1) Got up and drove over to where Krista is living for the summer to pick her up. I put Lego Krista glove comparment handle in front of her seat so she's see her Lego-self when she go in. She was understandably excited.
2) Then we picked up Paul and Stephanie and were off to Wheeling! When we got there I went inside to set up my computer again while they stood in line waiting for tickets. Then I joined them and Paul photographed me with the giant lego man. We walked through the convention, admiring the details and the new stuff and only giving cursory glances to the stuff that had been there the previous year. Thus we got through the whole thing in just about 2 hours. Picture time!
The same great Harry Potter set-up was there and I still think my favorite part is this scene from the end of PoA. You can't tell in hte picture, but those dementors above the trees and motorized to spin around menacingly.
This gigantic space basewas also a repeat. It's like 12 feet long. I spent maybe 12 seconds looking at it this year.
Also? These giant scale replicas of the tallest buildings in the world? So last year.
This villain's club was also a repeat, but I still love it so. Evil forever!
Here's Stephanie's favorite thing from last year:
And Jurassic park was there again too.
Here's some of the cool things we saw this year. Giant castle with an active volcano in it.
This is also a replica of an actual building. It's not enormous, but it's still quite cool.
Wizard of Oz vignettes
There was also an awesome giant mosaic of Starry night which I some how forgot to photograph.
And here are some of the cool details from the larger displays.
There were Spider-Men scattered through out. There are a lot more pictures on my flickr. I also will be highlighting some more of the cool creations below and tomorrow.
3) Then we went to Potbellies for lunch. We ate outside and soaked up the sun. Paul and Krista got smoothies from a place nearby. Stephanie tried to guess the ingredients by taste.
4) Then we went to the forest preserve and did some hiking. We saw some critters along the way. Like this catepillar that was hanging out in mid-air.
And this bug that was bright metallic green! I didn't get a good picture, but look how green that blur is!
It was nice to be among the trees.
We walked for a while and then we realized that the trail we were on was not going to loop back around to the parking lot anytime soon when we got to this bridge over the highway.
So we turned around. On the way back we saw this deer from afar.
It was a nice little hike, if cut somewhat short by my ankle bothering me and Krista's desire to escape the bugs.
Then I drove them back to their houses but the traffic on 90 was so terrible it took 2.5 hours instead of 1. Gross. I don't even want to think about it.
5) So then I was faced with a decision. It was already the evening, but I had to decide whether I still wanted to drive back to Wheeling, or whether I just wanted to stay in Hyde Park that night and just go back the next morning. I had a quick "dinner" of the food I had lying around my apartment and then decided to get back on the road and go back to the convention. The decision was easy when I thought about it this way: "I could either stay here and do stuff I do all the time, or I could drive back out to where the Lego convention is happening and be with people who are at least as crazy as me in that regard." I decided I could try and crash with someone out there that night and grabbed a toothbrush and drove back.
The drive back was actually great. I bypassed the horribly backed up 90 by taking 94 up, and even though it wasn't a straight shot to Wheeling, it was much much faster than 90 would have been. The air was nice, and I was headed somewhere awesome.
6) I got back and picked up my ballot or voting on the best models. There were maybe categories each with four finalists that had been pre-selected by a panel of judges. It's really good they narrowed it down for me, I can't imagine having to figure out the best of everything without guidance. The first category I voted on was Best "Small" Building. (By small they really meant large as opposed to ENORMOUS.) Here are the 4 finalists:
I had a really hard time with this one because I liked all the buildings for different reasons. Here re some pictures showing details on each.
In the end it was the stonework of this last shot that won me over. Don't worry though, the blue building was the winner, as it deserves. I don't even know how he made it slope like that.
The only other category I photographed all the contestants for was "Best Vignette".
The coolest thing about this scene from Young Frankenstein is the curtain up top that is made from the witch's dress piece.
Mark's Fabuland Death Star Final Duel was the clear winner. Both for me and for the convention.
I finished marking my ballot and turned it in. My civic duty was now complete.
7) Then it was almost time for antoher event at the other nearby Lego Store. This one was further away and I wasn't sure where, but I found a guy who did and offered to give him and another guy a ride there and back if he would navigate. At the Lego Store I bought a 50% off Aquabase Invasion, the Joker's Ice Cream Surprise (now I had the whole Batman line form this year) and some Pick-a-Brick. The store had some cool little display cases set up along the walls with miniland scale scenes in them:
8) But the best part of going to the Lego store was actually the drive there and back. The other guy (not the navigator) I was giving a ride was Steve Gerling. Steve is an official Lego Master Builder and along the ride he talked about various cool projects he's worked on. On the way there he detailed the history and construction of the Lego Millyard Project and why that was one of his favorite projects. On the way back he talked about how he got one of the coolest jobs in the world, some of the cool software tools he uses, the pros and cons of the job, a Lego octopus that he built recently and then he talked about the busts of the Today Show hosts that he built. The prototype bust of Al Roker was on display at Brickworld:
He was very pleased with this bust and the bust of Matt Lauer, but he said that he never liked the way the Katie Couric bust turned out. He said one of the things he wants to do before he retires is remake a better bust of Katie Couric and then send it to her anonymously with a note that says "I'm sorry." Which, we noted, taken out of context would be very creepy and stalker-y and akin to a certain scene from The Godfather.
And while I was mostly just questioning him and listening in awe, he did inquire about what I did and so I talked about my movies a little bit and told him where I had my laptop set up for the next day.
He also worked on designing this Indiana Jones statue. He also designed these lego guys sitting on benches. And this article has a picture of the Today show host busts and also talks about the cool program used to help design those huge models.
9) So we returned to the hotel and there was talk of going to the bar across the street. I went to the convention hall to see who was around and planning to go. Then I saw two guys (Jay and Peter) talking fervently to the representative from NetDevil. I had been meaning to corner him and ask him all my questions about Lego Universe, but hadn't gotten around to it yet. So I went and joined in on their conversation.
I had many worries about Lego Universe, but Jim basically put them all to rest and made me incredibly excited about the game. Jim is a long time AFOL who is very familiar with the fan community and had been to many Lego conventions before it was part of his job to do so. The mere fact that he's part of the team making this game was very reassuring. One of the things he did was fight to get as many different pieces into the game as possible and did so using MOCs on brickshelf to argue his case for why different pieces need to be included in the game.
It turned out Jim was planning to head to the bar as well so we took our conversation over there and continued bombarding him with questions for at least an hour. He said exactly what I was hoping to hear, that they intend the majority of the game to be user-created content and thus it will be very easy to add your own buildings, vehicles, etc. to the world. He confirmed that there will be a level creation tool, so there will be player-created dungeons etc. There will be ways to animate your creations as well. He also talked about how you can play the game however you want. There will be quests and monsters to fight if you want, but you don't have to do any of that if you don't want. Needless to say I can't wait for this game to come out.
I also talked to Jim about the hiring situation at NetDevil and he said that the job I had applied for was actually held up because of bureaucratic stuff from the Lego company. So the fact that I still hadn't heard a thing still didn't necessarily mean that I had been outright rejected. NetDevil's hands were tied and couldn't hire anyone for that position until they worked out some stuff with Lego. I asked him whether there was a way i could update my portfolio since I had rushed it, because I was worried the job would disappear and then watched it stay up on the employment pages for 3 more months.
10) After a while, more people showed up and we stopped talking about Lego Universe exclusively. In addition to Jay and Peter and Jim, Steve was there and some other guy from the Lego group who was too far away for me to interact with, and then there was Jamie, a Lego set designer and Matthew, the creative director for the play themes (Castle, Indiana Jones, Agents, Batman, Aqua Raiders etc.). While the conversation broadened from Lego Universe it still revolved around Lego. Sometimes it was just stories from their jobs, which could have happened anywhere, (some of which made me realize that working for Lego isn't entirely utopian, there are still problems and frustrations just like anywhere else), other times it was talk about particular themes or why there are so many vehicles (see the Batman and Agents lines) and so few buildings, my sorting techniques, Jim converting the NetDevil staff into AFOLs and so on and so on. It was incredible. I have so many thoughts about Lego and rarely have anyone to talk about them with, let alone anyone who works for Lego.
11) As we were leaving the bar I mentioned how I didn't want to drive home (and was in no state to anyhow) and if I could crash with someone that would be highly appreciated. It turned out that Peter was crashing with Jay anyway and the more the merrier. He lived nearby so he drove (don't worry, he had not been drinking) us to his house. We talked for a while about Legos (Jay and Peter are into Lego robotics, but we still found common themes to discuss) and college (which they are still attending) and then it was getting really late (when was the last time I was up past 3?) and I was given a couch to sleep on and very thankful for it. I was out like that.
Phew! This was a big post.