Forget Deep Blue, or the Hubble, or the iPhone. I want to meet the design genius behind the alarm clock. Since the inception of the alarm, we’ve enjoy the immense benefits bestowed by the most-wonderful snooze button. [Consequently, I also want to speak with the linguistic brilliance behind the word snooze. Tired and groggy as I usually am, I always pause to look at the word and think, “is that spelled right?” And while you may be thinking, “Seriously, they’ve sold a gazillion of these, surely they would have correct a typo by now. Quit being neurotic.” I’ll have you know I wasn’t nearly as bad until I received my Ford Explorer at work and now find the words “CHECK GAGE” [sic] every time I start the car. Once I find the gage, I will check it, but it’s apparently not in the owner’s manual. Things got even worse when G’s christmas robot turned out to have a heavily accented Chinese woman saying, “I have gret abillitee. Let me teach you how to dance. Ready…Shuut.”]
Regardless, the alarm clock is functional engineering at it’s finest. What other piece of modern technology can you throw an inanimate object in the general vicinity of and have it be silent for 9 minutes? Neither my children nor my telephone will do that. And while I used to think there was deep rooted physiological or psychology reasons for the 9 minute thing, I recently found myself bitterly disappointed when I found out the awful truth.
Who needs T.V. when there’s YouTube.
If you’ve ever spent time around small children, even the person with the deepest repository of useless knowledge will encounter a time when the inquisitive child asks a question and you just don’t know the answer. If you’re like me, you’ll probably invent some completely fantastical fairy tale to augment reality, then do a craptacular amount of research.
Eventually, said children will get wise to your game and will start to say, “No, seriously mom.” While they still like the fun fantasy stories [Really, I a saw the tree whittle a straw and drink the big puddle all gone in the 5 minutes we were inside. Really. And I’m just too tired to explain evaporation and the water cycle right now. I can do a pretty good 2nd grade electoral college demonstration, though. I’m just waiting for that one to come up.] they’re starting to want a little reality interjected from time to time. Geez.
I thought I’d have a little more time to convince my kids of the existence of fantasy worlds before they wised up. However, my 4-year-old got my number about a year ago, so now I have to come up with alternate methods of instruction and am readily willing to admit I just don’t know the answer, but I know how to look it up. [Boy, my participles are hanging out all over the place today. Oh, well.]
I was seriously stumped when we came across the line in a book that said (more or less) “The Kakapo lives in Australia. It flies very badly.” And that’s it.
Oh, c’mon people! You can’t end a book with a cliffhanger like that! We’re all left wondering about that poor bird and why it flies badly and what exactly does bad flying look like, really? I can only imitate a bird running into a window so many times before I finally got the dreaded, “No, seriously.”
The Kakapo does indeed fly very badly. This is mostly because it strongly resembles a green schnauzer with wings. Actually, it doesn’t fly much at all and spends most of it’s time running around the underbrush. This also likely explains why it’s virtually extinct. (Only 92 left at last count.) G thinks it’s hilarious to watch.
We now turn to YouTube to see almost every critter we’re curious about. Flamingoes. [Which are pink because of their diet and whose legs move so strangely because what appears to be their knees are actually their ankle joint and they stand on their tiptoes. They are also very mean, and probably shouldn’t have been elevated to the status of yard ornament.] Scorpions. [Who aren’t any less creepy on the small screen.] Frogmouths. [Who do not, in fact, croak or even vaguely resemble frogs.] Bats. [Still the epitome of cool.] Whales. [Although avoid the Orca videos. They eat penguins.] Everything.
Who needs Brittanica, I have Google.
When YouTube won’t cut it, there’s is always the mighty Google to fill in the gaps for you.
I was reviewing my recent searches, and I’m fairly certain if some random stranger picked up my phone and was flipping through my history, they would think I am either severely A.D.D. or have a multiple personality disorder. Seriously.
“How does lightning make thunder?” “Why are sparklers so sparkly?” “Quantum geometrodynamics for dummies.” “Is Barbie part of an alien invasion?” “Internal combustion engine diagram.” “How do fossils make fuel?” “Where are they putting the sea turtles?”
“Why is the snooze only minutes long?”
That’s the one that crushed me. No psychology. No science. No human behavior studies. No sleep cycle REM physiology. The snooze is 9 minutes long because of a quirk of lazy engineering and an effort to keep early alarm clocks functional that has lingered on over the years.
Remember the old clocks with the little numbers that flipped over? Basically it was a roll of half-numbers on a wheel that clicked very loudly and obnoxiously every time the minutes and hours changed. Our primitive snooze developers needed an easy way to buy some time, so when you hit the snooze button [which if we follow general evolutionary trends, was tiny in comparison to modern counterparts] only took the minute wheel into account and therefore could only keep track of time in terms of revolutions of the wheel. If you hit snooze when the minute wheel displayed “1”, the snooze lever was deactivated when the gear revolved back around to “0” again. Viola. 9 minutes. Just like your light timers at home that have the pins you move around to set on/off times.
Augmenting fact with fun.
Driving down the road yesterday, we passed a new church with a full-sized satellite dish out front. So G asks me, “Mom, is that a satellite dish?” Impressed [because like all moms, I think my kids are super-geniuses.] I tell him that, yes, it is a satellite dish. Before I can launch into a discussion of satellites and information transmission and all that great pontification, he says:
“Is that how they talk to the aliens?”
Regardless of these little pearls of wisdom we’re picking up through out techno-travels. I still love the minds of my children and still have faith they will thrive as creative human beings. Because, yes, that is how they talk to the aliens, but we don’t need a satellite dish because the aliens have our telephone number and send messages through the toaster. You know, the one that makes toast pop-up.
Also on my google history: “how to write messages on toast.”
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