Sunday, December 31, 2006
What are mine?
My big one is one I say every year and strive to do:
Make every day a little better than the one before it.
Time is too short and precious to do anything else, except spending it with those you care for.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
There are a couple of parallels that could be made with Star Trek fandom and AFOL fandom - right now, we are in the first to second generation of fandom in the US, with conventions starting and beginning to grow. This is like the 70s in Trek fandom, when conventions started at college campuses...and there was a community that came into being.
There was even a part of the community that welcomed new fans, called the Star Trek Welcommittee - and it provided information on clubs and conventions. Keep in mind that this was before the Internet, so this was done by snail-mail. They had brochures on forming clubs and mailing lists.
And from there, many things happened - even in the 60s, Star Trek was saved for a year by fans. In the 70s, the movie came out, and in the 80s on, there were many other shows and events. And all of this happened because of the community.
However, there are shadows - one of the points made by Harlan Ellison and Robert Silverberg (two sci-fi authors) is that "you will find very few people under the age of 30 at this convention — the base of readers and fans is not renewing itself from the bottom, the way it did when we were kids."
That is something that we as a community need to start looking at. Who are the people who will replace those doing the community activities now? How are we going to renew the community?
It's something that I have been looking at for some time, and I haven't any answers.
The implications of this are pretty big to me, in a blue-sky way....
Imagine doing an online brick convention. Where presentations could be broadcast in real-time and questions taken from avatars...and more importantly, people from all over could meet and discuss and maybe show models off....
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
My Christmas was pretty good - kinda peaceful (which is a welcome switch from the usual for me) and just a time to recharge and get ready for the new year.
One of the wonderful things that has happened is that I got an e-mail from a fellow builder, Brian Muzas. We worked together on a couple of projects for teh LEGO Group (one that was the first iteration of LEGO Factory, and another that is under NDA - still!!), and his expertise is in Microbuilding.
He's also a priest in New Jersey, and he is going to Rome this week with a high school choir to perform for the Pope!
A news video can be found here:
Congratulations to Brian and his choir!
I really am happy to see members of the AFOL community doing things outside the hobby, so drop me a line if you or an AFOL you know has done something neat!
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
I am in discussions with the LEGO Group to get the magazine started as a print publication. What is being looked at presently is starting the magazine as a new business venture, which means a lot of things need to be written up.
As Tormod said, "Joe, you have all the ideas in your head about the magazine - you need to put them out on paper." So I have. And now comes the fun part...figuring out funding.
Also, some things have to be changed to work toward a business model - so staff is being moved up to the next level, in a manner of speaking.
BrickJournal is also working toward getting more international coverage - so we have started a European Bureau with Melody Krützfeldt. She'll be looking for article ideas and writing for us - welcome!
Other pending projects include a BrickJournal website with multimedia content (I have been able to get some video at places I have been to, and hope to get other people involved in taping event reports and other video), looking into working with FIRST LEGO League to provide another venue for their work (which is wonderful), and working with some projects with the LEGO Group. Expanding coverage of BrickJournal is another priority - with Asia being the place I would like to see more articles from.
BrickJournal 6 will be the end of year issue, and will have event coverage and some really nice articles, including an interview with Jørgen Vig Knudstorp! Which reminds me, I gotta get some layouts done....
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
like this duck --this is one of the classic wood toys.
The pic above gives you an ideas as to how some of the displays were set up - the toys are in a shelf that is between glass panels - which display quotes and information. Very nice presentation.
This is one of the open set displays of the LEGO System...the basebard is fiberboard and the cars are not yet LEGO-based. Neither are the trees.
4.5v train set. I referenced these as 12v - I was VERY wrong!
Duplo makes an appearance!
One of the City open setups. In the background is a 4.5v train.
and that is one of the modern set displays. City is in front, Star Wars in the back.
What's neat is the display area setup is literally a walk back through time, from the present to the beginning. And at the beginning there is a room devoted to the AFOL community that will have displays by the Danish AFOL club, Byggepladen. (Edit: I mistakenly listed Byggepladen as a Dutch club - thanks for the catch, Tim!)
More pictures will be in BrickJournal.
Saturday, December 16, 2006
this is a model of the Frankfurt Train Station in Germany. It is still inprogress, and built by a guy by the name of Reiner - a very quiet person with a quick smile, but one heck of a builder. The model will have four more buildings like this when completed, so it will be in progress for a while. But it looks beautiful!
This is a lineup of vehicles that were built by Juergen Bartosch - yes they are lit by LEDs! The fire engine lights were remotely controlled to switch on and off. The person who modded the bricks for the lights also lit up and motorized the aircraft carrier. For the carrier, controls were developed for a laptop. Really impressive - and I was lucky enough to get one of the lit smart cars!
Here's the MINDSTORMS setup - with the one armed bandits and in the middle, an NXT line plotter:
printing in progress. What was neat was the paper feed used a light sensor to setup - you placed a sheet so teh light saw the edge and the paper fed, then stopped when it found the other end and reversed to place the paper for plotting.
The plotting program was actually pretty short (only five or six blocks of NXT-G)...it was the characters that took up the space - 26 characters and numbers had to be defined. It was really neat to watch though....
A funny aside - there were eggplotters, but Mike, the builder of those found out out that eggs were out of sason, so he didn't have any to demo!
Here's a look at some of the other bandits that were running - the black one not only played the game, but kept track of the number of tokens you won - when you were done, you hit a button and it would drop out the tokens. On the left was a robot that was used for the FIRST LEGO LEague Challenge for last year, Ocean Odyssey.
If you were a minifigure and lookde upfrom Holger Mattes' church, you'd see this.
There's more pics here.
Now, on to another place....
I was in Bilund for all of a day and a half. During that time, I discussed BrickJournal with the LEGO Group, and some pretty positive developments are happening. I also got to talk to Jamie Berard and Nathanael Kuipers, two set designers, and eat dinner with them. More on that in another entry, as the thing I want to talk about here is the Idea House.
The Idea House is basically the LEGO Archives. Serving as a museum, it is in the process of being changed to a museum space, with displays of LEGO items from the beginning to the present - it's a trip through the LEGO group's history and a place of reference for the employees. So what's there?
There are sets from the 50s...
toys from the Wooden Age....
a model designed by Kjeld (he likes fast cars!) Kristiansen,
a single-digit set - that's old!
and for something new:
some models from the Big Whit Brick Dump in Oslo.
Yes, you'll see more of all of these in BrickJournal, but not sure when....
Thursday, December 14, 2006
First thing I did was go to the local mall and eat a Big Mac! (well, American junk food is not cheap in Europe)
Some lessons to learn from international travel:
1. Make sure you have your documentation - yes, the passport is obvious, but tickets and boarding passs are just as important. I wasn't able to get a paper ticket for my flight to Billund (it was with a regional carrier whose office WASN"T in the US) and I got quite a bit of grief from the people at the Munich airport.
2. Make sure you're security friendly - as in have everything ready for security checkpoints. The Munich airport has 4 checkpoints to go through before you get t o your plane. That's right, 4. And somewhere in there I got quizzed verbally twice on what I brought and am taking home.
3. Know the exchange rate. Why? Because bank machines won't tell you anything beyond native currency. I accidentally pulled out $300 when I meant to pull out $50 or so.
4. Have a positive attitude.
Okay, so now you may ask, what has happened since?
The wrapup to Bricking Bavaria was basically a coasting for me - just slide through the day and get on the plane to Billund.
And during that time I wandered and talked with René Hoffmeister and Axel from 1000stene, and starting to work on an international data point for AFOL event planners - based on what I saw and what I know, there is a lot that the Europeans do that we don't and vice versa. A collective point for information for those interested in doing events would be a good investment to the future of community events.
During the event, there were people like Malle Hawking and Jan Beyer who were introducing me to the rest of the group and made me feel at home. And others knew of me from the magazine and introduced themselves - it's a lot of fun when you meet the people that you have only seen online with thier models! I met so many people who I remembered from LUGNET posts, so it was very eye-opening for me.
I'll be writing an article in BrickJournal about the event, but it will not have certain things included for the reason that BrickJournal is family -oriented. So I'll place those stories here:
After the banquet, much fo the group hung out at the restaurant chatting and shooting the breeze...which was pretty relaxing and fun. I talked with Reto Geiger (who was showing off the new Star Wars Scout Walker - it's pretty neat, and the new gun design is sharp! Only problem is that the posability of the legs is limited the ankle joint is restricted by a tile - but I digress...), and Marco T. and also got drinks from Holge Matthes (HoMa) and talked for a while with René and Axel.
Well, we left and went back to the event site and hung out for another couple of hours...and Jan Beyer attempted to teach me a drinking song. I say attempted because I really didn't get it. With the drinks I had in my system, it wasnt easy at all. But after some prodding and practice, I got it, sorta.
And promptly forgot it. I am hoping the next time I drink with these guys muscle memory will kick in so I remember the song...
Before the banquet, there was a littleinceident that happened between HoMa's church and Hawking's aircraft carrier - and it starte with some talking and laughing, then the top of the church was removed, and placed on top the carrier control tower...so now the aircraft carrier has a cross on the top - which leads to some comments about Bush , which I get and start laughing too.
Not to be outdone, Hawking puts the radar tower that he removed from the carrier on top of the church - to which HoMa simply states that the Russians made it a secret listening post in the 50s...
Yes, I have pics of these. Somewhere.
Bricking Bavaria also had a sales area, which had a place where the Munich store sold the new sets and then and area where parts were sold by 1000 steine - and they had a LOT! With the exchange rate, it was a bit of a challenge to figureout what cost what, but it became apparent that the deals were pretty darned good - so I bought some bags I found appealing.
Well, onthe last day, I walk by the sales area and Axel cuts me a deal - 2 bags of parts for really cheap - so I buy without a second thought. Only problem is, they are about 15 pounds of parts altogether. And they need to fit in my luggage. After some fighting with my bags and rearranging, I got the parts in, but now I hev no room to buy anything else....
Axel planned that:-)
If you are wondering about the hospitalty I mention, perhaps the best example of that was me wandering outside for a moment to cool down - it got hot, and outside was overcast and a little damp, so the cool was actually nice to got out to. I was met by a guy who introduced himself as Arnoldand mentioned that he knew me from BrickJournal, and I didn't know him. We talked for a few moments, and I found that he came from out of town to visit and had his family there too...and they were going to the Munich LEGO store. And I asked if I could come along, and before I knew it, I was in with the family to go shopping!
His family and I went to the store (which is in a gigantic mall) and on the way, the two boys and I chatted about building and sets. And because they were younger, they were using English in speaking to a natve English speaker..and they were learning:-) It was nice to know that I was helping indirectly with language, and it was really nice seeing the parents encourage them to speak to me.
So the stor visit was short, and there was some more shopping, and we returned, and then they left to go home...but not before getting my e-mail address and my thanks! So thanks again Arnold - it was really nice to take me to the store!
Monday, December 11, 2006
I will add more to this when I get back to the states.
Simply put, I got pretty darned drunk. Those who know me know I really do not drink, so this is a sign that either a) I completely lost my mind, or b) I was really comfortable in my surroundings. It was b - as my car was nowhere near me, so the worst I could do was fall out on the street.
That said, it was even more fun with the last day - it was busy, but there was a nice energy about the show. Two TV networks showed up to the event and filmed the aorcraft carrier and church! And I met teh Dutch contingent - Klaas and Rick, and they are a great bunch!
The entire group was really generous and helpful to me, and I want to thanks all of them for making my visit a great one - one that has me thinking about coming back next year!
But before the night was over, I wason a plane to Billund with Jan Beyer to talk to some people at the LEGO Group...and Jan wants a European bureau for BrickJournal. And well...why not?
off to work on a business item now.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Setup for BB was on Friday and was really neat to watch, tho. People were at the church for the event Friday morning, but setup didn't really start until noon. Tables and furniture was moved, and then the models started showing up.
And it was something to see, as European cars are smaller than US cars - but they were filled! And with small boxes, but really big boxes! So moving models required many people going back and forth with boxes in hand.
I met one of the MINDSTORMS people and got a glance at what the group was doing - they made one arm bandits for the kids to play with. Using small Technic pulley wheels as tokens, the machines would run the bandits, where kids could win one or more tokens..then they could cash in on another machine 5 tokens to get a piece of candy. There were three machines set to arrive for the show.
I also saw a bunch of boxes get opened up and moved to make a model of the Frankfurt train station. The model is VERY large and is beautiful to look at - the architectural work that was modeled is astounding. The roof is arched and made from 1x2 bricks woven to flex...one of the rool sheets looked like it could almost be rolled up. The parts of the station were fitted in a base piece by piece with a group of people and then details added by the builder. The model has a bit to go in terms of completion but as it stands, is something special to see.
I also got to help out with a mosaic - it wasn't complete, so I was one of a few people who took some time to finish it. The idea was simple enough: to reflect a large element from side to another. However, when it's a six-foot wide mosaic, it's hard to keep track of what was being built. I spent some time on it, and others joined in...but then more models showed up.
I also noticed that there was food and drinks (including beer) coming in and being placed in the kitchen - this became the green room for the event - people could pick up a snack (or more, I learned) and a drink. The drinks included soda, mineral water (soda water, a VERY acquired taste), and beer. And so there was always a group of people there taking breaks and chatting through the entire event.
The other really nice thing was that the event was very laid back - it is a smaller event, and as a result, the planning was very general. There were no diagrams of floor space, no coordinators in teh normal sense, just a bunch of friends who are putting a show, as one of the guys put it.
And I was picked up by the Event Coordinator to goto my hotel...and he didn't tell me! There was a real sense of community here, and it was really nice to take part.
The generosity of the people is a nice note too - even though I know almost no German, everyone helps me out, either with English, or with a couple of quick explanations with a gesture or two. My worst case of American/German communications gone wrong was in teh electronics store, where I had to explain that I needed an adapter for the special plugs in Germany - and I had my adapter on hand. He looked, reached under the counter and pulled out exactly what I needed! The only problem after that was paying...Euros are strange and tiny compared to change I am used to.
And yes I was offered a drink. And I did - I did a LOT of drinking.
Anyways, back to the story...
The aircraft carrier came in....and it fills the builder's car. Literally. I watched as teh stand was brought, then the boat sections....this model dominates floor space!
Not too long after that, HoMa and his church shows...and many other models come in...
I have met at this point (spelling will really be wrong):
Jan Beyer, Jürgen Broctoch (Event Organizer), Malle Hawking, Marco Taglioferro, Holger Mattes, Rene Hoffmeister, Axel um - I don't know his last name, but he's with 1000stein, and many more that I need to get names from - I am LOUSY at that.
I hung out at setup until 1 am.
And Day 1 was busy. It started out rainy, then it snowed. Snowed! Too bad it didn't stick. And people came.
The people were from allover and were couples and families. And things were very quiet - it was like people attending an art gallery sorta.
Until you saw HoMa with the Bionicle gun,
So things were fun to watch and talk about - but I did get a chance to slip away to teh Munich LEGO store, Looks like one of the US stores, but a bit bigger, And more expensive! Sothat was a short visit:-)
On return, I went with everyone else to a local restaurant where they had a buffet ready for us...and we drank. I drank (which is not a normal thing for me). And ate. And had a lot of fun!
St Nicklaus showed up to give presents to the kids of the attendees, and there was an auction duringthis time - and there were sets and even a couple of MOCs auctioned off. The biggest item, though, was a Factory tour by Jan Beyer, one box of 'stuff' from Rene Hoffmeister, and free admission to Skaerbeck and meal - that was sold for 280 euros - over $300 bucks!
And what did the auction pay for? The banquet! Had enough money for anotherr round of drinks too!
And we went from the restaurant back to the event site to chat and drink more....
what a day!
Thursday, December 7, 2006
BB will have a Mindstorms room (yay) and a train layout (that will be sizable) and a Star Wars layout. The main room is pretty large (maybe 5000 sq feet) and has an upper loft. Star Wars will be in the loft, and the train display below. Mindstorms will have a room of its own.
There's going to be about 70 people showing, so it's goingto be really nice. I know the following is showing: HoMas church replica and Malle Hawking's aircraft carrier. I also learned that there will be a mountain where atrain enters and spirals up and exits out the mountain. There will aslo be lighted town spaces and vehicles.
Seeing the boxes and peeking inside has already gotten me excited and I cannot wait to see everyone come in and start setting up.
I don't have an iron. Hm. There are ways around that, so no big deal.
The big deal is finding that my adapters don't fit the plugs....that's a problem. The adapters have the right prong configuration, but are not thin enoughto get in the sockets. How odd is that?
End result is that I may not be able to recharge anything until Denmark. And taht's not good!
There's gotta be a Radio Shack here...
But Germany is pretty. I took a train to the hotel I am staying and I went through a lot of beautiful farmland.
I was met atthe train station by a member of 1000steine by the name of Juergen, he's very friendly, and he drove me the rest of the way to the hotel, which is not too far away from the display. Before he did that, though, he stopped at his place to show his LEGO models.
He's a Town builder, and he had a layout with a town and snow slopes and elevated track...and he has a holiday train. The trick is that all of this is lit by LEDs! There's also lit Christmas trees and houses...and fire trucks! Beautiful electronics mods.
Two of the fire engines have separate lighting systems for the headlighs, alertlights, working lights, and sound. And both can be remote controlled - by the same controller! It was a LOT of fun to play with.
After that, we went to the hotel abdd after alittle walk, we got to the room....nice!
But now my brain is fried because of jet lag...more later!
Wednesday, December 6, 2006
The great thing is that I get to meet the German builders, such as HoMa and Malle Hawking - two builders that have been in BrickJournal for wonderful creations. I get to see their work in person, so I will be able to see that gigantc aircraft carrier and the church at Dresden that HoMa built. I'll have my camera with me too, so there will be a lot of pics from this trip.
I also will be able to talk with the head of LUGNET and 1000steinland, so I will be able to talk about events and planning...they have an experience pool that is different from the pool in the US, and I want to see how they proceed. Jan Beyer rom LEGO will also be there, so it will be a good opportunity to talk about community with him. I'm really curious to learn about the community in Europe.
But this is part one...
Part two of the trip is going to Billund to meet up with LEGO staff about BrickJournal and some other projects. That has me really excited because I will be talking business...
Thankfully, the first trip is fun - I need the rest from my traveling and dealing!
Tuesday, December 5, 2006
Well, I had two meetings today about some things that are in the planning stages - one is with the Museum of Science and Industry and one has to do with BrickWorld.
I'll start with BrickWorld - I got to see the event site. Very nice! I'm not coordinator of this event, but an advisor...and this is a nice place. The site is a new hotel and has a well-lit ballroom for display area and is also very classy. There is a lot, and I mean a LOT of potential there!
And the Museum - they want to do an event that would be a display/expo over a weekend in November (so far) that would be in conjunction with their Star Wars exhibit, which opens in October. This is a project that I am taking lead on and getting more and more excited about...as the Museum is really interested in providing support ! I'm also looking at help from other areas too. The slated date for this event is November.
I met up with Adam Tucker of BrickStructures while I was in town, and gotto see his building area - one thing I will say, he's organized. And his buildings are amazing. His townhouse is tall enough to house his buildings complete, so they are in corners looking like architectural displays. His star is about to take off with his building, and it's cool to see his work being appreciated by so many.
I've gotten a cold from my travels from cold to sorta warm to cold again. Chicago is in teh teens, and there is snow- as in about 8-10 inches. I love snow, but I can't see myself driving in a big city with it. But then again, I'm getting cross-eyed with the taxi fares I have had to manage. And travel time.
So what's goingto happen? Keep an eye here and on LUGNET...
Friday, December 1, 2006
A lot of stories have been sent to me for the Journal, and it's dawning on me that this issue will be a big issue - this is one of those times where almost everyone who I inquired responded...so this snowballed.
I also have a ton of photos from the Millyard - the irony fro me is that there were a few pics so far online of the dedication in the local news, but most pics were of Dean Kamen and the Governor. I got some pics of Kjeld and everyone else. I also got some pix to do pano shots of the Millyard, yes, it's that big!
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Two years ago, an idea was forwarded from Bob Tuttle to build a LEGO model of the Amoskeag Millhouse, of which the SEE Science Center and FIRST LEGO League are based. Initial plans were to have the model built in a 5,000 square feet room, which is a monumental size. As a result, the LEGO group not only had their Master Builders Erik Varszegi and Steve Gerling build, but recruited NELUG (the New England LEGO Users Group) and the community of Manchester help out.
The final result is a 2200 square foot display including the Millyard, City Hall and the main street of Manchestera and an amusement park from the turn of the century.
The dedication ceremony was a grand affair, with the mayor of Manchester and Governor of New Hampshire attending. Also, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen was present with other representatives of the LEGO Group, as well as Dean Kamen, the creator of FIRST and also inventor of the Segway.
Here's a couple of pix:
Erik and Steve talking about the project.
Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, Dean Kamen, Governor John Lynch and Steve Gerling at the dedication.
There was quite a bit of coverage of the event from the local TV stations and newspapers, which is great!
There were also members of NELUG, including Joe Comeau, Suzanne Green, Dave Eaton, Bill Bourne, Teddy Welsh (who gave me a tour of the display, showing me the neat details), and a whole bunch of other people.
And what about the Millyard?
Well, it looked likethis a month ago:
and it looks really nice with the addition of 8,000 minifigs to populate.
And yes, there will be an article on this in BrickJournal!
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
What was fun for me was going to the FIRST LEGO League office here (theinternational headquarters is here) and talking to Scott Evans, thechallenge designer for the group. I interviewed him a couple of monthsago and was getting some pictures taken of him and his co-worker, Cindy Randall.
He's a great person to talk to - with a warped sense of humor, but a mind sharp as a tack! As a result, the conversation that ensued had alot of laughs and neat insights. Designing the FLL challenges arenot easy, but Scott does a wonderful job.
Cindy has a different take on things - she's a motivator and has ameasure of charisma - she can sell people on ideas, and her jobis justthat! With the challenges, there is a real-life research aspect, andshe works on that by recruiting world experts to help her out. She's very articulate and gets people involved just by her words.
I also talked to Tormod Askildsen from LEGO tonight - and got into alot of discussions about LEGO Factory and a little about BrickJournal.
But why are all ofthese people in New hampshire? Well....
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Spending the holiday with family and just relaxing...
Built the snowmobile Technic set, and it's pretty neat! The details are pretty clever (the front fork has a suspension and the tracks move pretty smoothly)...I seee a lot opossibilities with the treads too. The alternate build is really nice too, as it makes a bulldozer with two treads that are small - small enough for an NXT brick
Also got some smaller sets to play with - the mosaic sets are fun and very addictive - as in, I can do that! and THAT! And...darn, I'm out of parts...need another set:-)
And next week, I go to cover an event in New Hampshire, then off to Chicago then off to Munich and then Billund!
And somewhere in there, I'm supposed to be writing :-)
I'm also working on multimedia stuff for use with BrickJournal..One of the things that will have to expand with the magazine is its use of media. So possibilities include video and audio presentations.
BrickJournal will be working toward getting articles from First LEGO League, Serious Play, and a bunch of events - and I will hopefullly have video coming in from Munich...
Monday, November 20, 2006
This time we had a visitor...actually a visitor and his grandfather.
The grandfather is Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and it turns out that he is a regent of the Air and Space Museum. He's a very friendly person and chatted with use for a little bit as his grandson built at the build area.
We also got requests to do robotic demonstrations at some local schools, which were very unexpected. But it's an indicator of how much attention LEGO stuff gets if put in a public place.
The robotics were a nice surprise to build - Clifton Chambers and his father built a robot and I had 2 at the display. One was a forklift that was a little tempermental, andthe other I built onsite was a sound activated rover - I wanted something that would respond to the kids that showed up. Clifton set up the program (all of three steps) and I built a rover using a ball as a caster (an idea that came from the MDP gang)
The result was this:
The robot are quickly got a crowd as a result.
Others involved with the display included Mike Harrod, Tony Perez, Travis Butler, Phil Moyer, and Kunie Devorkin.
Next up for me? Local Train layout!
Friday, November 17, 2006
The seminar that was set up was about leadership and management and was hosted by the Disney Institute - yep, they do training too! The seminars concentrated on how to use the "Disney Way" to get the best results from group planning and management.
For the community, it's important to note that everyone or almost everyone is a volunteer, so leading and planning is different from doing the same in a business model - there's no pay, and to a certain extent, no incentive. The good thing about this though is that the incentive for a volunteer is deeper than a paycheck - volunteers don't answer to the standards that are set by a business, but by what is set by themselves...and that is often a higher standard than is set in a business.
So leading is finding those of same vision and creating an environment that encourages creativity - this empowers the individuals to do what they want and need to reach their objectives. It's also fun.
Now, I get o zip to DC and do another display - it's been pretty frantic!
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
So I was here, at Downtown Disney in Orlando, Florida. There was a LEGO display to coincide with the Festival of the Masters, and I was invited to join. The theme was movies, and there were mocs from Lost, Casablanca, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the Little Mermaid, Haryy Potter, Spiderman, and Batman. Participants were members of GFLUG (the Greater Florida LEGO Users Group). What was really cool was that he new 2007 sets showed up too, so I got some Aquaraider and Mosaic sets.And attendance for the Festival was estimated to be 220,000 for the entire weekend.Not bad at all!
Friday, November 10, 2006
Usually, there's at least one building that I builton the layout, but this time I did three.And it was an all weekend event, so I was going to occupy myself with my NXT. So I brought it to the display on Saturday and Sunday building a robot on a little display area.
I became a huckster for teh NXT, and it was pretty fun. Problem was, I couldn't build anything fun until Sundy...annd then programminng took an hour or so.
the end result was a forklift that picked up a pallet and moved it to another point and dropped it off....and it was a LOT of fun!
More later - off to Festival of the Masters in Florida!!
Monday, November 6, 2006
Wednesday, November 1, 2006
This is an upsetting thing to the Asian AFOLs, and I can understand that - one of the possibilities of marketing BrickJournal is through Shop at Home. How will the Journal get to Asia?
Definitely a question to ponder, especially since Asia is a place I would like to see articles from.
Monday, October 30, 2006
So after this:
I did this:
and finally this:
You can find all this in this folder.
Kinda nice to be building again:-)
Friday, October 27, 2006
But most is overseas.
Right now, there's an event in Billund. In the past six months, there have been many events in Europe, including LEGOWorld, 1000steineland, LEGOFest Turismo, the list goes on. Wow.
One of the really neat things about working on BrickJournal is that I get a truly global sense of what is going on. There are some darker places I can't see, most notably Japan and teh Far East, but for the most part, the community has something going on at any given time.
I'll be going to a few events in the coming weeks - off to DC, then Orlando, then to Munich, Germany. Munich will be my first international event, and I am really ecited about it.
The event is Bricking Bavaria, and the aircraft carrier in BrickJournal will be displayed there! There's a lot of other things coming too, and also all the people in Germany. I'm really looking forward to meeting Rene from 1000steine amd Malle and Jan.
All of this is part of my effort to learn about the community - what better way than to go to where the community is?
Thursday, October 26, 2006
This doesn't take into account the time beforhand finding articles and writers. There is a growing stable of writers, but looking for ideas is an ongoing thing that happens behind the scenes. And it's not as easy as it appears.
Take for example the aircraft carrier story - that took about a day to track down an e-mail to send an inquiry, as Brickshelf does not keep account information. I ended up doing a google search by account and hoped the person kept the same account elsewhere...which took me to 1000steine.com - he is a German builder.
That's the typical story hunt for me, and this is a very regular thing. And challenging! What's nice is that people are coming forward with ideas now, and it's welcomed.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
I don't quite understand why I am building what I am building now, though - I built some micro mecha. Pictures will be coming soon, as I still haven't quite finished them.
The challenge of micro is always appealing to me - doing the most with the least number of parts engages my design sense.
It's also akin to origami - you have one piece of square paper to make anything. And if you are good enough, you can make a swan with all the feathers folded and legs and feet....but if you're really good, you can make a swan in less than ten folds. Origami is more capturing the essence of a subject, not making a blueprint.
Here are examples of angels:
The first angel is by MisaQa and the second is done by David Winkler. Both are great builders, but are very different in style.
MisaQa uses an origamic approach - only necessary detail is used, so there are no faces on her angels. Very simple and also playful to a certain extent, because of the pose and color choices she made.
David went the other direction almost entirely, with a large sculpture that has no color but intricate detail. The lack of color is compensated by the detail and is a beautiful sculpture in the classic sense. It's also an almost perfect rendition of a real subject.
Is one better than another? I wouldn't phrase the question that way - I see beauty in both. My style leans toward a 'designer/origamic' approach than an 'artistic/sculpture' approach, but there's a lot to admire in Davis sculpture.
The trick is to apply what I observe in both in my building. Micro or otherwise.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Originally (about three or so years ago), the company was a bit standoffish about working with the community. To be fair, the community wasn't so gracious either - both sides looked warily at each other. The company was worried about being taken advantage of, and the community was worried about how much control the LEGO group would want for use of products and support.
Things turned around with the beginning of AFOL help with LEGO projects. From LEGO Factory to the present MINDSTORMS project, AFOLs have become a more active voice in determining the direction of products developed by LEGO. Before that, there were fan sets that were sold at LEGO shop at home and at the stores.
It's a good time to be an AFOL - if you are good enough, you will be noticed both the fans and the company. That would have been much more difficult in previous years, but there is an active effort by the company to find builders.
How do I know? Well, having coordinated BrickFest 2006, one of the points that was made to me was that LEGO is looking for people to help them from time to time.
So what does this mean?
Well, it means that if you build well and post online, who knows? Being positive online really helps to. That's how I got started. My brickshelf account was noticed, and I was contacted to do what became LEGO Factory. And that was a FUN project - I had six weeks to work on building micro items. For the company! How cool is THAT?
People in the community have this opportunity, especially with the company becoming much more open. And there's a lot happening.
And one more thing - make SURE you have a contact e-mail on your photos online!
PS. Since BrickJournal began, three writers and contributors have been employed or are in process to be employed by the LEGO Group.
Monday, October 23, 2006
I did two events with the WamaLTC gang at DC - and both were really fun and strangely enough, relaxing.
It wasn't all that relaxed before, though.
The first event was on Saturday at Reston Town Center in Virginia, not far away from Tyson's Corner (a Very Important Reference Point since a LEGO Retail store is there), and lasted from noon to 4.
For me, though it started earler in teh week when I had to build something. Something that was different for me but tied in with the Autumn bit, sorta.
So I built a haunted house. While I wanted all sorts of moving things, I was frustrated by a couple of factors:
I procrastinated - so I had very little time, and I had no idea where my scary minifigs were. So I did a rush job over two long nights..
and ended up with this:
the eye moves from side to side, which I was pretty proud of. The back is open (incomplete) as I thought that it would be cool for kids to put stuff in (and I wasn't ablet to finish it:-) ). That didin't work out, but the good thing about the openness ofthe back was that the interior was lit naturally, so people could see in the rooms, so that was pretty nice.
Other members of the club brought in stuff, including a maize maze, Bourbon Street on Halloween, a graveyard and a large pumpkin. And there was a freebuild area tha was constantly busy. I and another builder started building things like planes and bugs and frogs and robots.
It's always fun for me to be in these events to show people what we can do and play with them. It's outreach, and it's something that I think is very important for us to keep community growing. And we should be figuring ways to make our community a part of other people's lives in some way, by events, community service, or whatever else is thought of. I'll touch on that thought in a later note.
After that, I went with he gang to Tyson's Corner and shopped and relaxed....
and then on Sunday, I went to Westfield Mall to help out with a LEGO Building Blitz at the local mall. I was really surprised and impressed by the event, as it was a team competition build that was started by a young man - Habitat for Humanity helped out, but the idea came from a boy too young to volunteer with HfH.
The event was a timed build - each team of two or three boys and girls had 300 random parts and had an hour to build a house...and it was really cool to watch. Even though the sound system didn't work, it didn't matter. There were over 20 teams who took aprt in this event, and their registration fee went to HfH as well as donations. Bricks were also donated to go to the Building for Tomorrow brick campaign for Hurricane Katrina victims' schools.
The mall was supportive of this, and there were clowns painting faces and walking around. On top of that, there was a TV station taking footage of the event, and there was already a newspaper story in the local paper. And it was a fun event!
So why aren't there more events like this?
Friday, October 20, 2006
BrickJournal is now 5 issues, over 400 pages of copy, hundreds of photos, and is still growing. Since the first issue, there have been over 300,000 downloads and the magazine has gotten the attention of people outside of the AFOL community and the LEGO Group. It's amazing to see so much happen in so little time.
And it's exciting - the partnership that BrickJournal will have with TLG is groundbreaking, and is already leading to new opportunities for the community to grow.
So thanks need to go out to everyone who has helped out with BrickJournal, from the beginning staff, to the new writers that have come in since. Thanks also to the LEGO Group for their support.
And thanks also to those people who host the mirrors that keep the BrickJournal PDFs -
Dan Boger (Peeron),
Kevin Loch (Brickshelf),
Rene Hoffmeister (LUGNET and 1000steine),
Dan Sabath (Rustyclank),
and Kelly McKiernan(BZPower and LEGOFan).
Darn, even this list is a who's who of the community:-)!
Thursday, October 19, 2006
One of the vendors present was Brio. They were presenting advance info on their new line of toys that are an offshoot of their train sets - the Network. Basically, they made the train track computer wires and creted an environment with cute kid-friendly characters and really nice design.
The best aspect was that there was a presentation film that was really cute and set the tone for the whimsy of the new toys.
I just found the website for the toys here:
It's a really fun and funny website - it's a different model for a website, but it's also pointed to a different market.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
My design background has served me pretty well, and has led me to doing a few ad campaigns (nothing noteworthy, as I worked on pharmaceautical ads and then newspaper ads) but more importantly, given me an appreciation for clean design.
It shows in BrickJournal with how regimented layout is. But I would like to do stuff like this:
Agency: FCB Johannesburg
Photographer: Gerard Turnely
Director: Brett Morris
Copywriter/Art Director: Lance Vining
Art Director: Charles Foley
Awards: Grand Prix—Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival
Really nice stuff.
It's got, well, retro junk. Footage from TV shows and movies from the 70s, 80s, and 90s.
And it's got commercials - including some LEGO spots:
LEGO Fantasy Sweepstakes
Zac the LEGO Maniac
Geez, these are sooooo dated:-)
Now for some current ads, look at these:
For those who don't know, Serious Play is a way of learning using imagination an play to provide a way to learn. This keys into how a child learns - by play, role playing, construction, and then discussion.
There's a lot of positives to this approach and I have experienced this first-hand in various projects I am working with LEGO - they actively use this doctrine.
Serious Play does not place emphasis on rank - everyone has something to offer, and this allows everyone to contribute. In talking to Jensen, he mentioned that SP is meant to get the 'lonely guy or girl' to be able to participate in discussions.
I find this fascinating because this is a real-life application of using LEGO bricks, and in a business and even personal context. I'm also excited because this article is an example of the interest that BrickJournal is getting from people in the LEGO Group.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
A nicely done story. Take a read!
In other things, BrickJournal 5 is heading to the launch pad. A couple of last minute things happened, but things are loooking good now!
And things are progressing with BrickJournal and the LEGO Group. The big challenge is that sheer newness of working as a partner. The LEGO Group isonly startingthis type of relationship, with the first example being HiTechnic selling LEGO compliant sensors for the NXT.
BrickJournal is a lot more complicated. It would be a lot easier for everyone if I was hired by LEGO to do the mag, but it's been understood that what makes the mag so special is that it is independent from the LEGO Group in voice. I really enjoy the freedom that I have, as I can look at things the LEGO Group may not be able to.
This freedom also allows me to look at things more objectively, as I answer to the following things:
1. Subject matter - what is the article's relevance to the reader? While this seems to be a narrow road, it's actually pretty wide, as almost everything can touch on the hobby.
2. Tone - is this a positive, mature article—you won't see an article that says, "LEGO really sucked on this!" While I want a voice in each article (preferably the writer's:-) ), I also want the voice to be intelligent and the article well-thought out.
3. Is the article's main thrust intelligently written? Another article you won't see is the,"I love this set cuz itz cool!!!" type. BrickJournal is not out to be hip, or cool, or the flavor of the week.
I watch LUGNET and Brickshelf constantly and also am talking with LEGO staff for story ideas, and also expanding to include FIRST LEGO League.
And if every reader learns one thing from an issue, I will have done my job, as I and my staff have learned a lot...and it's only the beginning!
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Thursday, October 12, 2006
This will be in BrickJournal 6, so stay tuned - Always busy, so I'll post more in a bit!
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Monday, October 9, 2006
so I have been very busy over the weekend....
I went to Washington DC and hung out fro the weekend, but isn't all just hanging out, it's usually doing something - in this case, it was helping out with building a church. I worked on a commissioned model (no, it wasn't my commission) - did almost an all-niter on it. I laid down plates (for flooring) and chairs (about 300 of them). And building on this scale is slow.
I also went to the WAMALUG meeting and caught up with old friends. Also got some Technic sets to use with the NXT:-)
BrickJournal is getting closer to completion. Yay!
Thursday, October 5, 2006
It's over 100 pages, rough estimate (I am about to paginate and am calculating a page count)!
I was expecting this one to be smaller. But since it is the Megastructures issue, I guess that works.
What's in line for this issue? How about:
an article on Malle Hawking's aircraft carrier?
an article on Matt Chile's roller coaster?
an article on Adam Tucker's skyscrapers?
They are all big!
And there's also instructions, model galleries, and a couple of surprises!
And it's coming soon!
Wednesday, October 4, 2006
Since then, I have been doing what I can to be a positive part of the community, either by building or by working on events. And I have been able to watch growth happen - and it's been positive and negative.
There is a major dynamic that I have noticed:
Generational - this is most obvious in the American AFOL community. While overall the community is not that old, the US community really bloomed around 2000. It's now 2006, and what that means is that there is a generation's worth of time that has passed.
A brief aside - I worked at the Disney Store in the late 90's, and I learned a lot there beyond simply working. Much of how I do things I learned from there, and not from where I worked for my profession. One of the things I learned was that back then, videos were released every 7 years for a reason - a new generation of kids would be available to see them (and parents to buy them).
How does this affect us? Well, the most obvious effect is that the leadership of community (or aspects thereof) has gotten older...and not adapted. I feel that there really hasn't been any thought devoted to what lies ahead for the community. There are immediate actions done for the next convention or event, but long-range goals are simply not made.
So the big question is: where does the community want to go?
I have been thinking on this for some time. And I have been working to make things happen...
My thoughts have been toward organizing community resources - I have mentioned this to people at LEGO and at BrickFest when I do my roundtable (okay, it's not a roundtable, it's more like I take questions about BrickJournal's Grand Plan®), but my thoughts are not that well-known (and probably not taken that seriously, either).
So here is what I am working on:
BrickJournal: The magazine. Yes, it will be printed. Hopefully by next summer (hey, I was dared, so I have to do it), and the groundwork is being established now. The magazine is planned to be the AFOL counterpart to the LEGO magazines - so there will be an active partnership with the LEGO Group on this. This partnership will maintain the independence of the Journal, so it's a win-win for everyone.
Multimedia - Event DVDs? It's a strong possibility in the next year to have DVDs with footage from events everywhere. I'd also like to see DVD's spotlighting builders - can you imagine a DVD that shows how a builder does a model by showing the builder working on a design and building it - and then having instructions on the DVD? This could be a bonus for subscribers.
Online - BrickJournal needs a true website, and one that has content to enhance stories in the magazine. Also, this would be great to post the quick news that happens between issues. The site would be a great central point for people to learn about the community and hobby.
Offline - The community needs a "Memory Alpha" to keep artifacts and information from the community. Like LEGO keeps the Vault, the community needs to keep an archive. LUGNET has become an archive, but a real archive would be real nice. This would be something for people to gather research to create new projects and events.
Events - Yep, heading there too.
Simply put, if the community wants to go forward, it needs to look ahead and also know where it's been.
and if anyone is interested, drop me a line!
But getting e-mails from AFOLs in Germany and interviews from LEGO staff (among other people) is simply fun. It's a little like Christmas when I get a story - I don't know what to expect. I know that I will learn something everytime, which makes things exciting to me.
The best part for me is getting layouts done - after getting the raw stories and photos, it's a challenge to work things out to a page design. But when it happens, it's almost magic.
The real magic is placing everything in place in the mag - this is like fitting a puzzle together. Right now, I'm getting the pieces rounded up to build.
So is this hard? Yes.
But it's almost as fun as building:-)
Tuesday, October 3, 2006
Studless beams are in odd-numbered lengths. I originally thought it was really strange, but as I was playing with the parts it dawned on me why this is so:
Odd numbers have center studs. If you look at the NXT sensors, they have a place for one beam to nestle in the sensor's centerline. This is really convenient for building, as a central 'spine' can be built for a robot - even the NXT brick is an odd number of studs across.
This is probably why there isn't much done to make jumper parts to go between studs.
and now I watch them online.
I watch Extreme Makeover because of the general message - once you go past the reasons behind the sponsors, this show is about making a difference in someone's life. We each have the ability to make things positive for others, and to be honest, it doesn't take a Sears sponsorship to do it, it can be something as simple as giving a smile to someone. I also really like the idea of surprising people - "you want this, well we looked around and found THIS!" So I watch the show when I can with my mom.
I also watch Desparate Housewives with my mom. The show is generally good - and there's always one scene that is laugh-out-loud funny. And there's usually a scene that is really moving in every other show.
Gray's Anatomy is a nicely-crafted show. The characters are very human, and I really enjoy watching them grow as times go on (although growth can be a interesting way of explaining some of the things that happen). I used to watch ER back in the day, but this is a lighter, fluffier version.
Shows I used to watch:
Star Trek and ST:TNG - but I love the classic series much more than TNG - but Picard was a really good character.
X-Files - until the conspiracy went nuts.
Who's Line is it Anyways - the British version (ahem)
The Man from UNCLE - nicely written shows, believe me
Batman - Holy (fill in the blank)!
Shows I should be seeing:
But I haven't the time.....
Well, it's because I only have weekends to focus on it. Weekdays, especially now, I am working on BrickJournal stuff and other sundry projects. I play on the weekend, and I play hard doing late nighters figuring out the NXT.
It's a jump to go from LEGO stud building to studless building - it's like trying to figure a foreign dialect of a language, like pidgin English. A builder understands the fundamentals, but learning to do exactly what you want is tricky.
An important difference that I have noticed is that the beam thickness is based on 2 plates - which means that everything is defined by mutiples of twos in construction. This simplifies things quite a bit, sorta. Brick building is defined by threes - three plates equal a brick in height. Attaching a brick to a beam with Technic pins will result in just under a plate in space hanging out the bottom. A plate placed on the bottom will fit with a tiny space above the stud - unusable space.
But studless has advantages - construction is based on pins. These pins are longer than a stud is tall, and are lipped, so once set in place, it takes some effort to displace them. Conceptually, that means that instead of building:
plate bottom to plate stud = 2 plates
beam to pin to beam = 2 beams (which is 4 plates in height)
You end up creating studs with the pin.
Another factor is that the tolerances allow for more 'slop' or flex, which make studless models a little flex for movement, which is a good thing most of the time.
One slightly frustrating thing is that there are not very many ways to move a beam a half stud. The most obvious way is to use Technic bricks which mostly have a half stud offset (a 8 stud Technic brick has 7 holes) 1 and 2 stud bricks can have same stud holes set in, but larger bricks are always offset. After that, well, it's tough.
I fnally started understanding studless when I realized it's a lot like plumbing - you build with pipes and the pins are the joints. More often than not, you aren't building things, but frames for things.
So am I frustrated with this? Sometimes, but I am learning. And that's the most important...
Now, programming.....wow, THAT's tricky!
Saturday, September 30, 2006
There is a history of AFOLs who have been involved with TLG for some time. The first set made available by an AFOL was the Blacksmith's Shop in 2002 by Daniel Siskind. From there, James Mathis made the Santa Fe in 2002.
There has been a long lull since in terms of sets, but AFOLS went off to different projects as volunteer consultants:
LEGO Factory - which was initially a micro project. AFOLs involved included Ashley Glennon, Brian Muzas, Sean Kenney, J. Spencer Rezhalla, Ross Crawford, John and Ross Neal, and others that I can't recall for the moment. Oh yeah, I was in that project too!
Train - The Signal Group, which was a code name for some train AFOLs who have provided consulting, especially about the new IR trains.
The highest profile LEGO/AFOL group is the LEGO Ambassadors Program - they essentially provide TLG with insight from the AFOL community.
Actualy, I'm wrong - the highest profile group is the MINDSTORMS Developer Program - the Centurians who beta tested the NXT system.
Some notable AFOLs have also gone on to become LEGO set designers:
Jamie Berard, from NELUG.
Nate Kuipers, from Denmark (he was one of the winners of the LEGO Factory contest last year)
So how does one get into these projects? That's a good question. I can say that being a good builder isn't enough. It helps to be at events and display, and it really helps to have a Brickshelf account!
One has to be a positive asset, as in positive attitude and image projected online and off, and be able to work with constraints and non-disclosure agreements...it's not easy.
But it really is a lot of fun, and very rewarding!
Friday, September 29, 2006
A nice surprise happened today, though, when I got a note from the Polish LEGO Users Group (LUGPol). They will be sending an event report on a meet for BrickJournal very soon. What's really nice is that they replied in less than a day!
Things like this make the job fun:-)
Welcome to my blog - I finally have one!
Hopefully, I will be posting very regularly about things that are going on with me and the community and whatever else comes to mind.
I guess I'll start by talking about BrickJournal. The magazine is one and a half years old, and the fifth issue is coming out soon (am working on layouts and will be completing things in the next few days). Production has been very slow for this issue because I have been busy with other projects.
With BrickJournal 5, which spotlights megastructures (or simply, Really Large Models), the magazine will be beginning to reach its next phase: true publication.
In the past six months, there have been short discussions about BrickJournal going to print with the LEGO Group, who has been interested with the mag since it was launched. Things are starting to pick up now, in a positive way!
I also am being considered for some other projects for the community, so stay tuned for those!