Thursday, April 30, 2015

Dad Continues To Fall For Kid-in-bed Trick

The poofy comforter provides ample camouflage.
Once again I was duped into thinking I could effortlessly get into bed. The kid had skillfully concealed herself beneath the covers.

I blame the kid for taking advantage of my increasing brain fog past 9pm to have fun at my expense.

I get my turn at comedy when trying to get her up in the morning.

I suppose this is what is meant by the circle of life. Previously I believed it referred to pizza.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Old And Young Come Together Over "The Story Of Film: An Odyssey"

Mark Cousins does a fine job narrating the series. His laconic style of presentation and Irish accent give the 10-year-old plenty of material for both comedy and critical analysis..
I've enjoyed watching The Story of Film with my son. The series does an excellent job of explaining why film is a unique art form and how it developed.

Full disclosure, I've only seen three episodes, but I'm hooked.

Perhaps the most crucial observation in these first episodes is that film is a language unto itself and nothing, camera angle, lighting, the projection machinery, should ever be taken for granted.

I liked very much how Cousins explained how the big studios of the `30s and `40s, set up like giant assembly lines, produced, in spite of the system, many fine movies. As there was no established pedigree to the sort of person who worked on, wrote, or acted in films, all sorts of talented weirdos found employment. "The deus ex machina in the studio system was art," Cousins drolly intones.

I suspect the series will become a bit too erudite for the 10-year-old soon, but it motivated him this week to take a camera to school and shoot a movie documenting his field trip dealing with invasive species. However we get there, the journey's still good.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Here It Is Already, So Get Off My Back And Enjoy This Passover Video

The fourth grade did a fine job of showcasing their learning. Unfortunately such erudition was lost on the parent with the video camera.
I lack the energy to try and explain all the excellence that went on at my son's Passover event at his school. Suffice to say Matzoh was eaten and various performances enacted to much merriment.

To try and capture some of the fun I put together a highlight reel.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Two 10-year-olds With A Video Camera

This weekend I checked the camera and found a video project the kid had worked on but not finished. I decided to do my own edit.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Innovation Knows No Age

The kid, sick with a head cold, creatively uses the empty tissue box as a waste receptacle for the dirty tissues.

That's the way we roll here in Soggy Town -- innovation even when feeling ill. Stoke!


Friday, April 24, 2015

"Welcome To Night Vale" Newest Family Media Fad

Image from merch page.

Welcome to Night Vale is a podcast presented as a radio show for the fictional town of Night Vale, reporting on the strange events that occur within it. The podcast consists of news, announcements and advertisements from the desert town located somewhere in the Southwestern United States. One of the writers has said in an interview that he came up with the idea of a town in the desert where all conspiracy theories were real. (Wikipedia).

This is our newest addiction and we are all lulled into paranormal belief because of it. Tonight we will go see the show recorded.

In one episode the public library gets taken over by oddly sentient flesh-eating bacteria. Instead of trying to downplay this development, the librarian incorporates it into the summer reading program.
Some of the memorable characters:

·         Angels
·         Apache Tracker
·         Big Rico
·         Cactus Jane
·         Carlos
·         Cecil Gershwin Palmer
·         Chad
·         Glow Cloud
·         Hooded Figures
·         Khoshekh
·         Old Woman Josie
·         Otherworldly Children
·         Scientists of Night Vale
·         Telly the Barber
·         The Brown Stone Spire
·         The Faceless Old Woman
·         The Night Vale Community Radio Interns
·         The Shape in Grove Park
·         Them

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Closet Of The 13-year-old

Current conditions

The above photo represents the current closet of the 13-year-old. She is growing so fast nothing fits or can be hung up before she outgrows it.

Three years ago a different story.
This photo from 2011 shows an orderly closet, perhaps because LSS was more involved.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Dad Worried About Letting Kids Play With Toy Guns

Kids playing at hostage rescue.

I am a dad who worries about gun violence in the schoolyard, movie theater, shopping mall, yet I let my kids have toy guns at home. Am I contributing to the problem?

Generally I don't think so as I don't own any guns, nor does my wife, so we have a gun-free environment. So often perpetrators of gun violence steal the weapons from others. 

The kids enjoy creative play and I feel that if they didn't have manufactured toy guns they would have other toys represent weapons.

Far more insidious is a culture that tolerates gun violence as "a few bad apples", "bad luck" and "the price to be paid for a free society."

Gun safety issues inevitably are viewed through the lens of individual liberty. I prefer to view gun safety through a public safety lens -- the guns rarely are used for self-defense and the horrendous amount of mayhem they create far outweigh any good a well-armed citizenry might bring.

Sure, the townspeople of Northfield, Minnesota repelled the James Gang's attempted robbery of the bank with their own personal firearms, but a lot has changed since 1876, or maybe not.

In the context of gun safety, the American spirit of rugged individualism looks like one of those Marlborough cowboys riding a horse with an oxygen tank.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Kids Insist On Trying Hot Pockets: The Arc Of History Bends Towards Good Taste

All looks innocent enough from the outside. The filling, however, can be best described as "gray matter."
After watching countless YouTube videos where teenagers both mocked and venerated Hot Pockets --microwaveable turnovers generally containing one or more types of cheese, meat, or vegetables -- the kids insisted they needed to try one.

The kids selected an egg, bacon, cheese pocket and I blasted the things in the microwave for 3 minute, 30 seconds on the highest setting. The amount of energy needed to bring the lump to the table, in my mind, underscored that it was highly processed and probably not so healthy.

I was prepared to accept that here was a new favorite food that we could get occasionally.

But the arc of history bends towards things that actually taste good, and Hot Pockets don't qualify, according to the kids (I didn't try one).

This is one of those moments when I feel we as parents are doing something right!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Dad Can't Follow Speed Of Son's Minecrafting

Mr. Speedy at moment of rest.

The 10-year-old has a mastery of the Minecraft controls, flying his fingers over the keyboard. He builds things so quickly I have trouble following what the hell he is even doing.

I made a video of the guy crafting a shrine. I never figured out why, or on what server, he labored. Still, he took pains to make it look nice and added colorful flowers.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Breaking News: Kids Laugh At Poop Jokes

This snap was taken moments after the new sporting venture was announced.

The 10-year-old shared his vision of Olympic gold -- paracheeting.

This is the sport of leaping out of an airplane and deploying a parachute. When the competitor floats down to the appropriate altitude, he/she then defecates and attempts to hit the target with the poop.

The daughter immediately imagined what type of clothing such competitors might wear.

As a responsible adult I merely chuckled, and, somewhat reluctantly, added some sound effects.

All in all a fine moment of humor for the kids.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Food Market Organization Causes Way Too Much Thinking

Despite the overly cute name and font, this is a fine teriyaki sauce.
I often shop in a supermarket that has a section with more "healthful" brands. By healthful I mean the companies put more effort into marketing their products as somehow better for the environment or human health with folksy labels and foreign-sounding words -- can you say quinoa?

Organic products can be found in both sections as well as bulk products. I'm guessing the decision as to which products go where is a business one based on SKUs, but it often seems arbitrary.

Our family likes a teriyaki sauce called Soy Vey, Veri Veri Teriyaki. The Hebraicized font of an Asian sauce threw me as to where it would be in the store.

Not in the fancy food section, nope -- must not be organic enough. I found it in the ethnic food section along with other Asian sauces.

At least it wasn't with the matzoh, that truly would be when worlds collide.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Livestrong Wristband Causes Revulsion

I found the yellow band and threw it in the trash.
I always figured Lance Armstrong for a performance-enhancing drug taker. But I defended him for it, rationalizing all the other major riders of his era were on the juice, so he was the best drug taker in a field of drug fiends.

I recently watched Stop At Nothing: The Lance Armstrong Story and was saddened by the mountain of evidence that Lance had not only repeatedly lied, but slandered and maliciously destroyed those who would speak against him.

Far from a kid who had grown up in bad circumstances and succumbed to the pressure of international athletic competition, Armstrong was shown as a ruthless sociopath who would stop at nothing to increase his fame and fortune.

I personally felt betrayed as I wanted so much to believe the story -- through mental toughness and determination Armstrong came back from cancer and won an unprecedented number of bike races. All of it a lie.

Further disheartening is that there is circumstantial evidence that Armstrong gave himself cancer by ingesting a horrific amount of steroids, testosterone, cortisone, growth hormone, and EPO early in his career.

The film hints that Armstrong's political connections got him out of an FBI investigation, suggesting that people at all levels wanted the story to be true, wanted Lance to be the real Superman who saves America from the French and other unredeemed Europeans.

The film proves the theory of American exceptionalism, but not in the way we would like. 

The truth is painful, but ultimately we need to find our heroes closer to home and a bit more humble.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

How To Dress The 10-year-old

An interplay of texture and primary and secondary colors gives this outfit its special zest.
For our son, who is 10-years old, fashion starts and ends with sweatpants. Unless, of course, there is a compelling reason to A) forgo pants altogether; B) put on pajamas so as to be more comfortable at the dinner table.

Shirts are more complicated as there are long sleeves as well as short sleeves.

Jackets are completely optional regardless of the weather. Shoes? A reluctant necessity. 

I celebrate the surety of his sartorial choices.

Signs of things to come, as noted earlier he designed his own T-shirt for huge school success.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Sometimes Results Do Matter: Bribery

As a parent, which technique works best for ensuring the harmony of the home is maintained?

I'm often asked this question when I interview myself in my imagination.

The answer: all of them!

Sometimes the results do matter and we need to get them.

Today I've officially offered my daughter a bribe to get some stuff done. When I offered it she insinuated (actually she said directly) that the last of my "special offers" wasn't followed through on.

To make things clear, I've made a video with my offer for the world to see.


Monday, April 6, 2015

Data Analysis Clearly Shows Some Sort Of Something

This weekend I discovered that reports from Quicken, a home cash management program, can be downloaded into Excel. Thus the above scatter diagram was born.

The graph shows how our 2001 Nissan Maxima, a car referred to as The Finest Car Ever Made, ran up increasingly significant repair bills in the last six years of its life with us. Each data point reflects date and amount of money paid for a repair. Oil changes and tires are not counted. The trend line reflects an averaging of payments.

The narrative fallacy refers to our tendency to construct stories around facts, a subconscious tendency to help give greater clarity to why things happen. But when someone begins to believe the stories and stretch the facts to accommodate the narrative, the accuracy of the story is likely to suffer.

I held on to the car too long because I enjoyed driving it. My fallacy was that I fervently believed I could drive it 200,000 miles before it would "really" fall apart. The car was at 160k when we donated it to charity -- it subsequently sold for $625 at auction. 

All told, very few repairs before 2008, after, $13,244. I can make myself feel better by amortizing the repairs bills in my imagination over the life of the car, coming out to around $1,000 a year -- not an outrageous sum when all the expenses of car ownership are considered. Still, I should have gotten rid of it at the ten-year mark.

I liked the car because I was able to configure it for just about any activity, camping, ski trips, bicycle transport, and still have an everyday sedan to take the kids to school in. A powerful engine and good handling made me call this car The Finest Car Ever Made.

A happier moment with the car.