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Outings & Events

2013 Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo


This post is quite a bit late in coming, but I wanted to revisit my awesome weekend in Chicago. I had originally planned on going to this show's sister show, the New York Comic Con this past October. But due to having my place to stay fall through and it being absurdly expensive to get a motel room in Manhattan, I had to call it off.  So I just pivoted and planned a trip to the Chicago show instead. I went two years ago, and it was a blast.

I made sure to be at the show first thing on Friday. I wanted to hit the show floor before all the craziness happened. The size of the show was so much bigger this year than in 2011. By the time I finished walking all of it, I was exhausted. I wound up finding several toys that had been eluding me for a while including a MOTUC Roboto, a mint on the card Silverhawks Quicksilver figures, and a vintage Hoard Trooper figure from the He-Man toy line. All super awesome stuff. I even took in a show the varient stage where a group was performing the entire "Once More with Feeling" musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Very Entertaining.

New this year was a section of the floor called "The Block" which was like Artist's Alley, but for people who make comic and entertainment related toys and other goods. Lots of cool indie action figures, art toys and all kinds of neat stuff.

I didn't make it back on Saturday. The good friends I stayed with offered up a trip to the zoo instead. I couldn't pass it up. Spending a day with friends was just what I needed to take my mind off of the awful events from a couple weeks prior.  Such a blast.

Sunday I made it back in for a while. The floor was SUPER crowded at this point. Since the last day is "Family Day", there was a lot more children and people in general. I was really glad I did the floor on Friday.  The one panel of the show I actually made it to all weekend was the "Drawing DC" panel where you got to watch several DC artists including Chris Burnham, Patrick Gleason, and Doug Mahnke sketch on a projector while they talk about what they do and answer audience questions. It was my favorite panel in 2011 and this one didn't disappoint either. You can see one of Burnham's sketches below.

All in all it was a great weekend. And while I did miss quite a bit of the panels, I still highly enjoyed spending time on the floor and see all the amazing artwork in Artist's Alley and The Block.  Below are some pictures from the event.

Running through Disney

Well it's been almost two weeks since we've been back.  I guess it's finally time that I blogged about it.  I think once Dani heard about the Run Disney races, there was little chance that we would not be doing them. Right away we decided to take part in the 2013 Disney World Half Marathon, which coincidentally was the 20th anniversary of the race.  This race part of an entire marathon weekend which consisted of a 5k on Friday morning, the half marathon on Saturday morning and a full marathon Sunday morning.  Those that had lost their mind could compete in the "Goofy Challenge", which was doing both the half and the full marathons on adjacent days.

2013 Run Disney Marathon Weekend

So Dani, her parents, and myself went down for a long weekend to enjoy the race and some fun-filled days at the various Disney parks. We wound up staying at one of the Disney "budget" resorts - Caribbean Beach resort.  It's not a terribly luxurious place, much more suited for families.  But it was still pretty fun.  We had this pirate themed room which I thought was pretty awesome.  And it was nice that there was shuttles right outside the door that would take you to almost any of the Disney properties.

Our room at Caribbean Beach Resort

We landed in Orlando late Thursday afternoon. After we finally got checked in pretty much all we had time for was to head over to Downtown Disney for some dinner. Friday morning we were up early to go to the race expo and get our race bibs before getting to Hollywood Studios. (Formerly MGM Studios for those of you, like myself, have not been in many years) This is my favorite park.  It has the best rides - Aerosmith Rockin' Coaster and Tower of Terror - and some of the best attractions - Star Tours, Toy Story, and the Muppets.  But I think the thing that really sealed the deal for me was after walking out of the Muppet 3D show we ran smack into Phineas and Pherb. Of course we had to stop and get our pictures taken!

Phineas, Tori, and Pherb

After taking in a late afternoon dinner we went to be early. By early I mean 7pm. Our alarms were set for 2:30 am so that we would be ready to jump on the first 3am shuttle bus to the race start.  We were dropped off at the race festivities area which was in the Epcot parking lot. About 4am we all took a short 20 minutes walk over to the start line.  It was a huge race so there were tons of corrals. And as you would imagine there was a ton of pre-race stars, interviews, and eventually fireworks.  The race itself had its highs and lows.  The course took us down the highway around the front entrance to Magic Kingdom, and then into a back lot entrance into the park.  We ran through several of the "towns", through the castle and back out another side door.  The rest of the race was largely spent running along back roads near some of the resorts, then on the highway, and eventually the last mile and a half was into the front of Epcot, around the fountain and back out the entrance to finish in the parking lot.

Half Marathon Start Line

Overall the race was a good experience.  I was disappointed that we had very little park time.  But they did a good job of having characters and things to look at all over the course. Unfortunately because of my slower speed and corral position towards the back, the lines for photos at these characters were 20-30 people deep. I never felt like I had time to stop.  The other issue was that it was unseasonably hot.  The first half of the race was in the dark with temps in the low 60s. By the time I finished though, it was sunny in the mid-upper 70s and 80% humidity. With no shade I thought I was going to die. After three hours and some change I finally crossed the finish line and got this epic Donald Duck medal.

Donald Duck Half Marathon Medal

The rest of that day was spent at Magic Kingdom including an awesome character dinner with Pooh, Tiger, Piglet and Eeyore. Sunday we enjoyed Epcot, and Monday we took in Animal Kingdom before our evening flight back to Boston.  It was a fantastic trip and there is already talk of going back in 2015. Dani wants to run the Goofy Challenge on it's 10 year anniversary.  I think I'll let her do that one on her own!  There's a few more selected pictures below, and can see the full picture set here:

Star Tours

Under the Sea

Dani "Minny Mouse" Holmes-Kirk

Tori, Piglet, and Dani

Animal Kingdom

Snowboarding 101

This may not seem like a big deal to a lot of people, but to me I was able to finally accomplish something I have wanted to do ever since I was in high school. Today I went snowboarding.  After quite a few years of winters coming and going without ever getting out on the slopes, I decided this was the year it was going to happen. To help motivate myself, I picked a board and bindings set at a Black Friday sale. I found out my friend Kim was taking a beginners class at Black Mountain in Jackson, NH this weekend.  She was nice enough to let me tag along. So this morning I made the almost three-hour drive up from Boston.

Black Mountain Lodge

Three of us had an hour and a half lesson with a couple of really attentive instructors. In the back of my mind I had hoped that the bit of athleticism I have garnered from playing hockey would immediately make me awesome at this.  Sadly that was the opposite of what happened.  My training as a hockey goalie keeps me balanced on the front of my feed. This doesn't work so well on a snowboard, the first half of the class I couldn't manage to stay on my heels resulting in several head first tumbles when I caught my toe edge.

The mountain has horse back riding in the warmer months.

Since I couldn't "get it", one of the instructors spent most of the time working with me one on one.  He was super encouraging and did his best to help me figure things out.  Towards the end of the class I was finally able to complete a few runs down the hill without falling on my face or ass.

Didn't make it off the bunny hill.

We took a break for lunch and beers. Afterwards, I went back out and did a few more runs, but was pretty much exhausted from earlier.  So I headed home shortly there after.  All in all it was a very fun day and a good introduction to the sport. Hopefully with a few more  days on the slopes, and probably some more lessons, I will get the hang of this.  Here's a few more pictures from today.

Bunny hill complete with tow rope

 Riding... look down the hill between the two people.

Kim and I taking a short rest.

Maine in the fall

Since moving to New England last February, I've quickly discovered and have grown fond of Maine.  Dani and I have taken several trips up there over the past 9 months.  We've visited Camden, our friend's rural lake house in Monmouth, and had also took several trips to the Wells / Ogunquit area.  This past Saturday we spent a lovely Saturday afternoon in Ogunquit. Since it's the end of the season, we were expecting a quiet weekend. So we were a bit surprised when we found ourselves in the middle of a busy Octoberfest weekend.  After enjoying a delicious lunch at Cornerstone Pizza, we walked around for a bit, eventually making our way across the bridge to the beach. Holy crap was the tide in!  We had never seen the water as high or the waves as large there as they were on Saturday.  Below are some pictures we took and a video showing just how beautiful the ocean was!

Aloha Hawaiian Honeymoon

A year ago after Dani and I got married, we decided to wait to take our honeymoon until this fall.  We talked about a few different options... Europe, Mexico, maybe Costa Rica. I really wanted to visit Hawaii.  So I searched online and eventually found a travel package that we could afford. We spent an amazing week on the island of Oahu at the Aston, Waikiki. Before I get into the details of the trip, I have a confession to make. I fell completely in love with Hawaii.  Everything about the place really resonated with me.  It's beautiful. The weather is fantastic. The people are friendly.  The Hawaiian culture is awesome.  I love the "hang loose" attitude so many people there enjoy.  There doesn't seem to be the rush and hustle there. I loved how they hang on to so much of the customs and language of the native islanders.  It's just so much fun.  I want to go back.  I would love to live there at some point.  I'm using it as motivation for my businesses. I want to be successful so I can create the opportunities for my family to experience Hawaii in the future.  And I am going to incorporate as much of the island culture into my everyday life as possible - starting with my business.

Waikiki Beach - Click to view more photos

Waikiki Beach - Click to view more photos

Anywhoose, lets get back to the trip shall we...

We spent six full days on the island, so we were able to do quite a bit. The first couple days we did a lot of relaxing. We spend some time at the beach, explored the Waikiki area, and treated ourselves to a lomi lomi massage.  The following three days we had arranged for some excursions through an activities desk in the hotel.  Monday morning was our first trip. We boarded a tour bus and were taken over to Pearl Harbor to view the USS Arizona memorial and tour the Battleship Missouri which is moored in that harbor.  We also got a special treat as we saw the USS Makin Island LDH-8 come into port while we were there. I've heard time and time again how humbling an experience visiting the USS Arizona memorial is.  It was so much more powerful than I expected. Both Dani and I were happy that we were able to visit and better understand that incredible bit of history.

Pearl Harbor - Click to view more photos

Pearl Harbor - Click to view more photos

The next day, our second excursion took us to an "authentic" Hawaiian luau.  There are a few different large luau productions on the island.  After going over them, we settled on what many considered one of the best, Germaine's Luau.  It's kind of like a big dinner slash picnic slash show. They had a large buffet of traditional and more modern hawaiian foods.  The food was absolutely ono (Hawaiian word for delicious). The show was a lot of fun too. They show cased dancing styles from a variety of different islands including Hawaii, Tahiti, and others.  There's a video of some of the dancing following the pictures.

Germaine's Luau - Click to view more photos

Germaine's Luau - Click to view more photos

Our final big excursion was probably my favorite experience of the trip. We signed up for a morning dolphin cruise and snorkeling adventure.  Neither Dani nor I had ever gone snorkeling before, so we were both very excited to try it out.  The trip wound up being more than either one of us expected.  After setting sail, we traveled out of the harbor where we saw the Black Pearl ship from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie sitting in dry dock. After about 15 minutes or so, we found a pod of about 30 bottle nose dolphins swimming by. We followed them for about 30 minutes watching them swim around and one of them even jumped out of the water.  Soon after we found a stop to moor the boat about half a mile out.  They set us up with gear, a bit of instruction and we got in the water. Wow, it was like swimming in a giant salt water aquarium.  Right away we were surrounded by beautiful tropical fish swimming through the reefs, and four beautiful green sea turtles just hanging out.  One of them came up for air directly in front of me, it was just unbelievable! After what seemed like the quickest hour ever, we were back on the boat for a nice lunch and a couple mai tais.  We had a photographer there with us to capture everything, so I will share those photos here.

Snorkeling - Click to view more photos

Snorkeling - Click to view more photos

The rest of the time on the island we did some exploring. We drove up to the north shore - which I can honestly say is the most beautiful place I've ever been. There is a beach up there where Hawaiian green sea turtles always come to. So we stopped there for a bit.  We also took a hike to the top of the diamond head crater, which provided ridiculous views of the island.  Driving up the eastern coast of the island the scenery was beautiful. We even spotted a location we recognized from the tv show Lost.  And finally, I was able to do something I had always wanted to do... attempt to surf.  I took a lesson down on Waikiki beach. Thanks to the super calm conditions I even rode a few waves in. So much fun.

Turtle Beach - Click to view more photos

Turtle Beach - Click to view more photos

Honolulu from Diamond Head - Click to view more photos

Honolulu from Diamond Head - Click to view more photos

Well that was our trip in a nutshell.  Like I said, I really fell in love with the place and can't wait to go back. Well time to get back to work and get some practice time in on my new ukulele! Aloha and Mahalo for reading this!

September Creative Mornings, Making Stuff, and Learning

Jake Nickell

I'm a bit late with this recap from the Chicago Creative Mornings lecture for September. I just finished up my last week working full-time for John Marshall, and things have been a bit hectic. The September talk was given by Threadless founder Jake Nickell at their headquarters and warehouse over on W. Madison.  He talked a bit about the history of Threadless and the process they went through from a basic website run from his apartment to the t-shirt juggernauts they are now.  I always find it incredibly inspiring to hear about someone taking an idea from a very simple first execution through to a really amazing product.

He then went on to talk about making stuff.  I couldn't help but to be motivated and moved by his passion for making things.  He strongly advocated for just getting out there and making something.  Make something new everyday.  Make things with your friends. If you have a great idea, just get out there and start making it. You don't need a business plan, or anything fancy and formal.  Just grab a friend, and start making.  In fact, the company recently changed their slogan to "Make Great Together". This could be seen painted in neon colors in a large t-shirt framed t-shirt art piece on the wall above him.  It's so clear once you enter the building, that the employees are encouraged to make new art to share within the space. I really took a lot away from this talk.  I recognize in myself that I have the tendency to try to over plan a project, or wait for things to be perfect to get started.   And it's a good reminder that it's not the case.  Take an idea and just start making. The video for this lecture has not been posted as of this blog, but you can see past Chicago CM lectures on Vimeo here.

What made this so perfect is how it really ties in with another one of my passions, learning.  I truly enjoy learning new skills, programing languages, techniques, and trends. And I've always found the best way to learn these new things is simply to start making with them.  I have recently started learning how to build web applications with Ruby on Rails.  After going over some tutorials, I dove right in and started building a project.  It's slow going at first, and I still have to look a good number of things up, but having a project to work on keeps me motivated.  The more I work on making this project, the better I will get at the skills I'm trying to master.  For another example: I was presented with a potential contract job by a creative staffing agency.  The client was looking for someone to build out a mobile website using jQuery mobile. While I am very proficient with HTML and jQuery, I had never used this new mobile library that had recently been released.  So I read up on the software, and went right to building a mobile website for my company utilizing the library.  It took me a couple of days, but when I was finished I had a lot better grasp on the software than I would have just reading the documentation. While I wound up not getting the gig, I was extremely happy to have been prompted to learn this new skill.

So to summarize: Stop waiting, start making. Everyday. You'll probably learn new stuff along the way. And chicks dig smart peeps.

Also, if you are in/near Chicago, you should definitely go see their space. They have a store up front where you can buy tees. Totally worth the trip.

C2E2 Weekend 2011

C2E2 Floor Entrance

Well C2E2 is over and done with.  But oh man, was it a blast!  Aside from a short time at a comic/manga convention in Florida years ago, this was my first time at a true comic con.  I wasn't really sure what to expect, but I decided to go (almost) all in and purchase the weekend VIP package.  (For $50 more I could have gotten the Chris Hemsworth private signing event, but honestly that wasn't such a big deal to me.)

Masters of the Universe Figure Display

I took off work Friday just so I could be there right when the convention floor opened.  First things first I immediately made a rush to the line for wristbands that gave the wearer the ability to purchase the convention exclusive DC figures later in the day.  After that I spent the majority of the time walking around the convention floor.  It's both amazing and overwhelming all the awesome things they have there.  I would start listing them, but it would take many many pages.  Needless to say they had lots of cool toys, comics, apparel, and art.

Gaming was another large part of this convention.  Both tabletop and video games were well represented.  I took part in a beginners magic tournament Friday afternoon.  Unfortunately I didn't do so well with that.  But it was a great learning experience, and I still walked away with a couple promo cards.

I think my favorite part of the floor was the artists alley.  Walking up and down the isles checking out the artwork and watching the artists sketch was just amazing.  The talent there was breathtaking and incredibly inspirational.  They were in large part the catalyst behind me starting my sketch a day journal here.  I picked up a few prints for myself which can be seen here.

TAPS Ghosthunters Steve Gonsalves and Dustin Pari

The rest of my time that at the con was spent at various shows and panels.  The Comedy Death Ray show Friday night was simply amazing.  Patton Oswalt and the other comics brought out the best of their nerd centric material and had us all laughing our asses off.  I wish everyone could have seen the guy next to me durning the show.  He was SO into it.  The panels I attended Saturday included a discussion of the animation industry by JJ Sedelmaier of Saturday Night Live cartoon fame, a Q&A with TAPS Ghosthunters Steve Gonsalves and Dustin Pari, and finally, my favorite, a live sketching session with a few of the awesome DC Comic artists Ivan Reis, Doug Mahnke and Tyler Kirkham.

It was a fantastic weekend and there was still so much more I didn't get to see!  I'm very much looking forward to next years show!

Tall Ships at Navy Pier

Tall Ships Festival

Last week I took Dani for a date night down to Navy Pier to see the tall ships festival.  Being from Boston, she had see tall ships several times in her life before, but this was a first for me.  It was a really neat experience.

They had 10-12 boats docked at various places around the pier, many of which you could board and tour.  Since it was a tourist attraction there were a lot of people running about which sometimes made it difficult to really get to explore them like I would have liked to.  But all in all it was a lot of fun.  I think having just recently learned the fundamentals of sailing helped me really appreciate the boats all the more.  I've added a few pics to a gallery on my blog here. The rest are viewable on my flickr stream.

Club Sail Noob

Tonight I went to my first club sailing outing at Chicago Sailing.  They actually have these two or three times a week, but Tuesday nights they have a cook out.  I had already spoken with the instructor from my beginners class, Rick, and arranged to meet and sail with him.  When I got there we met up with another of his students from a previous class. 

Sunset Over Chicago

One of the 24 foot J boats was available so the three of us took it out for the evening.  It was a bit of a rough go at first. When I originally rigged the main sail, I hadn't realized that the previous people that had used the boat had somehow wrapped the sail around the boom.  So we had to bring the sail back down and work all those issues out.  But once we got the sail up correctly, we were on our way.

Our course pretty much took us out to the Wilson Avenue water crib and back.  The lake was pretty much as flat as it gets, and there wasn't a whole lot of wind.  But we managed to find enough to get us out and back without using the motor.  A couple of times we sat for a bit, but overall it was a very nice relaxing cruise on a gorgeous evening.  And to wrap it all up, we were greeted with hamburgers and brats back at the dock.  All in all, a pretty fantastic evening.  Looking forward to doing it again next week.