Tag Archives: amazon

Amazon links are back

I got an email from Amazon the other day, saying “As you may have heard, California Governor Jerry Brown has signed legislation repealing the law that had forced us to terminate our California Associates. We are pleased to invite all California Associates whose accounts were closed due to the prior legislation to re-enroll in the Associates Program.”

I think it was a low blow for Amazon to pull their California Associates, and really I don’t see anything wrong with charging sales tax for mail order, but I went ahead and added back the Amazon link. So if you like my site, please consider buying something using an Amazon button on this site. Thanks!

Amazon [Didn't Steal] Money from Me

I recently wrote (Amazon: You can’t fire me, I quit!) about how Amazon.com is canceling the accounts of California residents because of the state’s attempts to get them to collect sales tax.

Today, I got the monthly report from Amazon describing my earnings. Out of curiosity I clicked the link to see my account balance. Here’s what I saw:

Alert Account Closed

This account is closed and will not generate referrals. Access to this site is for historical purposes only.

Your Payment History Unpaid Balance: $98.31

…followed by a list of previous commissions I had earned.

I’ve never actually received a check from Amazon. Their policy is to send you payment when you reach $100 in earnings. Which now, I will never do. Damn them.

Update 10/6/2011: They did send me a check after all, after deducting a $15 fee. I changed it to direct deposit so I should get a payment every $10 earned. Now that they’re allowing payments to California residents again, this post is moot.

Amazon: You can’t fire me, I quit!

You might have heard by now that Amazon.com has decided to discontinue the accounts of California residents, such as myself, due to a new California law requiring them to collect sales tax for sales to California residents. If you want to know the details, Google it. The point is, I’ve had Amazon links on my site for a while now, and over the past couple of years have not yet even reached the $100 minimum threshold to get paid for it, and now they’re cutting me off. That annoyed me, but what annoys me even more is that Amazon is trying to interfere with the state’s internal business. They’re even starting a petition to get something on the ballot to reverse it, and that really upsets me. I don’t want to get too political in this blog, but I really don’t think it’s OK for a company that claims it doesn’t have a presence in California to be trying to have a say in the state’s politics.

So I took off all the Amazon links (If I missed any, please let me know). I’m open to participating in other affiliate programs, but I’m done with Amazon.

Review: New LEGO Technic Idea Books

There’s something new for LEGO Technic fans from No Starch Press.

These books from Yoshihito Isogawa are a great guide to all the wonderful ways you can combine LEGO Technic gears and related elements. I’ve always been a little wary of Technic myself. Even though I got an Expert Builder parts pack as a kid, I never did a lot with it. (I was probably too young, since I was only 6 when that set came out in 1977.) I’ve built a number of modern Technic sets, most recently the Lego Technic Crane Truck 8258, but I’ve only done minimal work with designing my own Technic machinery. Mostly what I’ve done is simple gearing such as my Scrambler amusement park ride, but I always seem to have trouble getting the gears to do quite what I want without either destroying the gears, skipping teeth, or woefully misjudging speed and/or torque.

The first book is The LEGO Technic Idea Book: Simple Machines which shows a myriad of different ways to combine LEGO gears and pulleys to achieve particular gear ratios and directions. If you’ve ever scratched your head wondering how to get a certain speed or torque out of a LEGO motor, your answer is in here. Even the most experienced builders will certainly find something new they can use. For example maybe you know how to get the gear ratio you want, but the mechanism you’re thinking of is too bulky to fit into the model you’re working on. Take a look through this book and there’s a good chance you’ll find a better way to get the same effect in the space that you need to fit it into.

The LEGO Technic Idea Book: Fantastic Contraptions is full of clever ways to combine gears, pulleys, springs, and magnets to create models that move. There are ideas for shooting projectiles, building shock absorbers, and even using magnets to animage LEGO minifig scenes. The only problem is that the magnets shown have been discontinued (due to fears that a child might swallow magnets which would get stuck in their digestive tract and require surgery – for example, the new train sets have a redesigned coupler with a magnet permanently affixed), so that might be frustrating to some people without extensive collections of older parts.

Finally, the The LEGO Technic Idea Book: Wheeled Wonders is full of great ideas for LEGO vehicles. Drivetrains, steering mechanisms, and other vehicular ideas are illustrated in full detail.

The examples in these books are purely pictures. There are no verbal explanations, which you would think would be a problem. But the pictures are reduced to such a level of simplicity that it’s easy to understand the mechanism without any text, and if you build them you could easily understand how they work. There are a lot of tips that show ways of combining gears that I had never thought of, and as I was flipping through it I kept thinking “Oh, that would be good for X” type thoughts. The lack of text would also be helpful for younger kids or people whose primary language is not English (or Japanese, in this case).

I think the one area where this could have been improved would be to show more complex ideas – instead of just showing the simple combinations of parts to achieve a particular kind of connection, show ways to combine these together to create more intricate machines. Some of the examples in the Fantastic Contraptions and Wheeled Wonders books do this to some extent, but I’d prefer to see that taken to a higher level. Also, instead of just showing each model from a variety of angles, I’d like to see step-by-step building instructions or to see some of the simpler modules combined together to create more detailed ones.

One area that isn’t explored very well is motorizing the sets. There are some examples that use motors, but they are largely built using the older 9V motors instead of the current Power Functions parts, and with the Power Functions remote control system, there are a lot of things you could do that aren’t covered by these examples. Hopefully they will come out with a fourth book featuring Power Functions.

All in all though, these are excellent books showing a lot of great ideas for LEGO mechanisms. Even if you’re an experienced builder, there are surely some ideas in here you’ve never seen.

Full Disclosure: The publisher sent me a free review book and sample galley, and the product links in this post are Amazon affiliate links. Besides Amazon, you can get the books from No Starch Press directly or through their distributor O’Reilly.