Monday, May 30, 2011

My Obsessive Personality: Legos Part 2

Yesterday, I confessed that I have an obsessive personality and started to introduce one of my obsessions, Lego minifigs.  Today, as promised, I share the rest of the picture series (so far) of pictures of my minifigs.  Like I mentioned yesterday, these are only the minifigs that I have collected as part of the mystery minifig series.

Radioactive Suit Guy, aka Fukashima Daiichi Guy
Rapper Dude, aka Marky Mark
Ray Gun Alien
Second Place Soccer Player
Strong Man
F1 Driver aka Michael Schumacher
Punk Rocker aka Jared Leto (or is it Jared Lego?)
Mad Scientist

Once I go through the effort of taking more pictures of minifigs (and the trouble of acquiring more from my parent's house), I'll probably resurrect this for a Part 3.  However, for now, enjoy the Legos!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

My Obsessive Personality: Legos Part 1.

I have a bit of a confession to make.  One of my faults is an obsessive personality.  When I come across something that I discover I have a thing for, I go a little overboard.  The problem for me is that there's not really any consistency to what I develop things for.  

A few weeks ago, I was bored while Katie was using the sewing machine and it was raining (hence, no painting anything), I decided to get a bit more experience with my close-up filters for my camera.  What better subjects, I thought, than two of my obsessions.  Since this weekend is World Steam Expo, I will be quite busy with that and unable to write up full and proper posts.  Instead, I will share with you the pictures from one of my obsessions, Lego minifigs.

Over the past two years or so, Lego has gotten in on the craze of a series of collectible figures, packaged in such a way that you never know what you get when you buy them.  That bit of uncertainty and surprise of opening the package is part of the fun.  For me, most of the fun comes from the Legos.  I've had Legos since I was a kid, and have always loved the minifigs.  

I warn you, these posts will be quite picture heavy.  Also, these are only the minifigs that I've picked up in the random packs, so you can imagine how long these posts would be if I shared all of my minifigs.

Female Tennis Player
Disco Guy with "Brick Fever" LP
Wicked Witch, Presumably of the West
Painter Guy, with Characteristically "Artistic" Facial Hair
Crash Test Dummy
Bronze Medalist Sumo Wrestler
Elven Archer
Semi-Hipster Skateboarder
The Creepiest Ringmaster Ever
 Tomorrow, I promise, there will be more.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Character Sneak Peak: Armed to the Teeth

I've mentioned before, if not on the blog at least on Twitter, that I'm debuting a character at World Steam Expo this year.  Morrison is a Scottish mercenary and assassin.  Basically, death for a kilt.  Since death is his entire purpose, it is only fitting that he'll be armed to the teeth.

Just a few days go, I wrapped up modding the last of the nerf guns that I'll have completed before the Expo, and I feel like sharing my handiwork.

 Above, you can see the complete arsenal.  The top gun is a modified Recon, the lower left is a modified Firefly, and the lower right is a little Maverick.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Beer! Dogfish Head's Sah'Tea

I've got to admit that there's a number of things that I'm a sucker for.  One of those things is something based upon something else that is super old, super rare, or super unusual.  It seems kind of fitting then, that one of the things I'm a sucker for is beer based on an ancient recipe.  Dogfish Head, then is an enabler.  Their Ancient Ales program is one of the best beer ideas that I've ever heard of.  I've had a few brews from the series, but this is the first I've reviewed on the blog.  I will review the others when I get them again.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What Makes the UP Special, Part 2

In the previous post in this series, I started to explain why the UP is a special place.  So special, in fact, that when somebody born and raised there moves, away, they feel like they're living in a foreign land, hence the name of the blog.  I talked about how remote the region is, and the amazing bridge that connects it to the rest of the state of Michigan.  This time, I'm going to start out with an abbreviated time line of Upper Peninsula history, which I'll reference in future posts.

A Brief History of the Upper Peninsula

Roughly 3 billion years ago, the Earth was littered with huge volcanic eruptions.  These eruptions covered most of the western half of the UP with iron and copper.  This left the surface of the western half of the UP nearly eight hundred feet higher than the eastern half and provided the iron and copper that would later allow the UP to develop one of the healthiest mining industries in the country.

Somewhere around 10,000 years ago, the most recent ice age gave the UP (and the rest of the Great Lakes Region) it's current shape.  The scraping of glaciers over two miles thick tore the land of the UP down to, or near, bedrock.  This stripped the area of most of the fertile soil, making growing in the area remarkably difficult without heavily fertilizing the crops.

Just over 1,200 years ago, the UP's first permanent settlers, the Ojibwe (oh-jib-way) and Menominee  (men-o-min-ee) indian tribes came to the area.  They subsided primarily on fish caught in the lakes and rivers of the Upper Peninsula, using nets to catch their food.  

In 1620, the first known European to set foot in the UP crossed the St. Mary's River, which now forms the US/Canada border in the area.  The explorer, named Etienne BrulĂ© was seeking a route to the far East for King Louis XIII of France.

During the 1760's the British defeated the French for control of the region.  They also gained control of most of the Great Lakes Region.  In 1779, they built Fort Mackinac (mack-a-naw) on Mackinac Island to help defend against the Americans.  By the turn of the century, the British lost control of the region to the Americans.

While the British controlled the region, they established a thriving fur trade in the region.  The fur trade was later monopolized by the businessman John Jacob Astor, who later withdrew entirely from fur trading (leading to it's decline after the 1830's) in order to buy up all of the land of Manhattan Island, including land that extended far beyond the current city limits of New York City.   

During the 1840's, the copper and iron from the volcanic blasts billions of years earlier are "discovered".  Mines were established throughout the Keweenaw (key-wah-naw) for copper mining, while iron mines were established southwest of Marquette (mar-keht).  To keep order throughout this region, the federal government established Fort Wilkins, an Army base near Copper Harbor.  Fort Wilkins is now a Historic State Park.

In 1855, the Soo Locks opened in Sault Ste. Marie (Soo Saint Marie) and greatly eased the shipping of copper and iron ore from the Upper Peninsula to the Lower Great Lakes region. Eventually, the Soo Locks would ship a greater tonnage than either the Panama or Suez Canals.  

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Beer! Detroit Brewing Company's Sanders Chocolate Stout

Anybody who's met me knows that I love supporting local businesses and companies.  This love grows even stronger when two of those businesses get together and release a product that showcases the best of both of their businesses.  This is just the case with the Sanders Chocolate Stout from Detroit Brewing Company.

Sanders is a Detroit based chocolatier and candy maker that's been a staple of southeast Michigan since 1875.  While they now operate only nine stores (including one newly opened on Mackinaw Island!), Sanders once operated at fifty seven locations across the Detroit metro area and served up not just candies and chocolates, but also ice cream sundaes and their incredibly popular ice cream sodas. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Steampunk Interviews: The Talented Nick Valentino

Apparently, I'm not too terrible at interviewing people.  After my interview with the fabulous O.M. Grey last month, Mr. Nick Valentino agreed to sit down and answer a few questions.

I met Nick last year at the World Steam Expo.  Nick's book Thomas Riley was so popular at the expo that he sold out by early Saturday afternoon, but took down the names and addresses of fans who still wanted a copy.  The con ended Monday evening and by Friday afternoon, I had a signed copy of the book arrive in my mailbox.  Nick will be returning to the World Steam Expo again this year, this time with the lovely Liz Darvill along with him.  Hopefully, he brings enough copies of Thomas Riley this year.

B.S.:  First, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to sit down and answer a few questions.

N.V.:  Thank you so much! I’m honored that you asked.

B.S.:  What is it about steampunk that appeals to you?

N.V.:  Originally, I really got into steampunk through Hayao Miyazaki. A lot of his movies have strong steampunk elements to them. I absolutely loved Nausicca and the Valley of The Wind when I was little and it grew from there. I love the ingenuity in steampunk. Everything from costuming to literature to the concepts that exist in steampunk. SO many people have such amazing ideas, I’m constantly impressed with the ideas that people come up with.

B.S.:  Tell me a little about your book, Thomas Riley.

N.V.:  Thomas Riley is number one of three books in the series that follows a pair of government sponsored weapons designers as they struggle to help their country, West Canvia in a twenty year war against their neighbors, Lemuria. They’re constantly bombarded with new over the top plots and devices by their enemies and they are confronted with near constant life or death situations that have them literally living the adventure of a lifetime.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Yooper Steampunk Goes Political

I don't often talk of politics on this blog (anymore), but I want to bring you a special post today which addresses a topic that I'm much more passionate about than others: marriage equality.

I've explained may times in many different venues that the problem with the argument for or against marriage equality is that the term "marriage" is easily confused.  When marriage equality activists, myself included, talk of marriage, we speak of the legally recognized union of two people.  We talk of what amounts to a contract in which two people agree that in return for certain obligations and requirements, they are rewarded with certain rights and privileges.  When anti-marriage equality activists speak of marriage, what they speak of is a religious ceremony which celebrates the spiritual joining of two individuals.  

My hometown newspaper, the Escanaba Daily Press recently ran a letter which the writer sent to the speaker of the US House of Representatives as well as their congressman.  The original text can be found here, which is also reprinted below.
I just read in my issue of USA Today, dated April 19, 2011, that you intend to divert funds from the Justice Department to the House to pay for defending the 1996 law defining marriage between a man and a woman because Attorney General Eric Holder has stated that he can't or won't defend such law. I thought our Constitution required the AG to defend any law passed by Congress. Right?
Of course, our nation has sunk to a new low when it comes to supporting differences in how God created all of us. It seems that President Obama wants us all to be the same, as that can't really be!
We wanted you to know that my wife and I support your position in seeking to have the House of Representatives support the 1996 law defining marriage as between a man and a woman before any federal court of law. Money appropriated to the Department of Justice is taxpayer monies. We support the transfer of funds to the House of Representatives to defend this 1996 law.
Civil unions are another matter.
Robert and Ruth Gifford
Rapid River
There used to be a time where I'd immediately fire off a emotionally charged and harsh response to a letter like this (and I admit this time was as recent as last year), but I decided to take a more measured approach.  

Rather than explain my thought process behind my response, I'd rather you just read it.  Just as with the original letter, the original text can be found here, but I've also reprinted it below. 

In their letter dated April 28, Robert and Ruth Gifford said, "I thought our Constitution required the AG to defend any law passed by Congress. Right?" They thought wrong. The U.S. Constitution doesn't require the Attorney General to defend any laws. In fact, the U.S. Constitution doesn't even require them to exist. How's that? The U.S. Constitution makes no mention of the position at all. In fact, strictly speaking, this holds true for all cabinet departments. There are other members of the cabinet who do not head U.S. departments.
Additionally, Attorney General Eric Holder already doesn't defend U.S. laws. That's the job of the Department of Justice. While it is true that the Attorney General heads the Department of Justice, he wouldn't be stepping in front of the court to defend a given law unless directed to by the President or requested to by another department secretary.
When he spoke to the Apostles, Paul stated that God "has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth" (Acts 17:26). Contrary to what the Giffords state, it is not President Obama who says that we are all the same; it is the very God they worship who does!
We are all human beings. Whether we are of different skin colors, genders, nationalities, sexual orientations, religions, political beliefs, or different in any other way, we are all entitled to be treated as equals. Whatever basis an individual finds for belief that marriage (as defined by the Bible) is to be only between a man and a woman, we must all recognize that marriage (as defined by the law) cannot exclude anybody.
When Emma Lazarus writes in her legendary sonnet The New Colossus of giving us your tired, your poor, your wretched refuse of your teeming shore, and more, she doesn't exclude anybody for a reason. This fine country was founded on the very belief that all of humanity deserves the same rights, privileges, responsibilities, protections, and requirements. This is what it means to be an American. This is why I will stand against those whom fight against the rights of any living being, big or small, until I draw my very last breath.
Bryan J. Sebeck
Canton, Mich.
If I had more words available (I'm known for easily hitting the word count limits of these sorts of letters and wanted to keep it somewhat shorter this time), I would have taken the effort to explain the significance of the Emma Lazarus poem. The New Colossus was written by Emma Lazarus as a part of an effort to raise funds to build the base upon which the Statue of Liberty stands.  There is a brass plaque inside this base which bears the complete text of the poem.

The United States lags far behind the rest of the industrialized world when it comes to equality of rights for not just GLBT couples, but individuals as well.  If America wants to claim to be the best country in the world (which is loves to boast but has little data to support the claim), this must change.  Equal rights for all living individuals is imperative.  While there are many, many things that need to be fixed for this to happen.  However, as an engineer, I find that it is best to begin by picking the low hanging fruit.  Marriage equality is that low hanging fruit.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

What Makes the UP Special, Part 1

Recently it occurred to me that while I've titled this blog A Yooper Steampunk Abroad and I often speak about the UP being unlike anyplace else on Earth, I haven't gone into any kind of detail as to why the UP is so special.  This is especially troublesome as my readership slowly grows and not all of the people reading this know what the UP is like, or even that it exists.  This is unacceptable.  As a result, I'm going to spend a little time explaining why the UP is such an amazing place and Yoopers are such amazing people.  Keep in mind that these things are in no particular order.

It's So Remote That It Doesn't Exist

There's a long running frustration and joy of Yoopers that I find just plain amusing.  Due to it's incredibly remote nature, and Michigan being the only discontiguous US state, many maps actually leave the Upper Peninsula entirely off.  Think I'm joking?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wedding Preview: Tea Cups Part 3

After this post, I'll have revealed fifteen of the tea cups which will make appearances at my and Katie's wedding.  In total, we have over one hundred.  While I doubt that I'll be able to share all one hundred with you before the wedding, I'll make sure that you see a decent number of them.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Beer! Arcadia Ales Barrel Aged Shipwreck Porter

This is what a beer looks like when it's trying to look old, regal, and rare.  The Arcadia Ales Shipwreck Porter is barrel aged and individually wax sealed.  

Normally, I'd share some flavor text with you right about now but the bottle has none.  Instead, I'll share a little bit more about what I've learned about this beer from various other sources, since the Arcadia website is mysteriously devoid of any information on the barrel aged version of their Shipwreck Porter.

Here's what another website says is a statement from Arcadia that came out shortly after this beer was released:
 "Yes the long anticipated release is finally here. This Baltic-style Porter has a robust malt character and a slightly herbal hop bitterness. Aged this past year for 14 months in 22 year old Kentucky Bourbon Oak Barrels, this alluring dark liquid features appealing undertones of vanilla and oak, cocoa and coffee. The aging occurs in abandoned mines in Michigan, at a constant temperature of 45'F. This year Arcadia has redesigned this package. It will come in a stunning Black 12oz bottle with a semi metallic label. We also have added candle wax to seal the cap. It will also be package to a count of 12 to a case. At 12% ABV and at 50 IBU'S this is a very special beer, in very limited amounts. please reserve your amounts today."