My birthday was Thursday, and we met last night with my mother for dinner to celebrate at the Willow St. Pizza in Los Gatos. Now as you might guess from the content of this blog, the thing I have always wanted most for birthday/Christmas/whatever gifts has always been LEGO. The fact that I’m now 35 years old doesn’t change that! My mother got me several sets that are full of great parts.
After Holly and I got home she presented me with my cake. We were both looking forward very much to the lemon cake with lemon butter cream frosting that she had ordered from the Buttery in Santa Cruz. But alas, they messed up the order and used whipped-cream frosting which we had specifically asked them not to do. The cake itself seems to be just white cake, and the frosting is just basic white frosting with a tiny trace of lemon zest. We had the same problem with Holly’s birthday cake a few months ago from a different bakery. I had high hopes for the Buttery – when we lived in Santa Cruz they seemed like a quality operation. What does it take to find a decent bakery nowadays?
Maker Faire sure was a lot of fun! We (Bay Area LEGO Users’ Group) had a great time showing off our LEGO train layout to the public and other Makers at the event.
I uploaded my pictures of the LEGO layout as well as other things from Maker Faire up on my Flickr account.
One of the highlights was when I got interviewed by Blaed Spence about the club on the Yahoo! Answers stage.
I don’t know if it’s going to be an annual event or what, but I sure hope they do another Maker Faire event again soon![tags]lego,makerfaire,baylug,bayltc[/tags]
Wow, this has been a great show! It’s quite different from the train shows we (BayLTC) usually do. The Maker Faire crowd is a very diverse group of artists, geeks, and craftspeople. Plus, a lot of families with kids which is just like what we’re used to. One of my favorite things about the LEGO hobby is when little kids are staring through the “sneeze guards” at our layout with their eyes and mouths open, and just about the only thing they can say is “wooooaaahhh.” That’s fun.
Unlike the train shows we have a lot more non-train stuff at this show. David brought in his big crane (it’s about 12 feet tall, entirely made of unglued LEGO bricks, mostly Technic), and an assortment of other Technic creations including pneumatic walkers and an inclined cog railway. I also brought in the only sculpture I currently have assembled, my Maneki Neko (Japanese good luck cat) statue.
I haven’t had a chance to take many pictures, but we shot an hour of video, including an interview of me at the Yahoo Answers stage which was a lot of fun. Hopefully I can edit that down to a reasonable size and make a little video of the Faire. I am planning to take a lot of stills tomorrow, and will post those on Flickr in the next few days.
If you come by the BayLUG layout at Maker Faire today (Sunday, April 23) please stop by and say hi!
These two fish were built as part of a display that my LEGO club, the Bay Area LEGO Users’ Group, maintains at the Stoneridge Mall LEGO store in Pleasanton, CA. On February 20, 2006 we installed an “aquarium” theme there, which lasted for about a month. Read more about the installation and see more pics.
More pictures of the model can be found on Flickr.
Next weekend (April 22-23) is Maker Faire, an event featuring “the MythBusters, and thousands of tech DIY enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, science clubs, students, and authors,” put on by the publishers of MAKE Magazine. This event is kind of like a giant science fair for grownups, mixed with an art show and all kinds of stuff. I don’t really know what to expect but we’re planning to treat it pretty much the same way we do the train shows.
We have a space that’s 30 feet square, which will feature a train layout and some additional non-train LEGO exhibits such as David Wegmuller’s giant Technic crane.
I’ve been frantically busy “making” things for the Faire all weekend. But last night I seem to have caught a cold. The worst part is the difficulty sleeping. And I don’t have the strength to build much LEGO even though I am home sick from work.
Also I want to apologize for the dearth of posts lately. Holly and I went to Charleston, SC for a week last month and when we got back, I was quite busy with regular life and just didn’t get back into the swing of things in the blog. But I’m going to start posting more soon, I promise!!
This old-fashioned fire truck was built in July, 2004 for the display that my LEGO club, Bay Area LEGO Users’ Group & Train Club put on at a museum in Pleasanton, CA. Since the 4th of July was during that exhibit, we added a parade to the layout, and what’s a parade without an old-fashioned fire truck? So I built one.
More pictures of the model can be found on Flickr and on Brickshelf.
My wife and I will be traveling to South Carolina (visiting Hilton Head and Charleston) next month. If you’re in that area and would like to meet up, send me mail or comment under this entry.
In 2003 (or maybe 2002) I built a bridge for the BayLTC train layout. But it wasn’t a train bridge, it was a road bridge (for cars and trucks).
The road pieces came from LEGO’s 6600 Highway Construction set, and the bridge’s structural elements were built of Technic bricks.
Most of the angles in the bridge truss design follow some multiple of the 3-4-5 triangle. This is one of the most useful laws of trigonometry: if you have a triangle with sides 3, 4, and 5, or any multiple of that (such as 30, 40, 50) then they will form a perfect right triangle (a triangle where one of the angles is exactly 90 degrees). Why? Because of the Pythagorean Theorem: in any right triangle, the square of the hypotenuse (the side opposite the 90° angle) is always equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. And it so happens that 32 + 42 (9 + 16) is equal to 52 (25).
In LEGO, the 3-4-5 triangle is achieved by attaching pieces in distances of 4-5-6 studs. Why? Because of the “fencepost effect” – if you make the connection on the 1st and 4th stud, that’s actually a distance of 3 (since 4-1=3). The same goes for the 4 and 5 unit length sides. In this model, the center trusses are formed by 3-4-5 triangles scaled up by a factor of 6. So the “4” sides (the vertical) are really 24 (actually 25, because of the fencepost effect) tall. The angled trusses are made by sheer guesswork, however. Luckily, there’s enough slop in LEGO connections to make it not really be necessary to always get it just right. When working on this, I built what I called a “Pythagorometer” – a model of the 3-4-5 triangle at various scales – to try to make the angles work out. I’ll post more about that later.
I recently discovered a batch of pictures of this bridge that had never been posted online, taken at the July 2003 GATS layout. You can see them at a Flickr gallery.
When I was a little kid my great passion was building things (usually spacecraft) out of LEGO. When I was 10 I learned about computer programming thanks to the Commodore PET computers at my school. I really think that the mental process is much the same, and that my experience with LEGO led directly to my ability to pick up computer programming skills.
The basic idea is that with LEGO bricks, they fit together to build some kind of creation. And they can only fit together in certain ways and not in others. For example you can’t fit two bricks together stud-to-stud, or bottom-to-bottom (at least, not without other pieces to hold them in that position). Similarly, there are syntax rules with software that limit the ways you can put statements and expressions together. And just as you can create a given shape using a wide number of possible arrangements of various LEGO bricks, you can implement a particular software feature using any number of different combinations of statements and expressions. So if a LEGO creation is like a software program, a LEGO element is like a variable or an operator.
For years when I have talked to parents at train shows and BayLUG meetings, I have been telling them that all the years I spent building LEGO etched certain pathways into my brain which prepared me for computer programming, and that’s a reason they should encourage their kids to do LEGO. And I think the fact that we’re based in Silicon Valley is not the only reason that many of our BayLUG members come from software, engineering, or other technical backgrounds.
Today, I came across a link to an interesting article by one of the foundes of Macromedia Flash on Jake McKee’s blog. His story is basically identical to mine through his childhood years – except that he got into Apple ][ and Mac computers and I was a Commodore guy.