Friday, May 29, 2015

The Truth About Ghosts

I've been working with elementary students for about 12 years. In that time I've seen a lot of crazy kid creations. Normally I don't feel it's my place to share kids' work, however silly or hilarious it may be. They're just kids, after all. Leave 'em alone and let them be their innocent, goofy selves.

But I'm going to make an exception this time. First, because this particular creation was displayed at a public event... so, really, it's fair game. And second, because I think it's very important that you, dear readers, were made aware of the true and indisputable facts about:


This research project was created a while ago by a young student in our school district's "Talented & Gifted" ("TAG") program. 

"Ghost let them see them in a ball of light or not."

This entire list is awesome or not.

TAG kids are often unique in some way, or super bright in a particular area or two. That gets them into the program. High intelligence is expected, but not necessarily guaranteed.

Full disclosure: I was in TAG in 6th grade, and I was not the brightest bulb. 

My personal year-long research project was on The Mayans. I made a diorama of a small house for a nice Mayan family to live in, complete with an electric pottery wheel made out of a LEGO motor.

Like I said, not the brightest bulb.

But hey.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Favorite TV Shows: May, 2015 Edition

Favorite TV Shows: May, 2015 Edition

 (Previously: January, 2011, May, 2012May, 2013, May 2014

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

My Top 5 Shows That Are Currently Airing (Or Have Aired Within The Past 6 Months), Regardless Of Whether Or Not I'm Caught Up With All The Episodes...

1. Community (thanks Yahoo!)
2. Call The Midwife
3. Reign
4. Jeopardy
5. Rick Steves' Europe
Honorary Mention: Grimm

What The Above List Looked Like Last Year (May 2014):

1. Community (-TIE-) Call The Midwife
2. Jeopardy
3. Rick Steves' Europe
4. Antiques Roadshow
5. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Guilty Pleasures I Like To Watch On Cable When I'm Housesitting:
1. Love It Or List It Too
2. American Pickers
3. Property Brothers
4. Flip Or Flop
5. Love It Or List It

Shows I've Been Watching Via Netflix Lately:
1. Community (Seasons 1-4 in the past two months)
2. ANTM Cycle 1 (oh, the good old days!)
3. Rick Steves' Europe
4. Merlin (finally finished the series!)
5. Reign (season 1)

Shows I Need To Catch Up On/Finish Watching:

1. Call The Midwife (I've been ignoring it this season, but I plan to binge-watch it on DVD at some near point.)
2. Reign -- I haven't seen the last two episodes of the season.

Shows I'd Like To Check Out:

1. Firefly
2. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (I guess because everyone says it's so great?)

Shows I Said I'd Like To Check Out Last Year:

1. The Tudors (Tried it; didn't care for it.)
2. Reign (Tried it; enjoyed it in all its crazy splendor.)
3. Firefly (Still haven't watched it!)

Technology And This 80's Baby

Why 80's Babies Are Different Than Other Millennials: This PopSugar post has been shared on my Facebook feed many times this week. This 80's Baby was all over that title before I even got to the article, because hello, duh, of course we're different (AND SPECIAL. AND UNIQUE.) You must never link me, of the DuckTales generation, to kids born in the Quack Pack era, because riots will ensue.

Actually, the article originally came from, with a comparatively boring title: The Oregon Trail Generation: Life Before And After Mainstream Tech.

Whatever name it's got, I thought I'd use the article to share some of my own experiences of growing up in this strange period of time.

If you can distinctly recall the excitement of walking into your weekly computer lab session and seeing a room full of Apple 2Es displaying the start screen of Oregon Trail, you’re a member of this nameless generation, my friend.

My first computer lab experience was actually with a roomful of Commodore 64s, not Apple IIs. Our elementary school had ONE Apple computer... this arrived around 1988-89, maybe. Our librarian was the one who taught us such necessary skills as "dragging" and "dropping." (Not to be confused with the ever-important "Stop, Drop, and Roll.")

Oregon Trail was around in middle school, I remember, but the game that got me the most excited of all was Sim City. Give me floods and tornadoes over snakebites and cholera any day.

Did you come home from middle school and head straight to AOL, praying all the time that you’d hear those magic words, “You’ve Got Mail” after waiting for the painfully slow dial-up internet to connect?  If so, then yes, you are a member of the Oregon Trail Generation.  And you are definitely part of this generation if you hopped in and out of sketchy chat rooms asking others their A/S/L (age/sex/location for the uninitiated).

We did the AOL Free Trial when I was in 9th grade. It was only "free" for so many hours; then you got charged. (Woe the day my parents got that bill in the mail.) In 10th and 11th grade, we had Compuserve, the scruffy cousin of AOL. On both services, you got 10-20 hours free per month, but then paid $2 an hour thereafter. Finally, in 1997, AOL began offering unlimited use internet, and we switched to that for the next decade.

I did pop into a few chatrooms during those early days. One laughable memory: me PMing (IMing? What did we even call it then?) my home address to a young man, because I wanted to stay in contact with him (through letters) and I had to get offline rightthatsecond. (I never did get a letter from the fellow.)

We were the first group of high school kids to do research for papers both online and in an old-fashioned card catalogue....

Making this transition was a bit annoying, actually. I was quite adept at using the card catalog. Why mess with a good thing?

Speaking of research papers, there was this terribly awkward period during which teachers would tell us that our papers had to be typed, yet to do that required either using an electric typewriter, having a computer at home with a printer that hadn't run out of ink, or staying after school to use the computer lab (which was impossible if you were a bus rider, like me.) This caused lots of stress.

By the time I was in college, they were beginning to explore the option of turning your paper in via email or via a flash drive.

For today's kids, Google Drive saves the day.

The importance of going through some of life’s toughest years without the toxic intrusion of social media really can’t be overstated.  Myspace was born in 2003 and Facebook became available to all college students in 2004.  So if you were born in 1981-1982, for example, you were literally the last graduating class to finish college without social media being part of the experience.

It's true that Facebook was born after I graduated college. But social media was still in place. We may not have had Facebook, but we did have group emails and group chatrooms, IRC (internet relay chat) and plenty of message boards where we talked about any and all of our interests. I had a personal website, a "Home Page" as it was sometimes referred to, where I had my photo and information about me. Honestly, by the time Facebook did rear its head, linking everyone together, my reaction was basically: "Well, it's about time." (And then it was only available to college students for the first few years, and since I'd already graduated, I was shut out of Facebook then.)

When we get together with our fellow Oregon Trail Generation friends, we frequently discuss how insanely glad we are that we escaped the middle school, high school and college years before social media took over and made an already challenging life stage exponentially more hellish.

Indeed. In those days, I connected online with people from other cities, even other countries, but it was unlikely I'd ever connect with someone from my own school, save for my best friend at the time. We might act like immature jerks, but we were acting that way with people from Australia, so somehow it didn't seem to matter. (No offense meant, Australians.)

But unlike our older Gen X siblings, we were still young and dumb enough to get really into MySpace and Facebook in its first few years, so we understand what it feels like to overshare on social media and stalk a new crush’s page.

I came to the Facebook table a little late in the game (2007), but MySpace, oh, MySpace. How often did I sit around, rearranging my Top 8 Friends? Man.

This article neglects to mention LiveJournal or other blogging sites. From 2003-2007, "LJ" was my social media platform of choice.

Time after time, we late 70s and early 80s babies were on the cusp of changes that essentially transformed modern life and, for better or worse, it’s shaped who we are and how we relate to the world.

True enough, but honestly, I don't think our "changes" were as drastic as the ones experienced by the generation of kids currently going through school. 

A kid who's 16 now was born around 1998 or 1999, when her own parents possibly didn't have a cell phone yet... and if they did, it was one that made calls and maybe texted. Now, it's probable that this teenager not only has a cell phone of her own (and so do her parents) but that she has a phone that can take photos, browse the internet, and do so much more.

A kid who's 16 now probably had her baby photos taken with a film camera, her preschool-elementary school photos taken with a digital camera, and her most recent photos? Selfies. Thousands of selfies.

Kids nowadays have access to thousands of free games on the internet... available with just a click, and maybe a Flash update. Recently I was attempting to explain to some of my fifth-grade students how we used to "game" when we were their age. "So you'd take these six 5-inch floppy disks and install them one after another..."

With each generation, technology marches on. And thank goodness for that.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Bricks Cascade '15

Portland's 4th Annual Bricks Cascade came and went -- two months ago -- and I have been putting off blogging about it for reasons unknown. Well, here I go.

This year's convention was the first in which I was a theme (co-)coordinator. What a job! Instead of getting to just relax and enjoy the convention, take lunch breaks whenever, and come and go as I please, I had to be present, engaged, and organized. I was one of the coordinators of Town & Train, which is usually one of the biggest themes with the most MOC entries. While I definitely know ways I could make things run more smoothly in the future, I don't think the endeavor was a disaster. Trains ran, the town stayed standing, and the MOCs on our tables brought smiles to many faces.

One of the jobs of a theme coordinator is to build trophies, and then, during the convention, look at all the MOCs in our theme and pick winners for various categories. Here are the two trophies I built:

Judging was tough! I did not want to do judging alone, so it became a team endeavor (me, my co-coordinator, and another AFOL friend) and these three builds came out on top this year...

Structurally Sound (Best Building) went to The Ridge by Paul Hetherington. Both the outside and the inside (yes, there were things going on inside!) looked great, and there were so many cool details. One of my favorites was the blue fish "fountain".

Moving Right Along (Best Train or Vehicle) went to the Post Zombie Apocalypse School Bus, by Cory Janssen, which I'm sorry to say I didn't get more photos of, because the back looked really cool as well. This Moc stood out because it was unique (not  your typical yellow school bus) and it had a story connected to it (zombies!)

Stellar Scene went to the Octan Motorsports Park by the Olson brothers. What ultimately set the Octan Motorsports Park apart, for me, was its cool details that kept bringing me back to look at the setup again and again. 

I especially loved the concession stands/shops... that hot dog shop! That pretzel shop! 

Some other Mocs that were definitely in the running (and are making me think we need to have more awards/trophies next year) include this fantastic house by Allen Smith:

And this one by Lori Clarke... (those gables! that roof!!)

And this charming cabin by Laura_KQB and Arwyn...

Below is a video I made of some of my favorite Mocs from throughout the show (yes, it includes some of the ones seen above). Hmm... I can make a video faster than I can do a blog entry, how 'bout that?

Finally, here are some of the things I made & brought:

I know I'll need lots more tan if I do an Old West Town layout again, but I worked with what I had....

I made most of these buildings (the hotel/saloon, sheriff's office, bank, church, barn, and shed) in the month leading up to the convention. The train station & the haunted house were already built.)

"Look! Woody!" is the comment I heard by far the most often during the public show.

I also brought some of the items from my Washington Square Lego Store display, along with my Lego-made word "Creativity". 

Each letter on the word features a different creative medium: C: woodworking, R: sewing, E:  writing, A: music, T: filmmaking, I: painting, V: sculpture, I: cooking, T: science experiments, and Y: computer programming.

I also finally made a Moc that I'd been wanting to make for years: 

I did this one last-minute, so I'd like to improve on the floor and do the right & left - side walls/scenes eventually, but I think it turned out okay. Eventually I'd like to do many more scenes from Last Crusade, including the booby traps, the train from the beginning of the film (lions! snakes! magic!), and perhaps the zeppelin ("no ticket!") (There are three official sets for the movie. There need to be more is what I'm saying.)

In conclusion, while my 4th Bricks Cascade convention felt a little "different" to me, it was still enjoyable, and I plan to be there again next year!

Happy building, everyone!

Grimm III

At the beginning of April, I got a call to work on the second-to-last episode of the fourth season of Grimm. I had already worked on one of the earlier episodes this season (well, "worked" is an overstatement; mostly I sat), and I did an episode back in season two where I got to drive a bit. 

This was going to be a night shoot, on a Thursday night, but as luck would have it, Friday was a non-school day, so I didn't have to worry about zombieing through the next day, or worse, having to call in "sick" (read: tired.) 

I showed up on set around 6:00pm. Just like last time, we sat around, got our hair done, then had a delicious dinner. After about two hours, they handed us maps to drive to a downtown filming location, and we all departed.

Annnnd then I got lost.

I was supposed to turn onto Front Ave./Naito Parkway, but I got on the 405 instead, which put me about 12 blocks from my goal destination. Ugh! Downtown Portland is an absolute maze. A bunch of streets are one-way. Other streets have "no turns" signs. Even more are blocked by construction or Max (train) tracks. It's bad enough during the daytime. In the dark? Time to panic!

Luckily, I knew where I was going, it was just a matter of navigating the labyrinth and getting there. Finally, after some fervent prayers, I made it. As it happened, out of the seven or so drivers, I was the last to arrive. They told me where to park. Then I went to Extras Holding, which was a coffee shop. I settled at a table, took a few deep breaths, and proceeded to try to relax while I awaited further instructions.

My first instruction was to move my car forward about thirty feet. So I did. I was now parked just outside the coffee shop. Several times, a big truck came by and sprayed down the street (and my car!) to make it look like it had recently rained (how Portlandesque!) 

Back inside, I sat, read Harry Potter, and sipped chai and drank coffee for the next eight hours. I was never asked to be on camera. All they ever wanted was my car.

Hey, I'm not complaining. It's fun to get paid to sit around and veg, even if it is the middle of the night and you're already exhausted from working a regular 8-hour day. Especially fun (well, interesting!) when you get to share a coffee shop with a half a dozen other extras, three ladies dressed like Pretty Woman, and actors David Giuntoli, Reggie Lee, Russell Hornsby, and Sasha Roiz.

Yes, those four handsome gentlemen were all there, coming in and out of the coffee shop throughout the night. Not knocking the others, but David G. is especially attractive, and this is the first time I've gotten to see his face IRL (as opposed to the back of his head, which isn't half bad either.)

Towards the end of the shoot, I asked a PA if I could go out and watch some of the filming, and was given the OK. It was freezing outside, but I did watch part of the scene where Nick & the others stop Captain Renard from doing a very bad deed. (I guess should be all "spoiler alert," but the episode ("Headache") aired this past Friday, so whatever.)

OMG this episode. Wow. The other episodes I participated in ("Nameless" and "Dyin' On A Prayer") were pretty benign compared to this one. "Headache" was totally gruesome! PG-14V indeed!)

 That's my car on the right... just in front of the silver car. You can see it better in this next pic, there on the left...

That gray building is the coffee shop we were all in. Floyd's Coffee Shop in Old Town! Go visit and buy some chai!

My last instruction of the night? "Leave." At 4am, the episode wrapped, and we all go to go home and sleep for a very long time.