Tuesday, August 28, 2007

More Poison Ivy Hell

If you ever saw Total Recall, my face kind of looks like Schwarzenegger’s did just before his head almost exploded from lack of oxygen.

Here's a picture of me before the poison ivy:

And here's what I look like now:

Monday, August 27, 2007

Poison Ivy Hell

This now makes the second time in one summer that the poison ivy gods have tried to take me down. A couple of months ago I thought I'd take advantage of my town's "free mulch" program. They take all the leaves collected in the fall, mulch them, and dump them in a public area free for the taking. This year for the first time, I thought I'd take some. Demonstrating that there is no free lunch, I got hit with a nasty case of poison ivy all over my body.

Yesterday, I got hit again. I racked my brain, trying to figure out how. I hadn't really done much outside. I certainly didn't roll around in free mulch. Then I realized it. I'd grabbed a plastic bin to collect some lawn waste yesterday. The last time I used that bin was to haul home free mulch. Man, that's potent stuff.

Luckily, only a day into this new case, I ran into a friend who's also a pediatrician. One scrip later, and I'm on steroids. Hot dog.

Monday, August 20, 2007

elementary changes

When I was your age, television was called books!

-Princess Bride

As we prepare Natalie for entry into first grade, we've begun to notice that things have changed drastically since my days at Northeast Elementary School.

First of all, lunch. Gone are the days of packing the daily peanut butter sandwich. Now, if your child dares bring in a PB&J for lunch, she is forced to eat it at the "nut table." Much like the designated smoking areas at airports these days, the nut table segregates legume-spread eaters from the rest of society due to the overwhelming number of peanut allergies in the schools these days. I wonder if there's a special table for those kids who can successfully spew milk out their noses when they laugh.

And then there's the PIN number. Every kid in school is assigned a 6-digit PIN number (insert Simpsons reference here: "These people look deep inside my soul and assign me a number in the order in which I joined"). This PIN number grants them financial access to mom and dad's wallet by allowing them to buy lunch and/or snacks. Gone are the days of bullies stealing your kids' milk money. Now they can just shake fellow students down for their passcodes, starting them early in a prosperous career in identity theft.

Some things, however, haven't changed. Natalie's school supply list included a pocket folder, so I took her to Target to pick one out. After mulling over the benefits of the spangly hearts versus the one with the butterflies, versus the pink with yellow circles, she decided upon the one folder I was hoping she'd miss - the full color head shot of High School Musical Heart Throb Troy Bolton. Yes folks, it's the next generation's Shaun Cassidy.

Horton Hears A Who

New kids' movie alert. And it looks to be a good one! Steve Carrell and Jim Carrey star in Horton Hears A Who, from the makers of Ice Age. March 14, 2008. Grab your hot steaming kettles of Beezle-Nut oil, and be there.

Friday, August 17, 2007


It's finally here! Excitement Excitement! It's the premiere of High School Musical 2!! Omigod, Omigod!!

The buzz machine was in overdrive this week both on the Disney Channel and throughout my daughters' circle of friends. After having the lyrics to every song of HSM1 embedded permanently into the deepest nooks and crannies of my cranium, it was time for the onslaught of the sequel. We invited some friends over on Friday night in expectation of a veritable All-Star Game of Disney movies, popped on the plasma, the girls' eyes lit up, and there they were, Troy and Gabriella and the Eastside High posse.

The DisMAY machine was in full swing. Throughout this past week we were pummelled with such marketing gimics as a TV Guide full cover spread (collect both versions!) of the cast, with a CD-rom filled with extras such as the dance moves and lyric sheets, ensuring every child receiving this disk would DEMAND to have a HSM2 party for their birthday, complete with professional dance teachers and a team of hired cheerleaders. There have been previews, trailers, skywriting, fireworks displays, and even a special address by George Bush himself creating a national holiday in honor of the event.

So how was the movie? Eh.

HSM1 was an accident. It was a kid-friendly, medium budget story that just happened to have really catchy music and a moderately decent storyline, and it suddenly became a phenomenon. HSM2 was all about the choreography, with little attention paid to the script or the acting. The storyline was some loose creation revolving around the kids working at an exclusive desert spa/golf resort that just HAPPENS to have a talent contest.

As demonstrated by the fantastic choreography of "hey batter batter swing", a combination swing/hip-hop dance song done on a baseball field, the cast has definitely improved upon their dance skills and complexity of their moves. The songs were far less catchy, but then again I'm saying that after only hearing them once. Perhaps by the fiftieth time I hear it, those few remaining slots of brain matter will be completely filled.

By the way if you missed it Friday night, do not fret. You can catch a repeat every night on the Disney channel for the next four thousand days.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Happy 25th Anniversary, Compact Disc

It was August 17th, 1982. That was the day , twenty-five years ago, that the very first CD was pressed, in the Phillips factory in Germany. And the first CD? ABBA's The Visitors. How frightening.

I can recall a few major milestones in my history with the little plastic coaster. The very first time I heard a CD was in 1986. It was Billy Joel's The Bridge. My friend Matt's dad had gotten a shiny new (and then very expensive) CD player, and Matt invited me over for a demo. He turned the volume up to eleven, popped in the disk, hit play, and it blew me away.

My first CD purchase was The Swing, from INXS. Back then, my sister and I were die hard INXS fans (up until the point where the lead singer knocked himself off while attempting auto-erotic asphyxiation). I was just about to hit college age and, without letting my parents know, I coordinated with my high school music teacher who "knew a guy" that could get me a sweal deal on a pioneer stereo, CD player, and dual tape cassette player with which to outfit my future dorm. It wasn't long before my roommates and I became the de facto party DJ's for our fraternity house, spending our Friday evenings surrounded bu stacks and stacks of jewel cases and cute women (okay, it was CMU...geeky guys) rummaging through them in search of an Ultravox request.

I still have that receiver in my workshop. The CD player, along with the multitude of other CD players I've owned over the years, has since hit the trash bin.

I also have a clear memory of the first DVD I ever saw. It was September of 1992. I just started my first job out of college, as a book buyer for the Childrens' book division of Readers' Digest (no, really). I met the guy in charge of all those Readers' Digest music anthologies, who to this day had the coolest office I've ever seen. All the walls were covered in acoustic carpet, and the back wall was floor-to-ceiling electronics. He also happened to be a beta tester for nearby Phillips Corporation, and showed me this newfangled thing called a DVD. He popped in (what else) Top Gun, and again life changed forever.

It seems a shame...a few years from now the idea of showing a friend your latest CD purchase, folding out the cover art, reading the lyrics...all that will be long ago history. Now in the days of iTunes, music downloads, and P2P, music has become so disposable. Think of all the young toddlers who will never understand the wonders of gravity discovered by rummaging through dad's CD rack.

I still love turning on my 500-disc CD changer, hitting the random button, and letting it spin while I work around the house, catching up on those musical memories and hoping to discover a long lost or perhaps never-noticed track from my original collection. No ABBA in there, though.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

15 inches of fame

I would be remiss in my duties as a father if I didn't post this on the net for all to see. Natalie had her 15 minutes of fame (well, at least 5 of her digits did) by getting her hand in the local paper.

It kind of reminds me of Pixar's Monsters Inc, when Mike and Sully star in a TV commercial, and Mike's entire face is blotted out by the company logo. "I don't believe it....I was on TV!!!!"

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A brief distraction or two

Animator Vs. Animation
Remember those stick figure animations that were circling the net a year or two ago? Here's another, entitled "Animator vs. Animation". There was one like it a while back, but I think this one's got some new bits.

The Impossible Quiz
Warning: Don’t open this during work hours. You will find yourself completely sucked in and all productivity destroyed. I tried it the other night around 11pm and an hour was gone before I knew it.

The game is called The Impossible Quiz. Give it a minute to load, read the directions, then answer the questions. You have three chances. Each time you get a question wrong, you lose a life. After you lose three lives you must start over. The questions are simple. Yet ridiculous. Brilliant stuff.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

It's the Muppet Show....

Finally. At last. My kids will now understand just why their dad is so weird. It's the Muppet Show, Season One and Season Two on DVD. I've been waiting thirty years for this.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Short term and long term memory development in children

I'm not a child psychologist. Nor do I play one on TV. I have not done any studies on this subject. Nor do I plan to. But I think I can safely say with confidence that by age six, the development of a child's short-term memory greatly lags that of their long term memory development.

My wife witnessed this today when she dropped our older daughter off at day camp. It seems there was an immediate issue in that Natalie, for one reason or another, was about to be kicked out of Friday's talent show by her two best friends (they planned on singing selections from High School Musical, of course). The friends were disgruntled because she told a small fib, and they decided to get back at her in a way that only six-year-old girls can do...by kicking her out of the talent show (by the way, we have not confirmed if this talent show is something actually planned by the camp, or something formulated in the minds of three six year-olds much like their previous plans to form a nationwide charity selling seashells, to fly into space together on a fuzzy carpet dressed as princesses, or to take over the government of this country and replace it with a well-trained team of puppies). At some point during the renouncing of their friendship with our daughter, my wife had to break in, sit the three of them down, and lecture them on the consequences of lying, on proper behavior amongst friends, and on how to pick on other kids without getting caught by an authority figure.

Yet by the time camp was over, the girls were literally begging to come home with my daughter and play at our house. So much for ostracizing. Thus an example of short-term memory underdevelopment. Sure, you might say it was actually an example of small children not holding a grudge. But no. I don't think so.

There are a multitude of other examples I can provide. Most have to do with performing cleanup of their playthings. Sure, when they pull out the giant box of building blocks they hear us and respond affirmatively when we say, "make sure to clean those up when you're done!" But before too long they've been distracted by the ice cream truck, and have forgotten their half-finished castle even exists.

Or, there's that moment during the bedtime ritual where they rush to the bathroom to brush their teeth, pee, and all that other stuff. As one makes her way to her bedroom we ask, "did you brush your teeth?" Usually the answer is no, because she was distracted by a shiny strand of dental floss hanging from the towel rack.

Compare this to a child's long term memory development, and there are obvious differences. About two months ago we drove by a mattress store and noticed it had burned to the ground. Virtually every day now, Jessica asks us, "Wemembuh that mattress store we saw yestuday? Why did it burn?" Obviously, it's been a life-changing event for her.

Jessica will also say on a regular basis, "wemembuh when Uncle Hillel took me in the pool yesterday? I had fun!" That was three YEARS ago.

Sometimes we play this short term memory loss to our advantage. If one asks, "daddy can you play blocks with us?" while I'm ensconced in, I dunno...blogging perhaps, I can say, "yup! Be there in two minutes". And within 30 seconds they've already moved on to crayons, forgetting that blocks exist." Of course, a week later I will hear, "daddy, you never played blocks with us yesterday," thus proving that long term memory will always take over and bite us in the rear.

Which reminds me...I promised Natalie I'd buy a goldfish for her. Hmm, that was a week ago. I'm thinking she'll mention it within the next few hours.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Jewish people and health care

My mother-in-law has been dealing with a tremendous number of health issues lately. My wife, being the only child, of course is involved in her issues on a minute by minute basis.

Today I overheard one side of a conversation (my wife's side) that reminded me of what I'm dealing with...a Jewish Mother and her daughter. She was on the phone with her mom, who was in the hospital being scheduled for some tests. The one portion of the conversation that I overheard went like this:

"...and what time do they take you for your tests? How long is the procedure supposed to be? And the doctor knows to contact me with the results? Pot roast. It's in the slow cooker."

Kena horah.