Saturday, October 26, 2013

Brick Critique: "Thanksgiving Feast"

Just in time for the Thanksgiving (unless you live in Canada...), here's Lego's new polybag set Thanksgiving FeastLet's take a look.

Says "Create a Thanksgiving Feast with a Lego(R) brick-built table, tons of food and drink accessories, 2 minifigs and 2 cats!"

2 cats.

As a cat person, I smell trouble, here.

Yes... in the real world, those cats would have carted off that turkey within three seconds. 

In Legoland, they seem more interested in the keg. Maybe there's a mouse hiding under it?

Wait, why is there a keg? Is that at traditional thing that my family purposely leaves out of holiday celebrations? I see there are also wine bottles on the table. Well, well, well....

In all seriousness, this is a pretty cool set. The food items -- full turkey, sausages, pie, carrot, and baguette -- are rarely all found together like this, and not often even found individually. The cats are okay; Lego has recently made more detailed ones, but hey. What the set does lack is A) Chairs for the table and B) Elderly and/or tiny relatives. But I do know how to remedy that.

Thanksgiving Feast retails for $7.99. Delicious, tempting smells (and Tryptophan hangover) not included.

All About Everything - Week Of October 22, 2013

This Week's Topic: Tomes & Talismans

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Tomes & Talismans was a 1986 educational television series produced by Mississippi ETV, consisting of thirteen 20-minute episodes presented as a dramatic serial story. Each episode defines, illustrates, and reviews specific library/research concepts.

Plot Summary

In 2123 humanity is evacuating Earth for the White Crystal Solar System, due to an attack carried out by the nefarious Wiper race, a group of aliens that are determined to interfere with communication and data technology. A special group is preparing a complete library of all Human knowledge which is hidden underground. Here, all fiction and non-fiction books are sorted by an alphabetical and numerical ordering system but an important volume is missing. A desperate search for it begins in the library in the outskirts of the city. The library team leader Ms. Bookhart, played by Niki Wood, is stranded in her bookmobile and is suddenly metabolically suspended for 100 years by a being known only as "The Universal Being". She awakens in a world under the control of beings known as "The Wipers" and is discovered by another group of extraterrestrials in the form of four children known as "The Users". The children, along with Ms. Bookhart, rediscover the hidden library, and in the course of the series she teaches them how to use it. In turn, they discover how to defeat "The Wipers" and create a communicator to call the Human refugees back to Earth.


Tomes Entombed— overview of library/research skills and concepts
Fact or Fiction— fact and fiction; alphabetical shelving
Under Cover— parts of a book
In the Cards— card catalog
The System— Dewey Decimal Classification System
Information Quick— encyclopedia; typographical clues
Hidden Meaning— dictionary; thesaurus
Preference for Reference— special subject reference sources
Direction Unknown— maps; atlases; world almanac
SOS: Skim or Scan— skimming; scanning; paraphrasing; taking notes
Guide to Light— Reader's Guide; Children's Magazine Guide
Show and Tell— audiovisual resources
Final Report— summarizing reports; concluding research; bibliographic sources


There are certain movies and TV shows you see as a kid -- in whole or in part -- that cause you to spend the next twenty years wondering: What the heck WAS that? 

Maybe what you saw was super exciting or cool  -- or maybe it was extremely terrifying -- but it never ceases to haunt the recesses of your brain.

And then, one day, you somehow stumble across it, and you go OMG I REMEMBER THIS and you start to watch it again, with mixed results.

Back in the 80's, our school librarian had somehow gotten a hold of videos of Tomes & Talismans and had us watch the series during Library class. I guess it was educational, but it still scared the crud out of me. And for years, I would randomly recall the lady with the book-ish name and her passion for the Dewey Decimal System. Dewey Decimal, hahaha... dewey. Strangely, I don't think our librarian ever got us through the entire series. Either that, or I was so terrified of it, I tuned it out. Because as far as I was concerned, Ms. Bookhart was, and always will be, in mortal danger.

A while ago, when someone on Facebook reminded me of the series, I found that youtube channel with the videos, and I began to watch. 

I lasted maybe 2 episodes. 

Because holy crap, it's still terrifying. And bad. And cheesy.

Dewey Decimal.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Oregon Zoo In Fall

I used to think the zoo was overrated. Well, mostly the Oregon Zoo, which is the one nearest to me and the one I'd been to the most times. But this past summer, it occurred to me that maybe I hadn't given it a proper chance. After all, nearly all the times I'd been there, it had been with a bunch of kids. I'd been involved in many a' field trip over the years. And when you're in charge of a group of Kindergarteners, for example, you're not going to get to properly enjoy yourself. You're going to be constantly going, "One... two... three... four? Where's kid number four? Oh, he's behind the polar bear sign. GET OVER HERE!" Lunches are eaten in a hurry and you're at the mercy of children who possess small bladders and the inability to hold 'em (apparently). Meanwhile, if an animal doesn't get up and do a jig, the kids aren't interested in watching it for more than twelve seconds, so you're constantly moving, not enjoying things, and... well, it can be a bit taxing.

But I love animals, and I also do enjoy walking, so it seemed to me that the zoo would be a great place for me to visit when I needed some quiet time, by myself. Or at least with a semi-mature friend or cousin who wouldn't run off down the pathway if the polar bear was being "boring," but who could enjoy the atmosphere and the animals alongside me. So out of seemingly nowhere, I bought a zoo membership. And for an entire year, I get to go to the zoo for free.

Of course, from September to May the zoo hours are such that I can only make it there on the weekends. And weekends are crowded with parents and their kids. But the nice thing? They're not my kids. So, if I feel like it, I can watch them be cute and frolicky, and I can enjoy their naive, cute little comments, but when they start to howl, I can walk away and not look back.

I'm averaging about one visit a month so far. And each time I go, I have a totally different experience. When I was there in August, I got to see birds of prey in flight. In September, I watched two bobcats groom each other, curl up, and go to sleep side by side. On my most recent visit, I listened to a informational talk about penguins, and learned that the Oregon Zoo's little birdies molt to the point of baldness after about 1 year of life and that they can hold their breath under water for 2-3 minutes.

Meanwhile, the seasons are changing and the zoo's scenery begins to change as well. The foliage has turned orange, red, and yellow. Lights have been hung in preparation for the annual ZooLights festival. And there are other differences as well -- the Oregon Zoo is currently undergoing massive construction projects, making some routes inaccessible and grounding (parking) the zoo's train until late 2014.

When I visited yesterday, I took some photos. I plan to go back in the winter and take more. Then in the spring, then in the summer. I'm certain the pictures will be totally different each time because that's the nature of... well, nature. Things change. Animals sometimes wake up from their naps. Random acts of cuteness are bound to happen, perhaps when I least expect it. 

And for the next year, I will be there to experience it, with or without a passel of Kindergarteners.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

All About Everything - Week Of October 15, 2013

This Week's Topic: New York City Blackout of 1977

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

The New York City blackout of 1977 was an electricity blackout that affected most of New York City on July 13–14, 1977. The only neighborhoods in the city that were not affected were in southern Queens and neighborhoods of the Rockaways, which are part of the Long Island Lighting Company system.

Unlike other blackouts that affected the region, namely the Northeast blackout of 1965 and the Northeast blackout of 2003, the 1977 blackout was localized to New York City and the immediate surroundings. Also in contrast to the 1965 and 2003 blackouts, the 1977 blackout resulted in city-wide looting and other disorder, including arson.

The blackout occurred when the city was facing a severe financial crisis and its residents were fretting over the Son of Sam murders. The nation as a whole was suffering from a protracted economic downturn, and commentators have contrasted the event with the good-natured "Where Were You When the Lights Went Out?" atmosphere of 1965. Some pointed to the financial crisis as a root cause of the disorder, others noted the hot July weather. (The city at the time was in the middle of a brutal heat wave.) Still others pointed out that the 1977 blackout came after businesses had closed and their owners went home, while in 1965 the blackout occurred during the day and owners stayed to protect their property. However, the 1977 looters continued their damage into the daylight hours, with police on alert.

Looting and vandalism were widespread, hitting 31 neighborhoods, including most poor neighborhoods in the city. Possibly the hardest hit were Crown Heights, where 75 stores on a five-block stretch were looted, and Bushwick, where arson was rampant with some 25 fires still burning the next morning. At one point two blocks of Broadway, which separates Bushwick from Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, were on fire. Thirty-five blocks of Broadway were destroyed: 134 stores looted, 45 of them set ablaze. Thieves stole 50 new Pontiacs from a Bronx car dealership. In Brooklyn, youths were seen backing up cars to targeted stores, tying ropes around the stores' grates, and using their cars to pull the grates away before looting the store.While 550 police officers were injured in the mayhem, 4,500 looters were arrested.

During the blackout, a number of looters stole DJ equipment from electronics stores. As a result, the hip hop genre, barely known outside of The Bronx at the time, grew at an astounding rate from 1977 onward.


For some reason, whenever I think about New York in the 70's, I picture Sesame Street. Not the Muppets, exactly, but the actual street, with all the friendly neighbors hanging out and Oscar grumbling in his trash can and kids sitting on the steps and Mr. Hooper selling his wares.

It's hard to imagine the chaos that must have been seen, heard and felt during those crazy summer days in actual New York (not on Sesame Street) way back when.

Of course, there are pictures. Crimes captured on film and -- so many years later -- posted to the internet for all to see and for some to say, "Hey... that guy looting those stereos... isn't that Grandpa?" o_O

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Lego Projects: "There Was An Old Lady Who Lived In A Shoe" (2013)

I first made the shoe for Bricks Cascade 2013, then modified the model when I took it to the Oregon State Fair this summer. The main difference? More children; children doing different things. Oh yeah, and the backdrop and words are new.

Poor lady's got so many kids I've lost count of them. 30? 40? And where is her spouse? No-good minfig, he is.

But hey -- the kids are happy!

And mischievous...

Here's the shoe from other angles...

I can't decide what to do with this MOC, so for now, it's on a shelf. Maybe I'll make more nursery rhyme-type MOCs and make a series??

Friday, October 11, 2013

Brick By Brick

All right, I apologize in advance to anyone who's not into Lego... okay, actually, screw that, I don't apologize. LEGOLEGOLEGOLEGO.

So in my last post I featured some of my favorite creations from BrickCon 2013. And then I figured, hey, maybe I should actually talk about the convention itself, since it did involve four days of my life, and the trip itself is the most (and this is kinda sad) major one I took this year. And because LEGOLEGOLEGOLEGO and so forth.

So firstly -- Seattle.

I went by train. I think if I had to choose a travel method of choice, it would be trains. I stayed at a place called the Inn At Queen Anne. Which was decent and cozy but I probably wouldn't stay there again because it was tiny and old and really cramped, and certainly quaint, but it had a lot of steps. Yeah so I think I'll copy and paste that and put it on yelp.

Thursday, I arrived.

Friday, the festivities really began.

Lego conventions tend to have fun, frustrating games you can partake in on Fridays and Saturdays. I signed up for the one-handed build, but didn't get it in, so I did the Bag Build instead. 

Bag Builds are the ones where you try to build a Lego set whose pieces are placed inside a ziplock bag. 

Which would be fine and well if they weren't asking us to try to build TREES!

They had us build this set, and it was nigh impossible. When somebody finally called "done" (meaning they'd somehow managed to to finish), we all cheered, because it meant we could all quit without shame.

Next came the Master Build, which is typically a game where a person is given two very different Lego sets and they have an hour or two in which to build something creative. However, at the 2013 Bricks Cascade event in Portland, we were only given only one set, and here at BrickCon there were three sets, which seemed awfully generous. Then we learned we were going to build with a partner. I teamed with a lady named Jean, who I first met at Bricks Cascade 2012.
These are the sets we had to work with:

We were told to build to the theme of the convention, "Pigs Vs. Cows."

So we built this:

Go ahead and try to figure that out, I dare you.

But we had fun, that's the important thing! And I do dig those little space crafts. 

On Friday night everyone gathered to listen to two guys give talks about the past, and the future, of Lego. The first talk was informative and optimistic, the second one made me feel like burying all my Lego bricks in the backyard and moving to the moon. 

But the highlight of the evening was the unveiling of THIS:

We were shown the model, then the video. Meanwhile, 400 Lego fans cheered and clapped over every new element, oohed and aahed over the Murphy bed, and desperately wished to create some kind of diversion so they could kidnap the model and run away with it.

Or was that just me?

During this Friday night gathering, they announced they needed volunteers for various things, including building some trophies. I figured I'd give that a try. I chose the brick for "Delightful Detail" and used the bricks I had on hand (and had earned via the earlier contests) to make this: 

It was awarded off on Saturday evening.

On Saturday, I competed in a blind build. We were given this set:

144 pieces, and even a four-year-old can do it!

But when you can't see what you're building? It takes nearly an hour to put that thing together.

And you get this.

Where the dragon ends up with two different-colored wings.

And he has no eyes. Because the castle somehow got the eyeball pieces.

In the afternoon, I took a pig car I'd built at home and tried it out on one of the racing ramps. It did a bunch of somersaults.

I also competed in the 101 Bricks Build, where you get three minutes to build to a theme, and you do that ten times, and you have 101 bricks to work with, the same bricks each time.

It's a pretty laid-back event, and one I really enjoy. 

Back at the exhibition hall, twelve thousand people came out to see the Lego models. I showed you a few of those models (Mocs) in my last post, but you didn't think that was all the pics I had, didya? Well, I never!

And of course, there was Gotham Park (above). I described it to you in my last post. The Moc with all its animated glory. But seeing is believing, yada yada, so here's proof of its awesomeness.

Sunday was pretty low-key. I tried to avoid the masses at the exhibition hall, and instead visited the nearby pop culture museum. You know, the one that looks like this

for some reason? 

 Anyway, it's pretty cool inside. There are Smithsonian-like exhibits, including artifacts from movies, and a sound lab, where you can jam out on keyboards, drums, or guitars.

 By mid-afternoon it was time for the Lego convention's closing ceremonies, during which I finally got my name drawn for a prize and randomly received the Harry Potter board game, which I've already harvested for parts (since I do own the intact game, and the parts are amazing.) 

Monday morning came, and I said goodbye to Seattle...

And now I'm back in the real world, where alarm clocks buzz before dawn and people expect you to work for a living. But there's Bricks Cascade in March to look forward to, and that I shall....