Star Wars X-Wing Game Pieces

Last December my husband bought me the Star Wars X-Wing TIE Advanced ship as a gift.  I love the Darth Vader character from Star Wars and have a fondness for the cool TIE fighter that he flew.  So needless to say these cool little ships are eye catching items.  I recently bought my husband the Slave I ship that was flown by the Boba Fett Star Wars character.  So now we have two of these ships from this game set, so the next natural question is…..what is the game like and would it be fun to play?

So we decided to do an “unboxing” of the Slave I ship for a podcast.  We thought this would be fun since the box listed all sorts of pieces.  The packaging itself showed a great deal of care into making sure that these somewhat expensive little ships were not damaged along with the other pieces that were included.  Tiny zip bags held the plastic stand and its pieces along with the cards that were included.  As you can see the artwork is pretty nice and the printing is well done as well.

The only real problem I encountered while doing the podcast was trying to get the tiny plastic stand pieces together.  I actually broke both of the tiny plastic stand pieces, which upset me.  I am pretty careful with things and this was an unpleasant  surprise.  After some careful examination later while setting up the parts for photos, I discovered that the tiny posts were not the standard round peg going into a round hole.  They appeared to be a triangular shape, so one has to be very careful when trying to put them together.  I had no idea since we were filming an “unboxing” and wanted our reactions to be genuine.  You can see how the parts broke in the picture to the right.  I felt bad.  I broke my husband’s birthday present.

Another thing we learned is that we need an additional part to the game.  There is a starter’s package that has all the rules and instructions on how the game is played, so we shall have to obtain one of these before we can actually figure out how to play.  And you may be wondering why we didn’t just offer to show you the podcast?  Well, one of our crew members who was acting as the cameraman did an “Amy Farrah Fowler” and forgot to turn the camera on.  So, hopefully when we get the actual instruction box to the game, we will get that on film.

That will be for the User Friendly Podcast that you can catch on the User Friendly website.   Please feel free to check out what we currently have.

G. Winkler  ©2017



Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Posted in Culture, Games, Star Wars

Darth Nihilus is here to stay

darth_nihilus-500wI just realized I never posted the results of the Darth Nihilus gear.  I did my best to be true to what the video game character looked like.  So very often video game characters as well as cartoon characters are difficult to reproduce.  Why?  Because the artist doesn’t have to worry about the actor being uncomfortable or being able to move in what is designed.  I am still in the process of getting the Kage Warrior from The Clone Wars series completed.  That is a much more complicated build.

So here is my Darth Nihilus – my first and only Sith character.  And I have no construction photos to share, which is really odd.  I previously posted photos of the progress on the mask, which was the only piece I ordered from a vendor.  I did the sanding, painting, engineering for how to make the mask work.  I also purchased a black faceless Halloween mask since I decided that I would not be able to wear the all black contact lenses and paint my face and neck black.  The black hood was a better solution and provided better coverage to retain that mysterious presence that Darth Nihilus has.  Then there was the choice of which design of clothing do I create for my Nihilus.  There appears to be two.  I opted for the one that looks like it came straight out of the video game, Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR), which is shown below.


I constructed a foam framework to create the correct shape for the hood to drape from and a breast plate.  The most difficult part was attaching the cloak, which is very heavy and has a curious style of attachment, which I did my best to emulate.  I also had to do some engineering to make sure that the whole thing stayed together and allowed me to walk about and actually use the lightsaber.  The lightsaber was the most expensive part since I had to order one that was all silver in color and had a shape that was closest to the style of Nihilus’s blade.  The pictures below were taken by Jay Hayden, a professional photographer.  My next plan is to get some kind of film footage of me in this gear – it already has people unnerved when they see me and they have no idea that I am female.  🙂



Gretchen Winkler ©2017


Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Costume, Star Wars

Online Chinese Clothing


Okay, I normally don’t buy clothing online unless I already have seen the item before in person and have a good idea of what I am getting.  Just before Christmas season  I saw a red shirt that I thought would be perfect for New Year’s celebrations.  It was something that was not offered in my local area because I live in an economically depressed ……@$#&^$* place.  The shirt was pretty and looked like it was made of a soft t-shirt jersey, which is a knit fabric.  It was going to be a treat for myself.  There are pictures of it below.  So why am I sharing this with you?  Because I don’t want others to be disappointed like I am.  It is a website called


It looks like a pretty solid red that would go well with just about anything with nice long sleeves semi loose fitting towards the hips and waist yet form fitting at the shoulders and neck area and long enough to be a tunic usable with leggings or yoga pants.  Please note the statement about easy to return and the shipping time.


The bows appear to be made of the same solid looking fabric – not ribbed- knit fabric.  Note how the tunic hangs in the back nicely off the shoulders and the neck is not overly open and the sleeve fits correctly into the bodice of the garment.  The other pictures show how the sleeve can be worn long or pushed up on the arm.  Fabric in this shot does not appear to be ribbed either.

First of all, I had no idea I was ordering an item from China.  I don’t care for the lack of quality of items from China plus the length of time that it takes to arrive.  So I was surprised when after I paid for the item and received my tracking number that it showed it was coming out of China.   I was unhappy about this but I thought I would keep an open mind.  Perhaps I would be pleasantly surprised.  The website said it would take about two weeks to arrive, which would have been in time for the New Year.  It took over three weeks to arrive with very slow customer service to respond to my questions concerning the item sitting in Shanghai for two weeks.




When it did arrive, I was pleased until I opened the package.  The fabric appears to be a solid smooth knit in the photos online, but the actual fabric is a ribbed knit.  The bows in the back of the garment appear to be made of a solid knit fabric, but they are actually made of flimsy sheer fabric.  I don’t think these bows will last past three washing and three wearing of the garment.  The size proportions are all wrong unless your body is designed like a big fat potato with short skinny sticks for arms.  Needless to say, I would be ashamed and embarrassed to go out the door in this garment.  I will never wear this garment.  So what to do next?  Return it.  The website says “30 days easy return.”  So in order to do this you have to go through a bizarre process of contacting their customer service for an address to ship the item back to.  Then they grill you about why you want to return the item in hopes of making it your fault somehow.  This is not customer service.  This is not an easy return.  Buyer beware!


Look how the shoulders do not fit correctly and how wide the garment actually is and the sleeves were kinda tight making my arms feel like sausages unlike the girl in the photo, hence one of the the reasons for ordering a large.  There is also a strange lining inside the garment that is polyester? and has a lot of static electricity.


I am holding the sides to show how much excess fabric there is compared to me.  There is supposed to be a V shaped flap in the back, and you can see by the way the garment hangs underneath my armpits that this is made for a person twice my size, but with very skinny arms.


Here’s a close up.  Please note the large loose stitches and weird lining that seems to buckle at the upper neckline seam.


Poor stitching that will easy come apart after wearing and washing.


Here’s me in a shirt that is a large that is made and designed properly.

I ordered a large since I have long arms and I don’t like really tight fitting clothing.  I am no teenager or fashion model.  Sometimes I wear a medium depending upon the design and fabric type.  I am a regular gal with a pretty average shaped body.  If you buy the right size that has a good design, then just about any woman can look nice.  I am just clarifying that I didn’t expect to look as good as the models in the photos.  The photos pretty much show how awful the shirt looks and how huge the neck area is on me. I could have gotten another girl in the shirt with me because it was so wide.





Here’s proof that the grey shirt is a large.

I am still in the process of trying to get an address to return the item and get my money back.  I actually don’t know if I will get my money back.  Some of you may be saying that $25.92 isn’t much to lose, but if you live where I do and suffer from the lack of good employment opportunities, then $25.92 is a big deal.  I could have gotten something nice from Kohls or something on sale from Macys.  I am not impressed with online shopping.  It is not worth the risk unless you are buying brand name items and even then, if it is coming from China, it may be a knock off of poor quality.  I don’t need a lot of stuff, and what I do buy, I want to have last for many years to come.  That’s just the way I am.

So in my opinion, please be warned about purchasing garments from this online website – – the clothes may look pretty, but the reality is that they are a third rate mess.

G. Winkler ©2017

UPDATE: 01/09/2017

It is evident that this company does not believe in customer service or guarantee their products quality.  Below is an exchange between myself and the customer service and it shows how they do not want to refund my money and do not want their product back.  The document also stated that the item was shipped for free, but now they want to take back money for the shipping costs and expect me to pay for the item being shipped back as well.  They also want to try and get me to buy from them again.  Why would I want to do that after such bad customer service and poor quality products?  Once again, please think twice before buying anything from .  I would hate for you to get screwed like me.

Support Center -



Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Consumer alert, Online Shopping

I’m a bad ass!

Dang. I just made an interesting realization. I must be a super bad ass mother fucker. I don’t take drugs to solve my problems.   I face them and endure them with the intent to conquer them.   And yes, I know what real pain is, ask anyone who has had migraine headaches, TMJ, heart pain, thoughts of suicide, and an allergic reaction to bleached flour that is akin to celiac disease.  Can’t take opium based pain killers because of this. No doctor told me, I had to figure it out on my own.  I also have a huge slew of allergies including being allergic to the actual allergy medicine that works.
So I am not running out to take a load of drugs or crying endlessly.  And apparently this is odd.
So I am starting to understand why I don’t understand anyone, they are all layering themselves in pills and drugs. My own best friend was giving this horrible crap called Ambien that made him act weird and nearly destroyed his health and life. And me, being the bad ass that I am, didn’t understand what was wrong with him. This stuff was making  him seriously ill.  He could have died and all because he could not sleep and some doctor prescribed this for him.  Me,  I go out and get fresh air and do physical stuff to help me sleep or I read before I go to bed.
And no, I am not some weird religious nut – so stop in your tracks right there. I have been judged that way before by druggies.  I am a person of intense strong will power and because I am this way people treat me differently because I don’t want to join them in their desire of covering up their life experiences with alcohol or drugs.   So where does that leave me?   Apparently alone as the people in this country get prescribed and self prescribe more and more drugs to cover up the life experience. So I am starting to wonder why anyone is bothering with life as being a solid being when they don’t want to be fully aware?  I am becoming concerned about the lack of careful thought concerning the use of cannabis or hemp.  It should have never been made illegal in the first place but during that time, people were more grown up in this country and took responsibility for their actions.  It was made illegal because of Randolph Hearst’s desire to corner the lumber and paper making market not because of drug use.
By this time,  I am sure some “know it all” is currently diagnosing me as having some kind of politically correct illness and will suggest some kind of drug to “help” me with my “issue”.  But why?   I am happy experiencing the full force of life’s up and downs. People feel sad, get mad, feel love, exhilaration, grief, joy, and the list goes on. Why cover up the feeling just because it is unpleasant? It is normal and natural to feel sad during bad times. It’s the warning system that lets you know that something is wrong.  For example, I cried and felt bad all day when Carrie Fisher died, but I don’t need to cover up those feelings with drugs.  Her lose meant something to me and it is normal and natural to have these feelings.  Covering them up with medication will only result in problems down the road because the situation wasn’t being faced.
I currently have an in-law that has been emotionally abusing her son.  She doesn’t see it.  She doesn’t acknowledge that her actions are hurtful.  She is also on a large quantity of prescription drugs, one of which is something called wellbutrin, which doesn’t make a person well.  She is also taking lots of other stuff that I just don’t stick my nose into.  It’s not my business.  She pretends to like me because I am married to her son.  And she is another individual that I don’t understand.  The things she does do not make sense to me.  She has two housekeepers and complains about their work and the cost but won’t fire them.  She won’t clean up the house herself either.  To make matters worse, she is a therapist, and in my estimation should really know better than to do the emotionally hurtful things that she does.  For the past 20 years, my husband and I have been making excuses for her behavior as loving family members…oh it’s menopause….oh it’s her medication….oh she’s lonely…  I am tired of making excuses for her strange and hurtful behavior.
So when I see people covering over the realities of life with pills, alcohol, an now legalized pot, I can’t help but wonder what people are going to be like in the next 20 years.  Will I understand idiocracy_movie_posteror relate to any of them?  Will they all just be a bunch of weird zombies?  What will happen to all the technical stuff?  I can’t fix trucks, or repair bridges, or do surgery.  I am just a regular person.  I am starting to feel like the guy in Idiocracy.  This really concerns me.  I am truly concerned for the well being of the current and  future generations of this country.  If the older generation is wacked out on pain meds or pot, then how do the younger ones get advice or help in times of trouble?  And if the younger generations are emulating the older ones doing the drugs, then will they know or even realize when the shit has hit the fan?
G. Winkler © 2017
Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Mental Health

The struggles of 2016 – death by heart break


I live in a place where they say innovation goes to die.  I live in a place that has become the Mos Eisley of the West Coast.   I live in a place where I am discriminated against because I am 50, white, educated, and female.  So don’t tell me I have this fantasy magical white privilege nonsense because I worked hard to have what I do have.  No one handed it to me on a silver platter with butlers and nannies.  If you think I have any kind of  elite privilege, then we need to have a conversation about your education.

So needless to say I have been in a situation since 2008 where I have not been able to find meaningful or sustaining work, and I have tried everything that I am capable of.  So I have had to move back to the home of my childhood, and I am so lucky to have a roof over my head and loving family members and friends.

So having dreams to help stave off the depression and lend a hand in inspiring goals has been very important.  As a child I always dreamed of being a novelist.  Don’t ask me why a dyslexic child would want to write, but that has been a dream of mine since I was about 5 or 7 years old.  And since I had tried doing everything that made sense to get a job with no luck, I decided to do what didn’t make sense.  At least I would be happy doing it and it didn’t incur any expenses upon my family.  (I tried going back to school, but they don’t give scholarships to people like me.  And I felt bad about the tremendous cost to my senior mother, who paid for the classes.  By the way, I got As in all those classes and I did all the work myself.)  So I went back to one of my old desires that was writing stories.  An old school friend was doing something called NaNoWriMo and it looked like fun.  So I started writing stories again pretty much knowing that it would get me no where, but at least my mind could be focused on something positive instead of the constant state of failure that I was in.

I also realized that my SAG membership still existed from when we lived in Las Vegas.  SAG is the Screen Actor’s Guild.  This was great news because I would love to do work as an extra or even work as an artist in some of the behind the scenes situations.  I needed to find meaningful employment that would actually lead in a positive direction.  Then I found out that I live in the one place that SAG thinks is the worst place on earth, at least that is what it seems like.  No one will talk with you and act like you have the plague.  It took a lot to find a reasonable person to be our SAG agent.  A lady name Karen McFadden agreed to do it.  She didn’t live in the Mos Eisely of the West, but she understood the difficulties and was willing to help while we tried to find a way to move away from the den of scum and villainy.  No matter how hard we tried, we could not meet up with this woman.  She had so many sad things happen to her that I and my companions started to wonder if they were real and asked around a bit and found out these events to be true.  So we soldiered on while her parent’s home was burned down in a California fire, then her father died, then her mother became sick, and then her mother got better, then her office was broken into by vandals.  Then her mother suddenly died.  We didn’t hear from our agent for a month and I tried many times to get a hold of her.  Nothing.  Then we contacted SAG and finally heard that she died a day after her Mom died.  No one told us.  They don’t know why she died.  She wasn’t that old.  This happened the summer of 2016 amidst the horrible political campaign ugliness.  Nothing was going right.


R2D2 was played by Kenny Baker on the left and Anthony Daniels played C3PO on the right in gold.

It was going to be a battle to find another SAG agent.  And meanwhile I was lucky enough to have someone willing to be my literary agent for the Star Wars story I wrote, but he was a very busy person with an entertainment oriented career of his own.  So my lifeline has been this Star Wars story I wrote.  Star Wars has been my life preserver during these years, so when behind the scenes people don’t understand why some fans are hit so hard by the deaths of people like Kenny Baker (played R2D2) and Carrie Fisher….  This is the reason why.  Some of these fictional places and characters are a lifeline to keep us afloat while the real world just turns uglier and uglier no matter how hard one tries to do the right things.  The dark side of the Force is just carrying people away into a state of hate mongering.  So the death of Carrie Fisher hit me hard and the people that I am working with….the people that are holding out my lifeline… hope….my new hope for a better life are also hit hard by these events because they actually knew these people.  And now Debbie Reynolds passed away.  She, just like my former SAG agent, died within a short period of time after a loved one died.  This is heart wrenching, and I can understand how the friends and family need time to wrap their brains around this intense lose.  This is real lose.  Having a loved one who is a police officer get killed because they are a cop is heart breaking, to have a loved one killed just because they were mistaken for a criminal is heart breaking, but to complain, cry, and freak out that someone is supporting an opposing candidates is just plain stupid.  This is what we saw.  We saw people with jobs, scholarships, with the world handing them opportunities have tantrums over not winning during this year.images leia.jpg

You know, I have not been winning for the past 8 years, but I have not given up.  A few things have gone right and I take joy in each of those positive things, but for everything 1 thing that has gone right, 10 have gone wrong, but I am not sitting some where having a tantrum.  I don’t get a safe space.  My safe space is to live in a town where I am discriminated against.  I may not be happy, but I am not giving up.  I will keep trying until the day I die.  Stop crying because you are lucky enough to get into a college and have it paid for you and are being exposed to things that may make you unhappy or uncomfortable.  That is what college is about.  Expanding your mind and learning about things you don’t know.  You may not like them, but it is part of this world.

Be a fighter like Carrie Fisher and Kenny Baker, who was told that he would die as a teenager.  Be a hero like Princess Leia…or like Luke if you like….  but don’t sit somewhere crying because you didn’t get a trophy.

G. Winkler ©2016

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Inspiration, Professionalism, Star Wars

Sith Happens when more than three show up….

Okay, I have engaged in the creative craziness again by wanting to create three new costumes for Halloween.  And the party is scheduled for 28th of October, so I have even less time to get things done.

We decided to go Sith this Halloween since we normally play Jedi.  My husband choose Kylo Ren and our best friend was told he was playing Darth Sidious since we think he could manage that character along with the costume requirements.  He wears a Wookiee mask as Gungi, so he needed a bit of a break from the super hot costume.  That left me.  I needed a break from the makeup intense Kage Warrior Jedi that I have developed.  So I wanted a mask.  Love Darth Vader….but to me….he should be a tall hulking and very male presence….I wasn’t going to do that.  I can’t pull it off.  Darth Traya was a thought but she has the white hair like my Kage and so I didn’t want them to get mixed up.  So I selected Darth Nihilus.  ……what a truly dark character…..creepy, scary….monster of a being…..

And yes, I am completely stressed about getting these costumes done.  My husband and I are working diligently on these projects.

One thing I have to suggest is if you are sewing from the Kylo Ren pattern, don’t do the goofy sleeves with the zippers.  Use stretchy knit fabric that will flex when the wearer bends their arms.  I like being comfortable in my costumes.  I want them to be like clothing.  Here are some quick pictures of the process we used for the altered sleeve design.  It does take time, but saves a lot of stress and anguish later on.

You will need about two yards of black knit fabric depending upon the size you choose to make.  Pick some substantial knit fabric and nothing too wimpy.  Make sure the direction that you pleated the fabric will be the same of the stretch of the fabric.  Check the fabric before you purchase it.  Here are some quick pictures to help you get the idea.  We pleated the fabric before we cut the sleeve.  The pleats are sown to make sure they stay pleated.

Measuring and drawing lines for the pleating process...

Measuring and drawing lines for the pleating process…


Pining the section before sewing it....

Pining the section before sewing it….


This is what the fabric will look like when you are done. Iron it, but be careful not to make the iron too. It could damage the fabric.

This is what the fabric will look like when you are done. Iron it, but be careful not to make the iron too hot.    It could damage the fabric.


This is how it looks close up and it does not hurt or restrict blood flow when he bends his arm.

This is how it looks close up and it does not hurt or restrict blood flow when he bends his arm.

darth_nihilus-500wThe Darth Nihilus mask is such an important part of the costume that I decided to order it from a mask maker in Canada.  I knew I could not make this mask the way I wanted it to be with such a short amount of time, so I opted for this investment.  It was well worth it.  The mask maker is Khro’s Nest.  They also have a facebook page where I was able to chat with the mask maker, who was amazingly helpful.  Kim at Khro’s Nest even made sure I was able to find the specs from the 501st concerning their requirements for making the costume.  Below are a few pictures of my preparation for getting the mask ready for use in the costume.

darth-nihilus-mask-01I sanded the mask first and then used a grey primer and then a flat white spray paint.  I have decided to not battle age the mask.

Then I hand painted the the red and the silver onto the mask with acrylic paint.  The lines are not perfect but I don’t do well with painting over stencils although I was able to use the ones I was given to get the correct shape of the lines.  I will give the paint some time to cure before putting a protective coating over the paint work.  I am pleased with the results and think my first Sith costume will be a lot of fun.  I still need to study the history of the character before going to the party.  It’s important to understand who you are dressed as.  😉


Hopefully, I will have some updates of the costumes soon and can share what the end results of the projects has been.


G.Winkler  © 2016




Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Art, Costume, Halloween, Star Wars

SNAFU 2016 – 100% improvement!


Voice actor Warky, aka Steve Nunez, is entering the audience and his fellow panel guests on Saturday at SNAFU con in the Main Event area.

I am back from attending a small anime event called SNAFU, which stands for Sierra Nevada Anime Fans Unite.  I went last year and was not impressed.  That was their first year at the Nugget Hotel location and several other 21 and older Halloween events were also occurring at the site at the same time.  Needless to say 2015 was disappointing and several of us had to be talked into attending the event again by a colleague.  He really pushed to attend the event again and we agreed to give it one more try.  It was worth it, and if SNAFU continues in this positive direction they will have an amazing event worth traveling far for.  So you might ask, what was so much better this time?

Let me list the ways…..

  1. The layout of the event was better.  The Artist Alley was now easily accessible and one could easily see what was being presented.  The  Main Stage area was large, open, and inviting unlike last year when it was stuffed in the back down a long dark hallway. The Vendor room was no longer tight and claustrophobic in nature, and the vendors seemed to be in better spirits this year.
  2. The attendance of Cos-players in great costumes was certainly up in numbers and in quality.  One could tell that many of these people put some serious time and effort into the construction and design of their costumes and props.
  3. Another aspect that is harder to quantify was that attendees and event staff all seemed happier this year.  People were friendly no matter who you chatted with and I never observed anyone getting out of line or being rude.  So if there was a jerk in attendance, then I missed him and that individual had no affect on others that I could observe.
  4. The media was treated well and we were informed of any details and assured that if we had any questions or concerns that we could ask the staff about anything.  This positive attitude was greatly appreciated by the User Friendly Team, @1UserFriendly, that attended and filmed parts of the event.  Thank you Tasha Costa.
  5. It was easier to access the event location unlike last year where sections of the hotel was blocked off to prevent the two different event attendees from getting mixed up.

20161007_163140Did all the concerns that I had from the previous year get resolved?  I have no idea.  We chose not to stay at the Nugget again since our rooms last year had black mold in the bathroom, so we did not have the option to attend some of the late night events that we did last year.  But the problems with the hotel facility is not the fault of the event staff, and hopefully the new owners of the Nugget will work to improve the condition of the aging casino.  This single event should be a wake up call to the new owners that these multi-generational, multi-media, multi-interest types of events are an attraction and to be taken seriously in years to come.  The Reno area has lost the annual  Wizard World Comic Con event and SNAFU is just one of a few smaller events that could blossom to fill a void that has been left by the lack of entertainment in this market area.

I look forward to seeing this event in the future.

G. Winkler ©2016

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Anime, Comic Cons, Travel