Problems and Quests

Long ago (mid-late 90s) I gave a dinner party for all six of my friends.  One was vegan, and as I was setting out appetizers or something like that I mentioned that I’d checked a lot of labels to find crackers that were vegan.  She laughed and was appreciative, but surprised and a bit apologetic that I’d gone to the trouble.  Another friend of mine said, “Robin is a problem-solver. Of course she’d look for food that would work for you.”  I had never thought of it like that, but it’s true.

This story came to mind when I was looking through a box of yarns that are mostly 10-15 years old and wondering why I had so many of a similar color, which, while nice, isn’t really a favorite color.  And I remembered that I have a nice jacket that my mom made that I really like, and when I started knitting in 1998 or so I wanted to make myself a hat (beret) that matched it.  (I had already made coordinating beaded earrings that match it really well, that being my primary craft prior to taking up knitting.)  She’d made the jacket from, among other things, some Italian yarn she’d knitted into a fabric and then cut, and coordinating colors of woven wool fabric.  The yarn was black and grey mohair with dark magenta accents, and the jacket has a dramatic V of magenta fabric edged with the knit and then the charcoal grey forms the body of the jacket.

I had a bit of the yarn left over at one point in my life, which may not have ever overlapped with my knitting life. (I still hope to find it again someday, but it’s been 20 years.) Greys were not difficult to find. But I have SO MUCH magenta yarn that’s almost but not quite right.  I think I last purchased some around 2012.  No, the hat has never been made, and I haven’t worn the jacket in a while (though of course I still have it.)

This is less problem-solving and more of a quest.  And even when I’ve decided that I probably won’t make the hat it’s still sometimes hard to not get yarn that might work just in case.  It’s not the project that I kept buying yarn/fiber for even after mentally conceding that I won’t do it any time soon. (Another one was to make a cabled hat to match this shirt I bought my husband back in 2001, so he could wear his favorite shirt and the hat and match his Mii. Would he actually do this? No.  Yet, I have actually hand-blended fiber on my drum carder to spin yarn to match the shirt, which is cross-woven red and blue so it’s pretty much impossible to match.)  The quest never ends.

It was when I got to this point in my thinking about the yarn that I realized: I’m a NPC in my own life.  The story around me changes and I still have a (side)quest that will never end, walking in place in my house.

(That ending really calls for a wry screenshot from a game, but I don’t have one.  So here’s a cat photo.  Feel free to count them.)

cats in sun 2018-06-05 17.43.26.jpg


One More

Thematically related to the previous post, here is a real-life, naturally-occurring Hyoi Pear:


In-game reference:


The pear in my fruit basket was not consumed, by the way.  I should have looked for some seagulls to feed it to.

On a side note, I first played this game, or at least the beginning of it,  in Japanese.  I bought the pear, but couldn’t read the description above.  Imagine my confusion when I tried using it and all that happened was this:


If there are no seagulls around, all he does is put the pear on his head and look utterly baffled.  Which was pretty much also my expression at seeing this.  Why is he doing that??? I didn’t play it in Japanese far enough to get somewhere that he could actually control a seagull.  Fortunately, the North America release was not long after that so I could find out what it was for.

Eating Games

I posted a while back on how I’m suggestible when it comes to things like beverages in my games and books, e.g., drinking coffee because a character drinks a lot of it.  Here are a few instances of game-influenced eating.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective


I was reminded of this because of this conversation with my friend @ChrisTheHoff:


The search for the screenshot had both effects, by the way.  As it happens, my sister is cooking chicken for dinner tonight (…well, the night I started this post, which was several weeks ago).  That might be what reminded me to start this post.  (And now I want to start the game again.)

Valkyria Chronicles

One of the two main characters in Valkyria Chronicles is a baker, and her cinnamon rolls play a minor part in one scene (although they look more like round bread).  I played the HD version on PS4 when it came out last April, a few months after a bakery/cafe well-known for its cinnamon rolls opened a location nearby.


That, my friends, weighed nearly two pounds. As you might imagine, it took me a few days to eat it.  The best part is the cinnamon sugar/butter that melted out and pooled around the roll.   Sometimes I just ask the people at the restaurant to give me that (they don’t charge me for it, incidentally).

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

For “Harvest Day” (Thanksgiving) my character was asked to find ingredients for a chef.


That night’s dinner:


Same fish and everything.  (Another character said that her secret ingredient was lemon, rather than vinegar, but I forgot to get a screenshot of that.


However, no matter how much Final Fantasy XV tries, I have no interest in Cup Noodles.  Sorry, Gladio.

Fiber Arts in Video Games: Twilight Princess

I held off on posting this until I finished replaying the game, but nothing else in it stuck out to me.  Sorry for the glare on the top pic.

Zelda TP knitting 2 cropped 2016-03-04 23.36.46 (2)Zelda TP knitting 1 cropped 2016-03-04 23.39.58 (2)

This is the table in Colin’s house in Link’s hometown of Ordona Village.  Uli, Colin’s mother, is expecting — one of the first things to do in the game is retrieve a cradle for her, and in the end credits she’s shown with her new baby in the cradle.  Knitting is, of course, strongly associated with impending motherhood, as I was reminded frequently when I was knitting baby booties as a gift.  It’s therefore no surprise that this house is the only place where one sees knitting in progress.

It’s rather nicely done, really.  The usual symbol of knitting is single-pointed needles and a ball of yarn.  These are double-points — and disturbingly sharp ones at that — of an appropriate size for the gauge of knitting on them.  The knitting itself is adequately drawn.  What’s weird is that the same texture was used for the yarn balls, shown particularly in the second picture with their neat star shapes.  It is in fact so weird (I really don’t think it’d have been hard to draw a ball of yarn!) that I am choosing to believe that rather than conventional baby clothes and blankets — which would usually be at a much finer gauge anyway — she’s knitting balls.  Maybe little pumpkin cozies for the runts of the patch.  Or oversized toy blueberries.  Or juggling bags.  Isn’t that a more interesting explanation than laziness on the part of the graphics folks, who were so detailed in other regards?

Speaking of detailed, check out the tablecloth.  Even distorted by being a texture applied to a 3D object, it’s clearly lace with a faggoted sawtooth border.  I almost feel I could look up that exact stitch pattern.  There are several other such cloths in the house, as wall hangings or furniture covers.  Uli is evidently an accomplished knitter dating from long before this pregnancy.  At least, I couldn’t knit four or five lace tablecloths in nine months.

How I (Try To) Fall Asleep

Sleep does not come easily to me, at least when I’m supposed to be sleeping.  (Afternoon naps are much easier.)  Here are some mental things I do in place of counting sheep.

  1. Count primes.  Eventually the math of figuring out whether a number is prime puts me to sleep.  Or I’ll do something else arithmetic, like a 47 times table.
  2. Word stuff, e.g., change WOLF to FLOW, or see how many words I can think of that end in -urry.  (Slurry, blurry, flurry, curry, hurry, furry, purry…)
  3. Linguistics puzzles, like phonetic rules for allomorphs of number-related words in Japanese.  Not that I have much of a vocabulary to work from, after three months of class.
  4. Japanese vocabulary review.
  5. Think about Lunar-related things, like what aspects of the four distinct versions of Lunar 1 would I combine into an ideal game, or how could Genesis/Dragon Song be turned into a game worth playing.
  6. Knitting (or crochet) planning, either for a possible upcoming project or an existing one such as putting pockets on the giant cozy sweater.
  7. Math related to knitting.  Recently it was figuring out integer values for sides closely approximating a 30-60-90 right triangle.   This one actually backfired on me because after doing all these calculations in my head and coming up with a couple of acceptable solutions I had to turn on my phone and find out which was closer.
  8. Listening to music inside my head.  Sometimes I notice things I hadn’t noticed before, which is kind of bizarre.
  9. Analyzing chord progressions of music I know well.  I’m a bit rusty on this though.
  10. Making up song lyrics about my cats.

Fiber Arts in Videogames: Chrono Trigger

I’ll start this series with one that I thought would be very short — it’s just one tile! — but that got longer than I thought it would.  I don’t think most of these will end up this thoughtful.

Chrono Trigger, a very highly-regarded RPG with a time-traveling conceit, has a range of settings, from prehistoric hut to futuristic dome.  Two of the eras in which the plot plays out feature a classic medieval castle, complete with king: the game’s “Middle Ages” (600 AD) and “Present” (1000 AD). The only fiber arts representation I remember offhand from the game is in the form of the rather high number of spinning wheels in this castle[1].  Pretty minimal.  It’s not like anyone in the game spins, or even talks about spinning.  The wheels are just decoration to establish the character of the place, much as the inventor family’s home is full of books and gadgets.  Makes sense, as when you think of things in a castle, you think spinning wheels, right?

Well, maybe you do if your primary association with castles is Sleeping Beauty.  If not, you probably think of suits of armor.  And those are there, as are plain boxes (reasonable, as these are mainly storerooms we’re seeing), battle axes, barrels, and that staple of videogames, chests.  And spinning wheels.  One of these things is not like the others.

Chrono Trigger castle brightened 2016-03-08 23.08.02 (3).jpg

In both eras of the game involving this particular castle, there are ruling kings, but the more important royal character is the queen (in the Middle Ages) or the princess (in the Present, and indeed every other time, as she’s a playable character and arguably the one most central to the plot).   While the castle is full of soldiers and their impedimenta, it’s the female side of the royal family — the distaff side — that matters most to the plot.  And as that term itself illustrates, spinning is, Rumplestiltskin notwithstanding, indelibly marked as something women and girls do.

(A distaff is a companion tool to a spinning wheel, used to hold plant fiber waiting to be spun.  I don’t know how and why it came to be a term for “female.”  But consider “spinster”, a term used only to denote an unmarried woman, even though it has a rather masculine form — compare sempster, which has long fallen into disuse even though its feminine version, seamstress, is still used.)

What the spinning wheels are conveying is, we live here too.  It’s no accident that one of them is in the queen’s/princess’s bedroom.  The game itself misses or subverts many sexist tropes[2], but I’m not sure there were many better choices for suggesting that yes, women live in this here castle too[3], than the spinning wheels. (Actually, that’s the real problem — that there aren’t any other ways to do this — but that’s not the game’s fault.)

Though I have to say, I sure love the mental image of all of those soldiers spinning.

ChronoTrigger1000GuardiaCastle Rainbow Shard room labelled brighter

[0] Screenshots/maps from, though I have brightened both. First one is the queen’s/princess’s bedroom and nearby rooms (the king’s room does not have a spinning wheel in it), last one is the most important treasure chamber in the game.  The character in front of the rainbow shell offers to make a Prism Dress (or 3 Prism Helms) from the shell, so perhaps he uses the spinning wheel for that!

[1] I was troubled by my inability to count these before I realized that I had been flipping back and forth between maps of the Middle Ages version and the Present version, and the Present-day castle has about twice as many rooms.  Most of which look alike.  The high number of wheels is primarily accounted for by the fact that videogames reuse sprites in similar rooms, of course.

[2] This isn’t evident at first. Both the 1000 AD princess and the 600 AD queen (her ancestress) need rescuing initially.  But that’s about the last time that particular trope goes in that direction.  I think every other rescue, and there are quite a few, are of men and usually spearheaded by one or more of the three female party members, including the princess rescuing her own father, the king.

[3] We do see other females in the castle, serving in the kitchen and the infirmary, but I had forgotten that when I started writing this.  I’m not rewriting it now, though.

Fiber Arts and Videogames

At this time, my main hobbies, the ones I’m most likely to spend my time doing, fall into two categories: fiber arts (mainly knitting) and videogames (mainly console or handheld).

I got into both relatively late.  Although I occasionally played console games at friends’ houses, it wasn’t until a) my sister was given a(n) NES by a friend and b) a friend of mine moved into the house I was living in and brought his consoles that I started playing them much myself, because they just hadn’t been around earlier.  Both of these were around 1993-4.  Because they were mostly older consoles and/or hand-me-down games, I wasn’t playing any of the then-current releases and it was several years before I played something that wasn’t used and several years old.

I actually have a specific date for when I started knitting and it took long-term: 31 October 1997.  My friend Ielith and I had met for lunch and then to go to Michael’s so she could buy knitting needles, since she’d decided she had enough afghans and wanted to start making sweaters.  I had a ball of yarn at home left from a recent abortive attempt at crochet and decided to buy a pair of knitting needles and give that a go again, 15 years after I’d first learned the knit stitch.  (It was another 15+ before I tried crochet again.)  So I started knitting around when I was also starting to actually seek out games to and play rather than just waiting for them to come to me via friends and friends of friends.

Knitting was probably the first hobby I’d had that I could do something else at the same time, for a limited range of activities.  I could converse while beading and sometimes while playing the piano, but with knitting I could both converse and read — or watch something.

But I still couldn’t knit and play games at the same time.  Which was fine, since both my housemate and my sister were happy to do the playing while I knit and watched and contributed useful suggestions like “There’s a chest in that room/on that ledge/back there/that you missed.”   (I used to call us the brain and the brawn.  I was the brain, figuring out things to check while my housemate dealt with the enemies on the screen and such.)  This had already been a bit of a pattern, especially with my housemate, who would tend to fall asleep if he were the one watching.  But now at least I had something productive to do while watching.  And still do, with my husband doing the playing.

As with any other specialized interest, references to and glimpses of knitting and similar(1) started jumping out at me in games.  My abovementioned friend Ielith, who also plays games, put it pretty well just earlier today: “I’m tickled by the novelty of my yarn hobby showing up in a video game at all.”  I’m also interested in seeing how such hobbies are portrayed and what their inclusion contributes, though not to any great rigor.  So I started noting down examples casually, just from games I’ve played or watched(2).  They’ve been on my list of things to post about for years, and I’m finally getting to it.  Stay tuned.

(1) I’ve seen examples of and references to knitting, spinning, and weaving.  Oddly enough, I’ve seen no references to crochet, although a lot of Yoshi’s Wooly World appears to be crocheted (I haven’t played or watched this yet).  Crocheting is also one fiber art I can’t do so well while watching or reading, but I think that’s mainly that I’m still relatively new to it; I know other people can crochet without looking.

(2) I have a few examples from games I haven’t played, which may or may not be included.