Get an Early Jump on Christmas

 
 
Though I might complain about Christmas being foisted on us way too early, I still think Christmas is important to the hobbyist.  This is the chance to prod someone (gently or not so gently) into getting us what we want.  We can also do our best to try and entice someone into a hobby by selecting a gift that might start a lifetime of hobbying (I will touch on this in a later post).  And if all else fails, we can always justify a bigger expense by telling ourselves (and who ever else we might have to justify the expense to) that this is a Christmas present.

If your special someone is an efficient shopper, they might already be looking for your gift.  You might need to start dropping hints as early as tonight’s dinner.  Some of you might need to start working on that list.  Some of you (the indecisive type) should start making decisions as to what you want.  If you don’t, maybe there won’t be anything under the tree.

If your someone special is a last minute panic shopper, well then you’ve got time.  Lucky you.  Of course if you aren’t around at the moment of that last minute panic, and don’t have your list on your smartphone when they call….. well then, too bad.

The funny thing I find is that whenever you ask people what they want, they often don’t know.  I know this is not true.  If I asked you for ten things you would buy right now if I set you free in a hobby shop with a $50 (or whatever amount) gift card, and said you had ten minutes to get something or the car would expire….I am sure you could get something.  The problem is that people thing a gift has to be something different.  It doesn’t.  A gift is something free.

I know, a gift should be something “you wouldn’t buy for yourself.”  What a silly idea.  If I wouldn’t buy it for myself, I wouldn’t want it.  A gift is something that you want, but can’t justify spending your own money on.  When it’s someone else’s money, it should be easy.

My advice, write down everything you want.  Just that you want it, not that you would or wouldn’t spend the money on it, not that you are or are not going to buy it.  When you’re done, look it over.  Wouldn’t it be nice if someone gave you anything from that list?  If you’re smart, before letting a loved one look over the list you might want to organize it by price, or bundle a bunch of things together that might fit their budget.  Either way, now you’ve got something to tell them to get you.

Ghosts of Christmas Past (part two)

 
One of the coolest kits (which was also quite educational) that I received for Christmas many, many, years ago was Capsela.  This toy was so cool that I have never been able to part with it, and the photos from this blog contain the actual kit I received on that cold (and possibly snowy) Christmas morning of my youth.

After checking Wikipedia, I found out that Capsela was created by the Mitsubishi Pencil Company.  So, surprise, surprise, another cool toy came from Japan, though this one came from an era when Japanese toys were more pedestrian.  It beat out Tamagochi by at least 2 decades.  Apparently, these days, Bandai from Japan has re-released these toys and they go for staggering amounts on EBay, or ship from far away places in Asia.  I had seen them at a science store–but that store is now closed.

Capsela was a rather unusual toy.  It was a motorized toy that didn’t come in traditional shapes and forms.  I think its science fiction look also was part of it’s appeal.  In addition to that, there were things you could build for the bathtub–and nothing could be cooler than that (add some superfoam, a few boats, and you had the making of a fantastic sea battle–probably better than that Battleship movie.)
the back of the box–detailing the parts included

The toughest part of the toy was understanding gear ratios.  Trying to build beyond the instruction booklet was rather difficult.  You couldn’t put things in any order you wanted, because it just wouldn’t power everything correctly.  Having only one set, and no internet bulletin boards for help, I really couldn’t stray from the instructions (though I tried many times).  These days, things would most likely be different.  Looking back on it, I had probably been too young when I got the present to really understand that, and could have saved myself some frustration.

There must be cool things like this today, but they are probably more geared toward use with an iPad, rather than a stand alone construction toy.  At least, I hope there are toys these days which are about building and operating.  I know there are still RC helicopters and cars, so besides Lego, there must be stuff like this–let me know what is out there.  I’d love to know.

It was definitely a cool toy.  Someday I will check out the new version, and that will probably be pretty cool too.

Ghosts of Christmas Past

 
While out shopping on the weekend, I spotted many wise people doing their Christmas shopping early.  This was most evident where people were shopping for their children.  It was plain to see which toys were most popular this season.

When I was young I often got “educational” toys and games as Christmas gifts.  Looking back on it, I really loved them, and that is probably why I gravitate towards stores which sell things like that.  Though there are relatively few of them, I enter them whenever I come across them.  When I was a child there were several of these educational toys that craved.

One Christmas I got a chemistry set.  I had wanted that for quite a long time and was really happy to get it.  Sadly, I didn’t do as many of the experiments as I wish I had.  The ones I did turned out well, but weren’t as cool as fiction books and TV shows made chemistry sets seem.

Regardless, I entered high school with an appreciation for chemistry that only a few students had.  I carried that appreciation to university and managed to eke out one year of science before switching to my other great passion.  I think a lot of that can be traced to that chemistry set.

As a footnote, I kept that chemistry set for many years–well into adulthood in fact.  I moved it to new locations several times.  Most recently, I was mildly curious enough to see if stores still sold them.  I was disappointed.