Things, stuff, and other items of interest

February 4, 2010

Geek Toy Fever, Yo-yo's, and YouTube disasters

Looking back on it now, I guess it started when I was pretty young. It's an addiction of sorts, of course; oh it's not as destructive as alcoholism, gambling or snorting blow, but it still exacts a heavy price. The term "social pariah" springs to mind. Naturally, I'm talking about "Geek Toy Fever".
I can't be sure of the exact date, but I remember this much,... I was a kid, and my folks were in the kitchen back home. My Pop had just come up from the cellar, and he was fiddling with something that I couldn't quite make out, a little round wooden device of some sort. Then he said those magic words:
"This used to belong to your Grandfather."
Or something like that anyhow. I didn't have a clue what it was, or what it was supposed to do, but right then and there was the beginning of a life long love affair. My Dad had found my Grandfather's yo-yo. After cleaning it up a bit and putting a new string on it, he gave it a test run. He proceeded to make that little gizmo dance like nothing I had ever seen before, and that's all it took. I was hooked. String + axle + two wooden disks = pure joy. A little centrifugal force, a string, and a good flick of the wrist and you're good to go.

As the I've grown older, my obsession enthusiastic interest in yo-yo's hasn't waned. I like the idea that this is a toy that my Grandfather used to fool around with. It's portable, it's simple, and yet at the same time it can be quite complicated if you practice enough. It's a rare occasion that I walk out of a toy store without having purchased some sort of yo-yo paraphernalia. The problem with this is that toy stores are seldom dedicated solely to the marvelous wonder that is the common yo-yo. Combine this fact with my fascination with all things shiny and useless, and you have the makings for a toy collection that is certainly a lot of fun, and on occasion slightly embarrassing.
"Helllllooooo Ladies! Can I show you my yo-yo collection?"
Rest assured, there's a reason this line isn't included in the prologue of the Kama Sutra's original printing. So allow me to throw my pride and any social aspirations I may have had out the window while I present my meager collection of geek toys.

#1 - The Rubik's 360

Received as a Christmas gift from my Ma after she spotted a tweet on this very website. Who said cyber-stalking doesn't have any perks? You guys thought all those "Hi Mom" & "The only person reading this is my Mom" lines were just jokes eh? Nuh-uh. Not so much.

#2 - The Rubik's Magic Puzzle

I think this was another Christmas gift. I've had this for years, got it when I was much younger. No idea who it was from. Someone with impeccable taste obviously. It's old enough now that the nylon wires that criss cross the squares creak and moan like an old rocking chair when you fold it. As with most Rubik's puzzles, this thing is a lot of fun.

#3 - The Loop

I have no idea where this one came from.What it's official name is, who made it, or why... no clue. It's a little infuriating because it seems like it should be trick worthy, but I've certainly never pulled it off. I had an opportunity to perform in front of an audience with this thing once. Very enthusiastic audience, if deliberately misguided. It would have ended much worse if everyone involved hadn't been piss drunk.

Here then, for the first time ever... is a YouTube clip of a sober me failing miserably to get this thing to work.

#4 - Horse Shoe Puzzles

Again, I have no idea what these things are called other than "puzzles". My grandpa used to have a bunch of these all made out of old horse shoes. Great fun if you can solve them, concentrated annoyance if you can't. Note the "after" picture only has two of the puzzles solved, that one in the bottom right has irritated the shit out of me for years now.

#5 - Spin Out 

Heads up computer nerds, this one's for you. If you look closely, and read the description in the link above, you'll notice a distinct logic gate approach to this one. Ah flash backs to the intimidating Professor Dworshak from the 'gonq. Hands down the best math prof I've ever had. (With apologies to Mr. Boyko).

I think this may have been another Christmas gift from when I was a kid. A nerdy kid obviously, but a kid all the same.

#6 - The Rubik's Cube

It is with great shame that I admit publicly that I have never once solved a Rubik's cube. I have wasted hours on end trying to figure out the mathematical enigma that is that little cubed piece of irritation, but all for naught. I have cousin who's the same age as I am who could solve these things in seconds. Watching him go was like watching a magic show. His folks used to operate their very own toy store so I guess he sort of had the inside track. It never failed to impress me.... still does for that matter.

Pictured here, my old faithful "portable migraine", and my newly acquired Ottawa Senators cube. I won't be messing that one up until I figure out the first one.

#7 - Nerf Boomerang

Not sure how geeky this one is since it implies physical activity. Thankfully though, this thing is a nerf product so mostly safe for indoor use... hell, you can even do it while sprawled out in front of the television. So really, the physical activity isn't strictly required for this one. Couch potatoes rejoice!

If memory serves, I spotted this at a stand in a mall somewhere. Looked neat so I bought it. My god-kids freaking LOVE this thing.

#8 - Astro Jax

Ya... astro jax. Three rubber balls on a string. Check out the link listed above. Young, hip active people looking cool and being groovy with the ultra-slick astro jax.

These things are totally useless. So naturally I bought a second set that light up in the dark. A poor replacement for a yo-yo, but they are oddly fun all the same. They come with a little booklet of tricks that a six handed uber-mensch couldn't pull off if he had magical powers and the ability to stop time. The will serve as a rudimentary non-lethal weapon in a pinch though.

#9 - Yo-Yo's

A sampling from my yo-yo collection. That's most of it actually, only missing a few. Yo-Yo Classic, IOmega, Fast Eddie's, Rainbow Hardwood Yo-yo, Weighted Axle spinners, Duncan Yo-yos, and even a Lee Valley do-it-yourselfer. Bar none, my favourite toy of all time. 

#10 - Shoot-a-Loop

This one was a gift from my brother, not sure if it was birthday or Christmas. The concept is simple enough. Toss a marble in on the bottom, pull back on the spring hammer thingy, let loose and see how far it flies. Ridiculously entertaining. You can see it in action here:

#11 - Juggling Balls
What self respecting geek can't juggle?

#12 - Cartesian Hook Diver
This one is just down right cool. What kind of geek doesn't get hyped up over a science toy? Water & Air pressure physics + 2 litre pop bottle + water = nerd joy.

My Pop found this one at Lee Valley not long ago and picked it up. I've since gone back and bought several more kits to give away to some kids I know. Once again, a pitiful YouTube clip of this one in action:

Et Voila! There you have it folks. I'm sure I've left some out that are lying around here. I may do a follow up post later with others that didn't make it into this list. There certainly isn't any shortage of choice. If you have any old-time favourites that I missed you think are worth a look, please post a comment with a link. I'm always on the look out for worthy additions.


Junior said...

Why is there no video of the juggling balls???

Unknown said...

I'm guessing you saw the first three video disasters, I couldn't inflict another on the internet masses in good conscience.

Junior said...

You have 4 big fans here that have been watching them over and over in awe and amazement all evening.

And I quote...

"It's just like we're at his apartment!"

Dave said...

So you'll write about your toys but won't post about your bike? C'mon!

Al said...

I guarantee that I could teach you how to do the Rubik's cube in an evening, (I taught Heeley and my nephew in one day!). In fact, I'm so confident, that I'll return your beer if you can't do it.