• A quick tour of our Skoolie


    In the summer of 2021 we spent 12 days doing a conversion of a school bus to be able to drive it from NY to Washington (state). Here it is after the 12 days of work. Lots to do still, but almost road ready!

  • Is the LEGO Eiffel Tower purchase worth it?

    Right now there are a couple of nice offers for purchases over a certain amount on the LEGO.com website. I scanned through the sale list and either have already stocked up on the items or am passing on them. So I pick something from my wish list that’s over $150 to take advantage of the offers that are available. I choose the Back to the Future Time Machine. (What, can’t we say the word Delorian?)

    That’s some pretty sweet swag for one item.

    The perks, if sold might come to maybe $75 or $80 right now.

    Before hitting the checkout button, I check the prices for the “time machine” elsewhere. Amazon has a sale on it right now for $169.99. Argh. That’s $30 cheaper, but if I buy from there I don’t get any of the swag. Back to my wishlist though. Maybe there’s something that… oh. There’s one thing on the offers page that I didn’t qualify for. Eiffel’s Apartment if I were to buy the $629.99 newly released Eiffel Tower. That would then come with all the previous swag as well as what I think should be a pretty limited set that might gain some good value.

    Eiffel’s Apartment set 40579

    I really hope my wife never reads these posts. I press buy and add 4,095 VIP points to my account, and all of these perks. Big picture, I don’t yet know the answer to the post’s question. But the number of freebies that came with it — especially Eiffel’s Apartment (which is currently selling for $100 on Ebay) and the 4,000 VIP points are worth about $30 in free LEGO later.

  • Target LEGO buying strategy – Dec 1, 2022

    I go to Target.com and then search for “LEGO“. Below the advertisements and above the results, I select “Deals” and then “Weekly Ad“. Right now LEGO VIP is offering 1 VIP point per dollar spent at Target when you upload a receipt. I did it and it worked. BUT $10 spent at LEGO.com usually means about 65 VIP points. Buying through Target and uploading a receipt knocks that down to 10 instead of 65. It’s also worth noting that Target has a pretty painless price-matching program. I have not used it against other retailers, but it worked to get a refund from sets that went down in price on Target’s website.

    Anyway, here are the sets that are more than 20% off (my usual threshold for considering a purchase) right now.

    Set #NameRetailTarget’s% OffBE?PiecesPPP
    76231Guardians of the Galaxy Advent Calendar$44.99$23.9947%G268$0.09
    76155Marvel The Eternals in Arishems Shadow$59.99$35.4941%493$0.07
    76179Batman & Selina Kyle Motorcycle Pursuit$14.99$8.9940%149$0.06
    41706Friends Advent Calendar$34.99$20.9940%312$0.07
    76404Harry Potter Advent Calendar$44.99$28.7936%334$0.09
    10279Icons Volkswagen T2 Camper Van$179.99$120.9933%G2207$0.05
    41954DOTS Adhesive Patch$5.99$4.1930%95$0.04
    41955DOTS Stitch-on Patch$5.99$4.1930%95$0.04
    75317BrickHeadz Star Wars Mandalorian & The Child$19.99$13.9930%G295$0.05
    41956DOTS Ice Cream Picture Frames & Bracelet$29.99$20.9930%474$0.04
    60307City Wildlife Rescue Camp$99.99$69.9930%503$0.14
    10291Queer Eye – The Fab 5 Loft$99.99$69.9930%974$0.07
    76190Iron Monger Mayhem$39.99$29.9925%479$0.06
    43195Disney Belle and Rapunzel’s Stables$49.99$37.4925%239$0.16
    60302City Wildlife Rescue Operation$89.99$67.4925%525$0.13
    31202Art Disney’s Mickey Mouse$119.99$89.9925%G2658$0.03
    21173Minecraft The Sky Tower$59.99$45.9923%G565$0.08
    60294City Stunt Show Truck$69.99$53.9923%420$0.13
    December 1st 2022 Target LEGO sets on sale at more than 20% off.

    BrickEconomy is predicting that 5 of the sets will be a good investment, so let’s start with those.

    21173 The Sky Tower

    From the bottom, 21173 the Minecraft The Sky Tower set is 23% off retail and puts the price per piece at about 8 cents. Some Minecraft LEGO sets have had huge increases in their resale value. None seem to be selling for less than their retail value so this seems like a solid purchase. But the price right now on Amazon is $41.99 at 30% off and knocking another cent off of the PPP. This set does have the Pilot minifigure which is unique to the set. My move: Buy from Amazon.

    Next is 31202 LEGO Art Disney’s Mickey Mouse. It retails for $119.99 but right now is on sale for $89.99 on Target. Like the Minecraft set above, Amazon has this set for less — $10 less at $79.99, which bumps the savings from 25% to 33%. If this set hits the retirement pop that’s currently predicted on BrickEconomy at between $146 and $160 in about the middle of 2023, then it could mean a double in less than a year. At the Amazon sale price, the price per piece is down to just 3 cents (though I know, they are almost all tiny!) My move: Buy from Amazon, or try a price match with Target.

    Next is the LEGO BrickHeadz of The Mandalorian and The Child. These were on sale back in early October for $11.05 compared to the retail price of $19.99. I stocked up on them then, and this is the same price that was available on LEGO.com during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals (but is back to $19.99 now). If I didn’t already have a few I’d be pretty tempted.

    10279 Icons Volkswagen Camper Van T2

    Now comes 10279, the Icons VW Camper Van T2. At $121, it’s at that 1/3 off price which is a good discount. Also, this is considerably below the price it is going for on Amazon. The lowest price in the “more buying choices” is $156 and the core price shown is $185. With a quick $35-$65 to be made, this feels like a good buy. My move: Wishing I could buy from Target.com or local stores, but it seems to be out of stock everywhere I have access to.

    Lastly, the Guardians of the Galaxy Advent Calendar set 76231. This selling at $23.99, or 47% off of the retail price of $44.99 seems like a really good purchase. Marvel will continue making movies so there will always be interest in giving one of these advent calendars. Currently, 4 of the minifigs that come with it are unique to the set. There is only the 2021 set to get a good comparison and it’s selling for $5 over last year’s retail at the rock-bottom prices that I can find. So, locking in 50% gains in one year should be a slam-dunk. My move: Buy from Target.

    A few thoughts on the other sets. I’m just not sure about Marvel’s Eternals set 76155. At 41% off, it seems like it could be a good buy. The movie was alright, but the LEGO sets all seem to be going on sale, so it seems like there’s not much demand for them. Like the LEGO Queer Eye set (30% off here) which seems to have been on sale everywhere for the past few months — if there’s not demand now, will there be?

    The Batman motorcycle set 76179 may be a pretty good buy. The price per piece is pretty low, it has 2 minifigures, and might almost double in price from Target’s sale to the “retirement pop”. The thing for me is that doubling $9, while still doubling your money, isn’t worth the amount of effort when it comes to having to later list, pack and ship it. Buying 10 of them and turning $90 into $180 sounds more attractive, but having to sell them 10 times compared to selling one set at $180 just makes more sense to me. I’m interested in small and low-priced sets that may really pop in value, but I can’t imagine that’s going to be the case with this set.

    The same goes for the DOTS sets. They have such a low price point that making a profit off of them won’t be a windfall, and probably not even buy me a celebratory beverage.

    Lastly, I want to point out that some sets have deceptively high numbers in the table. Like the two City Wildlife sets have PPP of .13 and .14, putting them quite a bit higher than the lows I prefer. But they come with some great animal pieces like elephants, which I have a hunch might end up selling for quite a bit even just loose sometime in the future. My move: Buy from Target.

  • First steps for LEGO investing

    Maybe you’ve realized that the LEGO sets you played with as a kid are worth a lot of money if you hadn’t, you know, played with them. Or maybe you’ve compared the change in the price of a pound of LEGO bricks to other precious items and think it’s an inflation-proof investment. Or maybe you’re just wanting to find good LEGO deals. This is where I think you should start.

    • Join the LEGO VIP program.
    • Check the VIP Home and Rewards>Featured Rewards areas for free perks.
    • Collect a few free points by completing their surveys like “What is your favorite theme?” for 5 points. (Those meager early points might earn you enough for a digital download. I *HAD* to have the Optimus Prime one.)
    • Click on Shop and then Offers & Sale. The Offers section will list things like promotional sets which may come free with purchase. Right now, a purchase of over $150 would earn three freebies with about 600 pieces total (some research shows LEGO pieces average at about 10 cents each) which means that the $150 purchase gets you $60 in free stuff. Some of the promotional sets sell for a bit higher than the 10-cent threshold.
    • Check in every now and then! During Black Friday-Cyber Monday sales you could enter to win one million LEGO VIP points, with a new entry costing you zero points and eligible to re-enter every 24 hours. They also run perks where points were doubled for online purchases and 5x for in-store purchases for the time period.
    One million LEGO points could be traded right now for 76 of the $100 discounts.
  • Spreadsheet – Convert RDA% for vitamins and minerals to mg

    One of the things that my body has started to tell me is that I need to spend some time making a course correction. While nothing majorly worrisome has come out of any physical, I know I’m not in great shape. One thing I have not done in quite some time determines how my nutrition intake is compared to my needs.

    Of course, instead of using one of many high-quality and totally capable apps or websites, I’m home-growing a solution to tracking my health. I’ll write more about that in a different post because this is about the calculation I wanted.

    Labels on products are super frustrating. The percentages based on a 2000-calorie diet are fine if you want to do some math if you’re aiming for a 2,500-calorie diet or a 1,750 one. I just want to know how many mg or μg of each nutrient so that I can track my approximate actuals.

    So, here’s a spreadsheet that will do the conversions between recommended daily allowance and micrograms or milligrams. Just put the percent of a vitamin or mineral’s RDA in the first column and the math will be done to show the milligram or microgram recommendation for males, and females, and average male/female allowance. Just make a copy of this file for your own use.

    Screencapture of the spreadsheet which converts RDA for vitamins and minerals to mg
  • Print your own Monopoly money

    Here are links to .pdf files so that you can print off your own Monopoly money.

    These used to be hosted by Hasbro but for some reason they changed the link and I can no longer find them on their site. These could be great to use as original graphic files to make your own money for games.  Easier to print of a few hundred dollars in custom money than to get your own custom poker chips!  Of course, if you want to get your hands on real replacement Monopoly money you can get it here for under $15.

    Monopoly money 100

    And if you need it, here’s the official rules.

  • DIY Nintendo Mouse

    If you are like me you get really excited when you find two Nintendo controllers at the Salvation Army. One was priced at $1.00 and the other at $.37 (i didn’t fight the pricing). Of course, they get home and meanwhile occupy a part of my brain that is like a broken stove. There is this back burner that is constantly on. Ideas get on there and just simmer away. So the idea for one of the controllers was to make it a card reader that I can plug my sd or compact flash cards to transfer files. Sunday morning I came up with my idea for the second one… make it a mouse.

    What you’ll need for this project:
    A Nintendo controller
    An optical mouse
    A Dremel tool
    Small screwdrivers
    Super glue
    A hot glue gun
    Wire cutters
    A soldering gun and solder for electronics
    Two (if you do it right) replacement buttons
    Four or five hours

    First, open the donor and recipient up and Dremel out some space for the guts (the mouse I used was perfect. I just had to leave out the scroll wheel.) Clean up the mystery child’s coagulated sweat with a powerful cleaning product.

    Aw heck, I don’t have the patience for a complete tutorial – I just spent the better part of the day working on it. Here’s the narrative… Hack and cut. make the guts fit. Open a hole for the sensor to shine through on the bottom. Glue the sensor’s clear plastic reflector thing down in place. Remove the buttons from the mouse circuit board carefully. Solder spare wire (i used telephone wire but you could use the wire from the Nintendo controller) onto the board so that you can use the A button as your left click and the B button as your right. Solder carefully. Attach the replacement buttons. Mine were from a dead stereo. Yes, I keep dead stereo electronics around. You should see the collections of crap I have. I had to bend some sort of barrel thing on the circuit board in order for the case to fit. One of the contacts pulled out of the board (as I had expected) and I soldered an extension for it. I cut a piece of the Nintendo controller off to fit behind the 4 way rocker so it would feel like it originally did. The start and select buttons didn’t have enough space behind them to allow that. I hot glued the hollow part of the A and B buttons so they would contact the buttons I had put behind them. I hot-glued the mouse board and the replacement buttons in place once that was all calculated out. I wrapped the cord for the mouse around the posts that prevent the cord from being pulled out. I reassembled and tested it and had to take it apart and carve out some hot glue because the A or “left” button wouldn’t click. Here are some pictures…

    On the topside, the only apparent difference is that the cord is grey and it has a USB plug at the end. The bottom side had an opening for the sensor. The only thing I would do differently is to cover the inside a little better – there are a few points where red light penetrates the sticker on the top of the controller because the plastic case has holes drilled in it. I considered putting the scroll wheel in because I really prefer my mice with them. It could be done fairly easily but I wanted to keep the form factor. The wheel would have come out right between the red buttons and the “Nintendo” logo. Using the controller you put your palm over the 4-way control and your index finger on the A button.

    Featured on Make: How to make a Nintendo controller mouse