISTER

Snippet of Vy’s collection…

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Skyward Sword. Oh, yes, Skyward Sword.

I sat down all ready to write a real post, but realized that I was incapable of doing so. Because at the moment, I am faced with dangerous addiction. It’s taken over my life. It’s all I want to do.

That being:

Skyward Sword. 

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, that is.

I even sat down with my sketchbook to try to get away from the game. Keyword: Try. But what came out was this…

Whoops. Totally messed up the eyes. Time to try again…

Ehh. Maybe I’ll try Zelda next.

Twilight Princess Zelda, maybe?

Whoops, smeared the ink there. While I’m drawing video game characters, here’s a bro from Kingdom Hearts…

…actually, that doesn’t look much like Roxas. Well, enough video game characters. Let’s try someone from an animation. Such as Legend of Korra…

And that’s when I realized, though I like Korra, Toph will always be the most badass.

Alright. I’m done. Sorry for that flurry of terrible fanart. (in both skill and image quality– I don’t know how to use a brush and ink very well, and I don’t own a scanner) I’m going to go finish Skyward Sword now.

 

(And in my opinion, Ghirahim is the most terrifying villain ever.)

So good it’s embarrassing

Being good at something is normally, well, good. It’s a skill to be used. Something to impress your friends. A testament to your relentless effort and practice. A way to get ahead in the world.

Usually.

Unless you’re like me, and your abilities lie somewhere outside the realm of impressive. More in the zone of… pointless.

Yes. I’m talking about useless talents. 

And I know there are those useless talents like, “I can lick my elbow!” or “I can burp the alphabet!” But at least those can get a rise during, say, a kindergarten class or a drunken party.

But I possess none of those. Hell, I couldn’t even snap my fingers until last year. Nope, being the comic-loving-video-game-playing-nerd that I am, my talents more often stem from my geekery. The results of, say, hours and hours of game addiction and obsession and procrastination. To the point where it is flat-out embarrassing.

What do I mean? I mean this: 

Yes, I was severely addicted to tetris battle last semester. Ask my roommate– it was horrendous. I would play forever as I tried to avoid studying. Clearing lines is infinitely more entertaining than memorizing ochem reactions, after all. And I have to say, I got pretty good. Too good. Not amazing– but far better than anyone should be at tetris. 

But that’s not the worst of it. My obvious attraction to video games was also revealed in Japan, when we went to a game center.

Yeah. I was pretty much asking for it. But… but… Dance Dance Revolution!

Thus my inner nerd shone through.

It’s not just video games, though. I have other talents too! Talents that sometimes get me in trouble.

Tetris? DDR? Drawing fat animals? None of that’s gonna get me jobs or good grades or friends. But it what’s I do. My unhandy, less-than-impressive, troublesome abilities. The results of getting hooked on games and avoiding studying. I almost feel like poor ol’ Calvin here…

I can relate.

What useless talents do you have? Let me know in the comments below!

In which I pay good money to sneeze for a half-hour

For more photos from my Japan trip, check out my tumblr!

It was our last night in Japan when I suddenly realized:

Japan is slightly notorious for its maid cafés, restaurants staffed by girls dressed in maid outfits. The girls supposedly act ridiculously cutesy, refer to their customers as “master” (ご主人さま, goshujin-sama) and speak in unspeakably high-pitched voices. The first maid cafés opened in Akihabara (the electronics district in Tokyo) and eventually spread to other cities. To this day, they remain popular among the Japanese otaku.

As a huge manga-loving geek myself, I was super curious. Almost excessively so. The absurdly packed schedule of our trip, though, hadn’t left any time to swing by a maid café– so on that final day, I suddenly decided,

At that particular moment, my group was in downtown Sapporo. I spotted a sign directly across the street:

So I set off with a friend to investigate the maid café. The billboard directed us down the street, into a shady alleyway, and up an equally shady staircase. We finally found the entrance (a door covered in a poster of a cherry tree, sporting a heart-shaped sign that read OPEN) only to figure out that it was certainly, positively, definitely

That wasn’t enough to discourage me, though. There had to be other cafés in Sapporo, right? Quickly, we set out again. But a mere block later I was distracted by another shiny sign:

cat café?! Here was a place I had never heard of until I came to Japan: a café where, for a fee, patrons can sit around a pet cats for a while. A couple of girls in our group had visited one in Tokyo and came back raving over the cute cats.

Did I want to see maid girls pretending to be cats, or actual cats? For a fee of ¥500 per half hour– and we were in a hurry– I favored the cats. Thus we ventured into the café…

The appearance of the café wasn’t all that impressive, actually. It was a carpeted room with a couple benches and cat furniture. The other girls had reported that the café they visited had tables, chairs, and even purchasable food to feed the cats. This Sapporo café was obviously a little less embellished. But it didn’t matter, because

CATS. ALL OVER THE ROOM. I believe this café had 11 cats or so. And you can imagine my reaction:

I suppose I was imagining that the cat café would be full of cuddly, happy cats who just want to be your friend. But I forgot that cats are just not like that. Cats are sassy. And as these cats were subjected to adoring customers, day after day after day, they definitely had more attitude than usual.

There was one cat, though, that totally stole my heart. After sizing me up for a minute or so…

…it decided that my lap was a comfy place to settle down.

There was just one problem, though: I’m actually allergic to cats. So the rest of my day was spent like this:

And it totally was.