Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New year! Off-topic.

So it's a new year - and with it comes new hopes, and new goals and resolutions.

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

Ship ahoy!

Malle Hawking's aircraft carrier model was the subject of an article in England's Daily Mail! You can see the article here.

Congrats, Malle!

something to ponder...

I was reading another site ( - yep, I'm a trekkie) that had a writeup on Worldcon 2006. There were a couple of interesting things that were in the article.

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.

blue sky concept

Been poking around online and found this...

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

Somewhat off-topic....

I have been getting some Christmas e-mails (how nice!) and while I have been 'busy' at home (with family - Mom and Dad and my older sister and her family), I cannot say that what I have done has been terribly constructive.

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

Merry Christmas!

It's Christmas Eve, and while I wish I could have created a really nice MOC that was themed to the holiday...well....


I wish for everyone to have a Merry Christmas! And also to have a great new year!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

So what's up with BrickJournal?

BrickJournal is going through some transformation.

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

More Idea House pictures...

Here's some more pics from the Idea House - it was neat to see old sets so well-preserved on display...

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

Finishing Bricking Bavaria and Visiting the Idea House..

So I am finally wrapping up my comments on Bricking Bavaria with some photos:

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) 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

More on Bricking Bavaria....

So I am now finally back in the states after my visit.

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 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

Bricking Bavaria Day 2 and Billund...

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

Bricking Bavaria Set up and Day 1

It was a little odd showing up to an event without anything to do.

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 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

First look at display space

Got to see the space for Bricking Bavaria - setup happens later today, so there only boxes of stuff coming in.

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.

Aw man....

So I start unpacking and look at my clothes, which are a mess.

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...

Made it to Munich

The flights were uneventful, and the last one overseas was long.

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

An entry before The Big Trip...

I'm heading to Germany to attend Bricking Bavaria, and I am really excited! I haven't been to Germany since the mid 70s, where I was a kid...and I remember just enough to wish that I could have stayed longer.

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

New things and ideas...

So now I am in Chicago (where apparently taxis get a LOT of money) and recovering.


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 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

Back and recovering...

Got back late last night from Manchester (the flight from JFK Airport was delayed 4 HOURS- and two were in the plane!!!) and am in a recovery mode.

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 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!