Saturday, February 26, 2005

Tiny dominos

Dominos When I was five or so, I had a set of tiny dominoes, given to me by my grandfather, hand-carved out of what I suspect was ivory. Each domino was about a half-inch by a quarter-inch, and they fit perfectly into a little case, also of carved ivory or whatever, with a sliding lid. The whole thing was about three inches long by an inch wide by an inch tall. It was beautiful, and I wanted to bring it to school for show-and-tell. My mother told me not to, fearing that I would lose it. I argued fervently that I would not, and eventually, unable to convince me, she simply forbade me to bring it (the fabled "because I said so" argument that, now that I am a parent myself, is so familiar). Of course, I brought them anyway, and of course, I lost them. I don't have many heirlooms from my grandfather, and the fact that I lost this one due to my own stubbornness and stupidity saddens me to this day.

These dominos, of course, are in many ways what that lost set was not. They're cheap, plastic, and mass-produced. Still, they are a set of little dominos in a case, and for now they are my only substitute for and reminder of that lost set. Someday, I will find a set like the one I lost (probably on eBay), but until then, this one will have to do. It is also a nicely portable toy for the kids to play with when we are waiting for a pokey restaurant order. And if I lose this set, I am certain it will not be nearly so difficult to find another one like it.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Lands' End Attaché

Lands' End Attache It is said that the world is divided into two types of people: optimizers, who seek the perfect solution to every problem, and satisficers, who merely seek solutions that are good enough. I am very much an optimizer, and one activity that gives us plenty of room to run is the purchase of luggage. There are so many parameters and compartments and packing widgets to choose from, and it is so hard to know which ones are good until you've bought one and lived with it for a while, that I find myself endlessly resisting the urge to get new luggage of various kinds. However, in one luggage niche I have been satisfied for many years: My Lands' End attaché. It's canvas, and fairly casual, somewhere between jeans and t-shirt and casual Friday. It's tough as nails, as befits the Lands' End lifetime guarantee. I have to resist the urge to call it a satchel, because that word is not quite right even though it feels just right. It's full of compartments and pen pockets and slots just right for the PDAs I no longer use. Of course, we optimizers are never quite happy, and I find myself eyeing the Deluxe version, slightly more formal looking with leather accents, or the laptop version. However, my affection for the bag I have is so great that I successfully resist them. So far.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Tamagotchi keychain

It is 1997. Bandai, a Japanese company previously known for Power Rangers, releases a toy with a completely insane premise: You must take care of it, giving it near-constant attention, or it dies. They call it a "virtual pet," but really it is the dark shadow of pet ownership: You must feed it and care for it, but it won't cuddle with you or fetch a stick. Who would want to be involved in such a one-sided relationship? You carry this little egg around, tending it when it cries, and all you get in return is a crude little LCD animation of some sort of alien. Surely this is nothing a rational person would want. It is, of course, tremendously popular. Some time later, McDonald's catches the fad with tamagotchi-themed Happy Meal toys. Curiously, though, while they look like actual tamagotchi, the familiar egg-shaped case is simply a container for a variety of strange little figurines like this one. Somehow, I found this particular figurine enormously appealing, and put it on my keychain. However, somewhere in my memories there is a discontinuity during which it disappeared. I don't remember losing or discarding it; at one time it was on my keychain, and when I next thought about it, it was gone, with no memory of it in between. Luckily, when I got wistful for it some years later, like the boy in the commercial with the lost toy boat, I was able to pick one up on eBay for just a few dollars. I still can't explain why I find this odd little creature so wonderful, but it is certainly good to have him back.