Thursday, February 5, 2015

My Favorite Toy - STEMBaby

The Perfect Toy for a STEMGirl or Boy

Hubley Tic-Toy Clock
When I was around 9, I got a Hubley Tic-Toy clock for Christmas.  It was the best toy I ever had, and when my first grandchild was born, I started searching the Internet to see if I could find one. They are rare.
   Every once in a while, the thought would strike like a bell tolling, and I'd look around once more.  There were no Tic-Toy Clocks to be had.  But I did find this:
My First Clock
It's made in China, and has 33 parts.  The Tic-Toy was made in Lancaster, PA and had 25 parts.  The Tick-Toy was sturdier and more substantial, but this one will do.  The extra pieces of the newer clock constitute a chime that rings every 15 minutes, and a fairly convoluted pendulum assembly.

You get a few pictorial hints, no step by step written instruction like the Hubley had.
I laid out the stuff, and felt like I was nine again.  They really should give this clock a different name. It's not my first clock, and when I told my 4-year old granddaughter about it she said she'd move her other clock somewhere else to make room for this clock.  So it's not her first clock either.  How about Do-It-Yourself ClockWorks, or Not-so-Toy Clock.
I laid out all of the pieces and got down to it.

See that black gear on the left?  That's the quarter-hour bell thing; a bitch to get right, but it works.
And then there was the convoluted pendulum system that had no discernible pictorial or verbal instructions for assembly. 
Having written my fair share of software docs and training, I know the value of the written word when it comes to directions.  But, I guess in this world of Chinese produced, multi-national targeted imports, pictures must suffice.

What my pictures here don't show are the trial and error aspects of getting the chime right and figuring out the pendulum assembly.  I ended up taking the face off a few times to try and wrangle the quarter hour chime to perfection, but to paraphrase Voltaire: Perfection is the enemy of good.

And it's good enough.

A discussion of colorful, see-through, gear-driven goodness such as the Tic-Toy and My First would not be complete without a shout out to good old Mr. Machine.
Mr. Machine - you can take it apart but it won't go back together
Mr. Machine was an excellent toy that should have had screws and bolts rather than rivets.  When my son was small I was able to find a used one at a thrift shop.  

Being a conscientious parent, I took it upon myself to trim his eye-piercing top hat down to a bowler. He worked pretty well but his rear wheel broke, and I replaced it with a stainless steel and plastic line block.  Now in his 50s, his bellows still make him whistle This Old Man as he chugs helplessly, dragging his leg as if he'd had a stroke.  Unlike the Tic-Toy, you can still find Mr. Machine on eBay.

What's your favorite toy?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Tony Chamberlain's Review of Nelson Telson

Enjoy this review!

NELSON TELSON: The Story of a True Blue Blood
By Heidi Mayo
REVIEW/By Tony Chamberlain

I approached Nelson Telson as a grandfather of three boys (2,7,10 YO, two of them
readers) as to consider the book for their future reading. And now we slip a little too
close to that library-generated genre known as “Young Adult.” Does that mean old adults stay out of the clubhouse? I was thinking this just before a little girl named Mariah found an ancient Indian spearhead that gave her the magical power of being able to converse with an old horseshoe crab she finds in the tidal flats. A bit further along and Mariah finds herself in a room full of rowdy sixth-graders and a classically mean teacher, Mrs. Tarbox, followed by a classically obnoxious cousin, Travis, complete with BO and a tendency to cheat off Mariah’s school work, who comes to live with her family. No wonder this shy and lonely 11-year old would rather be among the wild animals and
escape the dreariness of her human surroundings.

By this point in Mayo’s novel, I (who have roughly sixty years on Mariah) was thoroughly engaged in her tale, which has the appeal of so many human monomythic adventures into the natural world. E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web and Trumpet of the Swan come quickly to mind, and of course they have been read and enjoyed by adults as well as “young adults” for decades.

The story of Nelson Telson (yes, you will learn that a telson is an object in nature) takes many swerves and upendings, as Mariah lives and grows and learns both in her natural and human worlds. This is a classic tale told with such fresh insight and awareness of nature, that it stands as a must read for young adults. And their parents. And their grandparents.