Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Toys’ Category

How those metal blocks get such precision fits

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This is a very interesting video, and the end segment on Henson Shaving’s razors is also good.

Written by Leisureguy

16 May 2023 at 10:06 am

The Play Gap

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A boy in a yard or vacant lot sitting on a wooden platform playing with drumsticks on upside-down plastic buckets.
With a pittance of funding, the Providence PlayCorps has built summer playgrounds in the inner city of Providence, Rhode Island. A case can be made that playgrounds like these, built mostly of discarded ”loose parts,” are more creative, more fun, and more educational than their fancy counterparts in wealthier neighborhoods.

Todd Oppenheimer reported in 2016 and updated the report in 2019, and it’s still relevant now. Why don’t all cities do this? (It isn’t because of budget restraints.)

Several years ago, Janice O’Donnell, longtime director of the Providence Children’s Museum in Rhode Island, conducted a survey of public school superintendents in her community to see how much recess time was available to students. Virtually everyone who responded said they considered recess important, but only a tiny percentage of the schools actually offered it anymore. When O’Donnell started looking into why this was happening, not only in Rhode Island but elsewhere in the country, she was stunned by what she learned.

Over the last 15 to 20 years, many teachers felt their students no longer had time for recess. With the increased emphasis put on standardized testing, their primary job now was to make sure students got high scores. Playtime could be handled after school. At other schools, especially those in crowded inner-city neighborhoods, there was no longer any space for playgrounds, or even a basketball hoop. Among those schools who could and did offer recess, many teachers used it for leverage with difficult students. If students misbehaved, or didn’t finish their work, they had to stay in class during recess. And the pattern in low-income urban communities was the worst.

In many inner-city neighborhoods, after-school playtime has become a fiction. “Half these kids end up in after-school programs for homework help,” O’Donnell told me. The supervisors assigned to these programs, she added, are typically unskilled; students therefore tend to make little progress with the work, which means they continually get assigned more of it. Those who aren’t in after-school study halls often go to schools with few other after-school programs, such as organized sports. In the most marginalized communities, once these youngsters get home, the options are even bleeker. The adults in the family are either working, or absent entirely. “They can’t roam their neighborhoods,” O’Donnell says, “so they’re on their screens.”

In the meantime, other opportunities for growth in school were shrinking as well. To allow more time for serious study, subjects such as music and art were being dropped. In some cases, even science classes were getting cut, because the new federal education law only monitored math and reading.

Schools with formal Physical Education programs don’t necessarily fill these gaps, either. In 2007, in a survey of 1,005 schools, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that physical activity during PE isn’t a robust as we might think. When opportunities for activity were compared between PE, recess, and after-school programs, recess won. It commanded 42 percent of a youngster’s chances to be active, as compared with PE, which came in at 32 percent. (After-school activities were lower still, at 26 percent.)

As time went on, O’Donnell noticed the growing mound of literature supporting the importance of recess, along with other opportunities for free play. The studies showed that active, open-ended play not only makes for happier, calmer kids, it also is critical to our full development—intellectually, physically, and emotionally.

The irony in that finding was certainly not lost on O’Donnell, or on the large number of experts in child development who study American education. Here we have a system intent on improving student’s abilities in subjects like math and reading by spending more time on those subjects in younger years; in the process, we sideline the very exercises that might build up our capacities to use math and reading in the richest ways.

Adding to that irony is yet another one: As the world’s challenges grow, so must our . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2023 at 11:23 am

Not a parody: A long gun for short kids

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Not the unsubtle imagery of a skill with a sight targeted on one eye. Talib Visram writes in Fast Company:

Four years ago this week, in one of the deadliest mass shootings in memory, 17 people were shot and killed by a 19-year-old gunman at a high school in Parkland, Florida. The tragedy spurred a revitalized gun reform movement led by a new generation, with youth coalitions like March For Our Lives calling for common-sense gun legislation. Still, school shootings continue to rise: Between August and December 2021, there were 136 instances of gunfire on school grounds, the highest rate in a 5-month period since the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety began tracking it in 2013. And 70% of school shooters, many of whom have easy home access to weapons, are under the age of 18.

Given this backdrop of ever-increasing gun violence, and especially by young perpetrators, the release of a new rifle directly marketed to kids has astonished even gun-reform experts who have followed the industry’s aggressive targeting of children for years. They say this new firearm, overtly advertised as a kids’ version of the AR-15—the style of rifle used in 11 of the 12 most high-profile mass shootings, including Sandy Hook and Las Vegas—is the most brazen example of such targeted firearms marketing they’ve ever seen. The move is part of a trend by an unstable gun industry in a volatile market to target new potential consumers, but it’s also motivated by a rise of political extremism.

Last month, the JR-15, or Junior 15, debuted at the SHOT Show, billed as the nation’s largest annual trade show for the sport shooting, hunting, and outdoor industry. The event is organized by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), a firearms industry trade association. The rifle is manufactured by WEE1 Tactical, an offshoot of Schmid Tool and Engineering, which has sold AR-15 components for 30 years. A November press release from WEE1 specifically notes the JR-15’s appeal to children: “Our vision is to develop a line of shooting platforms that will safely help adults introduce children to the shooting sports,” it reads. To do that, it’s built a gun whose “ergonomics are geared towards children”: it’s lighter than an adult version, at 2.2 pounds, 20% smaller, and with a patented safety mechanism, not standard on AR-15s, which needs to be pulled out “with some force” and rotated before it can fire. Slight tweaks aside, the company boasts that it “operates just like Mom and Dad’s gun.”


“There’s been youth shooting guns for 80 years, but there’s never been a youth AR-15,” says Ryan Busse, a former firearms executive, now senior advisor at Giffords, one of the leading gun violence-prevention groups, cofounded by former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. “I’ve never seen one that’s just an egregiously tactical, offensive weapon of war,” adds Busse, author of Gunfight, a book that discusses the extremist radicalization of the industry.

The JR-15 is  . . .

Continue reading. I have to say I’m shocked.

Written by Leisureguy

18 February 2022 at 1:23 pm

I wanted to cook a nice bunch of red chard

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I was thinking a little olive oil, scallions, and the chard. But then as I looked in the fridge, I saw other things that probably would go well with it and that I needed to use:

There are two pieces of ginger in the photo, but I used only one. I did use those three little turmeric roots, and the garlic and about half of the half of red onion. Not shown but also used: pinch of fine grey sea salt, some celery, one Field Roast Spicy Mexican Chipotle sausage (not at all a whole food, but though processed, still with okay ingredients and so not often eaten — and here I used just one of the four sausages, the others for later), 8-10 cherry tomatoes, 1 diced Meyer lemon, and a splash of apple-cider vinegar to deglaze the pan. The tomatoes, lemon, and vinegar were to add some liquid. Since I included turmeric, I also used a fair amount of freshly ground black pepper, which, with the sausage, made the dish spicy. 

I had a bowl of it with 2 tablespoons of hulled barley and 2 tablespoons of soybeans. The whole thing tasted hearty and filling and just the ticket for a day like today. The barley and beans, together with the pieces of pseudo-sausage, make for a hearty dish that feels substantial.

I used my Oxo garlic mandoline for the garlic, just for a change of pace from chopping/mincing the garlic. The garlic rested for 15 minutes after it was sliced. If you get a mandoline like this, the key is to exert very little pressure on the cloves — if you push too hard as you slice, the carriage will not stay on its track. No pressure is needed anyway; just sliding the carriage quickly back and forth instantly reduces the cloves to thin slices of garlic goodness.

Update: Oxo calls their garlic mandoline a “garlic slicer,” which (technically) is correct, but it really is a specialize mandoline. Bed, Bath & Beyond carries it.

Written by Leisureguy

4 December 2021 at 2:17 pm

I don’t think I will try this

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Written by Leisureguy

5 May 2021 at 5:14 pm

Posted in Daily life, Toys, Video

Blob Opera: Watch, Listen, and Experiment

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Google engineers having fun. Go to this page, then click on everything to see what happens and click-and-drag the blobs. More entertaining than you might expect.

More experiments here.

Written by Leisureguy

21 December 2020 at 10:32 am

Summertime favorite: The Super Soaker—and the man who invented it

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Much more in this brief history.

Written by Leisureguy

4 July 2019 at 2:55 pm

Posted in Toys, Video

A skateboard without the board part

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From this NPR story:

Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2015 at 9:10 am

Posted in Techie toys, Toys

Life is getting extremely weird: Real Life Katamari Ball Tests the Limits of 3D Printing

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I think we have seriously underestimated how weird daily life is becoming—though “we” clearly does not include William Gibson. Check out this article in Motherboard by Emanuel Maiberg:

Katamari Damacy took the gaming world by storm in 2004 with a simple concept. You roll a ball into objects that stick to it and make the ball bigger, which then allows you to roll into and gather bigger objects, making the ball even bigger, and so on. You start by rolling up loose change on the floor and before you know you’re rolling into trucks and buildings. The challenge was to see how big of a Katamari ball you could make before the timer runs out.

Kata​mari Roll, a new project by Arian Croft, uses the same idea to hopefully test the limits of 3D printing.

Croft, who’s known for his 3D-printed board game Pock​et-Tactics, got the idea for the project when he spotted a 3D model of a Katam​ari Ball on Th​ingiverse, 3D printer manufacturer Makerbot’s repository of models that users can share and print. “I noticed that it both hadn’t been printed yet, and that, though left in a repository full of random objects, it had yet to be used to gather a mound of objects,” he said.

Like the game that inspired it, Katamari Roll has a simple concept. Take the Katamari Ball, add a random 3D model to it, print it out, and pass it along. With 12 iterations so far, it’s off to a good start.

“It took off on the first day, and the clump has gotten bigger and bigger since,” Croft said. “It’s slowed down a bit, though as I document and more people catch on, it’ll grow, until, I guess, it can’t be printed anymore?”

Croft said that there are definitely limitations to how big the ball can get—Makerbot’s . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 March 2015 at 7:53 pm

Excellent letter to Lego from a 7-year-old girl

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From Daily Kos:

Dear Lego company:

My name is Charlotte. I am 7 years old and I love legos but I don’t like that there are more Lego boy people and barely any Lego girls.

Today I went to a store and saw legos in two sections the girls pink and the boys blue. All the girls did was sit at home, go to the beach, and shop, and they had no jobs but the boys went on adventures, worked, saved people, and had jobs, even swam with sharks.

I want you to make more Lego girl people and let them go on adventures and have fun ok!?!

Thank you.

From Charlotte.


Written by Leisureguy

3 February 2014 at 10:16 am

Posted in Daily life, Education, Toys

Teddy has an operation

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Written by Leisureguy

5 September 2013 at 8:09 am

A young entrepreneur

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Thanks to The Eldest for passing along this video:


You can donate to his scholarship fund—why not toss a dollar or two his way? Or, if you’re feeling generous, the price of a grande latte?

Written by Leisureguy

12 April 2012 at 9:45 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Toys, Video

Cute miniature cannon

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From the Firearm Blog, which suspects that the “powder” consists of matchhead scrapings:

Written by Leisureguy

10 May 2010 at 8:55 am

Looks like fun

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More info here.

Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2010 at 12:33 pm

A genetic basis for language tones?

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For the most part, the thousands of languages in the world today fall into one of two categories (notable exceptions being Japanese, some Scandinavian dialects and northern Spain’s Basque tongue): tonal or nontonal.

Two linguists believe they know the genetic underpinnings for these differences. During a study of linguistic and genetic data from 49 distinct populations, the authors discovered a striking correlation between two genes involved in brain development and language tonality. Populations that speak nontonal languages (where the pitch of a spoken word does not affect its meaning) have newer versions of the genes, with mutations that began to appear roughly 37 thousand years ago.

“You can consider this as the first of the many possible studies that we could do to try to find a genetic basis for language and language typology and the different populations that speak a language,” says Patrick Wong, an assistant professor of communication sciences and disorders at Northwestern University, who was not involved in this study.

In English, the pitch at which a word is spoken conveys emotion but usually does not affect its meaning. But in many sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asian and Latin American languages tone changes the meaning of words. For instance, the Chinese word huar said in a high pitch means flower, but in a dipping pitch means picture.

The new research, published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA ties this difference to two genes,…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

1 April 2008 at 7:33 pm

Posted in Science, Toys

Interesting bike

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Frame is made from a woven lattice of carbon-fiber composite wrapped with Kevlar string. Interesting to look at, stronger than any other material to date, and extremely light: frame is 2.75 pounds. More here and here.

Written by Leisureguy

7 March 2008 at 3:42 pm

Air ray

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Extremely cool. Watch the short video. Don’t you want one?

Written by Leisureguy

22 November 2007 at 12:09 pm

Posted in Techie toys, Toys

Break free of consumerism

leave a comment » has a very good post today:

“It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents us from living freely and nobly.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Much of our activity these days is nothing more than a cheap anesthetic to deaden the pain of an empty life.” – Unknown

“The things you own end up owning you.” – Tyler Durden in Fight Club

Beyond a minimum threshold of poverty, money doesn’t buy happiness. Wealth may seem like a solution to your problems, but often it simply replaces the ones it solves. As paychecks increase, lifestyles usually match those increases. This results in the same financial worries and budgeting problems, just with more stuff.

A preoccupation with owning things is a poor attempt to fill a vacuum. Occasionally stuff can fill that vacuum. Buying that new computer or fancy car might temporarily shrink the hole. But quickly you adapt to the new upgrades and the hole grows, enslaving you to earn higher and higher paychecks with no way out.

The Problem Isn’t Out There

Stuff isn’t really the problem. I’m not a monk living in a temple, forsaking all consumer goods and taking a vow of poverty. I work to earn money and I have a fair number of possessions. Not owning things is not better than owning things, since they simply different manifestations of the same crisis.

That crisis is the dualistic reasoning that says you can own stuff. My car, my clothes, my girlfriend, my husband, my friends, my anything. By knifing the world into what you have and what you do not, you commit a fatal error in understanding.

Ownership is an invention. It’s something that doesn’t exist in nature, but a societal construct. In some ways it is a very useful construct. It allows groups to function and interact with each other. The error happens when you focus on this myth so much that it becomes real, and you can’t see any alternative.

The Lonely Man and the Myth of Ownership

Pretend you were the only person on earth. You were born from unknown origins and have always lived alone. Let’s say that you are also completely self-sufficient and can survive complete isolation.

Now tell me, what would you own?

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

20 September 2007 at 10:43 am

Jheronimus Bosch action figures: collect ’em all

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Bad earDevil in high chair
From a reader, this collection of Jheronimus Bosch figurines, which she says are even scarier in 3-D. A perfect gift for little tykes worried about monsters in the bedroom at night: let them know what those monsters might look like! More about him here.

Written by Leisureguy

20 July 2007 at 12:59 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life, Toys

Rube Goldberg machines

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Everyone knows what a Rube Goldberg machine is, right?

Written by Leisureguy

16 July 2007 at 2:26 pm

Posted in Toys, Video

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