Posted by: cordy74 | September 21, 2010

You want fries and a ball-gag with that?

We happen to think our 5-year-old daughter is a pretty smart cookie. Honestly, we think both of our kids are very bright but this story mostly concerns the Girl.

She has been able to read since she was 3 years old and reading whole books by herself since she was about 3 and a half.  That made it a lot easier on us. We had a little more time we could devote to caring for the Boy when we could plop the Girl down with a book and not have to actually read it to her.  Don’t get me wrong. We still read books with her whenever she wants; we just don’t have to do it constantly any more.  She will now read just about anything and everything that we leave lying around the house. A couple of weeks ago she was flipping through the Haynes repair manual for my truck. When I asked her to read part of it to me she was able to do it with almost no hesitation and even properly pronounced the words she did not know.

Now that she is a little older and has a great many books under her belt her spelling is getting better and better. It is getting to the point that we can no longer have surreptitious conversations right in front of her by spelling key words instead of just saying them.  It doesn’t do us any good because she can spell most of the word we are trying to sneak past her. Our situation has gotten to the point that we have to try to disguise the topic of conversations using long, convoluted sentences and large, obscure words.  Yeah, that’s not working out too well for us either.

One trick that seemed to work for a little while was to make acronyms of the words or phrases we were trying to slip by. Instead if saying “granola bars”, which were one of her favorite snacks, we would say “GB”. “Goldfish” turned into “GF” and “ice cream” became “IC”. Obviously once her spelling abilities really kicked in she could tell exactly what we were referring to with the acronyms. There was an upside to the situation, though.

Now that our son is learning the fine art of speech and communication we are using the same tricks on him. The Girl is doing her best to help.  She will spell out the words of items she wants to talk about but doesn’t want the Boy getting all riled up when he hears them.  She has also realized the simplicity, efficiency and speed of acronyms and will use them even when it is not entirely necessary.

This evening we did not really have anything planned for dinner. Especially after the restless sleep we all seemed to have last night we did not want to go to any great lengths and dirty up a lot of dishes to concoct a meal. My wife had a hankering for Chef Boy-R-Dee spaghetti and meatballs and the kids and I decided to cook up some frozen chicken nuggets and fries in the oven.

As my wife was heating up her meal in the microwave our daughter walked over, glanced at the can and asked, “Mommy, are we having S&M for dinner?” Luckily it didn’t occur to me to look around and say, “I’m sorry, honey, but I don’t think we have any whipped cream left.” Needless to say, we had a pretty good laugh over that one. I hope your sadomasochistic evening was as full of good food and bondage as ours was.

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Posted by: cordy74 | March 30, 2010

A Wig By Any Other Name…

You know how when you were a kid, or if you have kids, there are some things that just seemed magical: Santa Claus, movie special effects, the Tooth Fairy….  When the magic was explained away from some of these you may have been somewhat disappointed.  Even though you may have suspected Santa and the Tooth Fairy didn’t really exist that revelation left its mark.  Most likely you want to make that magic last as long as possible for your own kids.  I know I do.  Remember that feeling you had when the magic of something was taken away from you. Take a moment.  Really remember it.  Okay.  If you keep reading this you will definitely NOT feel that way.  I’m not taking away any magic.  I’m not revealing anything fantastic. If anything you are in danger of losing a little of whatever innocence you have left. Maybe even just a little bit of your soul.  You’ve been warned.

Merkin. It’s a funny word. It may even be a word you’ve never heard before. Even if you have heard it before you probably don’t know what it means. It’s an old word; a word which first came into use in the early 1600s. Merkin. Give it a try. See how it just rolls off your tongue (that’ll be more funny here in just a second – keep reading).

From the research I have done I can give you a pretty good idea of what vacuum in our society the merkin fills (again, some good stuff here – you’ll get it in a minute). The merkin’s uses are manifold. Primarily, though, the merkin is a prosthetic hair device. Don’t make the mistake of calling it a wig. Or a toupee. It is not to be used on the head. Unless you want a mohawk, I guess.

The merkin is meant to be used as simulated pubic hair. According to my internet searches most merkins are marketed towards use by females. I guess there is quite the market for them in the film industry. By “film” I don’t mean “porno”. In an era when most of the women in the porno industry operate under the scorched earth doctrine there is no need for a merkin. The “legitimate” film industry, on the other hand, has great need of merkins due to those same waxing trends… And the MPAA rating system.

Current film ratings are somewhat dependent upon the amount of nudity shown in the released version of movies. It should go without saying that the less nudity in the film the more mild the rating and vice versa. In order to maintain a more mild rating the actresses who are performing fully nude (for artistic purposes, of course) are required to wear merkins. It seems the merkin suffices as enough of a cover that these scenes are not actually considered fully nude. This being said, merkins may be used on the set with women who may or may not have waxed but do not want their names associated with full nudity. Otherwise the merkin is used to preserve the temporal continuity of a film. For example, a film set in the sixties or seventies would most likely require the actresses to wear merkins.

Most recently Kate Winslet was quoted as saying the powers-that-be behind her film “The Reader” (set in the 1950s) were concerned about her ability to appear as if she belonged in that period after years of extreme landscaping and were at the ready with a merkin. Winslet then went on to surprise everyone with her “comeback” in that “area”, if you know what I mean. Kate Winslet brings me full circle on this topic since she is the reason I am even writing this. Today at work she was mentioned by one of my co-workers. It was at this point that I had to spread my knowledge of merkins and their part, or lack thereof, in her film “The Reader”.

Now is the time when I should probably say that I’m a big Kate Winslet fan. She’s a very attractive woman but she is also a very good actress. Forget “Titanic” (although I am intrigued since hearing that James Cameron is considering releasing a 3D version of it back into theaters…VERY intrigued). Watch her in “The Life of David Gale”. She’s great in that one and she doesn’t even get nekkid… I don’t think she does, anyway.  We’ve wandered off track. Back to merkins.

Another quick Google search revealed that you can buy merkins online for around $40. There wasn’t a big selection so I’m not sure what kind of quality you are getting for $40.  Caveat emptor.  A further search revealed several song names which included the word “merkin”.  I even found evidence of a garage band called “The Purple Merkins” who put out at least one CD which they named “Merkinmania”.  I’m still trying to track down at least an audio clip from the Merkins to see what kind of music they played.

I know this one kind of rambled on a bit but it seemed pretty funny to me earlier. Hopefully I’ve enlightened some of you (and not disgusted the rest). I am constantly amazed at how little I really know about the film industry. My research of the merkin brought to light at least one of the many intricacies of the rating system. Who knew that simulated pubic hair would allow a movie to maintain a rating that would be lower than if real pubic hair were revealed? Not me. Next time you’re watching a film with nudity in it just ask yourself, “Is that real, or is it a merkin?”

Until next time let me leave you with a couple of nuggets:

Don’t get your merkin in a bunch. (that’s gotta be worse than a wedgie)

Don’t leave your merkin twisting in the wind. (you’re gonna need to apply more glue)

Hang on to your merkin, it’s gonna be a rough ride. (…..no comment…)

Dammit, Jim! I’m a doctor not a merkin-fitter! (I wonder if there’s a merkin-fitter’s union – kinda like the pipefitter’s union?)

Do they sell these things on the merkin-tile exchange? (personal favorite. I’m quite proud of this one)

Do you know the Merkin Man, the Merkin Man, the Merkin Man? (children should not be exposed to this)

Posted by: cordy74 | March 20, 2010

It Went “Zip” When It Moved…

Did you ever get a toy for Christmas that was nothing you had asked for, yet provided you many hours of enjoyment and entertainment? This toy may not have been the biggest one you got that year but it inevitably left a lasting impression. Recently, while listening to The Atomic Geeks podcast episode 46 (their first Christmas podcast), I started to think about some of the toys from my childhood. After a few minutes I thought of three toys that really left their marks on me (emotionally, not physically).

The first toy to come to mind was the Mighty Men & Monster Maker. I’m not going to try to re-hash the information that is already available elsewhere on this one; check out the link for a pretty good explanation of how the Monster Maker worked.

I remember playing with this thing for HOURS. For a kid who couldn’t draw a recognizable humanoid to save his life the Monster Maker was a godsend.  As I remember it, the Monster Maker gave me the tools to build the primary character in a drawing.  It was then my job to fill in the background in any fashion I chose, telling an epic story with one picture.  I enjoyed playing with it so much that I may have to look for either another one of these or the girl’s analogue, Fashion Plates, for my children.

Air Jammer Road RammerThe next unexpected, albeit much appreciated, toy to pop up from my memories was the Air Jammer Road Rammer. My cousin and I both got these on the same Christmas and I remember spending most of that afternoon racing them up and down the sidewalk behind my grandparents’ house. We could barely be bothered to come inside for lunch or to open the rest of our presents from extended family members.

The Air Jammer was a car with a built-in air tank and a separate air pump. You used the pump to pressurize the tank on the car. The air would then bleed out of the tank through the piston-powered “engine”, turning the wheels and driving the car. In retrospect I’m not certain about why this toy stood out so much in my memories. It wasn’t remote-controlled. Once you set it off it would only travel as far as the air in the tank lasted. Maybe it was the fact that I knew the batteries would never run low and the fun would last as long as you could pump air into it.

Finally we come to the whole reason for this post: The Marvelous Toy!! Unfortunately this is also the point at which I need your help. Yes. You, the reader, are going to help me. How, you ask? You are going to help me identify the third toy that made such an imprint on my memories. I remember loving this toy and spending countless hours playing with it but I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what this thing was called or find any trace of it on the internet. Let me tell you a little about it…

The purpose of The Marvelous Toy was nothing more than to make strange science fiction-esque noises. This thing was like a modern-day Theremin that required you to adjust the sounds using the controls instead of just waving your hands around it. You could use the various dials and buttons to tweak and adjust the noises it made until you had just the right sound to use as a laser gun, lightsabre, spaceship engine or whatever else your little redheaded, nerdling heart desired.

The Mysterious, Marvelous ToyDescribing the physical appearance of The Toy is kind of difficult. I remember having a lot of fun with it but just can’t form a solid picture of it in my head. I know it had a volume dial. It also had one or two other dials with which you could change the tone of the sound and the frequency with which the sound would oscillate up and down (giving you a cool OOOOOOOOO-EEEEEEEEEEE-OOOOOOOOOO-EEEEEEEEEE effect). I’m pretty sure it had some switches or buttons that did some other stuff as well. There you go: blue & orange plastic device with dials, buttons and a speaker. Oh, yeah! It was also a rectangular box-shape probably between twelve and eighteen inches long and somewhere about four inches wide and tall. I even went to the trouble of spending five minutes creating a detailed sketch of how I remember the Marvelous Toy (click the sketch to see a larger version).

Please keep in mind that I could be COMPLETELY wrong about how this thing looked.  There may not have been any slider switches or there may have been one or three dials. The stinkin’ thing might not even have been blue for all I know!

Now, can anyone tell me who made it or what it was called? Please feel free to comment on this post if you have ANY information at all on what this toy might have been.  Better yet, email me or post a comment here with the actual name of the toy, a picture or a link to some information on the internet.

Aside from the self-serving purpose of this post to have someone tell me what The Marvelous Toy was called I’d like to think of this as sort of low-tech approach to cloud computing. Instead of relying on computers to supply the data for this little project I’m relying on people. Someone out there on the internet, in the twitterverse or on Facebook is going to read this and know exactly what toy I’m talking about. I just need you readers to spread the word about this post. Email a link to this post to all your friends. Re-tweet it on twitter. Re-post it on Facebook. Do anything you have to do to get the word out there. Obviously, the more people who read this the better my chances of someone coming up with the answer I need.

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Posted by: cordy74 | March 14, 2010

Schrödinger’s Cat In A Dish Network Box

I like television. I like to be able to watch many channels. I do not like it when my television does not work. We have Dish Network satellite television service. Recently our Dish Network box began to have some problems. I think there might be a cat in our Dish Network box. Upon calling Dish Network on Wednesday we were told the replacement box would not arrive until the following Monday. Thus began my thought experiments concerning the Dish Network box.

The problem with the box was that it would randomly decide to turn itself off and would then become locked in a reboot cycle loop whose end counter was a random number. The box might come back on after a single reboot or it might reboot for several hours without coming back to normal function. Unplugging the box for a while sometimes helped. As time went on, however, the trick of unplugging it and then plugging it back in seemed to become less effective.

With mounting frustration due to the inability to entertain our children with the slew of semi-educational programming they had come to love so much my wife made the comment on Sunday night that “it only works when we’re not looking at it.” Upon hearing this the first thought that came to my mind was that our Dish Network box behaved like the Invisible Boy’s powers in the movie “Mystery Men.” It’s a great movie. If you’ve never seen it I suggest you watch it. If you have watched it I suggest you watch it again.

The Invisible Boy’s power was, quite obviously, to turn invisible. You could have figured that one out for yourself. What you don’t know unless you’ve seen the movie is he can only become invisible when no one is watching him and can only stay invisible as long as no one looks at him. It sounds a little strange and useless at first but he puts it to very good effect in the movie. I’ve always wondered on what principle a power like that would work. What always came to mind was Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and ­Schrödinger’s Cat-In-A-Box thought experiment. For those of you not in “the know” let me try to break it down as I understand it.

The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle states that we change the outcome of an experiment simply by our observation of that experiment. You can kind of think of it as imagining that the outcome of a coin toss could have been vastly different if you had not actually watched the coin get tossed or observed how it landed. Well, as vastly different an outcome as a coin toss can get since it realistically can only come out one of two ways. Let’s not even get into a discussion concerning whether or not you can be sure the coin even landed if you did not observe it in any fashion.  It’s not a tree.  This isn’t a forest.  You get the picture.

­Schrödinger’s Cat is the famous thought experiment wherein you imagine a cat in a sealed box. Inside the box is also a poison that has a 50% chance of being released within an hour. Without being able to observe the cat you don’t know for certain whether or not the cat is still alive after the hour has ended. Essentially you have to conclude that the cat is both dead and alive until you open the box and complete the observation. Once you’ve opened the box and have seen what state the cat is in you have eliminated the opposite state. By simply observing the cat you have affected the outcome. Now back to the Invisible Boy.

Since he can only turn invisible when no one is watching him it seems that the Boy’s powers also rely on the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. He can remain invisible if he wishes until someone observes him, at which time they affect the outcome and he becomes visible again.Triggered by my wife’s statement, I believe our Dish Network box is also operating on this Principle.

You can plug it in and listen to the fan start to run. It has power and you know it could be operating normally but until you turn on the television and observe it’s state the box is operating under an Uncertainty duality. It can be considered to be both operating normally and malfunctioning at the same time.  Unfortunately, as I stated earlier, the outcome of our observances has more and more frequently revealed that the box is not operating normally. Maybe if we would stop observing it the box would start behaving normally again.  That just blew your mind like it did mine, didn’t it?

I could blame Dish Network for giving us inferior equipment and not being able to send a replacement in a timely manner but I think I’ll go ahead and blame a couple of physicists who have been dead for around 40 years.

Finally, Werner Heisenberg and Erwin Schrödinger are probably spinning in their graves due to my complete butchery of some of their greatest works. Of course, we’ll never actually know whether or not they are spinning unless we dig them up at which point we will have observed them and affected the outcome of this little thought experiment. I prefer to think of them as simultaneously existing in both the spinning and non-spinning states.

Who needs a cat when you’ve got dead physicists?

Posted by: cordy74 | December 3, 2009

Black Friday 2K9 Part 1

Every year I do it. Every year something about it makes me angry and frustrated. Every year I swear I’m not going to do it again. It’s Black Friday. If you don’t know what Black Friday is I’m certainly not going to explain it here.  Crawl out of your hole, buy a computer or turn on a TV and pay attention.

It happened again this year.  I went out and got mad.  The difference between this year and any other year, though, was the fact that I almost didn’t have to go out and be part of the mass hysteria thanks to my wife, the Bargain Queen (known in some circles as WickedSteppMom).

We were on the lookout for two big items this year:  a LCD TV and a Wii.  The only real problem being that the TV we had our eye on just happened to go on sale at the same time as the Wii – in a completely different store.  Having experienced Black Friday in Lexington, Kentucky I knew that there was very little chance I would be able to snag both the TV and the Wii on Black Friday.  With all of the shoppers around here on Black Friday there was a good chance I wouldn’t be able to get either item.  I was weighing our options and trying to plot out a strategy when the Bargain Queen stepped in and saved the day.

She found an equivalent TV on Walmart.com a few days before Black Friday and, with her unique bargain-hunting abilities, was able to purchase the TV and have it shipped to our house for about $10 more than we would have paid at the store.  Problem solved.  Now we could focus on getting the Wii at Meijer on Friday for $199 with a $50 Meijer gift card, effectively making the Wii $150.

The Bargain Queen’s next step was to scour eBay for Wii systems.  Low and behold, she found one up for sale that included three controllers, two nunchucks, about seven games and a case for the Wii.  To make a long story short:  the Bargain Queen ended up winning the auction for right around what you would pay for a new Wii console alone plus tax.  There went the other big reason for me to get up early on Friday.  I was almost a little disappointed so I started scouring the ads again trying to find a reason to get out of bed early and join the Black Friday madness.

Earlier that week we learned that Meijer was also having a Thanksgiving Day sale starting at 6am.  One of the items included in the sale was a Wii Fit with the balance board for $45 which was half the normal price.  That was a good enough deal for me to drive up to Lexington on Thanksgiving morning.  I set my alarm, got up and got to Meijer at about 5:10am which was just early enough for me to join the line for Electronics that stretched from the back of the store to the front registers.

As soon as I saw the line I figured my chances of getting the Wii Fit were pretty low but gave it my best shot anyway.  One thing I have learned is to never just join in the back of a line without verifying it is the line you want.  I walked all the way back to Electronics and asked one of the workers behind the tape (they had the whole department cordoned off as if it were a crime scene) if the line to the front of the store was the only line for the sale.  After he told me it was I made sure to let him know what item I was after.  He reiterated that the line to the front was the ONLY line.  I took him at his word and traveled back up and assumed my place in line.

They say “waiting is the hardest part.”  That all depends on the people with whom you are waiting.  This was not a fun line in which to wait.  There wasn’t a lot of chatter and people were mostly keeping to themselves.  I tried passing the time sending messages to Twitter and texting back and forth with my friend, Bob, who was waiting in a line consisting of one person in front of the coffee pot in his own kitchen.  I only had to wait until about 5:50am; then things started to happen.

I noticed several people leaving the line and heading through the aisles to our left toward the far wall of the store.  I called out to one of them, who happened to be just in front of me in the line, and asked where he was going.  He replied that there was apparently a separate line over against the wall for people who wanted the video games and video game accessories.  Swearing under my breath and breaking my own rule to never join a line whose purpose you haven’t verified I darted down the aisle after him.  Upon emerging from the end of the aisle I spotted a shorter line near the back of the store and joined it.

After just a few more minutes the line began moving.  The closer to the back of the store we got the higher my anticipation mounted.  This line was much shorter than the other one.  I was sure my chances of getting the Wii fit were better than they had been just a few minutes ago.  I was sure of this until, with just five people in front of me, the Meijer employee announced they had just run out of the Wii Fits. I went from anticipatory to pissed in the blink of an eye.

I won’t go into my “interaction” with the Meijer employee or her manager.  At least I didn’t swear at or hit anyone.  That being said, would it hurt any of these stores to put just a little bit of effort into making things run a little more smoothly or efficiently on these big sale days?  I wouldn’t have been nearly as irritated had Meijer told one of their employees to walk up the line every five or ten minutes and announce that there was a second line for certain items.  Sure, I would probably still have been far enough back in line that I wouldn’t have gotten what I was after anyway.  But at least I wouldn’t have felt like I got screwed out of my chance.  Congratulations, Meijer, you just made The List.  Sure, it’s a long list and there is zero chance of me ever acting on it, but the principle is there.

You know what?  That’s enough for this post.  They always say you should leave your audience wanting more.  Stay tuned and if you are lucky you get to read all about the rest of my Black Friday exploits including an ambulance at Walmart and a vet who claimed being inside Walmart when their sales started gave him the shakes worse than anything he saw during his tour of duty.

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