Cool Classic Toys 
There's something cool about the games and toys of decades past. It seems things were made of higher quality materials and weren't as complicated as they are today. Nowadays, everything is made cheap of plastic and they are full of complicated electronics. Even the toys when I was a kid were pretty crappy (it was during the 80's after all).

There are many good classic toys and games that have survived through the years and it's likely that most folks are familiar with them (e.g. Frisbee, Slinky, hula-hoop, etc.). However, there are a few gems out there that are much more obscure, but still worth attention.

Here are some that I have happened upon that are pretty neat and might even appeal to adults.

Shoot the Moon

Shoot the Moon is a game that poses a seemingly impossible challenge. The toy has apparently been around since the 1920s. The game player must make a steel ball roll uphill along two rails that can only be adjusted left and right. If you can roll all the way to the top, you have "shot the moon" and gain the maximum points. It's quite a challenge, but very rewarding once you get good at it. Follow one of the links below to see a picture. The basic strategy is to open the two rails such that the ball almost falls through. When you do that the ball will roll towards you just slightly. Then you must squeeze the rails together to keep the ball from falling. You must continue this process in one smooth motion and the ball will accelerate up hill. If you do it perfectly you will be rewarded with the ball smacking the backstop. Shoot the Moon might make a good executive gift for keeping on a desk at work. I loved this one as a kid too (a hand-me-down from my Dad's childhood toys). ... B00000ISFG


According to my Dad, this was the toy that every little boy had back in the 50's. Really, a peashooter is just a small blowgun designed to shoot dried peas. Back before Nerf was making all the exotic dart/missle launchers that you can buy today, kids sufficed with a cheap straw and a mouthful of peas.

Kids would fill their cheeks with dried peas like chipmunks, use their tongue to load the peashooter, and then blow to fire. With enough practice, one could shoot like a machine gun.

Johnny Astro Moon Lander

The Johnny Astro Moon Lander came out just before astronauts first landed on the moon. This is an ingenious toy that challenges the game player to navigate a moon lander through the air to a landing pad. The lander is actually a balloon with some landing gear and ballast attached, but it isn't lighter than air. Instead, the game player controls the balloon with a fan. The fan control relies on Bernoulli's Principle to contain the balloon within the column of moving air. One must adjust the angle of the fan as well as fan power to move the balloon and carefully land it. I've never gotten to try one of these and I cannot find anywhere that sells them, but it sounds like you can build your own without too much trouble.

Water Weenie

The Water Weenie is about the simplest water gun one can imagine. It's just a length of surgical tubing or inner tube tied off on one end and a nozzle on the other. The Water Weenie relies on water pressure from an outdoor water faucet to fill the tube and stretch the rubber to store energy for shooting the water. I haven't owned this toy myself, but I like its simplicity (especially in contrast with water guns like the Super Soakers). I have seen someone accidentally create a Water Weenie in my high school chemistry class. The amount of water launched all over the classroom was quite impressive, but that's a story for another time. :) ... iennie.php

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Rock Beats Hand 
UPDATED (below)

I find it curious the number of rock stars that have suffered serious hand/arm injuries--several that play instruments. Here's a quick list of those I'm aware of:

Toni Iommi (Black Sabbath) - Lost the tips of two fingers in a sheet metal factory accident. Continued to play (quite well) with prosthetic finger tips.

Rick Allen (Def Leppard) - Lost his arm in a car wreck. He continued to play with a special drum kit.

Dave Mustaine (Megadeth) - Suffered severe nerve damage to his arm from having it draped awkwardly over the backrest of a chair while he was passed out. This left him without the use of his arm for an extended period. He fully recovered after intensive therapy.

Mike Patton (Faith No More) - Accidentally severed nerves and tendons in his right hand with a broken bottle while on stage. His hand is permanently numb, but he can now move his fingers (doctors told him the opposite would happen, but Mike is weird like that).

James Hetfield (Metallica) - Missed his cue during an onstage performance and accidentally stepped into the range of a flame generator that severely burned his face, hand, and arm of one side of his body. A studio musician had to fill in for a month until he fully recovered, but he continued the tour in bandages doing lead vocals.

Neal Young - Severely sliced his fret hand index finger while making a ham sandwich, damaging a tendon. He had to cancel a tour, but fully recovered. No word on whether he ate the sandwich.

Pete Townshend (The Who) - While doing a "windmill" with his pick hand, Pete managed to impale said hand on the whammy bar. Ouch! Presumably, fully recovered.

Al Green - Poor Al has the dubious honor of having actually lived the "hot grits" myth. The legend is that boiling hot grits is the napalm of jilted lovers seeking revenge. Al suffered third degree burns on his arms and torso when an angry girlfriend poured a pot of hot grits on him while he was in the shower. He continued performing after a painful healing process, but switched to gospel (and preaching) for a few years.

I'm sure there are others!


Sure enough, I missed Les Paul!

From Vince:

In 1948, Paul nearly lost his life to a devastating car crash that shattered his right arm and elbow. Still, he convinced doctors to set his broken arm in the guitar-picking and cradling position.

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Migrating Windows7 to New Hard Drive 
I just got a new, larger hard drive for my work PC (thanks Ed!) and wanted to make it my primary drive. I didnít want to have to reinstall Windows7 and all my apps so I looked around for some way to migrate the contents of the old drive to the new one. The ďrecommendedĒ method appears to be that one should first create a full system image (a feature built into Windows7) and then restore that image to the new drive via a Windows7 Repair Disc. Although full system images can be stored to a net share, unfortunately the repair disc doesnít allow net share access (at least not for Windows7 RC repair discs).

I didnít have a spare third drive, all the external drives in my lab are already full, and file server couldnít be used, so I simply couldnít use the system image restore method at all. Instead, I looked around for a method of doing a disk-to-disk clone. My lab has an older copy Norton Ghost, but I wasnít sure if it would be able to correctly copy the boot loader, and I didnít want to bother with registering the software either.

Instead, I found an OpenSource project called Clonezilla ( This software does essentially the same thing as Norton Ghost, and there is also a version than can do distributed cloning (such as doing an install for a computer lab).

I gave it a shot and it worked great after a minor fix. Everything was copied successfully, including the boot loader. When I attempted boot, Windows detected an error with the boot loader though. I let Windows attempt a repair, and it told me no problems were found. The problem went away after that though. I suspect that the boot loader had a reference to the name or other characteristics of the drive and this got updated during the repair.

One other minor issue was that Clonezilla created a partition exactly the same size as my old, smaller drive on the new one. I bet that there are some advanced settings in Clonezilla that would have let me fix this, but Windows Disk Management lets you extend the size of NTFS-formatted partitions easily.

I still havenít seen any Windows Activation errors either, so hopefully that will be a non-issue. I can definitely say Clonezilla is worth checking out if you face a similar problem as I did and donít want to purchase Norton Ghost, etc. Just make sure you back up all your important stuff first.

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Optimal Microwaving with Fitt's μλ-Number 
This trick will save at least five otherwise wasted minutes of your life if used religiously. This is intended as a joke, but yeah, I actually do this. :)

When pressing buttons on a microwave, "a lot" of time is wasted moving your finger around (as predicted by Fitt's Law). You can regain these precious lost fractions of a second by modifying your button pressing behavior just slightly to minimize "costly" movements. The trick is to never press 0 (zero) on the microwave. Simply pick a number string of all the same number that is closest to your target time.


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On the Road 
I just read Kerouac's "On the Road," and have now found out a movie is currently in the works. Hopefully it will be good, but the book seems to be "unfilmable" without considerable changes. I'll definitely be keeping a eye out for it regardless, as I "dig" the book. :)

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