Archive for July, 2013

Another Vacation Recap, Part II

After we spent a week at Maranatha, we stopped at a submarine museum on the way home. Rather than prolong the Maranatha recap, I decided to separate the sub trip into its own post.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the USS Silversides:

photo of name stencil of the USS Silversides submarine

Here is a photo of the whole thing:

panoramic photo of the USS Silversides submarine

Click the photo for full size

Before you get to the submarine itself, you go into the museum to buy tickets. But before you go into the museum, you pass by a play structure. This particular play structure happens to be the turret thingy from a gun boat or old submarine. The kids had fun playing with that.

photo of gun boat playground outside the USS Silversides museum

They might have played longer, but it was a hot, humid day so we urged them into the museum.

Also outside the museum, they had a hedgehog.

photo of hedgehog anti-submarine weapon outside the museum of the USS Silversides submarine

The hedgehog being the anti-submarine device. It fires a couple dozen little mines that land in the water in a circular pattern and sink toward the sub. The spread-out pattern and lack of warning made it hard for subs to evade.

The museum was good. It gave an overview of WWII, since that was the time the sub was commissioned. It gave some insights as to the operations of submarines. It was interesting, but we spent more time on the sub itself, which is where we headed next.

Here is some of the family entering the sub. We all went on board. The older two kids liked it so much they went through it twice.

photo of people entering the USS Silversides submarine

And here is what the control room looks like.

photo of name stencil of the USS Silversides submarine

The best part about the whole thing was the warning sign at the entrance to the sub. I regret not getting a photo of it, but it said something to the effect of “This sub is still operational. Do not touch any controls or levers.”

Everyone had a good time there, then we got in the minivan and drove for an hour and a half – long enough for the younger ones to nap. Stopped for dinner at Culver’s, then drove another hour home.

Thus endeth the vacation.

Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home again.

Acts 21:6

A Poster

No, not someone who posts.

Rather, an informational/inspirational/motivational piece of paper. Although it’s not on paper. Unless you print it.

My two main hobbies these days are running and perusing real estate listings. I forget what caused me to combine the two, but I got to thinking about my waist size and urban sprawl. Here is my conclusion:

inspirational poster about how fat cells are like subdivisions

Fat cells are like subdivisions – when one is full, a new one grows nearby. But the old one never disappears.

Or, if you want to think of it the other way:

inspirational poster about how subdivisions are like fat cells

Subdivisions are like fat cells – when one is full, a new one grows nearby. But the old one never disappears.

His sides are filled out with fat,
And the marrow of his bones is moist,

Job 21:24

Another Vacation Recap

Some of you may recall the strange affair of the Ph…

Wait, wrong intro. Let me start again.

Some of you may recall that we went to Nevada earlier this year. That seems so long ago now, even though it was only three and a half months. Now we have had our second vacation – our annual trip to the shores of Lake Michigan.

Warning: vacation recap ahead.

Visit 2010’s recap of our trip to Maranatha for a refresher course, or to see how similar trips to Maranatha are. We want them to be similar, because kids need traditions.

First up: the pool

photo of kids in the pool at Maranatha

After a couple of days, he wanted neither the swim vest nor the floaty ring. Daredevil is he.

Next up: crafts. There were a couple of cloudy/rainy days, so we went to the craft room more this year than last.

photo of kids at the craft room at Maranatha


Potato Cannon Attachments

Potato cannons are fun for a while, but then it just seems a waste. Flinging tubers far and wide, just for the sport of distance or accuracy. I wonder if we could kill two birds with one stone, or with one potato for that matter.

What if we put hot oil at the end of the potato cannon so that it fried the potato as it exited the barrel?

Then, when you are done firing, you would have some sides for your next meal. However, no one fries a whole potato. So we need to put a slicer of some sort at the end of the barrel, to cut the potato into the desired shapes and sizes. I’m picturing thin wires, like a cheese slicer. Here are some suggestions:

graphic showing various attachments for a potato cannon to make french fries, chips, coleslaw, and orange juice.

Of course those last two would be cabbage and oranges, respectively, instead of potatoes. I was thinking about having a no-pulp option for the orange juice, but I think that would damage the cannon somehow. Just stick with pulpy orange juice and strain it later.

you shall break it into bits and pour oil on it; it is a grain offering.

Leviticus 2:6

100% is Not Everything

This post is directed at both the FDA and Minute Maid, but you should read it too so that you are warned of the inaccurate labels on food products these days.

I bought a couple of things that were labelled as 100% juice. I like to buy things with as few ingredients as possible.

photo of a box of apple juice labelled as '100% juice'

photo of a box of orange juice labelled as '100% juice'

So I saw these items with “100% Juice” on the package and I bought them, naively thinking that “100% Juice” meant that it contained only juice. A package can’t contain more than 100% of its contents, right? So if 100% of the box is juice, there is no room left for anything else that’s not juice.

photo of the ingredients list of a box of apple juice labelled as '100% juice'

photo of the ingredients list of a box of orange juice labelled as '100% juice'

As you probably have guessed, companies get to round up or something. They start with 100% juice, then they add something so it’s mostly juice and some additives, but they still call it 100%.

That last step is where I disagree. Call it “Mostly Juice”, call it “99% Juice”, just don’t call it “100% Juice” – reserve the label “100% Juice” for items that are juice, all juice, and nothing but juice.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.

Psalm 23:5

Movie Screening

As I mentioned last month, we got tickets to see Monsters University before it was released.

There were plenty of disclaimers on the ticket – first come, first serve, so you might not get admitted; if you are admitted, no recording devices of any kind are allowed; we can use your likeness to promote our film; etc.

photo of a movie screening ticket from Disney

The movie was to start at 7:00. Not knowing what to expect, We arrived at the theater around 6:15. I was glad we got there that early, because the line was out the door and past the end of the building. We were probably the 200th in line, which wasn’t really moving. And people were getting in line behind us too – it kept growing.

The Line

I was expecting a line (all those disclaimers about first-come first-served) and there was a line, so we got in it. But I just wanted to check that it was the right line. I glanced around and, sure enough, the people in front of us had the same Monsters University tickets that we did.

But there were more high school- and college-age kids than elementary school-age kids, which was not what I expected for this movie.

And then, after we had been standing in line for about 10 minutes, people dressed as zombies started walking up and down the line. Not a bunch – just a few. I thought that was really weird. Why would these people be doing that at a kids’ movie? I have never seen, nor do I want to see, any movies involving zombies. But I expect they could look depressed or sullen – these people just looked bored. And that made me think they were hired to be there.

Then someone a few families back mentioned “World War Z” and that pushed my suspiciousness level over the threshold. I told the kids to stay in line and I walked up to the front of the line, where there were some theater employees.
“What’s this line for?” I asked them.
“World War Z”
“Where’s the line for Monsters University?”
“Oh, that’s inside.”

I headed back to the kids, told them to follow me, and loudly announced that the line for Monsters was inside, so that other families wouldn’t be left high and dry by the unhelpful movie theater. We went inside, and the lady behind me in line and I exchange gripes about how the lines were handled: “they could at least have had some signs” and “those employees were just standing there doing nothing”. The employees didn’t need to tell everyone walking by what the arrangement was, but it would have helped a lot if they called out “World War Z here, Monsters University inside” every couple of minutes.

To be fair, I will say that the theater had signs on their doors saying which screenings were to use which doors. But the signs were not large (printed on a normal 8.5×11 sheet of paper) and most people saw the line and got in it without going up to the doors. Half the people never even saw the doors because where they parked was closer to the end of the line than to the doors, so they got in line without going near the theater entrance. Poor planning, poor logistics, and employees that lacked initiative.

In the Door

Once we got in the right line, we were behind only about a dozen families, and the Monsters line was moving faster than the World War Z line, so I settled down a bit. But I didn’t have my phone, so I had no idea what time it was, so I had no idea how close the movie was to starting. Strike two against the theater was that they had no clocks anywhere. Not on the walls, no current time display on the board that displays all the movie times. But we made it with plenty of time.

We got our tickets, 3D glasses, and headed for theater 9.

Before we got there, a lady stopped us and we had to get our photo taken in front of a MU backdrop. I assume it was for promotional reasons of some sort. They gave us a card with our ID# on it so we could go to some website and see/print our photo. I think I lost the card.

After the photo booth was the bouncer. He just asked a couple of questions, the main one being “Do you have any cell phones, cameras, or recording devices?” To which I answered “No”. I wasn’t carrying anything, so he didn’t have to search anything.

After the bouncer came the security guard. His job was mainly to wand people. I had to put my arms out while he checked for any metal. My car keys set off the wand. “What’s that?” he inquired, tapping my pocket with the wand. “My keys” “Okay, go ahead” and that was it. They didn’t ask my kids any questions or wand them, which has its pros and cons from security and a customer relations perspectives.

In the Theater

We got inside and the theater was only about a quarter full. Much of the middle was empty, so I directed my kids there. As we got closer, I saw why – the middle section, from about the 7th row through most of the way up was reserved for various groups. So we sat halfway up in the section on the far side.

The showing was sponsored by Radio Disney, so instead of the usual movie previews and such, they had a guy and assistant on a microphone, asking trivia questions and holding small contests. The prizes for winning were sticker packs. It held everyone’s attention well.

Then, after at about 15 minutes of that, the movie started. There were no movie previews, but there was a promotional spot for a certain TV station that promotes itself as being for families (or about families or something). Remember how in my I said there was nothing objectionable to worry about in the movie? Here is where I qualify that. The movie itself was fine – the worst part was having to endure the promos for sitcoms that I will not have my kids watch.

The movie started, we watched it, and we stayed through the credits because there is a bit after the credits. The bit was only about 15 seconds long, and it wasn’t worth sitting through all those credits. I think Pixar takes at least twice as many people to make a movie and most live-action films do.

In Summary

If you do go to a screening: get there slightly early, take seriously their warnings about recording devices, and check what the line is before you stand in it.

The desert creatures will meet with the wolves,
The hairy goat also will cry to its kind;
Yes, the night monster will settle there
And will find herself a resting place.

Isaiah 34:14

Phone Screen Rotation

I set my phone screen to lock so that it won’t rotate. I know people put effort into the fancy sensors and software so the phone can have that feature, but it needs one more enhancement before I’ll use it.

Here is my use case – I’m lying on my side (on a couch, in bed, whatever) and I’m holding the phone. What should the phone do?

Here is the feature as the phone companies tout it (look! the phone screen knows which way is up!):

diagram of how phone screen orientation moves when the phone is tilted

But here is how it works for me:

diagram of how phone screen orientation moves improperly when the phone is tilted when the user is also tilted

As you can see, when I lie on my side, the screen no longer matches me. Now I have to tilt my head awkwardly. Or disable screen rotation so that the phone doesn’t think it is smarter than I am (no, trust me – this is what you want, even though you don’t want it).

My proposal: Use the secondary camera match the screen orientation to the user, not to gravity

diagram of how phone screen orientation should move when the phone is tilted

The new phones these days have cameras that can see the user. And they have facial recognition algorithms that should be able to know the angle of the person’s head. If the phone is tilted and the user’s head is tilted the same amount and direction, then don’t rotate the screen.

Bryan Logan, make it so.

P.S. – see about a NASA grant, because this technology would also apply to zero-gravity situations when the phone’s sensor can’t tell which way is up.

When they moved, they went in any of their four directions without turning as they went; but they followed in the direction which they faced, without turning as they went.

Ezekiel 10:11