Thursday, August 31, 2017

Lolli and Pops; French Market, Downtown Chicago

Quick mid-week post.  During one of the interviews downtown I had the pleasure of discovering Lolli and Pops in the French Market at Ogilvie Station.  The truffles were all so pretty that I had a hard time deciding which ones to select.  Yeah I know that someone only making part-time wages shouldn't be splurging sixteen bucks on four truffles, but damn these things are big and beautiful.  More importantly, the truffles were a little something for wifey, who's courage in moving to the U.S., ability to get a job at the kid's elementary school and patience in dealing with me is greatly appreciated.  She's worth every bit of the sixteen dollars spent!  

As an aside, what's particularly frustrating is that nearly one month later, I still haven't heard back from the large publisher I interviewed with after the interviewer told me the next step would be for me to meet the rest of the team...  Why lead me on and then not have the courtesy to tell me they aren't interested?  Worse yet, my status inquiries have been ignored.  Maybe that's a sign how the company is run and I should be glad I'm not joining them.  Anyhoo, at least I got some awesome truffles as a result of my haul downtown.

Here are some pics:
When you get a box like this, you know you've paid for quality or at least an expensive box.
The Fab Four!
Wifey thought the black cat was a mouse.  This guy was creamy dark chocolate delight.
My favorite here, the key lime truffle, really smooth taste.
Perfect mix of dark chocolate and sea salt caramel on this one.  My wife's favorite of the bunch I think.
This birthday cake truffle was the big guy of the box. Pleasantly not too sweet.
Thanks for the read and talk later during the weekend!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Gotta Catch Them While You Can; Review of Chuck E. Cheese; Nationwide But At the Darien, Illinois Location

When I heard that Chuck E. Cheese is removing the animatronics, I immediately knew that the kids had to experience the terror of my childhood birthday parties.  As an aside, I recently accepted a three-month role with a medical device company downtown, so the Chuck E. Cheese visit was a bit of a celebration of our ability to survive that much longer.  So, on Friday night we hopped into the car and headed to the Darien, Illinois Chuck E. Cheese after confirming that location had the full fab five Chuck E. Cheese band.   Other locations like the Villa Park and Naperville (two western Chicagoland suburbs) only have one animatronic, Chuck E. Cheese himself.

Without verifying the facts, much like our present embattled administration, I feel that Chuck E. Cheese and its one time rival, Showbiz Pizza, sprung up in the late 70's to emulate the success Disney had with its Country Bear Jamboree and to a lesser extent, the Tropical Tiki Room.  Those two attractions feature singing and sometimes instrument-playing animatronic animals.  Of course, the restaurants didn't nearly have the Disney resources like Imagineers and 24-hour maintenance, but the results weren't too bad- the Country Bear Jamboree located in every other metropolitan suburb!!!

What I remember as a child about Chuck E Cheese/Showbiz Pizza was:
  • A terribly dark animatonics dining room;
  • Large gigantic animatronics that creepily seemed to be watching me;
  • Horribly tasting pizza that had rubbery cheese; 
  • An awesome automated personal helium balloon making machine;
  • A smelly ball pit with an urban legend that the finder of the golden ball got 100 free tokens;
  • Running out of tokens hours before my fellow birthday party attendees did; 
  • Being forced to simply watch others play games because I had no tokens left; and 
  • More eerie monitoring by gigantic animatronics.
You aren't officially paroled into the game area/restaurant until you place your order.
To start, to my horror there are no more tokens!  All of your tokens are put on a credit card-like pass.  As expected, kids lose these cards like none other and our nice hostess told us that in the event a little one loses a card, a replacement can be obtained by showing the cashier a receipt.  We had a coupon and ordered a large pizza, four drinks and cards with 90 tokens-worth of credit for $43.99.  Not bad at all. 
The dining room wasn't dark but rather wide, well-lit and spacious.  No curtains between sets!
Well, the dining room was not dark at all.  There was no curtain that opens to reveal the band each music set; rather, the animatronics are exposed the entire Chuck E. Cheese experience.  
Maybe 5'8", not 10' as I remember

And well, they aren't as big as I remember.  They do blink constantly and some had a half-blink problem that evidenced repair was needed.
Look into my eye...
My seven-year old was scared and asked me if the animatronics were meant to be scary, which resulted in a good chuckle amongst the family.
Did they retrofit a purple costume over the gorilla dude's skin?
I makea' da' shoes!!!
The band didn't play pop hits as I remember and they just weren't loud enough.  Verdict- upgrade (or removal) is needed.  I guess this is why Chuck E. Cheese is making the dramatic change.  Also, no one was really watching the show either.

Not bad at all.
But- which poll are they referring to, the one among Chuck E Cheese marketing executives?
The pizza wasn't too bad.  It was significantly better than frozen pizza, Ci Ci's Pizza and the Shakey's Buffet in the Tokyo area, but in my opinion, still below Pizza Hut and Domino's.  The crust had a nice garlicky quality to it and the cheese wasn't rubbery.
No more ball pit!!! Let me let that sink in. No more ball pit!!!
The ball pit and tube climbing structure was gone!  Perhaps too much of a health risk with poopy diapers, unwashed hands and kids having accidents in the pit?  Since the girls are seven and ten, we didn't miss the play area.  So with the extinction of the ball pit, I assume the urban golden ball legend died too.  The tables, restrooms and game area was surprisingly clean, which impressed us.
Let's mine for thar' gold!!!
Hell's yes.  I still only win two tickets each time I play.
Simpson's ticket game!
I bet the kids understand this one.  Only the kids though.
No more arcade games or automatic balloon machine.  Instead it was all ticket games.  90 tokens-worth of credit lasted almost three hours.  We were very happy about this.  At other game centers, the kids would be done in after half an hour with the same amount of credits.  Also, all of the games were only one credit, which probably explained the great length of time we had playing.
The prizes were a bit to be desired but who cares if the kids got three hours of fun out of a 43-dollar dinner.
We left Chuck E. Cheese with a handful of Tootsie Rolls and Air Heads prizes, a semi-full stomach, nice pictures with the soon-to-be removed and not too overly scary animatronics and a bit of nostalgia sadness that Chuck E. Cheese had changed so much from my childhood.   It was a really fun time though, and I recommend that all of you experience this bit of 80's Americana before it changes to something that is completely different from our memories.  Thanks for the read.  

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Gen Con 2017: Geekdom at its Finest; Indianapolis, Indiana

I finally made it out to Gen Con and it was awesome.  Gen Con is everything I love- Warhammer, Warmachine, Star Wars, toy soldiers, Marvel heroes and even some Tiki to boot.  And speaking of boot, there was plenty of cosplay there too.

First, I'd like to thank my good buddy Jason for sharing his alcohol with me, giving me an awesome dinner, introducing me to some cool dudes and dudettes and creating some stories for the ages.  His pal John got me a parking pass!  It was nice having a friend that lives close to the Gen Con venue in Indianapolis.

If you don't have a convention pass, don't go down to Indy for the show because the passes sold out in advance.  I heard 60,000 people showed up for the show.
Badges!? We don't need no stinkin' badges.

Well enough talking and let's get to what everybody wants to see, the pictures.
And... They're off!!!
Anybody need dice?
Or a fez?

The newest Forge World stuff could be purchased at the show.
Games Workshop's exhibition was limited to a Forge World and booth with Dark Imperium and the new Shadespire game.  I expected a much bigger presence.  You could play the Shadespire game!!!  No sign of Necromunda though.
The minis in Shadespire look nice when painted
Not to be undone, Privateer Press had a pretty large presence and was showing off their new squad/unit-level game, Company of Iron.
Who's ready for some piggy vs patriot battle action?
Like all the other game companies, Privateer had some nicely painted models.  Sadly (for me), they didn't have any of the new Gatormen that were unleashed at their Lock and Load show in July.
Vulkan reincarnated as a Cygnar primarch!?

I got some assets under my coat!
The Dreamer looks nice.  Hope she's resin.
 Kingdom Death's display impressed me the most with their line of NSFW miniatures.
Kingdom Death's Wet Nurse Pin-up... You get the idea.  She comes with a Breast Pump card. That's right, a Breast Pump card.
A close-up of Kingdom Death's Wet Nurse in all of her geeky guy and adolescent teen hotness.
Dust had some new cool stuff too.  I like their new PLA Chinese Sino-Soviet faction.
Hot Japanese Axis assassin.  What's there not to like about that?
Prodos has a new Aliens APC model for their Aliens vs. Predator game that you can remove the top and peek inside. Boss!!!
Let's kill some bugs!
C'MON had a very large presence at the show, being a featured sponsor.  I got to see my Rising Sun, which I backed on Kickstarter in March.  Looks sweet.  You could play it as well as Song of Fire and Ice and other new games at the show.

I can't wait until I get this in the mail in April of 2018.
Wyrd has a pretty cool looking new game called Bayou Bash.  Nice minis.  They also had a pretty cool statue there too, the name of which I'm not sure since I'm not familiar with its Malifaux game.
This would scare the kiddies.  No one wants to hug this teddy bear.
A bash in the bayou.
Some kick-ass gator riding action.
 Fantasy Flight had their new Star War Legion game on display, which you could also play.
Where's the Ewoks?
Imperial Forces from the Star Wars Legion box set.
Rebel forces from the Star Wars Legion box set.
Darth Vader in all of his glory.
Beyond the games, there was plenty of cosplay too.  Nothing like the hotness of the Tokyo Video Game show I went to last September, but entertaining none the less.
Mandatory Star Wars cosplay.
Not sure who these guys are.
Ha ha.  Bet those Millenials don't know these guys.
Wario, on his go-kart.  Well done.
The food was, well, what you can expect from a convention.
I like my pizza cold, dry and not too big of a slice.
At least you can't get hot dogs wrong.  This was pretty good.
I ended up getting a Kingdom Death figure (not the Wet Nurse) and some Heroclix of my favorite hero, Colossus.
Kingdom Death gave me a nice bag to go along with my LE figure, Lucy.
Fastball Special anyone?
Think I've reached the limit of the pictures I can add to this entry.  Thanks for the read!

It's Been A Long Time... Favorite Stuff I Got Recently: SNES Classic/Star Wars Shirt/Spiderman/Apples/Boo Berry

There's been a lengthy lag in time since my last post.  It's because...  I got a temporary counsel position with a medical device ...