Handful of Wonderfully Colored Expensive Plastic Wartoys

Yesterday, BoingBoing linked to a cool entry at Secret Fun Blog about the Galaxy Laser Team, a collection of nifty plastic spacemen sold beginning somewhere in the 1970s, shortly after the Battle of Yavin changed everything for me and other little nerdlings.

Amazingly, you can still buy these guys–an entire collection for about $12 on Amazon.

It got me to thinking that some of my favorite toys growing up were (aside from my Kenner Star Wars toys, of course) like the Galaxy Laser Team and generic plastic army guys.

On Tuesday, I stopped by Walmart to look for seam sealer for the tent (couldn’t find any) and, since I had Ben with me, we went through the toy section. I saw something that warmed the very essence of my soul. Ben, like every four year-old boy in America is sweet on superheroes, particularly Marvel, so it thrilled me to no end to see plastic army guy-versions of Marvel Superheroes. (They were in fact, very much throwbacks to these toys, which I remembered seeing on the inter webs years ago.)

They’re called Handful of Heroes and they come eight to a pack. They are almost everything you could want in a set of toys for a four year-old. No parts, excellent variety, and no inherent storylines that come toys that talk or have countless accessories. These are playthings. Wonderful playthings. Highly-detailed playthings modeled on Marvel heroes, both famous and non-, they could easily scratch Ben’s itch for Marvel minutiae.

I was all set to buy a pack on these general principles, so I stopped to scan the price at a nearby price-scanner-thingy. They wanted $8 for these things. That’s **does math** almost, like a buck each. Uncool. W, as the kids say, TF?

Currently, the bane of store shopping with kids is the recent trend in collectible single packs in the $1-3 range. These are cheap, individually-wrapped plastic toys of pretty decent quality. Some, like the little LEGO minifigs and My Little Pony toys, are quite awesome. Others, like the Hot Wheels single packs, are quite pointless, considering that they’re priced about the same as a regular Hot Wheel car. Worst encounter yet–and compounding the Marvel-licensed uncool–were the little $1 plastic eggs (yes, vending machine toys) of Marvel figures. Admittedly, they’re colorful and interesting, but they’re only about an inch tall. Its an easy way to waste a dollar on disappointing your son.

So what did we learn? Even when they make ‘em like they used to, they don’t make ‘em like they used to.

Link Dump: Quacks and Dinos

Here’s an interesting essay on homeopathy for those interested in that sort of thing. Regulating over-the-counter curatives is a weird thing, especially when dealing with homeopathy which, if done properly, doesn’t really have anything in it.

Arnica, for example. There’s a big difference between homeopathic arnica preparations (which don’t got no arnica in it) vs. arnica gel (which is often labeled homeopathic even though it has an active amount of ingredient). Arnica gel can actually do something. Anyway, PZ Myers schooled the Jezebel site on the topic, which is worth a read.

I know some folks who have fallen for applied kinesiology…not scams, per se, but some hokum motivational speaker. Here’s a good an interesting look at the phenomena and how its used on Science-Based Medicine, written by the awesome Harriet Hall whose wrath I unfortunately incurred by attributing an article of her’s to Steven Novella, likely because SBM at the time looked identical to NeuroLogica.

Also: Heh, wallet biopsy.

Are blue whales the biggest animals ever? Maybe.

I mean, its one of those factoids that comes up repeatedly in books about either whales or dinosaurs, both of which we have in great heaps at Stinkbug Manor. (Definitely need a new bookcase in Julia’s room.) At 98 ft (30m) long and weighing almost 200 tons (180mt), it is certainly big. Dino-writer extraordinaire, Brian Switek, reexamines the claim with a look at some of the biggest sauropods that may (or may not) have ever existed. Spoiler: some dinos were longer, but none were likely more massive than a big blue.

Argentinosaurs, shamefully hot-linked

Speaking of Switek and sauropods, he mentioned on Twitter the other week about a dinosaur app for the iPad that I felt necessary to buy. It hasn’t been as popular with the kids as Dinosaur Zoo, due to the lack of defecating sauropods, but it is a little more stylish, a lot more expensive, and contains 100 percent more Stephen Fry, which is worth the $15. It is called Inside the World of Dinosaurs, and each morning, as I make coffee, Mr. Fry tells me about a dinosaur. This morning it was Argentinosaurus. Of course, I’d buy a copy of the phone book if Fry were to narrate it. Interestingly, he pronounces Giganotosaurus (which played into the story of Argentinosaurus) differently than they do on Dinosaur Train, favoring Ji-GANT-osaurus over Ji-gah-NOH-ta-saurus (forgive my phonetic approximations).

Why I don’t go into the water: Strange Love at The Ocean’s Floor (Happy Valentine’s Day!)

Thank you Brian Switek for entering the phrase “bone-burrowing snotworm” into my nightmare lexicon. Osedax

Today Brian wrote a lovely article on icthyosaur falls, which are like whale falls but, you know, they happened a long time ago to, you know, icthyosaurs.

The point being that ichthyosaur carcasses, like whale carcasses today, could serve to feed an entire ecosystem of bottom-dwelling, presumably nasty, critters. Sayeth Switek:

How different organisms utilized marine reptiles depended on the state of the carcass. When the dead marine reptiles were still covered in flesh, sharks and cephalopods probably picked at the body. Once denuded of soft parts, though, the reptile’s skeleton could have been a refuge for various encrusting and burrowing organisms (although, as far as I am aware, no one has yet found evidence of bone-burrowing snotworms among Mesozoic marine reptile skeletons). Fine-scale field investigations are required to further investigate this hypothesis, but Hogler made a reasonable case that marine reptile deadfalls may have been ecologic precursors to modern whalefalls. Perhaps some of the organisms which congregate to dismantle whales today are the descendants and relatives of creatures which used to greet the carcasses of mosasaurs, ichthyosaurs, and other Mesozoic sea dragons.


So thusly we are reminded of a past, reason not to go into the water: bone-eating dominatrix tube worms with a dwarf fetish.

Ah, love. In all its filthy disgusting forms.

Under the bridge

I’d love to get the thoughts from guy riding the Google Streetview Trike as he rode along Pearl “Street” in Philly.

This section is literally a hidden space in Philly. Its a tunnel under the Reading Viaduct, a rail line that used to feed into Reading terminal but now is a truncated and abandoned platform. I think a victorian-era train platform still exists on Spring Garden street. Its corpse winds through a 15 or so block of the city between Vine Street and Fairmount Avenue. Inevitably it’ll be torn down, but right now it is something of a beautiful ruin.

New WordPress theme

I realized I haven’t been posting much, which naturally means I needed to pick a new theme. Updating WordPress gave me the theme you see here as a new option. Its nice and clean, and has an auto-header-cropping feature. Until I can find an image of mine that I like, I’ll just use this picture, swiped from NASA’s archives. It has that mid-century science illustration look that I like.

Speaking of which, I registered for the opportunity of a sliver of hope for the drawing of a chance to purchase tickets to see the final launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery on Nov. 1. That might be worth taking a week off to see.

Polynesian delight

I have a secret jones for tiki culture. My iPod’s full of Les Baxter‘s exotica, and my bookcase holds copies of Trader Vic’s Tiki Party! and Sven Kirsten’s indispensable Book of Tiki. Something about the misappropriation creative remixing of other cultures really inspires me.

I can draw a direct line between this interest and the fact that both times my parents took me to Walt Disney World as a kid (at age 5 and again at 10), we stayed at the Polynesian Resort. Something about the combination of indoor fountains and air conditioning still gets to me. (I can draw a similar line to my love of monorails.)

That’s why I loved this quick review of the “Boutiki” shop at the resort. I won’t steal any of Shawn Slater’s images, so you’ll have to click the link yourself.