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:-)

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