These toys and games can keep the kids busy while you’re all trapped inside

These toys and games can keep the kids busy while you’re all trapped inside.

As rough as all this time cooped up inside the house is on us adults, it’s even worse for kids. All that borderline maniacal energy along with an unquenchable thirst for stimulation and attention make home sequestration like a life sentence for them. Unfortunately, they have no problem taking out all that pent-up disappointment and boredom on you, the unwitting adult who must take the rap for a worldwide pandemic.

These are difficult times and we all have to do what we must to survive. We wouldn’t normally endorse this, but under our current conditions...bribe them. Tell the kids that if they can be good for a day, or just through your workday or heck, even for a few hours, you’ll get ‘em one of the cool toys and games we’ve assembled here.

Everything here is on sale. They won’t care. You will. And peace will still reign in your household. For now. But for today, it’s all we’ve got…

Video games

Every kid loves video games -- and this is a good time to plant some of the old-school retro gaming love you had when you were a kid.

From the folks at 8BitDo, both the Gbros. Wireless Adapter for Nintendo Switch ($14.95; originally $19.99) and the SN30 Bluetooth Gamepad ($23.95; originally $29.99) gives you the retro-style gaming controller that’s compatible with all the latest gaming systems. Whether your kids have a Switch or play games on Windows, Android, macOS or Steam-based platforms, these Bluetooth-connected devices will take you all right back to the 90s and 2000s...even if it's your kids’ first trip.

Sticking with both retro and handheld gaming, the GameBud Portable Gaming Console ($19.95; originally $74.99) sure looks a heck of a lot like another gaming system of old. Boy, I wish I could remember its name. This also brings back the 8-bit days, includes 400 different classic games and the won’t even be draining your phone battery to play.

And if the whole family wants to get in on the action, the Throwback Gaming Console ($34.95; originally $99) hooks right up to your TV with an HDMI cable with a pair of controllers to fire up any of 600 preloaded video game classics. That’s enough games to keep them busy through even the worst of global crises.

For kids who really want to disconnect from the world, the IPM 3D Virtual Reality Glasses ($14.99; originally $69.99) plunge you right into the VR world instead. Drop-in a smartphone and these glasses make any TV or movie a truly immersive experience.

Arcade games

Maybe rather than playing video games on a TV or phone, it’s time to go back to arcade-style gaming -- without the super mammoth cabinets, of course. With both the Street Fighter II: Champion Edition X RepliCade ($99.99; originally $119.99) and the Tempest X Replicade ($99.99; originally $119.99), you get exact fully-functioning replicas of these two arcade classics -- but they’re each only a foot high.

Robots

How about bribing your kid with a robot? If you’re looking for pure entertainment value alone, the Dancebot Dancing Robot ($49.99; originally $79.99) is virtually unbeatable. Sure, it’s an ingenious little dancing robot who syncs to your streaming player and throws hot moves based on the rhythm and tempo of any music you throw at him. Best of all, even when he isn’t rocking out, Dancebot also doubles as a Bluetooth speaker.

For the parent who’d like their kid to also be learning a little something about robotics, the DJI RoboMaster S1 STEM Education Robot ($549.95; originally $549) is undiluted learning in one cool robo-body. With 46 customizable components, inventive kids can configure their bots any way they want, all while learning math, physics, programming, and even the AI skills to make it happen.

Games, non-video variety

Not every game has to be played on a screen, right? At first glance, Mega Nanodots ($24.99; originally $27.99) may not even look like a game, even though they are marble-sized magnets covered in a flexible rubber to help them create all kinds of interesting shapes, desk art, and more. But when you include a bunch of Nanodots as part of the 16" Nanopad Game Board ($39.99; originally $47.98), the accompanying two-sided magnetic game board becomes ground zero for all kinds of inventive gameplay.

The Mokuru Card Game ($34.99; originally $47) is also a traditional board game with a twist, challenging players to race each other up the board, completing tricks that require skill (and even a little deceit) to win the coveted Grand Master belt.

If your kids a little more action to stay stimulated, the AstroShot Zero G Floating Orbs Target with Dart Blaster Gun and Foam Darts ($28.99; originally $34.99) combines NERF accessories and zero-gravity as kids try to blast orbs that are suspended in mid-air. It’s like a video game -- only it’s happening in real life.

Ride a bike

Okay, you can’t send the kids TOO far outside, but if you’ve got a toddler learning the ins and outs of big-boy biking, the Brilrider FLIGHT, billed as the World's Lightest Balance Bike ($83.95; originally $159) is gonna be a huge hit.  Tough, durable, and insanely light, even a 1-year-old can take control of a regular two-wheeler with confidence and safety.

Play guitar

For older kids, the Jamstik 7 Guitar Trainer ($179.99; originally $199.99) is the next best thing to guitar lessons...and maybe even better. This go-anywhere guitar playing tool connects wirelessly to an app-enabled device, sensing your finger positioning and even the pressure to perfectly replicate your fingering while you learn to play. And with a pair of headphones, kids can practice with the Jamstik 7 all day long -- and you’ll never hear a thing.

Outstanding, free, and far-out music stream from Aquarium Drunkard

Aquarium Drunkard is an incredible audio hub of reviews, podcasts, features, interviews, and sessions sure to please all crate diggers, outré musicologists, fringe culture fanatics, and deep music geeks. Their genre-bending curation spans jazz, folk, garage, psych, experimental, and every other niche of music to present oft-unheard gems from across time. As the creators say, Aquarium Drunkard is "for heads, by heads." In author Erik Davis's own excellent newsletter, he shares word that Aquarium Drunkard has now launched a free online radio stream, Radio Free Aquarium Drunkard. Tune in and turn on. Erik writes:

I have been in love with Aquarium Drunkard’s mailing list, streams, and musical curation chops since I stumbled across a three-part collection of rare 70s Jesus Freak music they posted years ago. Given that millions of us are now stuck at home, addictively trawling newsfeeds while trying to stay sane, the AQ kids just launched Radio Free Aquarium Drunkard, a wonderful 24/7 radio stream of joy, verve, and reflection. Admittedly, I find my own sensibility uncannily mirrored in RFAQ’s mix of scruffy indy, ladyfolk, 90s basement tapes, spiritual jazz, weird country, and deep deep 70s. But I am particularly enjoying the intimacy, wit, and kindness of the selections, segues, and overall vibe. These days we should all be paying close attention to the collective process of meaning-making. This means ignoring the algos and opening up to playlists, personal recommendations, and DJs. Tune in!

The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe

We've covered Theodore Gray on Boing Boing a lot, and for good reason -- he's amazing. His Mad Science book was filled with spectacularly fun science experiments, he built a Periodic Table table with little compartments to hold samples of elements, and now he has a new coffee table photo book called The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe.

Each element is treated to a gorgeous two page spread, with photos and a fascinating short history.

Did you know:

... if you keep your household smoke detector around for a couple of thousand years, most of the americium will have decayed into neptunium (wait another 30 million years or so and it will become thallium, which the CIA can use to make Castro's beard fall out, if he's still alive)

... if you touch tellurium you will smell like rotten garlic for a few weeks?

... arsenic is commonly added to chicken feed (to promote their growth)?

... a chunk of gallium will melt in your hand (you can buy a sample here)?

... a speck of scandium ("the first of the elements you've never heard of") added to aluminum creates a very strong alloy (like the kind used in the Louisville Slugger that was involved in a lawsuit)?

Books that reveal how truly weird our world is are always welcome in my home. This one's a gem.

Max Barry on how science fiction prepares us for the apocalypse

I greatly enjoyed Max Barry's 2013 novel Lexicon (Cory loved it, too -- here's his review). Barry has a new novel that came out today from Putnam, called Providence, which I started reading. It's a space thriller about a four person crew on an AI controlled spaceship programmed to seek and destroy "salamanders" - creatures that kill by spitting mini-black holes. It's terrific so far (I'm 70% finished).

I'm happy that Max wrote this op-ed for Boing Boing, titled "How Science Fiction Prepares Us For the Apocalypse." -- Mark

My favorite theory on why we dream is that we’re practicing for emergencies. Asleep, unguarded, our minds conjure threats and dilemmas so that once we wake, we’ve learned something. Maybe not very much—maybe only what not to do, because it rarely goes well. But we learn more from our failures than our successes, and this is what our minds serve up, night after night: hypothetical dangers and defeats. Whether we’re fleeing a tiger or struggling to persuade a partner who won’t listen, we fail, but we also practice.

I suspect that’s also why we read fiction. We don’t seek escapism—or, at least, not only that. We read to inform our own future behavior. No matter how fanciful the novel, in the back of our minds, something very practical is taking notes.

Popular fiction regularly mirrors the times in which it’s published. Two hundred years ago, society readers were thrilled by dangerous flirtations in Jane Austen novels; a century ago, people living in newly urbanized cities devoured mysteries and detective stories; and the 1930s gave rise to the Golden Age of science fiction, with stories that asked where technology might take us.

All of these types of books entertained, and occasionally stretched the bounds of plausibility, but they also delivered something very pragmatic: a chance for a reader to observe a dangerous new situation and explore ways to get out of it. In this way, every novel is not only a journey but also a guidebook.

This might seem a long bow to draw with science-fiction novels, which have, in their most popular variants, included giant sandworms, interstellar warfare, self-aware spaceships, and Morlocks. But those of us who have always devoured such stories know they are painted cloth pulled over real people. For every alien world, there is a foreign country or another race; for every threat from the stars, there is one from a government, or an evolving society, or a neighbor.

But beyond this, there is also the fact that a lot of these far-fetched stories are coming true. We are already living in the world of Fahrenheit 451—not the part where they burn books, but everything else. “Orwellian” has become useless as a descriptor, because it applies so neatly to so much; it has lost all context, all contrast.

Portrait of Australian novelist, Max Barry. Photograph by Chris Hopkins

And the post-apocalyptic stories have never seemed more directly relevant. Some are obviously so: There is no shortage of excellent novels featuring a terrible pandemic, or at least the threat of one, including The Stand by Stephen King, The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton, and Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. Blindness by José Saramago, published in 1995, tells a gripping story of quarantine in the face of an unknown viral affliction: A small group are locked down inside an asylum and guarded by soldiers—and what happens next, I will be very glad to have read if the current world situation gets much worse.

We might have read these stories for thrills, but in truth they offer an unexpected comfort: a sense of preparedness. Although I don’t know what’s coming, I do know what happened when the man and the boy walked The Road (Cormac McCarthy), and I watched how people survived, or didn’t, in Cloud Atlas (David Mitchell).

Some part of my brain has tucked away lessons from these books, I’m sure. What they’re worth, if tested, remains to be seen. But I feel better for having them. And for many of us, whether we are health patients or citizens, workers or parents, acting decently and rationally—keeping our heads even as the world gets weirder—is among the most important things we can do. Nothing is as terrifying as the unknown, and for science-fiction fans, who have been reading stories of blasted cities and fractured worlds for years, this is all known. No matter what happens next, or how bad it gets, we’ve been here before. We have, at least, dreamed about it.

Kinky medical role play and fetish supplier donates scrubs to hospital

MedFetUK, a UK fetish company that deals in medical supplies and equipment for sex play has donated its supply of scrubs to a National Health Service hospital.

“It was just a few sets, because we don’t carry large stocks, but they were desperate, so we sent them free of charge...” MedFetUK tweeted.

"When we, a tiny company set up to serve a small section of the kink community, find ourselves being sought out as a last-resort supplier to our National Health Service in a time of crisis, something is seriously wrong. In fact, it's scandalous."

Watch the wonderful Wizard of Oz cartoon that predated the classic film

Directed by Canadian-American filmmaker Ted Eshbaugh, this "Wizard of Oz" cartoon from 1933 predated the classic Hollywood movie by six years. From Wikipedia:

The story is credited to "Col. Frank Baum." Frank Joslyn Baum, a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army and eldest son of writer L. Frank Baum, was involved in the film's production, and may have had an involvement in the film's script, which is loosely inspired by the elder Baum's 1900 novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It runs approximately eight and a half minutes and is nearly wordless, working mainly with arrangements of classical music created by Carl W. Stalling.[3]

The film was originally made in Technicolor, but because it was made without proper licensing from the Technicolor Corporation (which limited use of its 3-strip process to Disney), it never received a theatrical release.

(via r/ObscureMedia)

In 1889, a dam failure sent a disastrous flood descending on Johnstown, Pennsylvania

In 1889, a dam failed in southwestern Pennsylvania, sending 20 million tons of water down an industrialized valley toward the unsuspecting city of Johnstown. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll describe some of the dramatic and harrowing personal stories that unfolded on that historic day.

We'll also celebrate Christmas with Snoopy and puzzle over a deadly traffic light.

Show notes

Please support us on Patreon!

Building 15 fun projects and games is truly Python training, the fun way

Python is everywhere. Just look under the hood of virtually every major tech player of the 21st century and you’re likely to find a whole lot of Python-based coding language staring back at you. Case in point: Netflix. You may not know it, but from its security protocols to its much-hyped recommendations, it turns out that Python code is baked into virtually every movie, TV show or another piece of content you watch on the platform.

That’s just one example of the pervasiveness of this versatile, powerful, user-friendly language. Right now, you can both learn Python AND create some cool projects and games with the training in the Python 3 Complete Bootcamp Master Course ($10.99, over 90 percent off).

With access to over 370 lectures and more than 30 hours of content, this course demystifies Python at its most practical level by helping you build 15 different projects and games while you learn.

The course teaches basic Python operations through the creation of some simple games, like a dice roll simulator, a hangman game or simple tic-tac-toe. But as students start working through more advanced Python concepts like machine learning and data analysis, the project ratchets up as well.

Before long, you’re building a matchmaker app, a Tamagotchi-style screen pet and even exploring methods for starting your own databases.

By the time you’re creating your own big data analysis project using more than 60 million data points, you’ll have internalized enough Python knowledge to use Python like a pro or even get hired as a Python expert. Regularly a $500 training package, it’s on sale now for only $10.99.

Pandemic sourdough: baking this loaf of bread made me so happy

Read the first post in our series on making your own sourdough starter and bread.

The third loaf of bread with my new-to-the-pandemic sourdough starter was a pleasure to bake.

Putting this loaf of bread together for its bulk rise was done in a pleasant couple minutes pause while preparing dinner for my parents. I have been pretty aggressively on my One Meal A Day diet and enjoying 20-24 hour fasts during the pandemic and thus tend to prepare dinner for the family most nights.

I decided to bake an all King Arthur bread flour loaf of bread this time, but I continued to go with 2 cup sized loaves instead of 4. The starter is behaving like it is on something like a 4-6 hour cycle, so I fed it around 1:30 pm and mixed up the dough around 6:30 pm.

I time it like this so that a) the yeast should be in a place where there are many fresh, new and hungry cells banging about the starter and b) the 12-ish hour bulk rise I give my bread will not need me to wake up earlier than usual. If the dough looks like it needs more time, I give it more time. 18+ hours were not unusual in my old home. I would forget to change the thermostat and at night my kitchen would get too cold. Here I put the rising dough on the closed lid of an indoor bbq, with a potholder as insulation.

The dough was sticky and needed a bit of flour to let me work it. Even with a sealed top on the bowl, the dough formed a bit of dried skin. I tried to fold it all in and gave the dough a 10-minute rest before putting it in the banneton.

I played with oven temps a bit today. My dad has complained the bread is too crusty and I agree. I pre-heated my dutch oven to 500F but turned the oven down to 495F for the 30-minutes of closed baking. I then removed the dutch oven's lid and lowered the temperature to 450F for 22 minutes.

When bread works out well I feel so happy. I was whistling and dancing about after seeing the results of the first 30min baking. It looks so pretty and tastes wonderful.

One anxiety of mine had been my depleting flour stores. One of my colleagues here at Boing Boing pointed out a mill that will apparently deliver a very large bag of flour here via FedEx. It has been the only thing we've had a hard time finding this pandemic.

I will gladly share their info if the flour arrives and I like it as much as she swears I will. My prior experiences with fancy, heirloom flour were ok but I wasn't jumping for joy.

Previously:

Pandemic Starter Day 1

Pandemic Starter Day 2

Pandemic Starter Day 3

Pandemic Starter Day 4

Pandemic Starter Day 5: Waffles

Pandemic Starter: First loaf of bread

Pandemic Starter: Second loaf and more pretzels

Astonishingly weird video of AI-generated facial expressions mapped to music

AI artist Mario Klingemann used Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs), one of the primary techniques to create deepfake videos, to make this incredible, unsettling, and wonderful video that facial expressions to music. (Song: "Triggernometry" by Kraftamt, 2014). Check out another deepweirdfake from this series below.

(Thanks, Jeff Cross!)

Are you sufficiently wealthy and interesting to stay in this luxy pandemic retreat

This is satire, right?

Harbor is a community of makers, thinkers, and doers that can become your sanctuary. Harbor will give you an opportunity to meet, mingle, and collaborate with some of the brightest, forward-thinking individuals - no facemask required.

The villa is located in Southern California, and the exact location will be provided to the program participants once they are accepted. [Here's the exact location of The Jack Estate, easily found online - Mark].

Standard bedroom (bathroom shared with one other room) - $3000 per month

Premium bedroom (with full private bathroom) - $4000 per month

Deluxe bedroom (full private bathroom+office) - $6000 per month

Where's my Juul

Full Tac and Lil' Mariko's Where's My Juul is a funny song and video from the before time, going viral again due to its thematic relevance to people slowly going bonkers at home. The tiktok lipsync below by Maile Hammahz is fab; probably best not to watch late at night.

@themailehammahz

Watch till the end 😳 this took 6 hours ⚠️FLASHING LIGHTS + FAKE BLOOD⚠️ ##hawaii ##foryou ##fyp ##sfx

♬ Where's My Juul?? - Full Tac (feat. Lil Mariko)

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