Thursday, August 28, 2014

Grimm Again

Recently I got called to be an extra on Grimm again. After the last time, I was determined to make an effort to watch the show regularly, and what happened?

I... forgot to watch the show regularly. Or... ever.

I'd like to tell you that it's because I spend my precious time doing more important things than, psshh, watching television. Why, I read thick, great novels, donate plasma to orphans, and feed stray raccoons. Baby raccoons.

But the truth is that by the time Grimm airs on Friday nights, my brain is fried from the work week, and if I'm going to watch anything, it has to be something I don't have to concentrate on. So I usually end up putting in the Colin Firth Pride & Prejudice for the 73rd time.

Sorry, Grimm.

As usual, I can't tell you anything about the episode I worked on, not that I have much to tell, since I only had one scene, and my part (involving the arduous task of walking out of the room) lasted three, possibly four entire seconds.

But I can tell you that I was actually on set this time, a real set, on a real sound stage. I think that's a first for me. My other extra jobs have all been outside... streets, sidewalks, parks. Even just walking onto this sound stage, I felt a jolt of excitement run through me as I tried to take everything in.

The first thing I noticed was the wonderful (to me) smell of lumber, which is used to frame some of the sets. As I walked toward the "police headquarters" set, where the filming was taking place, I was greeted by the smell of old wood. (Hmm, that sounds unpleasant. But have you ever been inside an old, old house built in the 1800s or early 1900s? Assuming that house is in nice shape (as in it doesn't smell like mothballs or wet dog or something), there's just this certain woodsy smell. I'm guessing they used salvaged wood when building this particular set.) Oh hey, here's a picture:


Another first for me -- I got to stick around while they did a few shots I wasn't in, and I ended up being just steps away from the director and the monitors and a bunch of the equipment. I got to watch a scene being filmed from the vantage point of the director, practically. (Okay, ten feet away, but still.) That was really fun! It made me almost want to get back into filmmaking again.

In other news, Tall One bumped into me on set (literally) and didn't even say anything, and I still have never laid eyes on Silas Weir Mitchell IRL. (This is now going on my bucket list. Meet the wolf guy.)

The food: They had a salad bar, some steak, baked potatoes, rice, ziti, a few other main dish things, cookies, and cake. Not quite as elaborate as the buffet they had last time (read: no pudding) but I'm not complaining.

So two episodes down, and very little chance at screen time on either. But third time's the charm, right?

The episode in question, Episode 4 of season 4, should air sometime in November. I'll update here when I know more.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Summer Trippin', August Edition: Just Another Lego Convention

It's my last trip of the summer, and where do I go? To a Lego convention, of course! I decided to try out Bricks By The Bay, California's 5-year-old Lego extravaganza. This year, BBTB was held at the Santa Clara Convention Center, which is attached to the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara (the hotel I'd be staying at) and is across the street from Great America and kitty corner from the 49ers' new stadium.

Thursday, August 7th: My plane took off from Portland at dawn. (That's dawn in the photo above. Dawn and window smudges.) Landed in San Jose around 8 am. I took a shuttle to a light rail station, and rode the light rail to the hotel/convention center.

Palm trees? This must be paradise!

And so began the convention. I had signed up for two Lego workshops that day: Animation (morning) and Sculpture (afternoon). Going in, I was less excited about the Animation one because I've already had some experience doing Lego animation, and I've also gone to other workshops expecting to be taught something, only to be disappointed. 

I was not disappointed with this one! It was led by a Lego animator named David Pagano. He showed us a few of his own impressive videos, gave us tips, and let us play around with an ipad and its movie-making program. My table partner and I made our little minifig do all sorts of fun things, including "walk across a balance beam" and "get abducted by an eagle."

When Animation was over, I decided to see if I could check into my hotel room a little early. I could!

Hmmm. Nice decor, there. What is this, The Giver?

Square-shaped sink.

The view from my window. Useful for seeing whether or not the pool was crowded. Un-useful because of Marco Polo

After a quick snack, I headed back to the hotel's second floor (I was on the 5th) for the Sculpture workshop. The class was being taught by Mariann Asanuma, who used to build things for Legoland. She is incredibly talented. Unfortunately, the workshop wasn't what I was hoping for. First Mariann talked about making sculptures and showed us many examples of sculptures. Then she talked a bit about mathy things. Then she passed out bags of Lego and told us to try to build this Lego guy.

(He's missing an arm here because Mariann removed it to show how it was attached, I think.)

I was just like ???, because I didn't feel I had even learned how to do what she was asking. Plus, we didn't have instructions, only these diagrams that didn't make sense to me, and a bag of Lego pieces. The only thing we had to go on was her model, and all 24 of us taking the workshop had to share it. To make matters worse, our bags didn't contain all the pieces we needed (I guess there was maybe a miscommunication with whoever ordered the pieces.)

But since this wasn't school, and since nobody was going to grade me, I just started building a Lego guy with what I had. And while mine (right) didn't end up looking exactly like Mariann's (left), I had fun trying.

After the workshop, I had dinner, then I went to the convention center's theater for the "Opening Ceremonies." It took a long time for the people in charge to scan all our badges' barcodes (to enter us in door prize drawings) and start the ceremonies. (Over the weekend, we had four large-group meetings, and not one started on time.) They talked to us a bit and gave away some door prizes, but I did not win any. In fact, I did not win a single door prize all weekend. But I wasn't sad -- one less thing to (not) haul back on the plane!

I was really impressed by how kid-friendly Bricks By The Bay was. Much moreso than either Brickcon or Bricks Cascade. There were kids everywhere! I didn't mind having kids there, save for one or two who were obnoxious. A lot of the kids were talented builders; I was amazed by many of the MOCs (creations) I saw. I was also happy to see several girls there, as well as more women than I typically see at a Lego con. (Though some were moms of the kids in attendance, they still seemed to enjoy The Lego.)

After the opening ceremonies, I went to the con's lounge room/"chill space," where they had poured out enough bricks to cover four tables.

I started building a ship, but soon realized that there were very few brown pieces to be had. So I made a rainbow ship. With a shark on top. Because.

* * * * *

Friday morning, I was able to get into the exhibit halls and set up my MOCs. 

I had brought three. Two new...

(The bear and the snowflake. I didn't make the orange legs.)

And one old...

Now that he's visited all the West Coast Lego conventions, Scrooge gets to retire!

I spent some time pawing through a pile of Lego-for-sale at one of the vendor's booths. I came back to my hotel room with these: 

And used them to build this:

A secret... uh... pirate hideout... fort... thing.

Friday afternoon, they had a variety of events going on, things like round table discussions, mini-workshops and also games, but the only one that interested me was train jousting. That's where two battery/motor-powered Lego trains, each carrying a lance, go at each other on parallel tracks...

Who doesn't love a good battle?

After the train jousting demo, I went back to the exhibit halls to look at the MOCs again, including all the new ones that were being added & set up. Below is just a small sampling of my favorite MOCS at BBTB. For more photos, visit my BBTB Flickr Album.

I just really like that flamingo.

Disney's Main Street! Yesss.


Cloud Cuckoo Land!

Quirky & cool.

Grumpy cat!

This almost looks real!

These two trains were so incredible. They took turns running (they, plus a third train, were on a timer system) and when they did lap the loopy track, they were a sight to behold. Things on the trains twirled, twisted, bounced, and did all manner of crazy things.

Okay, it's probably better if I just show you, so here's a video:


I love Victorian architecture!

A corn maze! I believe this was made by one of the female junior builders.

I appreciated this one because it used one of the retro gears. Love those!

I also spent a while looking at the vintage Lego items brought by some folks who are starting a Lego museum.

Friday night, David Pagano (the Lego animator guy) did a presentation at the evening meeting. That was cool; he gave a very inspirational talk. We also got a glimpse of a never-before-seen-by-the-general-public Lego set, coming out this fall!

Santa's Workshop -- or Santa's Village Of Madness, if I have my way.... ;)

After the meeting, they had different fun events going on; I chose to do the adults-only Dirty Brickster. (Think: White Elephant, but with Lego.) I had brought three small Lego sets, including two discontinued polybag sets. I walked away with some cool Lego-shaped storage containers, a brick-shaped luggage tag, a Lego-shape Nintendo DS games holder, and a Ninjago keychain.

I had so much fun at Dirty Brickster that I decided I wanted to do the all-ages one the next day. But I didn't have another gift to give, so I decided I would buy something (or several somethings) from the vendors who were parked in the exhibition halls.

* * * * *

On Saturday, there were many activities that sounded cool to me. I started off with a seminar called "Making Lego Pinball," then "Brickfilming Visual Effects," followed by "Brick Geometry," which I found very useful. 

After lunch, I participated in the game "Build By The Box," (this is where you have to accurately put a Lego set together without using the instructions). Unfortunately, I didn't do too well. But I'll keep practicing. SOMEDAY I WILL PREVAIL!

Next I went to a lecture on "How To Build Round Shapes," which wasn't quite what I thought it would be. (I thought the guy would teach us how to make a Lego ball. Alas.) 

In between events, I was perusing the vendors' tables for things to take to the all-ages Dirty Brickster. I ended up filling a small box with two types of Lego candy, a Lego-compatible light brick, and three 16x32 baseplates in blue, green, and tan. I was thinking that if nobody wanted my gift, I'd just steal it and take it home.

The gifts begin to arrive...

So Dirty Brickster game #2 began, and a young girl ended up opening the gift I'd brought -- and loved it! (I think she was more excited about the candy than anything.) I opened a Star Wars set, and was perfectly happy when, towards the end of the game, someone stole it, and I was able to steal a Friends set from someone else. 

After the game, we had a dinner break, then we all went back to the main theater for a Lego costume contest and the Awards Ceremony.

Award trophies, awaiting their new homes

At BrickCon and Bricks Cascade, they give awards by category, and the same was true here. So when the awards for Art, Sculpture & Mosaic were announced... and then the awards for Pop Culture... and I didn't win anything, I was a little bummed. (Not surprised, just disappointed; I'd never won one in all my conventions.)

But after going through all the categories, they started giving out "Overall" awards, and to my great surprise, I saw my name up on the screen. My little bear got an Honorable Mention!


Oh man, I was so happy. It made my night.

After the ceremony, there were several late-night events happening. I chose to do 101 Bricks, because I've done the game at BrickCon and have always enjoyed it. You bring along 101 bricks of any type. Then you're given a theme challenge, and you have to use your pieces to build something to the challenge in three minutes or less. This happens 10 times. You're judged on what you built and the pieces you used and stuff.

There were only 6 of us participating in the game, probably because there were other enticing events happening at the same time. Also, the guy leading/judging the game didn't seem excited to be there (I think he was tired, maybe.) Even though my fellow players were great, the game didn't end up being as fun as it had been at BrickCon. Oh well.

* * * * *

Sunday, I slept in. In fact, I didn't go down to the convention (this was the day it was open to the public) until noon. Crowds of people, ahoy!

I briefly stopped by the Lego Parts Draft that was happening in one of the meeting rooms. I was sad I hadn't brought the set to draft, because it had some really cool pieces! Next time....

Then I visited one of the vendors, and spent an hour or so pawing through his pile of Lego for sale (a different vendor than Friday). My bag o'Lego was about halfway full when this kid, maybe 9 or 10, started conversing with me. First he asked about my Kindle, then about my con badge, then what I like to build. Then he announced  he was building a spaceship, and asked me to help him find certain pieces. A while later I moved to another spot around the Lego pile, and before long, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and the kid's there, going, "Can you help me find a 2x3 slope?" This happened several times. I found it amusing. I'm not sure where his parents were.

As 4 pm (the public show's closing time) came near, they tried to start clearing the exhibition halls of people, but (somewhat predictably) nobody wanted to leave the halls. In fact, I noticed a lot of people just blithely ignoring the announcements. "Free Lego sets and cookies for the first 50 people to get out to the lobby, starrrting... NOW!"-- jk they didn't really do that. Maybe they should have.

Closing ceremonies...

Lego cons' closing ceremonies are usually pretty blah, and this was no exception. Everyone's tired, and there's not a lot to really say, but they often stretch things out anyway. They talked about the theme for next year's convention ("Monsters") and mentioned that it might be held in a different location and on a different weekend. Okay. Good to know. Because, as the late, great Mr. Rogers used to say....

I'll be back.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

On Being A Vegetarian

On Being A Vegetarian

I'm a vegetarian. Even though I live in the Pacific Northwest, which is pretty vegetarian- and vegan-friendly, whenever people learn this about me, they tend to give me puzzled looks. Like, what is WITH you? looks. And then they begin to ask questions. And while I do politely answer their questions (well, usually), I'm quite weary of them. So I thought I'd explain everything here. Which probably won't make any difference, since very few people I know will admit to actually reading this blog. Oh well; at least I can say I tried.

Here are some of the things people say when they discover that I am a vegetarian, along with my responses.

When did you decide to become a vegetarian?

When I was about 17. It didn't happen right away, though. For a while, I had a hard time finding things on restaurant menus that were meat-free, so when I was seriously hungry, I still ate meat. Over about three years, though, I weaned myself off.

Why did you become a vegetarian? 

I was never a big fan of meat, even as a kid. If it was kind of disguised (as in hamburgers or corn dogs), that was fine, or if it was just part of something else, like pizza, no big deal. I also really liked bacon, fish sticks, tuna sandwiches, and chicken nuggets. I did not like chicken straight off the bone, or fish with bones, or things like steak and pot roast that you had to chew and chew and chew on before they'd go down. As time went on, I began to notice the little fatty clumps in hamburgers, so I stopped eating those.  Little by little, I cut out meat products from my life. Chicken sandwiches were one of the last things to go. The less of it (meat) I ate, the more disgusted I became by the thought of consuming it. It became easier and easier to be meat-free. I found things at restaurants I could eat. I learned you could ask for no bacon on a salad, or no chicken on your pasta. I'd pay the same price for the meal, sure, but at least it was now a meal I could enjoy.

Did you do it for the sake of the animals?

That may have been part of my reason, but it wasn't the main reason. I do love animals, and I don't like to see them butchered for food. It makes me sad when I watch those "House" shows on PBS and they slaughter a chicken or a pig or something. I think if I lived on a farm it would have to be a vegetable farm.

But if you don't eat meat, how do you get your protein and omega 3s?

Beans, eggs, cheese, milk, yogurt, and vitamins. I survive, somehow.

Are you a vegan?

Um, no. I think this question comes from people who aren't quite sure what the difference is. Vegans do not go for any animal products or things derived in any way from animals. That means no milk, eggs, cheese, butter... and it extends beyond that, too... no leather shoes, no fur coats. Animal-free everything. Vegetarians are sort of middle-ground, I guess you could say, and often eat animal products -- so long as it's not the animal's skin/flesh/body parts.

Vegetables are "alive," too, you know. Studies have shown that vegetables feel pain when you bite into them. So why do you eat THOSE?

This is a strange argument, especially since the "feelings" of my food is not an issue for me. Yes, I love animals, but I didn't stop eating meat so I could spare the life of Buddy The Cow out in Montana. So sorry, Carrots and your feelings, I'm going to eat you anyway. And I'm going to think lowly of anyone who presents this argument.

Speaking of which -- why do people feel the need to change my mind about being a vegetarian? Why do they think they need to convince me that my preferences are "wrong" or "unhealthy"? Not everyone does this, but many have. Usually once I tell people that I've been a vegetarian for 16 years, it shuts them up. I'm not going through a phase; I'm not dabbling in some fleeting fad. This is how I am.

Do you ever eat meat? Even sometimes?

Sometimes, yes, especially if it sneaks its way in. I may pick the Canadian bacon off my pizza and eat the pizza, knowing full well I'm consuming meat juices. I'll eat potatoes and carrots that have been cooked in the same pan as a pot roast (especially if my Grandma's cooking the meal). And if you grill me a Gardenburger on your outdoor grill, I don't care that a slab of beef was there a few minutes ago. On the other hand, I would prefer that my eggs not be cooked in bacon grease... but if I was hungry enough, I'd probably eat them anyway. ETA: I also eat shrimp sometimes, especially the honey walnut shrimp from Panda Express, because it is that good.

If you ate meat, like a whole hamburger, would you get sick?

I don't know... but I don't really want to find out.

Do you ever miss meat?

There are really only three times when I miss it:

1. When I'm eating at someone's house, or at a barbecue, and the main dish is meat, and I'm stuck eating, like, rolls and carrot sticks. Then, yes, I wish I could partake in the main dish like everybody else.

2. When I'm at certain restaurants, like Applebee's, where everything on the menu looks delicious, but nearly everything has meat in it. Same with those restaurants that only offer baked potatoes alongside a $16 steak.

3. When a neighbor is barbecuing hamburgers. The smell is incredibly pleasing to my senses; probably because it brings me back to my childhood or something. But if said neighbor were to pop his head over the fence and offer me a burger, I'd politely decline.

Pyrus Pyrifolia

It's been four years since my venture into mango territory, and I decided it was time to experiment with a new fruit. Since the grocery store didn't have any kumquats (where do you buy those, anyway?), I had to settle for something else. And when I saw these cute orange little things wearing tiny grandma hairnets, I just knew I had to have one!

Meet the Asian Pear (code name: Pyrus Pyrifolia)!

Wikipedia explained the hairnets: they're there because Asian Pears bruise easily (aw, don't we all?) Bruiseable as they may be, Asian Pears are actually tougher (less mushy) than your typical pear, and you don't have to wait for them to ripen, because if they're sitting in your grocery store, they are supposed to already be ripe. And brown spots? Bad news; it means the A.P. is getting over-ripe.

All right, little pear. Let's do this.

I already like this thing better than a mango because it has tiny seeds instead of a giant rock in its center. The internet says eating the skin is optional. I eat the skin. (Yes, I washed the pear first.)

Interesting flavor. My tastebuds are telling me "pumpkin," actually, but yes, there is a hint of traditional pear flavor there. The fruit has the textural consistency of a non-quite-yet-ripe regular pear. Crunchy. But juicy.

I approve of the Asian Pear.