Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ahab had Moby. Indiana had the Grail. And I have the MTT Federation. The only difference is that I have no desire to kill this ship and I don't expect the ground to open up beneath my home swallowing my beautiful (but evil) love interest in the process.

There comes a time in every man's life when he must face a challenge alone. For some, it's a Visionquest. In today's age, it's more like the GRE or LSAT. But for me, it's the MTT Federation -- a set that has sat unopened since I kicked off my research into the world of adult fans.

This is not a build for joy -- it's a test of wills. Although, I also expect to experience some joy, this is LEGO building and not yard work. And so it will be built, admired for a moment, and then torn asunder to make beautiful candles from its blubber.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Surprise and anticipation can go out the window as you get older -- you tend to focus more on simply maintaining. And that might be some of the secret as to why LEGO is appealing to adult fans. There's a chance to rediscover some of that wonder.

I never thought I'd be the guy who would watch a seven-minute video of someone else unwrapping the LEGO Death Star, but that's how I started this morning watching blogger Chris Pirillo unbox his birthday gift.

I was there when LEGO unveiled the Death Star at BrickWorld 2008; I've seen the parts, minifigs, and a completely assembled version. And yet, I felt that old sense of anticipation in waiting to see the Death Star come out of the packaging. Welcome back, dormant volcano of joy.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

An unofficial style guide

A brief style note to fellow journalists, new LEGO enthusiasts, and those who wouldn't know a LEGO brick from a rubber chicken:

-LEGO is always singular and should be used as a modifier/adjective; ie. LEGO bricks, LEGO elements, or LEGO parts.

-Likewise, please write "LEGO" with all capital letters- that's the way the registered trademark should be written.

-They are not blocks, they are bricks.

-It's minifigure, not LEGO man or mini-man, when describing the tiny figurines that accompany sets.

-The LEGO brick is a stud-and-tube system. The studs are the bumps or knobs on top, while the tubes are what allow the bricks to lock together.

If you keep these basic style rules in place, you'll be ahead of where I was when I started out back in 2007. And now you know what it would have been like if Strunk & White had decided to come out of the Dark Ages.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Action figure, comic book, or carbonite?

In an effort to have a legacy, every man has three dreams. We want to be made into an action figure, star in a comic, or be frozen in carbonite.

Since most of us are not actors or athletes -- the action figure is typically not an option. But with a bit of cash, you can have a custom bobblehead. And perhaps it's for the best that everybody but Han Solo can forget a life of suspended animation in frozen carbonite.

So that leaves us with the possibility of being a character in a comic strip. I'm excited to say that just such a thing has happened to me. Readers of Chris Howards' The Brick Side (a Far Side-inspired series of comic strips starring LEGO elements and minifigures) were able to enjoy my minifig alter-ego in a three strip story arc. I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did.

Photo by happyvia.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The finest house in Dorking town

Bricks and time -- those have always been the obstacles to building a real-life house out of LEGO bricks.

Well, James May, one of the hosts of the television show TOP Gear, can't be weighed down by such earthly concerns. For his BBC series, James May Toy Stories, he intends to build a two-story functioning building out of 3.5 million LEGO bricks.

It is with no small bit of irony that the house will be built on the Denbies Wine Estate in Dorking, England. An actual house made of LEGO is absolutely dorking out; but it also happens to be awesome.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Life's little instruction book

I never thought about the values I was cultivating while playing with LEGO bricks until I returned to building as an adult. And then the possibility that LEGO elements could have business applications, art implications, and ultimately transcend the plastic mold to which its confined gave me a richer appreciation for the bricks that I just liked to stack as a kid.

The blog On Design has an interesting post today that uses LEGO's picture-based instructions to illustrate how to design a satisfying and easy out-of-box-experience for consumers. It's a wonderfully high-concept look at an instructional manual that is elegant in its simplicity.

In discussing how LEGO encourages users to master a step and then build on that success -- On Design gets at the heart of why constructing sets is so enjoyable. There is a definitive feeling of accomplishment that is as satisfying in my 30s as it was when I couldn't have envisioned being this old.

Photo by joakimlind.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

These colors don't run, but they might streak

Talk about ethical dilemmas. A recent MAKE Magazine post highlights how the same dye used on computer parts can be used to change the color of LEGO bricks. I'll let that sink in for a second.

We're talking about changing the color of your LEGO brick collection. On one hand, that sounds exciting in a who doesn't want to be an alchemist, experimenting with green minifigs or even aging bricks to resemble actual building exteriors, kind of way. And yet, the other hand is lurking, ready to slap that first hand for even thinking about painting a brick.

The MAKE post is based on 2005 experiments posted by SavaTheAggie on, which resulted in the creation of a purple knight-- not the love child of Batman and The Joker, in case you were wondering.

So the question remains, if we have the power to color change, should we use it?

Photo by 713 Avenue.

Monday, July 20, 2009

What if you could build your own board game?

Good-bye Monopoly, Sorry, Scrabble, BattleShip, Stratego, Catchphrase, Cranium, Apples to Apples, and the other board games that reside on our sun porch. I've known some of you for ages and others have just come into my life- but I soon won't have time for any of you.

I won't have time for you Apples to Apples, who always goes slightly too long leaving all the participants wishing for the swift ending of say...a Monopoly.

I won't have time for you Cranium-- the game that vacillates between hard and easy-- and leads to hilarious miming of the word, "cocktail."

And lastly Monopoly- you, who caused my wife to suggest that I was guilty of price-fixing and collusion, a meta-argument if there ever was one.

All of you are being left behind to accumulate dust because LEGO is rolling out 10-board-games-in-one this August [via The Brothers-Brick]. The games that took three years to build and requires you to build your own boards might just change game night in America.

While you're waiting feel free to play Peter Guenther's BrickQuest- where roleplaying meets skeleton minifigs and a campaign ensues.

Photo by Birgit F.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Yaar. We've commandeered the blog. Me and my shipmates have managed to seize control of this land-based workstation. It took us a while as this house is not filled with water. But now that we're here, we intend to drop anchor and commence our skulduggery-ing...our skullduggeryhood...ehmm...our regular pirate duties.

If ye be wanting to see Mr. Bender alive, we suggest you scaliwags offer some form of barter for him- such as a pirate wench or delicious fish. Should we not hear from ye, we'll be forced to walk him across a tiny plank or strike him about the face with our non-functioning muskets.

The pirates have posted a photo by Joriel "Joz" Jiminez.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A LEGO free nursery

The third bedroom is free of LEGO. This was a big moment because it means the room is ready for a baby. I suggested a LEGO crib, but my wife informed me that might be slightly uncomfortable.

Since we have not learned how to yet destroy matter, much of that LEGO has migrated to the second bedroom. And so begins the great LEGO shift, where bricks are shuttled around the house searching for a permanent home.

The MTT Federation, which has been silently mocking me since my 30th birthday, remains unbuilt. We have a date in August however and only one of us is coming out of that room intact.

Photo by myuibe.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bricks, Bumps, and Bruises

When you play with a bull, you're going to get bit. The same holds true of LEGO bricks- you'll likely sustain a minor injury at some point. That's why it's important to have Hello Kitty band-aids and Mr. Bump Cold Packs.

Although I've outgrown the ability to put a LEGO piece in my ear, over the past year I've managed to accumulate some scrapes from the bumpy bricks. And so here are my Top 5 LEGO-related injuries of the past year.

5. Studs in my feet. It's a classic, a cliche even, but it still hurts to step on an errant LEGO brick.

4. The pinch. Getting a fingertip caught between two bricks being snapped together. It would seem impossible, but the stinging sensation you feel lets you know it's all too real.

3. Web surfing. When raking my hands through a box, the sharp sides of LEGO have left a few scratches on the inner web between fingers. This must be what Jean Claude Van Damme felt when he dips his hands into the glass in Kickboxer.

2. Gimme Five. The palm equivalent of an ill-fated step, you can see stud impressions in your palm after pushing down on a brick.

1. Tongue Piercing. This one probably damaged my pride more than my physical being, but the edge of a slightly chewed LEGO element nicked my tongue and was all the reminder I needed not to put the plastic bricks in my mouth.

Photo by oskay.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The LEGO Olympics

When news of the LEGO Olympics came across my desk, I had high hopes. Alas, it is merely an outstanding name for a children's building competition in New Zealand- which I would be ineligible to participate in for a myriad of reasons- primarily because of a blood doping scandal.

However, the idea of a LEGO Olympics sparked my imagination for what such an event might entail...

You could have a heptathalon involving a speed build, blind build, free build, speed chess, and team build (done in a relay style).

The olympic pool could be put to good use with a build-in-a-bag, wherein a set is built underwater inside of the plastic bag containing the parts.

Archery skills might be tested via fling-things; Mindstorms or non-motorized sets that can launch a projectile via a trebuchet style construction.

So break out your 8-bit Nintento Entertainment System and call up the good folks at Epyx, it's time to train.

Photo by wowwblog3.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A man and his accessories

The problem with getting a new mug is you need to accessorize. You can't just have an amazing coffee mug inside your standard office- that's like keeping your moon rock in the bottom of your fish tank. And so in digging around for the virtual equivalent of the Mall kiosk that will sell me cell phone charms, I present some of the more interesting uses for actual LEGO products and knock-offs that I found.

*The Brick Calculator. The input keys look like studs and the screen is buried inside a molded slope. This would put my TI-82 to shame.

*The phone charger. With a cat who has a penchant for chewing electronics cords, this MacGyver-style fix is one I might actually use.

*Speakers/iPod dock. These are a bit clumsy, but the colors are pretty. And when it comes to accessorizing, color is everything. I think we need to turn off HGTV for a while.

*Forget candy. A LEGO-filled pinata is the finest idea I've read in a while.

Photo via Nerd Approved.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

F is for...

We're up to F in the Brick Encyclopedia- the semi-rambling and in no way comprehensive collection of LEGO-related ideas and parts that the average man needs to know.

F is for...Fans. An Adult Fan of LEGO (AFOL) is anybody old enough to drive and play with LEGO bricks (ideally not at the same time).

F is for...Fleshies. The minifigures with paler hands and heads- sometimes known as "peachies," for their peach-colored hue. They are often found in licensed sets, like the Harry Potter, series, wherein the young wizard minifigure was flesh-colored, rather than the traditional yellow.

F is for...From Bricks to Bothans. An online forum that hosts the critical ideas that lay at the intersection of Star Wars and LEGO. Who doesn't need a little more Lando in their life?

F is for..Flex. A member of LEGO's Alpha Team- Flex is known for his ability to climb and his mastery of ropes. No word yet if he's made Webelo.

Photo by Steam Pirate.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What my coffee mug says about me

Happiness is a warm mug....of coffee. Today begins as so many others do with a cup of Roasterie Coffee- the only difference is that I'm drinking it out of an outstanding minifigure mug with my name printed on the side.

Fresh from the LEGO store at the Mall of America, a friend has bequeathed me the finest gift I've received in quite some time. Tiny cartoon, pirate minifigures exhort me to drink more caffeine.

Today is one of the days I wish for colleagues as my canine and feline coworkers do not yet possess the capacity to ask me about the quirky new mug, thus allowing me to launch into a soliloquy about the world of LEGO.

But you can trust that coffee without sugar has never tasted so sweet.

Photo via Peeron.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Brick Round-Up: July 6, 2009

In talking with those who are not adult fans, I've realized that some people are not aware of all of the amazing building that is happening as you read this. And so, another new semi-regular feature will be added to the lineup, The Brick Round-Up, in an effort to direct those interested towards other blogs that highlight great builders and outstanding LEGO creations.

If Stormtroopers had day jobs... [via The Brothers Brick].

There are sets, and then there are motorized carousels that feature riders moving in a circle and up and down [via BrickJournal Journal].

A review of the set, Ole Kirk's House, a gift for those who took the Inside Tour at LEGO in Billund, Denmark [via Brick Town Talk].

A periscope is just the tip of a submarine [via VignetteBricks].

Photo by rongYIREN.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Fetch, Kiki, Fetch

Just like vitamin intake, it's critical that humans ingest a regular serving of incredible or inane animal videos. It's a scientific fact along the lines of birds actually dancing to the beat (which appears to be a bonafide fact).

Thus, it only seems apropos to kick off a holiday weekend with Kiki- a bird as talented as I suppose birds can be. Kiki is a parrot, who has been trained to fetch a yellow 2x4 LEGO plate. You will be mesmerized by Kiki's ability to scamper across the white-tiled floor with a LEGO plate in her beak.

Our dog also likes to fetch LEGO bricks; however, unlike Kiki she enjoys chewing and reshaping them. In my heart, I suspect Kiki is just waiting for her owner to throw a valuable minifig or rare piece, which she will then set upon like a tiny bird wolf pack. But if Kiki is truly good-hearted, perhaps she could get a job at LEGOLAND as a brick parrot, fetching bricks for the Master Model Builders as a replacement to the traditional brick monkey.

Photo by Chrispockster.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A book update

Welcome to those of you coming here from Twitter.

We interrupt our regular scheduling of brick ramblings with some news about the book. The manuscript and accoutrements have been accepted- the latest in a series of steps that lead to the book being published in 2010. I now understand the joy that a UPS man (or lady) must feel when a person signs for a package they are delivering. Prior to this the closest trait we shared was a desire to drive an automobile without the restraints posed by doors.

Some joy is too large not to be shared. As such, when there is relevant book news, it will be sprinkled virtually across these blog pages. Feel free to share suggestions and ask questions, this is when it gets fun.

Photo by Moonlight Bindery.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Before the resistance, there's beta testing

For those of you out there who are waiting to battle our future robot overlords, I've got an idea for how you can spend your time, in addition to getting jacked on pull-ups.

Sadly I can't be counted among you, unless there is room for an accidentally successful sidekick along the lines of Shia Labeouf in "I, Robot," or Jar Jar Binks in the recent "Star Wars" trilogy. Computer meltdowns end me and another Christmas has passed without receiving the Perfect Pullup. Also, I'm fairly certain that blogging won't be a skill that will help the human resistance- since the Internet will be co-opted by the same robots we're fighting.

But back to how you robot-resistance-fighters can spend your time productively. Wired brings news that LEGO is looking for new members for their Mindstorms Community Partners. This is the chance to discuss product development, bugs, and everything else in the popular programming brick. The application deadline is the end of this month, July 31.
So Mindstormers and robot fighters alike, start training.

Photo via Wired.