Sunday, October 30, 2016

Antique Show Creepshow 3: All Creeped Up

It's that time of the year again...

Christmas? Ha, no. Christmas is still aaaaages away, silly.

Nope! Put on some pants, pick up your banjo, and join in a happy chorus, because... it's HOWL-O-WEEN, BABY!

But what's that? You still haven't decided on a costume? Don't worry, my friend, because I've got some great costume ideas for you! Nearly all of these can be constructed out of cardboard, paint, glue, and pure, unadulterated nightmare fuel. 

I D E A S !
Inspired by Antique Show Treasures

Idea #1: Pregnant Superman

#2: Beatles in a Box

#3: Smokey Bear/Pinocchio/Jiminy Cricket Crime-Fighting Posse (Of Doom)

#4: Two-Dimensional Yellow-Suited Superman, aka Man Of Steel Tin

#5: Bald Person With Sentient Feet

# 6: Elsie the Cow, Queen Of The Ice Cream (KNEEL BEFORE HER!)

#7: John Kerry In A Bowl

#8: Pumpkin-Headed Pawnbroker

# 9: Snookums

#10: Snookums' Trusty Gal-Pal, Birdie McBluetights.

#11: SPIN-O, the lesser-known, but equally nefarious, cousin of Coily The Spring Sprite

Feeling inspired yet? 

No? Well, how about...

#12: A Pair of Legs?

#13: A Pair of Legs With Bonus Torso And Head?

#14: A Friendly Bipedal Goat?

#15: A Stylish Suit Coat?

#16: A Child Ballerina Playing croquet Kro-Kay?

#17: A Sinister Elf Family?

#18: A Thumbs-Up-in' Monkey?

How about a...

#19: Kindly Neighborhood Barber?

or a...

#20: Weird kid who likes to watch Barber while he works??

Or if not that, then a...

#21: Pigly Barbershop Customer???


* * * * *

Well, there you go. 21 perfectly good costume ideas. Trouble is, you may not have time to make any of these costumes before Halloween night! Why'd you wait so darn long?

Oh well, there's always next year....

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Riker's Story

This is Riker, one of my cats.

And this is his story.

Part I: Catmping

One day in June of 2007, I suddenly got the urge to go camping. I hadn't participated in this activity in seven years, so the desire seemed to come out of nowhere. However, one of my current jobs was making me very unhappy, and I was getting ready to leave it forever. I guess I was in "escape" mode. I wanted to get out of that job and head for the hills... or, rather, the woods....

When I was a wee lass, my family camped in many places, but Ft. Stevens State Park was always a favorite. The campground boasted two playgrounds, a swimming area, a nearby beach complete with the skeleton of an old shipwreck, miles of bike trails, and, I kid you not, the remains of enormous Civil-War-era buildings and bunkers that you could play in and on.

Nostalgic memories going wild, I went online and booked a campsite at Ft. Stevens for approximately 4 days in late June, for myself and my friend GG. Since I made that reservation just a week or two before the trip itself, I didn't have much of a choice in available campsites, but the one I got seemed okay from the online picture.

Okay, so the ground was lumpy and, of course, the Oregon-in-June torrential rains arrived right on schedule, but otherwise, the site was okay. GG and I arrived mid-week, and we nearly had the whole campground to ourselves, except, strangely, for the presence of people in the site directly next to ours. 

On either the first or second night, I heard noises outside my tent, as though an animal was out there, getting into something. The next morning, the people in the next-door campsite told us that an animal had indeed broken into their dog's food container, which was like a Rubbermaid container with a lid. They surmised it had been a raccoon.

Later that morning (or perhaps the next day, who knows?) I was sitting in my car, because it was cold and rainy and the tent wasn't a very comfy place. I was reading or writing or something when suddenly I saw something moving out of the corner of my eye. It was the raccoon! It was back! I grabbed my video camera, exited the car, and began to walk toward the creature.

Which is when I realized it wasn't a raccoon at all. It was a cat. He was feasting on spilled dog food.

I approached the cat, cooing sweet nothings, and to my great delight, found that he was a friendly little mammal. I offered him a dish of water and a piece of cheese, which he eagerly accepted.

I had recently been reading the Anne Of Green Gables series, and immediately settled upon the perfect name for this creature: "Walter."

Walter became GG's and my buddy over the next few days. On rainy nights, he hung out with us in the car. On sunnier days, he sat around the campfire with us. When we'd leave the campsite to go elsewhere, Walter would go into the wooded area next to our campsite and hang out among the trees.

We didn't think Walter belonged to any of the other campers, since we and the people next door were the only ones in the vicinity. Perhaps he had been left behind by campers who'd already gone? We didn't know.

So what to do with Walter? I knew if I brought him home (where we already had two cats) I was going to be in big trouble. But I couldn't just leave him there.

On the morning we broke camp, I decided to leave the decision (to leave or to take Walter with us) up to chance, or Providence, and thought, If I call Walter and he comes out of the woods right now, I'll take him with us. If he doesn't come, oh well.

Well, I called... and he came. So into the car he went. GG held him in her lap at first. I wasn't sure where to take him. A vet? An animal shelter? I tried using my primitive cell phone to find a nearby place, but the information I got was either outdated or just plain wrong. So we got a wee bit lost. At last, we happened to pass a farm & feed store. I went in and bought a cat carrier so at least GG wouldn't have to hold Walter the whole way home.

Part II: Home

Back in Portland, I took Walter to our nearby vet and had them check for an ID chip. I also asked if they could tell me his sex. (I didn't know how to tell, then. I was sort of afraid Walter might be a she-cat with kittens who we'd inadvertently left in the woods and would have to return for.) The vet told us that Walter was a male, age unknown but at least three, and that he had no ID chip.

Over the next few weeks, I did everything I could think of to find Walter's owners. I put "lost pet" ads on Craigslist in multiple counties, as well as ads on other Lost/Found Pet web sites. I called and emailed animal shelters. I scoured "found" ads. I even checked ads and newspapers in Washington and California.


My next step was trying to find a new home for Walter. GG couldn't take him because she had a kitty with an illness, and I already had 2 cats. I hoped I could find him a place with people I knew, so that at least I'd still get to see him. If that didn't work out, I supposed I'd take him to the Oregon Humane Society (the place we'd gotten the other two cats.) This broke my heart (even though they're a great, 99.9% no-kill shelter), but if I couldn't keep him, and nobody I knew seemed to want him, what else could I do?

I made a video of Walter and put it on YouTube, hoping to drum up interest in him. Still, it didn't seem that anyone wanted this kitty.

Then my brother and his fiancee came to Portland, saw Walter, fell in love with him, and decided that they would like to adopt him after their upcoming wedding. And so they did!

Walter moved to Eugene, Oregon, was renamed "Riker," and I got to see him often.

My brother and sister-in-law would bring Walter/Riker with them whenever they came to Portland for visits. It took me ages to learn to call him "Riker," but eventually the name stuck.

Riker could be a bit of a sourpuss during his weekend visits. He would act aloof and/or bully the other cats. But I now attribute this attitude to the fact that he didn't much like car travel.

Fastforward three years. My brother and sister-in-law got a dog. Dog and Cat did not get along. Dog is a shepherd dog, and wanted to herd Riker. Riker's response: "See my claws, peasant." 

When they asked if we could keep Riker for a while (until the dog had obedience classes or something), we said "yes," of course. 

"A while" eventually turned into "forever."

Now Riker is ours. Full circle or something. I couldn't be happier.

Part III: The Patient

One day, not long after we took Riker in for good, he got sick. Very sick. He had some kind of intestinal thing. I took him to the vet, and she told me that Riker would need surgery in order to live. 

I had three choices...

1. Good surgery, which would most likely fix the problem completely. Cost: $$$

2. Medium surgery, that might or might not cure him but would at least fix the problem temporarily. Cost: $$

3. Make him comfortable. Cost: Extreme sadness.

Long story short, I was the only one in my family willing and/or able to pay for the surgery. So I did. And he recovered.

A year or two later, Riker was diagnosed with Diabetes. I have to give him shots of insulin twice a day.

Then one of his teeth fell out, and he had to have full-on dental surgery.

He's allergic to corn and gets bad skin rashes.

Two weeks ago, I found fleas.

And so it goes.


Part IV: He's Worth It

Riker, center, in a rare moment of peace with our two other cats, Didi (1998-2014) and Baylie (2000-2018). 

Riker (top) with Baylie, on my mom's lap. They used to hiss at each other, but they've begun to bond in the past year. 

Riker loves food. We had to teach him the words "no" and "wait" so he wouldn't beg and/or try to literally take food out of our hands. Yes, he understands. Who says cats can't be trained?

Riker is the only cat I've ever had who doesn't mind wearing clothes. We've had to put clothes on him a few times to keep him from biting hot spots or sore patches, and he's always like, "A shirt? Okay, sure, human. We both know I look ridiculous, but it's kind of cozy, so whatever, carry on."

* * *

Some people say that things happen for a reason.

I believe it. Especially in the case of Riker.

I believe that me disliking one of my jobs led me to want to escape. Escaping led me to camping. Camping on those particular dates in June, 2007, led me to that specific campsite. Camping at that particular campsite led me to Walter/Riker.

Even though, at first, it looked as though Riker and I would only have a short relationship, he ended up becoming a permanent member of our family. 

And I couldn't be happier.

* * *

Update: February, 2020

It has been a long but wonderful road. Sadly, here we are at the end of it. I knew it was coming, but it still yanks my heart out and stomps on it.

I love you, sweet Riker.

Recently, Riker required a lot of care. In addition to his twice-daily insulin shots for his Diabetes, we had to give him laxative twice a day. We also had to mix his wet food with broth and water and special powder. Every meal was a seven-step process. But he was worth it.

At Christmas, I got a cat water fountain at a gift exchange. I immediately set it up for Riker. He loved it! 

Some months ago, Riker lost his ability to jump. We devised steps and things so he could still get up onto the couches and the beds. And if he couldn't get up on something, he'd let you know! "Lift me up!"

In the past year, I had him sleep with me at night. When he still had his jumping abilities, he'd hop down off the bed sometime during the night and scratch at the door. But after he stopped being able to jump, he figured out a way to be let out just the same... he'd come and sit by my face, and tap me with his paw until I woke up and lifted him off the bed. At your service, Kitty.

He rarely seemed to groom anymore in these last few months, and yet, he remained fluffy and clean right up to the end, save for the occasional hind paw that needed some intervention.

He'd had at least two dental surgeries and no longer had any fangs. 

Riker's favorite places to hang out varied with his mood, but some of his usual haunts included: the top of the stairs, the living room couch, and squarely on top of the heater vents (especially those that reside behind couches.)

^Riker after sticking his whole head into a Starbucks muffin sack.

He still came to greet me at the door when I came home. The only time he didn't is if he was in a deep sleep at the time.

He was the softest, sweetest cat.

Sometimes I wonder if I love too hard.

But I don't think so.

Oh, I loved him so.

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, We 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!