Last November marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. I’ve been to Dealey Plaza once or twice before just to walk around the grassy knoll but had never been inside the Sixth Floor Museum. For something to do over our past three day weekend, Susan purchased tickets to the museum for the four of us and so that’s what we did last Sunday.
The (former) Texas School Book Depository located at 411 Elm Street in Dallas, Texas is about as nondescript of a building as you could build. It’s square and orange and bland and was built in 1903. I’m sure had the architects known what historic significance it would ultimately have, they would have made it fancier. As it is, the corners and edges inside the building are as sharp, unimaginative and cold as the outside. The most notable portion of the building is the sixth floor window on the southeast corner, from which Lee Harvey Oswald shot John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.
The sixth floor of the building has been turned into a museum. Using a modified iPod and a set of headphones, visitors make their way through the self-guided tour, which takes about an hour. Photography is “strictly prohibited” in the museum which stopped me from taking pictures, but not dozens of other people who have posted their pictures online — I’ve borrowed a few of them for this post.
(Courtesy of Google Images)
The information panels at the museum take visitors from Kennedy’s election to his funeral. To be honest, for anyone who has ever read a book or watched a television special about the Kennedy assassination, there’s not much new material here. Mason even made the comment that he had heard “all of this before,” which is probably true. I can’t recommend going to the museum solely for the purpose of learning more about the assassination. Of course that’s not why most people go. Most people go for this:
(Courtesy of Google Images)
That is “the” window. Those are not “the” boxes, which were taken for fingerprint evidence. But those are “the” lights and that is “the” floor and that is “the” window.
Although visitors are not permitted to take photographs on the sixth floor, you are allowed to do so from the seventh floor. The window I shot the following picture from is directly above “the” window. In the middle lane (in between the two cars in my picture) is a white “X” in the road. That is where Kennedy was shot. My initial thought while looking from the window is that it’s not as far away as you might think.
Other than Oswald’s impromptu cardboard sniper’s nest, the only other thing I would have liked to have taken a picture of inside the museum was this display. Fortunately, someone else did.
(Courtesy of Google Images)
On the left behind glass is the suit Detective Jim Leavelle was wearing as he was escorting Lee Harvey Oswald. Hanging from the left hand sleeve of the suit are the handcuffs that connected Leavelle and Oswald. On the right hand display under glass is the hat Jack Ruby wore when he shot Lee Harvey Oswald. Both this display and the sniper’s nest gave me goosebumps.
After exiting the museum the four of us headed down to the Grassy Knoll. This small plaque states that on this pedestal (technically a “plinth“), Abraham Zapruder filmed perhaps the most famous and important home video of all time.
I can’t say the museum is a fun place to visit and the amount of information it provides could be gleaned by watching a single A&E special, but I will say that looking out the window of the Texas School Book Depository out onto the Grassy Knoll is quite chilling even today, even for someone who wasn’t alive when those history-changing shots were fired.
I use Grammarly for free proofreading because while clowns are funny, typos are not.
Those who knew him on a first name basis called him “Ho,” and when being respectful some others addressed him as “Mr. Ho,” but to the rest of us he was simply “Ho Ho the Clown.” Ho Ho the Clown was a fixture in the Oklahoma City area, both on and off television, for much longer than I’ve been alive. For almost 30 years Ho Ho made regular (often daily) appearances on Oklahoma City’s KOCO-TV Channel 5. Along with his sidekick Pokey the Puppet (a sock puppet played by stage manager Bill Howard), the two of them entertained, educated, and befriended children several days a week for several decades. And because Ho Ho’s was on the air for so long, his legacy spans multiple generations of kids who grew up watching him.
In real life Ho Ho the Clown was Ed Birchall, although most who knew him say that other than the makeup there wasn’t much difference between the “real life” Ed Birchall and Ho Ho. Ed spent his time off screen entertaining at birthday parties, making public appearances, spending time at hospitals with sick children and attending the circus.
It seems everyone who grew up watching Ho Ho the Clown on television or who interacted with him in some way has a story to tell about it, which is what brings us to 1994′s Ho Ho: A Touch of God’s Gentle Love. Shortly after Ed passed away in 1988, the Daily Oklahoman asked readers to submit their own stories and poems regarding Ho Ho the Clown — and they did. The paper received over 400 responses, many of which made up the first edition of this book. The third edition of this book (the one I purchased) contains submissions from the previous two editions along with several new letters, poems and photographs.
While Ho Ho: A Touch of God’s Gentle Love does not contain any words from Ed Birchell himself, you can get a pretty good idea of what kind of man he was based on the hundred or so memories contained within. Several of the stories were written by those who met Ho Ho when they were children; others are from adults who talk about the effect that Ho Ho had on their kids, whether they were sick in the hospital or had simply run into Ho out in the public. The thing I found amazing was how many unpaid visits he made to people’s houses. Based on the submissions in the book it seems like he was always dropping by people’s houses to check on sick kids.
Perhaps the most revealing stories came from those who worked with Ed and tried to “get Ho’s goat” so to speak. Both in and out of makeup Ed Birchall did not like to discuss smoking or drinking, as he knew the influence he had on small children. Occasionally other grown ups would mention those things to him on the air. For the most part Ho Ho would ignore them or change the subject. At least one person commented that talking about smoking on drinking on air would make Ed very mad, “although he could only stay mad at someone for about five minutes.”
Along with the stories, the book also contains roughly two dozen photographs and poems as well. The pictures are all in black and white and show Ho Ho with random children you don’t know. A few of the pictures show Ed Birchell out of makeup. The quality of poetry ranges from mediocre to downright cringe-worthy. I’ll give both the photos and the poetry a pass based on the subject matter. This is one instance where “it’s the thought that counts.”
Overall I enjoyed Ho Ho: A Touch of God’s Gentle Love. Before reading it I did not know just how many years Ho Ho had been on the air and how much of a staple of the Oklahoma City community he was. By all accounts he was a truly special man and one that is greatly missed.
(Note: Across the internet I found multiple spellings of Ho Ho’s name, including “Ho Ho,” “Ho-Ho,” and “HoHo.” Because Ed once said that “his first name was Ho and his last name was Ho,” I went with the spelling used in the book, which was “Ho Ho,” even though the front cover of the book appears to use “HoHo.”)
To date I have spent 17 1/2 of the past 19 work years sitting in cubicles, the exception to this being the 18 months I worked in Spokane, Washington. The very nice people there in Spokane gave me my own office, complete with a door and a name plate and everything. I was 23 years old at the time and I assumed they had given me an an office because I was so important. In retrospect I realize it was more like Goonies, in which the Fratellis kept Sloth chained up in the basement out of the eye of the general public. Either way, I greatly enjoyed having a private area. I enjoyed the privacy and the ability to listen to music and not annoy the people around me. (My taste in music annoys everyone around me.) I also enjoyed the ability to sit in a little room and fart all day long.
Man I miss farting in that little room.
Aside from those 18 months, the other 17 1/2 years have been spent in spots like this:
That picture is from 2002. I have pictures of most of the cubes I have sat in dating back to 1995. While the technology between the pictures changes (monitors and laptops got thinner and desktop PCs eventually disappeared), not much else changed. Since 1995, excluding Spokane, I have sat in at least 8 different rooms in probably two dozen different spots, and if I posted pictures of all of them you would be hard pressed to tell any of them apart. The government is not known for their wild design ideas. Some of the cubicles have been off-white, some have been grey, and some have been light blue, but all of them have pretty much looked the same.
Oh, I almost forgot, with one difference: when I first started our cubicles were 8 foot by 6 foot. Today, they’re 6 by 6.
When you live in cube world, occasionally you move cubes. When I started out on the help desk upstairs we moved cubes a lot and thus we traveled lightly. The more crap you hoarded meant the more stuff you would have to eventually move. A few years later I moved down to the basement and made the mistake of decorating my cube with all sorts of toys and knick-knacks. It’s can be fun to look at that stuff throughout the day but when you move it’s a pain to box it all up and haul it to your next location.
A couple of weeks ago a new cube became available and I decided to go ahead and move again. This new cube is two cubes away from where I currently sit. To explain why I decided to move I drew up a stupid diagram.
In this small room there are only five cubes. I currently sit in the front cube (“1″), closest to the front door. Cube “2″, the furthest from the door, is the one that became available and the one that I chose to move to. The front door (“3″) is the only way in or out of the room. The door to the right (“4″) leads to an empty room, but if they decide to move a bunch of people in there, a steady stream of traffic could develop between doors “3″ and “4″. If that were to happen and I was still sitting in “1″ (where I currently sit) that would push my ADD brain over the edge. Plus that sounds annoying and I am a pretty easily annoyed. So, this new spot is a little bit closer to my friends, and looks to be pretty quiet.
So, about moving cubes — we can’t just “move” cubes because we cannot move our own phones. Instead, after a manager approves your request to move, a work order has to be placed for moving your telephone and within a couple of weeks someone will show up to your cubicle unannounced and say “Hello, I’m moving your phone,” and then they disconnect your phone and take it and move it to the new location. This is all kind of done in secrecy. Prior to the move you’ll receive notification like “Your phone will be moved sometime next week,” so it’s always awkward and difficult to plan for especially for Type A personalities such as myself and the timing is never good.
Speaking of timing, my phone was moved while I was out on Christmas vacation, which meant if I wanted my stuff in the same place my phone was on Monday morning I had to go in during my vacation and move my stuff. That is what I did on Saturday.
“Old Cube” is where I currently sit. If you remember from the previous diagram, that was location “1″. “New Cube” is location “2″. As you can see, other than physical location within the room, they are almost identical.
I have a fairly consistent ritual when it comes to moving cubes that involves scrubbing the new cube down from top to bottom before moving into it. Several years ago I bought a pile of cleaning supplies from Dollar General, which is where all the sponges and soap in this picture came from. I spent at least 30 minutes scrubbing the cube from top to bottom, starting with the cabinets and then the countertop. I was going to sweep underneath the cube but we don’t have a broom. I will put that on my list the next time I go to Dollar General. After everything is clean I move my stuff to the new cube and, when done, clean my old cube for the next person.
After a couple of hours of scrubbing and wiring things, here’s everything set up in my new cube. Don’t let those blinds fool you — they’re blocking the view to a break area, not the outside. That vacant shelf will eventually hold whatever toys and knick-knacks I find over the next year; whenever it gets full I box it up, take them all home, and start over again.
The first time I took Mason rollerskating by himself was in September of 2006, a few months before his fifth birthday. Susan wasn’t feeling well that day and did not go to the skating rink with us. I figured it would be a nice, stress-free trip out of the house for the two of us.
Mason fell that day and hit his elbow really hard. He screamed and screamed and said he couldn’t move his arm or feel his fingers. According to my blog entry from that day, after an ice pack was applied, he felt much better. That’s the thing with a first kid though — everything’s new so it’s tough to tell the difference between a broken bone and a bad bruise. By the time the second kid rolls around you can spot the difference from a mile away, and even the bad injuries don’t rattle you as much anymore.
For our Christmas break I promised to take the kids rollerskating and bowling. Tuesday was rollerskating day. Morgan’s 8 and Mason’s 12 now. I don’t watch over them like a hawk when they’re doing something like rollerskating. I don’t want to and they don’t want me to.
My mom and one of the kids’ cousins Griffin met us at the skating rink. While my mom and I were talking, Griffin ran up to us and said, “Morgan fell real bad.”
I have never seen a kid fall hard enough at a skating rink where they turned on all the lights, stopped the music, and essentially the entire skating rink froze in time, but that’s what happened. When the music stopped all that was left to hear was Morgan screaming. By the time the referee had walked her off the rink, Morgan was covering her mouth and blood was running out of it.
One ice pack and a few paper towels later and we were able to see that Morgan had apparently fallen face first and her top two teeth had sunk directly into her upper lip.
So Morgan welcomed 2014 with a minor fat lip and the kids are ready to go bowling today. What’s the worst that could happen?
2013 was for the most part, a good year. Although the O’Haras had a typical number of hospital and emergency room visits this year (Susan had knee surgery, Mason thought he broke his knee, and Morgan cut her finger bad enough to require six stitches), everybody made it to the finish line. Another year down, with hopefully many more to go.
Mason and Morgan turned twelve and eight years old this year. Both of them are among the tallest in their classes and both of them signed up to play basketball at the YMCA this year. This is Mason’s second year to play and Morgan’s first. The kids got a new backboard for Christmas and have been shooting baskets in the driveway when it’s warm enough to do so.
Scrolling back through my list of resolutions for 2013 I see that I fell short on most of them. That’ll make creating a list for 2014 easier! As for 2013, I listed and grouped some of the highlights together below.
The key words for work this year: Migration. Consolidation. Cost savings. Travel. Telework. Sequestration. Furlough. Re-org.
I’ll start with the travel. Off the top of my head, last year for work I visited Washington D.C. twice, Kansas City, Missouri twice, Charlotte and Greensboro, North Carolina, and Tempe, Arizona. I drove to all of those places. I only flew once, to Seattle. They lost my luggage.
In May of 2013 I was on placed on furlough leave without pay for one day, the irony being that I was out of town on travel — so while I didn’t get paid for the day away from work, I did get my hotel and per diem paid for. The furlough we received in October was less enjoyable. For sixteen days, Susan and I were prevented from reporting to work. Because we could have been called back at any time we were not able to stray too far away from home. The government decided to retroactively pay us for the time off, but we were unsure if that was going to happen during the time we were off to the point that we had withdrawn money from our savings, completely stopped eating out and began closely scrutinizing our spending. Ultimately we made it through, but we learned lessons about keeping more money in the bank and taking the threat of furloughs a bit more seriously.
I spent most of 2013 working on a couple of big-scale projects (domain migrations and email migrations) and lots of smaller ones. My role at work has been transitioning from job duties I know and understand to a new world I am less sure of. It has been a year of change and consolidation and uncertainty and not all of it has been fun.
One new thing Susan and I have both started is teleworking from home. Susan has a home office set up downstairs and I have one set up upstairs. Although it may sound ridiculous, on occasion we have both been working from home and not known the other one was in the house. (In fact, if we happen to telework on the same day, due to our schedules, we rarely even eat lunch together.) For the past several months I have been working from home up to three days a week. I enjoy being able to wear shorts and crank my music up as I write code and solve problems, but I won’t lie — some days it gets lonely and I miss the social interaction of being around people.
This year I cranked the “podcasting” knob up to 10. Not only did I release 28 episodes of You Don’t Know Flack, but I also launched a new Commodore game-related videocast called Sprite Castle, joined my friend Sean on Throwback Reviews as a full time host, and launched the retro podcasting portal Throwback Network as well. I also made appearances on several other podcasts including the Atari 2600 Game by Game Podcast, the Adventure Club Podcast, and the Retroist’s podcast. 2013 was a busy year for me behind the mic. Even more than all the shows I got to meet a lot of people and get to know a lot of people better. Thanks to Sean and Ferg and Vic and Doug and Guy and Door and Steve and everyone else who joined one of our shows or let me join one of theirs.
I continued to dabble with retro computers this year. I purchased and installed a CFFA-3000 for my Apple IIe (a USB-based disk loader), purchased a MiST computer (an FPGA-based machine that emulates both the Amiga and the Atari ST), and two Raspberry Pi computers. If you don’t know what most of those things are, don’t worry — just know I bought some old things and had a good time playing with them. Also, after making a pretty lame Poptart case for my Raspberry Pi, my friend Aardvark made and sent me this custom 1541 Pi case. I also got rid of the three monitors that my Amiga 1200, Commodore 64 and Apple IIe were hooked up to and replaced them all with one giant 42″ flat screen television.
Also this year I continued scanning and digitizing all of my media. I gave up on scanning books, but I did get quite a few cassettes, vinyl records, and VHS tapes converted to digital media.
Our big family vacation this year took us from Oklahoma, by car, to Niagara Falls (the Canadian side) and eventually all the way to Porter’s Cove, Maine. Along the way we stopped at the Christmas Story Museum (the house from the film) and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We had buffalo wings in Buffalo, New York, played video games at Funspot in New Hampshire, and went on a lighthouse tour just off the coast of Maine. Because of this trip I was able to add several northeastern states to my list and I have now officially stepped foot in 43 of the 50 states.
Other Oklahoma-based trips this year included visiting the Great Salt Plains, attending the Oklahoma Video Game Expo in Tulsa, and staying at a local Bed and Breakfast in Edmond. Mason got to meet Weird Al at a book signing in Oklahoma City, and the following month all four of us got to see Weird Al perform live. It was my third time to see Al perform live, Mason’s second, and Morgan and Susan’s first.
Other random things: I visited a bunch of filming locations from Breaking Bad in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I got to visit my friend Jeff and his family in Atlanta, my friend Robb twice (once in Tulsa and once in his home state of Colorado), I got to eat my first garbage plate with my friend Aardvark in Rochester, and I got to meet my online friend Mikey for the first time in North Carolina.
On August 18th, 2013, my Uncle Joe unexpectedly passed away at the age of 58. His wake took place on August 21st and his funeral took place the following day on my 40th birthday. I served as a pallbearer at his funeral and I can honestly say that, as surreal as it was, it was a day that will be with me for the rest of my life. It still doesn’t seem real. Two weeks before he passed, by sheer coincidence, Mason went to Chicago and spent a week at Uncle Joe’s house. We are all grateful things worked out that way. I’ll never watch the Three Stooges again or see another Chicago calendar without thinking about him.
Brad Prillwitz, an online friend of mine, also passed away this year after being involved in an auto accident. Brad was 47. I used to see Brad every year at the Oklahoma Video Game Expo in Tulsa. Brad was a good guy and his presence was missed there this year. Gary McIninch, a co-worker, was killed in a boating accident on the 4th of July. Gary is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever worked with.
Two tornadoes a few weeks apart ripped through Oklahoma last May. The first ran through Moore, did a ton of damage and killed several people including many children seeking cover in an elementary school. The second tornado came through while we were out of town on vacation. Although all of my close friends and family were spared, we had several co-workers who sustained damage to their houses and at least one person who worked in my building was killed.
Finally, my little buddy Gage (our friends Tim and Dawn’s son) was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2013. The good news is that Gage has been responding well to treatments and, while he has a ways to go, is doing great. Go Gage Go!
I typically write these year-end posts by skimming back through robohara.com and picking out the highlights. I made that more difficult on myself this year as I posted lots of things on Facebook and Twitter that never quite made it to the blog. I hope I hit all the big things. In 2014 I hope to keep better track of things.
Whether you had a good or bad 2013, here’s to making 2014 even brighter. See you all next year!
One of the virtual house cleaning tasks I perform at the end of each year is I go through WordPress and delete mpst of my drafts — posts that I never finished or published. According to WordPress, this year, I had 34. As I delete them I also document what they all were and why I didn’t post them in the first place — so out of 34 unfinished posts, I’ll get at least one.
Title: Karate Tournament What it was about: I went to a karate tournament one time with a friend and his parents. I won a trophy and he didn’t. It was about how parents can take the fun out of kids’ sporting events Why it never got posted: I never came up with a good ending for it. Fate: Saved… for now.
Title: Pirate PlayStation Covers What it was about: How I used to download/burn PlayStation games and print out covers for them, and how all those CD-R’s no longer work. Why it never got posted: It made me sound like a filthy pirate. Fate: Saved… for now.
Title: In Defense of Commodork What it was about: A post that disputed some of the things people have said about my book on Amazon. Why it never got posted: Never found good timing. Fate: Saved… for now.
Title: Weird Al Tour 2013 What it was about: Seeing Weird Al live in concert. Why it never got posted: Other things got posted and suddenly it was a couple of weeks old and it didn’t seem important any more. It seems silly to post it months late, but my blog is a way I remember events. On the fence on this one. Fate: Saved… for now.
Title: Lavabit/NSA e-mail What it was about: How your e-mail is no longer secure. Why it never got posted: The story hit prime time, making my coverage of it obsolete. Fate: Deleted.
Title: Random Quotes What it was about: A post announcing the fact that I had added “random quotes” to the top of robohara.com Why it never got posted: You can see the quotes up there. There was no real reason to announce it. Fate: Deleted.
Title: mp3 drive What it was about: I borrowed an external hard drive from a friend who borrowed it from a friend that was full of mp3 files. It was a long post about how I went through and picked out the music I liked and re-organized it and a bunch of other stuff. Why it never got posted: It was long and boring. Then I tried editing it down and it became short and boring. Fate: Deleted.
Title: Everything at once. What it was about: What having ADD is like and how information is often overwhelming. Why it never got posted: Never finished it. Fate: Deleted.
Title: Rumor has it: Sequestration What it was about: Being furloughed. Why it never got posted: It wasn’t very nice. Fate: Deleted.
Title: Movie Marathon What it was about: How I was going to watch a bunch of movies in 2013 and write about them. Why it never got posted: I never got organized and decided not to do that. Fate: Deleted.
Title: RSS Cleanup What it was about: Cleaning up dead RSS feeds. Why it never got posted: After writing this I couldn’t imagine this being interesting to anyone else on the planet. Fate: Deleted.
Title: Three Types of People Guaranteed to Tie Up Any Meeting What it was about: See above. Why it never got posted: I tried to make it funny but it came off as snarky and I was afraid people I work with would think it was about them when it wasn’t. Fate: Deleted.
Title: Setting up a BBS in 2013 What it was about: Setting up a telnet BBS. Why it never got posted: Too technical and boring. Fate: Deleted.
Title: White and Nerdy What it was about: How I wore my Weird Al “White and Nerdy” hat to a place once and was afraid that someone was offended by it. Why it never got posted: Never finished it. Fate: Deleted.
Title: Friendly Password Reminder What it was about: How to pick good passwords. Why it never got posted: The short version is, I’m not sure how you pick a password much matters anymore. Fate: Deleted.
Title: If I Were Invisible What it was about: The oldest draft in my folder. It had to do with how if I were invisible I would do so many more interesting things than the protagonist in H.G. Wells’ book The Invisible Man. Why it never got posted: Never finished it. After 5 years, guess I’m not going to, either. Fate: Deleted.
Title: My 9/11 Experience What it was about: My experience on 9/11. Why it never got posted: Because of who I work for I did not think it would be appropriate. Fate: Deleted.
Title: A Letter to a 16 Year Old Me What it was about: See above. Why it never got posted: It was a really good post with a few fairly dark comments in it. Might still post this with a fine bit of editing. Fate: Saved… for now.
A few months ago I imported all of the posts from Review-o-Matic.com into this blog as eventually I plan on shutting that one down. Apparently there were some old reviews from 2008 and 2009 that were left hanging in draft limbo. Here they are and what happened to them.
Alabama Thunderpussy/16/Brothers of Conquest/RPG concert (Published)
Asesino – Corridos De Muerte (Published)
Body Count – Murder 4 Hire (Published)
Bret Michaels – Custom Built (Unfinished/Deleted)
Cheap Trick – Sgt. Pepper Live (Unfinished/Deleted)
Chimaira – Pass out of Existance (Published)
Dio – Evil or Devine DVD (Published)
Evergrey – In Search of Truth (Published)
Lost Horizon – Awakening the World (Published)
I enter 2013 with five posts in my draft folder: the karate tournament one, Pirate PlayStation Covers, In Defense of Commodork, Weird Al 2013, and A Letter to a 16 Year Old Me. Watch for those in 2014… or maybe not. Some of the drafts I deleted today appeared on my 2012 list of drafts as well.
My family and I are addicted to the gadgets and gizmos advertised on television that promise to improve our quality of life. When you see the logo “As Seen on TV” you know what you’re getting — and what you’re getting is probably a piece of crap. We’re not addicted to these things because they work, we’re addicted to them because we think they’re funny!
If you haven’t seen the commercial or the Waxvac, please, indulge yourself:
Yes, everybody in my family now shouts “OW!” any time a q-tip gets near their ear.
For Christmas, Susan and Mason decided it would be funny to get me a Waxvac. Last night I decided to give it a whirl to see if the thing sucked earwax, or simply sucked. Here’s my experience.
Based on what I saw in the commercial, I was actually a little nervous about sticking the equivalent of a Hoover vacuum cleaner into my ear canal. If you watched the commercial you saw what I saw — the thing sucking up dirt and dust and, of course, earwax.
Step one was installing the two AA batteries. Despite having inserted AA batteries into things my entire life, I could not figure out which way the batteries were supposed to go. Fortunately they can only go four ways: ++. --. +-, and -+. I quickly discovered that the first two didn’t do anything; of the last two, one appeared to power the device but not the light, and the last combination I tried (of course) powered up both the device and the light. That must be right.
The next step was assembling the rubber tip designed to keep your ear safe and the actual device clean. The Waxvac comes with 8 rubber tips in 4 colors, presumably so each member of your family can use a different colored tip. I will just go ahead and tell you that this probably won’t be a problem in most families.
With the batteries and the rubber tip installed, I closed my eyes, held my breath, and stuck the Waxvac deep into my ear canal, leaving it there for over a minute as the instructions suggested. I removed the Waxvac and discovered…
I do not have amazingly clean ears. In fact, every time I cram a q-tip down in there like we all know we’re not supposed to do, it comes out yellow (or worse, brown). And yet, the Waxvac was unable to extract a single molecule of wax.
If you’re thinking by some miracle of nature my head is empty and all the wax from one ear somehow migrated over to the other ear, no such luck. The Waxvac came up empty on the other side as well.
Convinced I was doing something wrong, I resorted to pulling the instructions out of the trash and reading them. In retrospect I realize inserting a battery-operated device into your ear canal before reading the instructions might seem careless, but that’s how I roll. I thought by how poorly the device was functioning, I was doing something wrong.
At that point, I began experimenting. I first removed the rubber tip and the plastic guard designed from keeping the stupid thing from going all the way down in your ear canal. It still got no wax. I then spit in my hand to see if the Waxvac would suck that up. Nope. At this point I was convinced that I had the batteries backwards and that it was blowing air into my ear instead of sucking air out, so I reversed the batteries. No difference.
The front half of the Waxvac pops off to allow for the removal of all the wax this thing (in theory) extracts. With the cone removed I could see the fan inside. I did some experiments. From 1/4″ away, the Waxvac would not pull a napkin from McDonald’s toward it, but if I unfolded the napkin so that it was only one sheet thick, and it would. This confirmed that I had the batteries in the proper direction. But if this thing isn’t strong enough to move a napkin from McDonald’s only a quarter inch away, what are the odds this thing will ever pull earwax out of my ear?
One final complaint about the product: the fan inside the Waxvac is loud enough that for a good five minutes after using it, my ears were ringing and my hearing was worse than when I had started. My hearing eventually returned, but our $10 never will.
(Some of you may have seen bits and pieces of this story or a few of these pictures via Facebook. Here is the complete story.)
One of the new things our extended family tried this year was a name-drawing gift exchange. At Thanksgiving, everyone who wished to participate tossed their name into a hat and pulled out someone else’s. The rules of the gift exchange were that gifts had to cost less than $10 and had to be either used, made, or modified — in other words, no straight off-the-shelf items.
I drew Morgan’s name. A while back Morgan told me she wanted a reading light for the table next to her bed, and at one point in time I think she said she wanted a Barbie one. With that to go on, this is what I came up with.
I started with these three items: a Barbie head ($1.99 from Goodwill) and two project lightbulbs, complete with cords ($2.99/each). With tax, I was still about a buck under the spending limit.
The first step was to drill Barbie’s eyeballs out with a power drill.
This felt as odd as it looks. After drilling out her eye sockets and a hole in the back of her head through which I could run the cords, I proceeded to dremmel out the holes a bit. There was no part of this that felt normal.
With the holes widened, all that was left was sliding the sockets in through the rear of Barbie’s head, using the included clips to fasten them in place, and screw in the bulbs.
The sight of Barbie “staring” at me as best she could with no eyeballs was unnerving at best, so I took a black Sharpie and marked out one of her teeth to lighten the mood.
With the lights in place the only thing left to do was to try it out. Since the cords were already pre-wired there was little that could go wrong, and sure enough the lights lit right up. What little girl wouldn’t want this on her nightstand next to her bed?
The light was placed in a sack and set aside until it was time to exchange gifts. Shortly before I handed her the sack I explained to Morgan what a gag gift was, and told her that the day after Christmas I would take her to the store to buy a real version of the gift.
Anyway, enough of the padding — here’s Morgan opening the gift.
She really wasn’t upset by the gift; if anything, she was embarrassed by the attention (which is funny, because she’s a ham).
People are always talking about the real meaning of Christmas. I’m here to tell you, if drilling the eyeballs out of a Barbie doll and installing custom lighting into her face in the name of making a little girl (and a room full of people) laugh isn’t it… okay well maybe that isn’t it, but we had a good time anyway.
The dash of my WRX has a small cubbyhole that at first glance looks like a place where you might temporarily stow things, things like your cell phone or your wallet. Unfortunately the cubbyhole is sloped the wrong direction, so it acts more like a ramp than a safe place to put anything. The slightest bit of acceleration sends whatever is stored in the cubbyhole into your lap (or face, depending on the amount of acceleration).
For my birthday, my mom got me this. It’s a sticky pad (thus the name, “Sticky Pad”) designed to hold things in place on your dash. All I had to use the pad was to open the package and get the pad out to the car. It would have taken me 10 seconds to install. Here’s how that went:
- For a month, the Sticky Pad sat in my living room. Every time I went out to the car I thought, “Ah, I should have brought that Sticky Pad!” Distance from the car: approximately 50 feet.
- While cleaning the garage last month, I picked up the Sticky Pad and took it with me. It made it to the garage, but not the car. Distance from the car: approximately 15 feet.
- That same weekend, I assembled the Podcart. For some unknown reason, I put the Sticky Pad on the Podcart before dragging it back upstairs. Distance from the car: approximately 75 feet.
- Then I went to Denver. Before heading out, I tossed the Sticky Pad in my backpack so that, when I got downstairs to the car, I could toss it inside. Instead I forgot and brought the Sticky Pad with me (in Susan’s car) to Denver. Distance from the car: approximately 640 miles, and now in the wrong car.
- Upon returning home I exited the car and, before coming inside, removed the Sticky Pad from my backpack and placed it in the proper car. Success!
The Sticky Pad is now sitting in the cubbyhole in my WRX. I use it daily to keep my cell phone from flying off the dash and it works very well. Hooray!
Mason has returned for a second season of basketball at the YMCA and somehow convinced Morgan to enroll as well. I think Mason wants to be like the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Morgan wants to be like Mason. Each team had two practices before their first game, which was last Saturday. Morgan’s game was at 1pm at the Y off of Northwest Expressway and Mason’s was at 1:45 at the Y in Bethany, which meant Susan and I (and our parents) had to run from one game to the other to be able to catch both games.
Yes, Morgan picked that outfit out. Morgan is in the league for 8-10 year old girls. Morgan turned 8 in June so she is one of the youngest girls on the team, but she’s also close to being one of the tallest.
Morgan’s coach told her to stand “down low” and keep her arms in the air, and if nothing else she did that throughout the game. She only took one shot and missed it, but at this level she is working on the fundamentals like dribbling and walking at the same time. We’re working with her on some basic skills (like “not crying so much”), but if she’s anything like her brother, she’ll be out in the driveway practicing until she gets it right. The girls lost their first game but I am sure that will inspire them to practice even harder.
Mason’s team on the other hand came out blazing. That’s Mason, jumping off the line and heading toward the basket to grab a rebound. Mason’s team creamed the competition, staying 20 points ahead the entire game.
All the kids on Mason’s team have grown a bit since last year, but Mason was still about to out rebound most of them.
I like the kids playing basketball. I like the exercise they get and the teamwork skills they’re learning, and I like going to the games. Here’s to a fun season for both of them!