September 29, 2012

"We can rebuild it...we have the technology"

When you build a Lego set, all of the pieces that you need come in the box, along with step by step directions that help you build the set from the bottom to the top... in that order. When you're building your own creation from scratch, however, you start with a whole mess of pieces (or, like me, you keep ordering more and more from Bricklink) and you get half way through when suddenly you realize something is missing right smack in the middle of what you've already built. It's at times like that when you have to take a deep breath, carefully tear your beautiful creation apart, and insert the required pieces.

There are often times when I've been building and realized that I didn't have the pieces that I needed. So I ordered some bricks online, but I kept building with temporaries in certain spots because I often don't really know what I need until I get to that part of the build. If I kept waiting till new pieces arrived, this project might take all year. So I insert place holders and keep moving on. 

I had to tear apart my MOC (My Own Creation) recently to insert some orange pieces. On the Old Firehouse in Old Town, there's a spot above the windows of the Happy Lucky Tea Shop where the paneling is orange, then white, then orange. I wasn't able to order enough orange pieces to follow that pattern on my MOC, so I decided to at least keep the idea and just flip the colors. I had plenty of white pieces, but the orange pieces (with a part called a "door rail") were spread among about 20 different shops in the U.S. with a couple here and a couple there. To order them all, I'd have spent probably $100 just in shipping. So I found the two shops with the most, bought as many as I could, and went with a white, orange, white pattern. But it meant that I had to tear my MOC apart (see above photo) so pull out the place holding white pieces and insert the new orange ones. 

It's at times like this that the following mantra keeps running through my head, "We can rebuild it... we have the technology." I might not be working on the Six Million Dollar Man, but when I bust apart my creation and pieces go flying everywhere, I just have to keep reminding myself, if I built it before, I can rebuild it again. I do try to preserve as much as I can in large chunks, or like is shown in the photo, just kinda move pieces out of the way without removing them entirely. But that's not always possible. 

I also added a cowgirl to the bookshop today. She's standing at the checkout counter ready to buy a Halloween related book (with a red spider on it). That's the cash register on the right. The blurry white box in the front of the photo is the "free books" box in front of the store. (And you can just see the shadowy bike handle on the right.)

I've pretty much finished the front of the Old Firehouse. If you look in the windows of the tower at the top you can see some pieces at a slant. There are still windows there that are waiting for some pieces to arrive in the mail that will secure them into place. And I'm short a few roof pieces that I'm also hoping will arrive in the mail soon. (I actually need to go look and make sure I ordered those pieces. If not, I think it's too late to go Bricklinking now. Brickcon starts in 4 days! I'll have to go look for a set at the store that has the pieces I need. Or *gasp* dig through Nathan's bricks to see if he has what I need.)

I built a few bookshelves in the Old Firehouse Book Store and still need to do some work on the teacup and teapot shelf in Happy Lucky's. Once I get that all finished, I'll post some photos here of the inside detail work. The higher I build, the harder it is to work on the inside. That's just one more thing that would have gone in order if I'd been following directions. But making something from scratch is all about doing and then taking apart and doing over.

September 22, 2012

Meg's MOC Update - The Devil is in the Details

Nearing the top of the building!

I promised in my last post that I'd focus in on some of the details in the Old Firehouse that I'm trying to replicate in my MOC. Because the building was created in two stages, the two sides are rather different from each other - despite having a few similarities. The older/left side of the building has details that are all created through the placement of brick or the addition of red sandstone. There are several points where the brick juts out just a bit here or there to add texture. Unfortunately, since a 1 x 1 brick is equivalent to a foot across, and these bricks on the building jut out an inch or less, I have a hard time showing that detail in my MOC. Sometimes I did capture it because I thought it was an important and noticeable detail of the building. Other times I had to add the affect some other way (change in color, change in brick type).

Notice the white stone, then brick that sticks out.
The white at the bottom is the stone, the orange is the unpainted brick that sticks out. 

The area above the downstairs windows - where Happy Lucky's Teahouse is - is what I focused on today. The more I look at the photos I have, the more detail I see. And since this is the "newer" (1901) part of the building, for some reason they used a lot more wood detailing, which means the details become finer and harder to emulate in brick.

If you start at the dangling holiday lights and work your way up, you start with a really thin colored line. (I don't even know what to call that color of paint that they used. It's like a cross between salmon and skin tone. Ugh. For my MOC, I'm just calling everything that color - orange. That way I have three main colors, red/white/orange. And since it's paint, it can always change. But since the red sand stone is actually rather orangish, I'm going with orange. Alright, back to the details...

Colored line... white line... colored line.. bigger white line but not so big that you could show the distinction in brick... colored line with squares of white sticking out on it, colored line, white line, colored line, brickish line, red sandstone. Pull hair out now! 

Here's how I tried to recreate that back and forthing of color. I couldn't really show the ins and outs of it, though, because each forward or backward of wood detailing is too small to catch with Lego bricks. So I used some door rails to show a bit of jutting out action, but I had no orange door rails so they're all white. (I did order some, but I wasn't able to find a store with enough that I could go orange/white/orange like I should. So instead I'm going to make it white/orange/white and stick my tongue out at anyone that points out the difference.) For those that don't know (and I didn't until my son told me about them) a door rail is a plate (that's a very thin Lego piece. Three plates equal the height of one brick.) that has been modified by having a bit of a rail stuck off the side of it. So when I put the plate into place, the "door rail" sticks out past the rest of the Lego bricks.

You only get a sense of the white jutting out bit by the shadow showing up between the white squares. 

Oh, and then there's the windows. Oi Vey! The windows! Bricks help us, there is no such thing as a window that's three studs across in Lego-land. What's with that? So despite the fact that there should be 4 evenly sized windows across the top bit here, I had to go with a 2 stud window, two 4 stud windows and another 2 stud window instead. It breaks my heart to be that far off. I could leave the spaces and scrap the windows like I did for the two large windows below them. (They do make windows that would fit those spaces, but they're all currently located in Europe and I don't have time for two little plastic windows to get onto a boat and float over here.) I don't know. Maybe that's what I'll do yet. But for now, we have 2 - 4 - 4 - 2. And a wincing motion every time I look at it.

Here's a picture of the front of the building so you can compare the windows and share my pain.

I found this photo on the web and it has been such a help. There's currently an awning over those four, evenly spaced windows. So having this photo that showed me how it was all supposed to look under the awning has been a huge boon.  ... Well, it would be a huge boon if it meant that I could see there are evenly spaced windows under there, find Lego windows that would fit, and then fit them into place. Instead, I wish Lego made a brown awning with Happy Lucky Teahouse printed on it to cover the four evenly spaced windows that I haven't been able to reproduce. *takes a moment to cry into her hanky*

I have a week and a half for new bricks to arrive before we leave for Brickcon. At that point, what's not built is going to remain not built. So I at least need to get enough done that I'm not going to be mortally embarrassed in front of all those MOC masters.

I sorta forgot that the turret sort of thing at the top has more than just one side to it. I quickly ordered some windows for the sides today. Hopefully I have enough red brick to finish this off. (I should. I still have piles of the stuff. And lots of other stuff that I ordered "just in case" and I haven't needed. Then again, some "just in case" stuff turned out to be very handy. I envy the Lego builders who work in Lego filled workshops where anything they might ever need is at their finger tips.)

I'm still not sure how much I'm going to do on the inside of the building. I'm realizing that once I put the floor for the second story in, you can't really see much inside on the first floor. So even though I have some book shelves in there, I'm not sure how much I should fill them out. I need some little lights for the inside of my building. (I did order one. We'll see how it works.)

September 16, 2012

Meg's MOC Update - FC Old Firehouse

I spent 7 hours working on my MOC on Friday. It was a welcome break from all the other things I had been up to this past week (which involved way too many meetings. Rob was joking by Wednesday night that I should print a picture of myself and post it somewhere around the house so the kids wouldn't forget what I look like. Granted, I only had two evening meetings when the kids would even notice that I was gone, but I had several during the day time. I was feeling meeting-ed out by Friday, to say the least.)

My focus on Friday was to rebuild the front of the building to make it sturdier, and then I tried to build as much as I possibly could in order to figure out what pieces I was missing and would need to buy through The four windows to the right, with the orange line with white squares below them, really need to sit higher than they do. But I didn't have the windows that need to fit into place below these. In fact, when I went to order windows that would fit, I found that they're only available in Europe. So I instead ordered some pieces to make a window frame without using a pre-made Lego window.

I have just under three weeks to finish this MOC before Brickcon. I was able to get enough pieces in place (plus a few as place holders) that I could measure the approximate height of the finished building (about 14 inches) and was able to register it for the exhibition.  (Mine was the 285th MOC to be registered. I wonder how many total will be in the event when all is said and done?) 

My biggest concern at this point is that I won't have enough time to order parts that I need. Many Bricklink shops have a very fast turnaround time. (A few orders have come in as quickly as 3 days!!!!) But there are a few that take quite a bit longer.  I think I've been able to approximate features well enough so far that my MOC resembles the actual building and people will make the connection. (Of course, no one at Brickcon will have any clue what building I'm modeling this after, so it's neither here nor there for those folks. But I'd like to have this go on display at the book store (that's located in the west side of the Old Firehouse) and later in the library (if they'll have it) and folks there will definitely know if I got it close or not. So I want to get it right the first time.) But the very top part of the building (not just the tower but the gingerbread along the top) will take a lot more creativity to approximate well. Nathan is my go-to resource when I don't have any clue which pieces will work in a certain situation, but some times even he is stumped. (I have yet to figure out what the name of the piece is that would make a reasonable fire hose pole, so I haven't been able to order it. And though Nathan has a piece that will work, I've made a point of ordering my own Lego bricks on not using any of his.) 

I should have several packages arriving this week with needed pieces. I'll try to finish the building as best I can so I can make any last minute orders this week and hopefully be completely done with ordering pieces by next weekend. I've also realized that I need to be thinking about the inside of the building. Since the beginning I've been trying to figure out what time period this building is going to be in. I really wanted to do something early 1900s that would include a horse drawn fire wagon as shown in old photos. But if you look at the photo above, you'll notice that the entranceways in both the old and newer parts of the building were bricked shut! That wouldn't look good in a MOC!!!  So despite having ordered Lego horses and people and even little fire hats, I've decided against going with the early 1900s. That leaves late 1900s and early 2000s to work with. And the real bummer at this point is paint! Grrrrr. Paint. They've pained SOME of the brick "brick red" and the rest they've left unpainted at all (and the bricks are actually rather orange-ish). So I'm trying to mimic that paint/not paint job in the colors of the bricks I'm using. But there are some areas where it's really questionable which way I should go. I just keep reminding myself, "approximation is the goal."

By next weekend I should have a nearly finished model. At that point I'll try to zoom in on some of the specifics in the building and how I addressed them in Lego brick. I'm also thinking of taking the Old Firehouse down to the Old Firehouse and showing the MOC off to the folks who work at the bookstore and the tea shop. I'd really like to get a photo of myself holding my MOC while standing in front of the building.  :-)

September 8, 2012

Meet Maeby

We've been talking for a few years now about getting a second pooch. Our red heeler, Laika, is about 12 this year. (She's a pound puppy, so we're not entirely sure how old she is. But we've had her since 2002 (as I originally announced in this blog. That was before my Multiply days.) so she's at least 11 since she wasn't a puppy when we got her.

Naomi has wanted a corgi of some sort (meaning "a corgi mix"). We've been open to a few other working dogs though. We fostered Daisy, a heeler/whippet mix, but she was a bit too lively for most of the family. Then we tried a puppy from Petfinders that was listed as a Corgi/Heeler mix and was mostly likely a Pit Bull or Pit Bull mix. She was a real sweetheart, but since I didn't know what breed she was, I figured we really had no idea how large she would get and I wasn't up for a large or overly-protective dog. (We fostered a pit bull over the winter holiday and though she was also a snuggler, I felt like I couldn't walk near my own kids at night for fear of being snapped at.)

So we've been keeping our eyes an ears open for a Corgi mix. My sister found a little girl in Wyoming that looked promising. Naomi was a little worried about growing attached again, only to lose the dog. But I talked her and Anna in to going up to Wyoming with me. We visited Oreo and another Corgi/Terrier mix that nearly licked us to death. His name was, appropriately, Dash. The girls liked Oreo so we brought her home with us. We dithered about with names for several days until we finally settled on Maeby, the character in Arrested Development. The name fits our pooch really well. She's a very cautious, easily scared little gal. She huddled on a little doggie bed under our dining room table the first day we brought her home and we're still working on getting her used to going in and out of the door to the house. But she snuggles every night with Naomi and she jumps for joy when I come home after being out running errands. She plays with Bo and I even caught her playing in the back yard with Laika once, though Laika vehemently denies that anything of the sort ever happened. Even Tibbs has chased her around, though I suspect he meant it more as an aggressive move than the fun play time that Maeby took it as.

I'm thinking of fashioning a little jacket/cape for her to wear that discourages strangers from trying to pet her. That still freaks her out too much. But given that she's too afraid to go anywhere on a leash, I don't think I need to be in any hurry about that. I hope she'll become more social in time. But the reality of that happening? Well, it's probably a maybe.

My First MOC as an Adult

Last year, Nathan and I attended Brickcon in Seattle. I was amazed by the variety and detail in the MOCs that were on display there. (MOC means My Own Creation and refers to individually made creations as opposed to completed kits sold by Lego.) I was so inspired, in fact, that I've decided to make my own MOC to take to this year's Brickcon.

I wasn't sure what building to attempt. I had been tossing around various possibilities, all older buildings downtown, when I came across a sign for a fundraiser to help the victims of the High Park Fire this summer. They used the Old Firehouse as their attention grabbing image and it immediately struck me that the Old Firehouse would be an appropriate building to begin with. It's old (The older (left) half was started in 1881 and finished in 1882. The addition (right half) was added in 1901.), it honors the fire fighters who helped to control the High Park Fire this summer, and it would definitely be a challenge for me and something I could be proud of if I pulled it off.

Lego Container, Computer with Pics, and MOC in progress
Step one was measuring the dimensions of the building. I contacted the city to see if there were any blueprints lying around. If there are, no one knows where they are. So I ended up taking an early morning walk with the dog and a tape measure. I was able to get the dimensions along the base of the building, but I'll be guessing/approximating for the rest of the building. But as I've started work on this project, I've learned that approximating is really the name of the game.

I made an initial order through Bricklink and when it arrived I started building out the base of the building. I discovered two things right off the bat, I had ordered bricks that were way too big! and I needed a bigger baseplate. Scale has been a bear to get into my head, for some reason. I'll imagine a section of the building with such and such bricks, then when I get right down to putting them together I realize that I way over planned. (A 1 x 1 Lego brick is equivalent in scale to 1 foot across and 1.2 feet in height.) I immediately had to reorder skinnier bricks so that my wall wasn't the thickness of the Alamo. (Didn't the Alamo have thick walls? Or am I thinking of some other famous old building?) I've basically gone through this same routine several times, ordering a bunch of bricks thinking they'll work best for such and such part of the building only to put them together and find that they don't at all create the effect I thought they would. Needless to say, I'm learning quite a bit about Bricklink through this process. And I'm spending way more money than this project really should cost. But I keep reminding myself that I'm a beginner and I can use the leftover bricks in my next project (hopefully). I've started keeping track of which shops sent the bricks in a timely manner and without an exorbitant shipping fee and which to avoid. But sometimes you have to go with whoever has the pieces you need.

I finally got fed up with waiting to get started and I just dived right in. I think I'm going to redo what I have so far, but at least I've gotten my first arch in and started to see how what I need for the next stage up (above the arch). You can see in the photo to the left that the bottom row is white (representing the white sandstone they used as the foundation), except where it isn't. The red pieces are standing in for white pieces that I ordered ages ago that still haven't arrived (because the gal invoice me about a week to a week and a half after I made the order!). Then you'll note there's orange on the left, but not on the right. That's another total oopsie. It turns out the building was originally all the same color of orange-ish brick with some orange sandstone as decoration. But at some point someone painted some of the brick, turning it closer to red, or maroon perhaps. So this starts all sorts of debates in my head - am I aiming to make this building as it looked originally? (If so, I probably wouldn't build the eastern addition.) Or should I build it as it is today (but then will I have to add the awnings?!!). Yada yada yada. The point being that I started out doing the brick red and the painted brick red. But then I realized that the brick at the bottom matches the brick higher up, but I had planned on doing that in orange. So, to be consistent, the unpainted brick at the bottom really should be orange. Back to bricklink I go.

I think I've finally decided that I'm going to do the building (mostly) as it is today. That, however, means that now I need to fill out the bookstore and the tea shop on the inside. So I've been researching how to make bookshelves in Lego (and I've been ordering more bricks through bricklink) and since I've got most of the basic structure worked out (at least at the base) I'm starting to realize that if I'm doing this in today's style, I need to add in the windows where the fire engine used to go in and out, and I'm also trying to figure out the doorways (which have lots of extra glass around them).

My mantra to myself is that I'm just trying to create something that echoes the Old Firehouse. There's no way I can get all the details right. Part of building with Lego means working with the limitations of Lego as well. It's a steep learning curve, but Nathan is my advisor and patience is my guide.

September 4, 2012

Still Testing Stuff

The Great Multiply Migration of 2012 is still in process. As a result, I'm still trying to figure out the features of here, there and assorted other wheres. Sometimes even when someone tells you about a feature, you don't really grok it until you've done it yourself. So I'm just gonna do a whole bunch of whatever in this post and see how it works to do it.  I'll write about it as I go so this won't just be a testing post, but also a learning post and hopefully a help to others.

Insert Photo(s) into Blog Post: Click on the scenery image button above. (It's just to the right of Link and left of the movie icon.) Add photos using the options along the left hand side. I've already made posts where I added photos using the upload feature. So this time I'm going to try loading something from a URL. I'm wondering if the photo will be brought over here, or if the image will still link back to the original URL.

Hmmm, I added the photo yes, it does hotlink the photo rather than pulling it into Blogger. It looks like it will also provide a link, if you click on the photo, back to the original page.  (But when I tried clicking on the photo in preview mode, it didn't do anything. So maybe I'm wrong about that.) I also discovered that when you move the photo around, it wants to snap to the top of a paragraph.
You can have a part of your post indent itself. This is handy if you're quoting someone (and that's what the icon shows is quotes). I suppose if you post a lot of poetry, or quote other folks a lot, this might be useful. And when you hit return, it pops you back out to the original margin.
Tags: To tag your post, use the "labels" section on the right hand side when composing.

Schedule your post: You can schedule when your post will publish using the scheduling section to the right. It's pretty straightforward.

Permalink and Location tagging: You can set up a permanent link for your post. I don't really get the advantage of that. Is it presumed that the link will change a lot otherwise? You can also geotag your post. This might be handy if you travel a lot and are writing about your experiences. ... I suppose.

Comments: You can allow or not allow comments on a post - on a per post basis. Ditto for Backlinks (which is when someone links back to your post from another post... I think.)

Privacy: Just looked again at privacy settings. They're horrible. You're either all the way on or all the way hidden. There's no per post setting of access. And folks have to have a google account to view your blog if you set it to private.     I guess that makes sense, since there's no other way for them to know if you're the person in question or not. And I suppose that does line up with how Multiply worked. But I don't know everyone's email addresses! I wonder if knowing their Google username is enough. I wish you could set privacy based on G+ circles. That would be so much easier.

OK, enough of that for now. Post comments, questions, complaints below.

September 3, 2012

Xanga - ads, ads and more ads

Ah, now I see how Xang'a staying afloat. On my Xanga home page there are two garden ads and a Penske ad, as well as a Xanga premium ad, all of which are stuck on the page so that if I scroll I can scroll past them. And then an HP ad as a mini popup on the left hand side of the screen that stays there no matter how much I scroll.  So there are essentially 5 ads on the page and one of those 5 I can never get rid of even by scrolling to the bottom of the page.

Premium is only $25 so in that sense it's close to what Multiply charged. Except that there's a 10 gig limit of storage space, which means many of my photos and video wouldn't fit. I'd have to upgrade to something that costs even more. 

And that doesn't even include the surveys you can sign up for or the Xangacredits you can buy. 

They have a jillion different income streams. I guess it's working for them. They're still going and I haven't heard about them getting bought out by a South African company that wants to change their focus.