Skyline tin buildings

Skyline tin buildings

In the 1940s and 1950s, Skyline of Philadelphia manufactured and marketed a line of toy train-oriented building kits. Actually, there were two lines: One was a line of building kits made of cardstock and wood, and one was a smaller line of lithographed tin buildings, similar to the inexpensive toys made by the likes of Louis Marx, Wyandotte, and countless others in the days before ubiquitous plastics.

I’ve long suspected the two product lines came from the same company, but had no evidence to prove it until Ed “Ice” Berg produced scans of a Skyline catalog containing both paper/wood and tin litho buildings, side by side.

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What to do with an unsolicited offer to buy property

What to do with an unsolicited offer to buy property

Another day, another unsolicited offer to buy property. Maybe it’s a postcard in the mail. Sometimes it’s a letter. Or an unsolicited phone call or text. Why are they bothering you, and what can you do about it?

It’s a little bit easier to block the phone calls than to stop the junk mail. But until the real estate market cools down, investors will keep calling you if you match the profile of someone they think might be willing to sell. There’s very little you can do about the junk mail except recycle it. You’ll learn to recognize its hallmarks pretty quickly so you don’t have to waste time opening it. 

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Budget folding rig

Budget folding rig

After running Foldingathome for a few weeks and watching my friends pull away and leave my machines in their dust, I decided to throw a little money at it and see if I could build a budget folding rig that wouldn’t embarrass me. While you can spend thousands of dollars on one, you don’t have to. Let’s see what we can do for a more modest amount. Like $200.

You can build a folding rig that can pull in 300,000-400,000 points per day for around $250. The trick is finding a decent minitower with a PCIe slot and a used graphics card.

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Pretty print JSON in Python

Pretty print JSON in Python

I do a lot of work pulling data from systems via API, then doing things with parts of that data, whether it means feeding it to another system or creating a report. Some of these data structures are huge and unwieldy. Here’s how to pretty print JSON in Python so you can make sense of those data structures and get on with your code–without using an online pretty print website and potentially exposing sensitive data.

While json.loads is the key to getting your JSON data into a Python data structure, there’s a corresponding json.dumps to print it back out. It doesn’t sound like it would pretty print, but that’s what it does.

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Technical difficulties

In doing some routine maintenance today, one of my key plugins, Yoast SEO, started throwing error messages. Yoast issues can cause various other issues, such as new content not showing up on the front page, so this may be a problem.

Yoast’s knowledge base article isn’t helpful, just telling you to get a new web host. I’ve been hosting my own WordPress site for nearly 10 years (and another nine before that using other blogging tools) and this is the first time a plugin author has questioned my competence.

I’ve opened a ticket with Yoast. More than 50 other people have reported similar issues, so I’m thinking this one isn’t me. But at least I am able to publish new content, so I’m having fewer problems than some Yoast customers.

Louis Marx: The bygone toy king

Louis Marx: The bygone toy king

Louis Marx was the founder of the toy company that bore his name. His larger toys became staples in Christmas catalogs for generations, while his smaller toys dominated the discount stores of their day.

Louis Marx was first and foremost a toy salesman, but he lived an interesting life. He counted President Dwight Eisenhower among his friends, and Daniel Ellsberg, known for the Pentagon Papers, married his daughter.

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Can Gamestop survive?

Can Gamestop survive?

Gamestop, the venerable video game retailer, announced in April 2020 it’s closing 300 stores. Rumors of Gamestop’s demise are rampant, and have been for a long time. Can Gamestop survive?

Changes in the way people buy video games has made life more challenging for Gamestop. I believe the company could survive, but it will have to change its business model and improve its customer service a lot in order to do it.

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