Legos Rule!

My son loves to play with Legos. It doesn’t really matter which kind, from Ninjago, to Harry Potter, to Star Wars, and on and on. He builds the sets then takes them apart and combines pieces from all different kinds of sets to build new things. As a kid I loved to play with Legos. (Okay, even as an adult I love to play with Legos.) My daughter is now starting to play with Legos.

So it’s been interesting to see how Legos have been in the news recently, and for very different reasons.

First, a U.S. Marine Captain has set a world record for the most Lego kits built.

While many have a hobby, few have the drive and dedication to turn that hobby into a world record. Capt. Kyle Ugone, however, not only has that drive, but also the certificate declaring him as the Guinness World Record holder for the most completed Lego sets in a private collection with an astonishing 1,091 sets.

– snip –

Ugone contacted Guinness to see what the current record for most sets was. Finding out there was none, he was told he would need at least 500 sets to claim a record.

“At the time, I had about 600-700 sets, but I wanted more,” said Ugone. “So, I spent a lot of time scouring the internet to purchase more sets and build them.”

Meanwhile, north of the border, two teenagers in Canada launched a Lego guy into space. Seriously.

Mathew Ho and Asad Muhammad, 17-year-old classmates at Agincourt Collegiate Institute, took four months, many Saturdays, and $400 to carry a Lego figurine and four cameras miles above the earth, a project that the two did for fun, not for class.

Here’s the video. It’s awesome.


And lastly, here’s a guy who makes a living by playing building with Legos. From the Chicago Tribune.

Starting in 2006, with kits of the Sears Tower (now the Willis Tower), Seattle Space Needle and Empire State Building, Tucker has been the force behind the toy-maker’s unlikeliest success, its Lego Architecture series. The pieces are pricey, serious, intensely complex and sold to teenagers and tourists — though, as a Lego executive told me, “many are bought by 45-year-old architects who put them on their office shelves.”

Lego has become this former Northbrook architect’s life. Tucker is now a “Lego Certified Professional,” one of the 13 artists and educators in the world endorsed by Lego to use its bricks in their projects. Though only Tucker has parlayed this into a Lego toy line, he would be fast to correct you: Lego is not a toy, it’s a medium, and Lego Architecture is only part of what he has accomplished with plastic bricks.

He’s a bit too serious, for my taste. He doesn’t seem to get a whole lot of joy from Legos. If a U.S. Marine can have fun, then surely this guy who works for Lego can lighten up a bit.

Regardless, take heart Lego Lovers: you are never too old or too young to play with Legos.


It Rubs the Lotion On Its Skin

Repeating yourself is something that becomes excruciatingly second nature when you’re a parent. Many is the time my wife and I have been flustered at something our children have not done. Not put on their shoes. Not put on their coat. Not brushed their teeth. Not gotten into the bath. Not eaten their meal. Not come to the table for dinner. Etc. All despite having told them to do so several times.

Exasperation quickly sets in because you can easily end up telling your child to do something (or forbidding them to do something) 50 times or more, the volume of your voice rising with each repetition.

Why the repeated commands?

Because children have, as Bill Cosby put it, “brain damage.”


Then there are those times when the exasperation at my kids’ inability to listen and follow directions makes me want to shout,


and get out the garden hose and spray them down with the high pressure setting until they DO WHAT THEY’RE TOLD, screaming, crying, and pleading be damned! But that would create a soggy mess, which I would most likely have to clean up myself. And since I already spend a good portion of my day cleaning up after myself and the kids, I don’t want to create more work. (Don’t worry, as they get older, more cleanup is expected of them relative to their age.)

Lately, I’ve sometimes been commanding them to, “Hut! Hut! Hut! Commence Operation: [fill in the blank]!” and marching/herding them towards where they need to go so they can do what they need to do. It’s silly, the kids know the reference (the Army Men in the Toy Story movies, which everyone in our family has seen as frequently as a new day has dawned in our lives), and most of the time it works. Nothing works 100% of the time with them. These are children we’re talking about, and children have brain damage.

P.S. If you don’t know where the “lotion” ditty comes from, go here…Yes, I am well aware that I have a twisted sense of humor.

So I Updated My LinkedIn Profile…Finally

Years ago I was compelled to join LinkedIn, sometime before Facebook and sometime after MySpace. I never did join MySpace and, feeling like I shouldn’t miss out on the next Big Thing, I accepted a number of people’s connection requests on LinkedIn.

I have never been an active user of the site. It seems like it’s an excellent resource for people in the workforce. But being out of the workforce, well, being out of the PAID workforce, LinkedIn is downright annoying. The constant updates about who people are now connected with, their updated profiles, their latest whatever are annoying. By far the most annoying for me are the urgings to “update your profile” so potential employers can find me.

So I finally did update my profile information, detailing my current position (Homemaker) at my current place of employment (Home).

September 2006Present (5 years 5 months) Home

Among my duties, I have been and am responsible for cooking, cleaning, baking, washing and folding laundry, refereeing disputes between children, judging the petty crimes of children, wiping butts, vacuuming, potty training, answering “why” questions, developing a tolerance for repeated viewings of children’s cartoons, making complete and working Thomas the Tank Engine track layouts, constructing Lego projects, painting with watercolors, drawing with crayons, playing hide and seek, building furniture cushion forts, assisting with grade school homework, reading stories (sometimes the same ones every day or night for months straight), removing bodily fluids that have been spilled on me or others, and wrestling small children into their clothes or pajamas. Have also gained extensive experience changing diapers (disposable and cotton) and dealing effectively with sleep deprivation.

All of the above has contributed to a marked increase in my own level of patience with Life.

I don’t think the people at LinkedIn had this in mind when they conceived their service.

I should note that my wife refuses to be connected with me on LinkedIn. We’re already connected on Facebook and living under the same roof (we’ve even argued on FB while being under the same roof). She actually uses LinkedIn in a professional manner. And now that I’ve updated my profile in such an accurate way, she says there’s no way in hell she’s going to be connected with me on the site.

Hmm…maybe I can use it to upgrade to a better Homemaker position.

It’s not likely though. I’ve got it pretty good here. 🙂

The Off-Key and Ambivalent Lana Del Rey

I haven’t watched Saturday Night Live (SNL) in years. Mostly because I don’t stay up late to watch TV or much else. Because there is no sleeping in when you have small children.

With all the brouhaha about the Lana Del Rey “debacle” on SNL, as a music fan, I had to satisfy my curiosity to see what the latest batch of Outraged Internet Missives were about. You can see the performances below.

Video Games

Blue Jeans

Watching these off-key and nervous performances reminded me instantly of another singer/songwriter I saw perform at one of her first concerts: Liz Phair. It was 1993, her album Exile in Guyville had been out for a bit, garnering a lot of critical buzz. I had bought the album and loved it, despite Phair’s vocal weaknesses. (Ever since developing an Opera Habit my tolerance has disappeared for bad or “ugly” voices, by the likes of Phair, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, and Lou Reed, regardless of their skills as song writers.)

The Phair concert was at the Metro, in Chicago, a much smaller stage and more friendly hometown crowd than that for Del Rey. Phair was stiff, holding the guitar in her hands like it was a foreign object she wasn’t quite sure what she was supposed to do with. I was more receptive to her nervous performance for a few reasons: 1) I had just endured a craptastic bumbling dirge of a performance by the opening act Red Red Meat, 2) I loved the album, and 3) I wanted desperately to like her performance.

Later I found out that it was one of Phair’s first shows, that she had not spent any time playing her songs live in the clubs that dot the city. It was the last time I ever saw her play live. Later, a friend would see her on her next tour in support of her subsequent album. My friend told me that Phair had improved. But then I watched video clips of Phair performing and I saw the same brilliant song writer who looked lost and unsure of herself on stage, with the same awkward grasp of her guitar that I had witnessed years before.

Didn’t the likes of Joan Jett and Chrissie Hynde blaze trails for something stronger than this? Those women own their stages, and they hold their guitars as if they are natural extensions of themselves, as they should.

Del Rey finally responded to the controversy over her poor performance on SNL with this statement,

“Things are cool. They always will be, whether the music goes good or not,” she says. “Like, I consider being able to sing a luxury, it doesn’t run my life, it’s not my main focus…”

That doesn’t sound like an artist who thrives on the stage. What I saw on both SNL clips was someone who was unsure of what to do with herself on the stage. She was not in control of the audience. She didn’t know how to play to the audience. This ambivalence doesn’t bode well for improving her live performances. Which is a shame, because the songs are catchy in their weird but heavily produced way.

Recent Reads – Post-Holiday Edition

Before and during the Holidays I had some time to read, surprisingly, even considering all the travel we did (driving down to South Carolina to visit my in-laws, including meeting my one year-old nephew for the first time, and over to Chicago to visit my family, including meeting my seven-week-old niece for the first time). It was great and despite all the time in the car, no one was left at the side of road…though my wife and I were tempted at times. I didn’t have any time to write until now. So here goes.

All the Way Home: Building a Family in a Falling Down House by David Giffels. This Akron, OH journalist and his ever-patient wife Gina buy a decrepit old mansion that is not just in a state of neglect but they find out shortly after taking ownership that it is about to be condemned by the city. Why do they buy it? So they can fix it up and live in their Dream Home. “Fixing it up” entails far more than almost anyone can possibly conceive. More than simply rehabbing it. There’s a raccoon that lives in the attic, plumbing that doesn’t work at all, a garage that is collapsing, old money stashed away, a $1300 natural-gas heating bill for one month, a carpenter ant problem, and so much more. It’s a wonder neither David nor his wife went crazy and had to be medicated or carted off to an institution specializing in mental rehabilitation.

This is the DIY Home Improvement Tale to end all DIY Home Improvement Tales. Recommended for Anyone Who Has Ever Had an Inkling to Restore an Old House.

The Lesson of the Master by Henry James. This novella by James is far less well-known and unfortunately I can see why. All the elements are there: intrigue, European locations, relationships depicted with subtlety, and a hard twist at the end. But this story of a young writer who is in awe of an older writer feels not quite lifeless. It just that it doesn’t simmer the way a good James story does, like say The Turn of the Screw or The Aspern Papers. Recommended only for Fans of Henry James.

The Duel by Giocomo Casanova. Yes, that Casanova. This novella details similar events in Casanova’s life in which the narrator finds himself forced to duel a Polish aristocrat. There is plenty of tension amid the court intrigues and plot twists. The e-book edition from Melville House is loaded with great extras, including commentary on Casanova and short bios of famous duelists. Recommended for Those Who Follow an Anachronistic Style of Honor.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The Sony Reader store had a deal for this best-selling Young Adult trilogy ($18) and I took the plunge partly out of curiosity to see what all the press was about. This high-stakes fast-paced adventure is set in a very grim future where young people battle to the death in a high-tech coliseum (there are MANY parallels to the Roman Empire) at a competition called the “Hunger Games.” Revolution is spawned almost by accident thanks to the actions of 16-year-old expert archer Katniss Everdeen who volunteers in place of her sister to participate in the Hunger Games. Katniss is a serious ass-kicker, tough-minded and honorable despite the moral quandaries she finds herself stuck in. I liked this series. I didn’t love it. The plot is far more compelling than the characters, who are too often flat and perfunctory. But I understand the appeal of Katniss. Warning: she passes out due to injury or some other calamity at key points and then comes to in a hospital gown so frequently it becomes repetitive. Recommended for Young People Who Feel Put Upon.

“There’s no lost and found box. There’s an ass box.”

I found the following book, courtesy of The Daily What via Gizmodo. It’s called, Stuck Up!: 100 Objects Inserted and Ingested in Places They Shouldn’t Be.

The book is a collection of X-rays or, as they might be called, “Stomach Shots” or “Ass Slides.” From the few I’ve seen, the objects (everything from a cup to a fork to a Buzz Lightyear figure) look painful.

One of my favorite TV shows of all time is Scrubs. And of course, Scrubs already addressed this confoundingly odd issue in its very first season.


I just might have to add Stuck Up! to my Amazon Wish List. 😉

In case you are interested, you can buy an actual “Ass Box” and an “Ass Box” T-shirt at an online store called (BTW, Dr. Cox was my favorite character on the show. “Newbie!”) The site also sells a lot more Scrubs-inspired objects.

And that’s your silly post for Friday. Have a great weekend!

Books That Dance, Shuffle, and Flip

This video of books, moving, shuffling, and even dancing has been making the rounds on Ye Olde Internet. But I saw it first at Teleread.

It was done by the proprietors of Type Books in Toronto, Canada.

According to the description on Youtube, it must have taken many many hours to “animate” all those books. This kind of animation fascinates me. Like clay animation, which I know is quite laborious, when it’s done right the results are wonderful to behold, like this video, where the books “organize themselves.”

Courtesy of my children, I recently saw the newer Bob the Builder episodes, which are done with CGI animation. I have to say, they seem sharper and more harsh than the original clay animation episodes. The clay animation seems far more warm and tactile, as if they are actual toys that could be picked up and played with.

It’s this tactile sense which appeals to me about the “Joy of Books” video, being the bibliophile that I am. Even a bibliophile who owns a Sony Reader.

Should I ever get the chance to visit Toronto, I know which bookstore I’m going to visit first. I’d like to see and touch those books in person, and buy a few.