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Cheap Babe Ruth baseball cards

Everyone who collects baseball cards wants a Babe Ruth card. Unfortunately, cheap Babe Ruth baseball cards are pretty hard to come by. His most famous cards, 1930s Goudeys, cost as much as a nice car. Even though I’m not much of a car guy, the car is more practical. Even unattractive 1910s and 1920s strip cards of Ruth run four figures, especially cards from his early days with the Boston Red Sox. But there are several vintage cards of Ruth’s that don’t always break the bank, including cards from his playing days. You just have to look off the beaten path.

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Department 56 scale: The definitive guide

The breadth of Department 56 product lines, such as Department 56 Snow Village, is rather extensive, but there are items they don’t produce and likely never will. If you want to complete your village with other items, or use Department 56 in other settings, such as a train layout, then scale might matter to you—and Department 56 scale is undefined. Here’s how to make sure the things you want to use together will go together, size-wise.

The answer, by Department 56’s own admission, is that it varies. But since I see the question come up again and again, I’m going to tackle it. It varies, but there’s a method to it the madness.

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University computer science programs need to teach security, not demonize it

I saw this on Slashdot today: A computer science student was expelled from a Canadian university for practicing what most people would call white-hat hacking.

Their reasoning: “Schools are supposed to teach best practice, which includes ethics and adherence to reasonable laws.” But there is such thing as ethical hacking.Read More »University computer science programs need to teach security, not demonize it

How to pay off the national debt in less than 30 years

A couple of coworkers were talking about taxes, deficits and the national debt this week. One of them looked my direction and said, “I’ll bet Dave can figure out how to pay off the national debt.”

It’s actually not as hard as it sounds.

The biggest problem is that we’ve convinced ourselves that the national debt is impossible to pay. I believed this back in the mid-1990s, when it was around $4 trillion. Today, it’s right around $10 trillion. (Note: That was in 2008. In 2016 it’s about $19 trillion. So double any of the dollar figures you see from here on out.)

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European O gauge train layouts

O gauge is the size of train that most Americans associate with Lionel. It was actually invented around the turn of the century in Germany, although whether it was invented by Marklin or one of the many johnny-come-latelies is open to debate.

After World War II, O gauge faded very quickly in Europe, although in the United States it experienced a resurgence that helped make Marx and Lionel two of the biggest, most profitable toy companies in the world.

I’ve seen some pictures of European O gauge. You’ve got to see this stuff.The second picture on this Dutch page is extremely impressive. Bayko was an architectural toy made of Bakelite (an early plastic), available both before and after World War II. While the scale didn’t necessarily match O gauge precisely, it was more than close enough to the 1:43 scale used in the United Kingdom and 1:45 in Continental Europe, and it allowed the construction of a wide variety of very colorful and attractive buildings. It makes American Plasticville look downright monotonous.

Between the various construction kits available, buildings made by the train manufacturers themselves, the huge variety of 1:43 vehicles and figures, it was possible to build a miniature world that the American product lines just couldn’t match. And yet it died. I guess it fell victim to the smaller houses in Europe, which were much friendlier to HO and TT scales.

If I ever go to Europe and run across any of this stuff, I’m going to be in trouble.