Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Protective Skins for Your Gadgets

I've owned enough gadgets and have been through so many different types of cases, offering different levels of protection, that I know exactly what I'm looking for now.  I want to share with you two excellent protective skins but before I do that, I need to explain that these are for a certain demographic of user.  These are for people that are already careful with their gadgets and just need something lightweight and scratch resistant.  If you work in a harsh environment, or tend to drop things, these aren't for you, as they do not offer any shock protection.  However, if you want to be able to throw your device into your purse or slide it into your pocket without worrying about it, these are perfect.


Nintendo DSi XL with ZAGG InvisibleSHIELD
Taken from their FAQ - "The invisibleSHIELD - ZAGG's customized, patented flagship product is tough. Created from a resilient film that was first used to protect U.S. Military helicopter blades from high-speed damage, the invisibleSHIELD is your personal electronics defender. This rugged film wraps around consumer electronics and keeps them functioning and looking great, just like the day they came out of the box. Featuring ZAGG's exclusive Nano-Memory technology, the invisibleSHIELD has unique properties that provide self-healing qualities and unrivaled abrasion resistance. Custom designed for thousands of devices, including mobile phones, digital media players, laptops, GPS devices, handheld gaming systems, watches, digital cameras ad more, millions of invisibleSHIELDs have been sold with ZAGG's Lifetime Replacement Guarantee."

I am a fan of anything mil-spec, so this product immediately caught my attention back when there were only decorative silicone skins available.  The lifetime replacement is hassle-free - it can be requested right from your account on their website, and you just have to pay for shipping.  This is great for me, since I tend to walk into walls while holding my gadget out in front of me.  :P   Note, you must purchase the product from their website in order to qualify for the replacement guarantee.

The InvisibleSHIELD has what they call an "orange peel texture" and a slightly tacky feel.  It offers more assurance that you are not going to drop your device, especially those with smooth, matte finishes like the Kindle Fire. 

They provide a screen protector which is the same orange peel texture, claiming that it is anti-reflective, but I cannot confirm that.  I prefer "real" anti-reflective screen protectors since I tend to use my devices outdoors a lot.  So I cannot say I recommend InvisibleSHIELD for screens since I haven't tried it. 

Check out this impressive scratch test video to get an idea of the kind of beating it can take, which is considerably a lot more than your device would take, in your purse or pocket.

Skinomi - Brushed Metal Series

Nintendo 3DS XL with Skinomi Brushed Aluminum skin.
Comparison of skin and real brushed aluminum.
One drawback to ZAGG is that gaming consoles are not their highest priority.  So it's a toss-up whether or not they are going to come up with a template for your gaming device.  It turned out to be a good thing because that's how I discovered Skinomi.  Skinomi offers a clear skin that sounds really similar to ZAGG but also offers decorative, textured skins with the same durable strength.

From their website - "TechSkin is the next generation of clear protectors for your devices. It is the toughest scratch protection film in the world made of the same material used to protect luxury cars, military aircrafts and NASA space shuttles. TechSkin has the ability to resist some of the highest level of abrasion. Durability combined with "self healing" technology makes TechSkin truly scratch-proof......Our film material also contains a patented acrylic adhesive that separates us from the competition. Unlike other clear film protectors, our extra thin layer provides additional protection against lubricants, oils, UV rays, and corrosion."

I was pretty upset that the Nintendo 3DS XL was only available in silver in Europe but after I installed Skinomi's Brushed Aluminum on a blue 3DS XL, I was MORE than pleased with the results.  The template is slightly smaller than the device, allowing a bit of color to peek through, making for some pretty nice accents.  My blue/silver 3DS XL now reminds me of Babylon 5 or R2-D2.  :-)  The texture is amazing close to real brushed aluminum, as shown in the picture.  But it's a bit lighter in color, almost white, under some lighting.  I think a red 3DS XL would look great with their black Carbon Fiber skin.  Aside from Brushed Metal and Carbon Fiber, Natural Wood skins are also available.

Both ZAGG and Skinomi skins come in sections (ZAGG, with different levels of coverage available) which allows for a little flexibility.  I chose not to install the sides on my 3DS XL because I prefer the matte black look on those parts.

The following is a breakdown of the layers of a Skinomi skin:


- http://www.zagg.com/
- http://www.skinomi.com

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

QR Codes for Babylon 5 Mii Characters

I was getting impatient trying to figure out how to get my Mii's on www.miicharacters.com so I'm just going to post them here instead.  I'll figure out that site later.  

I tried using the "Mii from Photo" feature for all of these but it didn't work that well, so I just imagined how I would draw each character, then tried to find the elements in Mii Maker that matched.  I know there are probably better ways to construct these guys so I've set these to copying "allowed."

John Sheridan

Susan Ivanova

Michael Garibaldi

Stephen Franklin


Londo Mollari


Lyta Alexander


Vir Cotto

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

When One-Size-Fits-Most Eyeglass Frames Never Fit

I hate shopping for new eyeglasses.  With over 300 million unique faces in the world, you'd hope that there would be a wider variety of fit and form.  Contrary to what frame designers believe, one-size-fits-most doesn't fit a lot of people, especially those with a flat or narrow nose bridge.  Most Asians fall into this category which reduces our selection of frames by practically half because we are limited to metal frames with nose pad arms.  Plastic frames, being the trend these days, means there's even less of a selection of metal/rimless frames.  One website sought to help solve this problem by testing Asian-friendly plastic frames.  You can find them here at Eyewear Envy.  They have done a fantastic job but unfortunately I didn't see anything I wanted there.

Luckily, I found a video on YouTube showing how nose pad arms can be added to plastic frames.  I couldn't find a local repair shop that offered this service but the company that made the video, All-American Eyeglass Repair, has a fast and convenient mail-in repair service.  Not only did they add functionality to my frames, their selection of colored titanium nose pad arms blend in with the frame, making them look like they belong there. 

 So if you have trouble finding frames that fit - frames that don't constantly slide down your nose or ride on your cheeks - I highly recommend either of the two solutions above. 

...Or have someone make you an Opti-Grab a'la Steve Martin in "The Jerk."  :-)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Handmade Jewelry

Victorian Black Poppy Necklace by Bernardini Designs
Before I go into my topic for this entry, I want to apologize for the lack of posts this year. This has been a very hectic and stressful year, with many changes in my life as well as in my hobbies and interests. I still have a few photography-related blogs I need to post, which was the hobby-of-the-moment in 2009. But this year, I went back to my first love, music. I'm hoping to put together some videos to share soon.

But on to subject of handmade jewelry. I have two online stores to share with you, just in time for the holiday season.

Bernardini Designs

Pat Bernardini of Bernardini Designs is a multi-talented artist that enjoys working with different mediums and loves to learn new techniques. From her bio:

Background in fine art and photography. Compulsive crafter including furniture making, fish decoy carving, jewelry design, photoshop, quilting etc. etc. Love to learn new techniques and to create one of a kind jewelry items combining vintage components with contemporary and reproduction findings.

In her store, she sells photography prints as well as jewelry. If you read some of the descriptions of the jewelry, you'll find that she can hold on to a component for years until she finds just the right piece to go with it. The results are timeless fashion pieces with personality and soul. She is inspired by the Victorian and other classic eras, and especially by the jewelry of Frida Kahlo.

LongLocks HairSticks

I've actually known of LongLocks since before I started this blog and can't believe I haven't mentioned it yet. If you are tired of trendy hairstyles and want to go for a classy, clean look, hairsticks are the way to go. Susan Maxwell makes some of the best on the 'net. Toppers can be crystals, gemstones, glass, silver, and at one point she was making her own beads out of polymer clay but I don't know if she still does. Her stick finishes almost rival the beauty of the beads. They include foiled, marbled, mineral leaf, one that looks like it's sugar-coated, and others. Most designs are one-of-a-kind and come with a certificate. If you already own a particulat design, it's possible to have it duplicated. Or if you are having them custom made for a bridal party, then they can of course be duplicated.

My hair is no longer long enough for hairsticks so I haven't bought any in a while. But you can see my collection in my gallery as well as different updo styles. (Not all the sticks are by LongLocks, though.)

Strawberry Tea by LongLocks Hairsticks

Photos by khrome: (top) Victorian Black Poppy Necklace by Bernardini Designs; (bottom) Strawberry Tea by LongLocks Hairsticks

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Nutcracker Greeting Cards - Battle of the Mouse King

This year, I continued with the Nutcracker theme for my holiday greeting cards, with another scene from the story - the battle of the Mouse King. I had decided last year that I wanted the next character I showcased to be the Mouse King but that was all I really knew. I made a rough sketch but as I started making the card, the design kind of evolved on it's own. The whole process was organic, much different from what I'm used to. In the end, I was happy, and surprised, with the results - surprised because I had so much doubt in the beginning.

So without boring you with my whole thought process of how I got here, here is my card and how I ended up making it. The type of card is called a View Master card, though I didn't know that's what it was called when I made it. Basically, you have a disk with images on it that is attached in the center to another piece that has a window. As you turn the disk, the image in the window changes. On the other side of the disk, I put a quote from the Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman.

Outside and Inside of the card:

The card in motion:

Materials Used:

  • SU Kraft Card Stock
  • SU Vanilla Card Stock
  • SU "Sens du Temps" stamp
  • SU "Bella Toile" background stamp
  • SU "To the Nines" DSP
  • SU Chocolate Chip Classic Ink Pad
  • Gold Encore Ink Pad
  • "Mouse King Battle" original artwork by Me
  • Holiday sentiment stamp
  • Gold mini-brads
  • SU Pop-up Glue Dots
  • Aileen's craft glue

Tools Used:

  • Ink Daubers
  • Fiskars Ultra ShapeExpress with circle and oval templates
  • EK Success Circle Scissor Plus
  • Crop-a-Dile II Big Bite Punch
  • Tablet PC
  • Injet printer
  • Photoshop CS2
  • "Starry Night" font by Laura Ashpole

Creating the Artwork

To create the artwork, I first made a mockup of the card so that I would know where the window would be and what part of the disk would be showing through it. Once I made my mockup, I put a pen through the window and kept it there as I moved the disk. I did this for the top and bottom of the window. From that, I determined my measurements:

Then in Photoshop, I created a file with each of the characters I wanted on the disk - each character in their own layer pairs. This was done at a higher resolution than the finished artwork because it's easier to get rid of data than to create data from thin air, should I make the graphic too small.

I copied the file, and in the copy set up the guides for the disk, merged the pairs of character layers, and placed them around the disk. If you do this and are going to use a background color on your disk, make sure the color extends past the dimensions of the disk. This is called "bleed", and it's to ensure that if you don't cut out the artwork in a perfect circle, that there won't be any white crescent-shaped edges where the color didn't reach.

I then created the back of the disk, which has a quote from the book, shaped in a spiral. I printed the front and back disks on to Vanilla Card Stock, cut them out, and daubed the edges with Chocolate Chip ink to hide the white cross-section of the paper. Then I glued the backs and fronts together. The quote says:

    Clock, clocks, whir softly, do not strike.
    Mouse King is keen of hearing. Whir whir purr purr
    sing him the old song whir whir purr purr,
    Ring, bell, ring. Ding dong ding dong.
    He won't last long.

    - E.T.A. Hoffman "Nutcracker"

    My Philosophy About Digital Artwork

    I love drawing and painting on my tablet PC. If I had more time, I could have done a better job and made it look less cartoon-y. There has been some argument as to whether digital art is as "good" or as "real" as traditional mediums. I can tell you, having experience in both, that it is. Like anything, there is a learning curve to get over the technical aspects of computer graphics. But once using the software becomes intuitive, picking up a tablet pen is no different than picking up a stick of charcoal, or a paintbrush.

Creating the Card

I first cut my card stock in half, then scored each piece down the center. Using a plain sheet of paper to mask the left side, I stamped the Bella Toile background stamp with Gold ink. I then cut the oval window out.

I used a dauber to sponge gold ink at the corners of the cards, then cut strips of DSP and glued them to the card

I stamped clock faces on Kraft Card Stock, without including the clock hands, then cut ovals in the top half of the clock. In the story, the battle takes place at midnight, and the hands were permanently fixed at 8:17. Making individual hands would have been a pain - that's how I came up with the oval window idea to take up that space.

With a lightly-inked dauber, I used a sort of flicking motion to color the inside of the ovals. I then used a rubbing motion with the dauber to apply color to the outside edges of the clocks. This will give a nice gradient on the inside - it doesn't matter if color goes past the line because it will get covered in the next step (this only works if your next ink is opaque.)

I stamped an extra clock face and cut right along the outside edge of the circle. This circle was used as a mask. I placed the mask over the real clock, and daubed Gold ink around the edges, making sure to extend past the dimensions of where I will cut the outer circle.

I then cut out the clocks. They are looking pretty good at this point but kind of flat.

To add dimension, I used a dauber with Chocolate Chip ink to "flick" more ink along the edge of the clock.

I used Glue Dots to affix the clock faces to the cards.

I punched a 1/8" hole in the center of the disks and secondhand clock, separately, so I could make sure they were centered. And finally, assembled them with a gold brad.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sewing Project #11: Aprons for Mom

It has been a while since I've sewn, so it was really nice get back into it with this easy apron project. This was actually a request from my mom - she had one particular apron that she really liked so she asked me to copy it but she wanted me to add a cellphone pocket on the chest. Her apron just resembles a large bib on the front and back, that ties on the side. It was so un-inspiring that I procrastinated for 6 months before making it. My friends and I dubbed it "the lead apron" because it resembles the cover they put over you at the dentist to protect you when they take x-rays. :-) I suggested to my mom a nice, vintage-style apron but she liked the practicality of hers. The back 'bib' kept her from getting the chills when she went outdoors.

I took the apron with me and had it for several months. Eventually, my mom needed it back but all I had done was write down the measurements. I had never drafted my own pattern before and thought this one would be easy. But as the end of the year came, more projects piled in and I just wanted to get it done. After searching sewingpatterns.com, I found this versatile apron pattern - Simplicity 4987. View 3 most resembled my mom's apron.

My mom's apron is shorter and has rounded corners, but I liked how the straight bottom made it look less "lead-like". View 3 is also a lot longer than her apron, so I shortened it to right below the pockets. Her apron was also unlined - the ones in this pattern are lined, which I liked. Better to keep the chill out, right? :-)

My mom had given me a cute cotton fabric with yellow print, with jugs of daisies all over. She wanted me to make two aprons but unfortunately she had the fabric cut in two 1yd pieces. Because it wasn't continuous, I could only make one. So I dug around my stash and found enough rose-patterned fabric leftover from the empire-waist dress I made (6th project.)

Aprons finally done!

For the Daisy Apron, I wanted to put lace on the outer edge, which was similar to my mom's current apron. I used a nylon lace since my mom would be in the kitchen most of the time and nicer lace would probably just get limp and ratty. I did not put lace along the bottom because both my mom and I are short, so I wanted to accentuate the vertical, not the horizontal. I used a pale plain yellow cotton for the lining, and Forest Green grosgrain ribbon to match the leaves on the flowers.

One thing I learned from adding lace is that when you get to the part in the pattern where you have to sew the side ties to the front or back, you will need to do the lace first THEN the ties. Otherwise your ties will end up on top of the lace.

My mom, modeling the Daisy Apron:

For the Rose Apron, I didn't have enough fabric for all the pockets so I used a pink fabric with faint swirls - same one I used on the Empire Dress. I thought the pink at the bottom looked too bare so I played around with some Sage satin ribbon. At first, I thought I'd put a horizontal stripe near the top of the pockets. But that whole horizontal-making-short-people-look-shorter thing kept bugging me. I suddenly had the idea to do a trellis-like pattern over the pockets. I really liked how it came out! First, I drew a diagram on graph paper so I would know how to space the ribbon. Then using the grid on the cutting board, marked on the front of my fabric where the ribbon should go. I sewed all the ribbon with the ends going passed the seam line so when I sewed the lining to the front, the ends were neatly tucked inside.

Trellis-like pattern on Rose Apron:

As far as things that can be improved in this pattern - the pattern requires you to sew the back and front seperately, outside-in, then flip it inside-out through the shoulder seam. Then you join the shoulder seam. The inside seam is suppose to be slip-stitched. i thought it was better to stitch through all layers, about a centimeter from the seam, so it has a double-stitched appearance. I thought this made it more durable by having all layers sewn together, rather than just one side machine-stitched. I also double-stitched the pockets.

In the end, I loved how the aprons came out (so not "lead-like") and so did my mom. I'll probably make her a few more, and myself one too - but the more stylish View 5 or 6. :-)