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Lego: Amazing Then, Amazing Now!

I received my first Lego set on my fifth birthday and a lifelong love was born.

A good while later (it must have been a year or two at least) one of the parts in my first Lego set broke.  It was one of the hinge pieces that allowed a ramp to close up into the body of the spaceship … this is to say it was a piece that was central to the set and also unique.  My mom tried gluing it back together, but it either froze the hinge or could not make a tight enough bond, no matter what she tried.  Mom decided to mail (yep, mail … no email in those days!) the Lego company and see if they could send us a catalog for replacement parts or if we could do a one-off purchase of just a few pieces.  She made sure to explain how important the piece was to the set.  Much to our surprise we received a box from Lego a few weeks later.  They sent a replacement piece and a nice letter saying how glad they were we liked Legos and that they wanted to make sure we could keep using the set.

I received the unexpected box from Lego and a lifelong love of the company was born.

Over the years of my kid-hood I collected many sets, had a ton of fun, and happily sent a good pile of money Lego’s way.  I saved nearly all of my old Legos in a big box … my mom was kind enough to hold onto them when I left for college, keeping them through two moves.  She was certainly hoping they would hang around for grandkid(s) to arrive.

Eventually the box wound up in my closet and soon after a magical pairing was born—Star Wars and Legos!  Unable to resist, I embraced my inner nerd and purchased several Episode IV-VI era sets around the time Episode I was released.  I have enjoyed the odd set here and there, slowing adding to the pile of money Lego has gotten from my family over the years.

I started looking at the age ranges of the Duplo sets before my daughter was born.  I made sure to get some for her second birthday, and we play with them often.  I was poking through the Lego website this weekend when I saw some pretty amazing specials on some older Duplo sets.  I happily ordered them but then noticed the price increased between the time I placed my order and the time my order was acknowledged a day later at lego.com.

All it took was one email, and the issue was resolved.  Things went much faster than when I was five, but it was just as satisfying.  The Lego Company, quite simply, rocks.  Hard.

Every once in a while I hear people complain about how expensive kids’ toys are, but when I think about the constant quality of my Legos, the creativity they unleashed in me as a boy, the fun I have had (and will continue to have) with my daughter, I realize they are worth every penny.

Not that I don’t mind a good discount, mind you.  I can’t wait for the new sets to arrive!

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Brian Dunning is My Hero

Brian Dunning runs a skeptical podcast that aims to bridge the divide between skepticism and American pop culture.  This episode is pretty amazing:

Sarah Palin is Not Stupid


Note: The title makes it sound like Mr. Dunning and I are big-time right-wingers, and I can assure you that isn’t the case. I am no fan of Ms. Palin and I think having her as a VP would be a horrible mistake, but Dunning’s points are WELL worth listening to.

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iPhone 3.0 + Streaming Bluetooth Audio = Continued Sweetness

A few quick notes:

  • Kenwood stereo continues to kick butt.  I really like the iPod by Hand mode as it lets me use the iPhone as a ‘remote’ in the car stereo.  Make sure you’ve got a long enough cable for use, of course.
  • If you want to cut the cord, the streaming audio bluetooth profile Apple supports in the iPhone OS 3.0 works very well out of the box with the Kenwood.
  • One caveat to the above—if you want to continue to use the cable, be aware that the bluetooth audio profile seems to override the cable connection and seems to cause occasional glitches in iPhone by Hand mode.  I suggest starting the car, letting the bluetooth profiles sync, then connecting your cable and selecting the appropriate output on your iPhone before driving.  This is something of a pain if you want to keep bluetooth running for regular phone usage.  I’ll look into it and update if I find a faster / simpler solution.
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iPhone + Bluetooth in Car = Sweeeet

With the new job I realized I need to get myself a new car.  One of my goals was to have a way to plug in my iPhone to listen to my podcasts and to use the phone part when needed.

Several cars in the luxury class have iPod/iPhone hook-ups available as well as bluetooth connectivity, but many of the offerings are either expensive, low on practical features, or part of other packages that force you to add on tons of things you may not want.  I figured an aftermarket stereo would do the trick—more and more are becoming focused on digital music and bluetooth options are available to aid in hands-free calling.

My main requirements were:

  • iPhone connectivity via the dock connector ONLY (no 2nd cable for audio hook-up)
  • Bluetooth support for both iPhone models
  • Integration with car’s steering wheel audio controls
  • A detachable face plate (which rules out several models with bigger, fancier screens)

After getting the car part finished (a new Nissan Altima Coupe, just FYI), I did some research on various stereos (thank you www.crutchfield.com … your site reminds me of www.edmunds.com only for car stereos!)  I snagged a Kenwood KDC-993.

I just got the stereo on Saturday, and so far it is working out VERY well.  I can plug in my iPhone and keep it in my lap to navigate my podcasts as I drive. (not the best idea, of course)  When calls come in the bluetooth connection takes over and the call quality is very good so far.

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Management Consultants Are Fail

Pardon the silly title.  The Atlantic has a great article on the ‘science’ of management.  It is quite a good read.


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I am Loving This Holiday Season

Not that I am a Scrooge or anything, but I have really enjoyed this holiday season so far.  I don’t usually enjoy Christmas … nothing like I used to when I was a kiddo.

I suspect a lot of it has to do with my daughter getting so into the tree and the lights.  She loves to sing, so carols are just new songs to sing.

I picked out a few toys for her already … and dang if I didn’t have a blast!

Happy holidays!

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It can’t be this simple, can it?

US Banks have been getting gobs of money from the US government but they still don’t want to lend, much to the US Treasury’s and Federal Reserve’s dismay.

It seems to me (remember, BA in econ so I know just enough to be dangerous … so I really don’t think I can be 100% correct on this) that banks don’t want to lend to each other or to anyone else because they can’t tell who has what toxic waste on their hidden around their balance sheets … even after all of the fallout we have already experienced.

In other words, the crisis of confidence in financial companies that was brought to light when subprime mortgages tanked (causing all sorts of additional damage since so much of our financial system is intertwined) continues.

Since most financial companies are invisibily linked (balance-sheet-wise) at the hip via credit default swaps but nobody really knows who is linked to who and then to who, everyone realizes one company that falls is actually carrying a ton of rocks and will drag everyone else they’re roped together with down with them.

No wonder nobody wants to lend to anyone else.  Doesn’t it seem like we need to fix the root cause of this mess by fixing accounting standards?  Force everyone to reveal all of their credit default swap obligations as well as all of their other toxic crap that can be hidden under current general accounting principles.

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Religion and MMO’s

While listening to an episode of Econ Talk, the guest speaker, Edward Castronova, likened the lore of a massively multiplayer online game (MMO) such as World of Warcraft to religion.  (Please note:  I am grossly oversimplifying … if you enjoy playing MMOs it is a great listen)

He also spoke to the human need for mythology and lore in most peoples’ lives.  The host and Mr. Castronova briefly consider the possibility that players of MMOs and religions may clash in the future as MMOs soar in popularity.  If so, the skirmishes between Christians and Dungeons & Dragons in the 80’s were only the opening salvo …

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How I Reconciled my Skeptical Nature

For a good while, I had a love / hate relationship with skepticism. Luckily for me, I tend to ponder issues that bug me and then research when I cannot come to a suitable compromise.

I have been dang busy consuming skeptic articles from some of my favorite authors and now that I’ve come up for air something I read helped clarify my thoughts on skepticism.

There is a particular logical fallacy called the false dichotomy.  Basically, one falls for an either-or proposition.  Skepticism is rational, religion is not.  Ethics requires religion.  That guy that cut you off on the freeway is a jerk.

This excludes other possibilities.  Religion can be rational.  Ethics can exist outside of a deity’s decree.  That guy probably didn’t even notice he cut you off … or maybe he did notice and feels like a jerk.

My point:  Skeptics tend to think of two sides … the ‘skeptics’ and the ‘believers’ but leave out the possibility of middle ground.

Note to self:  I stopped calling my relationship with skepticism a love / hate one … I needed some middle ground, not two wild extremes!

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