Category Archives: toys

Environmental Lessons

What would happen if every blog published posts discussing the same issue, on the same day? One issue. One day. Thousands of voices.

Well that would be Blog Action Day.  And that would be today.  And the issue, or theme as it were? 

The Environment

What, you may ask, do I know about the environment?  Well, I know a little.  I know that environmental science was my favorite subject in high school oh so many years ago.  And I know that when I was in college and decided to change majors, I thought back to my high school days, remembered my love of environmental science, and went to the college’s library to do a bit of research.  It was there that I found Geography, a close cousin to environmental science, and the major I finally settled on.

If you reviewed my college transcripts from those days, you’d see that I focused much of my time and college studies on environmental hazards.  Scary hazards like tornados and earthquakes and global warming and the human toll and the human response necessary to deal with to such incidents.  I loved those courses and up until the horror and disaster of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, I would have told you that my perfect job, if I could get it, would be to work for FEMA. As the agency’s director.  But after witnessing that embarrassment, I’ve more or less changed my mind.  Plus, I have a young child and I don’t think I’m up to all the travel a job like that would entail.

And then there’s the fact that I don’t always do everything that I probably could be doing to help the environment.  I think they might ask you questions about your contributions toward saving the environment for positions like that.  You see, I don’t recycle much.  Papers, sure.  Beer bottles, sometimes.  I just don’t have it in me to wash and rinse and sort ALL the varieties of trash we generate in a day.  My husband though, he’s much more on top of all of that.  So while I don’t do much, he more or less makes up for my slack. Except for when he rinses out a bottle or jar and leaves it on the kitchen counter for what I deem an unacceptable length of time.  Then I throw it away in the regular trash can, with the chicken bones and old bread crusts.

Also, I don’t generally buy organic foods.  My most recent foray into the organic world was when I bought a bunch of fruit from Whole Foods, and with it, a bunch of fruit flies that I am still trying to vanquish from my home.  I’ve decided that from now I will stick to the pesticide laden apples and bananas that I can buy from my local grocery store.  I’ve rarely seen a fruit fly with a stomach of steel required to feast on that kind of fruit.  Plus, the well preserved fruits and vegetables don’t tend to rot during my drive home from the store.

I do however, remember the lessons I learned about the environment as a child, and I try to instill at least those values in my son:

People start pollution; people can stop it.  So don’t litter.  It will poison the water, the air will turn black with smoke, the fishes will die and the Indian Chief will cry.

Smoky Bear says “Only you can prevent wild fires.”  So don’t play with matches.

Close the door, you’re letting bugs in.

Close the door.  What are you trying to do, heat the neighborhood?

Don’t leave the door to the refrigerator hanging open.  What are you trying to do, cool the entire house?

Turn off the lights when you leave a room, you’re wasting electricity!  Money doesn’t grow on trees, you know.

Eat your vegetables.  There are starving children in other countries who would be happy to have your vegetables! (and by the way, piling them into a napkin and offering to mail those vegetables to the starving children will get you sent to your room faster than you can blink).

Don’t touch wild animals!  Do you want to get rabies?

and finally…

Stay on the path.  Do you want to get poison ivy?

On top of all that there is a new lesson, one I’ve only come to appreciate since my son was born.  TOY MANUFACTURERS USE WAY TOO MUCH PACKAGING.  Seriously.  Is toy theft that big of a problem?  A simple Star Wars Action figure, for example, is held in place by something like a dozen twist ties when it’s already encased in cardboard and plastic. My son wants to play with the toy RIGHT NOW, but it takes me forty minutes to free the toy from its twist tie asylum…

I’ll make this promise right now:  If toy manufacturers stop it with all the twist ties, I will do my part and recycle the cardboard part of the packaging.  Given that my son is six with years of toy ownership ahead of him, that action alone could make a big difference for the environment.

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Filed under blog action day, packaging, recycle, Star Wars, the environment, toys

Breaking News

This just in… Luke Skywalker, of Star Wars fame, was injured in a Y-Wing crash yesterday.  R2D2 immediately responded by turning himself into a medical droid and attempting to shock Luke Skywalker back to health.  The “shocking procedure” is quite shocking in nature as it entailed R2D2 straddling Luke’s face as Luke lay prone on the bed.  As promising as this procedure looked, it failed to revive Luke and so he was transported to the hospital, where a bed was constructed for him out of Kleenex.  Luke was left there to recover. 

The crash is still under investigation but it appears that it was not caused by Darth Vader’s use of the Force.  An anonymous witness to the crash stated that Luke “couldn’t steer because too much wind blew back his hand” and Darth Vader was observed trying to stop the oncoming crash by taking the Y-Wing to the battle station.  Because he was unsuccessful, a crash recovery team will be tasked with transporting the Y-Wing back to the battle station for repair.

Darth Vader, in what appears to be a change of heart spent the afternoon at the injured Luke’s side, taking care of him.  Princess Leia, Luke’s sister and one of the seven faces of Belle, was surprised at the news of her father’s actions.  “But I thought he was a bad guy!” she said.

A different unnamed witness came forth and reported that after the crash a “strange character” had been spotted in the vicinity.  The character at first appeared to be Belle from Beauty and the Beast.  That information could not be verified because the witness admitted that the strange character’s face could not be seen. However, it has been confirmed that the character was wearing all of Belle’s clothing at once.  The character reportedly floated in the air and said “Hello!” to the real Belle who happened to be passing by on her way to the refrigerator to grab a can of Diet Coke.  The real Belle commented that “You look very warm in all of those clothes with that coat on” and the figure responded, “There’s nobody here, I’m just a bunch of scary dresses!”  The real Belle screamed in terror and ran away.

The distraught Belle was later reached by telephone where an accusing voice cried “Where did you put the Storm Trooper’s bodies?  They were in your bed!”  Not wanting to be caught in any kind of infidelity, Belle at first tried the Iran Contra defense where she stated that she couldn’t “recall” a situation where Storm Troopers had shared her bed.  Later though, when it was, in fact, revealed that the Storm Troopers had been found under Belle’s nightgown, she resorted to using the Shaggy defense and claimed “It wasn’t me!”

Further confusing the investigation is a somewhat recovered Luke Skywalker who is now claiming that he was not the one flying the Y-Wing at the time of its crash.  He has denied his involvement and claimed “The ‘LEGO guy’ was flying the ship.”  Additionally, he claims that he is “Luke from a different movie.”

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming where I admit that I was playing with the LEGOs I spoke of here.  But only for a little while.  It turns out that when a company prints on the box that a toy is for children ages 8 and up, you really ought to heed their warning.  Otherwise, you’ll find yourself having to assemble the toy yourself because your five year old is unable to do so.

Then shortly afterward, your son will drop the Y-Wing you so lovingly spent four hours assembling for him, and one million of the 17 trillion pieces will shear off upon impact and scatter all over your kitchen.  Some will land in the dog’s water bowl, some will slip under the refrigerator, and some more will slide under the door to the basement and fall down the steps where you won’t find them again until you step on them with your bare foot.  This will leave a LEGO impression on your foot that stays for a full 36 hours.

At that point you will be forced to consider whether or not you repaired the Y-Wing adequately after its initial crash.  Perhaps if you had actually moved the refrigerator to get at the “unrecoverable” pieces, the craft might have been more stable.  Perhaps a more stable aircraft would have spared Luke Skywalker from such severe injuries.

You can choose to debate this.  You can write both NASA and the NTSB to get their ruling on the incident.  Or, you could resort to your original premise that the “witness” to the crash is simply crazy.  Especially since he is claiming HE is the REAL Luke Skywalker, and it was “the LEGO guy” that crashed the plane.  Also, because he is five, and makes “scary dresses” talk.

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Filed under Beauty and the Beast, breaking news, humor, insanity, LEGOs, Luke Skywalker, Star Wars, toys, Y-Wing

Transformers

So the Transformers movie comes out tomorrow and I’m wondering: Is it just me or did the people who made the movie Transformers ever actually play with a transformer?  Because my son has a couple, and let me tell you, those things DO NOT transform as fast or smoothly as they do in the movie.

Maybe I’m mechanically inept, or simply toy incapable, but I couldn’t make transformers transform when they first came out in the ’80s and I was babysitting kids who played with them, and I can’t do it today either.  Yes, folks.  I admit it.  Transformers have confounded me for 20 years now!

Maybe, if my son hadn’t ripped open the packages and screwed the transformers up before I read the directions, I would have understood how these things work.  But it’s too late now.  He opened them, and not neatly.  He destroyed the back of the package which contained the picture showing what the transformer were supposed to look like.  So now it’s a bit difficult to follow the instructions from Step 1.  Because what I’m holding in my hands looks NOTHING like the pictures and I can’t even figure out how to get it there, not even close.

I don’t understand how they can say these toys are for children ages 5 and up.  Pieces have popped off and I don’t even know which transformer I’m supposed to snap them back on to.

Really transformers should be sold in the puzzle aisle, not the toy aisle.  They remind me of the wood and metal disentanglement puzzles with all their rods and rings and ropes.  Pull this, twist that, push this, twist here, push this, pull that, throw it across the room in frustration and disgust while crying “Forget it!  I don’t want to play this anyway!” 

Remember when Rubik’s Cube first came out?  My brother found a quick way to solve that when he was a kid.  He didn’t read the solution manual, he didn’t need to.  He simply peeled the little color stickers off and rearranged them!

But these transformers, I swear they are actually little brain teasers, Mensa material.  If I ever figure out how to make these transform from vehicle to action figure to vehicle again, I swear to you, I am going to document my success with photos and video, and I’m sending it off to Mensa.  Once they see it, there’s no way they will be able to claim, like last time, that I’m not smart enough.

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Filed under mensa, puzzles, rubik's cube, toys, transformers

Can You Hear Me Now?

Did you hear?  The iPhone was released today.  If you didn’t already know this, then I don’t know how you missed it.  Last night, while I was running on the treadmill, I saw no less than 17 iPhone commercials.  And I only ran 2 miles!  You haven’t seen the commercials because you don’t watch TV, you say?  Okay, but that’s no excuse.  It’s all anybody’s been talking about anywhere for days.  For weeks.  For months.  Not that I was talking about it, because I really only started paying attention last night, after commercial number 12 came on and I thought, “Hey, didn’t I just see this like 30 seconds ago?” But today, today was the day!  The phone is out, in a store near you.  You can go buy one now if you want.  They’re probably still open. 

This evening I  was talking to my brother and he mentioned the iPhone madness, how people had lined up early, in some cases, staked out a patch of sidewalk and camped there for days, just to be one of the first to get their hands on a new iPhone. 

And it struck me how people used to line up like that hoping to snag THE HOT TOY, whatever was the big “must have” toy that all the kids wanted for Christmas.  The first time I really remember this happening was back in the early 1980s, when the Cabbage Patch Doll first came out.  In the ’90s it was Tickle Me Elmo, and then Furby.  In between and ever since then, there have been others. 

I don’t think that happens as much anymore.  Not for toys, anyway.  Today, it’s more or less the adults that are lining up for the latest must have techno gadgets: Xbox, iPods, and now, the iPhone.  Sure, you can argue that Xbox 360 is for kids, but I know equally as many adults who stood in line to get one for themselves as I do parents who stood in line to get one for their children (or at least, that’s who the fathers claimed they were buying it for).

It also struck me how, the adults who are standing in line for the new tech gadgets now are very likely the same ones who sat waiting, with bated breath, for Santa to deliver the new hot toys for Christmas back when they were kids themselves.  Essentially, I figure, the marketers are marketing to the same crowd, only that crowd has aged a bit in the intervening years.

I’m not getting an iPhone.  First of all, there’s the cost.  At $499 for the basic version, I can’t afford one.  And even if I could, there’s the fact that it’s paired with a different service provider than I have right now.  I could switch, sure.  But to break my current contract, I’d have to pay some outrageous fee.  I’m not certain, but I think when I signed my current cell phone contract I signed away my rights to any future children I might bear under some kind of Rumpelstiltskinian clause.  If I did, you can’t blame me.  It was long and written in very small print. 

And then there’s the fact that I like my phone to be a… phone.  Just that and nothing more.  The phone I have right now, (are you ready for this, you might want to sit down) DOESN’T HAVE A CAMERA IN IT.  It doesn’t play music either.  It just has some buttons with numbers on them and when I push them in the right order, it makes a phone call for me.  And I chose it ON PURPOSE.  The sales guy thought I was nuts.

But that is the reason I have silver ware in my kitchen as opposed to, say, just one Swiss Army Knife.  I want my fork separate and disconnected from my knife, separate from my nail file, separate from my tweezers, separate from my scissors, and separate from my corkscrew.

I don’t like the universal remote, either.  I have trouble working it.  I press the button to raise the volume on the television and find the VCR blinking off and on instead.  I hit play to start a DVD only to find the television rapidly changing channels.  All because I  have to press the device button first, so the remote knows which device I am trying to control.  But my cell phone?  When I flip it open, it’s just a phone.  I don’t have to switch it out of camera mode or MP3 mode to make a call. 

Now, if someone were to say, GIVE me an iPhone, complete with a pre-paid calling plan as a gift, would I turn them down?  Hell no!  I’m not STUPID.  I’m just lazy.  And broke.  So I’m not standing in line for the iPhone.  But I might borrow yours to make a call.

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Filed under cell phone, gadgets, iPhone, must have toys, tech gadgets, toys