On Running

August 16, 2010

There is a jogging trail at the end of the street my parent’s house is on (whether it’s still “my” house is an interesting question I don’t intend to address for a few years yet), and I often walk it and sometimes run it. Both are, as many people have observed over the years, excellent ways of refreshing the mind and interacting with nature, especially for people like me who spend too much time indoors reading.

What I’ve noticed recently is that these are the only two forms of “exercise” that I can really bring myself to do. Everything else strikes me as moderately distasteful, and if I bring myself to begin, say, doing push-ups, I quickly lose interest and stop.

I have a theory as to why this is. Most other forms of physical exercise are aesthetically displeasing because they are essentially aimless. When lifting weights, there is no incentive to continue, because there is nothing to achieve beyond some arbitrary numerical goal. When running, one must either get to the end of the trail, stop running and walk the rest of the way, or turn around. The latter two are clear declarations of failure, and so aesthetically unpleasant, while I find nothing particularly wrong with stopping lifting weights at 20 repetitions rather than 30. Significantly, I only enjoy running when it is “in nature” — running on a treadmill is no better than arbitrarily lifting weights a set number of times.

It seems, then, that I would find more productive physical activity, i.e. some sort of manual labor, more satisfying. Perhaps building a brick wall. That’s something I might be able to enjoy; it’s almost like building LEGOs at life size.

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Church and School (August)

August 3, 2009

Firstly: I have spent the last week working on a LEGO cathedral. Pictures can be found here. An explanation of sorts:

So when I was a kid I had a decent number of LEGOs and liked castles. So I built towers; at first just stacks of bricks with people on top, then with staircases and somewhat reasonable dimensions, then with multiple floors and a large wall attached, two feet wide and maybe a foot and a half tall all told. I always wanted to make an entire castle, with four walls and four towers in the corners, but I always figured I didn’t have enough pieces to build anything that large.

Then last summer I realized I could just buy $100 worth of LEGOs and that, combined with the by now quite large number of LEGOs I already had, would be enough to build such a castle. So I built it. How big is it? If a LEGO minifig were 6ft tall, the walls would be 35ft tall, the towers 45ft tall. By way of comparison, the Tower of London is 90ft tall.

So I had this castle. The problem was, it was a blue-and-white themed castle, meaning it used up most of my blue and white pieces but not many of other colors. So I had an overabundance of reds, blacks, and yellows. Thus, I decided last week to build a red-and-black cathedral. I finished today. It takes up less ground area than the castle, but is considerably taller; if a LEGO minifig were 6 ft tall, the ceiling would be 55ft tall, the belltower 105ft tall. In comparison, the towers of Notre-Dame de Reims are 267ft tall.

Two comments:
1) I was tempted to build a Baroque church rather than a Gothic one, but… the peak of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome is 452ft tall. A LEGO-scale model of St. Peter’s Basilica would by about 8 feet high and take up almost my entire bedroom. I’m not that ambitious.

2) I might try to build something huge out of yellow bricks next summer, but probably not. There’s really nothing that looks good in yellow.

Secondly: It is now August. I’m just wrapping up my Summer II course (Calculus III), have three weeks of free time afterwards, and then school starts. My goals, for the next month, are essentially:

  • Finish reading William Faulkner’s Snopes trilogy. I started on this back in June and still haven’t gotten through the second book, which is the slowest I’ve gone through a book in a while. I need to finish it!
  • Read at least one more article, and perhaps one more book, about Gerard Manley Hopkins in preparation for Junior Poet (the big English major project for fall of junior year).
  • Get at least some other reading done – I have two Gene Wolfe books and the poems of T. S. Eliot checked out from the library, but haven’t gotten anywhere with them, and am twenty pages into a book about the public domain.
  • Finish the rough draft of chapter one of at least one of my two secret book-length projects. (I have chapter one of Project1 planned out but not written, and chapter zero of Project2 is written, I just need to start on chapter one. Writing two books at once perhaps isn’t wise, but they’re both pretty fleshed-out ideas, and after I’ve thought about one for a few days my mind goes back to the other, so I figure it’s best to work on both at the same time. Or at least, it can’t hurt.)

So that’s what this month looks like for me. I think that since I have consciously pulled myself away from the Wesnoth project – I no longer actively develop either Wesnoth or Orbivm – I’m going to discontinue theming each month around a Wesnothian character. From now on, just a boring explanation of what’s to come in the month ahead, with a fictional character (not specifically Wesnothian) listed only if one comes to mind immediately. None do right now, except for the main character of William Golding’s The Spire, which I never actually finished reading, insofar as that book’s about building a cathedral.


Done! (July)

July 3, 2008

After four days, and an estimated 4,000 LEGO bricks, I have finished building the castle. It is two feet by two feet, the walls are eight inches tall, and the towers – one in each corner – are another eight inches tall. It weighs about twenty pounds. I will upload pictures to my Brickshelf gallery shortly.

Anyway, all this building has put me in an architectural mood. So for the month of July, I think, I should be the founder of a city, or the builder of a castle, or somesuch… my first thought was to be the king who reigned during the construction of the fortress of Halstead in 164 YW, but unfortunately he is unnamed in the Wesnoth Histories. Thus, I suppose, I ought to be Haldric I, the founder of the royal city of Weldyn.

Haldric is, from the point of view of the elves, a lying traitor who left them to fight the orcs alone after promising his aid, leading to the deaths of thousands of elves. From the point of view of Wesnoth, though, he was a wise king who refused to endanger his kingdom to aid the elves when the elves were planning to betray him. Personally, I side with the elves (as you might expect, since I wrote the “Breaking of the Pact” not “The Rise of Wesnoth” – that was Shade), but i can see why Haldric would be considered a good king.

I’m not really a fan of the Haldric I portrait from TROW (in fact I was rather strongly critical of the artist who drew it), but it’s the official one, so… here ’tis.

Haldric the Great


Hoarding

July 14, 2007

I understand how economics work – supply and demand, all that stuff. But there’s one thing that consistently bugs me about how things are priced. Here, I’ll illustrate what my complaint is through examples.

Going to the movie theatre (unless it’s the dollar theatre) costs about $10. Fair enough. But for that same $10 you could buy the DVD of the movie and own the movie for the rest of your life. Now how does that make sense? It seems like the latter is worth a lot more than the former. But, you say, you’re only going to watch the DVD once anyway, so why do you need to buy it? Well, first of all, if it was a movie worth watching you’re probably going to watch it more than once. And maybe want to reference it on occasion. But also, do you not get a feeling of immense power when you own the movie?

And compare going to the movies to buying a book. A hardback copy of a book costs only $15. Would you rather go to the movies 1.5 times, or own a book? If it’s a book that you’re interested in owning, than surely you would rather own the book. For one, it will give you more entertainment (after the 3 hours of movie-watching, you’re done, but reading a book can take days). But also you can use the book any time in the future. You can lend it to friends, you can reread it if you find you can’t remember it very well… and all for essentially the cost of going to a movie. It seems like movie-going is pretty much a waste of money, no? And this applies to pretty much all ‘activities’ monies spent. I love going to baseball games, but if I had to pay for it… wouldn’t I much rather spend that $20 for a ticket and $10 on parking on a brand new copy of The Tolkien Reader?

The distinction, I suppose, is between transient objects and permanent objects. Of course, some transient objects are necessary. You need food to live. But I find it amazing how high the price of a meal at a medium-class restaurant can go – $10 per person, minimum. So if I just don’t go to a restaurant 4 times in a row (and instead live off ramen noodles or something, which cost $0.25), I can ‘save up’ $39. I can than spend that money on getting LEGOs.

LEGOs are probably the perfect example of permanency vs. transience. LEGOs give endless entertainment. People often say that they’re overpriced, but it seems to me that they’re really underpriced. For the amount of entertainment you can get from one box of LEGOs – building with it, rebuilding with it, displaying it, engaging it in mock combat with other LEGO creations – you pay, depending on the set, between $5 and $80. But any size LEGO set seems to me to give much more entertainment than a trip to the ballpark, or to the movies, or to a restaurant, or any food whatsoever. The entertainment is permanent. LEGOs are forever.

So if economics are supposed to lead to things being priced according to how much pleasure they give the buyer… well, it seems to me that books, DVDs, LEGOs, etc, are all woefully underpriced. They’re worth three, four times their actual costs. And if I have a choice, I’d almost always prefer to buy the permanent object rather than the transient experience.

Must be the dwarf in me. I did always like Thorin Oakenshield.


Brickshelf.com

February 19, 2007

I like Brickshelf. It provides free hosting for LEGO-related pictures, videos, etc. Yes, the interface leaves something to be desired, but in my opinion it’s a fairly cool service to provide.

Here’s my brickshelf page.

It’s divided into 5 directories. Here’s what I have there:

Castles:

  • A Lavinian Coliseum I built. It isn’t to scale with the minifigs (if it was, it would be HUGE), but it’s still cool. One of the pictures shows a hugely oversized Legionnaire fighting a troll.
  • A stereotypical Dark Tower, like Utumno, Angband, Minas Morgul, Barad Dur, or Isengard. It has a bunch of Lichs, Skeletons, Wraiths, etc, hanging off of it. And a Dark Lord on top.
  • A Treasure Cave. This is somewhat Wesnoth-related – it is supposed to be the cave where Rugnur, Thursagan, Alanin, et al., holed up when the Elves attacked them. It doubles as the place where I store all jewel-like pieces – I find it useful to sort out the rarer bricks from the standards ones.
  • An Elven Castle, modeled on what I think Tirion upon Túna would look like. It only has one tower and the front wall complete; if I had enough white and blue bricks, I would make all four sides and a central keep, but… I don’t. The tower comes apart into 3 separate pieces, and there is actually a spiral staircase inside.

Figures:

  • A Balrog of Morgoth. (What did you say???)
  • Alanin with the Sceptre of Fire behind him on a sled. Not that he ever actually did this in the campaign.
  • Alfhelm the Wise. I imagine Alfhelm wore mostly dark, grey-hued colors.
  • Some sword-wielding cavalry.
  • A chariot. I was inspired to make this after reading Claudius the God, which described in detail how the Celts used chariots against the Romans when they invaded England.
  • Some lancers. (Most of my cavalry comes in groups of three.)
  • A Lavinian Legionnaire. Unfortunately, I don’t have the requisite pieces to make more of these guys. The shields are rather rare.
  • A Marauder Longboat, with a Valkyrie on top, a Galdra in front, and a Lord at the oars. This one is from a set, with minor modifications.
  • A working Marauder ballista. This one is also from a set with minor modifications.
  • Three generic marauder warriors, two with axes, one with a sword.
  • A cart with merchant goods on the back. Rather peaceful.
  • A Mermaid Initiate. This was originally made as a Heroes of Might and Magic Naga, which are blue, but in Wesnoth, it is Mermaids that are blue, and Nagas are green…
  • Warrior monks! I’m not sure how useful these guys would actually be in battle.
  • A Mumak, with a bunch of Easterlings on its back. It could also be interpreted as a Nemidian Elephant.
  • An Orcish Berkserker. Not a real unit. And its skin is green, not brown – all of my LEGO orcs look like that, BTW.
  • A group of three Orcish Spearmen, an Orcish Axeman, and an Orcish Shaman.
  • A badly lit picture of a red ballista. It actually works – when strung, it fires a goodly distance, 6-8 feet.
  • Rugnur, from the Sceptre of Fire campaign, nominally. Though in reality Rugnur would never have had a long white beard or a pickaxe…
  • A cave scorpion. I really don’t like Bionicle, but I had some pieces from it and decided to make something interesting out of them.
  • A Wild Elf Wanderer. His shirt is from the Star Wars sets – I think it’s Gungan.
  • A random siege tower.
  • A troll whelp and a troll. These were made back when orcs were green. I don’t have the pieces to remake them in grey.
  • A Marauder Valkyrie.
  • Three Wolf Riders. These wolves took a lot of work to make, and I’m fairly proud of them. Though they do have a tendency to fall over. :/

Misc:

  • Pictures and video of my LEGO Machine Gun.

Shields:
(These are shields made for an abandoned project to represent the Saving Elensefar campaign in LEGO. I stopped when I realized I don’t have a good enough printer to actually make the shields.)

  • Elensian (from Elensefar) shield. The good guys!
  • Silver Claw orcish clan shield (this is the clan that attacks Elensefar, though the name is never mentioned in the campaign).
  • Forest of Wesmere shield. The emblem of the elves that attack Meneldur and his men.
  • Wesnothian Army shield. These guys also have it in for Meneldur.

Vignettes:

  • So far, I only have one thing here – a witch-burning ceremony, with inquisitor and all. The plan, however, is to make a bunch of small scenes like this, take pictures of them, and then take them apart. My next scene is going to be Vanimaro, Wild Elven King, dying on the battlefields near Iceswept Bay.

Why LEGOs Are Teh Awesome

November 22, 2006

Now, for a more lighthearted post.

First off, if you didn’t know – I really like LEGOs (properly called LEGO ™ bricks). My bedroom is filled with them. I have a 1.5ft (height) x 1ft (depth) x 3ft (width) LEGO elven castle, a 2ft x 1 ft x 1ft LEGO sorcerer’s tower, and a bunch of minifigs. I might post pics of them someday… as soon as I get a digital camera.

But I’m nowhere near as obsessed as these people. I mean, that’s impressive. Just click any of the “Featured MOC” links. The 2006 one is the most impressive, methinks.

I wish I had that many LEGOs to play around with. I could finish my elven castle. Right now it’s just one side of the castle. I still need 3 more sides, plus a keep. If I ever finish it, it’ll be 3ft x 3ft x 3ft, at least.

But there are really two different elements to LEGO bricks. There are the bricks themselves, which you build into impressive castles like those linked to above. Then there are the little people, called minifigs. It’s a lot of fun to customize them, too. Make different characters, reconstruct scenes from history or fiction… right now I’m trying to make models of various scenes from Orbivm’s history.

Which is better? They require very different skills to do well. Castle-making is, in essence, architecture. Modding minifigs is basically costuming. I think I prefer castle-making in theory, but it is much more expensive (you have to buy a whole lot of bricks to make anything decent, versus just having a few minifigs, the proper printer, and some designs).

So… anyone else play with LEGOs when they were kids? Anyone still play with them?


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