Wednesday, February 25, 2009

So, how was your day?

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Mine kind of sucked.

However, this sign at the hospital did make me laugh:
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Adventure! Excitement! Vicodin!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Let's get Scientific!

"When two science museums compete everybody is a winner...unless those evil HMNS bastards release uncontrollable zombie dinosaurs into the fray."
Advertisement seen in The Woodlands Mall

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1st Floor vs. 2nd Floor

The mall near our house is, like most malls, a rather schizophrenic place. So it's not surprising that it has two separate, competing science museums. A few years ago The Woodland's Children's Museum opened it's doors up on the second floor. The Wethergirls and I spent many a gloomy, stormy Saturday playing with all their hand's on exhibits of dental hygiene, magnet magic, and live bugs.

Then about a year ago directly below the Children's Museum the Houston Museum of Natural History opened its auxillary Xploration Station suggesting a) natural scientists are not strong spellers and b) they are a pushy, antagonistic bunch set on muscling in on other's turf.

Also, those HMNS dudes/dudettes really know how to set up a museum! The Xploration Station rocks! The Children's Museum may as well just admit defeat and concede the territory.

Misseswether had picked up a museum membership to the XS right after it opened and has spent a lot of time there with the Wethergirls. But, seeing how it is indoors, I've never gone there. Saturday's original plans fell through (which was a good thing because they weren't my plans) and, since it was raining I decided to finally check the place out.

Whoa!

This wasn't some rinky-dink afterthought of cheesy exhibits. This was surprisingly large collection of everything a scientificy person could want! Dinosaurs, rocks, penguins, sharks, skulls, bugs, books, blocks, experiments, mazes, and movies filled thousands of square feet of floor space.

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Undead zombie dinosaur!

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Penguins with frikken lasers on their backs!

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Giant, man-eating rocks!

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What the stomach looks like of a giant, man-eating rock.

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More undead zombie dinosaur! Plus a dark and mysterious mine...

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...filled with amazing fluorescent rocks. I tried explaining to the Wethergirls about how high energy beams of ultraviolet light excite the electrons into jumping up to the outer orbitals of mineral's atoms and then when the electrons drop back into their normal orbitals a lower-energy photon is released which travels into our eye triggering nerve impulses to flow from the eye's cone receptors to the brain...but they just wanted me to spin them in circles to make all the pretty colors "whooshy".

So I spun them.

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Books and Blocks

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So, can your 3-yr old read?
Mine can't, but she's good at faking it.

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Giant frog. Seriously, this thing was almost as big as Mambowether's head!

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Many bugs. The museum workers never left me unattended with them so I can't tell you how they tasted. Sidenote: if you show up at a museum wearing clothes reminiscent of Indiana Jones the curators keep a real close eye on you, especially if you are also carrying a small bag of sand...

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Freshly-molted praying mantis.

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Skulls!

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Including a skull of a two-headed calf! What a great museum!

We ended up spending over three hours there and still didn't see everything. A person could easily spend an hour just playing with the Critter-Cams. I had to drag the girls out to get them some food. Past experiences taught me girls + fun - blood sugar = disaster, so after many promises to bring them back I was able to get them to go home for lunch.

They pretended to be undead zombie dinosaurs attacking helpless peanut butter and jelly scientists as they ate. Yep, I'm an excellent parent!

Adventure! Excitement! Xploration!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Praise the Lord!!

After a year and a half of struggle and failure I finally had a breakthrough on one of my research projects at work. I promised the Lord that if today's experiment worked I would sing out His praise.

Glory to God in the highest
from Who all things come!


-Merriwether, on his knees.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Plan A: Go Outside

So Friday night around 10:30pm I see a text message from Wildcat asking if I'm going to Jesse H. Jones Park on Saturday for the Texas Heritage Days Festival. Being a manly man, my whole Saturday's plan for me and the Wethergirls was "go outside" so meeting up with Wildcat and his cubs seemed like a great way to flesh this plan out a bit. Plus, Heritage Days at Jesse H. Jones Park rocks, assuming you dig the lifestyle of Texas settlers from the early 1700's up to the mid-1800's (which I do). Miniwether and Mambowether get really excited when I tell them the plan as they love Wildcat's cubs (note to self, come up with aliases for them) and they love Heritage Days (more specifically, the free pioneer foods such as stick bread, beef jerky, and bear sign). I had a plan and the plan was good.

You can probably see where this is going.

We get to the park and it's empty.

Hmmm.

Then Wildcat drives up, rolls down his window and proclaims he's a doofus. Heritage days was last weekend!

Not a problem. I have food, I have water, I have a knife, he has food, he has water, he has a knife...it's exploration time! Into the woods we go...and by woods I mean the really cool play ground they have there at the park.

The girls run around like kids did thirty years ago while Wildcat and I discuss our plans for the upcoming economic collapse. Did I mention we had layoffs at my company last week? Yep, our head count was reduced 25% just in research. Other divisions faired even worse. Time to buy some chickens, folks.

Eventually we were able to drag the girls off into the woods...does that sound bad? Eh, whatever. We spent a few hours exploring the park trails.

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The ideal catwalk for young ladies.

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Sharing lunch with a turtle. You can't see it in this picture, but its rear, right leg was missing and the shell in that area was all deformed. It may have been clipped by a car or something, but it was all healed now.

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I love this shot. It's actually a picture of the reflection of the trees on a pond.

While we had missed Heritage Days they still usually have something going on every weekend at JHJP. This Saturday it was dutch oven cooking over a campfire.

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Getting ready to cook rice jambalya, peach cobbler, and mixed-fruit cobbler.

There weren't many people there for this class so we pretty much had the teacher to ourselves and we grilled him (ha ha ha) about campfire cooking for almost three hours while he did his cast iron culinary magic.

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Wildcat gets some grub!

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Merriwether gets some grub.

Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of the girls with their grub as they grabbed the bowls and ran off to continue playing. They'd all zoom by heading in one direction, then suddenly they'd zoom by from a completely different direction. They ran wild and free for hours.

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Which means when it was time to leave I had to carry Mambowether the 1/2 mile back from the campfire to the car. You know what though? This just made the day that much better...

So then around 10pm Saturday night I get an IM from Clark asking if I could go hiking the next day. The ever-supportive Misseswether gave me her blessing and so after a bit of discussion we decided to head down to Brazos Bend State Park. I had read good things about this park plus a fellow adventurer has been trying to get me down to the observatory there for the last few months.

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The best place in Houston to see stars. (sidenote: I do NOT consider Matthew McConaughey to be a star)

Brazos Bed State Park if filled with miles and miles of hiking, biking, and horse trails through oak forests, along streams and rivers, and past ponds (many of which are filled with alligators).

I would just like to add lots and lots of alligators! It was so cool!

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Alligator

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Alligator

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Big honking alligator.

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Clark with big honking alligator.

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Clark with big honking tree.

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Merriwether with different big honking tree.

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Big honking vulture.

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The beauty of gray trees covered in gray Spanish moss on a gray day.

Clark and I walked for miles through the woods and along streams. The day started out as cool, overcast and drizzly which isn't such a bad thing when you are out being feral. By lunchtime the sun had come out but a nice breeze kept the temperature comfortable.

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Where a man has lunch.

I'd like to stop her a minute and state that in my opinion Mountain House freeze-dried foods have got to be the most gawd-awful crap ever to pass by my lips, and long-time readers know just what that a statement like that entails... I have yet to find a Mountain House food that doesn't suck worse than any other food has ever sucked before. Those of you planning on stocking your blast shelter with this stuff better find room for a fat person or two because you'll probably enjoy eating them rather than this imitation dog food. Seriously, don't buy this stuff.

There's so much wilderness around Houston waiting to be explored. I've been doing this for years and I've still only scratched the surface! I doubt even I will see every park, preserve, and pond this area has to offer but I'll be out there every weekend trying. Give me a "Howdy, Merriwether!" if you see me...five to ten bucks would be nice, too. :-)

Adventure! Exploration! Little-To-No-Planning-Yet-Everything-Turns-Out-Great!

Monday, February 09, 2009

An overly estrogenic weekend

Sometimes it's tough to be the only man in a household...especially when it's a weekend filled with assorted parties. There seems to be an unspoken rule between the females in my family that any party we throw or attend isn't official until one (or more) of them have a meltdown. Saturday's birthday party for a neighbor boy was spent sitting on the floor next to the chair under which Miniwether was hiding and bawling her eyes out. She's a tough cookie in the woods but put her in a room full of sugar-hyped kids and she loses it.

Next came the last of the Chinese New Year parties. It was held in a Chinese restaurant with a buffet set up. The buffet was for the party. We were there for the party. For some reason Misseswether was afraid the buffet wasn't for us. Really afraid. I finally had to have the party organizer come over and tell her it was okay to eat.

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It's not a party until something loses it's head.

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Dragons!

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The kids proudly display the dragons' heads. What a great party!

Misseswether just isn't into crowds, either. Nor does she handle throwing parties very well which means family birthday parties can be a bit stressful for her. I've dropped my celebrations down to a stack of Ding Dongs with her and the kids. Unfortunately, the kids require slightly more preparation. Misseswether always makes cupcakes for the kids' parties. The cupcakes ALWAYS fall over while Misseswether tries to bring them, precariously balanced, to wherever they need to go. Misseswether then freaks out. The first time it happened I made the mistake of say, "You know, if you just..." at which point I stopped talking because I'm not a complete idiot. Finally after several years of this I've carefully implanted in her the idea of me making a neat little Plexiglas cupcake holder. She seems willing to try.

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Cupcakes baked in ice cream cones.

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Disaster!!

So yeah, Mambowether's birthday party was on Sunday. Kids...Play-Dough...sugar...helium...no naps...
Being three just means her tantrums have that much more force behind them. Add sugar, take away the nap and the result is the six hours between the end of her birthday party and her bedtime was one long screaming fit. This of course upsets Miniwether and she lost it too. Note to self: next time the kids get shots of whiskey, too (JOKING!!!).

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Party!

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It's my party, I'll stab things if I want too.

Yeah, so that was the weekend, minus the babysitting two other neighbor kids Friday night. Luckily one was a 20-month old boy who thinks I'm the second coolest dude on the planet. His sister is a 4-yr old girl though with all the associated issues... My job was to be the horse whose back the three princesses rode on for four hours chasing the evil little boy.

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This was the easiest part of the whole weekend.

Adventure! Excitement! Adrift In A Sea Of Estrogen!

Exhuasted

You'll have to give me a few days, folks. I've gone beyond the point of even caffeine, sugar, and aspirin's ability to keep me upright and functioning.

Adventure! Excitment! Total Collapse!

Monday, February 02, 2009

One for Parents

You'll turn my son into a murderer!
-Mother of a fellow scout thirty years ago when Scoutmaster Poppawether taught the troop how to make knives out of old saw blades.

I've been following an interesting thread over on the Equipped to Survive Foundation forums. An assistant scoutmaster wants to teach his troop a class on wilderness survival. Unfortunately, several of the scouts' parents reacted poorly to this. When they learned the scouts would be using knives and spending a night alone in the woods the parents threw up a lot of resistance. The main arguments against such a class was that a kid might cut himself with a knife and that learning how to butcher a small animal would be too gruesome and traumatic. The parents couldn't understand why their kids would ever need to know this stuff.

Some things never change except to get worse. There were one or two parental units like this looming over my scout troop decades ago. They thought us Boy Scouts should never carry (or make!) knives, that the adults should handle all the fire building and campfire cooking, that the scout camp shooting range would turn us into trained killers.... Basically, that we shouldn't do anything that they consider to be hard, dangerous or scary.

In the thread that inspired this post are story after story of parents trying to prevent scouts from being scouts. They wanted to wrap their kids in foam rubber and "keep them safe".

Apparently not allowing your child to learn how to properly use tools is "keeping them safe".

Apparently preventing your child from learning what to do if they get lost in the woods is "keeping them safe".

Apparently denying your child the chance to learn proper gun safety and handling under a highly control atmosphere is "keeping them safe".

Apparently leaving your child without the skills and knowledge to handle an emergency is "keeping them safe".

Apparently believing that their children will never, ever go off somewhere without "adult" supervision is "keeping them safe".

Here's a newsflash for you overly placental parents: AT SOME POINT YOUR "CHILD" WILL NOT BE UNDER "ADULT" SUPERVISION!!!

At some point your child will be a teenager/college student/young adult/parent and there's a an excellent chance that he'll end up going off somewhere without you. Maybe a ski trip, maybe a road trip, maybe to a secluded beach with the girl of his dreams...

Someplace wild.

How wild? Well, there might be drinking. Maybe a bonfire. Perhaps some of the others will bring along some guns to shoot...

Or maybe it's just a flat tire in the middle of nowhere or a sudden storm tipping the boat. A change in the weather bringing in thick fog...

Now what happens?

A fellow forum member/scoutmaster had the best argument to these overly protective parents and I now quote it:

"Today, as parents, they have a choice. They can allow their boys to participate in Scouting, and have their first experiences in the wilderness be with a safety net of people that have training and experience to allow them to make mistakes, and learn, but with some guard rails. Hopefully this makes them better prepared to deal with it later in life safely. Or, option 2 is to refuse to let them participate now, and then when they are on their own, and the parents can't tell them "No" anymore, they do it anyway, except now they are going into the woods with a very young adult's mind and judgment, with their drunk buddies, with no personal experience or training, and no trained leaders to provide coaching and guidance."

A parent is supposed to teach their child how to deal with life, not hide them from it. To do otherwise is to cripple them.

Adventure! Excitement! Parenting Done Right!