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About ShaydDeGrai

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  1. ShaydDeGrai

    Licensed Themes VS Original Themes

    For me, it's less about the theme than what they do with it. Too often I think licensed themes give into the temptation to become excuses to sell (collectable/exclusive) mini-figures and less about the build or play features. Particularly at the lower end of the price ranges, it seems like they always offer one or two cool figures bundled with just enough bricks to qualify as a "building toy" and not infringe on any "action figure" license some other toy maker might be holding. This certainly doesn't _have to be_ the case (Star Wars, for example, has has some great models), but it feels like it happens a lot more with licensed themes than original ones. One of my litmus tests for a "good" set versus a "the build was an afterthought" one, is to build the kit without any mini-figures or stickers and see if what's left stands on its own. From my experience, licensed theme kits fail this test far more often than original theme ones. Take the knights out of Nexo-Knights, the Elves out of Elves, the pilots and robots out of Exo-Force and the Agents out of Ultra Agents and you're (usually) still left with cool vehicles, interesting buildings and a lot of open-ended play options. Take the figures and stickers out of many low-end (by price) licensed sets and you're (too often) left with a wall or a shrubbery or some undersized generic bit of backdrop that makes you wonder, was this LOTR?, The Hobbit? POTC? Maybe Harry Potter? Without the figure or custom printing, the set has no character of its own (at least not until you get to a higher price point). I think original themes, particularly when they are just getting established and no one knows the characters or the storyline yet, have more "to prove" and probably get a sterner planning review cycle before getting release, whereas licensed stuff gets more of a "is it consistent with the brand?" box to check off. This is purely a theory on my part based on anecdotal evidence and personal preference; I've found that the first wave or two of a new original theme usually has the highest percentage of sets that appeal to me compared to the first wave of a licensed theme or subsequent waves from an original theme that has grown very popular. When demand for a particular group of mini-figures goes up, it seems like lines get diluted to include cheap ways to get a favored character at the expense of a richer construction and open-ended play experience. Again, this can happen with either original or licensed themes, but it _feels_ like it happens more with licensed stuff.
  2. ShaydDeGrai

    Hello from sunny Greece!

    Welcome! Lovely MOC. I used to be a professor and also used Lego as a teaching aid (though I was teaching courses in Robotics and Sensor & feedback device design for VR ) I look forward to seeing more of your creations.
  3. ShaydDeGrai

    Opening MISB old sets

    You confuse volition with circumstance. If there is any volition involved at all, it's not that I choose not to open a set, it's that I choose to keep buying them even though I could be building a set I already own. In my case, it really boils down to money and time (and maybe a wee bit of emotional scarring+++). The shorter answer is, it only takes a few minutes to buy Lego, but, if done properly, can take hours to assemble it. I like building and try not to rush, but I also don't have a lot of spare time. When you buy a couple hundred kits a year but are lucky to find time to build one a week on average, after a couple decades you have quite a backlog. Perhaps when my daughter goes off to college (a while from now, she's still in Duplos), I'll retire and have more time to build. There are some sets, however, that I've deliberately set aside to build _with_ my daughter when she's old enough. According to various sources, many of these sets have appreciated considerably on the secondary market since I moved them to my "reserved" pile, but I have no intention of selling them, I just want to share the experience of building them with my little one. --------------------- +++ I grew up with Lego envy in a family where, if you were lucky enough to earn some extra dollars, you contributed most of it to the household for food and clothing or saved for college. Lego was a treat bordering on a luxury. When I got Lego as gifts, they were little stocking stuffers and when I tried saving up for specific larger sets, it usually took so long to save up the money that the kits I wanted would be discontinued before I could afford them (eBay, Amazon and even Bricklink wouldn't be invented for several decades so when the shelves were bare, you were pretty much out of luck). Years later, when I was finally in a financial position to make up for childhood sacrifices, I resolved that if I wanted a particular Lego set, I would buy it before it got discontinued out from under me. And so, today, I have a significant cache of discontinued sets that I simply haven't gotten to yet. Space is becoming an issue, but buying a larger house would cut into my Lego budget
  4. ShaydDeGrai

    TLG’s 2019 line up

    My reaction so far is basically: It's early, judging all of 2019 based on a handful of teasers and leaks is a bit pre-mature. Every year has its hits and misses; on one hand I can see where ElectroDiva is coming from in that my own shopping list for 2019 is pretty short (so far); on the other hand, I already _have_ a shopping list of new kits I plan on picking up (mostly Technic, Architect, and Creator Expert) so the offerings can't be _that_ bad. So far (again, it's early) I haven't seen much on the licensed IP front that jumps out and screams "buy me!" Then again, (with a few notable exceptions) 2018 wasn't exactly a banner year either. They could have done a lot more with Black Panther. Most of the Marvel sets felt like they were more about collecting the infinity stones than enjoying the builds. I enjoyed the UCS Hulkbuster, but do we really need three variations on the hulkbuster in as many years? As for DC, I'm getting pretty tired of Batman and while Aquaman was a visually stunning film, the sets have been few in number and far less compelling. And speaking of tired and rehashes, I feel like Vader's Castle and the Porg are the only SW models I haven't done at least twice already (and in some cases, a lot more than twice). The Jurassic World sets weren't bad, but they did feel a bit like more of an excuse to buy dinosaurs and minifigs than classic builds in their own rights. Harry Potter? The mini-scale castle was a standout, and the rest of the line was pretty solid, but, like Star Wars, the bulk of the offerings had a bit of a been there, done that, feel to it. "Native" Disney properties do nothing for me, and neither do most of the licensed tie-in sets. With Elves and Nexo-knights retiring, there'll be a void in TLG's line-up, but we shouldn't assume that this void will go unfilled throughout the year or that any such replacement in the line-up will be of inferior quality. I will confess that, for my money, neither theme really appealed to me, but I appreciated the creativity and felt that they were some of the best sets when it came to sourcing parts. They each did a great job of introducing new molds and unique recolors even if the builds themselves were of limited appeal. My _hope_ is that we'll see a resurgence of a classic castle offering and some equally "out-there"/fantasy/sci-fi offering that will pick up the mantel of interesting models incorporating new parts in new colors, but we'll just have to wait and see if that happens in 2019. As for TLM2 vs. The Lego Movie, I'll side with the original poster as far as saying that, Benny's Space Squad is the only kit in this wave that made me think "I should grab a few of those" and that thought had nothing to do with the movie, I just wanted some classic space people in various colors. I'm not sure I'd say this wave is _inferior_ to the kits offered for the first movie, though. I picked up a few of those earlier offerings and, truth be told, Benny's Spaceship (spaceship, spaceship!), was really in a class by itself, most of the line was forgettable (just as, sadly, I think much of the new wave is). To put a more positive spin on things, I think TLM2 offerings as just as good as the first wave of TLM kits were. Imagining the older kits as being "better" is more a function of kind memories and nostalgia for TLM itself and less an objective assessment of the builds, part usage or playability. Also, when comparing year-to-year, it's important to realize TLG likes to play things close to the vest for a long as possible and we rarely go into a new year knowing what the "really good stuff" is going to be because it simply hasn't been announced yet. The Technic line, traditionally, rolls out its "flagship" models in early to mid summer (Porsche 911 GT3 and Bugatti Chiron - first sold in June for example), Summer roll-outs have also been big for Star Wars ( Death Star Playset, Super Star Destroyer, UCS Millennium Falcon, etc). Creator Expert's Modular buildings typically see two per year, one early (which we know about already for 2019) and one held in reserve until fall. The Disney Castle and the mini-scale Hogwart's Castle are other examples of great kits that didn't go public until the year was mostly over. According to Brickset, there were nearly 800 sets released last year and, to date, we have details about less than a quarter of that number for 2019. In general, January is a terrible time to roll-out new sets, too much thunder gets stolen by after Christmas sales, clearance items on last year's stuff and people still scrambling to pick up the "hot new" toy of the year that just came out in December but was back-ordered until after the holiday. New items have difficultly getting noticed in that climate, I _think_ that why TLG often waits until at least March (and sometimes much longer) before rolling out its more memorable sets for the year. Looking back through Brickset release dates for 2018, by this time in 2017, only 5 of what I would consider the "memorable" kits of 2018 had been announced, so I wouldn't worry too much about the shape of 2019, the best is (usually) yet to come.
  5. ShaydDeGrai

    Opening MISB old sets

    I'm in the same boat as Blondie-Wan, I've got a backlog of about 25 years worth of purchases I just haven't had time to get to but fully intend to crack 'em open and build them eventually. It's a construction toy, it was _designed_ assembled, not to sit in a closet in pieces in a sealed box. (That said, I must also confess that I do keep all my instruction books and most of my boxes after I've built things). As for the question of being "bad for the community" and the impact of opening a rare/hard to find MISB item in the eyes of collectors/investors, allow me to share a story from a different world of collectables. My dad was a stamp collector and told me about one auction he'd attended with a friend of his who was a professional buyer/dealer. The centerpiece of the auction was some stamp that was worth more than my dad's entire collection, but his friend was there bidding for it on behalf of one of his clients. The friend won the bidding (to the tune of several tens of thousands of dollars) and, upon taking possession, made a show out of taking out a lighter and incinerating the stamp. My dad, like half the bidders and reporters in the hall, was shocked. On the ride home, my dad asked him why he paid so much for the stamp only to publicly destroy it. The friend told him he was just following this client's orders, his client already owned five copies of that same stamp and figured that the public destruction of one of the few known remaining samples would make his others even more valuable (above and beyond the money he'd just spent for the privilege of incinerating what some might term an historical artifact). So, when it comes to collector and investors, I'd say don't worry about it; do what feels right for you (though I would discourage incinerating any Exo-force set (MISB or otherwise) that just seems like a waste and would likely smell really bad...)
  6. I did a theater MOC a while years back and the way I solved the "smooth" elevator problem was to make the shaft a stud larger than the car in both directions and to put small rubber wheel assembly on the top and bottom of the lift cab. The wheels were mounted at the end of lift arms with a wheel on one end and a tiny rubber band (shared by opposing wheels) on the other. Each lift arm pivoted in the middle so the wheels were pressed against the walls as the rubber bands pulled the other ends of the levels inward. This allows the cab to "roll" along all four walls of the shaft while using the rubber bands to both keep the cab centered and give the wheels a bit of suspension/play when crossing small irregularities in the surface. For moving the lift cab, I found I had to pull it in both directions (gravity drop for going down didn't cut it). I rigged up a string system with a loop of cable attaching to the top of the cab at one end, the bottom of the cab at the other and running over pulleys at the top and bottom of the shaft. A high friction pulley (actually two train wheels with rubber bands around the rail flanges head to head) was my driver pulley and was attached to a motor. I don't know if I'm explaining this very well, but I'm at the office right now and have neither photos nor parts available at the moment to illustrate. Feel free to ask questions if the basic concept intrigues you. Overall, it was a bit bulky, but the overall MOC was about four times the size of the Grand Emporium modular so space for the elevator wasn't really an issue.
  7. ShaydDeGrai

    How do you take care of the stickers?

    "bob's your uncle" is a uniquely British catch phrase dating back to 1887. British Prime Minister Robert Cecil (a.k.a. Lord Salisbury) appointed one Arthur Balfour to the prestigious post of Chief Secretary for Ireland. Lord Salisbury was better known to Arthur Balfour as "Uncle Bob" and when the public got wind of this, the appointment was seen as blatant act of nepotism, "Bob's your uncle" became a popular sarcastic comment applied to any situation where the outcome was preordained by favoritism. Eventually the phrase lost its political edge and became a synonym for "no problem."
  8. ShaydDeGrai

    The Morality of Leaks

    I visit (and post) far less frequently than I used to as well, but it has nothing to do with leaks or the lack thereof. Between losing my parents and gaining a daughter I just haven't had the time to do much with Lego in general for a few years. I enjoy a reliable sneak peek of upcoming sets as much as the next AFOL, but it's not why I came to EB in the first place and the lack of such postings isn't what's limiting my participation now.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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
  13. 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?
  14. 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.
  15. 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.