news to me

the price of official locomotive driving wheels is insane rn
Dampflok Reihe 109 Vorbild um 1910 schaut mal, dear readers: dan42br hat eine tolle ungarische dampflok gebaut! seid ihr je nach ungarn gefahren, dear readers? ich nicht, aber 2016 habe ich während einer reise einen ungar kennengelernt (der ist noch der einzige ungar, den ich kenne).

als ich jünger war, habe ich rick steves europe sehr gern geschaut und deswegen habe ich mich entschlossen, mit der bahn von münchen nach wien zu fahren, weil der rick solche art reisen in europa empfahl (er ist auch beruhmter kiffer, deswegen trau ich ihm). nachdem ich in münchen angekommen bin, habe ich mir zum ersten mal einen döner gegessen, welcher mir fantastisch schmeckte (danke, ihr liebe türken, die so ein wunderbares essen erfunden haben), und dann eine fahrkarte gekauft.

ich hatte angst vor dieser reise aber warum weiss ich noch nicht. bahnfahren ist mir nichts neues: 2012 sind dave kaleta, seine ehemalige verlobte und ich mit der bahn in die innenstadt chicagos gefahren, um ein konzert zu schauen. ausserdem fahre ich oft (und gern) mit der bus nach milwaukee, chicago, cincinnati, und so weiter, was ich ähnlich finde. die sprache sollte mir kein problem sein, weil ich jahre lang deutsch gelernt hatte und fast mit meiner magisterarbeit fertig war (die habe ich noch nicht fertig gemacht, aber das ist ja ok).

ich kann mich nicht daran gut erinnern, wie der zug genau aussah, aber ich glaub er war blau, gelb und schwarz (so beschreibt man ja viele züge). sicherlich war er alt und überhaupt nicht was ich erwartet habe. der zugbegleiter war gross, schlank und nett und trug einen typischen hut; er sprach perfektes wienerisch und erzählte mir, dass es nichts zum essen gab. schade. zum glück war mein abteil ganz leer und ich konnte endlich einschlafen. während der nacht gab es einen grossen lärm und mir kam es vor, das der stehenbleibende wagen gekippt war. ich stand gerade auf und versuchte den wienerisch sprechenden zugbegleiter zu finden, um ihn zu fragen, was passiert ist, aber er war verschwunden. vorm wagenübergang fand ich eine alte deutsche und einen mann mit roten haaren und sie erzählten mir, dass der zug einen zweiwegfahrzeug geschlagen hatte, und der zug durfte nicht weiter fahren, bis die polizei und krankenwagen angekommen waren, um herauszufinden, wie der unfall geschehenen ist. die frau hatte salt and pepper haare und eine brille und sprach typisches bundesdeutsch aber der rothaarige mann sprach mit einem komischen akzent, den ich noch nie gehört hatte. er erzählte mir als witz, dass er bayer sei, aber ich sagte ihm, dass ich gerade zwei stunden mit drei besoffenen bayern in einem zug von stuttgart bis münchen verbracht habe und weiß wohl, wie bayrisch klingt und fragte ihn weiter woher er kam. ungarn sagte er. dieselbe frage stellte er dannach mir und ich antwortete ihm schnell: ohio, das ist in amerika. naturlich wusste er nicht wo ohio liegt und ich nicht wo seine heimatstadt liegt, aber wir versuchten trotzdem mit unseren zerbrochenen sprachen zu quatschen, bis der zug weiterfuhr.

fake news medienverschiebung

in our most recent past-life we got to spend a summer in the black forest nursing a broken arm and learning upper rhine alemannic from a barista. also we spent a lot of time wondering why we got called a vulture when we left that public bathroom. the foothills that flanked the city were full of not only towering, dark trees (hence the name of the forest), but also terraces full of grapes and other mass-cultivated fruits. being from a part of the world that was made flat by a giant sheet of ice, any kind of change in elevation excites me (here's looking at you, driftless region). we even got to be the token tourist on the train staring wide-eyed at the passing vertical vineyards (though we think we redeemed ourself when we helped a bike-commuter repair his fender when overcrowding caused him to lose his balance and fall of the train with his bike and that alliteration was pretty slick). this new castle from hachi reminds us of our time spent learning to shut up about how cool it is that one can carry an open container of alcohol in public. while the entire layout is perfectly square, the change in elevation from level to level, the vegetation, and the classic feel (nevermind that background image) help make up for what some might consider boring angles and composition. who was y'all's favorite bull?

That Feel When You're Not A Real Bionicle

Puck Feeder

Hey. Do you remember these goofy sons of bitches?

Fever Dreams and Undying Memes

Sunder builds LEGO trains. They're all renders, but they are pretty good renders.

The LEGO Train Hobby: Running in Autistic Mode

Where you have a "condition" you will find degrees of it manifest in people on a spectrum, such as a political spectrum, or the autism spectrum, which was the first spectrum I learned of. The social worker I saw when I was a teenager thought I might be on the autism spectrum, but it turned out I was just bitter and particular.

The condition of being someone who builds trains out of LEGO is quite the condition. I can speak to this because it is a condition that I have co-opted myself after spending too much of the money I earned from my summer internship on LEGO pieces that will go into a train.

Let me exemplify one such spectrum: Cale Leiphart, who seemed jolly when I met him at Brickworld and builds big, wide steam locomotives. They you have Matty, who seems grumpy online and builds small, narrow diesel locomotives. You may decide who is good, and who is evil. It's a spectrum!

A spectrum.

Another spectrum central to the LEGO hobby in general, not just local to train builders, is the purity spectrum. The absolute purist builds exclusively with stock LEGO parts. Most builders probably lean toward the pure end. Many would say that is where the fun lies, and what differentiates the LEGO hobby from doing other shit. It's hard to imagine what an absolute hacker would be like. There used to be a space builder who did hacks, but he passed away.


Nnenn adopted the rubber band holder as his icon. The rubber band holder was packaged with sets from LEGO and even has some technic-compatible geometry, but was not used in completed stock models. It feels foreign to the touch as the plastic it is molded from feels disposable. As an emblem, it spoke to where Nnenn was on the purity spectrum, as if to say, "You may find my practice alien, but space is full of aliens. Fuck you, space cowboy." RIP.

As a science fiction builder-hacker, Nnenn was an outlier. The train subspectrum of the LEGO hobby is likely situated more in the middle as LEGO has offered only so much to conduct a system for making toy trains. The aforementioned Leiphart has recently written to that.

If reading what nerds have to say as they squabble over arbitrary rules and styles sounds like a good time, you can read this facebook thread which prompted Cale's article. The Original Poster of that discussion, Mr. Moon, was getting burned for 3D printing a shell to house LEGO power functions components by the likes of folk who would petition LEGO to bring back monorails or operate unmodified Emerald Nights, and it is funny to read the more butthurt comments.  I have to say I liked Moon's rebuttle:
Now hold on. This group is far beyond just showing your creative concepts and building abilities. I see lots of people sharing their expensive Lego Train finds and lots of cool pics of layouts which were built following a booklet.
Good point, Moon. People who do inventive things, purely LEGO, hacks or otherwise, are smarter and cooler than people who just buy stock lego sets and keep them built per instruction booklet under the pretense of being creative. A more informed and less toxic discussion is happening here on Brick Model Railroader's facebook. You can find there opinions from people who actually matter, but perhaps less comedy.

 One good point made there by James Mathis was, "One word: Galidor"
The LEGO Galidor guy for McDonald's Happy Meals
Galidor is proof that unwavering obedience in a higher power, such as TLG, can lead to both light and darkness. Because Galidor was ass.

Back to the issue of LEGO purity and toy trains. Where do I stand? I fall into the aesthetically purist, but functionally experimental camp. I don't particularly romanticize the challenge of being limited by the LEGO part library. To me, the limitations of the LEGO system is just the sea in which I swim. It is only water, bro. Except it's plastic. Also, I do not take myself too seriously as a modeler. I like the way LEGOs look, feel and go together. The system provides ample possibilities to make good designed objects, but where it fails or is redundant, I am open to other options. I toyed with the idea of making balsa wood tracks to LEGO train gauge, here is the result:

To me, this is no worse than pushing a LEGO toy auto on a surface.

I made this video showing off a steam locomotive combination lever approximation using only official LEGO parts. I like it and think it's fun.  Someone else might have more fun with aftermarket accessories instead, but I am not them.
Purist combination lever

Depending where someone falls on any spectrum, you should respect their effort, unless they are not putting forth any, in which, ignore them.

Also, train people are big nerds who talk too much about nothing that important.

Fooling around in the Back Room of the 5th Avenue LEGO Store

New York is the only city I "know". I think, but am no authority on city planning, that it is a distinctly American city and differs from others in the world in that it is for the most part gridded. For this it is famous and people who are authorities on city planning have had things to say about it, such as "this is very terrible" (Frederick Law Olmsted) and "this is actually quite good" (Rem Koolhaus).


I will say that New York City is probably what would happen if real life urban planning was informed by landscapes similar to LEGO baseplates, that is, conducive firstly to rectilinear constructs that meet at the perpendicular, and that whether I feel terrible or good about New York, I am inconsequential to the city.

Tonight my friend Kelly and I went to a craft show in a Manhattan. One of our school friends was there staffing a table. The management had given us vouchers with which we could use to buy things at the tables. More generously, the alcohol was free.

When Kelly and I stepped out of the elevator we both went, "ugh" at the realization that the space was small, as spaces are in Manhattan, and that it was very crowded. Fairly immediately we went to a soap vendor and smelled what he had to offer.

Two weekends ago I had been on Long Island for the Oyster Bay Oyster festival and a woman there was selling soaps and lotions. The soap smelled like how some parts of residential Long Island are furnished, which is sweetly, yet affirmatively one-dimensional and tacky. Very "like, duh".

City folk demand more complexity from upscale craft soaps. The vendor in the small trade floor this night had pretty good soaps. I appreciate soaps like I appreciate LEGO. It comes in different shapes and colors and its creation is possible through the pasticity of combined elements.  They both smell good. When you interact with either, you feel closer to God.

The floor had a divider going down the middle that made the space into a loop. At one end there was wine and at the other there was beer. I alternated between both as I wove between people with a plastic cup in my hand. By the time we were done there I had soaps to take home and a couple of drinks. I said to Kelly I knew a place that was likely to have fewer people and more room to breathe.

We walked up Broadway (a landmark thoroughfare exempt from the grid) and walked up to the foot of the Flatiron Building.

Alfred Stieglitz, "The Flat Iron". 
"Where are we going?" she had to ask. "We are going to the LEGO store," I said.

The 5th Avenue LEGO store is situated where Broadway, 5th and 23rd converge at Madison Square Park. It is bright and welcoming. We went in and looked at the sets. There were no kids there, only adults.

We went to the back room where they have chairs for children to sit in at small round table, which has a depression in its center filled with an assortment of LEGO bricks.

We got to building. I started making a robot and Kelly started making a plastic model sandwich not unlike some custom models that were on display in the main showroom. I came across part model #553 molded in brown. I told Kelly I had been surprised to see a pair of large, tapered, ebony tits on the screen of the phone of a man sitting in front of me on the bus the other night, and that I was now inspired to build a fertility statue not unlike the ones we had learned about in art history class at Pratt Institute.

LEGO mold #553 "Brick round 2 x 2 dome top".

"Venus of Willendorf". 25,000 BCE.
I dug through the pit of LEGO to find another dome top brick. I found some plates in green and tossed them across to her. "Here is some lettuce, or relish." I found another dome for my robot's chest.

A man of the staff came through the archway into the back room. He wore the yellow apron of the brand. He said to us "I gotta be closing the room soon." It was half past seven and the store would close at 8. I put our creations on the shelf:

Not art.