All posts by secondtruth

A Cockail for Braid

Have a Super Mar 10!  For Mario March I am creating Mario-inspired food and drink.

I’m going to be playing Braid today. In the spirit of The Drunken Moogle, I thought it would be nice to create a cocktail to celebrate this game, and drink while I play.

Some game and geek cocktails only mimic the aesthetics of the thing they are trying to tribute. But I am determined that my Braid cocktail should capture not only some of the game’s painterly look, but also the spirit of Braid, pun intended. Obviously, the first alcoholic beverage that comes to mind is a bottle of wine, spilled on your dinner date.

But what aside from that? Braid is a meditation on the concept of regret. Once you consider that, the choice of spirit is clear: there is no spirit that you regret more than tequila. Specifically, I regret the tequila sunrises that I had in Cancun, but that may be on a more personal note.

I don’t want to just recreate a Tequila Sunrise, so let me instead present my Braid inspired version, which I call Tequila Sunset Over Tim’s House.

  • 2 oz tequila (I used Hornitos Reposado), divided
  • 1/2 oz Creme de Cassis
  • Blackberries
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 8 oz Orange Juice

Take 1/2 oz of your tequila, the sugar, and 3 or 4 blackberries. Muddle all together, until the liquid is dark, then add the Creme De Cassis (berry liquor)

Mix this dark and foreboding liquid gently, then pour it into your chosen cocktail glass.

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add the orange juice and the rest of the tequila. Shake.

Using the back of a spoon if you need it, layer the orange juice mixture over top of the berry mixture. Create an ominous fiery sunset over a dark city, like the starting screen of Braid. Add a few more blackberries to float on top to symbolize dark clouds looming on the horizon.



Celebrating Mario March

Hi Everyone!

Have you been watching my Twitch stream?

No? Well, it’s at

This is a really good place to find me lately, since I’m trying to get into a habit of streaming more often. I’ve gotten involved with an awesome group of streamers all locally in Philadelphia, and it’s a blast playing games and hanging out.

This month there’s a vibe going on that Elliface started, and that’s Mario March, where many of us in the community are playing Mario games all month.

However, because I’m an Indie Hipster, I’m not going to play many actual Mario games. Instead, I’m going to also play Mario-like games that are made by independent developers.

Sure, I’ll play Braid. I feel that I’ve been challenged to 100 percent it, so we’re going to sit around and stare at clouds. But I’ll also play Omegaland, so get ready for that. If I manage to get the right equipment, I’m also interested in trying Galaxy or Odyssey, because I actually haven’t played either of them…

I’m also going to stop by the Cooking with Heat stream to cook some Mario-inspired food. Woot!

I might even wear my Princess Peach cosplay…. which I wore to PAX and MAGfest. I met a swell bunch of Princesses there.

Look our community up for the fun!

PH16 on Twitch!

The Unintentional Tech Wisdom of Scott Shaw

There’s a B movie I’m really fond of called Guns of El Chupacabra. If you’ve hung out with me and my husband for long enough, you’re probably familiar with the movie. We discovered it through the Smithee Awards ceremony at Origins Gaming Convention, and have been sharing it with people for years. The hero of the film is played by Scott Shaw, who is also the director of the film. The heavy in the film is the late and great Robert Z’dar. As far as I am aware, we own the only DVD copy of the film signed personally by Robert Z’Dar, and I treasure it.

I’d explain the plot, but it’s not very coherent. It has the elements that you’d expect: guns, El Chupacabra. There’s a scene near the front of the film where our hero, Jack B. Quick, is buying the titular guns. He visits a gunsmith that operates out of the back of a truck. The gunsmith explains the variety of different weapon he offers, doing demonstrations that explains the merits of each individual piece. This is a standard scene in an action film, the hero gearing up sequence. But because it’s a movie filmed without a real script the smith just rambles and it goes on for way too long.

After it’s all done, Jack looks at the smith and asks: “So all these guns do the same thing? Kill people?”

This is an accidentally brilliant line and I think about it a lot.

Continue reading

Writing Roundup

This blog hasn’t been too busy lately, I know. But if you’re interested, I’ve been posting a lot of articles that I was sitting on for a while on the games blog I write for,

I Play Fighting Games for the Story – about the story mode in Street Fighter V and why it doesn’t quite work for me, and about my relationship to fighting game stories in general

Too Many Games and the Philadelphia Game Scene – a hopefully humorous personal look at a local games event and the activities there!

Heart Quest Books: D&D Adventures for Girls – some cool books that I read this summer that were written in the 80s!

Also, I wrote a chapter in a book!

100 Greatest Video Game Characters (available on Amazon)

This book lists 100 great video game characters, and opens up the debate as to whether you think those characters deserve to be called the greatest. I can actually think of a few characters I believe are missing from this list, so it’s bound to start conversations. Of course, I wrote about an inarguably correct choice – SHODAN. It’s an honor of course to be part of the project and I hope you check it out!





Catch me on Twitch!

Cross-posted from

I can’t always find time to write long essays about games. I’m often busy playing them!

I figured I’d go ahead and share that gameplay with all of you, so I re-invigorated my Twitch stream. I haven’t streamed since Extra Life several years ago, so I’m shaking off the dust.

Check my channel out at

My plan for the forseeable future: to stream CRPGs on Monday night, and shooters or team games Friday nights, time permitting. So, on Mondays for a while, please come watch me play Torment: Tides of Numenera, if you want to see the game! Keep in mind that, a) there will be spoilers, of course, and b)  the game is very text heavy. On Fridays, provided I’m not traveling or at a conference, you can watch me be pretty terrible at Overwatch. Hooray!

Also in the works: we’re starting a local Dungeons & Dragons game, and we’d like to livestream it as much as possible. More details as this unfolds, but you might be able to catch character creation and D&D plotting this upcoming Sunday afternoon.

While my channel is offline for the rest of the week, watch my friend Elli at She’s the one showing me the ropes where it comes to making a Twitch stream go, and is an awesome streamer with a good variety of regular content! (We’re playing D&D at her place.)

Oh, and… if neither of those are happening, I guess you could watch the Power Rangers.

See you tonight, starting at around 8:00 PM EST, and going until I feel too sleepy to keep it up (around 12 AM).


Email the author of this post at

Making Makoto’s Black Dress

This last weekend I went to the Sailor Moon Silver Millennium Masquerade Ball! It was an event in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Sailor Moon, with formal costumes, drinks, dancing, and moonlight. We enjoyed the event very much. But what does someone wear to something like this? Well…

I wanted to do a “canon” gown from the Sailor Moon manga, show, or art. My favorite character is Makoto, or Sailor Jupiter, and I have cosplayed her before in her regular Sailor Senshi outfit. (You might think that a geek girl who likes computers would be all about Sailor Mercury. I do like her, but Sailor Jupiter is the awkward girl who is a hard kung fu badass on the outside, but a sweet romantic on the inside. Plus she loves to cook! So I love her to bits.) I knew I wanted to do something Jupiter-inspired. After examining my options, I thought about doing the green gown… but, I polled my friends, and we had never seen anyone attempt Makoto’s black gown, which Jupiter wears in the Sailor Moon Super S series. The episode is actually about a date going pretty badly for Makoto, but… I figured for a real date, it would be pretty charming. Plus, I’m kind of into the whole “girl falls for the villain” thing anyway. Sorry, not-sorry.

So I made up my mind to create this dress.

For the last year and change, I’ve been taking sewing lessons at the JoAnn Fabrics in Downingtown. I must give my thanks for this to the incredible Denise, who is the instructor there who helps with the “Sew What” classes. She will allow someone to bring in basically any project and she’ll give guidance on how to make the outfit come to life. She is a big help with teenage cosplayers and helped me make my first from-scratch cosplays, as well as this gown!

Whenever I’m ready to create a new cosplay, the first thing I do is pin a bunch of views to my Pinterest. In this case, screenshots of the dress available on-line, and a very nice rendition done on DeviantArt, were my main clear references for the costume.

Looking at the pictures of the dress in the anime, I thought black velvet would be the most dramatic for the real dress. After looking at the options available at hand, I picked the pattern McCalls M7320, View C, to make this dress.  It has a slightly longer train than the ‘canon’ dress, but I liked the effect of this. Changing the skirt bottom would be simple enough though if you wanted a shorter train on the gown. The dress does have some seams up the front. Sewing these on didn’t interfere much with the design and gave the dress some much-needed structure and fitting help. I made just a couple of small changes: one, I sewed some bra cups into the top of the dress to help out with some support, and, two, I had to create and sew on the little off the shoulder straps on either side. Other than that, the dress itself was pretty much the same as in the pattern!

The biggest challenge of this was the rose applique. To plan it, I took the art of the rose, and shifted it to grayscale, then blew it up in Photoshop. It took some trial and error to get the rose the right size. Once I had the size I liked, I printed it out on multiple pieces of paper which I taped together. I used 2/3 of a yard of red satin, and 2/3 yard of light purple satin. I had quite a bit of purple left over, but I was okay with that since it did give me some chance to make mistakes. You could probably get away with a bit less if you placed leaves carefully before cutting out.

Since getting the size of the rose right was a challenge, I’ll provide my final pattern for if you want to try it yourself. (Link to it in my public OneDrive.) I laid all the pieces out on to the fabric, and cut out interfacing in the same shape as the pieces. I used 805 weight fusible interfacing to back the satin. The first step is to iron the interfacing on the “wrong” side of the fabric, then cut the shape as precisely as you can. Finally, peel the paper back of the interfacing off. The interfacing will add stiffness to the fabric so it won’t lose its shape during the embroidery process. And it’s fusible on both sides as well for placement.

For embroidery, I had three colors of thread: pink for the rose petals, dark purple for the leaves, and a light purple embroidery thread to match the light purple on the leaves, which was used for the stems. Using my printout as a guide, I first lined up the flower shape where I wanted it, and ironed it onto the velvet fabric (carefully, since velvet is easy to wreck with too much heat). After that, I used tailor’s chalk to trace on the patterns of the petals. Then I used my sewing machine on an embroidery stitch, and carefully followed the lines that I drew! This was time consuming, and I didn’t get it exactly perfect, but I was pretty happy with the way it turned out.

From there, I started first with the leaf that overlaps the rose, since its placement was most critical. Again, I ironed it on first, then sewed it on, this time with the dark purple thread. Then I used my template to carefully lay out all the remaining leaves and sew each one in place.

To make the stems, I put a paper backing under the dress, and again traced the lines I needed onto the dress with chalk. I mostly did this freehand, using the template and eyeballing the right placement for the swirl at the bottom, as well as connecting all the leaves and the rose itself. The paper backing peels off when sewing is complete. And the pattern was done!

To make the shoulder straps, we measured around the shoulders, and cut four strips of velvet with a “peak” on each one. I sewed stiff interfacing onto the inside of all four strips to make sure the sleeve pieces had enough body to stand up on their own. They don’t add any structure to the dress and just sort of hang there. But they look nice!

I’d say the one thing I ended up disliking about wearing the dress is that, even with added bra cups, it didn’t really give me much support up top. Upping my corset and bodice construction game is one skill I definitely want to work on this year in crafting. But the next time I make a ballgown, I’ll go for one that I can wear a regular bra under, for comfort reasons. My next dress is probably going to be Princess Peach!

I do have one other regret, which is that I was in the restroom when they did the “every Sailor Jupiter” group photo, and I totally missed out on it. Ugh! But there’s some photos of the ball on my Instagram. I have some professional photos coming of our final look at the ball, but in the mean time, here’s a couple snaps of the finished dress. Good luck if you try to make it yourself or something like it!


What Is: Microsoft Cognitive Services

Lately I’ve taken an interest in Microsoft’s Cognitive Services suite, and given some talks about Cognitive Services around the country. Since it makes sense to take some notes on this process, I’m going to write a couple of blog entries going through some of the services available and some sample code for people who want to try it out. Before I start doing that, I’ll just write a brief intro about what Cognitive Services are and why they’re pretty cool.

Cognitive Services used to be called Microsoft Project Oxford. Since its debut it’s expanded to include more features. This is a suite of intelligent APIs that work cross-platform to provide intelligent data such as facial recognition in images, voice recognition of speakers, and video stabilization. There’s a variety of APIs to explore here. You can access the APIs from any kind of app that you want to interface with them, though I have been coding in C# the most lately so that’s what I’ll use in examples.

You might already be familiar with Cognitive Services already if you tried out the How-Old.Net website back in May of last year. (I recall this going viral, then a big scare about if Microsoft was saving your images and violating privacy, but… the site doesn’t save your images, so don’t worry if you want to play around with it.) There’s also another favorite, the Fetch app, which is at It can recognize breeds of dog, or tell you what dog it thinks you are…


It thinks I’m a poodle.

You should check out all the APIs that are available and just play around. I particularly have fun with the Image Analysis. It’s pretty smart, though it’s not always a hundred percent right which is why it gives off a confidence rating whenever it analyzes a picture. What impresses me as well is it recognizes a pretty amazing variety of celebrities, including people from television and Broadway. Also, I will stealthily point out to you that it judges pictures on their Adult Content and Raciness Rating, which has lots of practical and impractical applications.

As an Interactive Fiction fan, I’m also really excited about the possibilities in the natural language understanding API. With my background, I think of it as a potential for a much better text parser for a conversational IF. I’m going to be approaching a new project from that angle.

If you want to do more than just play and use these in an app, you’ll need a Microsoft account to log in and get API keys. (It’s the “My Account” button in the top corner.) I’ll post step by step later, but if you can’t wait, you may also see me at Philly Code Camp this Saturday discussing them! Maybe see you this weekend!