Friday, September 27, 2013

Wacky Packages

Just a quick supplement to my last post in regard to my past purchases of products in blind packs. 

One of the most unique card sets I collected when I was a kid was called "Wacky Packages." They first appeared in 1967 and also included stickers. 

The best way to describe them is that they were parodies of products found at the grocery store but with an artistic style and satirical humor similar to that only found at the time in "MAD" magazine. They were created and sold by the Topps company. The target demographic was kids. 

I was 7 when they first came out. As you can tell from the pictures below they are rather juvenile.   To anyone over the age of 10 they may not be funny but you have to admit they do have a bit of cleverness to them. 

I can remember buying the blind pack for 10 or 15 cents each. Of course I would only buy them if I had money left after purchasing a 2 or 3 day supply of my favorite penny candy. 

But after my parents discovered that I had decided to make the back of my bedroom door and twin bed head board my personal Wacky Packs sticker galleries; I was no longer allowed to buy them. 

Wacky Packages were so popular after their late 60's debut they have been updated and reissued every 3 0r 4 years since. You can still buy them today. 

So there you have another of my "blind pack" buying experiences. I'm sure there were others but after baseball cards,Wacky Packages" was probably my favorite

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Buying Blind

There's a way of marketing products that's very popular in the toy and collectibles market called "blind packaging."

This method is implemented by some toy companies when a product with multiple components is sold in packages that prevent the consumer from being able to identify the contents. 

There are thousands of products sold this way. Just look and count how many you see next time you visit a Toys R US or your local store that sells sports cards or role playing card games. 

Most recently, this type of packaging has expanded to include video game accessories and miniature character figures. It is very successful with these products. 

Up to this point in my life my main experience with blind packs has been baseball cards. 

The appeal of blind packs is that it comes with something no other type of packaging gives the buyer: the illusion of being lucky. 

Take if from me, when you open a blind pack and are looking for a favorite item or the one or two of the series you need to complete your collection and you find it there's only one thing to say, "Jackpot!" 

The disappointment of finding an item you already have is momentary and you quickly look ahead to the next time you get the chance to open yet another pack. The anticipation of finding something you really want is very compelling. It's your own personal treasure hunt. It can be very  addictive. 

Now that I think about it, there was probably no reason to explain in that much detail. If you grew up in the United States anytime in the last 75 years you've had at least one "blind package" experience. 

But I had to make sure you understood where I was coming from in one of the most interesting consumer experiences in a while. 

The world of Legos includes mini-figures. They're a series of characters that can enhance your original Lego "builds" or inspire you to create them based on the figure's character. 

The Lego mini-figures are released in a series of 16 and they come in blind packs. 

At the start of the month Lego released the 11th series of mini-figures. After completing my series 10 collection in early August, I was anxious to start buying series 11. 

But I didn't want to repeat what happened when I collected Series 10. I just kept continuously buying random blind packs hoping to complete the set. 

After opening quite a few "doubles" and even "triples" of some figures, I finished the set by purchasing those I needed from E-bay. 

With series 11, I was going to find a way to get an advantage. I found it thanks to other Lego fans, who are higher up on the "Lego geek scale" than I am. 

I found an online article describing how to search a series 11 mini-figure  package from the outside in order to have a better chance of finding those you need. The author pointed out how each figure, in parts and unassembled inside the pack, is different from the others and how to tactically identify it's unique design. This allows you to not buy duplicates of those you already have.   

Armed with this information I headed to my local Target store. Back in the toy department on an endcap I found a display of Series 11 packs. 
With the hints I had copied down I began inspecting the packs from the outside; trying to find some of the 8 figures I needed for Series 11. 

After about 15 minutes of searching, I decided that I had identified 4 that I needed. I also stopped because I got a little paranoid. I felt as if people were looking at me, a 50 year old man standing in a department store aisle manipulating foil packages, with concern. 

I was sure that at any minute the store security guard would show up and ask me what I was doing. 

My contingency plan was to tell the security guard that I was blind and was reading the braille on the package. Fortunately I didn't have to use that story. 

Upon deciding that I didn't want to press any more packs nor my luck; I headed for the checkout. 

As soon as I got into the car I opened the packs to reveal the results of my first series 11"fishing expedition". 

I had gotten lucky with 3 of my 4 purchases. These are the new mini-figures I found. From left to right they are: 
  • Grandma: Identified by the feel of the pliable basket to the her right.
  • Yeti: Found because of the unique shape of the popcicle that fits in his hand. 
  • Lady Robot: The square head and wind-up key (not pictured) on her back were the vital clues to finding her. 
I'm very pleased with the results of my sealed package search; a 75% success.  
With these "finds" I am down to needing just 5 to complete the set. I will wait a few weeks to go back and search again. 

But I'm anxious to return to the blind pack experience now that I seem to have moved the odds more into my favor. This time around I will be more confident about buying blind. 

Before I close out this post I wanted to give a "shout out" to my friend Mark N. 

Recently saw him while leaving Sam's Club. He mentioned that he reads this blog. 

Thanks Mark, I appreciate you taking time to peek through the "RH Factors" window to see what's going on in my life. 

That statement of gratitude goes out to anyone else who is reading this right now as well. 

Thank ya'll. Come back again soon. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

There are good days and there are bad days. If over the course of a calendar year I have at least a month's worth of good days (30 or more) and less than a month's worth of bad days it's been a good year. 

No, there is no spread sheet where I keep track of the good and bad days. (although I don't blame you for thinking there is) I just tally them from memory.

This past Wednesday, September 18, was one for the "good days" list. Here's why: 

The day started out with an appointment with my orthopedic surgeon. My stitches were removed, got a prescription for some physical therapy sessions, and I got the doctor's approval to return to work a month earlier than initially thought. 

The other great thing about going to the doctor was that my daughter-in-law, Brandi and granddaughter,Aria gave me a ride. After the appointment, we went to IHOP for breakfast. 
Aria had fun coloring on the place mat with the crayons the waitress gave her. I found out that the way to my daughter-in-law's heart is through a good breakfast; her favorite meal of the day. 

As if that wasn't fun enough before we left Bowling Green we went to Toys R Us. I pushed Aria around in a shopping cart for the first time. 

I bought a Lego set with the gift card I got for my birthday from Michael & Heather. 

We also looked at a battery powered Minnie Mouse themed kiddie car that Brandi wants to get Aria for her next birthday. 

I showed Aria some stuffed animals from the special FAO Schwartz line. She wanted nothing to do with them. When I encouraged her to give the ostrich, owl, or tiger a hug she emphatically shook her head "no" and pushed them away. 

About 11AM Brandi took me home. As a result of taking some pain medication I spent the afternoon watching TV in between naps.

Later that evening, about dinner time, James, Brandi, and Aria came to the house. They had supper for us from Wendy's and a very very big surprise. 

James and Brandi's birthday gift to me (which Brandi had been teasing me about for a few weeks) was a replica of a Lego brick for storing my Lego collection. The lid is completely removable and can be flipped over to reveal a flat surface on the other side to use as an assembly table.

It's painted in my favorite color (a shade of teal. The picture above doesn't display the color exactly). Here's a shot I took that shows the color a bit better.

The box measures 36Lx18Wx11H. Its completely handmade and solidly built. Brandi's cousin, Jackie; Brandi, James, and even Aria all had a part in making it. Here's some pictures from Brandi's Facebook page that shows some of the way my granddaughter helped. 


But wait, there's more! On the bottom of the inside of the box is another aspect of this gift that makes it, not only priceless, but a future family heirloom. It's a very special contribution by my granddaughter...

Aria's hand prints and the year the box was made.

They also gave me some Lego bubble pack sets to put together. 

I have never ever been given something so unique as my Lego box. Knowing the work my family put into this project makes it very special.

I must tell you. When I saw this gift for the first time as James was bringing it into the house, I got really emotional inside but did my best to hold back my "close to tears" reaction and turned it into surprise and amazement. 

When I saw Aria's hand prints inside I nearly lost it again. I wanted to hug all of them but knew I wouldn't be able to "hold it together" if I did. 

We spent the rest of the evening with our children and granddaughter. We even made it more of a birthday celebration by having brownies and vanilla ice cream for desert. 

About 9:30PM they had leave because James had to go to work. I thanked them again for my special present.

So there you have the multiple reasons that I consider September 18, a very good day. 

James and Brandi and Aria were a significant part of the good day I had on my actual birthday, September 9th. 

They blessed me again a little over a week later with another very very good day. 

Thank you again. James, Brandi, and Aria. I Love Y'all very much. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My "Bill Anderson" Music Project

I'm done, finished. One of the best feelings I get in my life is that moment when I've completed something on my "to do" list and I can cross it off. I find myself with this sense of accomplishment on a daily, weekly and "long term" basis. 

The daily items are things like washing the dishes, feeding the dog or running a series of errands in Bowling Green.

Weekly tasks include: setting out the can with the recyclable materials or mowing the yard. 

Reorganizing my music collection, creating a "Rewind" program script, or completing the children's story I'm writing; fall into the "long term" column. The degree of satisfaction I feel is in direct proportion to the amount of time it takes to complete a task. 

This past Tuesday I finished a "long term" item; something I've worked on all summer. I'll call it my "Bill Anderson" music project. It included downloading digital versions of over 500 songs, importing them over to I-Tunes, rearranging them into specific categorized albums, and adding the song title information onto my music collection spreadsheet. 

The reason for this lengthy, detailed oriented project is that the songs are an emotional connection to two of the many important relationships that helped make me who I am today. 

The music of country singer Bill Anderson was an integral part of the "soundtrack" of my family life when I was growing up. He was my mom's favorite country singer and his albums played frequently in our home. 

His songs bring back specific memories. When I was about 8 or 9 years old, I remember, holding his "Still" album cover in my hand and waiting in the crowd at the right side of the outdoor stage of Ontelaunee (pronounced "aw-tuh-lawn-ee) Park in New Tripoli, Pennsylvania. That's where I asked Mr. Anderson to sign the cover for my mom. 

Bill Anderson's songs are part of the fabric in my blanket of memories about my parents; both as individuals and as a married couple. They're also tied to memories of the four of us (my parents, my little sister and I) just spending time together as a family. 

Bill Anderson music was also a big part of the friendship I had with my cousin, Gary, especially during our "best buddy" days before we discovered girls. 

Because both sets of our parents listened to country music;  we collaterally became fans as well Eddy Arnold and Bill Anderson were our favorites. 

We would sit around singing their songs anytime we were together. Some of our Bill Anderson favorites were: Still, Restless, When I Loved Her, The Reverend Mr. Black, and Molly. 

Now that you know some of the history behind the significance of Bill Anderson's music, for me, let's get to the story of the project. 

Back in May, Gary emailed me a digital file with everything Bill Anderson recorded from 1965 to 2005. There were 47 albums and more than 500 songs. However my interest in this collection was very specific. I only imported about 20% of them into my collection

I've already mentioned the basic process I used to complete the project. In I-Tunes I recreated 3 albums exactly as they were originally released on vinyl back in the 60's and early 70's. 

Their covers are pictured below:Bill and Jan or Jan and Bill, an album of duets with fellow Grand Ole' Opry member,Jan Howard; Always Remember; and probably my favorite, Still.

I also made up other albums: one of, what I consider, his greatest hits (except those from the 3 albums I just mentioned); an album of traditional hymns and one of Christmas songs. There's also an album of some of my favorite "album cuts" that I enjoy but only because they're sung by Bill Anderson.

But my favorite is the compilation album of cover songs. It's Anderson's version of a few country music standards (Rocky Top, Good Old Mountain Dew, and 500 Miles Away From Home) along with some very strange covers of pop songs.

Some of them are: The Chi-Lites "Have You Seen Her?", The Comodores' Three Times A Lady, and the strangest of all, "Kiss You All Over" by INXS.  That one you've gotta hear to believe it. 

So anyway, after a concentrated effort, I've whittled the 500 song "Whisperin Bill" collection to my 105 favorites. Now with just a few touches on my I-Pod I can musically travel back and revisit my childhood. 

The project is done and I'm crossing it off my "to do" List. Now on to the next big thing. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My 53rd Birthday Party

In the 10 weeks since my last post a lot of things have happened; some of them were life changing. They include: repurposing a pair of rooms in the house; saying "good-bye" to a very ill dog and a very old cat; getting a new work schedule; and having arthroscopic knee surgery. 

Other events worth mentioning from the last half of summer are: A 4-day visit from my sister, Shari, and her family; a weekend getaway to Pigeon Forge, TN with our two best friends to visit Dollywood for the first time.

I know those are very general but I wanted to tell you about them without getting caught up in catching up that I'm not keeping you informed about what's current with me. The best thing for me to do is keep moving forward. 

With that said let me share the details from my birthday celebration from this past Sunday. 

As a family we celebrate birthdays one of two ways. We either go out to dinner at local restaurant or we get together for dinner at my house. 

On the menu is usually something my wife cooks or, as become a convention with us, steaks cooked on our grill. This is of course followed by cake for desert and opening of birthday gifts. 

For my 53rd birthday, this past Sunday, we decided to do the "at the house" option because of my limited mobility after my knee surgery. 

Our guests were: my sons; their wives; the light of my life, my granddaughter; my sister-in-law, and our friends, Mark and Patty. 

Dinner consisted of my wife's chicken and dumpling, slow cooked pork ribs, carrots, and peas. All were delicious. 

Desert was a choice of yellow cake with strawberry icing or delicious German Chocolate cake (made earlier in the week for me by Patty on my actual birthday, September 9th). 

As always I really enjoy spending time with everyone and this time was no different. Being with those whom I love and I know love me is the greatest blessing in my life. 

But that doesn't get them off the hook for birthday gifts. Here's what I was given this year. 

This Volkswagen Bus Lego Set has been on my "want list" since the first time I saw it. My wife was kind enough to give it to me for my birthday.

The next two pictures are gifts from my sister-in-law. They are a pair of Lego kits and an a 2009 NCAA Woman's Basketball Tournament ticket stub signed by former University of Tennessee coach, Pat Garrett.

Last but not least are the two things Michael and Heather gave me. A 35th anniversary edition of the original "Muppet Movie" on Blu Ray and a $20 gift card to Toys R Us. I plan on buying more Legos. 

Mark and Patty a Lego Mini-Figure of New York Yankees shortstop, Derek Jeter while we were on our trip to Dollywood. 

What I got from James and Brandi is a promise that in the near future I will get a gift that I'll really like. I can't wait to see it. 

So there you have a report on my 53rd birthday party. The first post of the new RH Factors 2013 fall season.  I'm still recuperating from my surgery so I got lots of time to write. Keep checking back for more.