Wednesday, April 18, 2007

How One TV Show Shows Its Age

Beakman’s World was my favorite science show during my childhood. It was a creative program that kept any my short attention span with quick lessons and comedic writing. It aired every Saturday morning and, much to my delight, has returned for another generation’s Saturday mornings. Beakman’s World is the Mr. Wizard for non-cable subscribers.

On a recent episode, a viewer’s letter asked Beakman how he found his answers. Beakman suggested the following steps (and what this means today):

1. Go to the library and look for your topic in an encyclopedia. (Search in Wikipedia.)

A science guy + guy in a rat costume + young actresses = the world of science as of 1993

2. If the topic isn’t found in the encyclopedia, ask a librarian to help you find the subject in the card catalog. (This really dates the show because many libraries began using computers for “quicker” card catalog searches when the show first aired. Today, if you actually need a book, you can search for and check it out from your home computer. This only helps if you know where your library is located and still have a library card. As if.)

3. If a trip to the library does not answer your question, open a phone book and, with adult supervision, call someone who will have the answer. (Just make sure your spam filter is on when you visit sites from your Google search. Adult supervision is suggested so you don’t wander into older content.)

The scientific method hasn’t changed in the 10 years this episode aired, but the research methods sure have.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

NHL 95 Update – Online Emulator Play

Thanks to a comment on my NHL 95 entry, I’ve found software called Kaillera that allows you to play ROMs using online emulators. Meaning, I could play against anyone in the world in just about any old school game. I haven’t messed with the software yet, but will keep you posted. I hope there’s no lag and at least equals the quality of play of this one device I used in the 90s to play other Genesis players through the telephone jack in my parent’s kitchen. I can't recall the name, but it was cool at the time, I swear.

MTV Cribs Featuring George Washington’s Mt. Vernon

The weekend before last, my SO’s father and stepmother visited to do the touristy things during the cherry blossom bloom. It was fun despite the hoards of people who had the nerve to visit the cherry blossoms at the same time. 1st piece of advice for anyone visiting Washington D.C. during the cherry blossoms…walk an extra two blocks and use the Metro station that comes before the Smithsonian in your direction. The Smithsonian platform was more full than any rush hour backup I’ve seen. Who knows how anyone got on/off the train because the unwritten rules of Metro travel (that should be written for tourists and DCers alike) were not in service.

On Sunday, we drove to Mt. Vernon to see how GW spent what little free time he had after his days leading the country. This was my first trip and I was very impressed. For $13 you get a tour of his home, get to walk the entire property, and see a newly-built education center and museum. We wait a good 45 minutes before entering the home. Once inside, each room had its own tour guide to make like an animatronic creation at Disneyworld. He or she repeated a script over and over again. On a typical day this wouldn’t be an issue, but when the line was as long as it was, and people were cutting ahead by going around a velvet rope, we were treated to information about the George’s dining room, living room, and game room exploits three times.

After the tour, we walked the grounds and enjoyed a great view of the Potomac. We hiked back up the hill, though a bus was available every 30 minutes for those not crazy enough to walk up the path after a full day of DC walking. We returned to the general area and visited the new education center. I was blown away at how well done this area was designed. If I had the mindset of a child and visited this part (not to say I don’t have a child’s mindset at times) I would have loved all of the sites, multimedia theaters, sounds, and interactive exhibits. It surely keeps the attention of any visitor. We skipped the more adult museum because we had had enough GW for the day.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

3 Inches of Snow is Somehow Worse than Layers of Ice

Let me get this straight...the government will close for 3 inches of snow, but when there's an average of 0.75 inches of ice, schools are closed, airports are closed, and it's dangerous to drive on even major roadways, OPM gives a 2-hour delay...that's just not right.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Do You Recall The Day...The Duvet Died

In a vain attempt at catching up with chores and hobbies I haven’t had time to do (like blogging), it was time to wash my duvet cover and duvet (a great addition to 400-thread count sheets). The first-third of the duvet had no trouble getting inside the washing machine’s drum, but the second-third required plenty of elbow grease, all of which meant the third-third wasn’t going in without a fight. I started to get worried. I thought about asking Magnús Ver Magnússon of “The World’s Strongest Man” and ESPN afternoon programming fame to try with all of his might, but there was too much fabric even for him. Now I was in trouble.

All the muscles in the world couldn't get my duvet in the washing machine.

90% of the duvet was submerged in Tide detergent and water, including the duvet’s clean and care tag that said, “machine wash cold in high capacity washer.” Oh, so now you tell me that washer size makes a difference? The washer could always handle my comforter so I didn’t think the duvet was that different. (Magnus and) I decided it was best to let the washer run its cycle with the remaining duvet outside of the drum scrunched by the washer’s door at the top.
About 30 minutes later, I checked on the duvet and learned when something doesn’t fit below the soapy waterline, it’s not going to get washed and neither is anything below. The duvet had become a sponge of Tide, water, and my stupidity. From the start, I could have easily taken it to the dry cleaners or some laundromat, but noooooo, I was determined to be a hermit and not leave the apartment.

If you want it clean, do the opposite of what I'd do.

When I removed the duvet, areas at the bottom had not dried nor washed completely, and only created more suds with every tug. While I could have tried placing it the dryer, I figured that a dryer will only fit as much clothing as the washer it’s connected to...who knew? It was time for it to be dried the natural way…by placing it on the balcony for the sun. Once it was dry, I could take it to the dry cleaners for a real cleaning.

The days before full capacity machines, female breadwinners, and the Feminine Mystique.

I made a double-bagged garbage bag and placed the wettest portion of the duvet inside to decrease spillage. With the bag in one hand and the rest of the duvet propped and dripping on my t-shirt, I got the duvet downstairs and onto the balcony. The trail of spots left in my path was like a Family Circus cartoon. With half the duvet on each side of the balcony fence, all I had to do was dry the area around the washing machine, wait for the duvet to dry, and take it to the dry cleaners to clean my mess. The only problem with placing a wet duvet outside this time of year is the scientific phenomena called the “freezing point of water.”

Apparently this only works if the clothes have already had the soap removed.

Yep, it was under 32 degrees outside which solidified the duvet. Not only was the duvet wet, soapy, made dirty by the balcony fence, but it was also rigid. Still believing the duvet could be salvaged, I placed it in my bathtub to dry, but it wasn’t to be. The next day, I threw the duvet in the dumpster and began searching for a new one. It had lived a good life, but deserved a better ending and at least some sort of eulogy. With all of the professions in the world, I can confidently remove alternative down duvet cleaner from my list.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Improve Your Life Before Super Bowl XLI

Now that we have our teams for Super Bowl XLI (I think all elementary school teachers thank the NFL for using roman numerals so they have a real-life example why their students should learn roman numerals), it's now time for my annual two-week sabbatical from all things sports-talk, -center, -highlight, -analysis, -writing. -prediction, -reporting, and -media related. It’s just too much hype to handle. If you’ve followed enough of the league, there’s nothing new to learn unless you really have to know that Chicago’s team arrived in Miami under sunny skies. Writers need to fill their copy and reach their word counts so the smallest thing becomes headline news. Also, once someone has an original thought, it quickly becomes everyone’s thought (see Jerome Bettis’ return to Detroit last year). What we get treated to is the same story in every market.

Is it possible to hype the already super-hyped?

There’s nothing to gain from media day press conferences in Miami except for filler material. No coach or player is going to tell the press how their team is going to beat Chicago’s Cover-2 defense or the defensive line stunts the Bears are using to pressure Peyton Manning. On cue, these media days are so boring that a handful of people (some executive producers call them comedians) will ask questions wholly unrelated to football that are not only not funny (still with me?), but also satirize the whole concept of anything coming out of the next two weeks that fans of either team and the NFL need to know. Maybe these humorists are onto something. This also creates another layer of Super Bowl hype in which Super Bowl hype writers will complain about the work of other Super Bowl hype writers/comedians.

Oh, so you put your left sock on first on gameday? What a scoop!

I’ll admit that with this little’ol blog entry, I’m only adding another layer to the unnecessary pre-Super Bowl content available. While it’s also frustrating to read something about Super Bowl hype that serves only to complain about Super Bowl hype writers who complain about other Super Bowl hype writers (and media day comedians), at least you’ve just received your filling of Super Bowl hype. Congratulations.

Maybe this really is a comedy club afterall.

For the next two weeks, you may pursue a hobby, spend time with your family, or complete some home repair with the time you had set aside for pregame shows, ESPN (heavy on graphics and quick cuts, but short on content) segments, and Michael Wilbon fluff columns (I’m going to guess at least a few will be about the Bears and his Chicago childhood, sports profiles that never illuminate their subjects, and uncontroversial opinion pieces that only serve to drop names).

May the hype machine’s gears never get going.