Finished Object (FO) Friday 1/17/2014

cabled dishcloth

My very first cable in the convenient form of a dishcloth; took this picture almost exactly a year ago. The gauge is goofy because a needle broke about 1/3 of the way through. The pattern can be found on Ravelry – Cable Spa/Dishcloth.  Dishcloths are my favorite way to learn a new stitch pattern. It works just fine even if a couple rows look screwy.

I’m currently working on some toe-up socks on carbon fiber dpns. I bought Ann Budd’s video on sock knitting during the holiday Interweave sale, and was fascinated watching her do the Turkish/Eastern cast-on. Tried it (without re-watching!) a couple days later, and got it on my first attempt! One of those things that just made sense in my brain immediately.

Gaming-wise I am just sticking to casual and trophy-hunting at the moment. Finished Ni No Kuni last week, so I am stuck in that grind-to-plat or start a new game dilemma. In the meantime I’ve been playing Sonic & Sega All Stars Racing on the Vita. So much fun! More Mario Kart than Wipe-out which is good for me….Racing games are a blast, but not exactly my forte. I still haven’t finished Last of Us, nor played Burial at Sea (which is already bought and downloaded). I may have to schedule caffeinated gaming binge in the near future!

The Multi-tasking Snail

Elizabeth Zimmerman Quote

I am, at times, annoyingly slow in my progress. (This is attempt-at-writing-this-post #4. OK, now attempt #5..)  At some point, I became accustomed to multitasking, and now have a difficult time doing anything else. The issue with being able to walk, talk, and chew gum while carrying a 7lb purse, a giant cup of coffee, and a knitting project is that none of those things are being done particularly well. It all seems perfectly fine to begin with, but everything has a way of proceeding quickly to overwhelming. It begins simply with a stroll and a conversation over coffee. My purse starts to fall down my arm, so I hoist it on my shoulder; it lands on my hair which is then pulled along with my concentration. I trip on a crack in the sidewalk since I’m no longer looking in front of me and fling four dollars worth of latte all over my (hopefully cotton) yarn. My face screws up into a look of disappointment  just as I look up and realize my companion must have asked me a question of extreme concern I didn’t remotely hear, and the only response given is that horrid look on my face. Multitasking fail. The example is wacky, but not really an exaggeration. In my ambitious attempt to concentrate on everything, I lose focus on all of it. I have the motivation of beginning, yet can’t muster the enthusiasm needed to follow through. This translates into a bevy of unfinished posts, games, projects, unread books, and half-organized rooms, as I  try to make progress on all the things.

I found some inspiration in the quote pictured above from Elizabeth Zimmermann’s digressions in Knitting Around; if even she fell prey to the beginnings-only bug, it can’t be all bad.  Apparently people either love or hate the Opinionated Knitter, and I think I must be in with the former bunch. Her tone could be interpreted as condescending, I suppose, but I prefer to look at it as proper. I haven’t tried any of the patterns, just read through most of the instructions and the digressions. I am a bit fascinated by her life and her words as well as the patterns, and have even imagined what a conversation might be like. She might scoff at my (obviously inferior) throwing way of knitting until I explained I could purl almost as quickly. (I did learn them at practically the same time…) I’d chuckle at how much of a mad genius she is, even in little things like capitalization. Like her, I want to continue to Write Things Down; it might be important for me. When I held needles in hand I felt My Life Was Starting.  Unlike her, my habit of fizzling out cannot really be blamed on genetics, but on a self-imposed barrage of distractions.

I have recently started to notice where this focus fizzle begins. A lull, a rut presents itself, and I’d like to figure out how to push through. Video games may turn out to be my inspiration for a method.  I finally finished the RPG Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. (Well, no plat trophy, but I beat the final boss…) RPG’s generally take me f-o-r-e-v-e-r for a few reasons. I am a video game snail (and not the only one according to fellow gamer/blogger Astro Adam’s post); I linger playing games in the same way I savor a piece of chocolate, as I don’t want them to end. I play too many games at once because something new and awesome came out or dropped in price while I was savoring, so I end up playing them all, progressing in none. (Just like WIPs! And reading blog posts instead of finishing mine!) The last thing that keeps me from actually finishing games is the point-of-no-return. Unless I’ve played the game before, I don’t quite know what lay in store for me in that final dungeon. Is my level high enough? Do I have enough potions, arrows, companions, spells?  How long until I am over-encumbered and cannot run? I end up grinding and researching for so long I lose excitement over the game. I never fight the final boss. I put off seaming, blocking, darning. I hesitate to press that little blue Publish button. My enthusiasm dwindles; the project at hand has lost its luster.

Victory is the key. There is resolve, accomplishment, competition, aggravation, yet the need to thrust hands in the air in that V of victory tends to outshine those other feelings. That pose is a major part of Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on body language. It can be used to communicate celebratory feelings to the world, or ones own brain. It is so universal a power pose that even humans born blind throw their arms up, their head back, face to the heavens, basking in victory. I did the pose, almost unthinkingly, after beating the third final boss in Ni No Kuni. Cuddy suggests to hold it for a solid two minutes, thereby shaping thoughts into confidant ones. I think I need to do this more…. So, in a minute or two when I hit the Publish button, again when all my ends are sewn in, and again when the house is vacuumed, I am going to stand up and reach for the sky and grin like an idiot, reign victoriously over my to-do list. If (and when) I get stuck in the lull, the grind, when the well runs dry,  I think I’ll try the Wonder Woman pose instead…

Flow

New Vegas skyline

An hour passed and I barely noticed. My mind was in a place where minutes don’t really matter. An hour was a moment that somehow both flew by and took forever.

I watched the sun rise over a desolate wasteland as I made my way through rocky paths that led away from treacherous desert. A red-eyed gecko the size of a child runs at me with claws in the air, but it meets its end at the barrel of my shotgun. I stumble to a forlorn campsite and replenished myself on irradiated water and gecko steak. The creature’s hide gets stuffed into an already heavy backpack to be bartered for a few caps later. I find dead-ends, raiders, caverns, and picking up every bullet and cap I keep scrounging and stumbling towards the marker on the map. By the time the sun sets I can see the lights of New Vegas shining like a glorious beacon. It seems so close, yet impossible to reach by a direct path.

My stomach growls for the tenth time, and I snap back to reality. I save my game, set the controller down, check the clock. A day happened in an hour. I don’t remember drinking the rest of my coffee, but it explains the nature of the stomach noises. I make my way towards the fridge thinking, “Where was I?” The Mojave is immersive, but it was more than that;  I had achieved flow.

I was engaged and entertained but calculating; temporarily a courier with purple hair and painspike armor – not a caffeinated brunette with a controller. My skill with analog sticks and trigger buttons evolved to where I don’t need to concentrate on my hands. I know the game well (Fallout: New Vegas is the example.), and I no longer evaluate the meaning of the amber-colored words and symbols on-screen. Yet I don’t know what resides around each corner, or how every mission will play out. I’m not tired of the game; there is still excitement and anticipation. There are goals in and out of the game. I need certain skills to accomplish everything, intelligence, strength, my social and sneak abilities all affect how I can go about completing quests. I also have a goal of how much to complete in-game before I get antsy about my stomach growling and the dirty dishes in the sink. All of this adds up to a sort of intersection in my brain, Flow. I have to use right and left brain, mentally leave the physical for a moment, and use every ounce of skill and concentration to be entertained while reaching my goals.

I read the book Flow and wrote about it in a (short) essay a couple years ago, and it made an impression. (Posted on the Essays page) I have thought about it at length since, and perhaps I should re-read since I’ve added knitting to the list of Flow-inducing activities. It happens while reading, tasting, painting, playing. Energized focus, emotional learning, and in-the-groove are terms used in the Wikipedia summation of Flow. Simply and personally put, it is ideal to me to accomplish something while stopping to smell the roses at the same time. I may be prone to being over-emotional, but luckily this seems to be the same brain chemistry that has a penchant for Flow. Now I ask myself,”Why just play a sport, a game, a song?” It doesn’t always work but I try to engage and experience joy. Anxiety often tries to barge through, but when I knit, when I game, the joy is accessible.

Stash Saturday

noro yarn pic 1

My yarn and game stash were both enhanced this week – Noro Kureyon and Persona 4 Golden. I’ve been a little obsessed with entrelac lately, and I think the Noro will look lovely as a hat or headband knitted using the technique.

The Atlus game has been tempting me for a while now as I don’t have an RPG for Vita and Persona has very high ratings. I am new to the J-RPG world. I have been playing Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, and it is beautifully animated (by Studio Ghibli!) and the gameplay is a lot of fun. However, the idea of an M-Rated J-RPG intrigues me. I guess Japanese wool interested me as well! It has more pink tones than I would usually tolerate, but I love how the color changes look in the woven-look squares of entrelac. Here’s an example of the technique using Noro yarn on Craftsy.

Noro 2CIMG1215

Sorry, Next Gen, I can wait.

A bit of history from an accidental ps3 fangirl:

Video games are a major part of my life, and I have been gaming as long as I can remember. I think my first one was a red toy shaped like the front of a car containing a steering wheel, shifter and a small screen. After that it was ColecoVision; I loved a game called Smurf Paint’n’Play Workshop which foreshadowed my later obsession with The Sims. I wasn’t very good at the Atari, Nintendo and Super Nintendo games, but I was content to watch my friends and family play for hours. As a teenager I finally owned a console with the Sega Genesis, and started playing PC games. The most memorable included Myst and Sim City, the ones that jump-started my love of exploration and strategy in games.

When I was twenty, I bought my own computer for my apartment, and life-changing gaming began when my sister gave me The Sims. (It was released earlier that year.) The strategy I loved from previous Maxis titles was bundled with so much more. I got to create a character, decide her actions, build, decorate, and landscape her house; a sim had a job, a lover, a story. I started to see the appeal of living vicariously through an avatar, but I always wanted my characters (and myself) to stay in their own world. Friends told me I might like MMO-type games where people interacted through a common virtual world, but I couldn’t enjoy them. It seemed strange, impure; a world of NPCs was much safer. The Sims was so enhanced by expansions and mods that the addition of real people would have thrown off my creation. I couldn’t be god, the sole creator of my virtual world that way. The game eventually became a catalyst for my technical knowledge. Each expansion had more and more system requirements, so I learned how to replace hard drives and video cards. It was a new and much more expensive game, replacing, updating, troubleshooting, but my love of games made the experience worth each dollar and minute.

I tried many consoles and their games over the years, but stuck to PC games for the most part. I watched friends play Tomb Raider and Tony Hawk; I never played long enough to get past the learning curve, opting instead for Mario Party and console Sims titles. I remember people lining up for the release of the PS2, then Xbox, PSP, Wii. The latter was the first console I played extensively since the Genesis. I enjoyed the self-published Nintendo titles quite a bit, yet the stand out game was one I missed on PS2, Capcom’s Okami. I remembered seeing it reviewed, but thought it looked strange. A wolf that paints things? I realized I was becoming a console gamer about 60 hours later. The release of PS3 and Xbox 360 went pretty much unnoticed until 2009 when my DH and I got ourselves one as a wedding gift. I loved it, but stuck to Ratchet and LBP (so, platformers) after a frustrating attempt at Uncharted.

The next spring I was assigned an expansive paper on ethics in media and pop culture, so I turned to games as the basis of my topic. I wanted to explore the gender stereotypes that can permeate game culture. I attempted to explore the gap between male and female, casual and hardcore gamers. I thought myself in the divide, a nice happy medium, but eventually realized that I was guilty of boxing myself in. I played “girl games,” casual games, and I would not even try self-labeled “boy games,” using my lack of skill as an excuse. (The paper can be read on the Essays page – it’s long, I warn you now.) When finals ended, I decided to challenge my gaming abilities and my comfortable role as a “girl gamer”. Fallout 3 was my choice, a FPS/RPG with a massive following. After few hours of wandering, collecting guns and good karma, I was obsessed. The game opened new doors for me. I will now attempt almost any game, regardless of any previous skills in the genre.

I have played so many amazing games since the buggy beauty Fallout 3, and there are so many I have yet to try. I haven’t even attempted all games my bookshelf, and the ones on store shelves just keep getting cheaper. A second ps3 was added to our household just two years ago, and Mr. Gamer and I co-op games like Borderlands2, Saints Row 4, and no longer worry about hard-drive space. I’ve become a hardcore gamer, but a casual trophy-hunter; there are many more platinums to earn before I’m done with the ps3. I’m excited for the future of games and players, yet I don’t feel the need to get a ps4. I’ll wait until the patches are out, hard drives are bigger, used games are available, the online co-op servers have all been tested extensively. I’ve geeked out like my old days of Sims on this console. I was late to every party in  Sony and Nintendo’s history (I’m late to most parties literally as well). A price drop will likely happen before I am tempted to be part of the next-gen I just downloaded Bioshock Infinite DLC, I still haven’t finished Last of Us or started GTA V, I never did plat New Vegas; this gen just isn’t dead for me yet.

Here’s hoping they keep servers up a while…