Posted in Lego, Star Wars, Toy Photography

Lego Advent 2018, days 1-3

Lego produces Advent calendars for several of its most popular product lines, and for the past few years I’ve gotten the Star Wars ones. Spending a few minutes each morning putting together that day’s model and taking a photo of it for Instagram is a fun thing to do during a stressful month.

Except I already managed to fall behind… Day 1’s landspeeder model and Day 2’d Rose Tico minifigure ended up getting photographed together in a quickly assembled holiday scene late last night.

Today’s model, a miniature version of a ship from Lego’s Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures, required me to Google to figure out what it was.

Here’s hoping that I do better during the rest of the holiday season.

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Posted in Baseball, New York Mets

We’re waiting…

A Mr. Met toy waves his hand
The eternally cheerful Mr. Met is far more optimistic than most Mets fans. 

The New York Mets and Seattle Mariners are reported to be close to a deal that would send Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak and three prospects west for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. They’ve been close to completing the trade for a day or two now, and it could drag out until Monday if MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred doesn’t want to spend his weekend reviewing it and giving it his blessing.

Predictably, most Mets fans hate the idea of the deal. We’ve been conditioned to distrust the Wilpon family’s motivations and the people that they hire to run the team. And to be fair, Sandy Alderson, Omar Minaya, Jim Duquette and Steve Phillips had a mixed track record in making trades and signing free agents.

But we also hated the idea that’s been floated for weeks that they want to trade Noah Syndergaard. And well, you can’t have it both ways. The Mets have been a fourth-place team with an under .500 record for the past two years and they’ve been a losing team for eight of the past ten seasons.

This can’t be another winter where the team tinkers a little bit and hopes for the best. You either do a complete tear-down and rebuild, or you trade players that won’t help you in 2019 for ones who will.

The 2019 Mets will win more games because of Cano and Diaz than they will because of Bruce, Swarzak, Justin Dunn, Jared Kalenic and Gerson Bautista.

Cano is still a good player — even at age 36 — and should be able to help the Mets score runs while not hurting them too badly in the field… at least for the next year or two. Diaz was the best reliever in the American League this year and gives the Mets the lockdown closer they’ve wanted for years.

Meanwhile, Bruce has had exactly one good season in the past five. Swarzak was a complete bust in his first year in New York. Dunn is the best pitching prospect in the Mets’ farm system, but he hasn’t thrown an inning above Double-A. Kalenic will be 19 next season and has all of 52 games of professional experience. Bautista is a project.

You could argue that the Mets should be able to get more for their prospects than Diaz and Cano, but I’d point out that Dunn is the only one who could charitably be considered close to being a contributor at the major league level.

If Brodie Van Wagenen’s first trade as Mets’ general manager turns out to be the centerpiece of the offseason, I’ll join the crowd of disappointed Mets fans. If they complete this deal and still go on to trade Syndergaard, I’ll be wondering if Van Wagenen even has a plan.

But I’d like to think this is just step one of a roster reshaping that will give the Mets a true chance to compete with the Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies.

Wait and hope.

Posted in Autographs, Baseball Cards

Weekend card show pickups

I haven’t seen my friend Bart in forever, so when he asked if I wanted to go to a sports card & memorabilia show today, I said “sure.” The Westchester County Convention Center was also hosting a reptile expo today, and that drew a bigger and more diverse crowd, but there was plenty to see at the card show.

I found a “vintage” signed Marv Throneberry card from a Renata Galasso baseball card set honoring the 20th anniversary of the 1962 original Mets, signed photos of current Mets’ second baseman Jeff McNeil and once (and perhaps future) Mets’ infielder TJ Rivera, a double-signed photo of Lee and LJ Mazzilli, signed photos of three members of the Magnificent Seven gold medal women’s gymnastics team from the 1996 Olympics, and a few $3 Oyo Sports figures that I didn’t have.

I also snagged a baseball card album so I can start organizing my Mets autographs from the past few years. My first binder held 50 years of Mets’ players, but it’s time for a new one. So I’ll be updating my Mets autographs needed list sometime soon, but probably not until after the holidays.

But as fun as it was to go to a sports card show and find some cool things to add to my collection, the highlight of my day was getting to see an old friend again.

How was your weekend?

Posted in Odds & ends

‘Tis the season

We’re officially in the holiday season (I’m pretty sure it started before the Halloween trick-or-treaters got home with their candy), which means it’s time for cheesy Christmas movies. And I do love cheesy Christmas movies.

Netflix Original The Princess Switch feels like a mashup of The Parent Trap and The Princess Diaries, but it works because it embraces the ridiculousness of the concept. Vanessa Hudgens stars in the double role of Stacy, the Chicago baker who goes to the fictional monarchy of Belgravia to compete in a Christmas baking contest and Lady Margaret, a royal who’s soon to marry a Belgravian prince and wants to know what it’s like to live as a normal person. The two women switch places and romantic hijinks ensue. It’s sweet, fun, and recommended if you’re into this sort of thing.

Kurt Russell stars as Santa Claus in The Christmas Chronicles, a tale of two siblings who almost ruin and then save Christmas. Kate (Darby Camp) and Teddy (Judah Lewis) lost their father and Christmastime hasn’t been the same same ever since. But Kate is still a true believer in Santa, and talks her brother into staying up to try to catch old Saint Nick on video when he visits their house. It works, and they manage to sneak aboard his sleigh while he’s delivering other gifts in their neighborhood. When he discovers the stowaways, the distraction causes Santa to crash his sleigh and lose his sack of presents, his magic hat and his reindeer. The two kids become Santa’s helpers to recover the lost items and save Christmas.

I enjoyed this one for the relationship between Kate and Teddy, as well as Russell’s mugging for the cameras. I’m not quite sure what to make of the CG elves that show up near the beginning of the movie’s final act. They’re cute, and seem designed to interest kids and sell toys… but by the time they show up, I wonder if those kids are still paying attention… the first twenty minutes sets up the Pierce family dynamics and doesn’t seem all that magical to those with short attention spans. 

The Christmas Chronicles is also recommended for those who enjoy sappy Christmas movies.

Posted in Odds & ends

Happy Thanksgiving

A turkey made from Lego bricks

I hope that you had a good Thanksgiving (unless you’re not from the United States, in which case I hope you had a good Thursday.) After the last few hectic days at work, I appreciated the one-day respite. 

Tomorrow, it’s back to reality and the oncoming rush towards Christmas. Yay.

One of the prayers from the Thanksgiving Eve service I went to last night asked for forgiveness for losing track of what holidays are supposed to be.

Patient Lord, we are rushing headlong into the holiday season, forgetting that the word “holiday” is actually comprised of two words: “holy” and “day.” Forgive us when we treat the “holiday” as a task and a burden, when we load ourselves down with tasks that do not enhance this day. Help us move past the busyness of the day into the attitude of gratitude we should display for all the many wonders and blessings you have poured on us.

I’m pretty bad at this – I often look for the busyness to have something to do to make this time of year feel less empty. It sorta works – “busy” feels better than “empty,” but it probably explains why I don’t really look forward to Thanksgiving very much.

My goal – and my prayer – is to do better as we enter the Christmas season. 

Posted in Gardening

A splash of color

A trio of small, colorful potted plants sitting on a windowsill

The weather, much like my mood, has been rather gray for most of this month. But every time I walk by the kitchen window and see this trio of small, colorful plants, I smile a little.

During the summer, we had coleus and celosia plants growing outside in the garden. The coleus plants ended up resembling small shrubs by August — much too big to bring inside, and too fragile to withstand New Jersey winters. (Celosia seems to have a five- to six-month lifecyle, regardless of temperature.)

But the larger plants scattered some seeds, and a few of them grew. I dug them up and put them in these small windowsill pots to have a bit of color to help get me through the winter, until it’s time for the spring daffodils and violets to start blooming again.

Does the winter grayness bother you? What are some of the things that you do to help fight it?

Posted in Odds & ends

So that happened….

A Lego minifigure drinking tea in front of a computer

I usually work on weekends, but I had this past Saturday off. I spent part of my Saturday sorting food donations for my church’s food pantry. And honestly, that was nice. I got to do something that helps people who are less fortunate than I am, and also get out of my own head for a couple of hours. Volunteering is awesome.

She-Ran and the Princesses of Power

I also got around to checking out Netflix’s new version of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. I remember the original show that aired when I was a kid, but I can’t say I was a fan. I’m not even sure that I would have paid any attention to this new version at all if it weren’t for the whiny, entitled fanboys who think everything has to be made for them making a lot of noise complaining about it.

And you know what? This new She-Ra is actually good. Noelle Stevenson took a property that was an extended toy commercial back in the 1980s and turned it into a show about friendship and family with complex characters that are better-developed than the ones on some shows that are aimed at adults. My favorite character ended up being Catra, who is at least nominally a villain.

Magic: the Gathering

I had planned to go to Friday Night Magic at one of my local comic shops, but I ended up having to stay late at work and couldn’t make it. So I still have a budget mono-black burn deck and a Dimir Etrata deck that I want to try out 🤷‍♂️ This weekend, Strictly Better MtG posted a video about a budget mono-black aggro deck that matches my preferred play style perfectly, so I ordered the cards that I needed to put it together. So that’s three decks waiting for trial runs to see if any of them are worth tweaking and upgrading… 

William Goldman

On Friday, screenwriter William Goldman passed away at age 87. He wrote the screenplays for a bunch of well-regarded movies, but the only one I’ve ever seen was The Princess Bride. It is one of my favorites. So I’m going to share a clip from one of its best scenes, and Atlas Obscura’s story about the scene-stealing Mad Max. RIP, Mr. Goldman.

How was your weekend?