Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Doing weekend funstuff....and some news about BrickJournal staff

I spent the last weekend in Washington DC.

I really like the city, and I have gotten to know a lot of people through the LEGO Users Group and LEGO Train Group there. This has only gotten me to like the place even more, although I used to visit often before I got out of Dark Ages.

Back then, I would go to Silver Spring (on the Maryland side of DC) and stay with my little sister (then a nurse in the Army stationed at Walter Reed Army Hospital), who usually come up with something to do, like going to the Kennedy Center to see a musical or something like that - so I got a little culture. It's something that I still do once in a while.

Now I go to LEGO displays and maybe a meeting. I can only go once a month, if that much, so it's either one or the other. This month I went to a display in Reston, Virginia called Autumn Adventure. It's a kid's event, where there are arts and crafts and entertainment (usually a singer that is...well...tune-impaired, I guess, and a clog dancing group).  As displays go, it's pretty easy and on the surface, a pretty average thing to do.

However, under the surface, it's a wonderful thing. I love to 'spread the word about the LEGO hobby,' so this is a perfect thing for me. Whether running a robot or talking about building to interested people, it's fun. And seeing kids when they see displays, or understand how a robot works, as well as adults, makes my day, or weekend.

There was a lot kids that built at the build tables, and just as many that saw the train display. And some adults too.

Now part of fun is funny for me, and a lot of funny things happened to me too. Coming into town is a 4.5 hour dive for me, and usually, I am coming with a good frame of mind. This time it was a little different. I had a rough week. And I was thinking of not so happy things, so I was a bit stressed. It showed in how I dealt with a small annoying and ultimately embarrassing thing that happened during dinner when I got into DC.

I met up with Tony Perez, a member of the train club, and also a cousin of mine (small world) and ate at the local Silver Diner. Nice place, big meals, relaxing atmosphere, and one of the few places still open late Friday night in that part of town. We got in, and had to contend with a very busy waiter, and while waiting, I noticed a table sign that mentioned there was a wireless network in the restaurant.

I purchased an iPhone, and this was a good time to play with it - I've had it for just over a month, and I can tell you it's a great device. Mainly because it makes my office much more mobile. And I wanted to see if things could work in the diner. So I turn on the phone, and let it sniff out the wifi...which it does, and after a few moments, it pops up the network, which I connect.

A moment later, the web page shows the Silver Diner entry page, and things look pretty straight forward, except...you need an account and password. I glance over the webpage, and it states in clear sentences, "Please ask your server for account and password."

I got very confused very quickly, looking on the page and miving the page to see where the server was so I could prompt it. I was a little teed off - how could I access a server if I couldn't get into the system? I mean, what it was telling me was that I needed server access to get the server information...which was lame.

Tony noticed my exasperation, and asked me what the problem was. "I need to ask the server, and I can't get to the server!" I blurted. Tony looked at me for a moment and started laughing.

"It means that server." Tony replied, pointing to the waiter who was running from table to table (he was one of two that were working that night, and it was busy!). Well, then I understood and started laughing too.

I was too focused on things to relax, and this was a sign to loosen up. So I did.

The event was Saturday (the next day) and I showed up way early, and set things up completely wrong (I don't like being led over the phone:-))but things worked out and the display went on with no snags.

One thing odd about the DC group - very few do anything with the NXT. I am the only one with any experienece (which isn't much) so I get to be the FIRST LEGO League spokesperson by default. So I ended up talking to some people about that over the day - even Junior LEGO League, which is something I  only know a little about. I do want to do a lot with FLL though. BrickJournal is working on covering FLL as a priority, as it's a positive part of the community that is a bit of a low-profile thing.

I spent a good part building the spider from the Monster Dino set for the display (it had a Halloween theme, so a spider seemed like the right thing to build) and after completing it I discovered that it doesn't go very straight. Sad thing is a boy about 14 years old told me what was wrong - the two motors that run the spider are different sizes, so they are geared to try to compensate, but it doesn't work very well at all, except backwards, when the weight f the battery pack helps with traction. So that was another humbling moment.

The train display ran well, with some Halloween items on the tables including a haunted house and a corn maze. There was a Thomas train and a MOC train and the Santa Fe train, and all of this was run with a 9v track linked to batteries.

After the event, we all went to dinner and LEGO shopping. And there was a lot of chatter about the LUGNET chaff that has been going on, and also about events.

You can see pics from Robert Gurskey here.

Sunday I spent goofing off on a beautiful day. Next time, I bring hiking gear:-) The leaves are changing color and falling, and there's something nice about the rustle of the leaves on the sidewalk.

On other subjects:

The contributors of BrickJournal have been doing some great things lately:

Melody Kr├╝tzfeldt has her own section in LEGO Factory for making furniture for the Modular House standard. You read about her here. You can see her models here.

Christopher Deck, our Star Wars MINI modeler (most of the time) started a section on his web page for Stargate minis. You can see his page here.

Bryce McGlone from way back in Issue 2 is up to something really cool...

Joe Evangelista, from the past two issues, is doing video for the BrickJournal website.

And me?

I am doing a lot more than people know:-)

Friday, October 19, 2007

fun info coming out later...

not that it's big news, but it's a relatively new piece of info.

Can't say anything until later though. Take a look at BrickJournal.com

Thursday, October 18, 2007

So what's been going on?

I haven't been able to post about Day 3 of Brickcon, as I have been pretty busy.

I had a really fun time at the convention, and I would like to congratulate Wayne Hussey and staff for having a fun event! It wasn't long enough for me to spend the time I wanted with friends old and new, butI will be back next year...and they already have a venue set up.

There are many ways to do an event, and Brickcon is a great example of how a convention can be appealing to both the AFOLs and public.

I have pics on my Flickr account and video will be showing up on teh BrickJournal website and Youtube.

On another subject, BrickJournal is going to print.

There have been a lot of comments about the Journal because of the printing and change in model of BrickJournal to a business model. It's been a bit frustrating to see the negative remarks, as most are by people who haven't seen what has to be done to get to this point.

BrickJournal cannot be kept free and be printed. And unless there is a benefactor who is willing to drop a sizable amount of money with no strings attached for printing, it's not going to happen. Getting a small number of issues will always be expensive - take a look at Lulu's printing for issue, and you'll see things pretty clearly.

The only way to get a decent price would be to get a large print quantity. Not dozens, or hundreds, but thousands. And this has to be at one printer - one 10,000 print run will be more expensive than two 5,000 print runs.

Why is that? It's because setup on a press is the expensive part of printing. Placing the printing plates takes time and money. Turning on the press and running it is cheap. So the idea is to maximize time running the press and get as many issues as possible. Lulu has a different, much more expensive mode of printing because it literally prints to demand. Magazines print to anticipated demand based on orders and then projecting.

Shipping is an issue because of the many different places worldwide - but most shipping is governed by countries. I am working on other ways to take care of this, but until I get some definite information, I cannot say anything at this time.

The comments about charging for previously free material are also a bit misinformed. Here's a question: If you had a choice of free material and material that you have to pay for, what would you go for?

Here's another question: If you knew that something on sale was going to become free, would you buy it?

Here's another question: If you could purchase a printed magazine or download a copy for free, what would you do?

And one final question: If you needed to fund your magazine, including contributors and staff, how would you support them if you cannot sell anything?

These are the questions I had to answer. And some answers I didn't like but had to follow.

Everything that is going on is going toward making BrickJournal a sustainable enterprise. The mailing list being created at TwoMorrows is one that is AFOLs and other interested people - it is a unique listing and one that can help the Journal in determining where to get issues sent to. revenues from download will be used to subsidize printed compendiums of back issues.

Ultimately, BrickJournal will increase awareness of the hobby everywhere. And that will help all of us.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

NWBC Day 2

The second day pf the convention was a pretty busy one - this was a public day and at 11 am, the place was opened for everyone to see.

Some neat things were around to see:

The Crate Contraption - Gus Janssen built a course for a bunch of robots to move crates of soccer balls around, including a crane, and a few vehicles.

FIRST LEGO League - The Gothic Lawn Gnomes team was working on their robot for this year's challenge!

Mecha Godzilla - (there were two of them!)

Moonbase - some modules and construction areas - and more than a few space craft,

Train/Town - Nice buildings and skyscrapers.

And yacking with everyone is a lot of fun.

Afterward, saw Transformers the Movie at the IMAX. Wow.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

NWBC Day 1

Wow, what a day...

Got in in the morning and took pics all day. Also talked quite a few people, like Steve DeCraemer, who built a hearse in Model Team scale. And Keith Goldman, Ryan Rubino, and Mike Rutherford, who got together and built a simple astounding layout. I was able to ge my micro stuff out too.

I also ended up being timekeeper to the Millennium Falcon Speed Build. THe previous record was 2 hours 53 minutes, and...this team got 2 hours 49 minutes! I ended up getting pics of the build and a timelapse of most of the build. The battery died on the camera, and so there is a 15-20 minute gap while batteries were found and replaced. The LEGO Group had a camera setup that was much more impressive that filmed the build.

There also was some information on the upcoming trains - pretty positive news actually. Since I was watching over the speed build, the other Joe went to it ad got information. I will be getting more info about this for the Journal.

Opening ceremonies were pretty laid back - some info the upcoming activities and prize drawings. It's much more relaxed in NWBC than in other cons.

So some fun stuff (and nice eateries, too)! And I met anc chatted with:

Keith Goldman
Mike Rutherford
Ryan Rubino
Wayne Hussey
Thomas Rafert
Phil Eudy
Steve Witt
Roger Cameron
Steve Gerling
Gus Janssen
and many many others...

Now, to Saturday!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Pulling into NWBrickcon...

And after 7 hours and two airliners later, I am in Seattle.

I am rooming up with Joe Evangelista at the Best Western Executive Inn(I think). It's about a ten minute walk to the event, and a pretty nice room for a hotel, Wireless is free too, which is reallly nice!

The location of the convention is a really different location compared to other conventions that I have been to before Unlike the others, NWBC is in a place that is really close to other attractions.

How close? I have to walk PAST the Seattle Space Needle to get to the venue. A science fiction museum is just down the way, and there's IMAX theatre just as close. There's also more than a few eateries and places to munch at, so the location is very nice.

The venue space is not bad either. It's 13,000 sq ft, and split into two rooms. One room is sale stuff it appears, and the other is display. Since it's Thursday (now Friday) the early birds have come in...and wow, there are some astounding models showing up. How astounding? Go to my Flickr gallery!

However, not all was great. I brought a shoebox of micro in, and by the time it got to Seattle, it was pretty badly destroyed. Joe E's stuff wasn't much better. But things are being rebuilt.

I also got to meet Wayne Hussey, the coordinator of NWBC, and found out he's a great person to talk to. His planning is good too. So things are falling into place as this event begins.

Highlights already:
Godzilla (okay, Mecha Godzilla)! At about 4 foot tall!
Titanic Titanic (at over ten feet in length)
Totem Pole
KeithLUG's layout!
War of the Worlds tripod

...and that's just a starter....

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Thoughts here and there...

Well, the 9v announcement was released, and while sad, it wasn't very surprising. There have been many discussions about 9v and what its future iis, and to be honest, its future lies in the community.

I firmly believe that 9v will persevere. I am very interested to see what the LEGO Group is developing for the Power Functions system that will align with train, and am excited with the possibilities that will be opened. There are some challenges that will have to be addressed, but this too will be dealt with.

From my experience with PF motors and systems, I can see the potentials an limitations so far:

IR remote, with different channels.
NXT integration (which could possibly mean Bluetooth)
Multiple trains on single track
true building with a train set - there are no train motor trucks - you may have to build it!
Possible integration for lighting

IR remote:-) - line of sight challenges
Power - batteries is a definite limitation, with weight and available power.
Motor size - the smallest size now is almost too big for 9v train bodies.

The things that need to be looked at right now (and I am assuming they are looking at it, with the AFOL group) are the production things: There has to be a wheel setthat links to the PF motors in some way - the 9v motor is in a train truck...PF will most likely have a built solution or an adapter.

What I think is neat is that the motor system is becoming  a cross platform LEGO solution, which is a very welcome thing. It's a business-smart solution that can be a great long-term solution for electronics.

So I am looking forward to seeing what happens.

On other subjects, BrickJournal has been sent to the web publisher. So it's done (for me, anyways). And I am very happy with it. There are some neat things in it and an announcement in it:-)

And congratulations to the staff of Railbricks! They launched their magazine and yes, I got a copy. It's pretty good. It's nice to see other projects start. and I wish the best to them.

Now that BrickJournal's current issue is done, I can turn my attention to BrickJournal.com - there have been new things added to the web service that I have to sit down and figure out. There are some easy things, like live chat for members, and not so easy things, like creating data pipes for feeds that are multi lingual, which can be really cool! I have to take a good look at all of this first.

And I will be at NWBrickcon! With maybe one MOC. Sorry, I have been building something else:-)

I'm also trying to figure out NXT building. I got the new MINDSTORMS NXT Idea Book from No Starch Press, and am getting my way around the programming.

So new day, new things, new adventures!