Monday, October 30, 2006

And I built some other stuff too..

Earlier in teh week, I got really antsy about building and I had an idea in mind from playing with the Robo X-Pod - the teeny slope parts (chicklets) really were handy for building a chest section.

So after this:

I did this:

then this:

and finally this:

You can find all this in this folder.

Kinda nice to be building again:-)


I made an NXT messenger! It carries a note pad and pen.  I set it to distance using the ultrasound, but it could be programmed for directions, so it could pass notes from one point to another.

Pictures are here after moderation.

Friday, October 27, 2006

So much going on...

I'm findingout that there's is a LOT going on in the community.

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

Doing busy work...

While BrickJournal is a lot of fun, it's also a lot of work - the publication is the result of around twenty people writing, three people editing, more photographers and two designers.

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 - 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

Back to building....

So it's sorta quiet for me for the moment and I am building again...which is nice. There's something to be said about putting together something in your hands as opposed to on the computer, which is what I do the majority of the time.

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

Hey cool!

So I'm looking at the new images of new sets from here:

and I notice this set:

It has a TRANSPARENT baseplate!!!

so the Mosaic sets will be disappearing from the stores where AFOLs go:-)

Communiy and the LEGO Group

The LEGO Group has going through some changes in the past few years.

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.

Dang, already got a story...

Just got an event report for LEGOFest Torino, in Turin Italy!

That was fast:-)!


Monday, October 23, 2006

Weekend fun...

so I had a busy weekend.

Very busy.

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

So what's up for Issue 6?

The theme is Trains.

and it's the year-end issue, so event reports will be coming from all around.

Thanks to...

all the writers for this issue of BrickJournal. Also thanks to the many people who contributed photos - I am learning the importance of large pix to crop.

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),
Rob Hendrix(Brickmodder),
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

It's out!

BrickJournal 5 is out!


Now I can rest for a week:-)

Geez, I keep on finding stuff - but this is non-LEGO

Way back in February, I went to the International Toy Fair in New York City. While I was invited to see the LEGO showroom, I also got to check out all the new toys coming out from almost every toy producer  out there.

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:

The Networkers

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

While we are on advertising....

Having a design background (a degree in Product Design from North Carolina State University, also known as the Design School) doesn't mean that much in the real world, except that there is a certain mystique that is given that also is given to artists.

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.

LEGO Commercials

Got a call from a friend that pointed me out to this site:

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



Time Twisters


Zac the LEGO Maniac



Geez, these are sooooo dated:-)

Now for some current ads, look at these:



Knights Kingdom

Helping BrickJournal...

Hi all,

here's a neat way to help out BrickJournal as it heads toward being a print publication:

LEGO Shop at Home page

I kid you not.

Many many thanks to the LEGO Group for this.

Serious Play

Just got a call from Jesper Just Jensen, head of the Serious Play division of the LEGO Group. He wants to get a story into BrickJournal about this.

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

Fun newspaper story

Just got this from Brian Korte, owner of Brickworkz, a business that does LEGO mosaics....Piece by Piece

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

On NDAs and stuff going on...

Just got back from my trip to Enfield!

And all I can say is WOW!

I met with some people about BrickJournal and I got hit with some NDAs to sign, but I can say that LEGO is very interested in working with the magazine!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Visitin FIRST LEGO League

Went to Manchester, NH to meet up with the challenge designers to FIRST LEGO LEAGUE. What originally was meant to be a rather formal hour-long talk became a much longer conversation that was a blast to be in!

This will be in BrickJournal 6, so stay tuned - Always busy, so I'll post more in a bit!

Monday, October 9, 2006

Busy busy busy

It's Monday afternoon,

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


To those attending NW BrickCon, have fun! Wish I was able to be there, but things got too busy.

I hope to see some pics on BrickShelf next week:-)

Brickjournal 5 is...

a little big.

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

Forgot another part of the Grand Plan...

an Event Calendar. 

This will be announced soon, but I am playing with it.

The key to this will be event organizers posting to me announcements.


BrickJournal's Grand Plan

I've been part of the AFOL community since 2002 - that's when I actually made the jump from the online community to going to an event: BrickFest.

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!

BrickJournal - the fun part...

BrickJournal is a big project to do, but it's never dull. There is a lot of e-mail flinging that goes on and followup, which can be hard to keep track of.

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

More on studless

Some things I noticed that I neglected to mention before:

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.

Non-LEGO Item: Guilty pleasures

I watch Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Grey's Anatomy and Desperate Housewives.

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:

West Wing
Battlestar Galactica

But I haven't the time.....

Other fun things...NXT and studless building

So I'm playing with an NXT now, and my family and friends are wonderinng why I have been obsessing over it every weekend.

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,, THAT's tricky!