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Sunday, March 29, 2020

Is Bricklink buying safe during peak coronavirus?

A viewer today asked for my thoughts about a potential LEGO fan safety issue in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.  They have a friend who is abstaining from making part orders on the popular Bricklink marketplace out of fear of contamination, and wanted to know if I felt this was an overreaction.  Below was my response:
"I think everyone has a right to be as safe as they feel they need to.  There's no single right answer.  The fact is, no matter what we do, the majority of people on the planet are going to contract this illness, it's just a matter of when. Even if every country completely "flattens the curve" we're not going to exterminate this virus from existence, we're just slowing its spread so healthcare systems can keep up, while also trying our best to not transmit the darn thing to particularly vulnerable fellow humans that we or others care about.
With respect to Bricklink orders, based solely upon what I've read to date from the scientific community, in the worst case scenario if the sender has the virus and is contagious, viral RNA (which alone is essentially inert) can remain detectable on plastics for up to three days, but whole viruses are certain to have become nonviable more quickly than that.  Even if a contagious Bricklink seller coughed & sneezed directly into the package right before closing it up, unless it's sent via Express mail the chances of the recipient getting infected are probably infinitesimally low.
I think your biggest risk is if the mail carrier is infected and happens to cough directly onto the package right before dropping it off.  Still slim chances. If worried, open the package, dump the contents out, discard the package, then wash hands, exercising normal good hygiene practices along the way.  I think this can all be done very safely.
All that said, again, I think your friend has every right to choose to hold off for the time being, if that's what feels most comfortable to them.  Managing mental health and a psychological sense of safety is important especially when there are other stressors about."
What's your take on the situation? Are you avoiding LEGO purchases and "non-essential" package shipments right now?

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Headed up the river with a boat and no paddle...

...and they got me on lock dowwwwwwn!

I have a theory that for every situation in life, classic Hip-Hop music has a reference. Today's proof comes courtesy of Cypress Hill. I'm in one of six contiguous counties in the state of California, USA, covering approximately 7 million inhabitants, now operating under "shelter in place orders" from local governments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Technically we're not on full "lockdown" like some parts of the world. We're still legally allowed to exit our homes without explicit permission, but we're not allowed to gather in groups larger than 10 or with people from outside our own households, and we're not supposed to travel by foot, scooter, bicycle, or car to any place we don't absolutely need to. All "non-essential" establishments have been ordered closed including some municipal offices and all schools.

You may have seen news reports about people stockpiling toilet paper in recent weeks. These reports are accurate. Panic buying has occurred en masse, and in my region in particular there was a tremendous surge in this behavior just yesterday when our own change of status was widely announced and broadcast as an emergency alert notification on all of our phones. I topped up my own household's non- and slowly-perishable food supplies late last week, and already then there were about a half-dozen aisles completely stripped of all products. I got the last three packets of instant rice off one lonely shelf. Days later, some entire stores are all but empty. Amazon will be out of some commodities for weeks.

Everyone among my close & extended family & friends appears safe & healthy for the moment, but tensions are high and uncertainty & unease are palpable in the air. Nobody has any idea how long this will last or how bad it will get. While South Korea has given the world a clinic on pandemic response & "flattening the curve," many other places, including the mighty US, have been slow on the draw & prioritized minimizing public panic & bad early PR over taking care of serious business.

For me this is a first-in-a-lifetime experience. I remember the days of peak Ebola and got inoculated for H1N1, but coronavirus is hitting harder and closer to home & heart than either. With so many people stuck at home and looking for some good news or a positive escape, I should ideally be making more content than ever. Unfortunately there's not enough of me available to oblige. I've done my share of news reading, stock-taking, protocol-generating, and social circle debating, all of which takes time as well as mental energy. I also suffered a couple bouts of insomnia over the past week that knocked me down a notch. Boo.

I'll certainly do as much as I can to be normal for all of you, though, while maintaining proper care for myself and loved ones. I hope you all will do your parts as well to comply with common sense precautions, to avoid picking up or spreading this nasty little bug. There's plenty of unbiased, fact-based info out there about how respiratory tract viruses spread and how to minimize exposure through basic & easy hygienic practices & courtesies. Don't be patient 31.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Patreon is now live!

The official JANGBRiCKS Patreon page is now open and accepting signups! I heard your requests, collected your specific feedback, consulted with experts, and did my best to put together a selection of membership tiers and rewards that would really fit both what I do and what fans want.

Pledging is of course 100% optional and I have exactly zero plans to remove anything from my normal stream of YouTube content.  However, in spite of the chorus of assurances that the very continuation of my videos & builds is itself "the reward," I insist on giving supporters more.  There will be additional content made available through Patreon, including videos YouTube's algorithms don't want me to publish as well as early access to uploads before they're made public and really raw & candid peeks behind the scenes.

YouTube has knocked me down & kicked me numerous times over the years. Now, through Patreon, the fans, the people who really matter, can help elevate what you know of as JANGBRiCKS to a new phase of interactivity and energy.  You can get a minifigure of yourself to walk the streets of New Jang City.  You can get your own message or video clip featured on my main channel.  You can influence the evolution of my work and the priorities behind it more directly than ever.  You'll even be able to participate in my first ever brick-themed live chat sessions and maybe, just maybe, some exclusive live video streams.

Check out the new Patreon page and please consider supporting my move to become simultaneously more viewer- and hobby-focused, taking a step away from the drama of chasing YouTube's ever-changing rules & tricks to just share as much fun & wholesome entertainment with all of you as possible.

Thank you in advance and as always, let me know if you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions.

Recovery update

For a little more than a month now I've been back to work on a "new normal" basis, getting caught up on reviews and figuring out how to most comfortably & efficiently work in the all-new studio.  Viewer reaction to the new format has been shockingly positive.  I, myself, have felt perfectly comfortable being in front of the camera again, though I do yet need to work on physical access to review subjects from behind the filming rig when doing the traditional close-up shots.

I've been marking new videos honestly as "not for kids" and YouTube hasn't overridden this choice on any of them as yet, though I still don't know if I'm completely in the clear as COPPA settlement enforcement actions have not begun to date, to my knowledge.  I remain unfortunately confident that I need to leave most of my previous 10 years of work marked "for kids" forever, though, and that loss might thus never be recovered.  New legislative efforts in the US have been initiated, meanwhile, to expand the relevant definition of "kids" to everyone under 16 instead of 13, and separately to essentially end toy unboxings & sponsored "reviews" targeted at that broad audience group. Ouch.  I'm happy to mostly not be thinking about laws & such right now, though, as my focus is back on the content where it belongs!