Thursday, October 13, 2016

A Visit To The Woodland Park Zoo

I spent the morning of October 2nd at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. 

I had previously attended weddings at this zoo (of people, mind you... though an animal wedding would be awesome) but had never really toured the place... until now.

With my Oregon Zoo membership card, I was able to get half-price admission to the WPZ, which was already in its "off season" and had lower prices than during the summer anyway. Admission plus parking came to around $12 total. 

Once inside, I got a map and began to plan my route. I quickly realized that this zoo is big! According to, the WPZ is 92 acres (compared to the Oregon Zoo's 64 acres.) While some exhibits were clumped together, others felt very spread out. I did a lot of walking that morning.

I was glad I'd grabbed a map, because the pathway system at this zoo is tricky. Signage isn't very clear on most paths, and there are a bunch of little trails that sometimes made me feel like I was in a labyrinth. I understand that they want to spread out the visitors (away from one main path, where it might get crowded) and make the zoo more nature-esque, but...

...come on. The city of Venice was easier to navigate!

But of course I saw a lot of animals.

There were a couple of interactive exhibits, including "penguin feeding," which, for $5, allowed you to throw some fish into the penguin pond, and an aviary where you could feed birds seeds off a stick for a buck. The particular aviary where this was occurring was not an ideal place to hang out, as nearly every pathway had a tree overhanging it, every tree had a bird, and nearly every bird had already eaten and was now all about nature's calling. (I got out of there quickly.)

All in all, I spent about two and a half pleasant hours at the Woodland Park Zoo and visited pretty much every exhibit during that time. On this Sunday morning in early October, it wasn't very crowded. I had a good time looking at the variety of animals that live there, and would someday like to visit this zoo again.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Return To BrickCon!

Last weekend I went up to Seattle for BrickCon 2016. Between admiring LEGO creations, chatting with fellow fans, gaming, eating out, and sightseeing, I took some time to marvel at the fact that it had been three years since my last BrickCon.

Though the 2012 and 2013 BrickCons were fun, I remember feeling rather exhausted after both. The first year I blamed my fatigue on having to drive over 300 miles (plus all that walking around the con). So the following year, I went up by train. That didn't seem to help the situation, though, and I returned to Portland feeling seriously drained.

By the spring of 2014, I'd started planning my epic European/American East Coast trip (aka The Glorious Adventure). I started saving money, and made the decision not to do BrickCon in 2014. In October of 2015, I was on my trip.

This year, 2016, I was ready and able to return to Seattle for this LEGO convention. This time, I did things a little differently than I had in the past. 

*For one thing, I went by myself. A friend had gone with me the two previous times. Happily, I now know quite a few fellow LEGO fans, thanks to our local LEGO club as well as our local convention, so I was never without someone I could talk to.

*I paced myself more than I'd done at past conventions. I left each night after the main meeting, rather than stay for the after-hours events. I may have missed out on some fun, but checking out early meant getting more rest.

*I actually hung around the public convention for a few hours. In the past, it was so crowded during public hours, I would usually escape and go elsewhere. This time, I tried to embrace it. I ended up sitting behind one of the tables where one of my creations was for several hours. I got hear several people talking favorably about my MOC, so that was nice.

Which brings me to...

What I brought this year!

My only new MOC was Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood Of Make-Believe, which I began working on back in August. After watching some old episodes of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood with my baby niece, I recalled how, as a kid, I'd always coveted those models Mr. Rogers had in his kitchen of the castle, museum, clock, etc. How fun would it be to have those and play with them?

Hey, wait a second... I can have them!

So this is what I made for the con. I want to do a little more with it -- more blue plates for the background on the sides... and maybe extend the neighborhood so that Grandpere's tower is in its proper location. I also hope that LEGO makes more pieces available in Daniel Tiger's clock's color so I can make it more like the clock in the show.

 EVEN SO....

I also brought along three MOCs that have been on display at other conventions in past years....

American Kitchens (Bricks Cascade, 2016)

Choosing Poorly (Bricks Cascade, 2015)

and Brown Bear Goes For A Stroll (Bricks By The Bay, 2014)


Every year, BrickCon seems to change the protocol for game sign-up. One year, it was first-come-first-served. Another year, you signed a sheet but then they drew names randomly of who got to play in each round. That was annoying because you had to show up to each game just to find out if you'd gotten in. This year, they had us sign up online. Again, selection was randomized, but at least they emailed us a few days before the convention to tell us which games we had gotten into.

I signed up for Box Build, Master Build, and Blind Build, and got in to the latter two. Blind Build was, as usual, not a success for me. I usually start out well, but after about 45 minutes begin losing my mind. EVERY TIME. Especially when blindly building tiny vehicles. 

This is what we were supposed to build (the main picture)....

And this is as far as I got before giving it up. (More than 10 people had already called "done!")

The Master Build was more fun. (It usually is.) This year, it was done in two heats. I was in Heat B. We were given two small sets and were told to build to the theme of "madness."

Here's what I built....

It's supposed to be a lady whose shopping obsession has gotten out of control, leaving her in tears.

I probably could have given her a better nose.

Surprisingly, she got some votes from the judges, and I squeaked into Round 2 (the top 20)!

Here are some other creations from Heats A and B....

When it came time for Round 2 the following day, I was excited but nervous to be among so many really creative builders. I didn't expect to win (and I didn't) but figured that whoever did win would certainly deserve to.

We were given one set...

...then told to set it aside and go fill up a bucket of loose brick from these big bins.

Then, they said, build anything.


Oh, I should add that we were also given three little green plant pieces that we had to incorporate into our build somehow.

The three of them together reminded me of a recycling logo, so I came up with an idea to make some kind of garbage-crushing machine that made new objects. Maybe with a conveyor belt?

That somehow turned into a conveyor belt of doom. Evil scientist/James Bond/every action cartoon I ever watched growing up/etc. But how could minifigs be lured into the trap? Free candy? No, wait! A free clinic! Those poor, unsuspecting patients!

So while I was building it, it all seemed very amusing. And afterwards, it got some laughs and people were taking photos. 

But looking at it afterward, I was sort of shocked at what I'd done. I go from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood to DEATHHHHHH?? Madness indeed.

Here are a few of the other things that were built in Round 2. Utterly brilliant, most of them....

And the one that ultimately won....

^Love the orange boat/hat brim.

Besides getting to take home the cabin set, everyone got a special brick for being a semi-finalist:


At every LEGO convention I've ever been to, they've done random door-prize drawings for free LEGO sets or bags of pieces or something similar. Typically, everyone has a bar code on their con ID badge, which gets scanned before every group meeting. During the meeting, a computer draws names when prompted, and people win prizes. I have witnessed this process going horribly awry, but it worked very smoothly at this con.

At Bricks Cascade, which is a smaller con, you're pretty much guaranteed to win at least one prize, as long as you show up to the meetings. At the larger cons, there are sometimes people who don't ever get picked. This happened to me at Bricks By The Bay, but I didn't really mind.

At BrickCon this year, they went back and forth between selecting 5 names at a time (for people to receive small, $10-30 sets) and choosing one name at a time (for people to win larger sets that ran from $50 to $300 or more.) My name was called in a group of 5, and I got a small City set.

Besides the door prizes, there were trophies awarded on Saturday night for superior builds.

It's always fun to see people receive accolades for their hard work, especially if you know them! Several people from PortLUG (my local builders' club) took home trophies. Yay guys!


The MOC turnout this year was AMAZING. I had never seen so many great builds in one room. 

But here are a few creations that stood out to me for one reason or another...

^This is actually based off a LEGO street scene, only whoever did this built it using only gray and dark gray bricks. Looking at it, it makes my brain go WTF? because it's like I've suddenly gone color-blind. Crazy cool.

^Treasure! Fun!

^BEAR LOVE! I've never been great at sculptures, so I'm impressed. Plus I love bears. (ETA: My friend Wes has informed me that this is from a TV show, Three Bare Bears, which I've now watched on Youtube and find absolutely delightful.) (P.S. Here is the Flickr page of the builder, Brandon Griffith, with lots more LEGO goodness.) 

^As I'm currently reading the Narnia books, I was especially amused by this Narnia mashup. (It should be Edmund meeting the White Witch, not Lucy and Tumnus, but who cares, really?) I had even considered building a Narnia MOC myself, now that LEGO makes a Snow Queen. However, I don't think mine would have looked nearly as good as this.

^v This Christmas Village was delightfully detailed, gorgeous, colorful and fun!

^Absolutely gorgeous. The waterfall was even moving, and the dragon flapped its wings!

^I immediately recognized this depiction of Admiral Boom's House from Mary Poppins. The LEGO world needs more Mary Poppins MOCs, I say.

^I really like the way they did the dark blue water, here. Great technique and result.

^Micro BrickCon is always fun to look at ever year. A bit surreal, too.

I LOVED SO MANY MORE... So many, in fact, that it would not do to post them all here. Kindly head on over to my Flickr Album to see over 200 photos from BrickCon 2016!