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.


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. 🙂

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.

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.

Let the Wild Rumpus Start!

This is what I call an “elegant solution” to our flooring problem in the basement of our house.

Over a year ago, we had water damage in our basement from a burst pipe, a pipe leading to one of our outdoor faucets. The old mangy brown carpet had to be ripped up along with the padding. The wall had to be cut out, about two-thirds all the way around the room from the floor to about two feet up. After we had the drywall replaced and the stucco applied to match the rest of the walls, I put primer on it, so that it’s ready to paint whenever we get around to it.

What we never got around to doing was putting carpet in. For over a year we just had the concrete sbufloor, which the kids found to be wholly uninviting, having been used to the carpet.

A few months back, I finally went to a highly-rated carpet store and had them give me an estimate. To cover the nearly five hundred square feet of floor plus the stairs would have cost around $3000.

And that’s with “cheap” carpet.

For carpet that will be destroyed by our children in the next five to ten years.

It’s also three thousand dollars we do not have.

So I did some research and stumbled on these floor mats. They’re made by Norsk-Stor. I found them on sale at for roughly $16 per case of four. That’s roughly $1 per square foot. So after discussing it with my wife, we decided, what the hell, let’s cover the basement floor with them. It’ll be fun, easy to do, relatively inexpensive.

I went back to and tried to order 24 cases of the mats. But Amazon would only let me buy six. So I ordered the six and then I went and ordered six again. But Amazon stopped me after my second order of six.

That’s right., that Unmatched Paragon of Capitalist Efficiency, wouldn’t let me buy as many as I wanted.

My wife and I figured we would simply wait until we received the 12 and then order again. But that would take awhile, ordering 6 or 12 at a time. After the initial cases arrived, I put them on the floor of the basement. They looked good and felt comfortable, and, most importantly, the kids liked them.

I researched where else I might find these same mats and lo and behold Sears sold them for a dollar more a case but with free shipping to a local store. I double-checked my measurements and ordered 17 from Sears on Thanksgiving weekend. Sears did not limit how many I could purchase. A month later I received an email telling me they had arrived at the store. It took a far longer than I had expected, but I was happy that now the rest of the basement floor could be covered.

I went to Sears to pick them up. Except no one there could find the mats. They had disappeared. The order had been made, my credit card charged, and there was every indication that they had been shipped to the Sears store. But no one at the store had seen them or could locate them. The store offered to refund me the charge on the credit card and let me know if they found them sometime in the next week. I took them up on that offer but I was pissed, muttering to myself about how it was no wonder Sears was closing stores and going the way of Montgomery Wards.

It seemed the universe did not want me to cover our basement floor with these colorful mats. So I waited a week. I was about to go straight to the manufacturer’s website and order the mats for about $5 more per case when I got a call from Sears. They had found the mats. Turns out someone there had set them in the boiler room, thinking they had been purchased for their workspace. Why someone would think multi-colored floor mats were for a workplace that’s not a children’s daycare center I’ll never know. But the important thing is they had found them and I so I went to the store, paid for them and picked them up and brought them back home.

The kids were enthusiastic about helping me put the mats down on the floor. I set up a pattern to follow and, as my son Henry said, “It’s like putting together a puzzle!” we set them down and snapped them in place. It’s the easiest floor I have ever done. Far easier than laminate and much less laborious than tile. See this?

I used a utility knife to cut the hole. No power tools were used during the installation of this product.

Now we have a soft, cushioned, insulated basement floor for the kids to play on. It’s stain-resistant and easy to clean. When the kids grow out of the mats, I’ll just pull the mats up and donate them or throw them out.

Let the Wild Rumpus Start!