Nerdy Easter Eggs for Every Fandom

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Whatever your fandom, there’s an Easter egg for it.

Each spring, we try to make one Easter egg that stands out from the others using simple decoupage methods with little more than paper or string.This often includes a look at whatever geeky passion is prominent in the pop culture world, and choosing five of our favorites from this and past years. With exception of the Spider-Man egg, each of these eggs took less than an hour to complete, and kids of all ages can make or help make them.

To use a real egg, gently poke a small hole at both ends, poke a toothpick into one end and mix up the yoke a bit, then hold the egg over a sink and slowly blow into one hole. The contents should easily ooze out the other end, leaving a lightweight, hollow shell. If working with younger kids, a plastic egg will work fine for most of these ideas.

The first three eggs use a basic decoupage method. Paint the egg with a layer of decoupage glue (like Mod Podge) or use one part water and one part school glue. Then, paste the images on the egg. Paint another layer over the top to seal the image. It will dry clear.

The Classic Geek. The simplest by far, this egg is a scrapbook-style collage of all things geeky. Find small images from old comic books or magazines and layer them over the egg scrapbook-style. This lets you celebrate as many fandoms as you want on one egg. This also works well as a Christmas or holiday ornament.

BBC Sherlock’s Wall. The floral, black and white, and much-abused Sherlock wallpaper is a quickly recognizable pattern among BBC fans, and free downloadable wallpaper patterns can be found on several fan and design sites. Print this pattern out on lightweight paper and cut it to fit around the egg. Keep in mind that the pattern will overlap itself a little on both ends of the egg, but it won’t be too noticeable. Once dry, use a toothpick and yellow craft paint to draw on Sherlock’s “happy face,” then gently bore five “bullet holes” near the face using a small screwdriver or drill bit.

Game of Thrones “Paper Bag” Egg. This is a craft I did when I first started writing for my old blog, as well as for a site that was at the time called IHOGeek. I’m proud to say that thanks to a tweet or two from famous Game of Thrones fans like actors Aziz Ansari and (so I’ve been told) Nathan Fillion, this egg idea went viral…and there really is nothing to it!

Cut some round or tear-shaped “dragon scales,” about a half-inch wide, from a brown paper bag. Overlap them in scale pattern until covered. Run the side of a black crayon over the scales to antique them before adding the final layer of decoupage.

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Fourth Doctor’s scaf and Spider-Man web string art eggs.

No, I don’t let my kids don’t watch Game of Thrones (obviously), but they do love dragons. This egg could just as easily hatch a Norbert, Toothless, Saphira, or Smaug.

perfectionist, check out these Fourth Doctor scarf patterns designs.Not into Doctor Who? This same idea can be put in place to make some Hogwarts house scarves.

Spider-Man’s Web.  This egg is a little more time-consuming. It also includes three more materials in addition to the floss: a balloon, about 20 seed beads, and a spider (either the small plastic novelty-like ones that accumulate around Halloween or a little craft store jewelry charm). You can also cut a small Spider-Man symbol out of paper (about a half-inch wide), if you can’t find these other items. The end result should look like a little spider’s web with a “radioactive spider” dangling in the middle.

First, pour a little decoupage mix into a small dish. Cut three or four two-foot strands of light blue, beige, or white yarn, and string a few red or blue seed beads randomly on each. Dip each strand in the mix, careful not to get them tangled, and drag your thumb and forefinger down the strand to wipe off the excess mix.

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An up-close look at Spidey’s egg

Blow up the balloon a small ways, so it is fairly egg-shaped. Lay each strand over the balloon in a web-like pattern. Use as many strands as you want, but leave a gap big enough to fit your spider through on one end. Let the egg dry overnight until the strings are stiff, and pop the balloon to leave the outer string art shell.

Finally, hang the spider image or charm on an additional piece of floss and place it through a gap big enough in the shell to accommodate the spider. Position the egg upright and position the spider so it is dangling in the center of the egg. Tie it off on one end. This egg looks best hanging, so leave a little floss at the end to hang it.

Note: I have done this craft with a real egg shell. It looks good, but it takes a little extra effort to crumble the shell and clean it out of the string egg. If working with kids, balloons are the easiest option.

Hang onto each of these eggs and keep an ever-growing basket display of geeky and creative happiness. Who knows where the bunny trail will lead you this year?

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The “Witty Little Knitter:” A Talk With Tara Carstensen

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Tara Carstensen (aka Witty Little Knitter) works on one of her Fourth Doctor scarf creations at El Paso’s Sun City SciFi. Photo by Rick Tate

Since she was 15 years old, Tara Carstensen has been watching Doctor Who and knitting Fourth Doctor scarves.

Like many Whovians, she intensely studied photographs and videos to create patterns for her early attempts, although she said the results were “crude and totally incorrect.” As her work began to improve, she received her first official BBC pattern from John Nathan Turner, producer of the series from 1980 to 1989.

By 2005, she begin studying the scarves even closer. She even had a chance to examine what she calls the “Shada” scarf (the pattern used in the famous episode from Season 17 that didn’t air until 1992), as well as the Season 18 variant scarf. From there, she begin to design patterns, find colors and yarn types, and create scarves that would be as close to accurate as any fan-made scarf available.

Today, many scarf knitters consider her the “go-to” site for the best patterns. They visit her site for pattern downloads of scarves from classic Who seasons 12 through 18, as well as the Shada scarf, a “blue variant,” and the Seventh Doctor’s sweater vest.

She also teaches knitting classes for those with some knitting experience at conventions throughout the country. Upcoming classes will be held at L.I. Who in Long Island in November, as well as at the world’s largest and longest-running fan-created Doctor Who convention, Gallifrey One, which is coming to Los Angeles in February 2015.

For American Doctor Who fans, the Fourth Doctor’s scarf is arguably the most popular and recognizable costume prop in the history of the show, but Carstensen said, from her experience, that it is primarily a U.S. Whovian obsession.

“In the UK, it has a bit of a negative connotation,” she said. “People who wear them are often branded as ‘nutters.’ I’ve worn a Who scarf several times in the UK and received a not-so-warm welcome among other Who fans.”

She said United Kingdom fans are warming up to the scarf today, as it is getting a little more love in its home nation. She feels the reason for the scarf’s American popularity likely comes from the Fourth Doctor being many American viewers’ first peek at the series.

“(In) the States, most people’s first Doctor was Tom Baker,” she said. “He had a seven-year run and PBS stations could often get a deal on it with other British shows. So, most people before the reboot in 2005 think of the scarf when they think of Doctor Who.”

Even the Doctor himself has taken notice of Carstensen’s work. Baker owns one of her scarves, as well as actress Daphne Ashbrook (Grace Holloway from the Eighth Doctor movie) and talk-show-host and proud Whovian Craig Ferguson, among other famous customers. The Seventh, Eighth, and Eleventh Doctors, Paul McGann, Sylvester McCoy, and Matt Smith, have also worn her scarves for convention photo ops.

“Well, of course, Tom Baker receiving one of my scarves was a high point,” she said. “When two of my scarves appeared on the same episode of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson—one was Craig’s the other was Nerdist’s (Chris Hardwick)—that was another high point.”

It takes her about 40 hours to knit the “basic” Doctor Who scarf.

“I once cranked one out for a last-minute charity auction in a week,” she said, “but that was eight hours a day of knitting, every day, for a week.”

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Carstensen’s full-size TARDIS replica and its official transport are a hit a Who events and conventions everywhere. Photo by Rick Tate

While scarves may be what she is best known for with crafters, her other favorite creations include a full-sized TARDIS some friends and her former husband built in 2008. The nine-foot-high, half-ton police box makes its home in her living room, but has traveled with her to conventions and events from Los Angeles to Atlanta, where thousands of people have gotten the chance to take their picture with it.  It also has a webcam, working lights and sound effects, and has been known to play music. The TARDIS’s transportation of choice is her TARDIS Chase and Recovery Vehicle (aka THE TRV), a custom Toyota Tacoma she claims is run by a Gallifreyan Flux Capacitor “jiggery-pokeried” for her by the Tenth Doctor and Back to the Future’s Doc Brown.

She has other projects in the works, as well.

“I’m currently working on building a Dalek, “ she said. “I’m always collecting small TARDISes and I finally have my collection of TARDIS keys.”

Her autograph collection is another continual work in progress.

“I have a book I’ve been collecting Who autographs in for 30 years,” she said. “I have nine of the 13 actors who have played The Doctor sign it, plus close to a hundred companions, authors, directors, producers, and other people directly responsible for keeping the show going for 50 years in it, and it’s one of my most prized possessions.”

Carstensen encouraged knitters to not be afraid to tackle their own Fourth Doctor scarf and offers some words of advice for those reluctant to get started.

“Join a knitting group.  Look in local coffee shops and libraries or start your own,” she said. “Ravelry.com is another great recourse, if there simply aren’t any other knitters in your area.”

She said setting reasonable goals helps as well.

“(Say to yourself) ‘Today, I’m gonna get through three stripes’ or  ‘Today I’m going to sit down for an hour and knit,’” she suggested. “Once you’ve mastered the garter stitch, knitting can be quite relaxing, even a form of moving meditation.  I read or watch TV while knitting.  I also knit in the movie theater, in lines, anywhere I’m stuck waiting on something.  It’s a great way to feel like you’re accomplishing something when all around you is chaos.”

She said the effort is certainly worth it when she sees how much people love the scarves.

“I know how happy they make people, and then they make people who see them being worn happy.  So knitting one spreads a lotta happy around,” Carstensen said. “That gives me a great sense of accomplishment and makes me feel that I’m adding some random happiness to the world.”

To see more of Carstensen’s work or download her patterns, visit wittylittleknitter.com.

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Some of the pattern downloads found on Carstensen’s “Witty Little Knitter” site.

They Wrote SciFi, Too?

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Despite it’s undeniable popularity, it seems even today, science fiction gets the proverbial literary wedgie from some “real literature” bullies.

I’ve even had polite-but-pointed brush-offs from fellow moms in a book club, who, upon finding out the last book I read was a science fiction, said in slightly piteous tones: “You might not enjoy what we read. It’s more ‘real world’ stories.”

Ouch!

Of course, I regard the science-fiction genre to be every bit as “real” as any other form of fiction, many of which I enjoy just as much. However, I’m sure I’m not the only sci-fi lover who feels they have to defend their reading choices, just because it may involve robots, outer space dog fights, evil computer overlords, or clones.

As it turns out, plenty of “real” authors have taken a break from their most notable styles of classic literature, adventure, thrillers, or even science fiction’s closest literary neighbor, fantasy, to dabble in straight-forward science fiction. Here are a few lesser-known science-fiction writers you may not know about:

Jack London: There may be no other author so readily associated with man-against-the-elements or wild adventure stories where characters take a backseat to the wild Alaskan wilderness, but London wrote several key works ofRadium-Age science fiction including the post-apocalyptic The Scarlet Plague in 1912, set his hometown of San Francisco. Although not as well-known as his adventure stories, his science fiction has been noted as having an influence on writers such as H.G. Wells and Aldous Huxley. These stories aren’t light reading, and do demand some attention from the reader. One that I personally remember the most is “The Shadow and the Flash,” the story of a pair of rival geniuses each trying to achieve invisibility. Their methods of doing this were innovative, unexpected, and surprisingly hypothetically doable.

C.S. Lewis: A far reach from the fanciful fantasy world of Narnia, Lewis released his “space trilogy” from 1938 to 1945, following the voyages of Dr. Elwin Ransom on Mars, Venus, and Earth. Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra (aka Voyage of Venus), and That Hideous Strength (also published in an abridged version as The Tortured Planet) are a series, which follows Earth’s battle of dark forces bent laying waste to the planet. Those familiar with Lewis’ style will recognize many of the common elements celebrated by his fans and discounted by his critics, from a variety of otherworldly creatures to underlying spiritual themes, but the futuristic space setting certainly shows a different side to his work.

Mark Twain: Twain’s science fiction is an extension of his own adventure-driven life and writing. In addition to his most famous in this area, the time-traveler’s tale A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, his sci-fi works run the gamut of futuristic inventions, space travels, time travel, alien visitors, and dystopian futures. The one story that has gotten the most attention in science-fiction circles is From The ‘London Times’ of 1904. Written in 1898, Twain is often cited as having predicted the internet and social media in this story by describing “the daily doings of the globe made visible to everybody, and audibly discussable too, by witnesses separated by any number of leagues.” Wow.

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Many authors, including Mark Twain, enjoyed dabbling in the science fiction genre.

Rudyard Kipling: This turn-of-the century Nobel Prize-winning author may have taken most readers into the jungle and exotic lands on Earth, but he also wrote a handful of science-fiction stories. Like Twain, Kipling’s “future” contains many details and devises, which pretty much predicted several of today’s modern realities. This includes artificial intelligence, especially in regards to transportation as in the stories .007 and The Ship That Found Herself, wireless communication in Wireless, and mechanical advancements as in As Easy as A.B.C. Much of his science fiction can be found in collected volumes.

Edgar Allan Poe: Poe’s work wasn’t all angst-ridden horror and macabre. He also enjoyed writing mystery, essays, and adventure. Some of his science fiction was fun, clever, and, in some cases, humorous; not the type of works readers think of when they hear the name Edgar Allan Poe. The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall, for example, is the voyage of one man’s travels to the moon that could almost be a steampunk classic in the company of Jules Verne. Most of these tales, however, do merge the horror/science-fiction genre, such as The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar and Mesmerism, so fans of Poe’s gothic darkness can have the best of both worlds.

Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle: Sherlock Holmes wasn’t the only eccentric lead character to emerge from the mind of Conan-Doyle, he also created the Professor Challenger series, featuring an adventurer he called the “caveman in a leisure suit.” Unlike the Holmes stories, where it was vital to both Holmes’ stories and persona to remain rooted in only what is possible (despite how improbable) in the real world, Professor Challenger gave Conan-Doyle an outlet to go crazy with time travel, space travel, monsters, aliens, and even fantastic inventions. His most famous, The Lost World, puts Challenger up against some foes from a prehistoric world; hardly the type of adventure suitable for Sherlock Holmes. This character did have his own fan base at the time, too. However, he wouldn’t exactly be the focus of today’s “Sherlocked” fangirl mania, being less Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller and more Zach Galifianakis.

We already know the impact that classic-era science-fiction writers, such as H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and H.P. Lovecraft, had on literary history. However, with these other authors proving themselves fans of the genre, today’s science-fiction lovers can consider themselves in good company—very good company

How to Use Those Comic-Con Buttons

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Don’t just toss these little freebies in a jar or drawer, get creative!

Call them buttons, badges, or pins, these little round freebies accumulate like Tribbles in junk drawers, jewelry box tops, or random trinket holders around the house. These little promotional goodies seem to be everywhere at comic-cons (and comic book store special events), book and record premieres, concerts, amusement parks, political and athletic events, weddings, quinceañeras and Bat Mitzvahs…at least it seems like it.

At any rate, we’ve amassed quite a pile over the years, especially when our kids just can’t resist picking up free stuff. Since it is sometimes hard to part with these little tin memories, here are five simple ways to help reel in the chaos:

koozie• Cork Board Art. Since many people like to throw these buttons onto their bulletin boards, why not get a little more creative? Get a square or circle of cork board from a craft or home store, and arrange the buttons into different shapes. This makes for really cool game room art, and invites people to take a closer look.

• Fashion Jewelry. Yes, technically these buttons are accessories in themselves, but there is only so much room on the purse or lanyard to keep them. Plus, pinning too many on your shirt might make people ask you if you work at TGI Fridays. A few adjustments could turn these into some fun novelty jewelry.

button jewelryThe metal in some of the cheaper buttons is thin enough to poke holes in by placing the button face up (with pin removed) on a folded rag over a concrete surface, and tapping a nail through it lightly. Now, these are ready to be used as earrings, attached to French hooks, or threaded onto chord as a necklace or bracelet.

A button could also be pinned on a thick ribbon for a choker. Make sure to secure the pin with small pliers so it doesn’t end up poking you in the neck. You can also use a glue gun to cover and “cushion” the back of the pin.

tic-tac-toe• Pencil Holder. Many of us are guilty of tossing these extra buttons into a desktop tumbler or pencil holder, but it’s more fun to display them on the outside for everyone to see. This also makes use of another often-used promotional item: the koozie (the big puffy ones, not the floppy flat ones).  Pin the buttons around the edge of the container until they completely cover it, to keep memories nearby on the a work or study space. Remember to make sure, when pinning buttons, they don’t go all the way through. You don’t want bunch of pointy ends sticking out on the inside of the container.

button board• Geeky Tic-Tac-Toe:  Make a game square by cutting a 6” x 6” square piece of felt or thick cloth, and draw the classic Tic-Tac-Toe “hashtag” on it in cloth paint or marker. Find 5 or 6 similarly colored buttons for each side, and remove the pin backs. Find clever ways to pick sides (heroes vs. villains, Star Wars vs. Star Trek, movies vs. music, etc.). These can be kept in a small pull string pouch or plastic storage container for a travel game. The board should fold up nicely as well. Feeling industrious? This idea works just as well as a checkers game if you have enough buttons to fill each side.

If those buttons are going co-exist nicely in our home, they are going to do it with style and purpose, otherwise there’s always the sixth and least popular option…throw them away.

Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Tick Off A Geek Girl

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Beware the wrath of the Geek Girl.
Image by Lisa Kay Tate

Well, now you’ve gone and done it. You’ve somehow switched on the gamma rays and provoked the Geek Girl. This normally adventure-loving, laid-back, and usually even-tempered being is suddenly morphing into a steaming, livid, infuriated ball of fire.

In simple terms, whatever you did, you pissed her off and that’s never a smart move.

Here are some of the top reasons why:

We Are Brilliant Wordsmiths With a Penchant for Memorizing One-Liners.
Yes, this does include some of the world’s best insults drawn from sources as varied as Shakespeare to Star Wars, you warthog-faced buffoon.  We fangirls are so adept at crafting words, we can cut you to the quick without even resorting to Mamet-style profanity. What this means—and I’ll explain it in small words so you can understand it—is we can do it in public for everyone to hear, you miserable vomitous mass.

Ergo, if you decide to insult us in front of our family, friends, or anyone else, you will find yourself branded a “sanguine coward, bed-presser, huge hill of flesh, bull’s pizzle, stuck-up half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerf herder,” who’s “mother was a hamster, and father smelt of elderberries.”

Try and counter by using worn-out name-calling or dropping words like “bee-yatch” in the mix, then be prepared to be “weighed, measured, and found wanting,” because you are a sad, strange little man (or woman) and you have my pity.

We Don’t Need That Extra Excuse to Carry Out a Good Prank.
It’s not that we’re vengeful; we’re just more than willing to teach a little lesson to those in need of an attitude adjustment. Plus, I’ve always felt pranks are wasted on April 1, as everyone is pretty much expecting them. Of course, that has never stopped me from carrying them out each year. However, it is the prank of,  for lack of a kinder word, revenge, that is the sweetest and most unexpected.

Like The Count of Monte Cristo, we are patient and our tormentors’ comeuppance will be slow, well thought-out, and ultimately very satisfying. It may be an embarrassing and very loud computer hack in the office or a well-placed novelty “voice device” whispering random eerie remarks from your air vent. Perhaps you’ll encounter a full-size Slenderman cutout lurking quietly in the garage, waiting to be noticed at just the right moment. Who knew you were such a huge Justin Beiber fan? Everyone in your office, now!

We are waiting and ready to pounce like a Ninja toilet snake, which by the way, might even be waiting for you, too. If you’ve recently been an absolute jerk to a geek girl, including making the ill-fated mistake of pranking us first, it might be smart to look before using the “facilities” or sliding your arm under your pillow at night.

Trust me when I tell you: Don’t let your guard down.

Don’t Assume Your Company Is Preferred Over That Of Fictional Characters.
Geek girls like me have been well aware for years how utterly disgusting it can be for a partner to lust over the airbrushed, gravity-defying, over-endowed feminine ideal no human can ever match without computer or plastic enhancements. Knowing this, we would also never hold up our spouses to those unreasonable levels.

Does this mean we’d pass up the occasional mental journey aboard the Black Pearl, a light-speed scoundrel-heavy trek across the galaxies in the Millennium Falcon, or a tumble through time and space in the TARDIS? No, it does not. If our real-life romantic interest decides a little sympathy for a hard day is not necessary or that there are more important things to do than occasionally listen to details of a traumatic stressed-filled situation, then there’s a magical place in our minds where leather-clad Time Lords (yes, that one!), intergalactic smugglers, and sarcastic pirates are more than willing to extend their arm and take us away for awhile.

This just isn’t a warning for significant others. It’s for all you “overly concerned” friends, who worry we are spending too much time reading comic books and not “real women’s novels” or that we would rather see Pacific Rim for the fifth time than that sappy new rom-com even once.  It is these instances that we would prefer to hang out with our butt-kicking gal-pals lopping zombie heads with Michonne from The Walking Dead, climbing mountains and practicing archery with Princess Merida from Brave, or putting bad guys in their place through intelligence and martial arts with Melinda May in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

So, next time our partner (romantic, business, or other) tries to over-explain why they should never be the one to perform a simple household or office chore, or our pals share a passive-aggressive sympathy for us actually opting to go on a family date night to The Lego Movie over a bland evening of “whine and wine” with them, you might notice us with a blank, faraway look in our eye.  This is not the look of complacency with a situation. It’s our escape through the rift into our other world where we are forever welcome—an exciting one, where they know us well and treat us right.

Which brings me to my next brief reason…

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Apologies to the fan artist known as “The Untempered Prism” for using her beautiful work (inset) as a tool to work out my frustrations, but in all fairness that little blonde companion was dressed suspiciously like me. Original image can be seen on her DeviantArt page.

We Know Photoshop and We’re Not Afraid to Use It.
Just because I would never think of being unfaithful to my spouse, ditching my friends, or inflicting physical harm on someone out of anger, doesn’t mean there isn’t a little alter ego of myself getting back at the offending parties in the wonderful world of digital manipulation. One nice holiday portrait can be cut and pasted into a pile of space debris, a disembodied head post-zombie massacre or even into a nice tasty snack for Jabberjaw.

Make us angry enough; we’ll even become the subject of our improvised art. If we can place a head on a stake in the midst of Mordor, then how hard is it to re-color some fanart and give The Doctor a more worthy companion?

I love my husband and my friends, but there’s no telling what that naughty little digital me would do when she’s angry…very angry.

We are Generally Easy-going, Happy and Fun-loving.
I think it can safely be said, judging by the first four reasons I’ve given, that geek girls are imaginative and playful. We use any situation to siphon the joy out of life and spread it to all those around us.

One might wonder exactly how this final reason is even a problem. Well, it’s simple: If you’ve made a geek girl angry, you must have really, incredibly, remarkably screwed up.

Seriously, what did you do?

We enjoy good-natured ribbing and fun, can let minor discrepancies slide (who hasn’t forgotten to take the trash out?), and can actually understand how you can, on rare occasions, spend more than three figures on a video game, as long as it’s a limited edition with a great Assassin’s Creed statue.

If you’ve dug deep enough in our inner-core to cause our ire to erupt, then you must have gone way, way too far. If you have messed with our family, destroyed our confidence, or emotionally or physically hurt us or anyone we love, then you have done the near impossible and made…us…MAD.

To that I say both “congratulations on your achievement” and “run,” because Dr. Banner has summed it up splendidly: “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”