Thursday, 30 December 2010

I Went To Auckland Zoo Yesterday - With My CAMERA

My lovely lovely parents bought me a year's membership for Auckland Zoo for Christmas. Admittedly, it was probably inspired by their recent jaunts (it was getting ridiculous! I'd get a text or phone call and mother would casually mention "Oh, we're at the zoo", but they knew I liked going). So, I went yesterday afternoon to try it out a bit.

The servals were gorgeous, and took turns to come out and pace around. I got my favourite photos of the day with them. So I made postcards (and being useless, that seems to be all I'm making out of my photos lately!)
Stalking Serval postcardServal Standing In Shade postcard
Serval postcardServal postcard
I love the last one - he just looks so annoyed!

On the downside, it was hot, there were many small children, and people speaking in tongues everywhere being in the way and touristy to the point where I had to give up on photos at a couple of exhibits (funnily, one French woman kept ending up at the same exhibits as me!) and sadly, the penguin/shorebird area, the aquarium and aviary are all currently being rebuilt.
I skipped the Walkabout and Primate section entirely, because it was hot, I had a bus to catch in only a couple of hours (the zoo closes at 5.30) and my camera batteries were dying. I hate walking around with no camera! But I didn't mind skipping bits at all, because I fully intend to return at every opportunity (although realising later that the second otter pen was in that area - the one with the family of otters, cause two new ones were born last year - makes me a little sad).

A lot of the animals were hiding or dozing in the heat. The tigers are usually pretty boring as they lurk up the back a lot, but I always go look at them because they are magnificent when they do come out to play. I also always go into the nocturnal Kiwi house because it's right by the entrance - but having been in a dozen or so around the country, and the one at zoo many times, it's completely automatic now and I tend to just keep walking through and straight out again.

I did get really lucky with the otters though! There are two females in a pen next to the tigers and the cafe (with the giant snake slide) and I usually don't see them. But this time when I walked past, they were both playing out the front - one came right up and chirped at people, and the sun on the water made a really good backdrop. The other is one my dad likes (and asked after) - the clockwise otter. She spent about half an hour turning and swimming in clockwise circles! I got a few great photos, too. I noticed later (too busy focusing and playing 'guess where it will jump next' with the camera at the time) that they both have shaved sections on their throats - guess they were visiting the vet!


The two cheetah brothers were snuggled up together - one kept putting his head down and wriggling, or curling up in an 'I want to submit this to Lolcats' way, while the other just watched us, and occasionally they both waved the tips of their tails around like big fluffy fans, languidly, in front of their faces.

Ridiculous photo of the day goes to this flamingo. It's all angles and Escher bends!

It was quite interesting actually - all the flamingoes were dozing, and a couple were sitting like this. When they got up, they actually put their heads down and pushed off with their beaks.

Round the corner from the flamingoes (I went out via Pridelands) I ran into two families of tiny chicks, with their mother. They like that area, and seem to come under the fence from the wetlands and poultry section next door. And in the hedge along the lion's enclosure (which I also didn't see) were a couple of pink bottlebrush flowers, which I took the chance to exploit for my token macro images of the day. I was rather pleased with them, actually!

Pink postcardMacro Pink Bottlebrush postcard

Anyway, this led to me trying to put up all my zoo photos into some kind of tour of Auckland Zoo - unfortunately, most of my photos got moved onto my new hard drive last week, which I didn't bring to my parents' house for Christmas! So it's only half done. It is the project that led to me finally reviewing my camera though! (A Pentax X70, if you wondered - ideal for zoo photography!).

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

A Review of the Pentax X70 Point-And-Shoot Camera

I just got bitten by the writing bug again, after getting a Zoo membership for Christmas, taking many photos and starting to create a lens around them about Auckland Zoo. From there, I started writing about my camera, discovered it's still going strong on Amazon, then realised it was time to review it properly (I've had it nearly two years, after all!)

If you've ever seen any photos on my lenses, blogs or galleries, it's a good chance that they came from this camera. The Pentax X70 is an ideal camera for the amateur photographer for wildlife (and zoo!), macro, portrait, landscape and architectural photography. It kinda sucks for low-light and parties though.

It's basically an upgraded point-and-shoot that has a lot of more advanced options and a really incredible zoom. I bought mine nearly two years ago, when they were first released and I was feeling quite frustrated with my current camera, as it was getting too limiting - but the big, fancy DSLRs were way too professional for my abilities and my wallet.

Anyway, lots of discussion about it's various points - from the point of view of someone who came up from the 'normal' point and shoot touristy/family cameras, as well as pictures and demo videos here on my Pentax X70 review lens.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Ranty List Of Stuff That Sets Off My Dermographism

Aaargh. The problem with visiting my parents is that I am allergic to the New Zealand bush, and the mould in the walls, and my antihistamines run out a lot faster. I'm already feeling that tell-tale light burn in my palms from picking up the rubbish bag and carrying out to the garage. Which is really annoying.

So this is just a post about all the random things that set off my dermographism, when I'm not swallowing pills.(Dermographism - weird allergy that manifests in welts when pressure is applied). This is why I have a weird fear of doorhandles (along with the disorientating terror of walking down an unmoving escalator - that one gets me a lot!)

So yes,the random ranty list.
1. Doorhandles. Especially stiff ones, or heavy doors. (All that concentrated pressure in one place means really sore, burning itchy hands that I walk around cradling gently and going oooooowwwwwww)
2. Running, or standing on pointy rocks. (The soles of your feet are impossible to scratch. And yes - even through shoes. Barefoot is right out).
3. Any kind of tight clothing, buttons that poke inward, elastic. (... yeah, Ouchy).
4. Watches. I don't wear one anymore. (This is really annoying, actually. And constant - the watch just got too annoying to be worth having the time on me. Too loose, and it rubbed everywhere, too tight, and it got really itchy and welty)
5. Hairbrushes.(They scratch your head! For years I thought I must have headlice)
6. Leaning on anything. (Like backwards - cue for several minutes of agonised wriggling as I try not to scratch)
7. Carrying anything slightly heavy. (Like shopping bags - my poor fingers)
8. Putting pieces of paper into envelopes, especially if there's several and I push them with my hand rather than carefully holding with thumb and finger. Also add shuffling pieces of paper straight. (Straight, thin itchy lines across my hands)
9. Mosquito bites. (Itchy scratching! Must not scratch! It only leads to blood))
10. Lying down and turning over. (FRICTION!)
11. Carrying a pile of books up from the bookdrop to be checked in. (I end up with huge welts across my arms - usually alarming the newest co-worker who hasn't 'met' me without my pills)
12. Brushing my teeth.(Itchy gums are not fun)
13. Eating anything remotely hard or that pokes back. (Gums again) Also, biting my lips, very bad.
14. Towels. (Friction! Ouch!)
15. Banging my knee on anything (seriously - I don't bruise much, but a hard impact leaves a welt a couple of centimetres high)

And worst of all? Knowing that standing there waiting for it to go away is pointless, as is complaining, because it will come back again as soon as I have to open another door/keep walking/sit down/cut up carrots. So I just get on with picking up couches and stuff *sighs in a martyred way*...

Disclaimer : when I've got my antihistamines, I'm fine, and sympathy is embarrassing cause there's nothing really wrong. The few times when they run out, I spend my time trying to think up a way to convey exactly how much agony and frustration I am in, the depth of my suffering, without actually sounding like I'm complaining. I haven't found a way, yet ;D But this list of examples is what I want to start running through, or tend to suddenly come out with - along the lines of 'aaargh, I just leant back on that bench!' or 'I don't want to help carry the shopping, it huuuuuurts!' *whine* or hanging around pitifully, cradling my hands and being useless.

But if you know someone who's developed dermographism (and they aren't one of the rare people who it doesn't really hurt) then have sympathy and buy them a tonne of antihistamines as fast as you can.

What Helps With Dermographism?
Antihistamines, obviously.
Cool things. The activity of the welts generates a lot of heat, and coolness on the skin seems to help.

If it's really, really itchy or painful, put moderate pressure on in lieu of scratching (as little as possible, but until it contains it) and then very slowly release it (so that the worst of the reaction is over by the time you are only applying light pressure. It's a tricky balance, obviously, but better to spread out the pressure, than to scratch).

Salves - they'll stop the itching. But only of welts that already exist, so you'll be constantly applying it.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

How To Use The Facebook Fan Page Module On Squidoo

Squidoo offers a Facebook Fan Page module, but it can be a bit tricky to figure out. This is a quick walkthrough of how to add your Facebook fan page of choice to your Squidoo lens.

First, find and add the module - you'll have to search for it by hitting the little 'browse modules' link. It is called the 'Facebook Fan Box' so search under 'f' or use 'face' or 'box' to find it quickly.



http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_fjU4oHSWKyY/TQhMNbGIEZI/AAAAAAAAADo/q4C7lZ4zLhs/s1600/find%2Band%2Badd%2Bfacebook%2Bfanpage%2Bmodule.JPG

The Facebook Fan Box only needs one thing to work - the identifier number. This is the unique digit that gets assigned to fanpages, as they get created. It must be a Fan PAGE - not a group, or 'normal' profile!

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_fjU4oHSWKyY/TQhMNq7hQFI/AAAAAAAAADw/2FexYlwTyp0/s1600/edting%2Bfacebookpage%2Bmodule.JPG

New fan pages are easy, because until you get a certain number of fans, that number is right there in the URL. But after a certain point (currently 35, but it changes) people can rename the page link to something relevant and easier to remember. Like my own fan page http://www.facebook.com/flynnthecat

This means no number!

There are a few different ways to get the identifier number. So fear not, I'll show you! I'll be using my Squidoo page on Mother Gothel (cause it needed the update) and the Mother Gothel Fan Page - which has the URL http://www.facebook.com/TangledMotherGothel

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_fjU4oHSWKyY/TQhM9YWGC8I/AAAAAAAAAEQ/nGrOqeJm_4I/s1600/mother%2Bgothel%2Bfacebook%2Bpage.JPG

Sometimes when loading, you'll see it flash past and change in your browser address bar - in which case, ctrl+z in the bar should let you find it again (varies with browsers). Or older links to the page will still have it, or the RSS feed.

The most reliable is to copy the link of the profile image itself and look at that link to find the page's number. This is the example I'll walk you through now...

You can do this by right clicking on the picture and then picking either 'image location' or 'image URL' and then pasting the link somewhere to have a look at it.



Or by choosing 'image info' or 'Properties' (the different names depend on whether you're using Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome or another browser), and then you'll get a pop-up box of some kind, with the image URL somewhere in it (these will also look different, depending what you're using).


The image location of the example I'm using, Mother Gothel, is this

http://profile.ak.fbcdn.net/hprofile-ak-snc4/hs478.snc4/50556_144752412231185_8763_n.jpg

You want the longest single number
50556_144752412231185_8763_n.jpg

Copy 144752412231185 and paste it into the module box and save it.
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_fjU4oHSWKyY/TQhMN2vjJUI/AAAAAAAAAD4/s90KQ2adaxg/s1600/add%2Bnumber%2Bto%2Bmodule.JPG

The Facebook Fan box widget may not always appear in the Workshop - in fact it never does, the first time it's added, that I've seen. Publish your lens to see the widget, check it worked, then edit further if you need to.

This is what it looks like published (with 'activity' turned on)

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_fjU4oHSWKyY/TQhOJPOMIlI/AAAAAAAAAEY/sK3FmK8wtuQ/s1600/published%2Bgoethel%2Bfacebook%2Bsquidoo.JPG
Was that helpful? :D

Monday, 13 December 2010

Zazzle Sales: Black Cat Tie and a BtVS Claddagh Ring iPhone Case!

Hmmm. Greasemonkey apparently doesn't agree with the newest version of Blogger. Well, now I've solved THAT, onto the fun stuff. Buffy and Zazzle monies.



I sold my second iPhone 4 case! More importantly, it validates both the random burst of 'hey, I want to try drawing Claddagh rings' (because 1) they're Buffy-related and 2) most of the Zazzle designs I was trying to add to my Buffy Claddagh rings page suck) and the subsequent two days of editing and uploading and tweaking and then deciding to add a silver one and rearranging the different orders of the Claddagh rings and so forth until I had an entire Zazzle section on Claddagh rings. And then I got bored and wandered off.

But I'm real pleased about the rings, cause I wanted to sell something Buffy-ish, but there are all those strict rules about copyright (and Zazzle is VERY strict about it, so even if it's technically fair use, you're usually out of luck).

But these rings are one of several standard designs, that Joss Whedon just happened to use. So, while it is screen-accurate, it's not a direct ripoff. And then I got creative with the designs a bit more :D
Oh, I also sold my second of these black cat ties! I made them aaaaages ago, and suddenly people are buying them? I'm amazed that people actually buy ties ^_^

Black Cat Stylish Tie tie
Black Cat Stylish Tie by Flynn_the_Cat
Browse White Ties

EDIT: Ptooey. The iPhone case was then also my very first cancellation (the next day). On the other hand, I've since sold another tie.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Last Minute Wrapping Paper Ideas

Christmas is just around the corner, and I'm going to be faced with trying to wrap up a pile of presents, so I'm being organised (i.e. procrastinating on something else) and coming up with some plans/alternatives.

First, for obviousness, is of course buying a roll of wrapping paper from the shop.

Pros: I'll have enough (probably) to cover a large present, and I can pick the designs
Cons: Costs money, requires me to go buy some, and the rolls seem to be getting smaller and smaller. It's also not environmentally friendly, and I don't like a lot of the designs.

Secondly, the most likely course - taking my presents back to my parents' house and raiding their store of recycled wrapping paper (some of which is probably nearly as old as I am!). We keep a box full of all the salvageable pieces from each Christmas and birthday.

Pros: Free, neutral for the environment, lots of interesting designs to use
Cons: May not have enough to wrap up my presents, or large enough bits. Also means I can't wrap anything until I go there, with the added risk of people accidentally seeing their gifts.

Then we get into the more exotic ideas. Newspaper and plastic bags!
Pros: Can come in all sizes and are ideal for wrapping bulky and odd-shaped presents. They also add a lot more protection. It's another form of recycling, and as you probably have some lying around anyway, will be free and quick.
 Cons: Newspapers aren't pretty and plastic bags are a pain to open. These look like the cheap option.

Spare cardboard boxes!
Pros: Again, cheap and recyclable. Can fit almost any shape of present, and protects it from being broken. Also, mysterious boxes mean that people can't tell what's inside and makes for awesome pranks.
  • Fun times can be had by putting a tiny toy in a large box, filling one with catnip instead, or putting something that makes noise - like a phone with a cat meowing for the ringtone!)
Cons: Again, looks boring and cheap. You may need a lot of tape or packaging inside, and you may have to give up and cover the box with wrapping paper (very fancy) which defeats the point of last minute alternatives.

A cat. Persuade your cat to sleep on it, and the fur will hide the gift. This will lead to many amusing minutes of trying to remove the cat from the comfy bed on Christmas morning.

Carefully handmade wrapping paper. This can range from felt pens all over a white sheet of paper (the thinner the better), to artistic and unique handmade papers with artistic designs painted or flowers stuck on... Marbelling is a nice option too. Looks very pretty, if you're any good (or heartfelt, if you aren't!)

Clothing/cloth - indian throws solve everything! Just watch Black Books! If you're really desperate, you could use actual clothes, but bandannas, scarves, teatowels... and even a table cloth, are probably better options. You'll have to tie it with string or ribbon, rather than cellotape of course, but you could try making a bag (drawstring-style) instead of just wrapping it up.

Nothing. If you're really brave you could wrap it in magic air paper. Bonus points if you're giving them invisible cupcakes!

Lady Gaga: Sketchblog



I succumbed, months after the rest of the internet, and drew Lady Gaga. Half hour sketch in ArtRage 2 (much nicer I've decided for pencil sketching). Used a screencap from her Telephone video for a reference.


I've been wanting to draw her for a while - she has such a lovely, distinctive face. And of course the costume combinations are both fun and bewildering.


And a bit more work... (all sort of pretending to myself that I was just going to 'darken this bit here and erase these messy bits there' instead of a systematic redrawing of the neat version)
lady gaga artrage telephone stop yellow tape

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The Letters Are Crawling Off My Screen

I made a fool of myself and thoroughly confused some coworkers at the Christmas lunch today - I was pointing out a bottle of oil, or similar, which had lots of dark droplets crawling up and down inside, and wondering why they couldn't see it. And trying to work out why the drops were moving - oil and water repelling each other? Heat?

Turns out that I'm hallucinating.

 Text has been moving for me all day - it's really weird. But this morning, it was just around the edges of my vision, now I can stare straight at the screen and watch every other letter in each word floating up and down. If I put my nos eup close, they stand still. But if I'm more than about an arm's length away (or it's really tiny), the text or the dots on the wall, or whatever else, all crawl about.
I think it's a visual aura - possibly Autokinesis. Which is basically the illusory movement of things that aren't actually moving, and a sign of impending migraines. And ...wow. The little dots over the eyes are dancing around and around and tumbling down...

It's caused by spasming blood vessels in the brain, causing bloodflow changes in the region and, hence, visual weirdities. Consistently, it only appears when focussing on small things. It's probably brought on by the all-nighter staring at the computer screen, doing an assignment. I figured it was just my lazy eye being tired this morning... maybe I should have taken the headache as a warning. But then, I don't usually get migraines (I did have one once when I was ten - we were sitting on the floor singing Edelwiess, and suddenly I couldn't read the beginning of each sentence, my eyes just couldn't see that side. And I asked the teacher if something was wrong with the projector and she sent me to sickbay - I couldn't figure out why, until later when it got worse!)

Monday, 6 December 2010

A Guide To The Unicorns of the Internet

A Round-Up of Evil, Robotic, Rainbow, Sparkly, Geeky and Dismembered Unicorns

Unicorns are classic mythological horned horses/deer/kirin/dainty cloven hooved things, beloved by two audiences. Little girls are enthralled with the pretty, dainty, magical horses - as a quick search for Unicorns on Zazzle and Amazon will show in a scary way.

The other unicorn-loving audience does have its "Pretty horse" lovers, true, but the major part of it has recognised the most important bit of the unicorn. It has a bloody great horn and can stab things. Who is this enlightened audience? Why - the internet, of course!




The internet loves unicorns. They're everywhere. From happy sparkly unicorns being ridden by sparkly, doe eyed, beautiful yaoi boys, to beefed-up, psychotic, robotic killers, unicorns appear everywhere! We love them so much, we want to play with them, eat them, draw them, wear them!


sparkly fake joke unicorn spam meat thinkgeek tinI got an email from ArchMage today about ThinkGeek's tinned unicorn meat - apparently if you want to import it into Germany, you better not write Unicorn on the package. Or meat. Or else label it 'JOKE. Not Real!" ... or include a Deutsch-English dictionary with 'Unicorn: fictional" bookmarked and highlighted!
"Canned Unicorn Meat" Gift Delayed at German Border as Rare Meat

And then this evening, someone on Squidoo posted in the forums about the joke 'prize' (of the same unicorn meat) that you get awarded at a certain level.

This reminded me of how many unicorns I've been encountering and writing about lately (mostly amusing), so I figured I'd make a Unicornic Blog!

There's the ThinkGeek unicorn meat, of course - which started as an April Fool's Joke, but is now sold as 'real' canned meat with mixed-up sparkles. Actually, it's a dismembered toy unicorn in a can - reminiscient of the dismemberable Black Knight plushie!

The Sisters at Radiant Farms have dedicated their lives to nursing these elegant creatures through their final days. Taking a cue from the Kobe beef industry, they massage each unicorn’s coat with Guinness daily and fatten them on a diet comprised entirely of candy corn.


If you like the look of the tasty meat and want to serve up your own, well, there's a spin-off ThinkGeek Prime Cuts of Unicorn t-shirt that you can buy - ideal as a guide for serving up a nice serving of prime love-filled unicorn steak and avoiding the slightly tasteless, chewier cuts of superglue meat. There's a (rip off?) version on Zazzle, too.

Next up is the flash game, Robot Unicorn Attack. Robot Unicorn Attack is as addictive, annoying and happy and harmonious and harmony, harmony oh looove...

Your dreams did not come true... score/credits screen after dying


...

Wait, where was I? Oh yes, it's as always want to be with yo-aargh!. Addictive. Yes. Happy rainbow flash game of doom. You can basically sum it up with this graph.




I wrote a lens on it, and that's doing very well, I'm happy to say. Which is how I know that there's now a heavy metal AND a Christmas version coming out/available for iPhones. Basically the same game, just with different endless songs and appearances. There's a Chase Your Dreams t-shirt and a 'loading screen' Robot Unicorn Attack T-Shirt from ThinkGeek out finally/already. There are also a couple of AdultSwim designs available.

The Robot Unicorn was probably based off Starlite - the happy, sparkly, rainbow maned flying horse from the Rainbow Brite cartoon. The pretty horsey with the colourful mane has also been lovingly recreated by artists across the internet.

Rainbow Brite's Horse Starlite
Yeah... join with me in a resounding collective "Stereotypicaooooh pretty...."

The designs of Starlite and the rest of the characters were revamped recently, from the pudgy cute little round 1980 cartoon characters, to sleeker, older, prettier, more manga-influenced characters.

OLD

NEW



On the topic of 'pretty horsies', The Last Unicorn has been loved for years, as a beautiful, classic animated film in a time when there weren't so many, and fan art and references to Almathea abound across the net. I've done my part by adding Almathea/Disney femslash to the Disney femslash collection *cackles*

Sadly, I haven't actually seen this famous film, apart from YouTube excerpts and for years thought it was the book The Little White Horse, by Elizabeth Goudge (because I could not fathom a famous book that I hadn't read, much les not even heard of!)

The AVENGING UNICORN PLAY SET is well up there in awesomeness - the Avenging Narwhal is even more awesome, as it impales endanged species (the unicorn less imaginately is impaling people), but sadly no longer available.
avenging unicorn playset


There's this awesome animated screensaver from The Truth about the death rate of smokers, which I downloaded many years ago and spent hours looking for recently. All I found were a couple of screenshots, and the original download site... which doesn't always actually work for me! I did finally get it to download (weird browser issues? The site itself? Dunno. But I finally have it again!)

It features badly drawn but apparently content unicorns, that jump back and forth between two clouds, floating in a pale pink sky with a giant rainbow arcing down across it...

The Awesome Unicorn Screensaver of RAINBOWS

... and 30% (or some similar smoking death statistic) miss, and either fall to their deaths, get struck by lightning or crash into the cloud. The corpse then falls to the ground and burns or decays into a skeleton. The longer it runs, the larger the pile of skeletons below...


And on this topic of horrible medical conditions, let us segue into the internet classic, Charlie the Unicorn.




And then there's this mysterious cutie
HELLO my name is the Unicorn of your dreams



And to round off, have some general unicorn art and linkage

  • Two of my favourite rainbow/ robot unicorns, for originality and execution.
Rainbow Stallion print
Rainbow Stallion by Unicorn_Dream
View more Rainbow Posters

Steampunk Unicorn Damask Poster print
Steampunk Unicorn Damask Poster by redrevvy
Shop the other art at zazzle


The steampunk unicorn actually reminds me of the young adult series by Tanith Lee , which features giant mechanical unicorns.





And I've been writing this for about three hours (admittedly, while being distracted by Eufloria) so I'm going to suddenly stop, with no real conclusion now.

edit: And now, of course, there are the unicorns of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.

Twilight Sparkle and Rarity.
My Little Pony Basic Rarity the UnicornMy Little Pony Basic Twilight Sparkle

Sunday, 5 December 2010

A Story Concept: The Abandoned AI

A spaceship has been floating in space. It's derelict - a survey ship. The crew is long dead, and all that remains is the AI. The AI ran the ship and is basically a self-aware computer system. She now thinks she is human, through long loneliness, and because the crew interacted with her as a real person.

A large ship finds it, and sends people to look it over. They find the AI.

She can project some form of avatar out to interact with the boarders. Do they recognise her as an AI immediately? Do they slowly realise? Or does she manage to pretend to be human, stranded there?

How do they react to her? As a person to be rescued, an inconvenience, a tool, a danger?

What form does her avatar take? Holographic images? Some form of solid hologram? A robot with a computer brain that connects to the ship? Electrical illusions induced in the viewer's mind? A synthorganic lifeform created for that purpose, or grown by the AI? Can her appearance change?

What happens when she is touched? Is she tangible? Can she feel? Eat? Speak normally? Have sex? Lift things? Escape from the 'body'? Does it interfere with her integration and management of the ship's main systems?

Is she insane or normal, or smart or just a bit weird? Is she curious or afraid? Grateful to be rescued or angry at being invaded?

How long has she been floating? Is she eons out of date, or high-tech and advanced? How does this affect what the people who find her can interact with or detect her?

How did her 'people' die? Disaster? Disease? How many were there? How close was she to them? Does she remember them?

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The Night The Reindeer Died (Venison Pie)

To be sung in the tune of 'American Pie' by Don McLean. Video at end. Randomly inspired by forum thread - apparently 'The Night The Reindeer Died' is a tv show previewed in the comedy movie Scrooged.

A long winter ago...
I can still remember
How the reindeer used to make me smile.
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those reindeer prance
...And, maybe, they’d fly faster for a while.

The sleighbells make me shiver
with every present they deliver
Bad news down the chimney
Coming straight towards me

......I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his stuffed, skinned hide
But something touched me deep inside
the night... the reindeer died

So
bye-bye, my reindeer in the sky.
Flew my old sleigh to the rooftop,
But the roof it was dry.
And that good old deer was eatin’ carrots and rye
Now knowin', "this’ll be the day he'll die.
..."this’ll be the day that he dies."

Did you write to Santa Claus,
And do you have faith he'll bring rewards,
If your parents tell you so?
Do you believe in the sleigh's flight,
Can reindeer bring your gifts tonight,
...And can you teach me how to stop getting coal?


Well, I know that you wanted to eat him
`cause I saw you watch salivating
You watched and licked your lips
Whispered 'venison' when his hoof slips

He was a lonely teenage broncin’ buck
With a great red nose and not a lotta luck
Until the day he was hit by a truck
The day the reindeer died.

I started thinkin',
"bye-bye, my venison pie."
Flew my old sleigh to the vet's roof,
But the roof it was dry.
And that good old deer was bringing tears to my eye
Now knowin', "this’ll be the day he'll die.
..."this’ll be the day that he dies."


Now for ten years we’ve been on our own
And moss grows fat on a sleigh of stone,
But that’s not how it used to be.
When the reindeer led us safe through the mist
With a nose so bright and flight so swift
And presents that came for you and me,

Oh, and while the judge was looking down,
The lawyers stole his weighty frown.
The courtroom was adjourned;
No verdict was returned.
Though witnesses sang like angry larks
The team flew off over the park,
Sleighbells rang dirges in the dark
The day the reindeer died.

And they were singing,
"bye-bye, my venison pie."
Flew my old sleigh to the vet's roof,
But the roof it was dry.
And that good old deer was bringing tears to my eye
Singin', "this’ll be the day he'll die.

Helter skelter in a winter swelter.
The deer flew off without any shelter,
Eight miles high and falling fast.
He landed foul on the grass.
The driver behind him tried to pass,
While the sleigh crashed on the pavement with a blast.

Now the winter air was sweet perfume
While the sleighbells crashed a rambling tune.
He stood his ground with a prance,
Oh, but to help there was no chance!
`cause the carhorns honked and tires squealed;
The idiot deer refused to yield.
Do you recall what was revealed
The day the reindeer died?

And they were singing,
"bye-bye, my venison pie."
Flew my old sleigh to the vet's roof,
But the roof it was dry.
And that good old deer was bringing tears to my eye
Singin', "this’ll be the day he'll die.

Oh, and there we were all in one place,
A team of reindeer lost in space
With no time left to start again.
So come on: deer be nimble, deer be quick!
Rudolph's leg broke like a stick
And roadkill is a terrible way to end

Oh, and as I watched him turn the page
My hands were clenched in fists of rage.
No person meaning well
Could foil that roasting smell.
And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite,
I saw children laughing with delight
The day the reindeer died

And they were singing,
"bye-bye, my venison pie."
Flew my old sleigh to the vet's roof,
But the roof it was dry.
And that good old deer was bringing tears to my eye
Singin', "this’ll be the day he'll die.

I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some carols too,
But she just smiled and turned away.
I hauled open the old barn door
Where I’d seen reindeer years before,
But the man there said the reindeer wouldn’t fly.

And in the streets: the children screamed,
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed.
But not a word was spoken;
The sleigh bells all were broken.
And the three gifts I wanted most:
Faded from my stocking like a ghost,
They'd been on the last sleigh for the coast
The day the reindeer died.

And they were singing,
"bye-bye, my venison pie."
Flew my old sleigh to the vet's roof,
But the roof it was dry.
And that good old deer was bringing tears to my eye
Singin', "this’ll be the day he'll die.

And they were singing,
"bye-bye, my venison pie."
Flew my old sleigh to the vet's roof,
But the roof it was dry.
And that good old deer was bringing tears to my eye
Singin', "this’ll be the day he'll die.
..."this’ll be the day that he dies


Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Great Zazzle Overseas Shipping Rip-Off: Which domain should you order from?

Long Tailed Field Mouse keychainBah. I posted about this in the Zazzle forums and it was promptly deleted, by which I assume my calculations are accurate, and my concerns valid, as if I was mistaken it would have been easier to correct me. If they'd left it up, I wouldn't have bothered posting here, but now they've deleted it - and I was hoping for an actual response - I'm writing it up for the world.



Black Moons: keychainThere's a free shipping deal running on the Zazzle.co.nz site until December 6th; I was planning to take rampant advantage. There are also a LOT of deals - often up to 50% - running on the main .com site

I just checked the differences on a keychain to take advantage of the free shipping - turns out that the total cost including shipping to NZ costs nearly twice as much.


Here are my calculations (I had two tabs open, and was testing on one off my own keychains, so default price; conversions are rounded and exact exchange rate varies anyway so pfft)


NZ
keychain = $5.54 (US$4.12)
Shipping = $9.35 (US$6.95 )
Total= $14.89 ($11.07 USD)

US
keychain = $2.95 ($3.97 NZD)
Shipping = $3.99 ($5.36 NZD)
Total= $6.94 ($9.34 NZD)

Cat in Autumn - Autumneve keychain

The actual product is almost the same price, allowing for slight variations in conversion rate. The difference gets a lot more marked at higher prices (a $42 iPhone = $54ish NZ, while on the NZ site, it's $63) by the shipping is very different.

The total cost is $6.94 on the US site, and $11.07 on the NZ site.
Purple Cat keychain
There is NO REASON for the shipping to be marked up like that! The item itself is marked up, allegedly to cover import taxes and local market value, which is partly bull, depending on where you live and how much you order. And the internet is global now - creating artificial country divisions doesn't work with anyone halfway internet savvy.



After playing around a bit more, I found that I could use one of the coupons that was active at the moment - 50% off keychains, hence my experiment - to Mystic keychainplace an order for $23 NZ, that would have cost $49.86 NZ, with the free shipping. The US deals are way better, frankly.

I also found that the point at which the bulk discount on products kicks in is the point it jumps up to the next tier in shipping, so it's worth playing around with your cart, and possibly placing two orders (e.g. 2x9 keychains at $3.99 shipping, rather than 18 keychains, with a 17% discount, and $12.99 shipping).
Colours of the Imagination - Rainbow keychain keychain
The bulk shipping is probably one reason for the 'high' shipping prices - you are much better off shipping in bulk than singly. The fact that different products ship separately is real pain, though. That's the one place where the free shipping would be worth it. That, or just stalking the deals and placing separate orders.


What does it mean? It means be really careful, doublecheck what you are about to pay, don't be afraid to order from overseas - and check if there's a Yin Yang Black White keychainbetter deal on that site.

And if you're selling... well, take the time to go through and find out what shipping will cost and how many you can buy before the shipping increases. Have a look at the exchange rates, and remember that the .com site usually has the best and the most. Having to faff around figuring out what would cost what is one of the things that's put me off so long.

I did order some keychains, though. From the US domain, with the 50% off code. I'll order some more stuff, probably, Red and White Rose keychainwhile the deals are going. The NZ free shipping doesn't expire until Monday, after all... and it came out of my pending Zazzle earnings for this month anyway, so it would only have sat in my Paypal until I spent it.


Update: my keychains arrived, and my cat approved.