Scott Hanselman

A Toy Train for Z

June 14, '07 Comments [25] Posted in Musings | Parenting | Z
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We love bargains. We shop a lot at Goodwill, a local thrift shop where folks donate their old stuff. Sometimes you can find some amazing deals. I got an iPod Car Kit once, still in the original packaging, for $2. This evening we stopped by after dinner and while Z was running around bumping into things, he bumped into and knocked over a non-descript box.

Inside was a huge set of wooden trains and many feet of track - nearly a complete set. This is the kind of high-quality toy that costs $50-$100. I've always wanted to get Z a kit like this, but they are just too expensive to justify. It was only $9, so I had to pick it up.

We watched the news while I set up the tracks...as I was getting finished I revelled in the deal. I just love saving money and finding a fantastic thing like this, especially when I know Z will have fun with in in the morning.

I started putting it together and my wife wondered if I bought the train for myself or for Z. I began to take some pictures of the setup...

...and this story came on the news, literally as I was taking photos of the layout...I turned and took a picture.

...crap. You ever have one of those days?

How would one recall a piece of software...just release a patch? What if it were such a bad piece of software that it hurt babies? What a nightmare for these people.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007 9:21:18 AM UTC
At first glance you don't have the recalled trainset (and I do know the "Is that for you or him?" question when I bought my nephew a set).

I've almost been through the software equivilant (so excuse the anon). My first job involved writing fitness testing software. Anyone that's been to a big gym and been tested will probably know about Max VO2 tests, you strap on a heart rate monitor, peddle a bike against an increasing load. On the results of that we output an exercise program.

And then someone had a heart attack.

From a purely selfish point of view we were worried. The gym was sued by the "victim's" family, who in turn blamed us. The courts were involved, there was fear over jobs as well as the natural worry you did cause it. It turns out the gym had overridden our recommendations (hurrah for audit trails) and thus had increased the risk; our prescribed program would have been gentler.

The point of the ramble is that after this it wasn't the same. We had based everything on recommendations of various experts and doctors, and none of the developers knew enough about the detail to question it; but there was always a nagging worry.

I was much happier when I left and did database work that had no potential to hurt anyway.
anon
Thursday, June 14, 2007 9:36:35 AM UTC
Less than a week ago, I brought the "Red James Engine & Red James’ # 5 Coal Tender" that is on the recall list of my 3 year old son.

If I had to take it away from him, I don't think we'd be able to survice what followed. I've forwarded the info about the recall onto our local consumer advice agency, and hopefully they'll check with the company that imports the toys into New Zealand.

Although Marcus is too old to likely chew on the toys (the most likely the lead could affect the child), I really hope the ones they distribute down here are in an unaffected batch.
Thursday, June 14, 2007 12:01:36 PM UTC
You should check out rokenbok, it's like trains + Lego + PlayStation. It's great for a budding engineer. Also super cool for the parents and friends.
Thursday, June 14, 2007 12:09:36 PM UTC
That is not a real Thomas set, it is a generic one, so hopefully you are safe.
Horace West
Thursday, June 14, 2007 12:12:32 PM UTC
I had that train set in primary school. Very cool. Looks like IKEA sell something very similar these days. Ah, the fun I'll have with kids' toys again when I have children.
Thursday, June 14, 2007 12:20:46 PM UTC
Thanks for the post! I definitely missed it on the news. Horace and anon are correct. You have the Imaginarium set. FYI, the magnets on the vehicles are NOT very secure. We used thomas trains on these tracks.
Brian Lee
Thursday, June 14, 2007 1:19:20 PM UTC
You probably feel like you're violating rule #2 of your 'Blog Interesting' rules, but sometimes it's OK to just blog about a train set. I think you'd be fairly hard-pressed to find a geek that didn't find it interesting on its own merits. Tying it in to recalling software feels a bit forced.

That said, recalling a web app isn't too difficult.
Thursday, June 14, 2007 1:31:11 PM UTC
Scott, that sucks! I hope it's not one of the bad ones (I'm pretty amazed/scared of the train set "knowledge" other commenters seem to have...is there a class I should take? ;-) ), but if it is I'm sure Z/you will be pretty crushed.

As far as recalling of software, I guess the approach varies depending on the type of software you're building.
Thursday, June 14, 2007 1:58:32 PM UTC
We bought a train set for my daughter (She always played with the train set at Books-a-Million and Toys r Us) and she hardly played with the trains at all. The table got a lot of use, as she and her friends climbed on it, and crawled under it, and her little plastic animals had lots of adventures all over it. Eventually, we sold it to the neighbors down the street for their little boy.
As for software recalls, the FDA issued a recall for two algorithms used by LASIK machines in the past month or so, according to the RISKS digest.
Mike Swaim
Thursday, June 14, 2007 2:00:51 PM UTC
Trains and computers go together from way back when. Some of the original hackers were part of a train group that got together that deviated to working on a mainframe which led to figuring out ways to make the programs work more efficiently or better because time on the mainframe was such a commodity.

Before you know Z will be trying to make your "old" P4 Duo Core Vista machine run better because it is just too darn slow to be really effective.

Phillip
Thursday, June 14, 2007 2:36:22 PM UTC
It's amazing how similar toy trains are to breasts... both are supposed to be for small children, but daddies enjoy them just as much or more... hyuk hyuk, I'm here all week folks, try the veal! Have a good ngiht and don't forget to tip your waitress!
Thursday, June 14, 2007 3:42:58 PM UTC
Dugald - Sure, I know I broke rule guideline #2, but considering I'm in banking and we "recall" software when something bad happens I didn't think the call-back was that forced. Definitely cheesy, though! ;)
Thursday, June 14, 2007 3:43:05 PM UTC
Yeah, i got my son a thomas the tank engine set... and he just wants to take it apart. Hooray for buying things that just don't work out!
Darren Kopp
Thursday, June 14, 2007 3:48:27 PM UTC
Thursday, June 14, 2007 4:44:24 PM UTC
I would just sand down the entire set - and then have a weekend where I painted the set with the kid! double the fun!
Raj Rao
Thursday, June 14, 2007 5:44:20 PM UTC
I think you're safe. The recall was very specific to the Thomas brand (wooden). I only buy my son the electric kind ... because we're uppity like that ;)
Shug
Thursday, June 14, 2007 8:46:39 PM UTC
Man this sucks. I understand the whole software recall thing but man... I have images of my son putting that (*#(@3892 red stop sign into his mouth - after a few "no"s by me he stopped, but still, this is what kids do.

You would think they would know about lead paint for child's product = bad before using it.

And to Raj: Sanding would be worse as the particles would become airborne!!! Don't sand it. Follow the recall or buy the unpainted versions of Thomas.

Win98 for Lasik. That sounds scarry!


Luke O
Friday, June 15, 2007 3:38:50 AM UTC
I think you're safe: looks like a Melissa & Doug set. At least to my "trained" eyes. Ar ar.
Harold
Friday, June 15, 2007 1:18:10 PM UTC
DeanG
Friday, June 15, 2007 5:36:30 PM UTC
We have that set. We got it at Aldi under the "Avta" label. They sell similar versions elsewhere. This set and its pieces were not on the recall. However, chances are that they simply haven't tested the paint yet. Seems to be the way these days. If its painted and made overseas, there's a good chance that you've got a lead violation. Our guy is three and doesn't chew on things anymore, so we're ignoring the Thomas recall on our few red engines and cars.
Friday, June 15, 2007 5:44:39 PM UTC
Lead paint? Isn't Pb a mineral? Aren't minerals good for you? We all had lead paint growing up and look at us now! Ok, better return the train set....
Saturday, June 16, 2007 5:12:06 PM UTC
It is nice to know well paid people like yourself is shopping where poor people do robbing them of the opportunity to have a little something in life.

I am being serious. I grew up poor. It was an event to get something cool.



Moral Conscience
Sunday, June 17, 2007 2:31:08 AM UTC
Give me a break, Moral Conscience. Goodwill is about giving people the opportunity to work and provide for themselves. They help the disadvantaged through jobs, not handouts or cheap prices. It's not a food shelter, and they're not checking income at the door.

I like Goodwill because I can donate things that still have some use but that I no longer need. Someone else can buy this stuff for a decent price (or maybe I'll find something useful while I'm there), and the whole process is supporting the Goodwill mission of providing jobs. It's less fuss than a garage sale and it does more good in the long run.

You can find out more about Goodwill Industries and their mission on their site.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007 2:30:39 PM UTC
Scott

We're blessed with a lot of Thomas set pieces we've inherited or purchased. The recall is mostly for James the engine pieces. Our son is actually excited to be getting new ones! And he's 4, so we're not really concerned about chewing. But there's no sense in taking chances.
Thursday, June 21, 2007 1:41:28 PM UTC
Scott

Did you catch this article in the New York Times? A Lesson That Thomas Could Teach?

It's a good read about the dangers of outsourcing at several levels.

We've still not mailed our box of James pieces.
Comments are closed.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.