Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Spongebob Science

When I'm looking for a fascinating show on science, I tend to shy away from classics such as NOVA, Mythbusters, or Bill Nye The Science Guy. No, for truly interesting demonstrations of science, I go to Spongebob.

Think about it for a second. In a simple half hour of animated wonder, you can discover fascinating creatures such as a squirrel that can wear SCUBA gear. Or a sponge that makes its home in a rare breed of pineapple that grows at the bottom of the ocean. And even more importantly, it's a land where fire can actually burn under water. Now THIS is science that our kids need to know. Thank god the show is on 24/7. I've told my kids in no uncertain terms that, if they want to be brilliant geniuses when they grow up and solve all the world's problems, they need to pay close attention to each and every fact-filled episode of that amorphous, yellow, porous demonstration of science at its finest and not miss a single moment. Even if it means watching the same episodes over and over again until all the knowledge has sunk in.

They seemed to be taking my advice to heart.

Okay don't get me wrong. Spongebob Squarepants is a brilliant show. Where else can you find a crab that apparently provides foodstuffs made of his own flesh and blood, a pet snail that meows like a cat, or a tiny plankton with dreams of conquering the burger industry? And Patrick? God, I love Patrick.

However, the one thing about the show that really gets my bunches in knots is the fact that simple scientific principles of underwater living are ignored during the writing process. I'm no scientist, nor am I a professional screen writer, but every time I watch the show I notice that approximately fifteen seconds into each episode, the writers fail to remember that their characters are sea creatures.

Here are some simple examples:

1. Spongebob is a professional bubble-blower. He blows fantastically complex bubbles. Under water.

2. In virtually every episode, a character falls to the ground in some sort of classic Wile-E-Coyote way. As opposed to taking advantage of, say, buoyancy.

3. Flames.

4. In at least one episode the gang hangs out at the beach, by a body of water. Forgetting they are IN a body of water.

I think the moment where I'd finally had enough of this was during an episode where Patrick somehow manages to form an intensely strong sense of smell. Sandy the squirrel walked past Patrick, and he held his nose because Sandy had a bit of a foul stench of wet squirrel to her tail, which was sticking out the back of her airtight scuba suit. Patrick proceeded to spray her down with air freshener, and she coughed and choked from the spray. So let's list what's wrong here. Sandy has an airtight suit on, but her tail sticks out. Her tail is fluffy and bushy, not wet and matted. Patrick sprays her with air freshener while she's wearing an airtight suit, yet she coughs and chokes at the fumes. Come on, people, we're better than this!

When I watch Spongebob, I can't help but feel the same way as when I watch a Bond flick, wanting to yell at the villian, "just stop talking and shoot Bond already! Forget the laser to his crotch! Likewise while watching Spongebob, I can't help but shout, "Float you idiot, float!"

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday cheer for the morning

A classic from last year. Straight No Chaser doing 12 Days of Xmas...sort of...

And A Charlie Brown Christmas, performed by the cast of Scrubs:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Status update: The festering Craphole (day 73)

Believe it or not I've made significant progress on our little bathroom renovation, and today was quite the banner day. This afternoon's efforts consisted of wainscoting, painting, and only two trips to Home Depot.

As is usually the case with us, the design of this room as evolved somewhat organically. Unlike those HGTV design shows, where the hottie designer of the week presents his or her client with a to-scale 3D color drawing of the entire redo, we've been sort of winging it. We knew we wanted something in the way of an oceanic theme. I knew I was going to do wainscoting on the walls, primarily because I didn't want to have to deal with patching the numerous holes. So we decided to delve into the world of faux finishes, painting the upper half of the walls in sort of an ocean blue. After finding and installing a floor tile that looked sort of like sand, we then had to decide what color make the wainscoting. Despite our daughters' pleas to make it seaweed green, we went against the theme and painted it a simple warm beige. We told the kids to imagine a sand dune.

By the way, if anyone can offer up the steering wheel from a sailing ship, we'll gladly take it off your hands to use as a towel rack.

Then came time to figure out what to do about a sink. Before we embarked on this project, I had envisioned a pedestal sink. However, I have never installed a pedestal sink, so at the last minute I wimped out and decided to put a typical vanity cabinet in. Went to Home Depot, decided on something, brought it home, lugged it upstairs, unboxed it , slid it into place, and promptly reversed the process after realizing how ugly it looked. So, we're back to the pedestal idea. Oh well, I can read directions I guess. And on the bright side, a pedestal sink means less surface area to collect toothpaste spittle.

A note about tiling a bathroom floor. I've determined that I could make a lot of money inventing something to easily cut that round hole for the toilet drain. currently the process involves a miter saw with a carbide bit (because I was too cheap to rent a wetsaw to cut 6 tiles), which effectively cuts the tiles but creates a ton of sparks and makes the house smell like a machine shop for a week. Then, you take a pair of "nibblers", which are essentially pliers used to break little pieces of tile off until you get the right shape, hopefully without shattering the tile in the process. After three hours of nibbling and two failed attempts resulting in shattered tiles, I had a reasonably carved circle...and a hand that was no longer able to grip objects for two days.

Here's the progress so far. If you zoom in on the second picture you'll notice artwork on the lower half of the walls done by a certain 5-year-old. She specifically asked if I could install the wainscoting AROUND her artwork so it wouldn't be covered.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Frustration-Free Packaging

God bless you, Amazon...you heard our pleas.

I've written over the years (as has a multitude of others, about the evils of childrens' toy packaging and the frustration and waste involved. Well hallelujah, Amazon has finally seen the light. they are now offering something called "Frustration-Free Packaging" for many of their childrens' toys. They work with the manufacturers (such as Fisher-Price, the kings of the wire-tied playthings) to sell the same packages you see in the plastic display boxes, but in simpler non-display shipping boxes. Pop open the box, slide it out, and little jimmy can be jamming his Millennium Falcon into Hyperdrive before dad's had the chance to find his wire cutters. It's a great day.

Holy crap, did I really write that original post in 2005???

The "I don't get kids" files, chapter 947

Lunchtime today started of in a typical fashion. Our 8-year-old, when asked what she wanted for lunch, of course requested pasta. She always requests pasta. If given the opportunity to construct her own food pyramid, it would list spaghetti at the top, wish various forms of penne, linguine, and elbows taking up the "grains" slot, ravioli in the meat and dairy slot, and of course tomato sauce in the fruits and veggies. As an alternative, we suggested trying a can of wedding soup, explaining that it was chicken soup with pasta and meatballs in it. What could possibly be bad about that, right? She agreed, so on went the stove. Five minutes later, when a bowl of piping hot wedding soup was placed in front of her, she feigned stomach poisoning and exclaimed that this isn't what she really wanted, and no one ever listens to her, and the rest of us get to eat whatever we want but she's forced to eat nothing but gruel all day long. When we pointed out that she hadn't even tried the soup yet, she begrudgingly allowed the spoon to touch the outside of her lips, slumped back in her chair, and whimpered that it "isn't the best in the world" and thus refused to eat it.

Okay, that's one end of the spectrum. Our five-year-old decided to explore the other end.

Take a look at the picture below.

Notice, next to the "reduced fat" label on the box of Ritz Crackers, is a concoction somewhat resembling Bruchetta: a cracker, topped with tomato, fresh basil, mozzarella, and perhaps a little pepper. Jessica declared that THIS is what she wanted for lunch.


After looking at the box, she INSISTED that this was not a slice of mozzarella but rather a slice of BANANA. And the little black spots? Raisins. We replied with, "so you want a cracker with tomato, lettuce, a banana, and raisins?"

"Yes, that's what I want."

So as you can see, we made it.

And she loved it.

I just don't get these two.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Wakeup calls

Our children may be getting on in years, but one thing has stuck with them since their days of infancy. They can regularly wake us up in the middle of the night for no good frickin' reason. With Jessica, our 5-year-old, it's usually either a bad dream or an environmental issue. Here's how the dream sequence goes:

"Ahhhh.....!!! Mommmmyyyyy!!!!

(Mommy leaps out of bed and dashes down the hall. Dad pretends he slept through the racket with a classic roll-and-grunt maneuver)

"What is it honey?" Mommy comes to a stop in front of daughter's bed, her heart pounding through her chest.

"Mommy, I had a bad dream!"

"Well, tell me about it."

"Um. Um. Zeebee Zee (her stuffed zebra), um, she was eating a carrot."


"That's all."

For example of an environmental issue, let's discuss missing socks. About once a week she will wake us because one of the socks she had on her feet has slipped off during the night and disappeared into the depths of her covers. This, understandably, is a situation requiring severe panic.

"Waaaahhhh! Moooooooom!!!!!"

"What is it honey?" Mommy comes to a stop in front of daughter's bed, heart pounding as before.


"Are your feet cold?"


"Do you need the sock right now?"

"YES! It's my fuzzy sock!"

Mommy then proceeds to strip the bed entirely, only to have Jessica inform her that, oh wait, she didn't wear socks to bed tonight.

If the younger chooses not to wake us on any given night, chances are good the elder sibling will. Usually she knows enough that mom will be PISSED if she's woken up yet again, so she will stealthily tiptoe into our room, put her nose to my nose, and lightly clear her throat. The end result is usually the launching of her father into the ceiling fan. This typically happens on Saturday mornings, the one day dad gets to sleep in a little. We repeatedly tell her how, back in our day, weekends were for sneaking downstairs and watching cartoons all morning without waking the parents. That hasn't sunk in yet.

"Echem. Dad"?

"Holy crap WHAT WHAT WHAT!!!??"

"I got myself dressed. Can I go downstairs?"

"Ask me again and I sell you to an Albanian slave labor camp."

"So that's a yes?"

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Sure I was born a few miles from ESPN, but....

I'm a sports moron. And anyone who knows me is aware of this fact. Ask me who won the game last night, and I will answer with the final score after my daughter beat me in Scrabble. As a general rule of thumb, if there's a sporting event held on a weekly basis and shown on TV, I have no clue that it's happening. I can't tell you who the Giants played last week. I heard the Phillies won the" series last season, but never saw a single game. I have no idea what it means to be in the pocket", what A-Rod's real name is, or what the hell NASCAR stands for.

And I just don't care.

Sure, this got me beaten up regularly in school. I think my parents tried to help me out a bit by suggesting I join the golf team in high school, but that seemed to just get me beaten up more severely. And these days, during lunch at the office when the guys start bitching about the latest draft pick, I tend to focus a little more closely on my Chunky Soup in hopes no one calls on me for an opinion. I like to think that all the brain power spent memorizing RBI's and batting averages from the pages of Sports Illustrated could be better spent on more productive pursuits, like how to most efficiently utilize the extra space in the kitchen pantry the next time the wife finds a sale on couscous.

Over the years, however, I have realized that it takes a little bit of effort on my part to not be considered entirely socially inept. As the saying goes, "when in Rome, watch the game." 15 years of living in Pittsburgh has made me painfully aware that there is really only one sport I need to follow in order to be accepted by my neighbors. That sport, of course, is football. And to make it a little easier, it's only important to know about the Pittsburgh Steelers. So, on any given Sunday (heh, how's that for a sports reference?), I will turn the Steelers game on in the background while I rearrange my sock drawer. I might even glance at the TV once in a while.

But watching the game is a recent change in my habits. I remember back when my wife and I were still dating, she and I went to a restaurant for dinner and ended up waiting at the bar for our table. A townie sitting next to me said something to the affect of, "Ey man, y'inz see that game last night n'at?" I turned to him, gave him a smile, and proceeded to provide the guy with complete details of the game from the night before, right down to how I thought the quarterback's passing game was slightly off, and that the wide receiver should never have dropped that pass from the 30. He patted me on the back with a "ubetcha" sort of comment, and then we were off to our table. Hilary stared at me, fully aware of my disinterest in commercial sports, and wondering how on earth I knew what to say to this man. "Easy," I told her. "Every morning I listen to news radio on the way into work, and pay attention to the morning sports report for exactly this reason. Same reason we keep a fire extinguisher in the house...to use in case of emergency." I believe Hilary gave me the same look that Linda Kozlowski gave Paul Hogan in Crocodile Dundee when he fought off muggers with the classic line, "That's not a knife....THIS is a knife."

Many of my friends are aware of my sporting deficit. My high school buddies, who keep me on their discussion emails each day after a game just to see what stupid comment I can come up with, felt it incredibly pathetic that I only own one piece of sporting apparel, a black mock-T with a Baltimore Ravens logo on it which I got as a gag gift (there's a strange rivalry between fans of the Steelers and fans of the Ravens, and according to the county charter all Ravens fans should be put to death immediately). I didn't get the joke. So one of my buddies actually bought and mailed me a Troy Palamalu jersey. Cool. I loved that Muppets sketch.