Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Who's on First?

Last night at dinner George the Younger and I had one of those conversations where two people are talking - seemingly about the same subject - and yet in the end both are confused about what the other is talking about. George the Younger and I were "discussing" what he was going to be doing for the "special project" part of his upcoming Proteus Project. By the middle of the conversation, George the Elder was sitting across the table sniggering loudly and shaking his head. He was the only observer that saw that both George the Younger and I were not having an actual "conversation" in the true sense of the word. Henry was there, but he was languishing in self-pity after being made to eat a salad consisting of three small torn lettuce leaves and seven bean sprouts. Said differently, he wasn't really listening, he was immersed in staring at the salad as if it were going to take him years to choke it down. Poor pitiful him.

George the Younger and my sideways dialogue led to a discussion about the old Abbot and Costello "Who's on First" comedy routine from 1938. (As a bit of trivia, I have come to find out that while it is most commonly remembered as a skit from a movie in 1945, the routine was developed much earlier in 1938. They paid a comedy writer about $15 for it. Those were the days.) Turns out, not surprisingly, that the boys had never seen nor heard about this little snippet of Americana.

So as dinner was wrapping up and both George the Elder and I were doing what we usually do - which is to continually ask (yell/cajole/command/threaten) the boys to "SIT DOWN AND FINISH YOUR DINNER FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!" - we grabbed the laptop to introduce the boys to Abbot and Costello. As the photo illustrates, the comedic patter continues to induce the same hilarity these 80 odd years later. They both thought it was hysterical! There are a couple of other photos showing George the Younger yucking it up so much that his open guffawing mouth looks like a 747 could land in it.

And so, for those of you wishing to take a little stroll down memory lane or introduce you own young whipper-snappers to the brilliant schtick of old vaudevillians, here is the YouTube link to "Who's on First" as it was presented in the 1945 film "The Naughty Nineties" It's a classic. Yuck it up. Go ahead....


Friday, April 24, 2009

He Pitches. He Catches.

He aims...

He winds...

He throws..

The ball is hit to the Third Baseman (who obviously is NOT trusted to catch it by the pitcher who leaves his mound and scurries backwards to "cover")

He catches and the batter is OUT!! (and so is the third baseman)

Lecture by George the Elder follows regarding having some faith in your fellow team members...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Phun with Phones

Nearly everyone I know has a cell phone. I have one. I also use it as our "land line." I get far less calls asking me to buy carpet or update my visa on this phone. I secretly have a land line - - I just don't tell anyone the number. Henry uses it to call me in the car while I am being the "bus" in the afternoon. Only he knows the number. I turn it off when he doesn't need it as a lifeline "just in case".

The thing about cell phones (or any phone for that matter) and me is that I take advantage of about 2% of the phone's functionality. I can:

  • make and receive calls

  • update my contact list

  • send and receive emails

  • send and receive text messages

George the Younger on the other hand, uses more like 75% of the functionality of his phone. He is MUCH better at this than I am. I KNOW that I can change my ring tone. I simply don't want to take the 5 minutes to work my way through various folders to find the place where I can change it and then spend time listening to the numerous musical options trying to decide what I like or what represents me personally in the ring-tone genres. I initially picked the one that sounds like a phone ringing (so obvious, so unoriginal, so that's-the-sound-the-i-associate-with-the-phone-ringing-Pavlovian-response-activated). I doubt I will change it again.

George the Younger changes his ring tone daily. Plus he adjusts it to make different sounds for different people and has further modified his phone to make different sounds depending on whether those different people call him or text him. Way too complex for me. I just rely on my ability to look at caller ID to determine whether I want to talk or not. 90% of the time if I see "caller unknown", that call's rolling to voice mail. That way I am not screening "particular" calls. Just ALL calls that I don't know the origin of. Seems fair.

And of course, he uses his camera all the time. For me cameras take pictures. Telephones take calls. They don't do both. I actually saw one of the coolest things ever when we were visiting London once -- a giant puppet/elephant/float/art/thing. Both George the Elder and I had our cell phones with us. But, all we did was lament the whole time we were watching it that we really, really, really wished we had remembered to bring our camera with us. Do we we have a single shot of the very cool puppet/elephant? Nope. But we should have taken a photo of ourselves when the light bulb finally went off that we had the ability to take a picture the whole damn time - - with our PHONE. Dopes.

The above photo of Otto was taken with George the Younger's cell phone. He entitled it, "Otto in Jail". Note the handcuffs on the front feet. The black and white tones are supposed to make him look sadder to be in jail (according to the photographer). The only other thing worth noting is that Henry received the handcuffs at a bowling birthday party this past Sunday. With three kids I have been to a great many bday parties. I have looked through more than my fair share of goodie bags. This is the first set of realistic handcuffs I have ever encountered. For what it's worth - - the kids loved them. They spent the last 20 minutes of the party cuffing each other. But, handcuffs? 20 sets of them? Wonder what the checkout girl thought. Likely, not much. This is SF after all....

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hot and Houses

The last two days here in the bay area have been brutal hot. Feels like summer, except most know that summer in SF is not exactly summer. It's generally the time when your car is full of clothes that you will need to put on and take off as you pass through one weather biosphere to the next. Home is cool and foggy. Mission is hot and sunny. Drive 10 minutes - change the weather. But on the best days of summer it is rarely as sunny and hot as the last two April days have been. George the Younger commented yesterday that it smelled like Thailand here. Funny thing was, that it DID smell like Thailand. That kind of morning smell when it is still breezy and cool, but you know damn well that in just a few hours it's gonna be killer hot. The other remarkable thing about the comment was that - - well - - how many 12 year olds can comment knowingly about how the weather smells in Thailand at all? Kinda crazy when you think about it.

Other than the weather, George the Elder and I have been focused on housing. We were sure (then not sure) that our current landlords were going to sell the house we are in. This is the preeminent hazard of renting, is it not? Here you are happily ensconced in a house that we love - and someone has the power to say sorry-we're-selling-find-new-digs.

So, while we were thinking that moving was a definite over the summer, we started looking around for what's out there real-estate-wise. The quandary is should we rent or should we take the ultimate plunge and buy? The puzzle is complicated further by the myriad of neighborhoods here in SF. Should we stay in our semi-suburban, yet partially urban neighborhood? Should we head back to what we are used to, as in far more urban with Pete's Coffee so close that you can smell the fresh roasted beans next door? Do we consider the location of the boys' school (keeping in mind that I AM the BUS!), but also realizing that in two short years, George the Younger will be making the big move to High School and who-the-hell-knows where that will be (but I will still be THE BUS)?

To add more fuel to the fire, we also have to consider the state of the current housing market. Is it falling, is it stable, is it falling, yet stable? Does anyone have a common opinion about this? Jeez, not a day goes by without one "expert" or another pontificating on what he/she thinks of the housing market in general or the SF housing market specifically. In a word, it sucks. Don't ya just want two days to go by where the consensus is, well, a consensus? Frustrates the crap outta me.

And just to make sure that the fire is really raging and making our decision even more elusive, is the fact that real estate in SF isn't exactly a steal no matter how the market is doing. Even in these "depressed times" SF RE is still obscenely expensive. In a creepy sort of way, the locals appear used to it. They have this notion that shelling out several million bucks for a house that still needs bathrooms updated from the turn of the century is entirely normal. It's even more justifiable if the property is located in a semi-no-fog-area or has even the most infinitesimal view of downtown buildings, an ocean, a bay or the Golden Gate Bridge. I'm thinking they're all drinking from the same glass of Kool-Aid. Clearly a deluded state of mass acquiescence. Makes you want to move far far away where the median housing price (WHATEVER that may be) actually buys you something more than a cement parking pad that fits a SmartCar.

Good news is that we heard last night that our owners are not going to sell immediately. Bad news is that we now have more time to mull and muse over what-we-want-to-do. After 19 years with George the Elder, I know that the more time we have to stew over an issue, the less likely we are to make a decision. Give us five minutes to make a decision and the two of us can put our heads together and resolve it in a cinch. Give us five months and we ruminate and defer and generally procrastinate.

Luckily, the weather has changed for the better today and it's not nearly so hot. This is good, cause if you're stewing about something - - best to keep it at a low simmer. We could be at this decision for a while....

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Butter side down

You know how when you drop a piece of toast on the floor it nearly almost ends up butter side down? Statistically I realize that the odds of it landing on butter or unbuttered are equal. Still, if you're watching that thing fall on the floor, don't ya know you're getting out the 409 instead of just letting the dog lick up the crumbs? I have heard this described as one of Murphy's Laws. This is not exactly true.

Murphy's law actually states, "If anything can go wrong it will." For the record, what he actually said in 1949 was "If there is any way to do it wrong, he'll find it." Which just goes to show you that when you are making comments about a co-worker's aptitude when working on a project involving determining how much deceleration a person can stand in a crash - it's highly possible that your comments may not only be made into words of lore, but that those words will also be misconstrued. Just be aware.

The reason that I was thinking about Murphy's Law, or buttered toast for that matter, is that only a two months ago I was looking for a new pediatrician for the boys. Disappointingly, I discovered that the original doc I had found for them in August did not accept our health insurance program. For a short time I envisioned just paying the out-of-network fees to take them there. But after some deep self-reflection, I understood that the reason I wanted to pay the higher prices was not because I felt that the doc I had found stood head/shoulders above all other pediatricians and would provide the boys with a significantly higher standard of care. I didn't want to change because I was simply too damn lazy to look for another one. Take away the mom-card immediately.

Guilted in to action by embracing my own lethargy, I started the search. In a word: pain-in-the arsky. You get a list of pediatricians that are covered by your insurance. You collate that list with the recommendations that you get from friends. This narrows the list considerably. You call the ones that meet both criteria. You come up with bupkis. Pediatricians in the SF area that are any good only take new patients that are really new. As in newborn. I have yet to get a comprehensible answer as to why this is. Are newborns more fun? Or are they worth more $$ in the long run? Technically at 10 and 12, they've only got my guys for say 5-6 more years until they progress to GP.

So, I started trying to "sell" the boys. This is where Murphy's Law comes in to play - in a broad sense. I called a couple of other docs. Each time I explained the situation and tried to convince them that my boys were worthy of being their patients, I said this..."My guys are really healthy kids. You will only need to see them once a year for their camp/school check-ups, vaccinations and flu shots."

What I should have been shouting directly to the cosmos was "HEY!! I am loudly trumpeting my children's weirdly healthy state!! Come down and smite me with some various germs and viruses so I need to eat my words every time I make an appointment at the new damn doctor!!!!"

And so it is... Red Scourge nearly receded completely. Red scourge appeared only two weeks after finding said new pediatrician. "Hi! I'm the one that called a couple of weeks ago to register and now I am presenting you with my heretofore amazingly healthy child now covered in a red bubbling rash." Ooops. Wednesday - take BOTH boys to the doctor. George for an ear-ache - turned out to be nothing. Henry for a sore throat - turned out to be strep.

The pediatrician is most likely going to sue me for lying. Healthy-shcmealthy she says. As for me, I am going to learn not to taunt the Gods. I'm just going to keep my mouth shut and eat my toast.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Two Random Things

First. We just started watching the show Two and a Half Men. I understand that I am late to the game, and maybe the humor gets stale after a while - - but DAMN that show makes me laugh. I won't remember the evening that it is on unless I put it on my calendar (I have a weird thing about not recalling when shows are on - except for AI, but that's cause it's ALWAYS on Tuesdays). Why do shows in the US seem to move around all the time? A recent phenom here, as I don't remember it being that bad before. Having said that, my memory seems to be more in question than the actual timing of the shows, so maybe they used to move around a lot and don't remember that either? Duh...

Second. Last night I'm lying in bed getting ready to nod off to sleep and I started a little daisy-chain of thoughts. I started thinking about the good news that I had received earlier in the day that a couple of our friends from Tokyo were going to come and visit us this summer. The news was especially nice since they have both promised to teach me (re-teach me) how to make onigiri - quite possibly the EASIEST thing to make that is Japanese, but I still can't get the hang of it. This led me to thinking that we would need to go over to Japantown and get some ingredients for the onigiri.

This led me to thinking about going to Chinatown in London for some of the best duck outside of the mainland.

This led me to thinking about all the other "towns" that I have been to in various countries. Lots of Chinatowns, Japantowns, Middle Eastern neighborhoods, lots of little Italy's, a few little german or swiss hamlets in various places.

This led me to acknowledging that while the US is a pretty big place - - I have never visited a foreign country (and while I haven't been to all, I might say that I've been to a fairly large representative sample) - and seen or visited a "Little American" or an Americantown. I don't think any exist. The closest I might have come was actually living in a place nicknamed the Geijin Ghetto in Tokyo. And yet, that was just location. It wasn't as if there were a whole bunch of US stores clustered together and all the local favorites from home being served at the neighboring restaurants.

This led me to thinking - - what would they actually offer to eat in Americatown? Hamburgers? The best Cheese steak subs? Great fried Chicken or other homemade favorites like meatloaf and mac-cheese? And, NO, US fast food doesn't count. McDonald's is just an American Corp (so is Wendy's, KFC and Pizza Hut - which are also fairly recognizable internationally) - but to say that is representative of US cuisine would be paramount to saying that the Japanese food we used to get a the 7-11 was the epitome of Japanese cuisine and should be sold in Japantown.

This led me to thinking what kinds of stores would there be in Americatown? Walmarts? Super Target? I would prefer a Nordstrom - but that's just me. Besides, Walmart is International already. They just sell that country's goods for the most part. So, you got the sign, but you don't have the same products. Is that what the Chinese think when they visit the stores in Chinatown? Probably. They walk out of those stores mumbling to each other, "that's not a real Chinese store. All that stuff was made in Indonesia. Damn tourist traps..."

This led me to wondering why aren't there Americantowns? Is that we are so generic that you can't put your finger on what should be represented in our little neighborhood? Is it that we are not a nomadic people (i.e. we import more citizens than we export - so there's no need to set up Americantowns so that we can gather and create a new life for ourselves)? Is it that we also see ourselves being represented by the Big Mac as something that defines us internationally?

The led me to thinking that I needed to stop thinking about that and it also made me hungry for Vietnamese food. The connection? Who knows. It was late. I had done enough thinking.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ex Expatriate

Lately I have been thinking about the things that I miss of our prior expatriate life. They say that coming back to the States is more challenging than leaving it, and I am not entirely sure that I agree with that. Still, I would be less than honest if I didn't admit that there were some things that I really missed about that life. Frankly, our repatriation went as smoothly as it could. The boys like it here, I like it here, George the Elder likes it here.

To the boys, I suspect that it was no different than moving to yet another foreign country seeing as they remembered almost nothing of their babyhood in D.C. Plus, since London was our last place of residence, the fact that everyone was speaking English didn't have too much impact either. They did need to stop using "bin" for trash can and referring to Muni as the Tube - but these were fairly minor adjustments. Still, there are some aspects of overseas life that I really do miss. I thought I would attempt a short list...

  1. Procrastination is perfectly acceptable and almost expected. When you cannot communicate exactly what you need, where to find it, or how to effectively describe where you want it installed - - it inevitably delays doing nearly everything. Yes, it can be mighty frustrating not to be able to accomplish something immediately - - but it is also oddly freeing. It's not that you just haven't done it (like make an appointment for something or buying that screw that is missing, or finding the unique shaped light bulb that is seemingly required in EVERY damn Japanese light fixture), it's that you really CAN'T do it. Like I said - - it's practically a liberation from the guilt associated with putting things off. i.e. I WANTED to, I just COULDN'T.
  2. Private school is FREE! (or at least you don't pay for it) When we first decided to move back to CA, we though, "Hurrah! The kids can go to public school for FREE!!!" We are huge fans of "free"! But, after a mere 15 minutes perusing the web in search of the perfect neighborhood that had the perfect public school with a perfect reputation, we realized that enrolling the kids in public school in SF was a lot like playing the lottery - - except with highly diminished odds of winning. Here in SF, there is no such thing as a "neighborhood school". You have to apply to the public schools that you like and hope to hell that you get in them. And, if you don't get the ones that you want (or even both kids at the same school), then you are assigned to wherever there is space available. So, like the lottery, you buy your ticket hoping to win the $300mil, but it's more likely that you rub off the flaky silvery stuff to reveal that you have only won $2. We didn't like the odds. So, now we technically pay for both and only use one.
  3. Expatriate health insurance RULES!! Here's the deal with expatriate health insurance. You get sick. You go to the doctor. You pay the bill. They pay you back. Simple. Fabulous. Unparalleled. Admittedly, there are a few draw backs such as finding a doctor that speaks English or doesn't diagnose your child as having impetigo when what he really has is strawberry jelly on his face (true story) - but once you have your docs in place - - it's just that simple. Get treatment, get reimbursed. If you REALLY get sick, you head back to the States. It's a bit of a commute, but the option exists. Here, well I could spend the next three paragraphs on the pain in the ass of getting US insurance, finding doctors in your plan that will take you and wading through the muck of co-payments, deductibles, what's covered and what's not. We got a broke system.
  4. Secretaries/Assistants ROCK! The definition of "assistant" in the US means that you get someone to answer your phone, deal with your schedule and provide general support. The definition of an "assistant" in Japan or Germany means that you get all of the above PLUS someone who is not only able, but unconditionally and unfailingly willing to do a whole bunch of other stuff for you. Like get lunch, make personal travel plans, take care of dealing with schools, cars, any government relations like visas or residence permits, help you get your drivers license, pay your rent, go to the bank for you, arrange for dry cleaning and order birthday cakes for your kids. Yes, it is the equivalent of having an extra set of hands for ALL things - and there is nary a whimper or a grumble. In fact, I once tried to contact a mobile phone company on my own and was chastised by my assistant because that was HER job. I loved them and I miss them!

I know that there are more. And, yes, there are absolutely things I do NOT miss. But, as with most things - you tend to only remember the good and disregard the bad (or is that just me, the Mayor of my own little hamlet of Denial?). Even recalling the time that George the Younger did have a completely swollen and misshapen neck (he looked like an NFL linebacker and he was only 4) and the doctor only noticed that he had jelly on his face (actually he didn't notice the jelly, he thought it was very moist impetigo) now makes me smile. George the Elder will remind me that at the time, I was so frantic that I called him from the taxi and screamed in to the phone, "We are LEAVING this country right NOW!!! My son is sick and some crazy doctor just misdiagnosed fruit product as a skin disease!!"

But if memory serves, within minutes, we had found another doctor that not only spoke English, but got him on antibiotics. My assistant helped get the antibiotics from the pharmacy. We (it was likely my assistant) submitted the insurance and got reimbursed 100%. When he was better he went back to his phenomenal private school that was already paid for. What's not to miss about that?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Better Late than Never...

For the record, I DO understand that one is supposed to color easter eggs prior to the actual holiday. Somehow, we ended up doing this yesterday morning AFTER the bunny had already delivered the loot. I had planned ahead. I bought the eggs on Thursday. I boiled the eggs on Friday. I wondered aloud why the smell of boiled eggs had to permeate EVERYTHING in the house and refrigerator. Then, I failed at the actual execution of dying in a timely fashion. We colored them on Sunday morning. At least we managed to do it before Memorial Day.
Spring break was fairly uneventful. George the Younger reminded me every day, with righteous indignation, that "Spring Break" meant actually doing something OTHER THAN school type things. Say, like going on vacation to Hawaii or to Disneyland. Instead, he "got" to go to class everyday for four hours. I admitted that he had a point. I admitted that he had every right to moan and whine. I reminded him that no amount of griping or groaning or bellyaching, no matter how long in duration, was going to change the fact that he was still going to go. He was not a member of my fan club for the week. And to add insult to injury, his bball practice was cancelled due to rain. We had serious pre-teen unhappiness. What a world? What a world? The injustice of it all....
Henry, on the other hand, took the opportunity to watch as much TV as he could and has now memorized the scripts to many George Lopez episodes. I'm so proud.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A better Solution

Yesterday George the Younger and I were on the way to school listening to the radio. As I have mentioned earlier, he cottons towards listening to a station that plays hella-cool (in George's vernacular this is stated as "hecka-cool") songs from all the hella-cool recording artists like Flo Rida and Soulja Boy.

George the Younger was singing along to a newish song by Soulja Boy entitled "Kiss me Thru the Phone." In the vein of full disclosure, I admit that I was singing along too. Oddly, I have found that if you listen to any song more than 1,000 times over a discrete time frame, you can learn the lyrics to anything. Whatever. The chorus for this Soulja Boy song repeats the lyrics "Kiss me thru the phone. Kiss me thru the phone" a number of times in succession.

All of a sudden after about the third chorus (and the 5,000th time he has likely listened to this song), he abruptly stops singing. He appears to be pondering great and deep thoughts for a moment and then he makes the following observation...

"Why does he want to kiss her through the phone? [pregnant pause...] Why doesn't he just use i-chat?"

My son, the budding romantic. Look out ladies, there's a text message heading your way. Feel the love....

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Red Sea Parts and other news

Took George the Younger back to the doc this morning. Good news is that we have the red scourge on the run. You can actually see real sweet butter brown skin peeking through in between the "thing-like" red patches. I guess high dosages of steroids disguised in the form of shaving cream really works. Of course, with every piece of good news comes the potential for bad news. Turns out that Pityriasis Rosea can turn in to something called Pityriasis "Blah-blah-blah". (this is the layman's term for the very long medical technical term that I had the doc repeat twice before I finally embraced the fact that I was never going to be able to understand what he was saying). The definition of this confusing term is that because we had to use such strong steroids to get George the Younger some relief, the long term issue is another condition where the skin gets really scaly and lizard looking. Silver lining here is that this particular malady can be cleared up with a couple of pills (which George the Younger cannot swallow, but we will cross that proverbial bridge when we get there).

In other news, I got a nice weekend away from all the boys this weekend. Went to see my sister in AZ for a super fun 50th bday party for her partner Jeanna. The two Georges remained at the homestead while Henry went camping somewhere here in CA. For those of you who have read this blog in it's entirety, you will remember that I once sent George the Younger on a field trip to "somewhere in CA where there were very large trees" (i.e. I had no earthly idea where he was exactly for four days). Henry also went "somewhere in CA where there were some very large trees" with a buddy and his family from school (i.e. I had no earthly idea where he was exactly for two days). I'm kinda realizing that I need to focus on their whereabouts just a skosh more in the future. But, like his brother, Henry arrived home at the appointed hour on Sunday evening smelling like campfire, in the same clothes that he left home in on Friday morning for school. This is an obvious sign of a young boy who had a good time. He didn't change his clothes or brush his fuzzy teeth for three days AND he got to play with FIRE. Cool beans.

As for the Georges, they stayed home and managed to have the quintessential manly weekend. They played two baseball games and went to see the new XXX movie. Car porn. Not real porn. It wasn't that manly of a weekend yet. Still, when I left on Friday George the Elder was supposed to find some time over the weekend to have "the sex talk" with George the Younger. I left him instructions. I left reading material. George the Older reports that the talk occurred. I have deep abiding suspicions that the talk lasted about 3.5 minutes and some details were overlooked. So, when George the Younger is faced with the possibility of sex - or during conversations with his buddies - there's still going to be a lot of fiction. The age-old circle of erroneous information endures. This is why men believe that porn films are "real".

The party in AZ was tres tres fun. Friday night was a costume party. Theme = Golden Girls on a Cruise. In hindsight, I was woefully unprepared for the degree to which those party-goers had both the imagination and the ability to execute some incredibly realistic getups. I wanted a do-over. Some of the disguises were so complete that I had several people come up to me the next day at the pool party and I had no clue that I had met (or conversed with them at length) less than 24 hours ago. The hallmark of good masquerading.

Beyond some tasty food, free drinks and costumes, there was also gambling, dancing and a tarot card reader. A little bit of something-something for every one. Plus there was a great toast and slide show depicting the sum total of Jeanna's 50 years-to-date. The things you would never imagine about someone!?! And the guests were invited to present their own personal haiku tributes. Again, the creativity of using a limited number of syllables was unprecedented.

The only negative to the weekend was that I left on Friday fully convinced that I had packed every single thing that I would need for the weekend. Costume. Check. Clothes for pool party. Check. All necessary toiletries. Check. Reading material. Check. Camera. Nope. What a dope. I am going to party with lots of incredibly creatively costumed lesbians and I was without the ability to record it digitally. Crap. Lucky for me there was a professional photographer there who, I am sure, captured the flavor of the weekend with far more competence. O.K., maybe he didn't get a photo of "Ben Dover" trying to molest the party-goers with his (her?) cane, so I will just have to try to work through that memory over the next few years with the therapist that I now need to hire. He was, however, snapping away at the lot of us (many with very large enhanced foam butts) trying to do the electric slide. There's something about that last turn that resulted in a hugely hysterical collision of dancing old folks. Looking forward to those.

And finally, this week is Spring break. I love my boys. I am looking forward to next Monday.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Spring = Science

Yes, Spring has sprung. The trees are blooming, the daffodils are raising their sweet yellow faces to the sun, it smells like wet grass in the morning. What does this all mean in the universe? It means it's time for the annual science fairs. Events characterized by the researching of such lofty scientific questions such as "What happens to various sized Lego vehicles when I simulate a land slide by dumping 4 boxes of dirt over them?" or "What happens when I water my plants with orange juice?" or "What color belt should I wear with these shoes?" (just kidding on that one...)

Both George the Younger and Henry recently completely their annual science projects. This was their first year. I think I recall that George the Younger had one in Tokyo, but apparently the "science fair" thing is not European in nature. This does not mean that I am new at this. I had the pleasure of attending a number of science fairs for Shannon. Shannon remembers these times as sheer terror. Not because she disliked science, but the actual public speaking part of it was miserable for her. Luckily neither of the boys suffers from stage fright. It's unpleasant.

Science project open houses are interesting for about the first three participants that you get to interact with. You are enthusiastic about what made them choose their subject, about listening to them monotone their way through their prepared presentations (reminding you that in their list of materials they needed 2-3 pieces of paper to record their findings) and you congratulate them on a job well done. However, after the 4th one, I'm pretty much over the science fair thing and getting through the rest of the kids is a subtle kind of torture. Like being nibbled to death by ducks. Is that mean of me?

But, beyond the amazingly engrossing and provocative themes my own two sons chose to pursue for this years exposition, I feel I did learn a tidbit or two during my 3 long hours at the two fairs:
  • Bananas stored in plastic bags stay fresher longer.
  • San Francisco tap water performs better than bottled water in "grow bacteria" tests.
  • If you put breakfast cereal under a Plexiglas plate and then rub a sweater on the plate, the breakfast cereal will hover in mid-air.
  • If your various test plants are infested with bugs, your test results become "Like, mostly unreliable"
  • Walgreen batteries perform better on short distance speed tests of a Lego built car than any of the well known national brands.

Pretty engrossing stuff, eh?

So, here's a really terrible photo of George presenting his experiment on short-term memory. He tested whether girls or boys had better short-term memory. Girls RULE! (I already knew that, and I explained that it would be in his best interest to ALWAYS remember that going forward...even when he was married and accusing his wife of not remembering something. It was a classic "teaching moment" for me in my mom role).

Here is Henry and his partner Isabella by their very colorful poster showing the results of their experiment that tested whether or not specific genres of music affected short term memory. Two observations here. One, George did his science project about three weeks ago regarding memory - - are we sensing a little duplication and lack of originality in the selection of our science topic here? Second, the funniest thing written on the board was this sentence, "All of the testers HATED the classical music and it made them too mad to remember." I had no idea that Pachebel's Canon could cause such a visceral response from 4th graders. Oh, and one last observation. Henry is not a midget in his class. Henry IS one of the smaller guys and Isabella is one of the taller kids....

And while we're on the subject of presentations and school stuff - - Henry's class last week had their culminating presentation on their unit of Africa. Each had to pick a country, research it and put some compelling and engaging factoids on a board and prepare a presentation that would engross and entertain the parental visitors. (Yup, just LIKE a science fair, but on a different subject...)

Henry picked Somalia. It is home to a number of wild animals and it is hot there. Such is what I remember. Also, did you know that Africa has some "troubled" parts to it? If by "troubled" he meant that hundreds of people are massacred daily, then I guess it's "troubled".

We were also treated to a fabulous musical presentation of African music. Recorders, singing, and lots of African type drums and xylophone things. The SF School is unparalleled in their music program. Henry is a BIG fan and so am I.