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June, 2010:

Pinballs or what I did on Sunday…

In a departure from my usual writing about things like knitting, sewing, cooking etc. I’m going to talk to you about pinball since I took part in a pinball tournament last Sunday. I got into pinball through Doug, it’s one of his passions and he has five pinball machines in his house. When we were first dating he had three – The Getaway, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (one of only two in the UK) and an Apollo 13. He’s since acquired a Star Trek Next Generation, swapped Apollo 13 for a Doctor Who and earlier this year he won a Popeye, in a raffle at a pinball show!

It would be useful if I had some photos of his to show at this point but I don’t so I’ll just show you someone elses instead.

Knitting pinball fact – Annie Modesitt likes pinball and is apparently very good at it. If  I have time at some point I’ll upload the pinball conversation that got cut from the interview I did with her for KnitCast.

Like knitters,  pinball players like to get together, talk about their interests, projects (since most games tend to be quite old they’re usually repairing something), compare and  play each other machines. Pinball is also a sport and if you take part in the league competitions and other competitions – you can be a world ranked pinball player. My ranking isn’t great, last time I checked I was 5000 and something, so a long way to go. I do want to get better but since I’m usually at Doug’s every other weekend and we tend to do more than just stay in the house and play pinball, I don’t get to practice that often. It’s funny, like most things whether it be sewing, knitting or cooking, you tend to get your best results when you relax a little and stop worrying about things being perfect. I still want to get better scores though 😉

Last Sunday we went to the final South West Pinball meet of the season. It was hosted by Dave Rolfe in Abergavenny. Whereas Doug’s pinballs are from the 1990’s and have various computerised modes, Dave’s are from the 70’s and 80’s and are what’s called solid state machines. Even though they’re different, they’re still fun, difficult and frustrating to play at times. Just like all pins! Dave had at least twenty pins and also some arcade machines.

I was really interested in the artwork on them, some of the designs of the games are just beautiful. Central Park is a very old game that wasn’t set up but the backboard is lovely. Just to the side of it is a PacMan sign. It’s stood on top of a Rolling Stones pinball.

I loved the designs on these backboards for quite old games. This pic of Gigi didn’t come out very well, sadly. There’s something quite charming about these designs. Although I’m not too sure how I feel about the clowns!

Although, something to bear in mind is that a common feature among some pinballs that I’ve noticed is that if there’s a female character in the art, she tends to have rather large breasts! As a comic book fan I recognise this trend theme from interests that tend to be dominated by, or at least aimed at, straight males. I don’t remember April from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles being that well endowed there but look at the pinball table and there she is, busting out of her jumpsuit! Reminds me of the time I decided against buying a Marvel Black Cat action figure because her costume was unzipped to her navel. Here’s Strikes and Spares as an example.

And check out the lady on Mystic too

Doug achived the highest score of the league on Flash Gordon. Bizarrely, although he doesn’t feature in the film at all, William Shattner voices the narration on the game.

This one could be really frustrating, because if you pulled the plunger to release the ball two strongly the ball just rolled right down the middle. That happened to my first two balls on the game.

I quite liked Vector, mainly because Doug thought it might be based on a film and I really fancy seeing the film.

It looks like a really crap sci-fi film and I love the idea of seeing them spinning around on their wheels with their weird bat hands. As a geek, you have to have room for some bad sci-fi movies 🙂

I didn’t quite “get” pinball at first but now I’m quite competitive about it. And like everyone else I’m fairly frustrated when I lose the ball.  In fact, no one ever looks happy with their scores because their game/go finishes they’ve just lost the ball. In a tournament you usually have to play a set number of machines which are on tournament settings. So, no extra balls if you do well and they tend to be fairly hard too. So how did I do? Well, I came 17th out of 18th. I still have a long way to go although Doug says my performance is getting better. He came very close to making the UK Finals but got pipped at the post and came in at 6th.  The next competition will be at the Pinball Party in August. Last year I was just following Doug around and recording his score. This year will be different. I have no idea how I’ll do on the day, lets hope I can relax 🙂

(BTW I’ve changed my blog template but haven’t finished tweaking with it just yet)

Sewing plus a year older

image

Yesterday I used my sewing machine for the first time in three years. I’ve used Doug’s before but it was nice to sit in front of mine again. I was worried I might not remember how to use it but everything came flooding back.

I’ve been wanting to try Heather Ross’ Mendocino sundress for a while and on Tuesday night I cut the fabric out. I’m writing this on the WordPress android app and somewhere in this post you’ll be able to see my first attempt at shirring. I’ve added a few more rows since taking that photo but still have plenty more to sew before it’s done.

I wanted the dress to be lined and decided that I’d rather do French seams than have to overlock (serge) everything. The problem now, however, is that the dress might be too big. But I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

Oh, and I’m a year older. I’m sort of used to being 38 now since I’ve felt it since Christmas! Sad but true. As soon as Christmas and January time comes along I start feeling the age that I’m going to be in six months time. I have a feeling that next year might be more different. I’ll start feeling 39 in January 2011 and since that’s almost 40 I’ll be feeling 40 instead. So I’ll stupidly be feeling eighteen months older than I am and eighteen months before I really have to worry about it!

Ah, well it’s only a number. That’s what I’ll keep telling myself….

Frustration

I sometimes feel as though I am battling against tasks and self imposed deadlines. That my garden should be perfect and bursting with flowers and vegetables, my home should be tidy and organised, knitting projects should be started and finished, I should sew more, cook more etc.

And yet instead it’s usually a bit done on the garden, a few rows of knitting completed, nothing sewn but a pattern cut out and sewing machine dug out.  I decide to cook something from scratch and end up leaving it too late so it’s a dinner of fish fingers and hashbrowns again.

I find myself in danger of not appreciating the little things, of not stopping and smelling the roses – although, I did manage to cut two stems from the garden and put them in a vase last week – of not stopping.

I know that little and often is the way to success, baby steps and you’ll get the job done without feeling as though you’re drowning in it. And yet, despite knowing all of this I fall into the same traps again.

So, today I am having a cup of tea while sat at my new garden table. In a moment I’ll go inside and cut out and start to sew a dress. It would be nice to finish that tonight but we’ll see. I have a couple of days off for my birthday and will spend one of them in the garden straightening it out a little bit. Small steps.

Books, books, books

Just a small sampling of some of my books

I sorted through some of my books yesterday and found a few shelves worth to give away, not the ones above though! I felt so guilty looking at some of them, because so many are unread. If I like a particular author I will buy as many of their books as I can. This means that I have a lot of unread books. Of the ones you can see in the picture I’ve read all of the Armistead Maupin books, most of the Alice Walkers and a fair few of the Alice Hoffman and Alice Munro. And yet today while sorting in another room I see my Alison Lurie novels, my Marcia Mullers, Sue Graftons etc.  Sometimes I find it hard to find time for knitting, how am I going to make time for reading?

I’m not quite sure yet but it must be done.

Busy Baking

So, the first non-bank-holiday day of my week off and I’ve been editing this month’s KnitCast and doing some baking.

Cookies on baking paper

For years I yearned of making large, moist, chewy  chocolate chip cookies.They’re easy to find in stores etc. but I wanted to make them at home. A friend of mine went to work in the United States in the early nineties and sent me home a cookie recipe book but of course it was all in American measurements and ingredients. So I was left with questions  like – how much does a stick of butter weigh? I’m still not entirely sure what shortening is, but whatever it is,  you can’t get it here.  I remember having mixed results whenever I tried to bake cookies and then moved onto cakes and muffins which were far more successful.

Last year I decided to bake cookies again and when I googled Chocolate Chip Cookies this recipe came up first in the list. It’s by Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall and, my dodgey oven aside, it’s foolproof. I’ve had great success with this recipe and it has relatively few ingredients. Nowadays I just use salted butter and thus you don’t need the pinch of salt. Hugh has you use the best chocolate you find and to roughly chop it but I do use chocolate chips and other ingredients. I usually slightly increase the vanilla essence either by accident, slopping too much in the bowl,  or design. I also use my electric mixer to make the cookie dough so it’s even simpler.

Cookie closeup

For today’s batch I used chocolate chips and chopped up some crystallised ginger that I had too. I didn’t weigh the ginger but you can put anything in these cookies. I imagine they’d be good with sultanas or cherries and coconut too.

Two of the cookies mysteriously vanished...

I tried to take some better photos of the Soxie sock today because yesterday’s blurry indoor pic didn’t do justice to the colours in them at all. Although I had to wait for a while because it was raining heavily.

Soxie outside

And some closeups of sections of the sock

Soxie closeup 1

I think this shot of the heel shows the colours at their best

Soxie heel

The colours are just so wild and glorious. I love them!