Springingtiger's Blog

Some Thoughts On Beginning Steampunk
September 7, 2016, 16:47
Filed under: social media, Steampunk | Tags: , , , , , ,

dscf2243If you’re thinking of going Steampunk the chances are you’ve seen Steampunks and thought ‘Ooh I like that look!’. Of course if you saw that look at a Steampunk event, you probably saw several ‘looks’ from Eighteenth Century Venetian masqueraders through pirates, Victorians and Edwardians through to astronauts and a Darth Vader encased in leather and brass. People ask what Steampunk is, better men than I have tried to answer and failed. Failed because there is no one answer. The best I can come up with is that it is an alternative history of an alternative reality and you access the Steampunk universe through the way that makes you feel good, and it is very much about feeling good.


Having said all that, and after admitting that there are no fixed rules in Steampunk, there are several accessible stereotypes that can provide a foundation to work on: alternative scientists, Wild Wild West, Steampunked Fandoms, Victoriana, Militaria, Airship Nauticalia, and Fantasia.


dscf2132Alternative scientists include engineers (if they are in uniform they may cross into Militaria and Nauticalia), Alchemists, Doctors, Time Travellers, etc. They are generally identified by their machines, preferably featuring gauges, dials, and plenty of brass and copper tubing. Engineers have tools, Alchemists all sorts of flasks and bottles. Whatever machines a Time Traveller carries will probably feature clocks.


Wild Wild West is an alternative view of the American Union immediately after the Civil War and effectively is a blending of the Old West with gadgets and machines.


Steampunked Fandoms are generally a reworking of the classic subjects of Cosplay: Darth Vader, Iron Man, Batman, Harley Quinn, Star Fleet officers, etc. The basic rule seems to be take your favourite character then re-imagine it in leather and polished metal. Theatrical make up may feature, particularly in automaton costumes (think Rabbit from Steam dscf2322Powered Giraffe).


Fantasia is fun with Fairies in goggles and all sorts of Unicorns, vampires and dragons. This is very much the realm where the Gothic and Steampunk blend, the realm of Van Helsing and the league of Extraordinary Gentlemen.


The other categories are very much as their name, but with the possible addition of identifiably Steampunk accessories. However as someone once said “Goggles are not obligatory”, if you read the fiction that inspired Steampunk there is a large cast of people who merely wore the clothes appropriate to the era, what makes these outfits Steampunk now is their presence in our time. The amount of accessorising an outfit will receive will depend on the effect its creator is trying to present, there are no hard and fast rules.


dscf2059So where does one start? I would suggest the first step is to look in your own wardrobe and see what lends itself to Steampunk. A leather waistcoat suggests Wild Wild West. A greatcoat suggests Militaria or Nauticalia. Look at pictures of Steampunk outfits, just Google ‘steampunk’ or enter it as a search term on Facebook and G+. I think, from personal experience, that it is a mistake to rush online and start buying ‘steampunk’ items even though there are some worthwhile purchases out there. I suggest after raiding your own wardrobe try the attics of the family, parents and grandparents may be hoarding garments that realistically they will never use again. Look in your shed and garage you may have all sorts of bit of wire, nuts, bolts and other bits and bobs you’ve held on to ‘just in case’. These can be re-purposed to add an industrial look to hats and garments.



The next stage is to visit thrift shops, charity shops, junk shops, and antique shops as well as ‘Pound Shops’. Don’t restrict yourself to an item’s intended use, but always ask, ‘What else can I use this for? What does this remind me of?’ I am in the process of turning a brass doorbell chime into a ‘gun’. I know someone about to adapt an old brass insecticide spray into another gun…possibly unless inspiration takes them down another path. Possibilities are infinite when informed by imagination.


dscf2303One thing I have learned about the Steampunk community is that they are very supportive and ready to provide feedback and advice so just ask. I personally started merely by exaggerating my usual clothes, it was only when I received positive feedback that I started taking it further. I personally like my outfits to be things I can wear everyday: Top Hats, frock coats, bowlers, waistcoats. I can then dress them up or down as appropriate. You may prefer to build an outfit specifically for an occasion.


Goggles and gears may not be essential, however wearing them is an easy way of self 20160826_164050-01.jpegidentifying as Steampunk. If you take a few everyday items like a waistcoat, shirt, bow-tie or cravat, newsboy cap and add to them a watch-chain and a pair of goggles you have an outfit which is very identifiable as Steampunk without much effort and would allow you to dip your toe into Steampunkery and see if you wanted to wade in further. Try this at an event like Asylum and you’ll be in above your waist before you know it! As I posted a couple of days a hat can tie an outfit together or start one. I have bought hats in charity shops, but if you have an idea of what you seek there are reasonably priced bargains online in eBay or Amazon like a perfectly proper pith helmet for twenty-five pounds, albeit with imitation leather chinstrap.


dscf2241My best advice is start small, frugally and build up. When you see a bargain grab it, then work out how you’re going to use it. A bargain in a charity shop may disappear the same day, if you think you can use it, don’t wait; I have and regretted it. After a while you will have a stock of items you can mix and match to produce an increasingly wide range of outfits.


I suppose I should end with a health warning. I began with a hat, coat, waistcoat, glasses and goggles. I am now sewing leather and on the verge of working in EVA foam. Steampunk is great fun, but it can be addictive…the crack cocaine of crafting!wp-image-1078850265jpg.jpeg


Here’s One I Prepared Earlier.


There are obstacles to my challenge of posting to my blog every day of this calendar year. The obvious one is finding something to write about everyday. The moment I decided to make that today’s subject I realised I was talking garbage. People who write a tightly specialist blog may sometimes be faced with a lack of subject matter, but I have no such restriction. Sometimes when writing fiction I find myself staring glumly at a blank screen, but in my blog I write about whatever I choose.

Sometimes I do find my writing time is limited. However my commitment is to post everyday, not necessarily to write a blog post everyday. I have found that some days when I have the time and inspiration I can write more than one post which means that I can save a few for emergencies. Generally I like to write one a day, but last time I did the one a day challenge I sometimes found myself in the car frantically trying to complete a blog on my phone as midnight approached. I learned that year to love the WordPress app.

One of my challenges for this year is to read the complete Bible. My sheer disgust at some parts, anger at others, and despair at some of the things I find in it are an unfortunate source of ideas. Although, I must admit, there are moments of positive inspiration. I try to read a non-fiction book every week which again stimulates ideas. The advantage of basing fiction on non-fiction is that you can’t be accused of stealing someone else’s plot…unless it’s a non-fiction book of questionable non-fictionality (the sort of thing that features Cathars, secret societies and plots about the crucifixion).

Writers who comment on the news have merely to turn on the television or radio for inspiration. Perhaps a visit to Google for additional material and their problems are solved. Without the internet there would be no blogging, in more ways than one. I know I am sitting here typing, surrounded by thousands of books, around two thousand in this room alone, but it is the immediate access to information on the internet that really facilitates blogging. I find I will first use Google to confirm my sources rather than spend time hunting for a book. The only problem with internet sources like Wikipedia is that occasionally they can be inaccurate, particularly if nobbled by an editor of ill-intent, so I still like my books. Even if focused on one field the internet allows a writer to trawl for inspiration, just type a single word like ‘controversial’ into Google and you will get ideas, you’d be amazed at how many entries there are under ‘controversial fancy dress’! Add another word to your and still more possibilities appear.

A traditional starting point for the traditionally stuck is the writing prompt. You can find them in books and writing magazines and again on the internet. Researching just now I found plenty including writingexercises.co.uk which has a random first line generator a good way to spark off an idea ‘The horse came back alone….’ For fun www.seventhsanctum.com produces some prompts which are utterly surreal, it is worth reading the comments beneath the prompts to enjoy people’s reactions to them. I think, personally, I’d stick with Writing Exercises who have a nice selection of random generators for anything from Titles (How about ‘The Ancient Stool’ or ‘The Crazy Diamonds’?) to Jobs, Chatacter Traits, Dialogue, First Lines etc. You might not use them, but that’s not necessarily the point, they may just shake you out of your rut and get you past your block. They also have several mobile phone apps on Google Play, but as I haven’t tried their apps I shall forbear from comment. Perhaps if I’m stuck for ideas later in the year, I shall in desperation down load them and write….a review.

Upgrade Downer
December 21, 2013, 22:48
Filed under: social media, success, Technology | Tags: , , , , , ,

The problem with mobile phone contracts is that the cutting edge smartphone with which one started the contract, is a frustrating antique by the end. However once eighteen months or two years have passed, comes the blissful day when, at last one may upgrade. I have at last reached that blissful day and have, in my hand, a beautiful new Samsung Galaxy S4.

When I moved from Nokia to the Galaxy S2, I had to spend some considerable time setting up the phone to suit me. However moving5 from one Android phone to another was almost effortless; logging in with my Google account allowed me to move my photos, contacts and most of my apps straight to my new phone. I say, “most of my apps” because there were some notable exceptions like Facebook, Snapseed and Drive. On the whole the process was easy.

What really annoys me about Samsung is that they take much of the joy out of getting a new phone by trying to dictate to their customers. Samsung insist on cluttering their good phones with useless apps. One does not have to choose to use the apps provided, but one cannot choose to replace them. Because Samsung makes no provision for the uninstallation of its garbage, one finds one’s phone’s storage, for which one has paid dearly, in effect stolen. One of my reasons for using Linux, rather than Microsoft, on my laptop is that I prefer to use only the applications I need and choose; I resent having other people imposing inappropriate choices on me. I would not mind Samsung putting apps on their handsets if I could remove those I dont want, as it is, I am inclined to make this my last Samsung. I had considered as a possible choice this time a Google Nexus 5, but my network EE don’t carry it, so in two years I shall probably be looking both for a different handset manufacturer and network. It is a shame because Samsung makes great phones, then spoils them with bloatware; I have been happy with EE, but if I cannot find the phone I want I may be compelled to change. Ideally by the end of this contract Samsung will have bucked up their ideas and I will be able to continue to use their handsets on a network I like.

The Best Gadget Ever


I have owned many gadgets over the years, they litter my kitchen cupboard and my attic. Several of them have been useful; the Swivel Sweeper, Tobi Steamer and Magic Bullet are all television purchases I don’t regret. My favourite gadget at the moment is probably my Google Nexus 7, but what, I wonder is my favourite gadget,  the one in my life of which I think most fondly and why?

On reflection my favourite gadget is neither the most sophisticated,  versatile, nor most expensive watchamathingy I’ve ever possessed, but it hold happy memories. Many years ago, when I was at school my grandmother bought me a pocket sized Hitachi transistor radio. Back in the mid sixties it was cutting edge although it was only mono. She always sailed back from India via the Suez Canal and used to stop off in Aden to buy presents, and it was a good place to buy things from the east. I loved that little radio; it had great reception and I could carry it with me everywhere. Back then radios were not generally small. Our radio at home plugged into the mains, took time to warm up and illuminated the room. I remember the dial allowed me to tune into radio stations like the Home Service and the Light Programme or more exotic  stations such as Athlone, Hilversum and Luxembourg. Ah, Radio Luxembourg! It was just what my little transistor radio needed, I spent many happy hours after “lights out” in the dormitory listening to Jimmy Saville’s “Under The Bedclothes Club” and later Kid Jensen. It was on that little transistor I first listened to Radio Caroline, later it heard the dawn of Radio One, I think it eventually died not long after the birth of Radio Clyde. It did its job well for years and I loved it.

I think that my little radio captures what I look for in a gadget. It was easy to use, just two dials. It did its job well, I have been disappointed by many gadgets that promised much, but delivered little. I loved that I could have music everywhere, I later loved the Walkman and have been using a Classic iPod (5G) since before they gave it the name “Classic” and now I have my Nexus 7. However nothing will displace that little Hitachi in my affections, While nothing can beat simplicity and functionality, I do enjoy miniaturisation snd multi-functionality as well. I have several multi tools, including one with a pair of secateurs in it.The Swiss Army Knife is a classic and I  like their Card. One of my favourite gadgets, and one I always carry with me is a credit card sized piece of steel that has within its design a can opener, bottle opener, screwdriver, ruler, wrench,  knife and saw blades, so small, so simple and so very useful. 

I have learned over the years that the best gadgets aren’t necessarily the expensive ones, or even the most technically advanced. The best gadgets are the ones I use and are ready to use when I need them.

Happy Hudl (a non-geek point of view)
October 19, 2013, 23:26
Filed under: social media, success | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Neelam has a Hudl. For a few years she has been using an iPad for Ambulance Service business and has been thinking about buying her own tablet. I recently got a Nexus 7 for my birthday, no sooner had I got my hands on it than Tesco released the Hudl. The Hudl has been very well reviewed by computer magazines. The specs look good and the price of only £119.00 is very good.

The Hudl may be half the price of the Nexus 7,  but it is not half the tablet. I am very impressed by the Hudl.  It does take a little longer to start than my Nexus,  but it is not appreciably slower in use. The screen does not have as high a definition as the Nexus,  but I find it perfectly sharp enough. My Nexus may have a larger memory,  but the Hudl has a micro SDHC slot. Hudl’s operating system is Android Jelly Bean so anyone familiar with Android can just pick it up and use it; those unfamiliar with Android may take a few minutes longer. The Hudl is a pleasure to use.

I love my Google Nexus 7,  however had I had the choice I may well have bought the Hudl instead.  The Nexus may be the better tablet,  but the Hudl is as good a tablet as anyone could need. In terms of value I cannot see how the Hudl can be bettered, particularly when Club Card users can buy it using their Club Card coupons on a two for one offer that effectively makes the price £60.00. I do not regret buying the Nexus,  but it makes me realise just how good the Hudl is. I like the Hudl,  I like the Hudl a lot.

I Love My Nexus 7!
October 1, 2013, 21:57
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

For my sixtieth birthday Neelam’s mother and sisters gave me money for a new Google Nexus 7. I had to wait for a couple of weeks until the tablet was released,  even then I did not rush out to buy one. I wondered whether to buy the 34Gb with LTE or without.  I knew that as I am going to use it for watching films,  and as it has no SD card slot I needed the maximum storage. I checked on the Android forums (that really should be fora) and decided that I would be able to tether the Nexus 7 to my Samsung Galaxy S2 so would not need LTE. On Sunday I went out and bought my Nexus 7.

I was pleased to discover that tethering the tablet to my phone was easier than the forum answers had led me to expect and did not require me to download any apps to do so. The tablet is very nippy and the screen is very clear. I have had no difficulty transferring DVDS from my PC via USB, I think a USB port is essential particularly where the Internet is unreliable. Yesterday I downloaded an episode of New Tricks on BBC IPlayer and watched it this morning, very smooth. I had no difficulty installing my essential apps like Google Drive and Facebook.

Although I have been using an Android phone for some time,  I have never, hitherto, used Google Play Books. While I was installing my apps Google Play kindly,  although without invitation (not sure I totally approve of that!),  loaded three of my favourite books to my Nexus 7.  I have started reading,  yet again,  The Three Musketeers.  The text is pin sharp, and it is easy to enlarge it. The pages flip over more easily than a paper volume and a wee touch in the top right corner marks the page.  I realised as I marked my page that I had done everything without any instructions,  it occurs to me that I haven’t even looked for any because using the Nexus 7 is so intuitive. When I was in the shop I played with the Surface tablets,  and I didn’t like them, I think I’d need a lot of practice before I could feel comfortable with them.  I am no geek, but I have found the Nexus 7 both easy and a pleasure to use,  I thoroughly recommend it to my fellow “silver surfers”.

Oh Come On Facebook!
May 14, 2013, 21:55
Filed under: Justice, Politics, Writing | Tags: ,

I used Facebook to campaign,
Now they are kicking up a fuss,
But I’m not going to complain
I can  always use Google Plus.
I contacted a lot of folk
In order to spread the word,
Seriously it is not a joke,
Facebook is often times absurd.
Should I be blamed for the amount
Of messages I choose to send?
It is, after all, my account
And I only sent them to my friends.
So I will do what I will do,
What if, of friends, I have oodles?
Facebook, that is enough from you,
Please don’t make me go to Google.