ShaydDeGrai

Eurobricks Knights
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  1. ShaydDeGrai

    questions about minifigures

    Another source to explore is the lego education site. They usually have classroom packs of generic mini-figures (as of this writing they have two, community and fantasy - each with 21 figures and supporting props). Economically it's not the best buy out there (you're also paying for "classroom" resources that you may not care about) but if you just want a bunch of figures without the hassle of putting together multiple bricklink orders (and paying multiple postage fees, etc.) it doesn't hurt to check it out. Nominally this site is for educational sales (I used to be a professor) but last time I checked, they'd sell to anyone, verified teaching credentials only seem to matter if you're applying for tax exemption or trying to pay with a purchase order.
  2. ShaydDeGrai

    How do you take care of the stickers?

    More often than not, I skip the sticker sheet entirely, but that's just me. I used to know a guy who took just the opposite approach and meticulously applied every sticker in advance of actually adding each brick to the model and would make the stickers "permanent" by painting over them with several coats of clear nail polish. He said he'd stumbled over the method when the stickers started peeling off of his Star Wars blockade runner a few years back and tried using clear nail polish as both a glue and a sealer for the old curling stickers. I'm not sure I'd recommend this though. Most nail polishes are acetone based and (pure) acetone eats ABS plastic, so I think what this guy was doing was not so much gluing down a sticker to a brick as he was fusing the paper into the slightly dissolved surfaced of the brick. For cosmetic purposes I'd assume the solvents are pretty mild, but still, the idea of chemically dissolving/pitting/melting my precious Lego for the sake of a sticker just sounds wrong. If you really want to go the multiple protective top coat route, you might want to explore enamel paints (specifically clear top-coats) designed for use with ABS such as those produced by Testors. But even then, test the coating on a sacrificial sticker and tile first to make sure the chemical isn't going to either soften the brick or cause the ink in the sticker to bleed Again the best I can offer here is second-hand knowledge and a few cautions born of too many hours stuck in science classes, most of my sticker sheets are safely stowed in the instruction books.
  3. ShaydDeGrai

    The Morality of Leaks

    No, you can't blame the customer, they're just following human nature. And I agree with you that bad sets are their own problem, if you release a piece of rubbish of course it's going to rot on the shelves until it's discounted enough that someone is going to pick up to scrap it for parts. Future products cannibalizing current lines is a well documented phenomenon across industries (though some of the most spectacular failures on this front have happened in high tech and video game companies where the promise of something new hurt sales so badly that the companies in question didn't have the cash to actually produce the new product in the end), but from your mention of low quality sets, I suspect you misinterpreted the term. Product cannibalism only pertains to a situation where sales of a well performing product decline prematurely because a different product with equal or greater appeal to the same demographic appears. For example, people ask things here all the time like: "Should I buy the Detective's Office or Assembly Square?" or "I can't decide between the Technic Porche or the Bugatti?" all fine sets but the asker only has money for one and has to make a choice. These good quality sets are competing with each other for the same market dollar/euro/yen/whatever and, you're right, it is up to the company to have a plan to maximize their sales in the face of human nature and economic factors, sometimes beyond their control. Part of that plan and staggering the release of new kits that appeal to the same demographic to minimize the number of things vying for attention/shelf space at the same time; part of it is an announced end-of-life/end of availability timeframe to get a final bump out of an aging set that has reached a natural market saturation ( that point in the product's life cycle where sales have fallen flat because _most_ everyone who wants a particular item has either already purchased it or realized that actually getting it isn't realistic for other reasons); and the final part of that plan is to time product announcements, releases and retirements such that the company has a steady and (reasonably) predictable cash flow across fiscal quarters and tax years. It is in this last category where leak-based cannibalism can throw a spanner in the works. Now TLG is privately held, so they are buffered somewhat from the consistent earnings pressure publicly traded companies are often victim to, but few companies have enough cash-on-hand that they can ignore issues of debt management and variable revenue streams. Many states and countries also have graduated tax rates where if you earn $3 today and $3 tomorrow, you pay fewer taxes than earning $1 today and $5 tomorrow - both cases you brought in $6 but in the former case you got to keep more of it because it was seen as steady income not a windfall profit. Leaks can both suppress current sales and spike interest in future ones, as such, they can play havoc with a companies' "planned" revenue streams. (Again, sales bumps from retiring sets and staggered, overlapping releases of "similar appeal" kits were already part of "the plan" so they are orthogonal to the question of "unexpected" cannibalism due to leaks.) You want a customer to chose between current sets X and Y and give you their money today, not have them sit on their money for four months and buy Z when it becomes available. Sure, maybe all three sets cost the same, but in the four months the user is waiting for Z, you, as the manufacturer still have expenses, unsold inventory and possible debts that need servicing. On the flip side, if you sell set X or Y today and Z comes out next spring, the customer who only had money for one kit (and spent it) may have already started saving up for another, whereas if they'd decided to skip both X and Y and set today's money aside for set Z, they may have decided they'd saved enough for your product and have spent more of their disposable income elsewhere. Again, this is not unique to Lego, they teach entire courses on this stuff in Psych departments and business schools and the companies that usually fail most spectacularly when face with this reality are the start-ups and niche markets that said "_my_ product/audience/industry is different, those models don't apply". And, as I said before, personally, I like knowing what's coming and I don't think leaks impact my personal buying habits because (now, wasn't always the case) I have the luxury of buying what I want when I want (at least as far as Lego is concerned), but I get the big picture and understand where the anti-leak sentiment stems from and why leaks matter.
  4. ShaydDeGrai

    The Morality of Leaks

    Personally, I always like to know what's coming. Of course, when I discover something I like, my next question is always "why can't I have that now?" so I suppose I'm less about "leaks" than I am about release schedules and production runs - in my "perfect" world there'd be no such thing as a leak because by the time the product was mature enough to be a trusted "leak" it would be ready and shipping (and, yes, I know the world doesn't actually work that way, especially when third party IP and coordinated roll-outs are involved.) On the flip side, I acknowledge the risks of leaks to the company. When licensed IP's are involved a leak becomes a legal liability with respect to breach of confidentiality agreements. Leaks also give clone (and outright counterfeit) operations lead time to prepare knock-offs. And, in some cases, leaks can cause future products to cannibalize existing product lines (e.g."I'm not going to buy set X today because I saw set Y and I want to have money to get it when it eventually comes out" How many sets X go unsold while we wait for Y? How much revenue does TLG lose to stagnant shelf stock because people are saving up to buy something that hasn't even been put into production yet?) These issues don't really impact me personally. I'm kinda over the whole IP spoiler thing, I care less about the theme than the build and the model. I don't buy clones. And if I like some set X I'm going to buy it and if I like future set Y more, I'll buy that one too when it comes out. I realize, however, that I may be a minority of one in that regard so, while I'll consume leak data when I find it, I appreciate (and do not object to) TLG (or Eurobricks) stance on the matter
  5. ShaydDeGrai

    [REVIEW] 10268 - Vestas Wind Turbine

    Well that sounds genuinely unpleasant ( a far cry from a quaint vision of century-old windmills grinding slowly in the breeze past the tulip fields), then again, flying over a coal fired smokestack probably leaves a lot to be desired too. I'd seen reports about birds, but I hadn't thought of the bat issue. This re-release doesn't include any parts 30103 does it?
  6. ShaydDeGrai

    [REVIEW] 10268 - Vestas Wind Turbine

    First, thank you so much for the well thought out and comprehensive review. I found it very informative. While I appreciate the scale and the messaging, I don't think this set is for me. The build seems a bit tedious and repetitive and, while the engineer in me is drawn to the fidelity and structural challenges of this model, it really boils down to a fan mounted on a stick. That's not a criticism of the design, that's just the nature of the beast. When I think Creator Expert, I just expect something more intricate with a final product that's more compelling. I'm no stranger to creating MOCs that stand over a meter tall so scale alone isn't really a "wow" factor for me. Oh well, a chacun son gout. Nice review though, thanks again.
  7. ShaydDeGrai

    Sorting Lego - A.I.

    I can't speak to Google's APIs as I've been out of that game for a bit now (used to be a professor and had a number of grad students doing ML/AI work back before it was really commercialized) but I would think the first thing you'd want to do is to break up the problem into more manageable problem spaces. The first, most obvious cut is to separate the question of piece recognition from the question of set-of-origin. Then, even within piece recognition you'd most likely want to start with some sort of "blind"/mechanical subdivision. For example there are a lot of examples on the web of Technic and Mindstorms sorters that divide a large mass of Lego by overall size (e.g. Bricks go in one bucket, plates and tiles go in the other). Such machines can be feed even more specialized machines (e.g. distinguish plates from tiles, or classify a bin of Technic axles by length) Mechanical sorting gets tougher was the parts become more similar (consider all the ways a 1x1 brick can be modified; headlamp, clip, technic hole, stud on one side, studs on two adjacent sides, studs on two opposite sides, studs on all four sides, etc.). This is where an AI (or a suite of AIs) can come in handy and presorting the pieces can make that AI easier to train and debug. I used to work with both Neural Nets, Simulated Annealing Optimization and Genetic Algorithms and in all cases it was easier to create multiple AIs that did highly specialized tasks than to try and make one master AI that could do everything. In a probabilistic world of fuzzy logic you want to be able to focus on the important details that difference one piece from another and starting will a common "family" of parts where the similarities can be taken for granted allows you to do that more easily. Once you've recognized all the parts (which, to the moment, we'll assume your smart sorting system has done flawlessly) the second problem actually gets a lot easier, guessing the most likely set a group of parts came from can be done with bit indices. Imagine a giant checklist of all the parts ever made by lego where each unique shape color and ornamentation/printing gets it's own checkbox (yes this is a very long list of checkboxes but memory is cheap these days). Now imagine a copy of this checklist to profile the set inventories of every kit in the Brickset database (we won't worry about quantity at this point). If a set contains a given part in a given color with a given printing set the corresponding bit to 1, if it doesn't, set it to 0. You now have a database of every set inventory expressed as a very long (and sparse, far more zeroes than ones, so in an actual system we could probably compress the hell out of it) binary number. Create the same sort of binary "mask" for your pile of random Lego. Boolean logic defines an AND operation to be a lot like a decimal multiply 1*1 = 1, 1*0 = 0, 0*0 = 0. By doing a bitwise AND between any given kit profile mask and the mask for the pile o' brick and then counting the number of 1's in the result compared to the original profile, you can get a sense as to the likelihood the parts in the pile came from a given kit. While this is tedious, an AI could use this basic comparison to focus on likely candidates for sets of origin. A more advanced AI might examine combinations of masks (Boolean OR operations) to try and get complete "coverage" for all the types of bricks found (e.g. if we started with sets X, Y, and Z then we'd have at least one of every unique part in this cache...) The final piece of our lovely imaginary system is a robot that, given a wall-full of sorted parts and a target inventory, will collate all the constituent parts back into a kit inventory. In theory this is simple, in practice it might be easier to train a magpie to do it for you. ;-> I know I haven't really looked at how one would code any of this using Google's AI (or anyone else's for that matter) but hopefully this gives you a better sense as to how some the the magic might happen under the covers regardless of the particular engine employed.
  8. These generic themes also benefit from a lack of comparison to big name IPs. I sometimes feel that Classic Space, Blacktron, etc. largely went away as part of a non-compete (formal or otherwise) with Lego Star Wars. Pirates got shelved to clear the way for Pirates of the Caribbean. Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings didn't want to share shelf space with classic castle, etc. I can't help but think about where those other evergreen themes would be if they'd been consistently nurtured the same way the Playmobile has been consistently selling their castle-theme for decades. I remember several exchanges with Castle fans (AFOLs) comparing things to LOTR. People were jealous of the attention to detail on the mini-figures but (with the exception of WeatherTop and Helm's Deep) largely unimpressed with the builds. A lot of friends were hoping that once the LOTR line ended TLG would return to Castle, bringing the best of both worlds, great mini-figs and engaging builds (like Medieval Market Village and classic castles reworked to use modern parts and building techniques), but it never happened. In the waning days of LOTR, you really couldn't introduce a Castle set without people mentally contrasting it with LOTR so we needed time to clear the palette as it were. Once the time was ripe to jump back in with a "swords and armor" offering, we got Nexo-knights which somehow managed to combine Space and Castle to produce a theme that was neither - not that this is bad, but I think it speaks to the idea that some of these "evergreen" themes have lost their needles because they were forced out by (sometimes) short-lived niche specialty themes. Opportunities for a self-perpetuating "legacy" fan base were lost, or, at best, traded for a quick bite of the latest pop culture pie. From a certain perspective, this is undeniable. People like to assume that their personal opinions reflect the will of the masses and cherry-pick "evidence" to "prove" their point. This is not unique to Lego, half of political rhetoric is built around pandering to fringe groups who are so convinced that they're both right and in the majority, that they stopped comparing notes years ago, let alone listening to actual facts. Anecdotally however, as an AFOL and parent, I can say that my daughter and I already have different tastes in Lego and I certainly buy her kits that I'd never consider for myself. Where we do generally agree though is on issues of complexity and quality. She has a good eye and can spot a quality kit that will be fun to build and fun to play with after the fact even when the theme itself holds little value to her. She's not a good basis for comparing the appeal of licensed-IP vs in-house media tie-ins vs generic themes because she doesn't get much screen time and has never seen the films or TV shows of the former, but she can spot a lame excuse to sell a mini-figure a mile away and would much rather have quality, playable set, waiting for her to invent a story (like many Duplo and City kits) than a "defined" character or two and a random collection of parts that get most of their "value" from being tied to an IP that she doesn't recognize.
  9. I can relate, I went through a similar emotional crisis when TLG started printing faces on mini-figure heads. When they were blank, I could imagine any expression the story called for, but stamping the same bloody expression on everyone's face made me want to put the heads on backwards to hid the smilie under their hair/helmet. I think trying to force a uniform narrative on a creative toy like Lego is really tricky; for every kid who embraces the narrative, you risk disappointing/offending/belittling some other kid who dreamed up their own. I guess that's why I've always thought going with the core archetypes (Space, City, Castle, Pirates, etc.) was better than getting bogged down in the details of named characters and well defined backstories.
  10. As both a former child and current parent, I think this really hits the nail on the head. Growing up. I loved Lego (couldn't afford much of it but loved it anyway). I didn't care it it was linked to other media or not _I_ wan't linked to other media in those days either (we only had one TV, it was black and white had a smaller screen than my current laptop and there were only 4 stations). My first "mini-figures" didn't even have face printing or movable arms; none of that mattered. The narrative was in my head. My lego could be anything _I_ wanted it to be and the idea that a mini-figure would _come_ with a name or a backstory wasn't something I even considered. Okay, jumping forward in time (before I start ranting about the old days when we had to walk to school in the snow, uphill, both ways...) my daughter loves her Duplo and "daddy's Legos" as well. We've made a conscious decision to limit her exposure to TV and media powerhouses (she'll get that soon enough, despite our best efforts) so I KNOW she's never seen Lego media tie-ins (even licensed ones). Just yesterday, we got a new Lego catalog in the mail and we sat down together and she told me what she liked and what she didn't. It was amazing the way she looked at the stuff with the eye of an AFOL, she picked good sets and gave brutally honest reviews to a lot of licensed and in-house IP kits that she felt just weren't very good. Maybe being tied to media would encourage some people who are fans of that offering for be more accepting, but a lame kit is still a lame kit and deep down even kids know it. Make a kit that's compelling (regardless of media tie-ins) and kids will want it. My daughter has never seen Star Wars (at least not yet) but when she saw the new Sandcrawler she declared that the one I have is better, same thing for the latest remake of the Cantina. She doesn't know what it's supposed to be, but recognizes the older versions as being superior. As for characters, she recognizes Batman (not quite sure how), but everyone else is whomever she wants them to be. Poor Darth Vader got folded into one of her play sessions as "bucket head monkey" and was the pet of one of her Duplo figures. At her age, trying to give her a narrative to buy into just gets in the way, give her a clean slate to build on, and she'll fill it with a more meaningful story (to her) than anything she's see on TV anyway. Does linking a kit to a particular IP (in-house or otherwise) make it easier to market to certain demographics? Probably, specially if the commercial for the set is during the same show. Is having a tie-in gaurantee success/acceptance of the kit? Definitely not. Does the lack of a tie-in make a good set less appealing? I doubt it. If I had to reduce Lego's brand reputation to just one word, that word would be "quality" People (even kids) recognize quality, and historically that has trumped issues of media tie-ins, popular fads and quarterly earnings. Quality kits become popular; mediocre kits tied to popular culture end up in the discount bin at Target.
  11. ShaydDeGrai

    Quarantine for the Originals

    Growing up, I didn't have enough lego to be able to afford to keep sets as sets, it was all about tear down, recombine and reuse. I kept all the instructions in case I wanted to build the factory model again but my "collection" was really about parts, not kits. As for those parts, I haven't made a conscious effort to keep them separate for sentimental reasons, but they are somewhat sequestered for practical ones. I have some old Samsonite Lego (sold in the US half a century ago) that just doesn't mix well with "modern" Lego - color mismatches, scratches, mold variations, etc. I only use it when I think it brings something special to the table, which, given its age and its condition and the type of MOCs I usually build, isn't very often. I do like my old faceless, armless "slabbies" ( I even remember when mini-figures were first introduced and I recall, at the time, liking the Slabbies better ), but, again, they typically don't mix well in a modern context. In most cases the modern bricks are just better, I remember the days when we used Roof Tiles 2x4/45 done in clear as windscreens and thinking that the stippling of the roof texture and the half circles visible where the internal tubes connected were really distracting. Once I got windscreens that you can actually see through and looked "real," these old trans-clear slopes went into a box that I don't think I've opened in 40 years. I know they're there so if there ever comes a day when I need a yellowed trans-clear roof slope for some reason, I've got a couple dozen, but that day hasn't happened yet (and I've been at this for a while).
  12. ShaydDeGrai

    Hello from Scotland

    Welcome aboard! If you're north of Aberdeen I hope you have good lighting to go along with that Lego this winter. My Dad was from the "sunny tropical south that is Dundee" (as he sometimes put it) and as I recall they were lucky to get two hours of sunshine a day in December and January (of course the family is originally from the Isle of Lewis so any more UV exposure than that and he probably would have burst into flames). Happy building!
  13. ShaydDeGrai

    Support structure for cylinder

    While I very much appreciate the wit and creativity behind your LUG Bulk carrier, my first thoughts when I saw it went to a Spacing Guild Heighliner from Dune. "The bricks must flow..."
  14. Great review. Thank you for taking the time to do this. While I already own this set, I was actually thinking of picking up a few more copies for exactly the many reasons you cite. While Architecture sets are usually a bit pricey to use as parts packs, the plethora of useful parts in unique colors more than justifies the cost for me. Also, I really appreciate the discussion of modifications to the face, arm and neck. I'd been thinking about exploring such mods on my own and this has convinced me the changes are worth while. Wonderful job.
  15. ShaydDeGrai

    Support structure for cylinder

    I know of a technique that lets you build curves (and cylinders) of fairly arbitrary radii (provided R is greater than about 7 studs) but it requires a butt-load of 1x2 palisade bricks and a minimum height of 3 bricks. Basically it consists of making a zig-zag wall of 1x2 elements, where the missing corners of the palisade bricks allow the wall to flex "out of system" using the studs as pivot axles. (That sentence would make a lot more sense with an accompanying diagram but I don't happen to have one at the moment). I used the technique on my Arrakis Sandworm a few years back: I wasn't trying to skin the thing with plates, but I can very easily imagine using 1x2 w/2 studs or other SNOT bricks to add a "radial studs out" aspect to the basic design. The disadvantages I see to this technique is that it is part-intensive (the worm pictured above took an entire KBox of 1x2 palisades and another of just regular 1x2 block (among other things)), it's really boring to build (tedious and repetitive), and you might need to skin it with 2x plates rather than narrower 1x to cover gaps in the underlying wall. Still, if you're curious, let me know and I'll try to explain the technique in detail (I'm at the office at the moment and don't have the resources to pull together a tutorial here).