Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Square math and the middle-aged mind

[Continuing my theme of revealing things to undermine what little confidence the world has in me...]

The other day my second grade son was watching a cartoon about blocks that do math. It was on Netflix I think; he has mastered all the streaming apps on the TV, and when he has free-viewing time (when Mommy and Daddy need a break) he is more than capable of selecting a show to watch, so I was not paying much attention to how we go there. [Wow, I'm really knocking it out of the park with this introductory paragraph! How can the reader not want to see where this is going?] In this instance, it was something that seemed more toward teaching pre-schoolers or kindergarteners about math--well below where he is in school, but maybe he gets nostalgic for that period of his life; it was at least educational, and certainly far less bad than a lot of shows he could have selected.

As I noted, I was only vaguely paying attention and likely because of that seeing the blocks make square shapes made me think about squaring numbers--1x1, 2x2, 3x3, etc.--and remembered that a number squared is the only way when represented with blocks that it creates a literal square; the units on the vertical axis and horizontal axis obviously must be the same or it's merely a rectangle. [Finally got to the topic, proving that first paragraph was a digression before I even started. Readers love that.]

Squaring numbers is a concept still a few years in the future for my son, but obviously way from way back in elementary school (probably) for me. Still, I hadn't thought of it in such rudimentary terms since... well, probably since I was in elementary school over four decades ago. [Yowza! I am old.]

I then paused and thought about the results of those squared numbers:

1, 4, 9, 16, 25, 36, 49, 64, 81...

And how they incremented in a pattern--by 3, then 5, then 7, then 9, then 11, etc. 

Saturday, October 09, 2021

Whatever happened to my (demented) brain?

The other morning a song popped into my mind, seemingly out of nowhere. I've written about this phenomenon before, so this is not new, but the song in question was not a radio staple... unless you listened to a particular radio show back in the day. What was it? 

Eddie and the Monsters' 1983 novelty track, "Whatever Happened to Eddie?" (sung by Butch Patrick, who played Eddie Munster on The Munsters TV show back in the mid-'60s).

(There's also a full music video they apparently made, if you dare.)

Where would I have heard that? Why, the Dr. Demento Show, of course. For the uninitiated, Dr. Demento was a DJ who spun comedy and novelty records on his weekly program, and each Halloween he'd have themed episodes where "Whatever Happened to Eddie?" would be a mainstay (at least during the period where I was an avid listener; more on that in a moment). I suppose with Halloween coming and us putting up decorations, that may have triggered something there in the recesses of my grey matter, even though I had not heard the song in many decades. 

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Looking back at September 14, 2001

The previous post took a look back at what I'd written in my journal on the day of the terrorist attacks, but while I had the notebook out (from the box in the garage where it normally is) I glanced a few days further and noticed what I composed a mere three days after the attacks, which I offer below without edits, as a document of its time. (I'm not suggesting I have changed my overall view in the intervening decades, especially after seeing how that period played out, but I'd probably write in a slightly less jaded tone these days.)

Spoiler: As you'll see, I was not on the nationalistic (some might say jingoistic) train sweeping much of the country at the time, but I was riding the commuter rail at the moments of writing this.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Looking back on September 11, 2001

On this 20th anniversary of the attacks, many people have been remembering where they were and what they were doing when they heard. Like everyone who was old enough to be aware, I recall that morning very well, even though I was thousands of miles away from the tragedies.

My morning routine at the time is worth noting for how I learned of the news.

I lived alone in a studio apartment. To allow myself to sleep in as late as possible and still get to work on time, I had it down to only the essential actions. When the alarm sounded I'd immediately get up and get in the shower, then brush my teeth, get dressed, run a comb through my hair, grab my bag, and head out to walk to the train station a few blocks away. I'd get something for breakfast after I got to the office, so I had that whole process from waking to out-the-door down to around 35 minutes. 

The key: In that 35 minutes, I did not turn on the TV or even a radio. It was all about getting done as fast as possible, and that would only have been a distraction. (Obviously this was before smartphones and news alerts.)

I walked to the train station unaware of anything happening in the world. While waiting on the platform, someone did say, "Crazy morning, huh?" I recall nodding just to acknowledge but not knowing what the person was referring to. Even then, that was a comment that could be taken a number of ways.

I did have a Walkman-type AM/FM/Cassette player in my bag, and after getting on the train and taking a seat I put on my headphones and tuned in to the Kevin & Bean show on KROQ (something I still did back then). Rather than their usual silliness, their tone was of shock and disbelief. That's how I learned about what had happened: from a rock station's morning show that ordinarily devoted maybe five minutes per hour to actual news.

I listened for a while, trying to take it all in. Then I did what I usually did on the ride, and pulled out a pad of paper and pen, and jotted down thoughts in my journal. I went back and looked at what I wrote that morning, which I offer below not because it is particularly profound or insightful, but as a record of the moment.

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

A Modest Proposal: Overturning Roe v Wade edition

The reason conservatives want the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade and ban abortion (and those conservatives make no effort to make policies to help children) is simple: They want more babies born so they can eat the babies.

Not all conservatives, of course. Only the wealthy ones can afford baby meat.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Kids ask the most probing things: The dangers of nature shows

Tonight, as a family we were watching an episode of Crocodile Hunter (yes, from the '90s) where Steve and Terri were on a beach where green turtles were mating in the shallow waters. The hosts talked about how during the hours-long mating the females are responsible for bringing both turtles to the surface to breathe because the males are too focused on what they're doing.

Without missing a beat, our son asked (with complete sincerity) "Is that what Daddy was like after you guys got married?"

After several minutes of uncontrollable laughter, we could only say: "Not exactly." 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The simple joys of being a middle-aged dad: Flash Gordon theme edition

Somewhere in my past the chorus to the theme (by Queen) from the 1980 Flash Gordon movie got quasi-embedded in my brain--particularly that couplet: 

Flash! A-ah!  
Savior of the universe! 


Over time my brain changed the second line to "Defender of the universe" (which I think works better in the meter, but that's another topic) but the melody remained, and the key (of course) was the "A-ah!" vocalization after the hero's name. It's not as though I was a huge fan of the movie (I was not) nor a huge fan of the song (it's fine); but that part was just an earworm that was in me permanently.

For no good reason other than my own amusement, occasionally I'd adapt it and substitute another single-syllable word where the "Flash!" was, to elevate the term in a ridiculous way; e.g., "Cheese! A-ah! Defender of the universe!"--although I have no recollection of using that one in particular. It's always spontaneous, tossed out in the moment when an appropriate word comes up in our conversations, as a jocular interjection, so they never stick with me.