Thursday, December 24, 2009

My Norman Rockwellian Christmas

1) I had a short week at work, much of which was spent unpacking. Here are some photos I took of our new office space. Here's the entrance to our suite which has our big shiny acronym on the wall.

This it the hallway where most of the offices are. It has some chairs for sitting.

This is my desk. Look at the fancy track lighting.

I had more pictures, but they were all pretty barren/depressing. Once we're more fully moved in maybe I'll post some more.

2) OMGMYBFFJILL!!! “The Attic” (latest episode of Dollhouse) was so awesome. Echo and Dominic chase a killer through the minds of Victor and Sierra (and others) who are trapped in repeating nightmares. Secrets are revealed, and our heroes rally for the coming fight against Rossum. Only 3 more episodes to go I’m sure they will be action-packed.

3) On Tuesday Bert made me dinner again (salmon and couscous) and drove me home so I could finish packing before work the next day. He's so good to me :)

4) Got home with no major delays, despite the weather being bad in Chicago and tons of flights being cancelled. Somehow mine got through with only a short delay at the terminal and since I was on the plance already I slept through it so it was basically non-existent. Alright, now I’m going to recount the details of my trip home. Rather than have this list burgeon to 30 things I will list them as subpoints. I think I have things on the right days, it all blurs together a little. (A wonderful blur, of course.)

5) Christmas Eve
• Waking up after 10
• Sledding and playing in the snow with Jenny, Leo, Isaiah and Mom. I only have this video, but I'm sure Jenny and Mom have pictures they will share soon (hint hint). My favorite parts were racing down the hill vs. Leo and Jenny&Isaiah and when Mom went down and almost crashed into her trees.
• Good food - Asparagus soup (even if Stephanie hates it) - Brisket – Christmas Cookies
• Being together with the family
• The one gift I opened was Fluxx from Jenny and Leo. I previously played this with Robert, but the edition I got is slightly newer. It was still pretty crazy. Playing with 6 people, the rules could change entirely and back again in between your turns so we all learned not to try to keep track of them until it was our turn. It was a lot of fun.
• Then we watched a couple episodes of “How I Met your Mother” Season 1, which I had gotten for Jenny and Leo. Neil Patrick Harris is hilarious.

6) Christmas
• Got lots of awesome presents – 1st Season of 30 Rock, Wii Fit Plus, A Boy and His Blob (next game for Stephanie and I), Boom Blox Bash Party, a whole bunch of legos, battery powered speakers, the obligatory socks, a photo book of our trips to the shore, and this cool veggie peeler that comes from a whole line of kitchen utensils that look like people.
• Cinnamon rolls for breakfast
• Beat New Super Mario Brothers Wii with JP
• Had a delicious dinner with Turkey, Mashed Potato Casserole, Zucchini thing, Jenny and Leo’s cranberry sauce, sweet potato fries etc.
• After Isaiah was in bed we had pie and watched a couple episodes of Dollhouse.
• After the rest of my family was asleep, I headed down to the basement to my satellite studio and animating the first scene for the upcoming Anti-Orange commercial.

7) Boxing Day
• Got to see Talya for a couple hours in the afternoon.
• We had salmon and spinach rice for dinner – twas delicious.
• Put together one of the models of the Family House set that Jenny and Leo got me. I then fell asleep on the floor. It’s been ages since I’ve fallen asleep on the floor by accident. I was roused from my nap when I heard my mom talking to someone about how I had fallen asleep on the floor at which point I moved to the couch and completed my nap.
• Then Veronica came over and we caught up a little and then watched the final 2 episodes of Dollhouse Season 1 with my family. Epitaph 1 is still incredible, even the third time through.
• After my family went to sleep Veronica and I sat around talking for several hours. We talked about Joss Wheedon and his many shows. Then I was telling her about some of my long term plans for NNN and said “surely you also have big elaborate plans in your head for a sweeping epic story.” And of course she does, and then I convinced her to walk me through the main arcs for the first 4 seasons or so. It was awesome. Now I just have to bug her to make something with it.

8) Sunday the 27th
• Adam came over after lunch and we spent the rest of the day together. It had been more than a year since we last saw each other and with him living in Sweden, the opportunities to see one another are few are far between. So that in itself was nice, but then we proceeded to awesome things.
• We put together the LEGO submarine my parents got for me . Then we promptly took it apart and built some alternative models. We each worked on a monster or two on our own and then we tried combining them and ended up trading parts and refining each other’s work until we ended up with these three creatures.

• Then Adam and I worked together to animate a scene for the Anti-Green commercial. It’s been a long time since I animated with anyone. It was nice to have someone to run ideas past and to have another set of hands that could focus on a character in a multi-character scene. (The scene has 3 cheerful children, 4 sneaky snakes, and 1 giggling goblicaun)
• Adam joined my family for dinner – we had leftovers galore.
• Then I introduced Adam to Super Mario Brothers Wii. I took him through levels from a few worlds to show off some of the various powers Then we played through world 7 which my brother and I warped past. We had a lot of fun helping and thwarting each other. Then we went back and found some missing star coins to unlock parts of world 9. Lots of fun.
• Then we called up Jeremy and went over to his dad’s house to hang out. We played a round of Fluxx and Grave Robbers from Outer Space and then we sat around talking for a couple hours. It was good to catch up; I hadn’t seen or spoken to Jeremy for two years. Nice to know he’s still doing well. His girlfriend is also 33 years old - so I was able to tell that to mom, since she keeps bringing up Bert’s age like it’s a problem. ;)

9) I flew back to Chicago Monday afternoon. Getting through check-in and security took as long as you’d expect, so I had barely sat down at the terminal when it was time to board the plane. It was nice getting home early in the evening. It gave me time to unpack and unwind and prepare for the week. I watched the penultimate disk of Angel Season 4 while eating dinner, unpacking, and building the main model of the Family House that Jenny and Leo got me. A nice relaxing evening.

10) I know what you’re thinking, “That’s strange, Dave did a whole update about going home and being with his family and he barely mentioned his nephew.” But I’ve saved the best for last. :) I already mentioned that we went sledding on Christmas Eve Day, and of course there was an obligatory session of Baby Baby Baby Sliiiiide, but there were also a whole new host of games we played. In between all the other things I listed I spent a good amount of my time with Isaiah:
• Running around the first floor with Isaiah while saying “Beep beep”
• Playing with the Little People “Main Street” set. In addition to rolling cars down the ramp and taking them through the “car wash,” we also took the babies (Baby with a hat and Baby with no hat) to get ice cream and to go grocery shopping. I could not convince him that the bank or the post office were worth visiting, maybe next time.
• After I had built the Family Home alternate model, I had had a bunch of pieces left over. Isaiah asked if he could help with the house. We built a red bathtub and then he decided it would be fun to drive his red car through the big pile of legos. So he would drive the car through (each time proclaiming “Red Car - Splaaaash!” and “That was the biggest splash ever!” and then we would put the pile back together and do it again. And then after the biggest splash of them all we worked together to find all the pieces and put them back in the box.
• Isaiah got two Bob the Builder DUPLO sets, which he was very excited about. So there were some good times playing with them.
• There were also several games of hide and seek, although Isaiah did not always get that the place you hide is supposed to be secret, instead proclaiming loudly where he wanted to hide next.
• Of course he proclaimed a lot of things through out the holiday. Such as “Merry Christmas Uncle Dave!” “Christmas Cookies!” (to which my brother would respond “Christmas Monkey?”) “Hello in there!” (to the pits of his olives) and “A-men!” (after hearing Dad say it at dinner.
• He was definitely into opening presents this year. Here’s a video of him helping Jenny open one and another one of him finding a very special present from his grandparents.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

This was the week to be blogged apparently

1) Let's talk about all the ridiculous blog coverage Helios has received. First it was blogged by The Living Brick, a blog that focuses on more organic creations and things that fall outside the typical theme divisions. Then it got picked up by The Brothers Brick, the most read LEGO blog in existence (I think) which meant hundreds more views on the flickr page. Then, it was criticized (along with several other recent posts on TBB) by Twee Affect, a LEGO blog that doesn’t pull any punches. I guess it’s possible that it showed up in even more places, but this was the only arc that passed through the section of the Blogosphere I monitor regularly. I thought it was interesting.

2) As I said in the title, this was the week to be blogged. In addition to the 3 separate blogs that mentioned Helios, NNN got 3 separate posts on Brickspace. This is the first blog coverage I’ve seen of NNN, so it’s very exciting. Glad to see it getting attention that I didn't generate myself.

3) While I’m talking about NNN and it's slowly expanding audience I should mention that "On the Street with Steve Deepsea" has garnered enough attention to be eligible for the YouTube partner revenue sharing program. I submitted the application, if approved, there will be ads displayed on the video and I will get a percentage of the revenue. We'll see how that all goes. I doubt it will amount to much, but it's a start. Maybe some day far in the future NNN will even be profitable...

4) Before we get to that stage though, I continue to pour money into it. I recently ran some test ads on YouTube and Facebook. YouTube ads were far more cost effective. I never paid more than a few cents per click. Facebook ads averaged around a quarter per click, however I was able to target those ads to very specific demographics. For instance my last ad campaign was only displayed to people on Facebook who work for the LEGO Group (a very important market in my opinion).

5) Stephanie and I defeated two more kings in the king game. We are well on our way to world domination.

6) On Tuesday I had bert over for dinner. I made peppercorn chicken and asparagus. He seemed to like it. :)

7) Since I worked Saturday, I got to take Wednesday off. Bert was kind enough to lend me his car so I could finish christmas shopping. I went to Gaymart and got him tiny rainbow disco ball ornaments and a batmobile (tumbler) ornament, then I went to target and got Isaiah an R2D2 play-doh playset and got some clothes and such for myself and then I swung by Trader Joe's and loaded up on delicious things. So it was a very full day of running errands.

8) We moved our office this week. (I'll post pictures after the new year) so most of this week was spent packing and unpacking. There were unexpected difficulties, but mostly it was a pretty painless move. I still had Bert's car on Thursday and Friday so it was very easy to get to the new space.

9) On Friday Bert and I went to see Avatar in 3D. It wasn't great, but the theater experience was pretty great. It's called ShowPlace Icon and it just opened that night. We got VIP tickets, which means we got access to a special lounge and had reserved seats on a separate tier of the theater. The seats were really comfy and had gigantic armrests. All the staff was very helpful, I recommend it, just find a better movie than Avatar to see there.
Then we went back to his place and I helped him decorate his Christmas tree. I should have taken a picture. Oh that reminds me, people have been asking for a picture of Bert here. I stole this one from facebook:

Isn't he a cutie?

10) On Saturday we had brunch at Tweet. Twas tasty. Then he helped me make the chocolate dipped almond-butter cookies with sprinkles that my family makes every Christmas. We took them over to Paul and Stephanie's for the Holiday cookie party they were hosting. We went over to have dinner with them Craig and Ashley and one of Ashley's friends. Bert got to meet some of my friends and vice versa so that was exciting and all the food and cookies and wines were delicious. OM NOM NOM.

11) Also! Presents! Bert got me fancy wine glasses (by which I mean actuall wine glasses instead of the plastic ones I got from Target 4 years ago), a bottle of Gewurztraminer, and a year's subscription to Time Out Chicago (so I can know about things happening in the city and thus plan good dates). Stephanie got me Super Mario Chess, mostly because the figures are awesome and she wants me to make animations with them where Bowser always wins (as well he should).

Monday, December 14, 2009

This blog is two years old

1) Bert and Stephanie and I got dinner together at the little Indian Buffet by my house. It was the first time they were meeting and I wanted to make sure they approved of each other, being my boyfriend and my best friend. They hit it off, which wasn’t a surprise, but was still very nice. Also, I love that Indian Buffet.

2) The next day Bert had me over and made me dinner (I helped cut things up). It was a pasta dish with braised collard greens chicken, tomatoes, garlic olive oil, spices etc. preceded by an apple and fennel salad. It was very tasty and I even got a Tupperware full to take for lunch the next day.

3) I commuted down the Red Line with Bert the next morning and was able to nap next to him until Monroe; it was a very nice way to start the day.

4) I finally saw Citizen Kane. It was good. I won’t deny that. Best movie ever? Dubious. I know it was revolutionary when it came out and all that, but there have been nearly 70 years of films since then, plenty of time to make improvements. I’ll use the same analogy I made to Tiffany when talking about it the following day at work: the original Mario 64 was groundbreaking at the time but Super Mario Galaxy is undeniable a better game. Video games are not the same as movies, but I think the point holds.

5) I’m really proud of this green meteor I made.

6) On Friday Bert and I went to Pizza Capri by my house, where I got the rosemary chicken and potato pizza I love so much. SO MUCH!!!

7) Bert let me use his car to drive to work and back on Saturday so I didn’t have to use a Zipcar. He’s so good to me.

8) We went to a party together at his best friend’s house on Saturday night. It was immaculately laid out. I got to meet a bunch of Bert’s friends which was nice and in general I had a good time.

9) Sunday morning we got brunch at The Golden Nugget restaurant by him.

10) I made Paul an awesome Christmas present:
A) Paul loves hippos.
B) I reverse engineered this lego hippo made by another AFOL
C) I built the hippo in Lego Digital Designer

D) Designed a box

E) Ordered the set

This is the first time I’ve tried the Design by Me program. It costs about twice as much as I’d expect that set to cost if it was part of LEGO’s regular product line, but that’s to be expected when you consider it comes in a custom box, with custom building instructions and that the pieces have to picked out specifically. It will also take a couple weeks to get, but I think it will be worth the wait.

I ordered a Pi├▒atapotomus for myself so I can thoroughly inspect the packaging and document the experience for my fellow AFOLs. :)

Monday, December 7, 2009

It's official

1) I released the new NNN video. The first couple days after I put a new video out are always exciting because I get an e-mail every time someone adds a comment on youTube, or responds to the post I put on EuroBricks, Bricks in Motion, MOCpages, FaceBook, etc. Mmm… feedback.

2) We had an all staff meeting with awesome Pizza Capri pizza (Vendure and rosemary potato and chicken) and homemade frozen-yogurt. Delicious!

3) Deadlines are slipping on the client side, so I don’t feel so bad about being so far behind (for the moment at least).

4) Not having to stay late Friday or come-in Saturday. Go student workers! Man, remember a couple years ago, when not working ridiculous hours was something I put as a wonderful thing on a regular basis? I’m so glad we’re beyond that.

5) We had out second LGBT Alumni event on Wednesday. It was at In Fine Spirits, which is only a couple blocks from Bert’s place. I took him as my date. It was very nice having someone to escape to/with and who would hold my drink so I could eat the appetizers. JJ was there, so he and Bert got to meet too. Yay!

6) On Friday night Bert took me as his date to a Christmas dessert party one of his co-workers was throwing. I got to meet some of his work friends and the desserts were excellent. Also, the people throwing the party had a very cute dog and three-year-old son who I got to play with. None of the other adults seemed interested in bouncing a ball with the kid; I don’t know what their problem is. The kid said to me, “Are you Steve?” I informed him that I was not, but in fact I was Dave. He seemed disappointed. Steve must be awesome.

7) Saturday morning we had a nice lazy morning lying in bed. I had to get up to deal with work stuff over my cell phone (but at least I didn’t have to go to Hyde Park). We also had some good talks where we agreed that we were officially boyfriends. Yay! Then we got breakfast at Clarke’s. Lovely.

8) Stephanie came over that afternoon and we watched through the 2 new episodes of Dollhouse and played through a bunch of the awesome king game. Season 2 of Dollhouse is so awesome, all the stuff with Summer Glau was awesome and Topher + Victopher was almost beyond words. The main plot with the Senator was pretty exciting and used Echo and Ballard in appropriate and not too obnoxious ways.

9) In fact it was a weekend of television. I also caught up on Glee, 30 rock, and Community. And I watched some Angel for good measure.

10) I finally got around to taking pictures of my recent lego creations and posting them in the appropriate places, allow me to share:

I also got caught up in an impromptu building session, which led to a set for the next NNN video. Productivity can be so much fun.

Thanksgiving 2009

1) This was an even shorter week at work! But I still managed to accomplish a bunch of stuff. Enough about work.

2) My parents drove in Wednesday afternoon. I met them at their hotel downtown and then we drove up to my place and got dinner at Leona's. It was delicious as usual. We got a different type of bruschetta (a word that that's not in FireFox's dictionary apparently) that was delicious and I got the Romano chicken and pasta. My parent's split a pizza and I took the leftovers of mom's spinach pizza and had it a few days later. Mmmm... Then we went to the grocery store and got all the stuff for dinner the next day.

3) We decided not to do a turkey this year, because it's such a hassle. Instead we had salmon - we still made the mashed potato casserole though. We also had asparagus and the mashed hash browns and what not. Everything was wonderful, I was eating left over potatoes for a week. It was a relatively simple, delicious meal.

4) J-P and I played through a good deal of New Super Mario Brothers Wii. We occasionally helped one another out, but mostly we got in the way of one another's jumps and threw each other into enemies (and vice versa) stole power ups. It is totally awesome. The penguin suit and helicopter mushroom are great and the levels have been fun and only occasionally obnoxious.

5) Thanksgiving night I stayed at the hotel with my family. They were in connecting rooms, so we had the doors open while we each did our own thing (J-P and I were on our laptops, mom was quilting and dad was watching TV) while being together. And I got to sleep in a bed with a ridiculous number of pillows and have the breakfast buffet with my parents in the morning and then take a nap while they went shopping on Michigan Ave.

6)In the hotel room I finished reading “Seymour an Introduction,” which I had been working on for the prior week. Now I’ve read all of J.D. Salinger’s published work. It’s too bad that Catcher in the Rye is his most famous work - I think it’s his weakest. His short stories and novellas are much better. Franny and Zoey is probably the best, it is the best expression of the themes he explores in all his work. But I think Nine Stories and Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters are also great and I recommend them.
Seymour an Introduction though, well, I think it might be my favorite, but I don’t necessarily recommend it. If you read all his other novellas and are not turned off by the slowness, lack of action and indulgences of the narrator, then you can consider it. Basically it’s a narrator let loose, with only scraps of story to anchor him. Because I am fascinated by any character who is even remotely aware of the fact that they are a character in a story, narrators have always fascinated me as characters. This is why Halloween is my favorite song from Rent. Of course it’s rare that narrators ever spend a lot of time ruminating about themselves and their status as narrators. Usually they get on with the business of telling the story and sometimes disappear altogether as the story goes on. So for me, Seymour was a rare treat, but I can see how others would find it tedious and frustrating.

7) I also finished Angel season 3 that night. I have to say, it was an excellent season. Much of that is due to Amy Acker and Andy Hallett being around a lot, but I also thought that the arcs all played out nicely and there were a lot of good individual episodes as well. When I finish with Angel I’m going to make a guide of what episodes are worth watching (mostly for Lila’s benefit) and right now season 3 is the only season I would recommend as a whole with a few episodes skipped as opposed to vice versa.

8)On Friday we went to see “A Serious Man.” It was pure Coen brothers from start to finish. Meaning there were a lot of crazy characters in funny situations, a healthy helping of music and dream sequences, moral gray areas, and while there was certainly progress, it ends without closure. I recommend it.

9)Then we went to Glenn's Diner for dinner. My parents had eard about it on the show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. It is a unique mix of diner food and fresh seafood. I got one of the menu items that spanned the divide – the Apple Jacks encrusted tilapia. It was delicious. I would definitely go there again. My parents and brother went back to the hotel and then made their way back to PA in the morning. It was a nice couple of days with them and then I had a full weekend left.

10) Had a relaxed weekend in which I a) watched Mysterious Skin. I totally dug the ambiance of the film, the music and colors were phenomenal and the performances were good too, but it’s not really a pleasant movie to watch. b) finished animating the new NNN video c) went to Paul and Stephanie’s to eat raisin thing and watch the last 3 episodes of the Wire. The Wire is awesome and I recommend it with every fiber of my being. It is some of the television I have ever watched. I won’t say it’s the best because it’s hard to compare it with Arrested Development for instance, they are such different types of shows. Watch them both.

Weird formatting is from typing this on the train in Word

1) Okay, let’s talk about Bert. I mentioned him briefly a couple posts ago, but things have been going really well and it doesn’t seem right that you (the anonymous Reader) know so little about him. So let’s get right down to it:

The basics – he’s 33, works doing marketing for Hyatt, grew up in a small farming town in southern Indiana (just outside of Louisville, Kentucky), went to Knox College, currently lives up in Andersonville, has one sister and prefers dogs to cats.

Now that we’ve got the census data out of the way, let me tell about who he is. Being from the borderlands of the South, he has a slight but noticeable accent and is an absolute gentleman. He holds open doors for me and has even pulled out my chair for me when we go to a restaurant. It flusters me every time, but it’s very sweet. He is a little sassy, by which I mean he’s chatty and opinionated and teasing, but he’s not mean or catty like those stereotypes you see on TV (and in real life). He’s really a sweetheart. When we’re a lone together the sass is negligible. :)

He’s a little bit of a nerd, though he’s in the nerd closet to some extent. I think he just hasn’t been around enough nerds. Me, I haven’t been around non-nerds much in the past 6 years, so I’m not used to someone being reluctant to admit they love Star Trek. He also has been very coy about his interest in video games and photography. So I’m doing what I can to coax him out in to the open. Things are going well. This is easily the best romantic relationship I’ve been in (though it doesn’t have much competition).

He also has a good sense of humor and is always making me smile. :)

2) We went on a date on Wednesday to Chilam Balam, a tapas style Mexican restaurant near my place. Everything we had was good, but pricey considering the quantities. Then we got a drink at SideTrack, and then we kissed a little. :)

3) On Friday we went to Antica Pizza in Andersonville and then went to his place and watched Star Trek: First Contact. What an awesome movie. I stayed over and the next morning we went to the Ann Sather’s up there (OMG Cinnamon Rolls). Have I been to all the Ann Sather’s locations now? Anyway, it was a very nice time and definitely helped me forget about work for a while.

4) On Tuesday I went to Stehpanie’s and we had delicious chicken gyros from that place on Cornelia & Broadway. We watched last week's television on Hulu and the new Doctor Who special. Creepy water monsters are creepy and megalomania doesn’t really work out for the Doctor.

5) On Thursday Stephanie came over to my place and we played more of the awesome King Game and ordered in from Pockets.

6) On Sunday Night Paul and Stephanie had a big potluck Thanksgiving Dinner. I say potluck, but they made all of the essentials – extremely juicy turkey (you don’t even know how goods it was [unless you were there] – best turkey ever) stuffing (of the stuffed and unstuffed varieties, Smashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, rolls, etc. Jake brought sweet potatoes and there were lots and lots of desserts. I focused on the sweet potato pie, but there was a lot of deliciousness happening. I’m sure I’m missing some food, but the point is there was a lot of it and it was all wonderful. (I had a lot of good eating this week.)

7) I animated! Not sure exactly what parts I did, but it was stuff for On The Street.

8) Season 3 of Angel is legitimately good. They’ve got enough regular cast members now that they can really do the weaving overlapping stories that Joss Whedon shows do so well. It’s no surprise this floundered for so long. I’m glad it found it’s footing though. Now I actually pay attention to it as it plays instead of just having it as background noise while I build lego stuff.

9) The weather was pretty warm this weekend, I did a bunch of laundry and went for a bike ride.

10) You’ll notice I didn’t talk about work this week. It wasn’t a pleasant week by any means. Josh was fired, which was a long time coming, but not really fun. At least is was a short week. Oh I also had fun editing this Logan Ceremony highlights video

Sunday, December 6, 2009

NYC Vacation - Fall 2009

Nov 13-17 I took a long weekend vacation to New York City to see some friends, record some lego voices, and generally just get away from my life for a while. It was excellent.

My flight was delayed on Friday due to the tail end of a heavy rainstorm on the east coast. Southwest was kind enough to call my cell phone and inform me of the delay. Except I was already at the airport when they called. I used the extra couple hours to take a nice series of naps at the terminal. I didn’t mind, unlike Tiffany I feel very safe and comfortable at airports so as long as it isn’t an egregious delay, I can usually amuse myself for the extra time.

When I did finally get in, my doppelganger, David Pagano, met me at the airport. (You may remember we hung out at Brickworld this summer) Why is he my doppelganger you ask? True, we don’t look that much alike, however our names are both David Michael P_____, we’re about the same age and we both spend a great deal of our time making stop-animation movies with lego bricks. In fact, last year we tied for second place in this lego animation contest. Of course, he has gone a step further than me, and is actually getting paid by the LEGO Group to make animations (he did 6 awesome Space Police Videos throughout the summer - this is the first). Several of my friends have suggested I need to kill him and take his place, but since this is not Highlander, I think I’ll hold off on that.

So he met me at the airport and we caught up while taking a bus and a couple trains from Queens to Manhattan to Brooklyn and then walking from Brooklyn back into Queens (which made me appreciate my straightforward commute) to get to his animation studio. His studio is his old bedroom in his parents’ house. His parents must be even more generous and accommodating than mine, in addition to the studio proper, there were lego sets in every corner of the living room, strewn over the dining room table, and hiding in various nooks and crannies in the kitchen. The studio itself was a sight to behold (and I realize now, I should have taken pictures), the windows were blacked out, he had a nice big worktable, a computer desk in the corner and drawers and boxes of lego piled high in every other available space.

He showed me sneak peaks of the new stuff he’s working on for LEGO (my lips are sealed of course) and let me my play around with the models he had used to make them (I only broke them a little). He talked the process of working with the LEGO group on official animations; I made him show me how he organizes his pieces, etc. Then I had him record a couple voices, he’s the wolfpack fan in my latest video and he’ll be The Toymaster General in a video which should be out in Spring. After that he rode back into Manhattan with me and then we parted ways at Union station. All in all it was a really awesome afternoon filled with LEGO goodness.

Then I headed down to Wall Street to meet up with yet another David (there really are quite a few of us). David Massant lived in my dorm and shared an apartment building with me in college. He now works on Wall Street for Deutsche Bank. I got to his apartment about 8 PM on Friday and didn’t go outside again until about 2 in the afternoon on Sunday. In those 42 hours I watched TV and ate food and slept and talked. On Friday, David, his boyfriend Michael and his roommate Puvin ( I think that's how it's spelled...) introduced me to Firefly Vodka. This tea infused vodka is so tasty, it is very easy to drink excessive amounts without realizing it. This may or may not be what happened on Friday. Saturday morning and afternoon we were all recovering and then preparing for a Mexican potluck with their friends that evening. After dinner we ended up watching a bunch of funny youtube videos. Sunday was a very calm morning and I used the time to do some stuff on the internet. It was a very nice relaxing couple of days.

Then I headed up to Chelsea and met Lila at her apartment. About 20 minutes before I arrived she got an e-mail from her boss (at the Huffington Post) about a new work schedule that involved her working a lot of nights and weekends, never having 2 consecutive days off, and a schedule that alternated every other week. In short, a really terrible schedule that she didn’t feel like was sustainable for her. Using the lessons I had learned from my recent negotiations to get out of my promotion at work I was able to help her think about how to respond and work with her boss and co-workers to create a schedule that worked for everyone’s needs. It was nice to help her out and it made me appreciate how good I have it at my job.

About an hour after I arrived Eric came over, we went to the local video rental store and picked up Howl’s Moving Castle for later and then accompanied Lila to home depot so she could make a copy of her building key. She spent a lot of the walk on the phone talking about her terrible new schedule and Eric and I used that time to catch up.

Back at her apartment we threw a log on her fire, ordered some amazing Chinese take-out (spicy chicken, shrimp and noodles, pork dumplings, beef and green beans) and prepared ourselves for a voiceover recording session. The majority of the recording session we spent working out the Trifacto Jones song. It was really a team effort. I had written the song and come up with the basic tune ahead of time, but Eric’s conducting was essential to getting the timing and annunciation down and Lila’s soloing made the opening verses much more dynamic. We listened back to that and some stuff we’d recorded the last time I was in New York and that lead to creating Steven Mitchell and figuring out the voice for Rhonda Rhododendron. We really enjoyed ourselves. Eric and I were laughing so hard we kept messing up Lila’s recording.

Then we watched Howl's Moving Castle. This was the second time I watched it and I remembered the plot being a little confused, but I thought it would be easier to follow the second time through. It was still a mess. The first hour is really tightly done, after that it stats to fall apart. Still, it’s a Miyazaki film, so you’re so enchanted by the music and animation that you let things like plot chasms go. Afterward we went around the block to a diner for dessert. I got a big brownie w/ ice cream, whipped cream and fudge. It was awesome. Eric went home after that.

Lila and I watched some Arrested Development. Including “Pier Pressure,” which I will never tire of watching. After she went to sleep I stayed up and caught up on blog (only to immediately fall behind again…) The next day we got some delicious sandwiches – mine was turkey, brie, thin slices of granny apple and something else delicious. Hers was also good, the only ingredient I remember is cabbage. Then we saw Fantastic Mr. Fox which was delightful. We walked uptown so she could pick something up from a department store and then we parted ways at the subway station. I got to LaGuardia and back to Chicago with no troubles. A wonderful vacation through and through.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The last month

* Update 11/16/2009 * This post is completely finished!
So I know I've been AWOL for a while. I'll blame work for that, though it's not like I couldn't have made time to update the blog, I just chose to use my limited free-time watching TV instead. But I'll try to bring you up to speed on my life.

Oct 10-18
I was on vacation with my family. We went to the NJ shore again (same house as June) even though it was Autumn. There were a couple nice days, though even then we didn't really go into the water. But we had wonderful time playing in the sand with Isaiah and going to the boardwalk and watching Dollhouse and taking naps and reading books (I read Lamb-tis awesome).
I also was able to get a fair bit of animation done. Here's the set-up I managed in my room at the beach house.

We left the beach house early because of an impending storm and ended up spending the end of the week at my parent's house. There I was able to use my dad's legos for backgrounds. I also got to see Veronica (we went to Perkins, surprise surprise) for a few hours. But I know what you're thinking, "Dave' that's great and all, but what we really want are to see more videos of your adorable nephew. That's the only reason we read your blog." Fair enough. Here we are talking at the beach house:

And here we are back at NanaLinda and PapaJack's house playing BabyBaby

Then I returned to Chicago and things were not so relaxed and wonderful. Robert and I broke up (though we hadn't been dating all that long, so it's not a big deal, just a little unfortunate). I had dinner at Handlebar with Krista before she moved out of Chicago for the next few months.

Oct 19-25
This week was full of events. Paul and Stephanie had a board-game party on Tuesday. On Thursday the UChicago LGBT Alumni had our first event. I videotaped it. After the reception I ended up going out to dinner with a gaggle of gay men (we went to Nookies Tree - I had banana nut pancakes). I had a great time quoting Clue and talking about Star Trek, Star Wars, and other nerdy things with a guy named Bert (who is not an alum, but friends with several). You'll hear about him later. On Friday I went to a LUDO concert w/ Stephanie, Ashley and Craig (Ashley's fiance). We had dinner at Pompeii (very good) and were pleasantly surprised by the one opening band we were there for (Ha Ha Tonka). It was a very good night.
That week's Dollhouse episode was also amazing (Belonging). Possibly the best episode yet. It's sad that Dollhouse has been canceled, but I'm glad it at least got two seasons. Hopefully Joss will have enough notice to end the series in a satisfying manner. I also watched the end of Angel Season 2 and the beginning of season 3. Amy Acker showed up and started stealing every scene - I am not complaining.

Oct 26-Nov 1
This is the week I almost quit work. Luckily I have awesome friends who helped talk me through things.= and come up with a plan that was better than quitting. I'm not going to go into the details of how everything played out because none of it was really wonderful, but in the end I decided not to quit, so that's good.
Stephanie and I have been playing Little King's Story and it's really awesome. We hung out Saturday night and watched 30 rock and Community and Arrested Development and ate Yogen Fruz and Ginger Pear Muffins. Are you jealous? You should be. On Sunday we saw Where the Wild Things Are. I thought it was great A+. Stephanie and I make such good choices together.
Saturday evening I went to Tiffany's place and watched The Nightmare before Christmas with her and Seth and had pizza and hot apple cider. I had a nice lazy Sunday and downloaded Lost Winds 2 and played through that. Had dinner with Max sometime this week. On wednesday I didn't go to work and got ot run errands and but a ridiculous winter hat. Described like this, it sounds like a pretty good week. I guess that's the point of this blog to focus on the awesome and forget the obnoxious stuff.

Nov 2-8
At work I finished a couple big projects and things were progressing on the big issues. The weekend was really nice and warm. I went for my first bike ride in a long while. I made a couple cool lego creations - revised the Sun Monster and built a Phil Brickley cube dude to accompany Sherry. Pictures later.
I met Bert to see American Primitive. It was really good (the end was a little hokey and hand-wavey). Then we went for Ethiopian at Demera.
And I enjoyed this article about lego nomenclature.

Nov 9-12
We had a big event (unveiling of the designs for the new arts center) with a webcast this week that I was in charge of and it went off with only one hitch. That's practically hitchless! And also it was a hitch outside of our control. Logan Arts event went well
Had dinner with Max again. There is a plan in place at work for hiring more people and growing over the next couple years. Hopefully this round of restructuring will actually improve the situation in the office instead of making it much much worse. And it was only a 4 day week before my vacation to New York City! Woohoo! So yeah. Now you're more or less caught up. :)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Week of Doom

Then we had the Week of Doom at work. Meaning it was a whole bunch of big events happening all at once.

1) Thankfully no current faculty members won Nobel Prizes. Otherwise my week would have been even crazier than it already was.
2) I drove to work almost every day this week. The office rented me a car two days in case a faculty member did win and then I would have had to drive to their house at 6 AM to interview them. Driving frequently made me glad I don't own a car and drive on a regular basis. Parking is obnoxious.
3) I'm excited for Epic Mickey the concept art is really what does it for me.
4) One of the Nobel prizes made me rediscover this awesome protein synthesis video (you might want to skip the first three minutes - just boring ol' science)
5) I think I had dinner at Paul and Stephanies and it was broccoli chicken which I haven't had in ages and is delicious and we watched the Wire. But the week is mostly a blur.
6) Oh yeah, I guess we had the last wednesday night dinner with Tiffany, Seth and Krista at my place. We ate "Ithaca Artichoke Medley," sweet potato wedges and chicken piccata. Delicious.
7) This week's Dollhouse episode was great. Whoops! Accidental personality swap! I watched it while on vacation, but this week has so little going for it I will put it here.
8) I guess nothing went terribly wrong with the Week of Doom. So I guess it was the week of running around a lot, but not really Doom.
9) Sleeping Friday night after getting home from work. I was going to hang out with Robert, but then my 1 hour nap turned into a 5.5 hour slumber. I woke up confused in the middle of the night and began frantic packing.
10) Getting out of Chicago. Look for my recap of vacation coming soon.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Way Behind

This week (which happened almost a month ago) was crazy. I worked long hours at work, worked on my laptop on the train to and from work and worked sending e-mails when I got home.

1) Much of my week was spent conducting interviews for our potential new student employees. Those are fun, although I always have a hard time choosing because I feel bad about not being able to hire all the qualified people. Tiffany helped me whittle it down though.

2) We had some cool videos go up this week. South Campus Residence Hall Tour, Color Vision, Chicago in 60 Seconds Promo.

3) One night I managed to get away from work and went to a networking event called: Let's create New Media in Chicago. It's a cheesy title, but I handed out a bunch of NNN cards and heard about what other people are doing (though, there were less video producers than I expected) and collected a fist full of business cards.

4) Another night I had dinner with Max at Leona's. I was a little incoherent from the work week, but we had a good conversation. He had just started his job. We also talked about a time-weighted conception of self.

5) That Friday I wanted to reward myself for getting through the week, so I stopped at the Lego store on the way home and picked up Winter Toy Shop. It's totally awesome.

6) Watched the new episode of Dollhouse. That one was probably the weakest of the season, but it was still good. Unlike last season, there's no need to skip episodes in season 2.

7) Then I went shopping to three stores I've walked past many times in the last year and thought about going into but never have. Uncle Fun is a kitschy toy and novelty shop. Paper Boy has cards and notebooks and journals and wrapping paper and origami paper and all other paper things. Candyality has big bins of candy to buy by the pound. I bought presents for Jenny, Leo and Mom and then delights to share with all. I got a wind up walking brain for my desk at work.

8) Then I went and got a haircut & bought some stuff at Gap.

9) Robert and I had dinner at a so-so mexican place but then we went to Yogen Fruz, which is always awesome.

10) Then we went back to my place and watched the Rocky Horror Picture Show, which I had never seen before. Oh my, Tim Curry!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bust the posts out my blog

1) Robert came over and we ordered Pockets and watched Bubba Ho-Tep & Howard the Duck. Bubba Ho-Tep was great. But what else would you expect from a movie with Bruce Campbell as an elderly Elvis teamed up with an old black man who thinks he's JFK fighting a mummy that is terrorizing their nursing home? Howard the Duck was awful. We were hoping it would be so terrible it was good (like Freejack) but it was just plain awful. The first five minutes were the best.

2) There's a new fad sweeping the lego fan community: Cube Dudes. I made a Sherry Tiles one and will eventually make a Phil (when I regain some free time)

3) I likes this brickfilm- "Alles ist dies noppe"

4) Best part of Episode 3 of Glee was "Bust your windows" (episode 4 of Glee was much better storywise, though no musical numbers of the same caliber)

5) Stephanie and I started playing Little King's Story. It's awesome, very much like pikmin.

6) Changes are finally starting to happen at work. Thought they aren't fun I'm still hoping they will be for the best.

7) Paul and Stephanie had an excellent Wine and Cheese party

8) I bought new shoes!

9) Went to a potluck with Robert. It started out on a roof top, but then migrated inside where there was warmth and cable and cheesecake.

10) I finally spent the money to register a domain name and started putting together a NNN website. It's still very unfinished, I've only begun to carve out the sections I want and listing some content I'd like to put there, but the overall design is more or less set. I'm very happy with the way the banner turned out. You can see what I've got so far here.


1) The most important item from this week is the fact that Robert and I are now dating. We went on another non-date on Thursday to the Modern Wing at the Art Institute since neither of us had been and the museum is free on Thursday nights. We saw a bunch of art. I’m not going to try to describe it here. We did not get to get across the sky bridge, sadly. Then we went to Noodles and Company and it was delicious. Then as we were waiting on the train platform I asked Robert, “So what do you think about us dating?” And he said, “I think I’m ready to give it a try. (pause) Though, I’m not entirely sure what that entails.” Well, figuring that out is the fun part.

2) Robert and I went on our very first date the very next night. Guthrie's was super crowded, so we went to Trader Todd's for karaoke night and I sang "These Boots are made for Walking" as I am wont to do. Then we went to Berlin for a little while and then we got the awkward first kiss out of the way.

3) The new South Campus dorm is awesome. I spent some time this week helping make a video tour of it. I did not operate the camera or do most of the editing, but I was there to walk around and help the videographer figure out what to capture. The place is gorgeous. I am jealous of the students who get to live there.

4) I introduced Krista, Tiffany and Seth to the glory that is Freejack. It is one of the best worst movies ever. Emilio Estevez stars as a racecar driver who is kidnapped to the dystopian future (November 2009) where he is hunted by Mick Jagger so that Anthony Hopkins mind can be transplanted in his body. Check out this must-see chase scene & a short clip from the climax.

5) I had a dream that week that involved solving a mystery (in the Mystery Machine) with Jerry Seinfeld and some assorted teens. I was describing this dream to Tiffany and Seth and we started trying to imagine who would be on my Scooby Doo dream team. (By Scooby Doo Dream Team we mean if someone was making a movie about my life and there was a dream sequence where I had to solve a mystery, who would be on that team. The question of who would be on my ideal mystery solving team is another matter entirely.)

Obviously Jerry Seinfeld is going to be on it because he was in my actual dream. The next obvious addition is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which we later refined to Sarah Michelle Gellar so she could be both Buffy and Daphne. We were originally going to keep Scooby-Doo, but then decided to replace him with Brak. And I have to be on it since it’s my dream. We couldn’t agree on the 5th team member. I was pushing for Carmen SanDiego, Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast also came up as an option, I would have put Jack Harkness on the team, but that would have quickly derailed the mystery solving. I welcome your suggestions.

6) I challenge you to watch this video of kids trying not to eat marshmallows and not smile.

7) We had our yearly Communications Retreat on Friday. This year it was at Navy Pier. While it was a nice way to remind us how we are all connected to a larger goal, I was disappointed that there wasn't more room for conversation about the strategy stuff. Still, the food was good and the boat cruise made for a nice afternoon.

8) "Guise will be Guise" was my favorite episode of Angel season 2 to date. Wesley pretends to be Angel, hilarity ensues.

9) On Saturday night I went with Tiffany, Seth and Stephanie to see Mike Birbiglia. He's hilarious. Here's one of the stories he told during the routine we saw.

10) Then we went to Yogen Fruz. So delicious.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pro-Green Commercial

You've probably already seen this, but now it's officially released. :)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Hiking is awesome

1) The best part of putting up an animation is the ensuing wave of comments/e-mails/IMs/messages from people who’ve watched it telling me what they liked about it. I even got a phone call from one of my friends who had just watched it. The consensus seems to be that the music is the most note-worthy thing. Followed by the buildings as dominos and ROBOphelia’s energetic behavior. And of course the best part was watching it with Stephanie on Tuesday and hearing her laugh.

2) While we’re talking about lego stuff. I finally got around to tking pictures of all the microscale buildings I made for the animation.

Click on the picture to read my full write-up about them on MOCpages (w/ more pictures). Also I made the most elusive couple ever.

Man, Carmen Sandiego is so awesome, it’s hard to handle sometimes. I guess that’s the benefit of being fictional, you don’t have to get bogged down worrying about what ‘s possible. Here’s a great quote from the cartoon where she was voiced by Rita Moreno, “Think out your plan like a woman of action, then act out your plan like a woman of thought.”

3) One last lego thing. Since I’ve already finished the next NNN video I’ve got some time to relax before focusing on making the next one. So instead of building sets, recording voices, storyboarding, or animating this weekend I finally attacked one of the bins of unsorted lego where I throw the remnants of sets after I harvest the pieces I want from them. I put in some DVDs and spent a few good hours doing that Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. Also did 4 loads of laundry, now I’m ready to spend the next few weekends working on animation.

4) So what were the DVDs I watched you ask? Well I rewatched Spirited Away, the plot was much easier to follow the second time through, not as ridiculous as I first thought. I wonder what the process for making a Miyazaki movie is. Does Miyazaki just think of different scenes/characters that would look awesome and then slowly stitch a story around them? I mean this movie is beautiful, and it’s certainly not a poorly stitched amalgam of isolated scenes and plots or anything like that. I just wonder if he thought “Alright my next movie is going to have a train that seems to glide across the surface of an ocean, also a giant muddy monster that gets a bunch of pollution pulled out of it, a bunch of adorable soot monsters, some dragon (or sky snake as Stephanie and I have dubbed Eastern dragons) riding of course, and let’s not forget the giant baby.who lives in a pile of pillows and later gets turned into a hampster. Now how do I put those together?“

5) The other thing I watched was the first disc of Angel Season 2. It’s off to a good start. I haven’t cared much for the individual plots of any of the first few episodes, but the show just knows what it’s doing now. Lorne (that’s the lounge-singer demon/psychic who can tell you your future, but only if you sing karaoke first) is starting to pop up regularly. They’ve moved their office into an abandoned hotel, which is way more stylish than the last place. Gunn is actually being integrated with the rest of the cast. Darla is making me care about Angel’s existence, though right now it’s only to be annoyed with him. And Cordelia continues to be awesome and is certainly benefiting from not having to carry the entire show any more. And for this week’s clip of Angel doing something embarrassing – singing Mandy.
6) I’ve run out of segues so I’m going to revert to boring old chonology for the rest. On Thursday I hung out with Robert. We were going to try to go to Target free Thursdays at the art museum and see the Modern wing. But he ended up having to show his apartment to potential roommates. So instead I went over to his apartment and we had dinner sitting on the carpet and played a few games of Fluxx.

Fluxx is a card game where the rules and goals are constantly changing. About a fourth of the cards are cards you play to change the rules – how many cards you draw and play per turn, how many you can have in your hand or on the table etc. My favorite rule was “first play random”. There are also action cards that let you do things like steal cards, pull cards out of the discard pile, eliminate rules and generally cause mayhem. Then were the cards you played on the table, they were just nouns like cookies, dreams, the brain, etc. They did not do anything exciting. The goal cards usually involved collecting two specific nouns, although there were a couple more inspired ones as well. While the game is not as crazy as Mao, it is still pretty cool.

7) Then he showed me these two awesome hilarious faux-informational books – Science Made Stupid and Cvltvre Made Stupid. They are basically modeled on textbooks, but everything in them is utterly and hilariously false. Oh how I laughed and laughed. I still haven’t read through the culture book, but for the Science book at least I agree with Robert that the more you know, the funnier it is. Allow me to quote “OVERVIEW OF BOOK” “BAGELS” “etc.” And the thing I can’t to justice to are the hilarious illustrations of imaginary animals, ridiculous diagrams and fake advertisements. But don’t take my word for it, you can read them online here. (You could order them, but they are out of print and therefore very expensive).
8) Last Friday I went on an awesome recording for work. We were interviewing my color vision professor about his latest research into how colors are represented in the brain. It was awesome and made me remember what I loved about studying Neuroscience.

9) Crazy 3D-seeming murals (via Seth)

10) I rented a Zipcar from Friday night till Saturday night so Stephanie, Paul and I could go hiking on Saturday. On Friday night I used the car to go to Target and buy a new microwave (my old one became possessed), a lamp for my bedroom, and other such Target purchases. I also went to Trader Joe's. On Saturday morning we drove up to the North Branch trail system and then we hiked about 5.5 miles. Along the way we ventured through Bugopolis, pumped water by hand lost the yellow trail briefly, saw hoodlums on bicycles and debated about chipmunks (among other things). Then we had a lovely picnic of chips and pita and hummus and salsa and grapes and mini muffins and rice pudding. We saw a Bald Eagle! Then we drove back and took naps. I took the car to Jewel for more groceries before returning it. All in all it was an awesome day.

other things from the car - target and lots of groceries

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Let's talk about the animation! Oh and some other things too

1) Making the animation. My mom was asking how I matched the movement/action to the sounds and I was telling her about the notebook where I write down how many frames are between each important word/emphasis point. Here's a page that corresponds to a 22 second long shot (starts 51 seconds in).

That was probably the most complicated shot in terms of matching actions to words in this episode, since there are two people on screen and for some parts they are both moving and also because ROBOphelia has so many little exclamations and such. I am really happy with the way it turned out, I like the way she extends off screen at "oh my!" and her nervous laugh /arm twitch immediately following. And her "hmf" coupled with a head turn and a little leg bounce at the end of the shot might be my favorite ROBOphelia movement in the entire episode. (Though extending her magnifying glass while saying IN-TRI-CATE-LY LAID PLANS? gives it a run for its money)
The scenes between ROBOphelia and Persephone had some complicated gesture animation, but they were pretty light on set-up since they all took place in one room. I reused as many set-ups as I could for Malifios's schemes (e.g. the Octopus machine wide shot and the scene where he rages at the plane) but the 7 second scen in which 12 buildings fall down (starts at 2:00), for instance, took over 2 hours to set-up (though less than 10 minutes to actually animate). Here is the base I built during that two hours.

I had all the building on cleverly concealed hinge bricks that made toppling them easy. The octopus machine stuff was pretty straightforward and the hay fire one was somewhere in between (Malifios's feet did not stick to the baseplate very well in that one, also if you watch the torch closely you can see it slowly drifting up in his hand, a consequence of me rotating it around every other shot so the flame would flicker.)

Small details you might not notice otherwise:
The movie theater at 1:55 is playing "The Franky Job" (refer to this old post for the why)
At 0:48 "woman" in Persephone's titlebar is scratched out and replaced with "brick"
After getting kicked by the cow at 4:14, Malifios lands in one of the hay piles in the background

It's been up for less than 12 hours and already has close to 200 views. That's pretty awesome.

2) On Wednesday Tiffany, Krista and Seth came over for dinner. We were later joined by Daniela. In honor of Krista's real birthday Tiffany brought cupcakes from Molly's cupcakes. The one I had was delicious though structurally unsound. I really ought to go to Molly's Cupcakes. I meant to go a long time ago, but still haven't made the trek.

3) I talked to Jenny (her birthday was the week before but we played phone tag for a bit). We talked about our jobs, Isaiah, legos, and ice cream pie among other things.

4) This weekend was the one year anniversary of moving into this apartment. To celebrate the fact that I wasn't moving I had my friends over and made potato flag and butter beer. We played Boom Blox.

5) On Sunday Night I went over to Paul and Stephanie's new place. It's really nice. We started the Wire season 5 and had cinnamon chick peas. Om Nom Nom.

6) Then Stephanie convinced me that rather than go grocery shopping or animating I should go to Yogen Fruz and watch The Dark Knight with her. I am glad I listened to reason instead of doing something foolish like going to Jewel.

7) On Monday Krista had a BBQ. I used it as an excuse to make ice cream pie (talking with Jenny abou it just make me want it). It was awesome. Chocolate and Cookies and Cream (Krista doesn't like mint things)

8) I finished Angel season 1. Here are the episodes I liked the best "Rm w/a Vu" " Bachelor Party" "I will Remember You" "The Prodigal" "Five by Five" & "Santuary" and "To Shansu in L.A." 7/22 isn't bad. Another third of the season was mediocre and the last third was terrible. If you are ever inclined to watch through Angel Season 1 don't feel obligated to watch "I Fall to Pieces" "Sense & Sensitivity" "Expecting" "She" "I've got you under my skin" or "The Ring" Just read summaries and move on with your life. There's probably a whole disk you can skip in there. Most of the time I just had Angel on in the background while I built lego stuff for the animation. It was perfect for that as very few episodes actually commanded my attention.

9)Now that the animation is done, I was able to clean up my apartment. It is neater than it has been in quite a long time. Yay!

10) Other things? I don't remember... let's check facebook. Oh! There we go! Look at all these links! (via @qikipedia, Robert and Stephanie respectively)

Oh hey I just remembered something cool I did at work last week. I went with Tiffany into the construction site for the Mansueto Library (a.k.a. giant glass bubble with robots) Here are some pics I took trying to show how deep it is. Of course, being two dimensional they don't really give a good sense of depth. If only I had a stereo camera!

Look! It's Tiffany's elbow!

SVELT Interview & Failed Plans of Malifios

Look! I finally finished the post below this one!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Again with the partial posting

1) I've built some cool lego stuff recently, but I haven't really taken pictures. I've been too busy taking sequential pictures of other legos. Rest assured, when there are pictures they will be posted. My creations don't really exist for me until I share them.

2) Angel is getting to the good parts. Doyle is dead (woohoo) and Wesley has joined the team, and actually seems to be doing more than bumble now. Faith just had a two episode stint that was quite good. I was even happy to see Angelus briefly. He's a lot more fun than regular Angel who tends to mope and brood. Although the best thing I've seen David Boreanaz (I can't beilieve I spelled that right on the first try) do in this show so far can be seen here. Oh how I laughed and laughed.

3) On Tuesday Stephanie came over and we ordered Pockets and played Super Mario Galaxy and watched Better Off Ted and Dollhouse (I'm glad both of these shows are getting second seasons). It was awesome. I take these weekly dinners for granted, but we were talking about how terrible it was when we lived in Hyde Park and Ukranian Village and couldn't hang out several nights a week.

4) I finially finish the mix CD/playlist I've been working on for hte past month: Trip Hop Exploration 2. Doesn't mean much to you, but playlists are very important to me. I don't like listening to music on shuffle, the randomness just takes me out of it. I can't constantly be shifting genres and styles with no transitions. This is why when I do use shuffle it is usually by CD, so I at least have periods of consistency. Anyway you can hear a poor approximation of this CD/playlist on youtube. Or if you want I will burn you a CD. Making this one reminded me just how much I love Poe. It's too bad she hasn't released more albums, though she is collecting dreams for something... Also, apparently Eagle-Eye Cherry is his legal name. I thought it was a band name. That is one crazy name.

5) The first week without Renee was not too crazy - we have been approved to move into the new space - Chicago in 60 Seconds is an awesome project.

6) Read The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman via Stephanie. It was awesome. No wonder it's winning so many awards. I just realized, I don't think I own anything written by Neil Gaiman, I think all my Neil Gaiman stuff has just been borrowed from Stephanie. I should really buy something, you know, put my money where my interests are. Allow me to go update my Amazon cart.

Anyway, I don't have a lot to say about the book in terms of review. Neil is very talented in creating rich worlds that take elements from mythology, legend and other forms of communal storytelling and make those elements new, wonderful and unique. The Graveyard book is no exception, there are ghouls, ghosts, and ghasts, a werewolf and mummy and other things that go bump in the night, and while they benefit from the folklore, each of the creatures in the book is completely a Neil creation. The story is about a human boy who grows up in the world of the graveyard and like every good coming of age story he makes mistakes and gets into tight spots and has help from friends at the right moments.

7) While we're talking about Neil and how awesome he is. I should mention I finally finished Sandman Vol. 3 - it was awesome. This volume focused on the Endless and their relationships more than the previous two volumes combined and it was awesome. I have a special place in my heart for Delirium, who is similar to ROBOphelia in several ways and will probably end up influencing how I write her in the future at least subconsciously. But all the Endless are interesting/cool in some way. Wonderful. There was also some rEdiculous nested storytelling in the Tavern at Worlds' End series that made me happy. (Guy 1 tells a story in which Guy 2 tells Guy 1 a story in which Woman tells Guy 2 tells a story) ROBOphelia would approve heartily. (Sorry, after animating her for a couple weeks, I've just got her on the brain)

8) Speaking of comics I also bought "We Can Fix It" which I heard about by way of Kate Beaton, (PONY!) whose History Comics book I got about a month ago. It was decent. I liked the premise (traveling through time to try and fix things in your past [and make-out with your past selves obviously]) and some of the art was good. The cover for instance is fantastic, but I agree with Krista's assessment that over-all it was sloppy, both in term of drawing and storytelling. Still I don't regret buying or reading it.

9) Speaking of buying things to support starving artists I bought this color strong t-shirt that I guy I know designed. Here I am wearing it!

10) I discovered Harvarti cheese. It has been added to the list of cheeses I love. In reverse chronological order they are: Harvarti, Morbier, Brie, Feta, Provolone, Mozzarella. There are some other cheeses I'm okay with, but these are the ones that made me understand why people get excited about cheese.

11 )3 day weekends are awesome.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Maybe I'll actaully get back to posting once a week... maybe...

1) Here's the set for that chase scene I posted last week. It took a good deal of my yellow bricks...

And from above you can see how I slanted the wall to force the perspective. Whee!

2) Saw District 9. It was good, a little more action-packed than I expected or desired, but the action was well done, (the mech was awesome) so I'm not really complaining. I recommend it, although not for my mother, as the protagonist drops the F-bomb like it's going out of style, and at one point bites his fingernails off. I agree with AV Club: B+

3) Got my passport in the mail this week. That was fast. I probably won't be using it until the spring. The end of the year is always a busy time and no one wants to go anywhere in the winter (except to shiny, sunny places).

4) Finished Avatar the Last Airbender. It was pretty good, especially considering it's target audience. There are things I would have liked them to explore/explain in more detail, but such is the way of things. I'm sure there's fanfic. The best thing about the show is the animation of the bending. None of the various bending compilations I could find on youTube (and believe me I jut dredged through a lot) show all the coolest bits I would have compiled, but this video does a good job of showcasing all four elements. Start at 40 secs and turn the sound off since it is irrelevant. This one seriously neglects Earth, but shows off the octopus form of waterbending, which I love. None of them show why waterbending is the best, but rest assured that it is. All this talk about bending makes me want to watch all the North Pole episodes again.

4) I took Friday day off. In the morning the Internet went out. This is a frequent occurrence, I probably go upstairs to reset the router once a week. However, when I went on Friday the door on the closet with the router was locked. It's never been locked before. I tried all my keys (because there is one key I have that I still haven't found the lock for) but alas it was not to be. Then I e-mailed (from my iphone) my landlady to see what was up. Then I went into the living room and played with legos for a while. She called me maybe half an hour later (because I hadn't responded to the e-mail she had sent in response to mine) and told me to try picking the lock. I was unsuccessful (but I had fun trying!) and e-mailed her back to tell her so. Then I started watchign a movie. maybe twenty minutes in to the movie she came to my front door to tell me that her father-in-law would be coming by soon to take the door off the hinges and fix the internet. After I finished the movie the internet was back and she had sent a follow-up e-mail to make sure everything was fixed. All of this is just to show how awesome my landlords are. When Paul and Stephanie's heat was out it took their landlord days to respond, let alone fix the problem.

5) The movie I was watching during the previous item? The Emperor's New Groove. I give it a B- Best part is with out a doubt "I'll turn him into a flea. A harmless little flea. And I'll put that flea in a box. And then I'll put that box in another box. Then I'll mail that box to myself, and when it arrives, [laughs maniacally] I'll smash it with a hammer! It's brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, I tell you! Genius, I say! [Knocks over the potion, which makes a plant explode] Or, to save on postage, I'll just poison him with this!"

6) That night I went with Robert and two of his friends to see the Improvised Shakespeare Company. I highly suggest watching this clip, which should give a small sense of the hilarity that we experienced. The play we saw was called "Hampsters," and while I won't waste time recounting the plot I will briefly mention some highlights. King Edward was my favorite character, he was hilariously viscous, the main plot conceit was that he kept his son locked up in his room to protect him, but also had told all his guards and citizens to kill the prince on sight if he ever left his room (when they open the windows to look out a volley or arrows flies in), he invariably killed every messenger and anyone else who irked him. Alright, I'm just going to list the other highlights without context: yearly three minutes of unchaining, triple sodomy, porpoise riding handmaiden, the kings players miming an owl, a rabbit and a branch and then animating the corpse of their slain leader, the mermaids' song of warning, "is he talking about the mermaids again?", incest + dramatic irony = hilarity , "it took two half-siblings to make my heart whole," the royal guards - each with a more outrageous accent than the last, "i'm gonna strangle wit' my dreds!", advice from the king's ghost, "we've got a horse!", the completely unnecessary death of the King of Corsica. I could go on - it was a riot. I think the most impressive thing was the rhyming couplets they would occasionally bust out.

7) Then we all went to Home Bistro. Robert and I had already eaten dinner, but we got appetizers (he got dates wrapped in bacon and cooked in brown sugar, I got fried balls of cheese and artichoke) and dessert (he got bread pudding covered in whipped cream and chocolate sauce, I got an espresso drenched coffee cake, also with whipped cream) and help the others with their meals (the trout was amazing). There was some wine from Kafka too. Delicious!

8) Finally got some animating done for the SVELT Interview. Here's a really choppy low-res clip of what I've got so far. Of course the actual animation on my hard drive is big and beautiful, so don't worry.

9) I finally broke down and started a MOCpages account (I have also put a link in the sidebar, since Dad gave me such a hard time about neglecting to put a link to the NNN Youtube page ::grins::). I had told myself I would be content with just posting pictures of my lego creations on flickr and posting about them on EuroBricks, but that approach just felt so scattered, even with sets and collection,. nothing every really feels organized on flickr. MOCpages gives you a lot more flexibility in how you present your creations. Plus, it's another part of the LEGO fan community to expose to my videos. I still have a lot of stuff to add, but I put a few simple ones on there to start off.

10) 8-bit Trip - This may be the most impressive lego animation I've ever seen (and I've seen a lot) The pong part is mind blowing.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Door Chase Scene

I made this for a contest and finished animating this one scene only an hour before the deadline, so I didn't have time to add in the voices I recorded with Robert today. I will polish it up ion September and release that as a bonus video since the Green Commercial will air that month and most people have already seen that.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


I know it's been a while since I've updated, but I have excuses! I was doing things. Rather than wait until this post is complete to post, I will update it as I write more. Stay tuned!

1) My first excuse is my perennial one: animation! You of course have watched and memorized the SVELT commercial. Good. Time for a quiz!
i) SVELT stands for?
a) Something Very Elaborate, Lengthy and Tedious
b) Snakes, Vultures, Eels, Lemurs and Tarantulas
c) Super Villain Education and Leadership Teachery
ii) This commercial is a parody of?
a) John Hodgeman's recent address at the Radio & TV Correspondent's dinner
b) Barracuda by Heart
c) The Sally Struthers ICS commercials from the 90s
iii) The part I’m proudest of is?
a) Successful keying on SVELT spokeswoman for the scrolling list and on the thug when the background magically changes
b) The crowbar opening the window
c) Hammer hits knight, knight goes sploosh, evil girls rejoice
d) Let’s not forget Dana Kroop’s excellent performance
iv) Things I’d change if I didn’t have to make the next animation?
a) Record some better grunts for the team on the field
b) Redo the picture of the SVELT campus so it’s clearer
c) Add music
My point being, that as always there are some things I’m really pleased with, and some others that cause me shame every time I watch it. But I needs move on to the next thing.

2) Excuse the second - I was reading the printed version Nameless by Sam Starbuck. This is a book by the Heroes/HP/TW/DW (listed in the order I was pulled in, thanks to Stephanie) fanfic author. Anyway he wrote an original novel. He published a draft online earlier this year and I read that as it went up and joined in the commenting. Then he took the feedback he got from that and rewrote the book and self-published it. Since you’ve got to support your internet content producers whenever you can, (speaking of which, I should buy the Guild DVDs) and because I wanted to see how he changed the final version I bought the book back when it was made available in the spring.
Ostensibly the book is about life in a small town and the friendship/romance that develops between Mr. Town Gossip and Mr. Ridiculously Shy and then there’s magic and drama and American nomads, oh my! For me though the book is about making and mending. Making-wise, one of the main characters is an artist and there are plenty of artisans and craftspeople throughout. The characters are constantly shown shaping the world and not so much the other way around. That's a sentiment I can get behind. Mending-wise, the two main characters each start off broken in some way and end up fixing each other. Also there's some roof and book repair.
I still feel like the book is dragging it's feet until it gets to the Straw Bear ceremony. The boy/waxwing thing is handled much better than in the first draft, but overall I still feel like the story is a bit lackadaisical. Not in the writing, but just in the things that happen. There's just not a lot of energy or momentum that the story builds, even at the climatic moments things are pretty laid back. I still want to curl up with Nameless by the fire. I like the glimpses of Chicago that are sprinkled throughout. It's a good first book (printed anyway) and I'm looking forward to his next one.

3) A couple weekends ago Stephanie's step-sister (for lack of a better term) was in town being spoiled by her awesome big sister (Milkshakes with every meal! French Toast for dinner! Harry Potter exhibits ahoy!) and as part of that I went with them to see the Blue Man Group perform. Previously all my Blue Man Group exposure came through Arrested Development so I really know much about them. Their performance is equal parts music, visual spectacle, comedy, information blasting and audience participation. The music was good, although the parts where they were just banging on PVC pipes were the only times I found my attention waning. Their music was more interesting when they had some visual element thrown in as well (like paint). Visually they had a lot going on to stimulate the audience, they had lots of neon colored things and put blacklights to good use, the traditional-instruments band's costumes were really cool, imagine multi-colored glow-in-the-dark skeletons. They also had a part where one of them caught 20+ marshmallows in his mouth without swallowing any. There were a bunch of different comedy skits, the best one involved bringing up a girl from the audience and having a very awkward dinner with her. Before the show started there were some fun scrolling text instructions. There was also a couple parts where they would present a lot of text on screen at once (each of them would hold up a poster for a limited amount of time for instance) more information than could be read by the average person in the time given (Stephanie managed it for the posters). It was really frustrating because these days with the internet you can generally read things at your leisure and while there's certainly more information out there then you could possibly read, you are at least able to read the things you choose without having to worry about them dissapearing in 30 seconds. It was a fun show, though it's hard to sum up because it had so many different components that were completely distinct from one another.

4) I have caught up to the current issue of Buffy teh Vampire Slayer Season 8. Now I can buy the issues as they come out, which I've never done with a comic book series before. I'm really excited about this, comic books are one of those areas of geekery I have never followed as much as I might like. I have a great comic book store just a couple blocks away, I intend to become a regular customer.
Also, Hark, a Vagrant finally updated the archive so that all the comics have appropriate notes at the bottom. I am now in the delightful process of reading through the archive comics in their full contextual glory.
To preempt Stephanie's inevitable snide comic - I am also not reading through Sandman fast enough. What can I say? The tome is intimidating, opening it seems like a serious undertaking, even if it's an enjoyable one. If it was a bunch of trade paperbacks I probably would have blown through it in no time.

5) Tonsil pain finally gone. Well it was. Now it's trying to creep back. But gargling with salt water is doing wonders for keeping it at bay.

6) Eric Benson was in town for a few days. We met up for lunch one day and then the next he came into my office (which has foam on the wall for sound dampening) and well did some voice recording. We did a little bit of Phil Brickley and then a couple really fun one-off characters. Thankfully no one was in the adjacent offices that morning, because he was screaming pretty loudly at one point. You'll understand why in a few months when the animation is done.

I'm really looking forward to doing a group recording session with him and Lila in the fall. Haven't planned the trip out yet, but I'm thinking early November.

7) Last weekend Veronica threw a Murder Mystery party for the people she interned with this summer. The week leading up to it she called me once of twice and I helped her think through some things and calmed her down when her co-party thrower (some of you know her as Naked Girl) abandoned her at the last minute. It was fun to hear about her mystery and to reminisce about previous parties. It got me thinking about doing another one (as if I didn't have enough creative projects in progress already)*

8) Max is moving to Chicago in a month, he stayed with me this week while looking at apartments. I didn't see a whole lot of him since we were both busy, but on Thursday we went to dinner with Stephanie at Andalous, a great Moroccan place a couple blocks away. Then we met up with Tiffany, Seth, Paul and Robert at Guthries where we played Blokus, Carcassonne and the best game of Jenga I've ever played. Robert considers the tower carefully:

Paul makes a precarious move, while Stephanie looks on in trepidation.

There was a point where we were all convinced Seth was going to knock it over, but then the game continuted for at least another 2 rounds (14 moves). I think we were all impressed with how long we lasted. Anyway it was an awesome night. We need to go to Guthrie's more often.

9) Yesterday Paul and Stephanie had a barbeque using the grill that has sat abandoned, chained to a fence in their backyard all year. Paul went out an bought a variety of sausages and eastern euorpean beers much like he and Alex did our 4th year and called it Sausage Fest 2009. There was lots of food (I borught pasta salad) and SanGria. Tiffany and Seth brought strawberries and whipped cream and those pastry shells for strawberry shortcake. Obviously the presence of whipped cream lead to this:

Which if you can't tell is me with a massive amount of whipped cream in my mouth thanks to Paul. I think Stephanie took the picture, all I remember is handing my iphone to someone while trying not to laugh or choke.

10) I've been meaning to put shelves up in my living room for months now. The wall above my couch was one of the only places left in my apartment where I chad space to expand. It goes without saying that this is for the benefit of my lego collection. Well last weekend I got a zipcar and went to target for non-shelf related items like a kettle, an iron, a water bottle mount for my bike, and various and sundry other items. Then I went to the Home Depot and bought the components for the shelves, drywall anchors, a cordless power drill, a leveller, a tape measure and needle nose pliers. Those last two were not specifically for this project, though they ended up being used as well. Then I spent the rest of the weekend installing them. I had to put 40 drywall anchors in and it took me about a hour to get the first one done. Of course once I had figured out the process they went much quicker. I still broke of shattered about a dozen anchors throughout the process. I had miscalculated the number of brackets and track I needed on Saturday, so I had to make another quick trip on sunday, but then I finished it up and got the shelves up. They were up for approximately 5 minutes before I started covering them with lego.

And some close ups fo the lower two shelves, this half is above/under water

and this half is above/under ground

11) Speaking of Lego, that's probably the biggest excuse here's what I've been up to recently.
I won set 7774 at Brickworld this year, but I already had one from Stephanie so I did na alternate build with it instead and got The Court of King Octopus

My favorite part is his Getaway Throne

He looks even more ridiculous when riding in it. I want to share with you a mental image Stephanie and I conjured up while contemplating the King's Getaway Throne. Imagine you are underwater scuba diving and then you see a real octopus wearing a crown drive past in a boat like this - chasing him is a bipedal shark in some kind of motor boat.

Speaking of Stephanie, her and Paul helped me come up with the concept of the Falafel Mafia. Then I executed that concept.

Here's the Scooby Gang

And what could this corridor of doors be for...

I am always working on more building to populate New Block City. This weekend I came up with this pink one in two different sizes.

*You know I know that a period should follow a ) in a case like this, but I think it looks weird so I'm just going to forgo it.