Holidays on track: Model trains take the spotlight in Long Islanders’ displays

For many baby boomers, and some younger folks as well, the December holidays are synonymous with model trains.

Many in the postwar generation grew up with Lionel or American Flyer rolling stock running around their basements or attics year-round. For other toy train fans, the miniatures only made an appearance during the holidays: Either portable layouts with a winter/holiday theme or trains that ran under their Christmas trees surrounded by plastic buildings and accessories.

Either way, many fathers — and occasionally both parents — took their sons (and sometimes daughters) to local department stores or hobby shops to pick out holiday presents. And some postwar children fondly remember traveling into Manhattan with their families to visit the Lionel showroom or the famous dealer Madison Hardware to see the latest offerings in hopes they might reappear, gift-wrapped, in late December.

And while the hobby has waned in recent years, model railroading aficionados remain a committed bunch. On Long Island there are still an estimated 2,500 model railroaders, several hundred of them members in about a half-dozen clubs with their own large layouts.

Many cherish their original sets, running them year-round in basements or spare rooms; others unearth model trains only for holiday fun. Many have reconnected with the hobby as adults (sharing it with their own children or grandchildren) after childhood sets were given away by parents who assumed their kids had lost interest in them.

Newsday visited some of these model railroad buffs as they gear up for another holiday season. Here are their stories.

A moment in time

“I’ve been into trains ever since I can remember, probably around 7 or 8,” recalled Edward Surbeck, 77, of Bohemia. “Christmas, birthdays, everybody knew what to get me — something from Lionel,” said Surbeck, who retired from a career in brick paving.

“My parents got married in 1936, and my mother bought my father a Lionel train set because he never had a train set when he was growing up,” Surbeck said. “He said ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to put it around the tree and maybe we should get a few figures.’ ” His father bought lead figures at a discount store to paint and made houses of wood recycled from shipping crates, and his mother decorated them.

When he was growing up in Islip, he said, “We used to go to Sears in Bay Shore and they always had a big layout.” There, Surbeck would pick out what he wanted for Christmas.

After he started college, the trains remained in storage in the basement. “Then in 1998 my wife said ‘Why don’t you put up the trains this year for Christmas. So I said, ‘Why not.’ I resurrected everything and put new snow on top of the buildings and doilies behind the windows as curtains.”

About five years ago Surbeck upgraded his father’s

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Microfibers could allow pieces of clothing to track a variety of vital signs

Dec. 1 (UPI) — New research suggests it won’t be long before socks or a wristband are tracking a variety of vital signs, from a person’s heart rate and blood pressure to their cholesterol levels and circadian rhythms.

According to a paper published Tuesday in the journal Applied Physics Reviews, microfibers and nanofibers will make it possible for pieces of clothing to keep tabs on common ailments, such as diabetes, asthma, obesity and high blood pressure.

Wearable fibers are both sensitive and flexible, capable of being woven into a variety of garments, or even woven directly into a person’s skin — like a tattoo.

These fibers can measure blood pressure, heart rate, sleep quality, cholesterol levels, oxygen levels and other vital signs.

As a population ages, health problems become more prevalent, increasing the burden on a country’s healthcare system. Wearable monitors could help healthcare providers manage these problems more efficiently, researchers say.

“You could have watches. You could have tattoos. It is usable in almost any form,” lead study author Rituparna Ghosh said in a news release.

“You could have something like a face mask. It could be a handkerchief which you put on your wrist and it starts giving data,” said Ghosh, a mechanical engineer at the National University of Singapore.

According to study co-author Seeram Ramakrishna, also with the National University of Singapore, nanofiber sensors with piezoelectric properties — meaning they can derive energy from motion — could be ready for market in two to three years.

In the meantime, more work must be done to make vitals-sensing microfibers more durable. Researchers must also develop new ways to power microfiber sensors, they said.

On top of this, wearable technologies must undergo robust, real-world tests to ensure they’re accurate and useful to both health professionals and patients.

“The medical community is always skeptical, while the wellness industry already is using these concepts,” Ramakrishna said.

“We need a lot more cause-and-effect studies. We need to amass information so doctors will really accept that this is information they can rely on,” Ramakrishna said.

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Black Friday online shopping on track to hit record as holiday shoppers skip stores, Adobe says

  • Online sales on Black Friday are on track to reach a record high this year, according to preliminary data from Adobe Analytics.
  • They’re on pace to total between $8.9 billion and $9.6 billion, an increase of between 20% and 29% depending on how many shoppers make purchases late into the night.
  • The data indicates one-day holiday sale, typically associated with an in-store shopping frenzy of long lines and the pursuit of coveted gift items, played out mostly online.

a man holding a sign: People look at jewelry at Macy's Herald Square during early opening for the Black Friday sales in Manhattan, New York, November 27, 2020.

© Provided by CNBC
People look at jewelry at Macy’s Herald Square during early opening for the Black Friday sales in Manhattan, New York, November 27, 2020.

Online sales on Black Friday are on track to reach a record high this year, as bargain hunters combed websites for deals and avoided stores during the coronavirus pandemic, according to preliminary data from Adobe Analytics.


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As of late Friday, online sales were on pace to amount to between $8.9 billion and $9.6 billion, an increase of between 20% and 29% from last year, depending on how many shoppers make purchases late into the night. Nearly 42% of sales came from smartphones as of 4 p.m. ET, a 7% increase over last year.

The data indicates the one-day holiday sale, typically associated with an in-store shopping frenzy of long lines and the pursuit of coveted gift items, played out mostly online. With the surge in Black Friday online shopping, U.S. consumers will have spent at least $6.2 million per minute on the day of holiday sales, according to Adobe.

Adobe anticipates that Cyber Monday will become the largest online sales day in history, totaling between $11.2 billion and $13 billion in online sales — a 19% to 38% year over year increase.

Online sales also hit a record on Thanksgiving Day, jumping 21.5% to $5.1 billion, according to Adobe. The company analyzes website transactions from 80 of the top 100 U.S. online retailers. Nearly half of those sales came from smartphones. Retailers also got a boost in sales if they offered curbside pickup. Companies that offered the faster alternative to getting a package delivered to customers’ homes had a 31% higher conversion rate of traffic to their sites. 

With many retailers starting holiday sales in October and putting some of their deepest discounts on their website, shoppers had less of a reason to head to stores in person this Black Friday. Stores and malls reflected more fewer brick-and-mortar sales, with fewer lines and emptier parking lots than holiday sales events of the past.

Pandemic-related restrictions and Covid cases also shaped behavior. Shoppers were more likely to buy gifts online if they lived in states with Covid-19 restrictions around family gatherings. Adobe saw 3.4 times higher year over year growth in online shopping in those areas on Thanksgiving Day compared with states with less restrictions.

During Black Friday, the best-selling toys were Star Wars items, Hot Wheels, Nerf toys and video games including Super Mario 3D All-Stars, Madden NFL 2 and NBA 2K21. In

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Gaming Accessories Market On Track To Break $6 Billion By 2024

Self-isolation orders created surge in gaming peripherals in 2020

The gaming accessories market continues to climb, on track to achieve 21% volume growth in 2020, according to a new report from Futuresource Consulting.

“There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has made a significant positive contribution to the gaming landscape this year,” Morris Garrard, Research Analyst at Futuresource Consulting said in a statement. “Yet consumer interest was already rising, and the pandemic has simply applied an additive effect. Self-isolation orders created a surge in gaming peripherals, not only for gaming purposes, but also for use when working from home. All of this combined activity across gaming headsets, speakers, keyboards and mice will result in shipments of 97.8 million units, generating a retail value of $4.2 billion by year end.”

Headsets lead the way in Gaming Audio
With over 40% of the worldwide gaming accessories retail market value, gaming headsets account for the lion’s share of the market, with Futuresource forecasting 26% year-on-year volume growth in 2020. However, price sensitive, non-gaming consumers opted for entry-level models during the demand spike in H1, resulting in volume outstripping the growth in retail value this year.

“When it comes to features, spatial audio is the one to watch,” says Garrard. “It delivers cinema-like surround sound and 3D audio to headphones. Its promotion as a gaming headset USP as well as inclusion in next generation console hardware will drive consumer awareness and uptake. Sony is delivering its proprietary service ‘Sony 360 Reality Audio’, whereas Microsoft offers a choice of Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Windows Sonic on the Xbox Series X and S.”

Looking at brands, the top four gaming headset players, Turtle Beach, Logitech G, Hyper X and Razer, dominated in terms of worldwide volumes in H1 2020, capturing nearly two in every three dollars of overall consumer spend.

Gaming speakers remain a niche category. With high ASPs and a lack of communication functionality, Futuresource expects to see a decrease in consumer demand in 2020, as price sensitive consumers opt for more versatile headset options.

Keyboards Deliver the Edge
Futuresource expects the gaming keyboard market to grow by 17% in volume terms in 2020. Although working from home has bolstered the growth of gaming keyboard demand, many employees are typically using laptops, so the impact has been less drastic than that seen in the headsets vertical.

“An aftermarket gaming keyboard offers gamers a significant number of advantages when compared with a standard multipurpose PC keyboard,” says Garrard. “The major benefit is reduced input latency, giving the gamer crucial extra milliseconds in-game, which provides a discernible competitive advantage. In addition, a high proportion of gaming keyboards feature mechanical switches rather than membrane connections, which are more common in non-gaming keyboards. These switches offer greater customizability in terms of optimizing input response times and minimizing finger fatigue. Gaming keyboards typically also feature customizable RGB lighting, which can aid in game immersion through synchronizing lighting effects with game audio.”

Feature-Rich Mice Commanding High

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Covid on Track to Kill 30,000 More in U.S. by Christmas, CDC Model Shows

Travelers At LAX Airport As U.S. Holiday Air Travel Surges

Photographer: Bing Guan/Bloomberg

After a week that shattered daily case, testing and hospitalization records, Covid’s trajectory is slated to steepen in the U.S.

Coronavirus, which has killed more than 256,000 Americans so far, is on track to claim another 30,000 lives by mid-December, according to forecasts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The model shows weekly cases and deaths both rising every week for the next month, the maximum range of the agency’s projection.

Covid Trajectory

The virus death toll is projected to climb by 30,000 by mid-December

Source: CDC

Other models stretch further into the future and paint a picture of what the disease may look like when President-elect Joe Biden inherits the crisis. Data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle show daily deaths peaking in early January on the current path, at around 2,560. That would imply a death toll of more than 387,000 by Inauguration Day, Jan. 20.

The institute’s model suggests that watered-down social distancing mandates would push the peak to early February, at more than 5,600 deaths per day. The university’s forecasts don’t factor in how a vaccine would slow the spread of the virus, though researchers anticipate adding that to their models within the coming weeks.

The uncertainty underscores how much can still change before a vaccine is available. In a trial, a shot developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca Plc prevented an average of 70% of participants from falling ill. Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. saw higher efficacy, though experts are still divided on how long it might be before a vaccine is ready for emergency use.

The U.S. reported an additional 150,098 cases on Sunday, according to Covid Tracking Project data. The data show:

  • North Dakota, Wyoming and Minnesota had the most new cases per million people.
  • The states with the worst momentum are New Mexico, Vermont and Wyoming as measured by the percent change in seven-day average cases from a week earlier.
  • Oregon posted a record case count Sunday.

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