Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hello, EuroBricks!

Hi - I just noticed that this site has been getting a hefty amount of traffic lately. Apparently my little reflection on mixing my political interests with my hobbies was linked on the classic-castle site. Sadly, I haven't been following Eurobricks and I don't have the time to catch up on four pages of discussion right now, but I'll try to catch up in the next few days.

I've also noticed quite a bit of search traffic coming in. I'll avoid mentioning the upcoming event that I'm not even going to that's apparently has me in its' top 20 search results on Google, but that's definitely not helping me find the info they're looking for.

I kind of like getting web traffic here (after all, I do have ads on this site), but I'm increasingly posting things on the NCLUG website instead. Speaking of which, today's meeting went well - more details will be posted on the NCLUG site later. We're talking about getting some counter tools on that site too - which is what brought me to check back in at my StatCounter account and find out about the other stuff mentioned here.

Anyway, I still have a ton of AI work to do for Wednesday - not to mention BrickLink orders I need to ship - so it's back to net silence for a bit.

Friday, July 18, 2008

How to Write A Memorable Yard Sale Ad

I'm sick of seeing crazy people with enormous egos write absurdly fraudulent yard sale ads. They all claim to be the biggest in town, to have everything, and to be huge and amazing. It sounds enormously trashy, and read in the right voice, they could be describing porno films instead of yard sales.

THIS is how you write a distinctive yard sale ad. Free cookies and change in rare currency! It's appealing and it's not a blatant lie that any idiot can immediately spot. Further, if I go there, I can get a cookie!

I'll let you know if I end up getting to that one, and how the cookie is.

EDIT: I did not end up going there - my route led me elsewhere and there just weren't many other sales in that part of town (which is beyond the sale holder's control, but still a factor when planning a yard sale route).

I see I'm getting lots of hits for this entry through Google. I'm thrilled that people are trying to look this up and take the effort to write a good ad, so I will make a point to write a proper article on the topic in the near future. In the meantime, the best advice I can give is to be clear and honest - use your space to give useful info (start and end time, address (at least to the street name), some details on what you're selling (especially if you're only selling clothes or baby things, you should note that), and any other relevent info (Are you in a new area that Mapquest and Google Maps can't find? Are there parking concerns? Is this a multi-family sale?)). As mentioned above, nobody takes you seriously if you talk about how huge your sale is or how much stuff you think you have - skip the hyperbole and stick to describing things accurately. If you can, take out an ad on Craigslist (a free classifieds website) and go into detail there - since there's no space limit (newspapers charge by the line), you're free to explain more.

If you do have a specific question about writing good ads, feel free to write me at - I am a seasoned yard sale shopper, with over 10 years of being out there early nearly every Saturday morning. I'm generally pretty fast at responding to short e-mails, but on Friday nights I'm likely busy planning my yard sale route.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

LEGO Furniture - A Stool

I built a stool a few weeks back. In the spirit of rushing some things up, I've dumped some photos onto FlickR. You can see them at

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Quick Ethical Question

If you receive a BrickLink order that's missing a few parts, but also has extra parts that are more expensive than the missing parts, do you tell the seller? Also, what do you tell the seller?

I'm considering just leaving glowing feedback without mentioning it - in the end, he's out less than a dollar because of the mistake. The missing parts were just parts I wanted to have on hand and not something I needed for a particular project.

Additionally, the guy's already out a couple of bucks because shipping was more expensive than expected. Working out additional shipping in either direction doesn't seem worth the effort (ironically, if not for the last time I moved cross-country, I'd probably have met the seller in person by now).

EDIT: I decided to just leave good feedback and not bring it up.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

This Week's Finds

A few finds to report:

1. There was a guy on BrickLink with seats for 4 cents each! I placed an order last week and it should be in soon.

2. DUPLO cheap at a yard sale Saturday morning! Got a ton of nice parts including a few complete sets. They need to be cleaned up a bit, but mom's claimed one of the Winnie the Pooh sets to be used as a gift. Of course, I'm keeping the other Winnie the Pooh set so that Winnie and Tigger can roam my LEGO town layouts in the future.

3. Kid2Kid stores buy MegaBloks! I had been just throwing them out, but apparently it's bad for the environment to put off-brand bricks in landfills. They're apparently worth about $6 a bag - enough to get me a "free" Bionicle set every time I go in there (although I think I'll save up my store credit for something more exciting instead). I always like free money.

Anyway, I have building and organizing to do. It's coming along well, actually - and I might just have used the DUPLO to start building a large sculpture and some furniture. What? You didn't think I really had that much DUPLO?

...and that's just the DUPLO I've bought recently. The sets I had when I was little are still packed away separately.

I'll try to have photos up soon of the stool, but I think I'll keep the sculpture a surprise.

Not Going to BrickFair

Just wanted to clear that up. I was browsing the site earlier, and I see it'll be lots of fun and that many friends of mine are going (hey, even an AFOL I know from Londonderry!), but I just can't make it. I have the Monday afterwards off for Labor Day weekend, not the Friday before, so I'd have to miss the MOC-setup period and the Store special event. Also, this is darn expensive and I don't think I can justify the expense. Between getting up there, expenses, the inevitably large amount of stuff I'd want to buy, and the $200 to register for the two days... this is just more than I can do right now.

...I might try to send something small along with somebody else who's going (and I think I'll try to pass a wishlist along to anyone who's willing to use the Store discount to help me get a good deal), but I'll be sitting this one out.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Hmm. Maybe I Don't Get Blogging After All.

So I finally re-started the LMOTD blog today. It was kind of strange, though, that a model came up that gave me an excuse to do some political activism. I'm still very excited about that, but I do have to worry a little bit about taking that blog too off-course. If I'm being honest, I have to admit that Klocki and the Brothers Brick have improved drastically since I decided to start LMOTD, and they now do many of the things I hoped to do with LMOTD. They've also been great catalysts for other LEGO fan blogs and for making some of the "big" blogs go legit (it's noticeable that Wired, BoingBoing, Gizmodo, and a few other big obnoxious blog sites have started properly crediting builders since they started reading Klocki and TBB).

I like that I'm going in my own direction, but I'm increasingly finding the content to be torn between my own viewpoint and a more kid-friendly one. I don't mind being the kid-friendly little brother to the big boys at TBB, but I do like being able to use the LMOTD platform to spread the word on events I've been a part of (or will be a part of) too. Of course, the all-too-political times we live in means that accurately praising the LEGO company for building something awesome occasionally means accidentally getting into civil rights issues and endorsing Barack Obama on a blog that's allegedly kid-safe. Autism rights is a part of the LEGO experience for me - just as a result of the way I grew up with LEGO and clung to it over the years. It's great that LEGO UK sees things my way, but I suspect that they're just trying to be good people too - and also only accidentally making a bold political statement. In a time when simply being myself and being out in public counts as discrediting popular political views, it's too hard to try to avoid being political.

...and then there's the I-feel-like-scum element. There's a feeling that I have to properly catch up with my own models here at Dan's Projects, and that I have to properly represent myself and speak up when I feel obligated to. There's a certain sense that I'd just be a (more) irresponsible person if I didn't do some of these things. If I don't do well in school or keep up with the blogging efforts I've started, it's that much harder to be an example of someone who's a "successful" autistic adult. There's just a certain amount of pressure to be a sort of role model in that respect too. Realistically, you can say all you want that people don't think of me as autistic when they see me, but it's hard to spend more than a few hours with me before it becomes obvious. Still, as much as clear as it is after a while, my mom's friends are still surprised when they realize that I can speak (and fairly well at that) - there's still just too much of a stigma and too much misinformation out there, especially here in the states.

With any luck, rushing to speak up about autism issues and applaud LEGO UK for what they're doing will help to raise a little money for the cause. I know I ostensibly blog to make money for myself, but this is important too and if I had a bit more money, I'd certainly donate to most of the groups plugged on that entry, too. Of course, if I were in the UK and had the opportunity to see a LEGO Roadshow AND buy LEGO sets in a way that supports the cause, that would be much cooler, but hey, at least I'm doing something.

I posted a normal post for Wednesday just afterwards to lessen the impact of me being so off-focus for a kid-safe blog, but I still think it will be interesting to see how many e-mails I get along the lines of "My kid asked me, 'Mommy, why did you vote for the bad lady who hates the LMOTD guy'? - what should I say to her??". Of course, it's just my luck that the brilliant and kid-safe model I blogged afterwards is part of a contest where people made models that illustrate the phrase "and monkeys could fly out of my butt".

Anyway - there is some small news over here. The BrickLink store is doing fairly well. I've started doing some DGXPO wrap-up stuff, and while it looks like there might not be a podcast after all (the recording wasn't all that exciting and had a ton of background noise), there'll probably be stuff up here and at the NCLUG site too. I might end up doing some heavier work over at the NCLUG site too - an RSS tutorial and an improved resource list for NC LEGO fans seem like high-priorities. Also, this upcoming Tuesday is the start of my Artificial Intelligence class. That should be exciting.

I hope I'm not causing too much trouble around here and that nobody will sue me soon. No, seriously - Autism Speaks has had a few websites taken down for pointing out that they claim to speak for autistic people but don't allow any autistic people on their staff.

Should advocacy projects count as my projects? I don't know.

If this type of thing does interest you, though, I do know of some more good news, actually: S. 1810, an anti-abortion bill that promises to counteract anti-autism (and other anti-genetic minority) campaigns with true information about how "difficult" it is to raise "special" children versus normal ones. While Oprah Winfrey's happy to say I'm something awful that should never happen, pro-choice politicians are looking to end wrongful abortions and give the next generation of people like me a chance, and pro-life politicians are supporting policies that keep "choice" from sounding like a farce. If that bill passes (I think Hillary is the person crazy enough to vote against it, but then again, some people actually supported her), it'll be a pretty big victory - it'll mean that Nazi-style eugenics will be prevented regardless of what the corrupt powers that be try to do about it. Realistically, it looks like we're a few years out from pre-natal tests for autism, but there have already been substantial problems with doctors recommending unnecessary abortions because they often lack first-hand experience with Down's syndrome or dwarfism. Yes, apparently there's an equally large and unjustified social stigma against bringing up children who are short too (I honestly didn't know that before I started following this legislation).

As far as I know, nobody's built anything LEGO-related that ties into that. That could be funny, though - I can just imagine someone starting a political LEGO webcomic with minifig senators. They all wear their hair like LEGO men anyway.

So, politics, LEGO, autism, being myself and just trying to be responsible ultimately end up way too close to each other. I've thought about maybe starting another blog for political stuff (with autism issues being something of a focus), but I don't think I have the time/stamina for it. I guess it's going to end up here for now, and I'll just have to deal with ruffling some feathers.

...and, uh, sometimes a LEGO model can be just a LEGO model. I think this oil platform is awesome even though I don't care for expanding offshore drilling (or honestly, even consider it a priority as issues to vote on go). I'd probably feature it this week, but I should probably go easy on stuff that could be taken as too political for a while.

Maybe I'm just being too sensitive here - does anyone know if people complained to Sean Kenney about his red-white-and-blue SUV sculpture? I didn't feature that as a model-of-the-day either. Perhaps more frightening, though, is that the most popular blog entry on LMOTD (as judged by incoming hits from search engines) is a vignette of the World Trade Center attacks in 2001. Seriously, it's a good model but it's not that great (neither was my write-up), so why do people keep going back to it? OK, fine, it's better than my flag-colored vignette of it that I built in '01 (I also built a little plane for it, and when you stick the plane into one of the buildings, the top of the tower falls off! It was in terribly bad taste - and no, I'm not planning on posting pictures or instructions).