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About ShaydDeGrai

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    Moldy Expert

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  1. Older Than Dirt!

    Thanks! I successfully made the half century mark back in January (and took a bit of a hiatus due to some family issues, but I'm (mostly) back now)
  2. I was quite taken by this year's Brick Friday holiday set, the 40138 Christmas Train, but the scale of it left something to be desired, so I decided to do something about it. Train-wise, it's not a very technical model, but hey, as a fantasy holiday train, it works for circling my Christmas Tree and the Winter Village set up around its base. I've actually entered it into the Town Forums' Expand the Winter Village contest, but thought I'd share a few shots over here as well for those Lego Train fans who don't frequent the other fora very often. For the curious, there are a few more shots over at my MOCPages account and in my Winter Village contest entry thread over in the Town Forum. Thanks for visiting and have a great holiday.
  3. Winter Village: Holiday Express

    A few years before there _was_ a Winter Village theme, TLG came out with the 10173 Holiday Train. I've always considered this to be sort of like the pilot that kicked off the series, for a train has always been the defining hallmark of _my_ winter village set-up. Each year I arrange my sets beneath my Christmas tree. The track is the first thing I lay down, to define the space, and placing a train on those tracks is the finishing touch once the buildings are all in place. For a few years, the official Holiday train was the engine of note around my tree until it was replaced by the Emerald Night. This year, I was particularly fond of the little promotional train TLG was giving out for Brick Friday but it was far to small to incorporate into my village (as I had with some of the previous holiday promotion kits), so I decided to upscale things a bit. So I present for your consideration, The Winter Village Holiday Express: I realize that, with the exception of the 10235 Market set, official Winter Village sets usually devote most of the building experience to a static structure with a vehicle or two added to flesh things out a bit. This is a bit of a reversal, with the vehicle taking the spotlight and a small platform for context, but after a consultation with our organizer Rick, we decided to let the voters decide how apropos this might be for the contest. Here we have the engine and tender decked out in holiday colors, along with a dutiful engineer to keep things rolling on time for all those holiday travelers. The passengers themselves can hang out in the lounge car. If you look carefully, you'll note a certain gentleman in a bright red suit wishing everyone a merry Christmas as the train passes by. We also have a small platform to help the folk of West Winterville get on and off the train (East Winterville has a full train station - which was my WV entry a few years ago). For the curious, I have a few more shots (including a comparison of this guy with the inspiration model) over at my account on MOCPages. Thanks for visiting and may this holiday season bring peace, joy and happiness to all.
  4. Older Than Dirt!

    Nope, I mean the show, which premiered on Sept 8, 1966 on NBC (I premiered half a year earlier than that). As a very young child, I would sit on my mother's lap (on Thursdays, I think it was) to watch it with her. It was a special treat, keep me up way past my bedtime, though I recall the episode "The Lights of Zetar" was really scary when I was three... Anyway, I'm in the final count down now, I'll be older than dirt in three weeks...
  5. No weaponry and violence in City sets?!

    I'm gonna go with "no". They have unarmed police to deal with non-violent offenders and if things get out of had they can just get on the radio to call the Theme Dispatcher and have them send in Ultra Agents or the Avengers as a sort of uber-SWAT team. In real life I'm not "anti-gun" (within reason). While I don't own one, I've handled firearms, gone target shooting, have a good friend who is a nationally ranked marksman, etc. so I appreciate that there is the potential for a "teachable moment" by introducing armed police, etc. to CIty kits, but it's not up to LEGO to decide when (or if) that lesson should be given. That's something each parent needs to decide for themselves and their family; by "bundling" weapons with one of the few lines that _doesn't_ have weapons, TLG would be forcing an agenda by making the question inescapable. So I'm fine with keeping the out-of-the-box City themed sets weapon/violence free. It's like a "G" rated movie in the US; Grandma doesn't need to preview it to make sure it doesn't have any potentially objectionable material before putting it in front of her grandchild. If you want to add guns and SWAT teams and National Guardsmen to quell the rioters in _your_ city to make it more realistic, that's fine and it's easy to do, but as a marketing device, especially at this time of year, I think there's a certain wisdom to the idea of having a Theme you can point a non-AFOL gift-giver toward and say, "any of these would be a great gift for your grandchild," without having to worry about the individual family's take on guns, or violent play, or religion, or gay rights, or excessive move/TV tie-ins, etc.
  6. Are Clone Lego Brands bad for LEGO?

    No argument there. What I meant to say (but only implied) was that after adding the tube LEGO wasn't a clone _anymore_ . That's because their new "non-obvious" innovation became the heart of their product line. Yes, they built upon (no pun intended) the prior art of kiddiecraft and their own knock-offs, but almost all patented technology does that these days, but the key point is that they weren't supplementing the copied IP with custom additions (like BrickArms or Mega-Blocs) they were supplanting a borrowed idea with a new innovation and stopped selling the old design. In the MegaBlocks (et alii) case, their innovations (and there are some) are largely meaningless without being co-packaged with _exact copies_ of the "borrowed" IP, unlike Brick Arms, who can be very successful selling you a baggie full of arms and armor without actually selling you a Mini-figure. Imagine what the typical MegaBlocs model would look like if they _only_ sold you the parts that they authored the original patents for (expired or not) - there wouldn't be very much in the box because the core of their product is based on IP developed elsewhere. Just to be clear, I am not against patents. I'm an engineer and co-author on several patent applications over the years. I'm against abuse of patent law in order to stifle competition. Patents were invented to encourage widespread adoption of good ideas while trying to be fair to inventors, manufacturers and consumers alike. That's why they are public and have expiration dates. In this fred67 is quite correct but I'll take it one step further and say that the concept of "blame" only applies to patent infringement, which is illegal. Once a patent is issued the original authors are entitled, by law, to set the "fee" associated with using the idea. After a fixed term (which has changed over the years but typically has been somewhere between 14 and 21 years) they may have the option of applying for a one-time renewal (varies by country and industry) which, if granted, gets them another fixed term (usually half to three quarters of the length of the original) to collect fees from companies seeking to use the idea to advance their own agenda. After initial term (and any applied for and approved extension) elapses, the idea _automatically_ is given into the public domain and _anyone_ can use it without asking permission or paying a fee. That's just how the system works and and the inventor has to agree to play by these rules when they apply for the patent in the first place. Patents are designed to funnel ideas into the public domain and if you don't like it, use a copyright (if appropriate) , a trademark (if eligible) or take your chances with a trade secret. TLG knew there would be a day when anyone would be able to produce compatible bricks using the very patent that they authored and, presumably, they planned for that day by not sitting on their laurels assuming they'd always have a monopoly on 2x4 plastic bricks. It makes no sense to "blame" MB for capitalizing on a good idea in the public domain, that's just good business sense and is exactly the sort of thing the authors of the first patent laws back in the 1400's _intended_ to have happen. Now if someone were producing a design that was still protected under patent without asking permission and paying a fee, that would be a different story (mostly playing out in south east asia these days) but that's not what Kre-O and MB are doing. The parent companies are both too big and too market-aware to risk international lawsuits and product recalls over the design of a particular brick when they can fill a box, design reasonable kits and realize a tidy profit using all public domain elements.
  7. Are Clone Lego Brands bad for LEGO?

    In _my_ mind, a "clone brand" is one where the core of the product is a direct implementation of expired (or infringed) intellectual property as recognized by patent. This is different from "licensed by patent" or "derived from patent". To qualify for a patent, an inventor has to demonstrate that his/her idea represent an "non-obvious" innovation over prior art, which is to say that a third party, knowledgable in your field is convinced you've done something meaningfully different than what everyone else had thought to do based on the same starting position. Nearly all patent applications cite prior (patented) work (and if they don't it often raises flags that results in the patent being rejected) so that it is clear where the unique, value-added starts. By this definition, after adding the "tube" to the "knob" of interlocking bricks, LEGO wasn't a "clone", they'd demonstrated "non-obvious innovation" at the core of the product. Also, Samsonite Lego wasn't a clone, it was licensed (and as a side-bar let's not lose sight of the fact that the word "patent" means "open" and the original purpose of patents was not to promote exclusivity, it was to get good ideas out there while protecting inventors from manufacturers who wanted to steal their designs, bring them to market and not share the profit. For much of the history of patent law, most companies did not have R&D departments; invention was something largely left to individuals and companies focused on implementation. It wasn't until the rise of people like Ford and Edison that "in-house" innovation became a big business model. Also, it is only in the last half century or so that companies have started using patent law as a way of _preventing_ competition rather than promoting it (and this is usually done by setting patent fees so high that anyone trying to license the IP will be priced out of the market (thanks largely to Drug and Software company lawyers). Things like Mega-blocks and Kre-O (and any number of cheap knock-offs) clearly are clones as, while they may introduce a few parts here and there that are worthy of patents, their products simply wouldn't be viable without directly implementing designs originally held by TLG that they are not paying licensing fees on (which is all perfectly legal). Things like Brick Arms and Big Ben Bricks are not clones as the core of their business is to innovating new parts that are compatible with LEGO but not a direct implementation of existing parts. So, are clones bad for TLG? I would say only where they undermine the LEGO brand with misleading packaging (counterfeits) or dilute brand recognition (like all cotton swabs becoming known as Q-tips, all adhesive bandages becoming Band-aids, etc.) An educated consumer will not be fooled, just as my wife would never buy a "Guchi" purse for $50 thinking that it was a great bargain on a "Gucci" one. And it is also fair to say that an educated customer might also _choose_ to buy the clone for whatever reason. The problem lies with the uneducated consumer, the cost to "educate" them and the competition for "shelf space" (real or virtual) with vendors. I remember being on vacation once up in Vermont and overhearing an elderly woman who came into a local General Store. "Do you carry Lego?" she asked. "Oh yes," replied the clerk, "we carry all the major lego brands, even some exclusives from England" and pointed her at the toy section. _Major lego brands??_ I thought. _England?_ So I wandered in that direction myself and found a wall with a handful of genuine Lego side by side with Mega-Blocks, Kre-O and Best-Lock kits, all displayed under a familiar red logo on the wall advertising Lego. Regardless of brand, nearly all the kits were in the 25-50 dollar range but that also meant that the genuine Lego kits were fairly modest (Creator line) compared to the buying power of $50 for the clones. The woman, BTW, opted for a larger, non-Lego kit. So yes, there are ways in which clones hurt TLG's bottom line. The woman set out to spend $50 on a gift for some kid who likes Lego and that money went to a different manufacturer, plain and simple. Would the kid have known the difference and opted for one of the "real" sets, maybe (or maybe the kid would have opted for quantity over quality as well - who knows) The point is LEGO, as a brand, was diluted, a customer was (intentionally or otherwise) mislead into thinking there was no real difference and the in-store inventory implied that you "get more" by _not_ paying for the Lego brand. Granted this was just one incident that I personally witnessed, but I find it quite easy to believe that scenarios like this play out all over the world every day. Maybe this is a good thing (for us as educated consumers) in that it reminds TLG to keep prices reasonable, quality high and innovation forthcoming. Then again, you have to wonder how many kids are politely faking smiles under the pressure of a parent's glare when that well-meaning aunt or grandmother shows up with a Best-Lock Dinosuar Set after repeatedly asking for a Lego Jurassic World kit for Christmas
  8. Expand the Winter Village Contest VI

    So here's a (long, meandering) question with respect to keeping entries along the lines of existing sets: I realize that the 10173 Holiday Train predated the launch of the Winter Village line, but I've always thought of it as sort of the pilot that sold the series. Every year I set up my WV sets under my Christmas Tree and the railway is the thing that really ties everything together. For several years the holiday train orbited my village until it was retired in favor of the Emerald NIght. Further, the official sets to date _have_ included vehicles (trucks, plows, wagons, sleighs, etc) though usually as a complement to the building itself; the Winter Village Market being the notable exception in that it was really a Carousel (which I'll call a vehicle, as it expends energy to take you in circles (like taking a cab in Boston)) with a handful of vendor booths for context. So my question is this: Is a small Winter Village themed train with platform fair game for this competition or is it too much of a departure from the general trend in the series to have the building be the lion's share of the build?
  9. Special Lego VIP Shopping Event 2015

    It's possible to spend too much and interact too little, particularly if you buy multiple copies of exclusive sets. There was one year I almost didn't get invited because, according to the store manager, the list from LEGO Corporate had flagged me as a speculator rather than an AFOL, but she overrode it because she knew me. They specifically DON'T want to invite people who they think are going to buy up lots of high end sets at a discount just to stick them in a closet for ten years and sell them on eBay for a small fortune once they've been long discontinued. They feel set scalping hurts their reputation and contributes to the general perception that LEGO is too expensive and what _this_ event to be about rewarding lifelong fans of the product not profiteers. I'm not saying you (or anyone else here) is a "profiteer" I'm just relating the story _I_ was given once as to why I almost didn't get invited after spending over $3000 in a single year. If you're a big spender and want to increase the likelihood that you will get invited, make sure the staff at the store know you, and if they email you a customer satisfaction survey take the time to fill it out. They really do read those comments and want to get to know their "high rollers".
  10. How many sets do you own?

    My oldest sets date to the late 1960's, and Brickset shows birthday and holiday collection expansion throughout the 1970's followed by a marked fall-off in the 1980's (when I was trying to save for / pay for / attend college). The early years were very lean for me as times were pretty tight for my family. Still, even by that meager standard, purchases/gifts received slowed to a trickle until the latter 1990's when I returned to the world of LEGO with an actual disposable income. So for a more direct comparison, by the time _I_ was 18 I only had a few dozen sets; lately, I buy a few dozen unique sets per year.
  11. How many sets do you own?

    According to Brickset (which I know to be incomplete because I don't do a good job of entering data) I have at least 600 or so unique sets (I generally don't bother entering duplicates), about a thousand unique minifigures, and about 300,000 parts. Between duplicate kits, bulk brick orders, PaB, Bricklink orders etc. I'd guess that's somewhere between a quarter to a third of my actual collection. Does anyone know if Brickset can tell me how many brick separators I own? I'm curious but at my age I don't think I can count that high anymore...
  12. Special Lego VIP Shopping Event 2015

    It sounds like the annual "Big Spender's" pre-Brick Friday event. I've attended a number of them in the past (but I don't expect an invite this year as the birth of my daughter has seriously cut into my "LEGO Fun Time (and curbed my usual spending habits)). Years ago this used to be a pretty big thing with triple VIP points, scratch cards for 10-50% off your entire purchase, exclusive early access to upcoming sets, assorted LEGO swag, free PaB boxes and Holiday kits, free coffee and doughnuts, personal assistant, etc. One year they even had a shop attendee carry my stuff out to my car for me and help me load up. I _was_ a big spender (I used to drop $1K-3K at the event each year) as were the two dozen or so other invitees. The store manager knew it so she went all out to make the event an even bigger deal than Lego Corporate guidelines dictated. Last year's event was pretty lame by comparison and sounds similar to this one (double VIP points, promotional set with purchase and 10% off a handful Lego Exclusives). One the whole not all that different from what you could get if you just did Shop-At-Home on Cyber-Monday. The store manager actually apologized to a number of us about scaling things back so much but said that the home office was the one dictating the terms, not her. Given TLG overall financial success of late I don't expect them to bending over backwards to keep the big spenders happy when mass appeal and a pending Lego shortage should more than make up for any dent in our spending habits. Still, even if the sale itself isn't all that great, it _IS_ an exclusive invite for a small number of really dedicated AFOLs. If you don't already belong to a LUG this might be a good opportunity to meet a few like-minded people in your area and exchange contact info.
  13. End of Lego

    John Hammond: Don't worry, I'm not making the same mistakes again. Dr. Ian Malcolm: No, you're making all new ones. - The Lost World: Jurassic Park
  14. End of Lego

    Personally I hope that TLG has at least another 50 years left in them if not more (but 50 years should be enough to keep me in Lego for some time) But eve if the unthinkable were to happen and the flow of new kits and bricks were to abruptly halt, Lego as a toy will go for quite some time in the secondary market. Just think about other iconic toys with cult-like following. Lionel stopped making trains in 1969, saw their chain of direct to consumer toy store get whittled away to nothing, filed for bankruptcy protection several times the 1980's before finally being liquidated in the 1990's. Still, in my area there are several toy train conventions and trade shows _every year_ where thousands of fans buy sell and barter fifty year old engines, rolling stock and track. Granted, most of the fans are, themselves at least fifty years old, but if defunct toy trains are good for half a century of after market life, a far more flexible (and arguably more popular) toy like Lego should be able to do at least as well, if not far better.
  15. Yeah, I was really missing that too. That's a large part of why I got out of academia. Due to the school's admission practices (heavily favoring legacy students from wealthy donors), I was finding it harder and harder to find those sorts of students in my classroom (sorry, even more than a decade later I'm still a bit jaded). Still, there's nothing quite like the feeling of teaching something to someone who wants to be there and wants to learn. And let's face it, LEGO is a great teaching prop when it comes to getting people engaged (particularly for a young audience). If I had more spare time, I'd offer to do something more formal as an actual store event sometime. Even setting aside the free and discounted LEGO incentive, it was kinda fun to get back into "teacher mode" for an hour or so.