Force Friday Midnight Event at Toys "R" Us

I'm not much of a person for midnight releases... of anything; movies, black Friday stuff, etc.  But when I heard that every Toys "R" Us was going to be doing a midnight release event for the new Star Wars Force Awakens toys, I was intrigued.  I had already planned on taking Friday off to spend the Labor Day weekend at the cape, and I discovered there was a Toys "R" Us store about 15 minutes away in Hyannis.  So I thought, why not, and headed over there around 11pm.

I was a little afraid that since this is a smaller town/community they wouldn't be doing the event, but when I rolled up I saw the ropes out and a small crowd of 12 or so people waiting.

By the time the doors opened there was 50 or so people in line.  Luckily since I was near the front I got first dips on the goods.  They did a bit of people management so not everyone rushed in at once.  The manager came outside about 15 minutes before to let us know how it was all going to work.  I was really impressed by how organized it all was.  When we walked in we were handed some nice freebies:  Kylo Ren poster, a Hasbro toy guide poster, and a Force Awakens Lego piece.

The store and aisle were all decked out in the new Star Wars identity.  I wanted to get pictures of the aisle itself, but as you might guess it was pretty crowded with 50 people vying for space.  It looked fantastic and it was hard not to get very excited.

I wanted that 50" talking Storm Trooper so badly, but I feared for my marriage.  So it stayed on the shelf. I didn't see anyone else buy it either, but everyone loved it. Because of limited quantities and fairness and all of that good crap, they placed a limit of three on any item line number. That, which I found out, did not mean any one particular item but instead any line.  So I was only able to pick up three of the five new 6" Star Wars Black figures. Boo!  I did, however, find my 20" Captain Phasma.  I only wish they had done her in vac metal instead of that swirly grey plastic.

All in all, it was a very fun experience and I'm glad I went.  Oh, I almost forgot to mention Geoffery the Giraffe was there!



Disney Running Coast to Coast

If you had asked me 10 years ago if I thought there was a chance I would run back to back 10k and half marathon, on two different coasts, at two different Disney resorts in consecutive months, you would probably have gotten a blank "what the hell are you talking about" stare.  But that's what just happened.

It's always kind of cracks me up when I get called princess or when I saw princess on this bib.  I like to think of myself more of a Brienne of Tarth than a Princess Myrcella. Anyways, Dani and I wanted to complete a coast to coast and she had been wanting to do this particular race weekend for a while.  So we signed up!

I was sick almost the entire time between the Star Wars and Princess weekends, so I did very little (none) training.  Despite that I managed the following times:

  • Princess 10k: 1:33:38 (A minute faster than Star Wars)
  • Half Marathon: 3:24:22 (8:44 faster than Star Wars)

Besides the racing, we did a good amount of park hoping.  And we were fortunate enough to be put up in a Vacation club property, Sarasota Springs,  this year which was super nice. Other highlights included

  • Destroying Dani at Toy Story Midway Mania... twice.
  • An incredibly awesome Character breakfast at the Ohana restaurant
  • Seeing Beymax!!!!!
  • And finally seeing Fantasmic

And of course... the pictures:

Disney Star Wars Race Weekend

I'm not a great runner. Honestly, I still haven't found that thing about running that many people love.  However, I do love Star Wars, and to an only slightly lesser degree I love Disney. So when they announced the inaugural race weekend in Disneyland, I didn't figure I'd have too much trouble convincing Dani to agree to sign up for it.


Both of us signed up for the newly announced Rebel Challenge (10k + Half marathon). But then Dani "fell on the 5k registration" as well. I was careful not to do the same.

Neither of us had ever been to the left coast Disney parks, so we were excited for that alone. Well that and escaping the sub-ten degree weather in Boston for the mid-seventies in SoCal.


The races were as much fun as you can make running be. The 10k wound through both parks and featured many familiar characters from the Star Wars universe. Unfortunately due to my slow pace (whoops I forgot to train, at all) I didn't feel I had time to stop and wait in the super long lines at the character stop. Hopefully next year I can get my Boba Fett picture.

The half marathon started with a trek through the parks and then out onto the streets on Anaheim for the bulk of it. Along the course was around eight of so high school groups and marching bands, as well as a stretch featuring an amazing group of cosplayers. I think they had a larger and more diverse group of characters than even Disney had. This was my first back to back race challenge, so I was pretty spent from the 10k and two days of walking around the parks, and was dragging ass half way through. But when I saw those ladies with the balloons indicating the back of the pack, I picked it up and pushed through the pain (again cursing myself for not training). I wasn't going to get swept! I had to get these beautiful medals!

Final Times:

  • 10k - 1:34:38
  • Half - 3:33:06
  • Rebel Challenge - Completed

The parks at Disneyland are amazing!  I discovered a couple of the duplicate attractions, like Space Mountain and Tower of Terror from Disneyworld were actually better out here. And the Cars Radiator Spings racers might be one of the best attractions at either location!

One of the great things about the Disneyland resort is how close everything is together. While in Disney World you have to find transportation between the parks and hotels, in DL, both parks and Downtown Disney are pretty much across from eah other with a small plaza inbetween.  And our hotel was right around the corner.

It was a great, and exhausting, long weekend for us. And I really hope we can come back again next year! In the meanwhile, I have a month to get in slightly better running shape before Dani and I head to Disney World for the Glass Slipper challenge and our first Coast to Coast medals!

I took a ton of photos, maybe not as many as Dani, but still... Here's a sample of my favorites.

Groot O'Lantern

I hadn't carved a pumpkin the past few Halloween's.  I thought it'd be fun to resurrect that old tradition with one of my favorite new comic characters. After searching around on the web, I found a nice pattern that I thought I would try of our good friend Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy.  You can find that pattern on the website. 

My carving skills were a bit rusty and the pattern was pretty ambitious, but I think it turned out pretty well.  I even used the dirty flat side of the pumpkin to give the Groot O'Lantern a bit more character in the daylight. 

In hindsight, however, I think I would have taken the approach where you etch out the design instead of cutting all the way through the pumpkin.  A couple of days later, Groot is looking pretty shriveled up and pathetic. :(

Smiling Hill Farm with the Gilligans

This past weekend, Dani and I took a trip up to Portland to visit our good friends the Gilligans. First stop Saturday morning was to Smiling Hill Farm to pet some animals, ride a tractor and pick a pumpkin.  Although the weather kept us from the tractor ride and pumpkin picking, we still had a blast seeing all the farm animals.  I didn't take my nice camera, but I managed to get some fun shots with the iPhone.  I even took a selfie with a very handsome goat (which is much harder than it sounds).

Tech Recruiters, Don't be Stalkers

So the other day I had a first when an unsolicited tech recruiter obnoxiously harassed me. 

To preface this post, I'd like to state that in general I don't have issues with technical recruiters and the work that they do.  I've used them several times in the past to find jobs. And while there are certainly ones I like more than others, they do serve their purpose.

Talent is tight in Boston.  This town and the surrounding area is seeing a tech boom and while positions are plentiful, top talent is not.  I have first hand knowledge on this from a couple of viewpoints.  First of all, we have spent the past few months at MediaSilo looking for a good senior level UI developer.  We interviewed quite a few people and too often found they were lacking the skills we needed. The recruiters we employed had an equally tough time finding qualified candidates to send to us.

The other reason I know about the demand for talent, is the sheer number of emails and calls I get from recruiters on a near daily basis.  Sometimes we even joke at the office about who gets the most inquiries on average.  It can be annoying sometimes, but I understand that they are simply doing their job by both reaching out to people and by searching for referrals. I also understand that by having a public profile on LinkedIn I am inviting their advances to a certain extent.

Thankfully for the most part, the calls and emails have been respectful.  I typically don't respond, because I'm not looking and don't usually have the time to engage them. Sometimes they'll call a second time, or just follow up with an email. But two days ago I was approached by a guy who was a bit more persistent. Here's the timeline:

  • Tuesday afternoon - 4:50pm, 4:50pm, 4:51pm, 4:56pm - 4 calls back to back after each I did not answer.
  • Wednesday Morning - 9:53am, 9:58am, 9:59am - 3 more back to back calls, unanswered.
  • Wednesday Morning - 10:33am - I accidentally started a call back while unlocking my phone, which was immediately terminated
  • Wednesday Morning - 10:35am, 10:35am, 10:36am - 3 more back to back calls, I didn't answer (Stupid, I know)
  • Wednesday Morning - 10:37am - Finally I answered

So I finally had enough, and answered the call.  "Hey, I'm sorry about all the calls. I just really wanted to get in touch with you". Yeah, no shit.  He then continued with typically rhetoric "Are you looking?", "No, I'm set", "Well let me ask you a question, do you get a lot of calls from recruiters?". Wow, this guy is really giving me the third degree sales pitch.  Did Comcast open a recruiting branch?

It then continued on with, "Well let me ask you this, what is it you like so much about MediaSilo?".  And "If you were to lose your job tomorrow, wouldn't you like to have a relationship established with a Boston area recruiter?".  This went on for some time and there was some other crap as well. I tried to be patient and polite, but he wasn't taking no for an answer.  I finally had to said thanks, but no thanks and hang up on him.

I fully expect a follow up call or seven at a later on. Surely he wouldn't give up so easily right?

So yes, recruiters, I do heart you and your services. You've helped on numerous occasions. But please, don't call me, I'll call you. K? Thanks.

Chicago and C2E2 2014

I just got back from a much needed vacation to Chicago. For the third time since 2011 , I attended the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo. C2E2, as it's called, has become one of my favorite comic events to attend. It's a great event that's both affordable and isn't completely overwhelming like New York or San Diego.

My parents traveled up from Bloomington, IL and spent the weekend in Chicago as well. It was nice to spend some time with them. Since moving to Boston I don't see them very often.  We spent Thursday together wandering around Chicago. It's always nice to reconnect with my old home. It's an awesome city. I miss it frequently.

Friday I spent the morning walking the show floor. I had a VIP ticket, so they let us on the floor with the pros at 10am. It was nice to have an hour with the floor largely empty. I picked up some show exclusives and a couple toys for my collection.  After they let everyone else on, I headed upstairs for some great panels, including one with writer Gail Simone (One of my favorite writers). After that I attended a panel with an assortment of DC writers and artists.  Finally I headed down to the main show floor (thank you VIP Pass for guaranteed premium seating) for a panel with Torchwood's "Gwen Cooper" - Eve Myles, and wrapped up the day with a Game of Thrones panel including Natalia Tena (Osha) and Kristian Narin (Hodor).

First thing Saturday, I spent some time walking through Artists Alley. I didn't buy any art this year, but I always leave these cons completely awed and inspired by the work of the artists attending. And with the intention of getting back to drawing myself.

One of this weekend's panels I was most excited to attend was the Power Rangers "Reunion" panel. Jason Narvy (Skull), Paul Schrier (Bulk), and Steve Cardenas (Rocky the 2nd Red Ranger) were ridiculously entertaining. I think we laughed more that panel than any all weekend. I finished up Saturday with a "24" reunion. Carlos Bernard (Tony Almeida), James Morrison (Bill Buchanan), and Louis Lombardi (Edgar Styles) were up on stage telling stories and fielding questions. Dani and I have been powering through all 8 seasons of the show the past couple months and are super excited for 24 Live Another Day.

I usually just got back on Sunday to wander around the floor a little more and maybe take in one last panel.  However there were a couple this time I had to see.  One was a special private event for Marvel Unlimited Plus members (subscribers of Marvel's digital comics app). We got some cool swag and were privy to some neat previews. Including some test footage from the new Ant Man Movie, which is going to be great.  And then I wrapped up my C2E2 weekend by seeing Stan Lee, in a Q&Q panel. This was my first time catching him live anywhere, so it was pretty special. Excelsior!!  Below are some pics I snapped from around the event.

One of the coolest parts of these show is all the amazing cosplayers that attend. So much time, energy and creativity goes into making these awesome costumes. And with a huge "Hero's of Cosplay" event going on Saturday night, awesome costumes were not in short supply. This is just a small sample of what was there.

I was sad when the weekend wrapped up. It was a great experience and a much needed vacation. I didn't want it to end. I came back feeling refreshed and inspired to be more creative.  I had said earlier that I wasn't planning on doing NYCC this year. But now I'm reconsidering. It's just too much fun!

May old 2013 ever be forgotten

As I sit here in the closing 36 hours of 2013 the first words that come to mind are, "thank fucking goodness this year is over!".  While this year has had it's highlights, those have been largely overshadowed by a couple of pretty crappy events.

The first being the Boston Marathon bombings. I was one of the unfortunate people to have a nearly front row seat to the awfulness from that day (which I wrote about here). While physically I came away unhurt, it still eats at my brain. It'll be hard to ever see the world the same way again. The other setback was tearing my ACL in my knee and having surgery the day after my birthday.  It's been tough going nearly six months so far without playing hockey. That's always been my primary stress relief and a major source of enjoyment.

But despite all of that, I also did have some pretty awesome stuff happen.  Dani and I went to Disney last January where we both took part in the half marathon through the parks.  I traveled to Chicago for the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo.  I got to do a little bit of sailing. I went to my first ever Stanley Cup finals game. And the Blackhawks beat the Bruins for their second Stanley up in four years (cough... 19 seconds... cough). And I finally got to see a bit of New York City, including my first trip to New York Comic Con.

I also switched jobs this year.  I left the creative agency behind and stepped into a lead development role with a young (start-upish) company.  It's been a crazy hectic year there, and I've put in a lot more time and work than I have in previous places. But I think in the end it will be worth it.  I also dissolved my LLC this year. I've decided to step back from extracurricular development for the most part so I can focus on some of my other interests.

So I sort of had this blog tradition of ever year going back over goals I set out the previous New Years and see how I did. And since I am one for tradition, here we go:

  • "In 2012 I went a little spend crazy on my toy collecting hobby.  2013 will bring fiscal responsibility."  - Eh... no comment
  • "Also in 2012 I kind of let my goal of not being a fat-ass go by the wayside.  I shall right that ship." - Torn ACL equaled sitting on my ass and getting fatter.
  • "Actually finish a personal project.  Time to rein in this project ADHD and actually finish one. Milkcap Museum, I'm looking at you!" - I am currently working on this now, so only half fail...
  • "Finally, I'd like to spend more time outdoors.  New England is beautiful, I must have more! Starting with finally learning to snowboard this month." - I did take a snowboard lesson, and went sailing a handful of times. So I tried right?

So not a lot of great accomplishments this year. But in my defense this has been a pretty rough year.  For 2014 my goals are less specific and more about being happier.

  1. Get my groove back. Spent way to much of 2013 depressed. It's time to be just be fucking awesome and not waste time with anyone who thinks otherwise!
  2. Live healthier... financially, physically, and emotionally.
  3. Draw something everyday. Doodle, sketch, illustration, whatever... Must. Be. More. Creative.

So yeah, that's about it other than a few pictures from the past twelve months below. Hoping everyone has a safe and Happy New Years!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Signing

To this day, my favorite, and arguably the best, comic book / cartoon / movie / toy lines is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  I still have vivid memories of being a young kid in the toy aisle of this store called Roses, seeing those first toys on the pegs. After that came the cartoons, Archie comic books, coloring books, movies, and years of my elementary school art teacher begging me to draw something other than a ninja turtle.

Last summer, on a trip up to Wells/Ogunquit Maine with the wife, we drove by this shop called Shellback Artworks on Rt 1.  The distinctively TMNT branded signage immediately drew me in. Turns out it's owned by an artist named Steve Lavigne.  He is known for his lettering and coloring work on the older Mirage TMNT comics. He wasn't there that time, but we took a spin around the shop, the art gallery upstairs, and met his wife.

Recently on Facebook, he announced a signing at the shop. Peter Laird, as in the Laird of "Eastman and Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" was going to be there along with TMNT artist Jim Lawson. I definitely couldn't pass that up. So I gathered up a few belongings to get signed and drove up for the afternoon. It was amazing!

I'm kind of shy, so I didn't really say much to them. But in the off chance that Peter Laird ever reads this, I wanted to say "Thank you for the Turtles. The characters have brought, and continue to bring, me hours of enjoyment in all their various incarnations."

Some pictures from the event and the items I got signed are below.

July 2013 Loot Crate Unboxing

Sorry I'm a bit late on this unboxing. I had knee surgery on the 19th, and hadn't had a chance to get to it quite yet. The theme for July is "Varsity". That fits with the fact that it's largely a "Video Game High School" (VGHS) themed box.

I wasn't familiar with VGHS prior to this months crate. OK, I honestly had never heard of the web series. So I found the entire series as a movie on Netflix and took a look. It was an interesting show. Nicely done and well produced. However I think the target demographic for the show is slightly younger than me. 

Anyways, onto the unboxing...

So right off the top, we see a newer, slightly larger shipping box. And inside we are met right away with a PEZ dispenser and some star wars head phones. Ok, good start.

Here's the full crate revealed. Here's the full rundown of what's included -

  • Star Wars Earbuds from Jazwares and Lucasfilms Ltd
  • Video Game High School Season 1 DVD Set from VGHS
  • Marvel Pez Dispenser from PEZ and Marvel
  • Video Game High School Button Set from VGHS
  • VGHS Stormtrooper Vinyl Sticker from Danger-Brain and VGHS
  • VGHS 'Emergency Wireless Keyboard' Pencil from Danger-Brain and VGHS
  • Sonic Air Freshener from Epic-Scents and Sega
  • Rocket Jump Vinyl Sticker from Rockery Jump

Here we've got all the VGHS themed  items in the crate. Nothing crazy exciting here for me. I wound up watching the show on Netflix like I mentioned earlier, so the DVD isn't terribly compelling. The storm trooper sticker is kinda cool. I'll find a place to stick that for sure.

The rest of the items are pretty sweet though. Star Wars ear buds... classy.

 Sonic air freshener... errr... fresh. That'll go up next to my Megaman Air Freshener from the February crate.

 PEZ Candy Dispenser... sweet.  Not a huge Captain America fan, would have rather had Wolverine, but them's the breaks. However I do like candy and it's been forever since I've had PEZ candy. Forgot how sugary yummy it is.

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