A few months ago I read about the GR Tag Tour, which is essentially QR codes placed around downtown Grand Rapids where you can go, scan them with your smart phone, and read about the place online. It's essentially a self-guided tour of the downtown area.

At the time I thought it would be an interesting way to spend a lunch break sometime in the summer. So today I finally noticed one of the tags up at Rosa Park Circle. I'm not sure how long it's been there but perhaps one day soon I'll play around with them. While I'm pretty familiar with all the stops, it's a good excuse to walk around and get some exercise on a nice day.

By 9am it was already over 70 degrees out and incredibly muggy thanks to the storms yesterday. So we went out early and walked a few miles before it got much worse out.

Totally worth it.

Plus, that left the morning and afternoon to do bunches of reading! After tearing through several trade paperbacks yesterday today it was time to blow through The Caves of Steel by Asimov today.

Inspired by a tweet yesterday, I went out last night and purchased provisions to make strawberry shortcake today. It started out as a really good idea (fueled by a hunger for tasty strawberries). So I set to making the shortcake after we got back from our morning stroll.
Once the shortcake was in the oven I sliced up a bunch of strawberries (munching on them as I went, since I'd purchased far more than the recipe called for). The freakishly large ones you buy at the grocery store aren't as tasty as normal size wild strawberries, but they would have to do. Strawberries aren't yet in season, so picking some up at the farmers market was out.
Once the shortcake was done it was time to slice it in half and start piling strawberries on. That's where I encountered the first snag. I'm pretty sure the unlabeled cake pan I used was 9" instead of 8", which meant the shortbread wasn't really thick enough to slice in half. But as you can see...I tried.

Then I set to making the whipped cream in the mixer. Blargh. I had a tub of cool whip in the fridge I should have just used because I wasn't getting anywhere whipping the heavy cream. In the end it got a little stiff, but not as much as I think it should have and it ended up being runny on the strawberries.
So I ended up with some layers of shortcake and strawberry, but for the most part it was a mess. Chris called it right when he said it was less of a cake and more of a pile of ingredients. Still, it's tasty! And it isn't nearly as much of a disaster as my attempt at a Green Lantern fondant cake last year for Chris's birthday.

If it has to be pretty, I do not have the patience to do it. I'm no better at it now than I was as a child. I have no idea how my mom or grandmother ever even managed to decorate with frosting. God that stuff is a nightmare. Not sure why I try things even harder than that.

The grocery store by us is remodeling, so every time we pop in things are moved around in a slightly different order. They're getting close to being done but some of their refrigerated areas are still under construction. I guess that's why there was a massive sections of double-row watermelons on display.

BTW, I love watermelon. Seriously, this photo is so tasty to me.

Due to the holiday weekend Friday was a slightly shorter work day for both of us. After work I swung over to Chris's work, picked him up, and we hit up Alpine to check Toys R Us for some Green Lantern figures.

While we were out there we decided to swing over to Olive Garden and have dinner. They serve massive portions. Combined with free bread sticks and soup, meals from there can last days and days. I guess always make sure you like what you're ordering...cause you'll probably be left with a ton.

I don't get a lot of mail that isn't postage-paid junk mail, so I always take notice of the personal letters and cards I receive. It's always interesting to see the different types of stamps that find their way to you. Sometimes I lament that I don't see more, like I used to see as a child. Though I don't know that I miss having to lick the stamps back then...

I didn't really eat much outside of some cucumber for lunch and as the afternoon wore on I became hungrier and hungrier. After finally getting home the prospect of cooking dinner seemed like too much effort and Chris wasn't really hungry. That meant devouring a few bowls of cereal and reading some of my book!

In retrospect, may have ate too much. ugh.

What better way to spend lunch than in sunshine and surrounded by green grass?

Thanks to the upcoming holiday and wedding, Chris and I have several weeks in a row of four-day work weeks. Determined to enjoy the extra day and be productive, Chris and I set out to get some errands done. First up was picking up the marriage license. Who knew there were so many copies involved? After that we dropped of his friend Chris's tuxedo measurements (since Chris lives in China), did some grocery shopping, and headed home.

The time I spent playing pokemon on my DSi spilled over and I carted that little device with me, popping it open at stop lights to take a turn during battle (since I get motion sick if the car is moving). It's a great little device for times when you have to wait (in line, at the doctors office, etc).
The clouds overhead broke and the sun was shining in the afternoon, so we took a long stroll down Kent Trails enjoying a nice breeze and warm weather. There's been a chance of rain all day, but somehow we keep missing the little rain showers.

I originally adopted Dinah around May of 2004 to be a companion for another parakeet, Alice. Oddly enough, I had adopted Alice to be a companion to Anastasia, an unhappy parakeet that loathed humans. And while Alice was friendly enough, I was in college and working so I decided to get her a cage-mate. And along came Dinah.
We've had our ups and downs, Dinah and I. Not a strong flyer or a fan of me, she enjoyed life with a cage that was almost always open and a steady supply of pellets and toys. When I came home with Leki, life did change a little but she always had her own room away from Leki where she could relax and sing.
Things really started to change when I met Chris and moved in with him. Dinah was so much happier. She sang to him, demanded to be let out to spend time with him, and even groomed him. She adored him. She even got her own away cage, which she loved to hang out in out and about in the rest of the apartment (and safe from an excitable cat).
All of this makes today very sad. Dinah has passed away. The computer room is quiet and empty without her singing. 

So today is the first full day we're spending at Anime Central (ACEN). The night was a little rough. I woke up to some kids shouting loudly and being asked if they were drunk. The correct answer I assume is yes, judging by the empty bottle of rum we stumbled across in the stairwell later that morning.
We both wake up early normally, so we were up and ready for panels when they started at 8:30. The first we sat in on was about Folklore in anime. It was interesting and I walked away with a few series I might check out based on some suggestions they provided.
Now ACEN spans several hotels plus the convention center (where all the shopping is). Neither of us had any intention of purchasing anything, but we still walked through it a few times just to see all the different merchandise and costumes. While there were a lot of Cloud's from Final Fantasy VII, or miscellaneous characters from Bleach and Naruto, there were quite a few you don't see every day, including Gandalf (who I didn't managed to catch a photo of).
Like I said in yesterday's post, if there's one thing anime conventions seem to have, it's lines. And long ones. We stood in line for a bit for the FUNimation panel only to discover about ten minutes before it started that it had been rescheduled to another room several hours later. We also eyeballed the line for the Masquerade (which, unlike Youmacon, appears to be more of a costume contest/skit and not exclusively a dance) and quickly decided that the line (pictured above) wasn't worth waiting in for several hours.
We popped in a few other panels throughout the day; one on comics adapted to film, politics in video games (run by two Zach's from FFVII, no less), the rescheduled FUNimation panel, and a portion of the Stand-up and LOL.
The stand-up panel we waited in line for the longest, and with my trusty DSi I didn't mind the wait too much. I wanted to make sure we could get in, especially since I absolutely LOVE the stand-up they do Friday's at Youmaon.
This event was two hours instead of the one Youmacon has done in the past, it certainly didn't seem to need it. The host of the panel opened with discussing his old age (of 29) and how it was time for him to grow up and stop attending anime conventions. This seems to run counter to how you should ever start an event at an anime convention. He should also taken note of his audience, since a good portion of them were not younger than him. So the way he opened the floor for open mic was, to say the least, uninviting. I'm not sure if that is the reason for the succession of drunk con-goers standing up to deliver comedy or what. Either way, we left after about twenty minutes since they had reached the end of the people signed up and were cycling through people who wanted to go again. Maybe the event competed too much with others going on. Either way, were were disappointed - it was the one panel of the whole convention we were really looking forward to.
ACEN was, overall, a disappointing experience. That's not to say that the con itself is bad or that if you have never attended an anime convention to skip this on. If you live in the Chicago area, I'd seriously attend it. But after attending Youmacon and JAFAX the last several years, I had anticipated an event of this size to be better organized. For me, the experience here wasn't not unique and was, in many ways, a step back (for example, misprints in the schedule guide, a lack of mobile-formatted schedule to see updates/changes to the schedule).
I did think it was awesome that FUNimation was at the event and I could go to one or all of their panels if I desired; they are someone smaller conventions aren't able to attract. Everyone was super friendly and there were a bunch of interesting panels, don't get me wrong. But in many ways it was basically Youmacon with double the attendees and spanned across multiple hotels.

Maybe I'm burned out from all the traveling lately, maybe I had unrealistic expectations. Probably a little of both. I've always heard fantastic things about ACEN and I just didn't feel it this weekend.

Anyway, here's some shots from the weekend.

Onward to a 4-day weekend! This weekend is Anime Central. I've been interested in attending this convention for a few years, as it is one of the larger anime conventions in the country.

We've been gone on a long weekend at least once a month for the last several months, however, and we're getting a little exhausted. We had this trip planned before the engagement or choosing the wedding date, and in retrospect had I anticipated getting married in June, I probably would have skipped booking this trip until next year.
After getting caught in mid-afternoon traffic through Chicago (which had an interesting bit of fog hanging around downtown), we arrived at the hotel and convention center a little after 3pm local time. The hotel had already sold out all of the parking it had available, so we had to park several blocks away and hike over with our luggage. Luckily the offsite parking was cheaper so it worked out for the best.

Next was checking in. Hyatt offers express check-in through a web portal. It's like the airline check-in but for hotels. So I gave them the estimated arrival time and they emailed while we were on the way to let me know the room was available. Checking in was super easy as well. I just walked up to a kiosk, had it scan the printout of the check-in, and the machine popped out a receipt and room key. As a result, I didn't have to wait in the long line of attendees attempting to check into their hotel room.
With key in hand we set off to find the nearest stairwell. The first thing you really need to do, once you know where your room is, is to secure the nearest stairwell. Using elevators at an anime convention doesn't work. Between attendees riding the elevator up to go down (or vise versa) and large costumes, the wait for an elevator can be thirty minutes easy.
Our room was nearby the stairwell and we were only up a few floors, so things really worked out for us. We dropped everything off and headed out onto the con floor. Adam and Comfort have a booth there, so we navigated over to Artists Alley to say hi! We also discovered that the panel they were hosting, Creating Your Comic/Manga from Concept to Publication, was in an hour so we hung out a bit then headed over to watch their panel. The panel was awesome and educational for me. While I'm not a comic or manga creator, I certainly learned about page layouts and other things I completely take for granted when reading comics.

We spent the rest of the day bouncing around from this place to that, then had a delicious Thai meal with Adam and Comfort. Chris and I got to see the incredibly long line that weaved its way out of the convention center and down the street. It looked to be hours long. I'm really, really happy I paid an extra $2 to have my badge mailed to me. One thing anime cons seem to have are insanely long lines. I dont know if it's volume, disorganization, or a combination thereof.

Dinah seemed a little down when we came home from work yesterday. She was on the floor of the cage hanging out, which is odd for a parakeet. She did perk up and start singing and eating pellets and seeds when we moved her into the room to hang out with us though.

We live almost right across the street from a grocery store. Somehow that translates to stops there after work nearly every other day. Ok, not really. But it certainly feels like it. There's always something you want to make for dinner that you somehow don't have, requiring a trip to the local grocery store. Today it was missing ingredients for pizza-baked spaghetti.

I do manage to get a steady supply of fresh fruit that way though. Can't complain about that.

Today didn't seem very productive for me. I went to work and it was just project after project encountering issues. Chris, on the other hand, had the day off. And he was nothing but productive.

He designed the wedding cake, he ordered the wedding cake, and he brought me tasty doughnuts on lunch. Seriously, that was the tastiest treat ever.
I scarfed down a doughnuts, we applied for a marriage license, ate lunch, and then I was deposited back into cubical land while Chris went off and ran some more errands for the wedding.

By the end of the day the majority of the wedding details were smoothed out thanks to Chris. That meant relaxing a bit in the evening and reading.

There's an small network of streams and ponds along the path of Kent Trails at parts. They make for a nice visual and I'm sure the ducks and various birds and small critters in the little forests around the trail enjoy them. now that flowers and greenery are sprouting up around it the area is getting more crowded and better covered from prying human eyes. 

I spent a big chunk of the day hanging out with Chris while he worked on wedding invitations. He's designed the entire invitation, from the font-type down to severity of the curve cut on the paper. He has a ton more patience than I do and the invitations look fantastic. He's so badass with projects.

So with Chris busy and it raining outdoors, I took the opportunity to finish up the latest Daniel Keys Moran book, AI War and start in on the next series I'm going to tackle - Asimov's Robot series.

I also made cranberries, cause I love them and Thanksgiving is far too long off.

We did a fair amount of running around this morning doing wedding-related errands, despite my foul mood. Looking at the above photo of colorful Scooby Doo lollipops makes it hard to remember why exactly I was in such a bad mood. I blame the lack of Scooby Doo lollipops in my life.

Things are coming together for the wedding, and I'm grateful for that. There's not a whole lot left to do, which is good, since there isn't a whole lot of time left to get it done.
In the evening we took a stroll down Kent Trails. The storm took down a tree so part of the path was blocked. Makes for a hassle if your biking or have a stroller, I'm sure.

It started to sprinkle a bit on our way back, so I suppose we were out just the right amount of time. By the look and sound of it, we're in for an evening of thunder and rain.

In the morning it looked like it was going to rain. By lunch it looked sunny and safe out. All that changed as the sun started to set. In rolled the rain clouds, ready to hang around for the weekend.

Luckily we have enough running around with wedding-related activities that the rainy weather isn't messing up plans to hike or hang out the park.

Now, I didn't remember to take a photo today. So that means you get to enjoy this rainy rose photo from a few years back instead.

Our stroll outdoors was accompanied by distant thunder, red penises, and rain from a sunny sky.

Just a normal Thursday in Michigan, right?


Well, not quite. But as a little kid I totally would have thought this was an awesome secret path off of Kent Trails.

Tonight there was a little bit of arts and crafts going on as Chris worked on invitations. I mostly just admired his patience from a far and read some on the kindle.

The day was sunny on lunch. Sunny all afternoon, and sunny even when we got off of work. But after dinner while we were taking a stroll down Kent Trails it got darker, storm clouds slowly rolling in.

Where we are, we didn't get much. hardly much rainfall or thunder and lightening. I'm sure it was worse north and south of us (it usually is).

At least the clouds looked neat! So it was a good evening.

Plus I finished up Portal 2. Now onto the co-op!

We headed out mid-morning for our third and weekend in a row visiting with my parents. Dayzee was super excited when we got there. I think she's enjoying all the extra company lately.
My parents had picked up my grandmother for the weekend, so we spent the day all hanging out. I dont see my grandmother that much since, as a family, we dont all get together for the holidays. Instead my grandmother spends each holiday with one of her children and their extended families. Much less hassle and stress on her since there's no need to host a large family at her place, cooking, cleaning, and running around busy all day.

My dad and brother did most of the cooking - I really only just watched. Tasty swedish meatballs are always a welcome meal.
It was a good day and great to hang out. And in just over a month we'll be able to do it again, this time for the wedding. That's the great thing about a small wedding - it can be more intimate.

Also, here's a short video Chris took on Mother's Day.

Admittedly, the morning started out lazy. I spent several hours playing Portal 2 and lying around taking mini-naps. We finally started moving in the afternoon doing some errands and heading out to do laundry. Laundry was interesting in that a good 40% (at least) of the washers are now broken and about that many dryers as well. They even have one with one foot in the grave, as you can see.
Adam and Comfort swung by after hanging out and participating at the festivities for a Rookies in Lowell for Free Comic Book Day. It was a lovely evening. There was a stroll down Kent Trails, political discussions, and ice cream and brownies. You can't top that kind of evening. I wish we lived closer to each other so we could do this more often.

Thor is not my favorite mythological character and as a result I wasn't motivated like the with the Scott Pilgrim movie, to read the comics before hand. Honestly of all the comic book movies coming out, Thor was the one I was least interested in.

Chris gave me a brief rundown of how the Marvel Thor is different than the Norse Thor. Plus! Comfort and Adam were in town for Free Comic Book Day and Dan and Dave were meeting us to watch it which means it has to be a decent comic, right?
Chris was able to play with an oversize touch screen to order overpriced Wonka candy (machine in the far right, glowing). The machine spit out a massive plastic cup, as you can see. But technology is marching forward and touch screen are getting cheaper. 

And the movie? The movie was much more amusing than I thought it would be. Goofy at times it should be and serious when it should be. The only odd bit was the tacked on love story that just leaves me screaming in my head "why the hell do they have to add this shit to every goddamn movie?" Ugh. But, most books/tv shows/movies/video games have that tacked on even when it's not needed so yeah.

In all seriousness, I would recommend the movie if you haven't seen it.