Preparing for the 2006 Geek Tree

The holidays loom large, and with them so does that most venerable of Nuketown traditions: the Geek Tree.

This year’s Geek Tree includes a major addition which my wife Sue bought for me last Christmas: the Hogworts Express. This is an HO Gauge train set featuring a large oval train track, several over-long sleeper cars, and the obligatory Platform 9-3/4. I haven’t figured out exactly how I want to setup the train this year — the track it comes with is designed to be a large oval that’s too big for the spot in the living room where the tree normally goes. I might try setting up a smaller train board with regular HO track and see if that works.

Ornamental Constellations

Ornament wise, I have my eye on a few additions. First, the Starship Enterprise 1701. I’m not overly impressed with the ornament this year, as its one of those that relies on a base for its music and lights (and thus, can’t actually be hung on the tree if you want those to work). Still, I’m something of a completist when it comes to these ornaments, so I want this one (and thanks to my parents, already have it).

More interesting is the Transporter Room, complete with transporter background effect. I’ll be looking to pick this one up after the holidays.

The Star Wars ornaments aren’t overly exciting this year, but the AT-AT and Snowspeeder one will be a good post-Christmas buy.

There are two other noteworthy Hallmark ornaments: the first is this year’s Harry Potter ornament, called “Creeping Down the Hallway” which features Harry, Ron and Hermione getting to the bottom of some mystery at Hogwarts. Nice ornament, and at $15, worth picking up before Christmas. They also have “A New Breed of Superheros” featuring a bunch of mini ornaments of Wolverine, Iron-man, Spider-man, Captain America, and the Hulk. They can be displayed apart or together thanks to their matching bases, but while it’s a cool idea I don’t think I’ll be picking this one up.

Hallmark has traditionally been my primary source of new geek ornaments, but there are a few other alternatives. Carlton Cards has a cool King Kong ornament, featuring the big ape fighting a T-Rex. I’m considering it as a way of expanding the geek tree’s genre depth. Bloom County will always be one of my favorite cartoons, and this year Carlton has a geeky Opus ornament featuring the penguin riding a rocket-powered sleigh.

The ornament I want most though, is the Serenity ornament (featuring the Firefly-class spaceship from the Firefly TV series) put out by Dark Horse Comics. It looks great, and it’s just the sort of thing to take the Geek Tree’s cred to the next level.

Customizing the Geek Tree

And what of my mad plans from last year to automate the Geek Tree? They came to naught, but I’m still considering some sort of upgrade. Building a simple LEGO robot to hang near the top of the tree and beep at people when they walk by is a definite possibility, but recently I’ve been thinking about monorails. Specifically, adding some clear tubing near the center of the tree with a small vehicle in it (maybe a Star Wars-inspired LEGO car?) which could then be pulled to the top of the tree by the LEGO Mindstorms robot brick. It seems like it could be doable, but I suspect that’s more of a 2007 project than a 2006 one, what with my son being only 5 months old, and me without a lot of time.

Another option, which I’d still love to play with, is a raising/lower platform featuring a LEGO starship taking off from the base of the tree and raising to the ceiling, again via the LEGO Mindstorms brick. It would be more easily doable than the monorail, but I found last year that clearance on the backside of the tree is difficult.

One thing I think I will definitely do is add some homemade ornaments to the tree in the form of Analog SF and science fiction book covers — my goal is to print out some thumbnails of covers, laminate them, and then hang them around the tree. This has the added benefit of providing the tree with some literary representation, which is sorely lacking now.

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