Kick the chair and gamble a stamp

Comics. If you read’em as a kid (and I’m talking 1950’s and 1960’s here), you will have seen thousands of ads for everything under the sun. Something that got posted over at Teresa Burritt’s Frog Applause strip got me thinking down this line, and I ended up doing a real Spaziergang down memory lane.

As mentioned, Teresa’s Frog Blog had an entry with a video ad for one of K-Tel’s pantographic E-Z Tracer. I actually had one of these K-Tel tracers. I recall the results were pretty clunky. However, the video made me think of another thing I had, the “Magic Art Reproducer.”

When I saw the ad for this, I knew I had to have one. What I thought I would be getting was a form of camera obscura, but what I actually received was a little plastic gimmick that you would clamp to a drawing board and peep through. With an angled mirror (and some orange smoke and unholy chanting) it would provide the illusion of what you were looking at projected onto your drawing paper, and then you could (supposedly) trace around it. And it never worked very well either. Hunting around for the “Magic Art Reproducer” ad is what catalyzed my fit of nostalgia.

[Edit: Apparently I didn’t know how to use the thing properly, if you believe what this artist has to say…]

This is probably the archetypical ad from the golden era. It appeared in countless versions. No, I never gambled the stamp… based on results.

As a kid, I always wondered what Cloverine Brand Salve was. Apparently you could get some nifty prizes if you sold enough of it, but I never tried, having had less than stellar results with greeting cards and stationery (see next item). And, apparently it’s still available. An interesting write-up on its history is here. A competing product, of which I always keep a small tin on hand, is Bag Balm.

This is one I tried. It was my first introduction to the world of sales, and although a few kind family members and friends bought some items, I wasn’t enthralled by the experience of selling door-to-door. I don’t think I actually sold enough to qualify for any sort of prize, but I recall making a bit of pocket change. One of these days I have a few things to write about sales and marketing in general.

If you grew up in this era and never saw an Uncle Monty’s Ant Farm™, you must have been living in a cave. I had one, and although a number of the ants arrived (under separate cover) dead, enough of them survived to make the experience interesting enough. Ultimately, of course, they all died and the toy was cast aside, but it did provide hours of fascinating watching.

This one always looked awesome to an 8-year-old. I never saw one in real life and as an adult, as I thought about it, I was certain that it would have been a disappointment. Apparently, this is one time I would have been wrong. A blog post from 2007 provided a picture of one, and despite some expected exaggeration in the copy, dang if it doesn’t look awesome (for an 8-year-old).

Ah, Sea Monkeys. Otherwise known as Brine Shrimp. I seem to recall I got some of these as a kid, but a clearer memory is buying some brine shrimp eggs from a science outlet for my own kids. They are pretty cool to watch. And because they’re phototaxic, you can “train them to obey your silent commands!”

Magic. Given the deserved success of Harry Potter, it will always captivate the minds of children of all ages. I think it was these ads and many other like them that led me to a lifelong fascination with magic and sleight of hand. Time has moved on and I’ve pretty much lost all my skill with a pack of cards, but the love remains, and I still have almost all of my books and equipment (at least the stuff that didn’t get completely worn out.) Perhaps some day when I can really retire I’ll pick it up again. “It’s fun to be fooled, but it’s more fun to fool others!” More on this subject at some point in the future.

On that note…

I still have the hypno-coin. I don’t think I bought it mail-order, but rather at Russ Delmar’s Magic Center on 8th Avenue – another post bubbling in the back of my mind will pay homage to this amazing man at some point – but yeah, I still have it. Never hypnotized a thing, but it’s cool to watch it spin round, à la “Time Tunnel.” If you were a real hypnotist, it would indeed be a good attention-focuser.

This one always got my attention. Never got a teacup dog (sometimes they were baby chihuahuas) or a monkey – thank Mogg! – but the concept of a tiny animal must have been fascinating for lots of people. Until the monkey grew up and started flinging… well, we know what monkeys do, and like raccoons and foxes, they’re not meant to be kept as pets.

These are but a small sample of the ads that I grew up with. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times – people were still relatively innocent, television still fairly new, and print-media advertising was still the primary vehicle for driving sales of all kinds. To look back at these adverts now – and you can find thousands of them on the net – makes me cringe just a little, but also makes me very nostalgic for simpler times.

PS – if you’re wanting more of this sort of stuff, I recommend Mail Order Mysteries – chock full of color illustrations showing not only the ads, but what you got if you ordered.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Cross-posted from my Livejournal.

Violet, resistance is futile.

Science is full of facts and numbers and formulæ and things to remember. Keeping it all straight can be a chore, even for the geniuses. As a result, over time people have developed interesting ways of remembering the order of things in groups and categories.

Cross-stitch reminder of resistor codes, courtesy of Adafruit.

Another way of remembering the color values:

First two (or three) digits: Bad boys rape our good girls, but Violet gives willingly – get some now ->

Black, Brown, Red, Orange, Gold, Green, Blue, Violet, Grey, White (gold, silver and none refer to the tolerance band)

Resistors can be ever more complicated than in the early days when this mnemonic was developed. Six-band resistors have three significant digits, a multiplier, a tolerance band, and a temperature coefficient.

339Ω with a 1% tolerance.

39 kΩ with a 10% tolerance

Mnemonics are a good way of remembering other things as well. Most of us became good friends with Roy G. Biv in school:

Partial rainbow over Utah Lake, Mt. Timpanogos in the background. The order of colors in a rainbow are Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.

There are numerous mnemonics for remembering the order of the planets in the solar system; my favorite is found in Robert A Heinlein’s Have Space Suit, Will Travel: Mother Very Thoughtfully Made A Jelly Sandwich Under No Protest (he used “T” for Terra, and included the “A” for Asteroids.)

And for what it’s worth, to Hell with the AIU. Pluto may be smaller than some of the other TNU’s and dwarf planets out there, but it was part of the solar system since Tombaugh discovered it, and by the dessicated skull of Mogg’s grandfather, there it stays. Randall Munroe of XKCD fame disagrees, and I give him mad props for being a genius, but as far as I’m concerned,

Huge selection of mnemonics here.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Ice Cream Parlors

April 1974. Columbus, Indiana. “General view of soda fountain area — Zaharako Bros. Ice Cream Parlor, 329 Washington Street. Family-run ice cream and confectionery business operating since 1900. This parlor was a major social center in Columbus for the first 50 years. Known for its elaborate interior and ice cream still made by the Zaharako family. Mexican onyx soda fountains purchased 1905; extra counter added 1949; store front modernized 1959.” 5×7 negative by Jack E. Boucher, Historic American Buildings Survey. Found at Shorpy.

Around 1917 – Ice cream store on High Street in Holyoke, MA. My father is the young man in the background, his older brother to the right. Flanking them are Carlo Paoli and Adolf Paoli, both brothers of my grandmother, who owned the store.

Work-at-home Scams

Received today in my inbox an email from a cousin, with a link to this website: (I have obfuscated the link so it’s not clickable, but left it intact in case you want to see what’s there.)

My cousin, of course, did not send me this email – her account was hacked.

Would you consider it safe and ethical to deal with a company that advertises in this fashion? No? Well, you’re not alone. Just have a look here and see what kind of tactics this company uses to extract hard-earned cash from the wallets of desperate people.

Red flag No. 2: Try to leave the page or close your browser and this is what you get:

Any website that uses this technique is highly suspect, and I would never do business with any enterprise that employes mousejacking or browser exploits of this nature.

These scams just keep reinventing themselves with different names, on different servers. As soon as the heat gets too intense, they change names, IP addresses, and off they go again. They have no product, benefit only the people who developed the scam, and effectively steal thousands of dollars a day from folks looking for a way out of their financial desperation.

Stay away from them, and warn your loved ones.

The Old Wolf has spoken.