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Life Arts    H3'ed 11/28/20

Holiday Guide to Surprising, Creative and Geeky Gifts

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Playing OuiSi transcends generations, and is a great way to have fun while enhancing observation skills and creativity. Teachers are using it in classrooms, both in person and online, and one enthusiast says she is "using OuiSi as a brain neuroplasticity therapy treatment (after she) developed a Limbic System Impairment from a chemical toxicity. To help rewire my brain I need to make a lot of new neuropathways. OuiSi is a fun way to challenge my brain in its thinking process, thus creating new positive neuropathways."

Their blog offers lots of creative ideas.

The cards have been so popular that they are sold out, but you can pre-order for January delivery here.

Awesome Geeky Creativity from Theodore Gray, Nina Paley and Pale Gray Labs.

Theodore Gray is a BAFTA winner, co-founder of Wolfram Research, Inc, founder of Touch Press, author of books, The Elements, Molecules, Reactions, How Things Work, and the upcoming Engines and Tools.

Books by Theodore Gray
Books by Theodore Gray
(Image by Theodore Gray)
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Gray makes "Mechanical Gifs" which are kits for physical models you can build. They don't require any special model-building skills and come in attractive packaging with all the necessary tools and parts. The kits are available in several styles, including locks, engines, cars and car components, clocks and mathematical models (like Pi, the Golden Ratio and Pythagoras' Theorem.)

I asked Theo how he got started making these cool kits.

"I was working on a book about mechanical things, and I wanted to make some laser-cut models to illustrate the book. I accidentally bought a much bigger, more powerful laster cutter than I'd planned to, and realized that the models were much more fun in person than as pictures in a book. So I started producing and selling them."

Mechanical GIF model:Gift Card Lock Box
Mechanical GIF model:Gift Card Lock Box
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My granddaughter and I are looking forward to putting together this model of the pin-tumbler lock mechanism (pictured above). Theo notes it is "in the form of a small lockable box just big enough to hold a gift card some money or a secret message. Pin tumbler mechanisms are found in pretty much every lock in the world that has a straight key with one ragged edge. The version in this box is flat and made of plastic but it shows very clearly how all such locks work: the pins held in place with springs block the barrel of the lock from rotating (or in this model, sliding to the left). When the key is inserted the pins all line up exactly with the edge of the tumbler allowing it to rotate or slide and thereby opening the lock." You can purchase this kit already assembled if you just want to use it as a gift card vessel.

In pandemic times, Theodore and Maribel offer "Maribel's Masks," unique face masks in a variety of fabric prints including glow-in-the-dark models - the only mask on the market with a safe, practical and effective straw hole for socially distant drinking.

If you are into geeky science with a humorous twist, check out Theodore's blog. His list of articles for Popular Science is h ere. He also made the deservedly award-winning Periodic Table Table (that's not a misprint, it's a real table made from wood).

Theo's sites are,, and

Pale Gray Labs

In partnership with Nina Paley, Theodore creates digitized quilts via Pale Gray Labs: their tag line is: "Putting the NERD in quiltiNg and EmbRoiDery." A 94" x 94" quilt with a molecular diagram on it is a gift unlikely to be a duplicate. The molecular diagrams include atoms, bond lines, and atomic symbols, and are available for caffeine, chlorophyll, psilocybin or almost any other molecule you can think of, starting at $199. (other types of unique quilted designs are available, too.)

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Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing since she was a hippie. She began writing for OpEdNews in Feb, 2004. She became a Senior Editor in August 2012 and Managing Editor in January, (more...)

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