McCall's pattern #M5400

I used McCall's #M5400 to sew a bikini for myself. The pattern is marked $16.95, but I got it for $6.95 at Walmart (all McCall's patterns are the same price there, $6.95). Too bad I didn't think to get it at JoAnn fabric last week, since McCall's patterns were only $1 last week.

I used style "C" for the top and "F" for the bottom. I followed the size chart on the envelope, and while the pattern size was significantly larger than my usual clothing size, the pattern did fit true to the measurements. When I held the pattern piece for the bottom up, it seemed like it would be impossibly small, but the finished product fit just fine. I'm not sure how that worked, but I'm glad.

This was the first swimsuit I've attempted to sew, and while I wouldn't recommend it as a sewing project for a beginner, it was a simple enough pattern that I felt comfortable using it for my first swimsuit. There was nothing complicated about the pattern, the trick was working with the stretchy fabric.

One good thing about the pattern was that it called for a lot of basting. With the slippery, stretchy fabric, I think that really helped a lot. The band on the bottom of the top piece doesn't lie completely flat against my ribcage like it shows in the drawing on the package, but then the drawing shows a woman with a B-cup chest. Mine will lay flat if I fasten it a little lower than I'm used to. It's a minor quibble, and since I don't know what alteration precisely would fix it (all I can think of is a little bit of interfacing along the front of the band between the fabric and the lining) I'm not going to mess with it. It fits 96% well, and that's better than a lot of off-the-rack suits, so that's fine with me. I think I'd have to pay at least $80 to buy a suit that fits better, so this turned out to be a bargain.

I took me two evenings to sew. The first I made the top, the next I made the bottom. Someone with better sewing skills could probably finish it in one day. Or they could cut it all one day, then sew it all the next.

The pattern has two more types of tops, and two more types of bottoms, and I might decide to try them in the future. Or I might just stick to this same pattern since it's relatively flattering on me and try it in a different fabric.

I used the stretch velvet since I had purchased a red terrycloth bikini last year, and although I thought it would be all bulky when it got wet, it wasn't, and the slightly textured fabric turned out to be flattering. I didn't see any thin terrycloth when I was shopping this time, so I decided to take a chance on the stretch velvet. It's wash and dry, so that's convenient. I don't know how it will hold up in chlorine and salt water, but really I only need it for this one vacation, so that wasn't much of a concern for me. The color is nice, it even looks good against my pasty-white skin now, so it should be even better once I get what passes for a tan on me (ie normal skin color).

Bottom line: I recommend the pattern. It wasn't too difficult to sew, the fit is true to the measurements, and there are enough variations that everyone should be able to find a cut that flatters their figure.

Gossip Girl - Season 2 Episode 1: Summer, Kind of Wonderful

I'm a little disappointed that summer was pretty much completely skipped, but if the show is supposed to be centered around high school life, I guess I can forgive that. We've got this one summer episode, at least.

It's set in the Hamptons instead of NYC, mostly in what I gather is Serena's grandmother's enormous estate. Serena spent the summer moping, Nate's been banging a cougar while her husband was out of town, Chuck and Dan have been hound dogs. Blair picked up a dull boyfriend in France after Chuck blew her off. This episode is when everybody meets up again.

I think it's idiotic of Chuck to not tell Blair he loves her, because he does. He's only not saying that because he knows the advice his father gave at the end of last season is right; once he has a real girlfriend he'll settle down a little bit and start to grow up. But like Peter Pan, Chuck desperately wants to avoid growing up, so he avoids the relationship that will hasten his maturity.

I'm hardly surprised he's made this choice, he's only 17 or 18. I stand by the observation I made at age 19, that most men are absolutely useless in relationships until they are at least 27 years old. But he and Blair are so perfect for each other, really, he should get over his fear of commitment and just tell her he loves her and be done with it. It's not like he's got much to fear, anyway. Blair is too self-absorbed to make a real commitment to anyone but herself anyway, it's just lip-service.

It looks like Serena and Dan will be back together. I think they're an okay couple, but Dan's got to get over his problem with Serena getting into complicated situations. If he doesn't like that, he should just date a dull Brooklyn girl.

I have to agree with Jenny's boss that the dress she designed is hideous. She looks like an American Girl doll come to life. But I'm glad her and Eric will be friends, even if I think Eric is a little creepy despite his puppy-dog cuteness.

I can tell already that Blair is going to be excruciating with her "Lord" boyfriend. And Nate should drop the cougar now that summer's over, but of course he won't. I'm not sure I like that more older characters (Lord Boyfriend and Cougar) will be more involved this season. I liked the focus on just the kids and parents. But it's not like high school girls don't date college-age men, and high school boys don't occasionally get hooked up with an older woman.


  Shutterfly Photo Books

Delta Skymiles is running a promotion where you can get a 20-page photo book from Shutterfly for free, just pay shipping. This seemed like a good deal to me, so I decided to make a book documenting all the business trips Terry and I took together while he worked at Sungard.

I went to their site, and watched the quick tutorial video about how to make the book. Then I clicked "get started" and I was underway. It took me about 20 minutes to select and add the photos I wanted to use. It wasn't immediately clear to me that I first had to create an album, then upload the photos, then select the photos and add them to my book project, but I figured it out. The photo-selecting process was a little cumbersome, but part of the problem was that I was selecting from many different folders on my computer. If I was selecting all photos from one folder (if I was making a book for just one trip, instead of trips spanning 18 months) it would have been quicker.

Once the photos were in the book project pane, it was a simple matter of drag-and-drop to place them in the pages. It was easy to choose the layout for each page-- first choose how many photos you want on that page, which filters the templates, then choose the template you want. Then place the photos. Actually, you can place the photos first, THEN switch the layout. It's convenient to try different layouts without having to select and re-select the photos for each page, they just get automatically transferred to the new layout.

Unfortunately, the internet connection was really flaky. Sometimes I was cruising along, other times I got a "server not available" error. I spent over an hour on the total process before I got fed up. I don't know if the problem is with Shutterfly's servers, or my own internet connection. But it's irritating enough I need to take a break. I'll update the post when I've finished the process. I haven't tried rearranging the pages yet, or choosing different backgrounds, but I anticipate that I will have to do those things to make my book look nice.

I have until August 31 for the free promotion, and Shutterfly saves projects indefinitely, so I'll probably just try again another day.

Radiohead Performance at Lollapalooza

Radiohead was the headliner for the first night of Lollapalooza this year. I had heard of Radiohead, but I couldn't recall any of their songs right offhand. Terry explained that they were more about albums and not so much about singles that would get radio airplay. So he wasn't sure how many of their songs I would know since I didn't listen to any of their albums.

But once they started playing, I recognized them. True, I didn't recognize many of their songs. But I realized I recognized their songs that probably came out before 1993. I immediately recognized that I first heard them from their song on the "Clueless" soundtrack. I thought it was something like "green rubber trees" but later in the evening and it's actually "fake plastic plants", which was what I meant. . .

And I don't think I ever heard their songs on the radio. But I heard their one song over and over since the "Clueless" soundtrack was my favorite CD for the first few months after I bought it (which is the pattern for most of my CDs. . .). And I think I recall hearing their stuff either at fraternity parties or raves.

In fact, I couldn't help but lament that most of the women at the concert probably had no idea what the shadow of themselves dancing projected 15 feet hight looked like. I think "raves" went out when much of the audience were in elementary school. The music was neither raucus nor had it much of a dance groove. It's kind of mellow and trippy, although danceable in a rave-y sort of way. Which I don't even feel like explaining. Either you've been to a rave like I'm talking about or you haven't. Come to think of it, this reminds me that I considered the Blue Man Group show I saw in NYC several years back was set up to simulate a rave in a very PG sort of way.

Anyway, since this was the only Radiohead show I've seen live, I'm not sure how useful my review is. I enjoyed the first hour, but by the second hour most of their songs were boring since they were so like everything I heard in the first hour. But it's not quite like all the songs sound the same-- they don't really, but they do have a consistent style. Which is not particularly dynamic, but it's easy to listen to.

Much of the concert I spent in a bit of reverie reliving the early 1990s events where I first heard their music. Are things more dull now? I mean the whole lighters-at-concerts thing doesn't happen since the young'uns don't smmoke so much. And kids seem much more lawful than they were in the 1970s and 1980s. I don't know that there's such a big difference from the lawfulness in the 1990s, but there certainly does seem to be less smoking.

Hmm. I guess this is more my impression of the concert than a review. But their music doesn't have much melody, I guess I find it merely evocative of an era. But as far as I'm concerned, the concert was a great success since it brought my thoughts and emotions back to enjoyable days of my life I hadn't thought about in a long time.

Nigel Tufnel's Theories About Stonehenge

The National Geographic channel has a new show about Stonehenge, and they've conducted some intereviews with the character Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap on the subject.

I don't remember how I came across the site, it was late at night. But I didn't watch the videos until this morning. There are five of them, each very short. I didn't laugh out loud during any of them, but I did think they were amusing enough to include a link.

If the videos were intended to promote an interest in Stonehenge in the viewer, they were unsuccessful, at least in my case. Judging from the main page of the National Geographic Stonehenge website, they have all kinds of interactive stuff. None of it looked interesting enough to click on.

I'd much rather play mah jongg on Fandango. C'mon National Geographic, stop being so @#$#@ educational and put some games on your site.

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