A Video Game Review for #nerdy9th

For #nerdy9th, I’m going to talk about my recent video game obsession!

As you may know, I am not much of a video gamer. I tend to get “hooked” and obsess over games for a few months before dropping them. I played the Sims online last year for about 6 months. I play Minecraft, but periodically delete my worlds to start all over. I loved Final Fantasy X, but that’s about the only typical video game I get into. Most video games are either too solitary– they are single-player games, like FFX– and therefore don’t really scratch the social itch I have as a strong extrovert. Or they’re too multiplayer, and I end up either addicted to the large online community (and therefore have to cut myself off), or the community is just awful, because apparently being on the Internet gives people free license for being dickbags.

However: I love Rock Band.

I love Rock Band because it is a small-scale multiplayer game. Like a LAN party game. And it’s cooperative, so I’m not sitting there trying to teabag my best friend (or, more likely, be a good sport while he frags me into oblivion).

I love Rock Band because it’s basically home-karaoke, but you can play even if you can’t carry a tune with your voice. But it’s one flaw is that it has a bunch of funny “instruments” that, really, are just for a video game and have no other purpose.

Enter Rock Smith.

This video game is like Rock Band or Guitar Hero… but for functioning guitars and basses. It doesn’t have a vocal component (although some versions might?) or drums, but if you have a guitar or bass guitar with an electric pickup, you can use the special included USB cord to plug in and play.

It rocks so hard.

2015-12-25 08.40.57I got a bass for Christmas (Fender P-bass, in case you were wondering), and I’ve been practicing and taking lessons, both online and in a music store. I’m learning solid fundamentals in my lessons, and reinforcing them with the online videos I’m watching. Rock Smith has a series of lessons as well that combine a video with a practice session, where you apply what was in the video, and the game “listens” and tells you if you did it right.

It also has a series of little arcade games, like a duck-shooter that you play by hitting the right fret and picking the note. Or a slider game where, if you overshoot the slide, your little ninja guy falls off a tower and dies. These are extremely useful exercises for teaching some basic techniques and training the muscle memory to be able to use them.

Oh, and did I mention the Session Mode (freeform, where you can add in studio instruments, like a drum machine or piano as needed)?

There’s even a “mastery” play mode where, when you’ve started to really master a song, Rock Smith will hide the note prompts from you. In case you hadn’t noticed, most rock bands do not have a music stand and sheet music in front of them on stage, and Rock Smith aims to get you playing without having to look at the screen, too.

Want multiplayer? Aaaah, there’s that itch! My guitar-wielding friend and I can get together and rock out to the same tune, much as we would for Rock Band… but with our actual skills being relevant!

One of the songs my teacher gave me to learn was in the song list, so I tried playing with it. My teacher gave me a somewhat different arrangement than Rock Smith has, but the game doesn’t know if I’m playing a C on the E string or the A string, as long as the sound is right, so I can use my teacher’s instructions to give me a “boost up” in Rock Smith.

It can’t teach you proper finger position or posture, although there are videos that cover those topics. But the cable just getting the notes that you play, not how you play them. So I still need to reinforce good posture and playing position in order to learn good habits and not mess up my body or develop sloppy fingering technique.

But as of last night, I’m at 69% mastery of the All-American Rejects’ song Gives You Hell, and that puts a big smile on my face.

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January 2016: Books and Music


Faith #1 : Single issue comic.


Practice log (bass guitar):

12/28: 30 minutes

12/29: 9 minutes

12/30: 21 minutes

12/31: 21 minutes

1/1: 20 minutes

1/2: 55 minutes

1/3: 50 minutes

1/4: 16 minutes

1/5: 53 minutes

1/6: 30 minutes (lesson)

1/8: 1 h 19 minutes

1/9: 37 minutes

1/10: 12 minutes

1/11: 57 minutes

1/12: 49 minutes

1/14: 22 minutes

1/15: 17 minutes

1/16: 16 minutes

1/17: 1 h 18 minutes

1/18: 24 minutes

1/19: 22 minutes

1/20: 30 minutes (lesson)

1/22: 27 minutes

1/23: 20 minutes

1/24: 1h 5 minutes

1/25: 18 minutes

1/26: 17 minutes

1/27: 11 minutes

1/28: 28 minutes

1/29: 27 minutes

1/31: 35 minutes

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Finished a Few Things

I finished knitting a couple of things this week!

First, I took a hand-dyed “sock blank” from Knit Picks (dyed around Easter) and transformed it from this:

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Into these:

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The pattern is Twisted, from Knitty.

The sock blank was harder to work with than I realized. I had thought, for some brainless reason, that you could unravel the blank from either end. But in fact, you can’t– one edge gets tangled if you do that. So I had to wind a ball for the second sock, which was not a huge imposition, but it meant I was no longer knitting from a knitted thing to a knitted thing.

I also have smallish feet, so the full sock blank was too wide and too long before I’d get down to the bright red part. I wanted to gradually blend from the cuff to the heel, merging into that vibrant red and yellow for the toes. Instead, I had to cut about 3″ out of the middle to skip to the more reddish part as I went into the heels. It worked out, but there are a couple of woven-in ends. Fortunately, I can’t even feel them.

Then, I reclaimed a pair of socks that I’d knit for a friend of mine. These were finished in July 2014. He has worn them so much, he wore out the toes in a year and a half!


Fortunately, he has big feet and when I knitted these originally, I needed to use a second yarn for the toes. What a blessing! They were easy to replace.

I cut the toes off, pulled out/frogged back to just before the stripy yarn, put the stitched back on my needles, and used a strand of thread and a strand of the same sock yarn held together to re-knit a reinforced toe.

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Next project: I have no idea. I have another hand-dyed (all natural dye) project I’m working on, doing a basic feather and fan scarf. It’s kind of my new “desk project” for when I need to do something with my hands during meetings.

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December 2015 Books and Games


#31: Act of God by Jill Ciment (f)

#32: Out of Sorts  by Aurelie Valognes (f)

#33: The Grinding by Matt Dinniman (m) – I really liked Dinniman’s book The Shivered Sky, but I was disappointed in The Grinding. As a second book (they are not a series), it’s good enough, but it just didn’t blow me away. It actually reminded me a bit of Ryan States’ book I read earlier this year. Oh, and there was more casual misogyny and transphobia than I was personally comfortable with.



#88: Mint Tin Apocalypse (2 player, <30 min)

#89: Pass the Pigs (2 player, <30 min)


How did I do in 2015?

Continue reading

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Handspun maple leaf shawl of comfort

Recently on Google+, a group of us decided to knit and crochet the Maple Leaf Shawl as a Fiber-A-Long in December. People went about getting their yarn and needles together throughout October and November, and wrapping up any loose ends of crafting before the month started.

I started on December 1st and finished by the 15th. I used a bunch of handspun I’ve had for a while– some of it is silk, some is superwash, and the bulk is a purple and yellow wool/mohair blend. I’ve used all this yarn before, in making myself a sweater. Somehow, my handspun is either far too much for whatever I want to make, or not nearly enough. It’s never quite “just right.”

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In the process of knitting this, I realized that, while I was enjoying the process of knitting it, I wasn’t in love with the end result. It’s gorgeous– don’t get me wrong! But it’s just not me.

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Unfortunately, during this month, my best friend’s grandmother passed away. His mother, a lifelong knitter herself, is hurting pretty badly over the loss of her mother, and even though we haven’t met yet, I tucked the shawl in a gift bag with a note and sent it as a comfort shawl to her.

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Nothing replaces her mother, of course, but I hope a little thing of beauty helps comfort her in her grief.

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