I’m more science geek than technology geek, but lately I’ve been doing my best — learning how to solder and code by building SparkFun kits along with my kids (6 and 8), first the WeevilEye, then Herbie the little mouse kit and now into the world of Arduino. (My daughter, Kestrel, bounces off furniture and people and walls as if she were the cue ball of a billiards trick shot, but she’ll sit and solder for a straight hour.) What this means is that instead of looking at soldering kits from the perspective of an electrical engineer who, I’m sure, sees these kits as simple teaching tools, I’m completely flabbergasted along with my kids when Herbie hits a wall and his electrical whiskers make the mouse turn. Wow! When we reach the great moment of flipping the switch to “on,” my armpits sweat.by
In 2010, astronomer and author Jeffrey Bennett answered a call from a number he didn’t recognize. The voice on the other end told him that astronaut Alvin Drew wanted to read one of Bennett’s books from space — Drew needed a pdf.
“It took some convincing to make me believe it wasn’t a prank,” Bennett said last week when we met for coffee in Boulder, CO.
On the other end of the phone that day was Patricia Tribe. She’d been Director of Education at Space Center Houston and was working to design science curriculum that would appeal to school districts that had their noses to the grindstone of literacy. Bennett’s books hit two birds with one stone: the engaging stories of Bennett’s Rottweiler, Max, can be read as animal adventures in space or appreciated for the very real science content that frames Max’s adventures.by
Dads, listen to me. The driver’s seat, it’s a mess. But life under the seat is more terrifying than anything we’ve got up here.
The mucor is always greenest, just after a three-week wait
You dream about pristine floor mats, but that is a big mistake
Just look at the world beneath you, right there in your kids’ back seat
Such wonderful things surround them. What’s this, oh it’s mystery meat!by
The other day I was piloting the after-activity transport shuttle and my 8-year-old, Leif, really, really had to pee. There wasn’t an easy pull-off and so I tried to explain that the irony of a boy named Leif peeing in the back seat of a car named Leaf would make the act of urinating in the back seat like crossing the streams in the movie Ghostbusters, which he has thus far been too frightened to watch and so maybe wasn’t the most effective analogy.by
Maybe you’ve seen this viral map of the states most and least prepared for the zombie apocalypse. Or maybe you’ve run across postings and repostings of this map detailing the best states for douchebags based on the percentage of males listing Facebook interests like Nicklelback, Monster Energy and Bluetooth. These maps and more including overlays of kale preference, Crossfit, and livability for hippies are the brain child of one man, Ryan Nickum, blogging for the real estate site Estately.by
In 2005, filmmaker Sean Hanish and his wife Kiley lost their son, Norbert, at 37 weeks into Kiley’s pregnancy. On Saturday, May 17 the movie Return To Zero starring Minnie Driver and Paul Adelstein tells their story of stillbirth and recovery (Lifetime 8/7c). The thing is, as awful as the topic certainly is, the movie is wonderfully written, beautifully filmed, and astoundingly acted (if Minnie doesn’t get an Emmy nod for her role, I don’t know what does). It’s even, dare I say, funny as hell in parts.by
I was at a party this weekend, a phrase that used to mean one thing and now means something else entirely. While my 7-year-old boy stared blissfully into the light breeze having his face painted by a classmate and his 5-year-old sister tried to catch his terrified friends and kill them with a badminton racket, I found myself chatting with a circle of dads. Of course, the topic turned to the zombie apocalypse.
The question was this: When the apocalypse comes, would you want you and your children to survive, only your children to survive, only you to survive, or everyone to go as quickly as possible in the first wave?
Greg was sure a quick death for all was the best possible end. He should know: his popular self-published book on how to retrofit a Sprinter van as an RV puts him in contact with a population of steampunk tinkerers who have looked the awful possibility of the apocalypse in the eye.
Scott recommended all or nothing – you and the kids both live or both die – citing the idea that if the kids survive, you’d want to be around to take care of them. But then again, Scott tends sponges for a living. Okay, he’s a Berkeley-trained PhD cellular biologist, but can you really trust the reasoning of a man who grows sponges?
Chris is a toymaker. He gave my offspring blowguns for their two-years-but-one-day-apart birthdays. He said that he would choose to live after the apocalypse but wished a quick end for his kids. His reasoning is that the post-apocalypse world would suck, but that as an adult he was equipped to handle it emotionally and physically in a way that would destroy the souls of children. Then again, he gave my kids blowguns, for frick’s sake. And now my dogs are nervous.
My knee-jerk answer was for the kids to survive but for me to sacrifice my own tragically limited grey matter by taking a dive off the highest, nearest cliff to Boulder, CO as soon as the zombie horde passed critical mass. It was knee-jerk because: can you imagine wishing for the death of your kids in any circumstance? But on second thought, maybe leaving them the responsibility of continuing the human race amid certain awfulness is selfish?
I imagine there are existential, metaphysical, technical, and moral implications beyond my grasp. Can we please come to a reasoned conclusion on this important issue?by
Gary Larson tapped into the universal absurd. Charles Schulz helped us identify with the underdog in us all. And Bill Watterson accurately represented a father’s profound and boundless knowledge of the universe, as in Calvin’s dad’s explanation that ice floats because, “It’s cold. Ice wants to get warm, so it goes to the top of liquids in order to be nearer the sun.” Or his explanation of relativity: “It’s because you keep changing time zones. See, if you fly to California you gain three hours on a five-hour flight, right?”
Again, and in the words of another cartoon sage, “It’s funny because it’s true.” How true? Well, THIS shows that preschool-aged children blindly accept adults’ explanations of things without considering how the claims match real-world evidence. So Calvin’s dad is scientifically copacetic: as we see in the comic, six-year-old Calvin is just starting to tentatively doubt his dad’s explanations that, for example, a bridge’s weight limit is determined by, “Driving bigger and bigger trucks over the bridge until it breaks. Then they weigh the last truck and rebuild the bridge.
So will kids younger than Calvins believe anything we tell them? When we wag our parental mouthparts in a preschooler’s general direction, does the content matter? A study on early view at the journal Child Development says yes, and the implications for how kids use parents as guides through the purgatory of questionable information goes far beyond cartoons.by
New Kind of Reward Leads to Intrinsic Motivation (Or “How to Trick a Child Into Playing the Violin”)
I would like for my son, Leif, to play the violin. I’m a serious ex music geek and so in addition to pegging me as an abhorrent tiger parent intent on thrusting my offspring into the one-percent where they can be hedge fund managers and own things like furniture coasters, I also happen to think that music is an enriching skill that adds depth to a life well lived.
That’s beside the point.
The real point is this: in this age of Candy Crush and YouTube fail compilations, how can I encourage my 7yo to stick with his violin teacher’s insistence on months spent perfecting the perfect hand and bow position? I know one thing: the second I add my own insistence to the teacher’s the jig is up. Leif has to want to play or he simply won’t. My second instinct is to incentivize practice with Candy Crush and (be still his pop-culture-deprived little beating heart!) maybe even a pre-screened YouTube fail compilation that happens to be without swearing skateboarders and bikini-clad college girls falling off rope swings.by