Monday, August 22, 2016

A Trip To The Illinois State Fair

It's nice to see that, in spite of the ongoing budget stalemate going on in Illinois, we're still able to find enough funding to run the Illinois State Fair. Historically, the first state fairs were essentially agricultural trade shows organized by farmers in order to compare notes with each other and distinguish between good and bad advice. In the advent of World War II, as America's workforce transitioned to a post-Agrarian model, state fairs became more entertainment oriented.

Is This The Pinnacle Of Culinary Achievement?
This year marked my first ever visit to the Illinois State Fair. First off, I have to say that the price was right because our kids got in free due to their ages and my wife and I were handed free tickets by a random stranger who happened to have two extras with her. Still, even with the cost of admission, the Illinois State Fair offers a lot of bang for the buck. Mostly, I was there for the food. I will say that I was hoping for something more akin to Taste of Chicago where various restaurants come out, rent a booth, and offer some of their more flashy fare. It's a bit disappointing that the Illinois State Fair seems to attract mainly carnival food vendors. Still, an attendee with a more discerning palate can, with a little patience, sniff out some of the more exotic foods hiding among the rabble. I enjoyed a very passable pirogi in the ethnic center. I did also slum it and get a fried Twinkie which I found to be decidedly mediocre (too much corn dog batter).

Thanks to the many exhibits that the Illinois State Fair hosted on agriculture, wildlife, politics and citizenship, I learned quite about about the goings on in our state. Most importantly, I learned the difference between a corn dog and a pronto pup. Once upon a time, I thought that a pronto pup was just a cute name for a corn dog. But the Illinois State Fair opened my eyes. Turns out that a corn dog is a hot dog fried in cornbread batter while pronto pups are fried in pancake batter. Although both options were available at the Illinois State Fair, I didn't have either of them. I was, however, on the lookout for a corn brat or a cheesy corn dog, but, alas, neither seemed to be available. My kids were content with the many varieties of ice cream available, especially Dippin' Dots. And, of course, there were many different varieties of  popcorn from kettle corn to multiflavored and colored. And, one of the big highlights for me was encountering the tent. There I could sample various different types of meat in convenient jerky form. They had everything from alligator to kangaroo. No zebu, though. Damn.

They Really Like To Jerk Their Meat!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Lower Interest Rate Credit Card Scam

I get calls like this all the time. A recorded message comes on and tells you that, due to your good credit history (or thanks to government bailout policy) you qualify for a lower interest rate on your credit card. You're asked to select "1" to speak with an agent. And when you do, some heavily accented agent feeds you a bunch of crap and asks for your credit card info. Once they have it, they'll be off making fraudulent charges in your name. Here's how I dealt with a recent call that came from (301) 912-3320 (obviously a spoofed number).

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Long Wait Time At KFC

The first level of Hell is a fast food restaurant where you order your favorite meal but have to wait an eternity for it to arrive. Jason and I visited that Hell this afternoon at our local KFC/A&W restaurant. I was on my lunch break and was craving some chicken pretty badly. I ordered the $5 three-chicken tender meal from the KFC menu while Jason ordered a bacon cheeseburger from the A&W menu. Jason's cheeseburger came up rather quickly but he hung out with me by the pick-up counter. After about five minutes of waiting, we sat down. Fifteen minutes into it, I noticed that a lot of people were waiting around for their orders. At about 20 minutes, a few ordered started to trickle out, but they were for people who had ordered after me. Once we hit thirty minutes, I yelled "What are you guys doing back there, killing the chicken?" which got quite a few laughs from the frustrated crowd, but elicited no reaction from the KFC employees.

It was starting to get comedically tragic. Jason had long since finished his burger and I began to wonder aloud whether we were all part of some weird social experiment. The crowd had had enough and started to approach the counter for refunds. Refunds appeared to be taking about 5 minutes to process, as the cashier had to make a phone call each time a refund was requested. When my turn came, I approached the counter and asked to speak with a manager. I was told that the manager was not there. The cashier ask me what I had ordered. "A kids meal. That's how long I've been waiting" was my reply. Even though I said it in a joking manner, it probably wasn't the smartest thing for me to say. I soon noticed that my refund was taking longer than I had expected.

In the end, I just cut my losses and left. There's really no point in me raising public a fuss over $5. I could just as easily call the regional manager or send an e-mail to corporate, but to what end? Maybe I'd get some coupons for free KFC. But, if I got some free KFC, then I'd have to actually eat KFC again.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Insurance Sales Recruiter Calls Me

Clovis got another e-mail from one of those insurance sales recruiters. The first line said "I recently came across your resume and was impressed by your credentials". I knew right off that it was a form letter and that he hadn't read my resume. Clovis called the rep out on this and the rep admitted that he hadn't read the resume, he was just working off of notes provided by his manager. The rep then tried to end the call and Clovis brought him back on message by asking what method of payment he could expect. The position, of course, is commission based. Clovis then bragged about how he had blown the rep's mind with his credentials. The rep accused Clovis of having a bad attitude. Clovis turned it back on the rep and tried to say that the rep was jealous of Clovis' superior sales skills. The rep eventually ended the call because of Clovis' salty language.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Aw, Shucks

It seems like my house has become a drop-off point for various types of vegetables. Ordinarily, I like getting such freebies from various neighbors and acquaintances, but it seems like this year has seen a bumper crop in home grown vegetables. This past weekend, we were invited to pick some corn from a friend's farm and were told we could help ourselves to three rows of the stuff. That's a lot of sweet corn. The entire family pitched in to shuck the stuff, yet, late last night, I found myself still shucking the stuff. As I threw the husks into a giant pile, I thought that I might take a picture and post it to Facebook with the caption "Aw, shucks!". This made me wonder about the origin of the expression.

Let's break this down. What is a shuck? It's a word used to describe the husk, pod or shell that protects certain foods. Essentially, a shuck is the worthless container that is wrapped around something of value. Origin of the actual word "shuck" is not generally known, but it first started to appear in literature in the 17th Century. Personally, I think it derives from the Middle-English word "schucke" meaning "adversary" or "devil". If you think about it, a shuck usually takes a fair amount of effort to pull off whatever foodstuff it's wrapped around. A shuck is, in effect, the adversary you must defeat in order to get at the food you want.

In the 19th Century, "shucks" began to appear as part of an idiomatic phrase indicating worthlessness.  (ie "it's not worth shucks"). Shucks are, after all, pretty much worthless, aren't they? It then evolved into a standalone expression that would seem interchangeable with the word "shit". Mark Twain uses it quite a bit in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, By the late 1930s, "Aw shucks" became a common response to a compliment and indicated modesty and/or shyness. One essentially is saying "Oh, it was nothing", as shucks aren't worth anything.

Friday, August 5, 2016

I Won A Prize In The Samuel Adams Quench Your Own Thirst Sweepstakes

The doorbell rang late this afternoon. Was it the neighborhood kids playing ding-dong-ditch? Would I find a flaming bag of poop awaiting at my doorstep in celebration of my upcoming birthday? No! The UPS guy had left a package. My wife studied it and asked "What did you buy from the Boston Beer Company THIS time?". I couldn't remember a recent purchase....but that didn't necessarily mean anything. I wondered if my wife had bought some Samuel Adams beer-related merchandise for my birthday and was just having some fun with it.

I opened the package. It contained a letter. "Dear Thomas...Cheers to you for winning our Quench Your Own Thirst sweepstakes! Enclosed is your prize". What??? Months ago, I had entered the sweepstakes when I pre-ordered Jim Koch (founder and CEO of Boston Beer Company, makers of Samuel Adams beer) book Quench Your Own Thirst. I had all but forgotten about it. And now? A major award! Maybe it was a statue! Yet I could not find the words "Fragile" anywhere on the package. Okay, so it wasn't a statue or a leg lamp or a bottle of Utopias or trip for two to Boston to tour the Samuel Adams Brewery. It was two Samuel Adams pint glasses. Awesome! A prize I'll actually use! Beats that meat thermometer I won from Copenhagen tobacco.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Some SEO Scammer Calls Me

I got an e-mail last week from a guy named Ray Josh wanting to sell SEO services for my website. His contact card picture looked like something pulled from a stock image website and his name sounded made up. So, I told him that I don't speak English well and that he'd be better off calling and talking to Clovis.

He eventually called and encountered the standard carpeting company greeting. Ray asked for Clovis and was passed on to him. Ray immediately went into his pitch, but it was tough to understand due to his thick Indian accent. Clovis got Ray to condense his pitch and was told that he wanted around $200 for his SEO services. Clovis tried to talk him down to $10 and then moved up to "$15 and a song". When Ray got called out on using a fake name, he took major offence and eventually tried to say that "I told Tommy I was based in India". Which isn't true. So Clovis went to get TommyMac to put him on the phone. I then switched to yet another voice and spoke to "Ray" as if I did not quite understand English. "Ray" eventually became frustrated when I kept repeating "Mama say, mama sa, ma mak ku sa" and hung up.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Why I Can't Vote For Hillary Clinton (for now)

I like to think that I'm fairly moderate as politics go. I'm generally socially liberal and fiscally conservative. I've been paying close attention to this year's Presidential primaries. I quite enjoyed the train wreck that was the Republican Convention. The Republicans just had the party overthrown by a populist who opposes all of their economic and foreign policies. From Maleina Trump's blatant plagiarism to Laura Ingraham's nazi salute, the entire debacle was so embarrassingly hilarious. And even it it wasn't so damned funny to watch, I still wouldn't be voting for Donald Trump. I won't go as far to compare the guy to Hitler, but, I do think he's the single worst candidate for President in modern history (not that he hasn't had a lot of competition over the last 20 years).

And, as for Hillary Clinton, as much as I think that we need to move much more towards the left in this country, I was having a hard time justifying my voting for her. It's not just that she lies. Every politician lies. It seems to me, though, that her first instinct is to lie, even if the truth would be the better option. And it's not just that she waffles more than an Eggo factory. It's that she waffles and denies having changed her position. Still, if the United States is to successfully move towards a progressive agenda, we'll need more liberal justices on the Supreme Court and the next President will probably be able to nominate at least two of them. So, with that in mind, I was ready to suck it up and cast my vote for Hillary Clinton. Problem is, after the Democratic National Convention, I realized that I can't, in good conscience,vote for Hillary.

The timing of the Democratic National Convention couldn't have been worse. It came right after several DNC emails regarding Debbie Wasserman Schultz and her shameless bias for the nomination in favor of Hillary Clinton. And that wouldn't have been so bad had Debbie Wasserman-Schultz admitted everything and quietly stepped down. After all, no crime had occurred, no obvious rigging had occurred and there was no obvious fraud. Instead, the Hillary Clinton campaign hired her away. Why? Because she knows where the bodies are buried and the Clinton campaign wants to keep Wasserman-Schultz from talking.

In light of everything, I think it's natural that Bernie Sanders supporters are pissed off and want some answers and want some heads to roll. And, again, instead of acknowledging the problems within the process, the DNC trotted out a bunch of celebrities to tell everyone to focus forward and unite behind Hillary Clinton.

Sarah Silverman To Bernie Or Bust: You're Being Ridiculous

First off, I find it hilarious that a person who is known for telling jokes about pooping and yeast infections has the gall to tell anyone that they're being ridiculous. Further, the comment marginalizes peoples' right to be heard and attempts to waive away all of the real concerns that have recently cropped up about party corruption and unfair practices. Maybe those concerns didn't affect the outcome. But they're there and they needed to be addressed. It's a convention. Delegates have traveled across the country to participate in a political process, and political debate is part of that process. Dismissing them as ridiculous, especially in light of recent events, does the entire process a disservice. If you want the support of those who supported Bernie Sanders, don't paint them as sore losers. Make an actual attempt to win them over.

Moby Doubles Down For Sarah Silverman

And then there's Moby. Moby has been on a unity tear for a few days now, posting things on his Facebook page like:

Dear DNC protesters, when you Boo Bernie Sanders, when you call Hillary Clinton a "bitch", when you say you'd rather see Trump as president than Hillary, you simply lose all credibility and alienate the majority of progressives who want to be on your side. You need to tone down the vitriol and hyperbole, for when you scream irrational hate you end up sounding exactly like Trump supporters.

The problem with liberal elites like Sarah Silverman and Moby is that they vote liberal for a completely different host of reasons than the so-called "common folk". Silverman and Moby see themselves as humanitarians voting in favor of lofty goals that will result in the advancement of social goals in the United States. They're not worried about slipping further down an ever increasing economic decline. It's such a disparity that it's akin to a First Class passenger on the Titanic sitting comfortably in a life boat while lecturing the entire steerage class to calm down as the ship start to tilt into the sea.

Wil Wheaton Says A Few Things

Nobody cared. Shut up, Wesley!

The Ghost Of Harriet Christian Is Dancing In Her Grave

All of the cries for party unity by various Hillary Supporters is more than a tad hypocritical when one considers how several of them reacted to Harriet Christian and her rant against the Rules Committee. The woman said some things that would make my racist grandmother look like Rosa Parks and yet, supporters of Hillary Clinton hailed her as "sassy" and "empowered" and "uncompromising".

The Lesser Of Two Evils

People would have you believe that, if you're liberal, then Hillary is the lesser evil between Trump and herself. I personally think that they're equal evils. I find both of them to be political opportunists and I find both of them to be morally corrupt individuals and I find both of them to be habitual liars. They're essentially two sides of the same coin. At this point, I'm not okay with either of them being President. People would tell you that if you don't vote for Hillary, then, if Trump gets elected, it's on you for throwing away your vote. Thing is, if Hillary doesn't get elected, then it's HER fault, not anyone else's She needs to earn your vote on her own merit, not on Trump's lack of merit. I won't be forced to Mussolini simply because he's not Hitler.

There's still time until the general election. There's still time to change my mind and win my vote. That's what Hillary Clinton and everyone who wants to influence me needs to do. My vote, and everyone else's vote, needs to be earned.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Witcher 3: The Lord of Undvik. Cave Glitch

While doing the quest called The Lord of Undvik in The Witcher 3, you'll be directed to follow a trail of blood into a cave on Undvik. Once in the cave, there are several stalactites that you can jump on, one of which, in the Southwest edge of the cave, will lead you to a ledge. That ledge drops down into a bottomless pit. Jumping into the pit will transport you to a location approximately on top of the mountain relative to where you dropped down. I uploaded a video to show where and how this happens:

Monday, July 25, 2016

How To Hack Your Hotel TV So You Can Play Your Own Movies

Hotels are out there to make money off you. Once they have you paying for a room, one of the sweetest plumbs of upsells is the television entertainment. Who doesn't like lounging around in the room watching television? And who wouldn't like to veg out by watching some movies? Hotels are notorious for charging exorbitant amounts of money for customers to rent a movie through their pay per view system. They don't want the customer to be able to play their own movies on the hotel TV because that would undermine one of their most lucrative revenue streams. So, most hotels lock out the extra video inputs via a small device mounted to the back of the TV.

So, you want to play your own movies on a hotel TV but the input selection function is locked out? All you have to do is look at the back of the TV. Do you see a box mounted on it with a phone line coming out of it? Yank out the phone line that is going from the box into the television. This should give you access to change the input on the hotel TV (make sure to put the phone cord back in before you check out. Just in case). From there, you can easily play movies from any device that uses HDMI input. While you may be able to access the USB display input, you may not be able to play movies via the USB interface. Many hotels lock that out via the Firmware. In order to get a USB display interface working on a hotel TV, you would have to look up the television model and then download the latest firmware for it and install it onto the TV.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

How To Win The Palio Race in The Witcher 3.

Participating in horse races in The Witcher 3 is a great way to earn coin and get upgrades for your horse. Most of the races are easily won. But the Palio is set up to be incredibly difficult. It seems like it's outright rigged from the start. The AI cheats by seemingly having unlimited stamina and by actually trying to force you off the track, resulting in an instant loss. I endured several losses before settling on a strategy to sprint in the open and cantor across the bridges (thus replenishing Roche's stamina). Even then, I'd get waylaid by a wraith or a cockatrice. Shoving off for Skellige before running the race so that I could buy the zerrikanian saddle made the difference in the end, but I still had to make sure to stick to the track or end up getting instantly disqualified.

Of course, if you're lucky, you might just be able to take advantage of a glitch where you'll have no competition at all in the Palio race. I don't know if it can be replicated on Xbox One or PC, but on PS4 make sure you save your game right before you talk to Cleaver about the letter he sent you. Every so often, the Palio will load and one of the competitor horses won't have a rider. If you keep loading Witcher 3 back to where you ask Cleaver about the letter, you'll eventually get a version where you start the Palio with both competitor horses not having riders. Once you have that, you can just cantor the whole race and finish it at your own pace. Here's a video of me winning the Palio race in The Witcher 3 because of the glitch:

Thursday, July 14, 2016

A Rebuttal To The Rebuttal Of Chris Rock Talking About Owning Their Actions

Another politically explosive yet intellectually dishonest meme is making the rounds on Facebook this week. In involves a rebutle to a statement Chris Rock made in an interview with Frank Rich back in November of 2014. The author of the meme takes Rock to task for saying "[White people must start] Owning their actions". Some group called Uncle Sam's Misguided Children took offence to the statement and tossed off a meme to decry it (in ALL CAPS, no less).

Yeah, we need to stop feeling guilty for shit we didn't do. It was black people who sold other black people into slavery and the first slave owner in America was black. All the ghettos in America are run by Democrats and more white people are shot and killed by cops than are black people. Last time I checked, it was black people looting their own businesses and killing their own people. So tell me again who needs to start taking responsibility for their actions.

Now, whether or not you agree with what Chris Rock said (in-context or out-of-context), there are some serious issues with the statements made in this meme. I'll take it line-by-line.

Yeah... we need to stop feeling guilty for shit we didn't do.
On the surface, it's not a bad sentiment, is it? The sins of the father should not be visited upon the son, right? However admirable that statement may be, we must also be mindful that the past, once it happens, does not become hermetically sealed from the present. Things that happened in the past have repercussions that can be felt well into the future. We, as a society, cannot hope to move forward by choosing to ignore problems simply because we have not personally contributed to them. The old adage, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"(George Stayana) rings true.

It was black people who sold other black people into slavery...
I'm not sure what the point of this statement is. History is replete with examples of various cultures selling their own people into slavery. One need only look as far as The Bible for an example of this. In Genesis 37:27-28 the sons of Jacob sell their own brother Joseph into slavery. More recently, The Proclamation of 1625 by King James I sold 30,000 Irish as slaves to the New World (mostly in the Caribbean). So, regardless of race, creed, or color, people are assholes and prove time and again that they will sell out their own if the price is right.

…and the first slave owner in America was black.
To begin with, this statement simply is not true. The slave trade existed in the New World since the early 1500's when slaves were brought to the Caribbean and Brazil. Even if we're limiting the concept of  "America" to the area encompassing the 13 Colonies, it's still not true that the first slave owner in America was black. The black slave owner that text is referring to is almost certainly Anthony Johnson. Many blogs with a hard-conservative bent like to pull Anthony Johnson's court record from history and use that as evidence that the first slave owner in America was black.

Here's the truth: Anthony Johnson, a black Angolan, arrived in Virginia in 1621 where he went to work on a tobacco plantation either as an indentured servant or a slave. He was eventually freed and, in 1651, Johnson claimed 250 acres of land along the Pungoteague Creek by virtue of five headrights, a colonial system put into place to help bring laborers to the colonies. In exchange for buying the contract for an indentured servant, Virginia Colony would give the purchaser 50 acres per servant. Anthony Johnson had bought the contracts for 5 indentured servants which is how Johnson came to have a servant named John Casor. At one point, John Casor escaped to a nearby farm owned by Robert Parker and claimed that Johnson had kept him longer than his agreed upon indenture. Anthony Johnson sued Robert Parker for Casor's return in 1651. This makes Anthony Johnson the first slave owner file a civil case over slavery in the Americas. So, you could say that the first slave owner to file a court case over slavery in America was black. But, you cannot say that the first slave owner in America was black.

Anthony Johnson was NOT the first slave owner in America. Documents show that slaves were sold to the colonists at Jamestown as early as 1619. And, since Anthony Jonson didn't arrive until 1621, and didn't get freed until much later, the claim that the first slave owner in America was black is erroneous. So, who was the first slave owner in America? Unfortunately, historical records don't indicate exactly who bought slaves, so if we are to go by named recognition, then the ignominious distinction of "First Slave Owner In America" would go to Hugh Gwyn (from a court case in 1640) or possibly Sir George Yeardley, colonial Virginia's Governor at the time when slaves were first brought to Jamestown in 1619.

For the sake of argument, let's just ignore facts and history for a moment (much like Uncle Sam's Misguided Children tend to do). Let's say, for sake of argument, that the first slave owner in America was black. So what? What does that prove? Does that somehow legitimize the institution of slavery? If a black man was the first slave owner in America, does it make it okay for everyone else to have owned slaves?

All ghettos in America are run by Democrats...
In case you weren't previously aware, this whole missive has a political point to make and, with this statement, all pretense of subtlety has gone out the window. In fact, the author is so eager to hit you upside the head with this that he/she fails to form a truly coherent thought on the matter. I am going to assume that the author doesn't mean that each ghetto in the United States has a designated person running it (who happens to be a Democrat in every case). Rather, the author intends to say that the poorest cities in America are governed by mayors from the Democratic party. If we look at the 10 poorest cities with a population over 300,000 according the a US Census Bureau report in 2014, then we would see that 3 of those cities had Republican mayors. This alone would mark the original statement as false. Still, a large majority of those cities are run by Democratic mayors. Are we to assume that the correlation is the causality? If that's the case, then let's have a look at the 10 poorest states according to a 2014 US Census Bureau report. Of those ten states, six Governors were Republican. What conclusion can we draw from that if we again accept that the correlation is the causality? Whatever the point that this original sentence was trying to make, it bears mentioning that our political parties are not split among racial lines. Democrats are not elusively black and Republicans are not exclusively white.

...and more white people are shot and killed by cops than are black people.
This is actually a factual statement. Yet, while it is indeed true that each year more white people are shot and killed by police than black people, it's pure statistical manipulation if you fail to adjust for population size. According to the most recent census data, white Americans make up 62% of the US population and about 49% of those who are killed by police officers. African Americans make up 13% of the US population but account for 24% of those killed by police. This means that an African American is 2.5 times more likely to be shot by a police officer than a Caucasian American.

Last time I checked, it was black people looting their own businesses and killing their own people.
This is another dubious statement. According to an FBI report from 2014, the "black on black" homicide rate was 90% compared to the "white on white" homicide rate which was at 82%. Not much of a difference there. And while I don't have any statistics available about looting, I'm thinking that the author means physical looting of a business, so-called "blue collar" looting. But, what about "white collar" looting, the sort of looting that involves embezzlement, money laundering and securities fraud. Any guesses on which race commits those crimes at a higher rate?

So tell me again who needs to start taking responsibility for their actions?
We all do. Change must come from within. If you want things to change, then change starts with you.
Let's recall that the Chris Rock quote that set off this meme was part of a larger conversation and was taken out of context. The relevant quote is as follows: "[White people must start] Owning their actions. Not even their actions. The actions of your dad. Yeah, it’s unfair that you can get judged by something you didn’t do, but it’s also unfair that you can inherit money that you didn’t work for". Rock was trying to make a comment on the state of race relations in this country and how what we perceive as progress can be skewed by one's perception. Whether or not you believe him, I don't think Chris Rock meant to imply that white people are directly guilty of the things their ancestors did. More specifically, I don't believe Rock meant to imply that white people must take responsibility in the present for the racism of the past. He just wants it acknowledged that it was a factor. That's how I see it, anyway.

Regardless of your perception of the quote, if you're going to debunk it, then you'd best be intellectually honest about the things you say when you do so. The person or group behind Uncle Sam's Misguided Children did do his/their homework and ended up tossing off some half-baked rant that people will as gospel simply because they saw it on Facebook.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Magic House St. Louis

After our somewhat disappointing visit to the St. Louis Science Center, I was a bit apprehensive about visiting the Magic House, which is essentially a children's museum in a mansion. I was wrong. So incredibly, utterly, totally wrong. The Magic House is a crazy, beautiful, wonderful place to take the kids where children and adults alike will have a good time.

The kids were especially fond of the mock construction site and the specialized STEM area. Myself, I was quite fond of the court area and the mockup of the Oval Office. My daughter and I shot a bunch of goofy videos there where she declared martial law and suspended habeas corpus. I had half a mind to re-enact Jimmy Carter's "Crisis Of Confidence" speech or Nixon's resignation speech, but decided against it as I didn't want to monopolize the area.

Ultimately, we were all blown away by the Dark Room. Kids can color their own house, plane, car etc and have it scanned into the system where it is then projected onto the wall as part of a dynamic world. At some point, a Godzilla-type creature appears and stomps the houses and cars. No worries, though, as they pop right back up after the cute monster disappears. I was totally geeked out and the kids loved seeing their creations appear on the screen.

Truth be told, we could have spent the entire day at the Magic House. Unfortunately, we arrived late and were only able to spend a few hours there. But, they were well spent.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

St. Louis Science Center

Growing up, one of my favorite things to do was take a trip to Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. Some thirty-five years ago, my Grandfather would show up to pick me and my siblings up from a half-day at school, load us into his '73 Impala (practically a boat on wheels), hand us a box of donut holes from Dunkin' Donuts. and drive us down to Hyde Park so we could spend the rest of the day at the Museum of Science and Industry. Back then, admission was free, so taking four kids wouldn't break the bank.

In the tradition of  "Chicago's Greatest Freebie", we took the kiddos to the St. Louis Science Center this weekend where admission is free but parking is $15. It's touted as one of the Top 5 Science Centers in the country, but, I feel like the place has seen better days. First off, the bathroom facilities at the St. Louis Science Center were woefully inadequate for the amount of visitors it was handling. I understand that it was a holiday weekend, but that's really no excuse for the tremendously long lines we experienced outside of the Men's room.

Overall, the St. Louis Science Center seems to be feeling its age. There wasn't a lot that my kids, who are all very curious and inquisitive, seemed to enjoy doing. The Planetarium area was a hit and they liked hanging out in the bridge over the highway and looking through the telescopes. I was particularly gleeful at the fact that you could aim radar trackers at cars to see how fast they were going. The must wreak havoc with the commuters who have radar detectors. Despite the high points, I think we could have skipped this one.  

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Natural Sunburn Remedy

Summer is here and, with it, comes those powerful UV rays that wreak havoc on the skin of poor melanin-deficient folks like myself. Due to my Irish heritage and my tendency to work indoors, my skin reacts to the Sun like a fork in a microwave. I've spent many an agonizing evening laying on the cool tile of the bathroom floor while my siblings sprayed me down with Solarcaine in order to relieve the pain from a horrible sunburn.

I've pretty well learned my lesson. I try not to go out during the Summer without a high SPF sunblock and I make sure to re-apply it often. It helps, but I'm not always vigilant enough to keep from burning. Just about a week ago, while on the boat with the family, I got a pretty nasty sunburn. It was especially bad from the top of my knees down to my ankles. Later in the day, standing became difficult for me and getting out of bed was even worse. Nevermind the fact that the sunburn itself was giving off heat and made my skin feel incredibly itchy. With no Solarcaine or generic aloe lotion available, my wife improvised a natural remedy.

Using some essential oils provided by Young Living, she mixed some coconut oil with peppermint. In a separate mixture, she used coconut oil, tea tree and lavender. I realize that essential oils aren't exactly accepted as mainstream science, but, at the time, I was in so much pain that I was willing to try anything. The mixtures definitely had an effect on my skin. While not completely relieved of my sunburn pain, I did feel that I had gotten enough relief to function adequately.

There's an encyclopedia's worth of remedies out there involving essentials oils. If you're curious and have an open mind, you can find such remedies among the independent distributors of Young Living essential oils. It seems that, whatever the problem, there's an oil for that.