Science Is Fun!

Last night I walked into the bathroom in my socks, which promptly became soaked with water. Uh oh. When I turned on the light, I saw that there was a pretty large puddle on the floor next to the pet waterer. The cord that goes to the pump was draped at such an angle that the water had dripped down it to the floor which had amassed the offending pool. Immediately I knew that this was a Teen Bot error, and decided to turn it into a teachable moment. I called Teen Bot to the bathroom and drew his attention to the cord.

“This is why it is important to make sure that the cord doesn’t touch the floor,” I explained. As we spoke, it became clear that he didn’t have an understanding of surface tension. Hoo boy. So, after we took care of the water in the bathroom, I took him back to the kitchen and drew a glass of water, narrating what I was doing along the way. I ground some pepper onto the surface of the water until the surface was well speckled with ground pepper and asked him if he understood what was going on there.

“The pepper is floating because it’s lighter than the water,” he said. As I started shaking my head he corrected himself, “well, I mean it’s less dense than the water.”

“Nope,” I corrected, “the pepper is actually more dense than the water, but it wants to be dry and the water has surface tension that is holding it up. Now, if we take some detergent…” I grabbed the bottle of Dawn and continued, “we can’t feed detergent to the cats, which would simplify the waterer situation, but check this out.” When I dropped a little squeeze of Dawn into the peppered water. The pepper predictably retreated from the drop point and continued to sink to the bottom of the glass.

“Woah,” said Teen Bot.

I smiled at him, “Yes. The detergent breaks the surface tension and the pepper sinks. This is why science is cool and fun. You can learn how the world works in little ways like this. I love that stuff, surface tension, venturi effect…”

Teen Bot stared blankly.

“You don’t know what the venturi effect is?” I asked incredulously. Out came the same glass, rinsed and refilled. I took a drinking straw and cut two small pieces out of it. “Hold this glass for me please.” I held the longer straw segment in the water and positioned the shorter piece at the top of it, pointed at Teen Bot. I blew through the straw and the ensuing spray of water hit his shirt. He laughed hysterically. “Now see,” I said, “when you’re out to pizza with your friends, you can use that trick to spray Coke all over them and make them mad at you. Can you tell me why that works that way?”

“No,” he admitted.

“Bernoulli’s Principle? No? An airplane’s wing is flat on the bottom and rounded on top. The air on top of the wing is moving faster, so it creates a low-pressure zone and the higher pressure air under the wing lifts the plane?”

“Oh right,” Teen Bot said, “I just forgot the name of it.”

I continued, “the venturi effect works pretty much the same way. The air coming out of the straw makes a low pressure zone that sucks the water up the straw and into the airstream.”

“Oooooooohhhhhh,” Teen Bot said, bells ringing.

I know, technically nothing sucks. The low pressure zone simply gives the atmospherically pressurized water somewhere to go. I swear, I knew all of this stuff before high school. What in the world are they teaching kids in school anymore? In all fairness, it was likely taught and he simply wasn’t paying attention. I’m confident that it was memorable enough that he’ll be a little more careful with the pump cord though. And, it was a fun father/son moment as well.

Watch Where You Step

Just yesterday, Jennifer and I were again discussing the unusually high concentration of carnivorous arthropods in the area this season. We have seen vast numbers of ladybugs, dragonflies, wasps, and spiders in our garden and around the house. We rarely see any bugs in the house, perhaps because we have four little furry hunters to keep them in check. Since my daily commute to work is approximately 10-feet, I often don’t wear shoes. Especially in the Summer, I will more often than not be patting around in my sock feet.

This morning, while walking down the hall, I felt a lump of something under my foot. Fearing the worst of what I might have just stepped in, I slowly removed my foot and took a look. It was a spider of the typical orb-weaver variety that we have seen around the garden. But, instead of being crushed as one might expect, it looked up at me with its shiny eyes, unphased, if a little annoyed that I had just stepped on it. It chattered its mandibles and I wondered if I should say, “excuse me” or something. I doubt I need to describe to you the size of the creature.

Back when I worked at the auto parts store in the bad part of town, we had a bit of a ‘pet’ spider. It was another garden variety spider, but had impressively grown to about an inch and a half long, not including its legs. When I first saw it, I commented that it had a beard and grandkids and was older than me. That one met its unfortunate demise when it confronted a customer who stomped it to death while purchasing motor oil for her leaky wreck of a car.

I have no particular fear of spiders; rather I find them to be fascinating creatures that efficiently kill bugs that I don’t like, and decorate their domain with impressively structured webs. They make interesting photography subjects and it’s fun to watch them weave their webs and catch insects. Even so, I still don’t wish to share my home with spiders that justifiably have no fear of me. Whether you are an arachnophobe or not, that’s just creepy!

Glow Ball Warmening?

The weather has been weird this year. We have had our cold spells, and we even got a little snow on the ground. But, it’s been warm enough for the last few days that a coat hasn’t been necessary. That’s weird for January in Oklahoma. Although for a few years we had an odd neighbor who wore shorts all year, even in the snow. I didn’t think he even owned any long pants until he got all dressed up in his khakis and button down one day. Anyway, I don’t know that there’s any truth to global warming, but why should that keep us from doing our part to help save the planet? In the last year, we’ve made some ecologically smart changes in our life. Jennifer started using this special climate control shampoo.

shampoo

And then, she stepped it up a notch and recycled her hair.

shavedjen

I’ve been trying renewable shaving with limited success.

shaving

I switched to zero-emission hunting and we’ve been eating as much free range meat as we can.

portrait

Please note my naturally cooling unbifurcated garment. We once posed in an electric car.

tesla

And we’ve been using organic heaters.

cats

And, we even set Jay G on fire!

jayg

Alright, so that last one didn’t really help the environment so much – it was mostly just for fun. Besides that, he made this face at me:

jaygface

Tell me you wouldn’t have set him on fire yourself! Yeah, that might have not really happened. Nerd beer was involved and the details get a little fuzzy.

At any rate, we were under a tornado watch this morning. That just doesn’t happen in January. We didn’t get blown away, but we did get a lot of much-needed rain. And, now you can see how hard we’ve been working to combat climate change. So, what are you doing to make the world a better place?

*No bloggers were actually harmed or set on fire in the composition of this post. We here at evylrobot.com do not condone violence against gun bloggers. Any likenesses to any characters, real or imaginary, might or might not be a weird coincidence. Also, squirrels are tasty.

And, on a Lighter Note…

Since I have no intention of this becoming a gloom-and-doom blog, I have been attempting to balance my enraging/disturbing/worrying entries with lighter hearted ones. To that end, my brother, Microcosm Overlord, has been selling everything that’s not nailed down lately. His wife works part time, and he is currently unemployed with no unemployment benefits. In order to pay the bills and have a little scratch left over, he started selling some surplus belongings on Craig’s List and ebay. Then, he got hooked. Now, he’s telling me that the water is fine, and there will be punch and pie if I join in. Maybe. Anyway, this new… *ahem* hobby of his has led to some hilarious interchanges, such as the following:

cattext

Why he even thought to send that first pic is anybody’s guess, but bravo! I had to twist his arm to send me the image files so I could stitch them together and post the thread here. I hope this gives you a giggle, as it did me.

Water Dome 2.0

Years ago, when we were teaching the cat to use the toilet…

I’ll let you soak that in for a minute.

…yes, we taught the cat to do his business in the commode instead of a box of grit. See?

Anyway, at some point in time, he decided that the water in the water bowl wasn’t fresh enough for his taste. He started to find more creative places to do his business to keep his newly preferred water (toilet bowl) as clean as possible. We got to the point that we were changing out the cat water twice a day and he was still drinking from the john and pulling towels off the rack to pee on. Yuck! Something had to be done. So we bought The Water Dome.

This was a contraption that we found on clearance at the local franchise of whatever chain pet store we happened to be frequenting at the time. It cost something in the neighborhood of $15.00. I have been unable to find anything else quite like it, even in imagery only. It was a clear acrylic dome full of water that would trickle from the top, and dribble down into a shallow tray underneath. It worked like a charm. Emerson began drinking from the dome and using the toilet like clockwork.

Previously not having a care in the world where the water came from, so long as there was water, Ferrule discovered what he never knew he was missing in The Water Dome. He loved The Water Dome. Physically. Being half siamese and half bengal, Ferrule is an odd one. His mannerisms are not like many other cats you are likely to cross paths with. When he loves, he does so with grand gesture. And, he had a ritual when he took a drink. He would court The Water Dome and speak to it, informing it of his intentions. He would then rub against it affectionately. After he had buttered it up with his attentions, he would then take a sip of water. At that point, fairly well soaked, he would find Jennifer so he could sit in her lap and drip on her.

Needless to say, The Water Dome got clogged with cat hair and croaked after a few months’ use. And yet, it had been worth its weight in gold. We tried to clean it out, taking apart the pump to free it of all debris. But, its spirit had passed on. As precious as a pet water circulator had been to the household, we rushed straight out to purchase another. We never did find another one like The Water Dome, but we found a Petmate fountain for around $30 and took it straight home for the cats’ inspection. Ferrule never loved the fountain like he did The Water Dome, but they both accepted it as the utility that it was.

As we added our chihuahua, Heidi, and another cat, Chance; the little Petmate was strained in its duty. We topped it up when it ran low, and we cleaned it religiously to keep it running. But, it was never intended to support the load we had it under, and two days ago, after many years of service, the inevitable happened. The now mineral-stained Petmate finally gave up the ghost, and no amount of hair removal or swearing would bring it back.

petmate

Believe it or not, all those colorful stains are from our hard water. I’ve chipped that crap off of that fountain before, and it likely had a hand in the destruction of the pump. In case you were wondering, the Mayans were predicting the end of our pet water fountain, not the world. I have spent the last couple of days looking at these things on Amazon and other sources. Years ago, we bought this unit for around $30. Years ago, I scoffed at paying upwards of two dollars per gallon for gas. Years ago, I purchased a one horsepower food waste disposer for around $90 that can’t be replaced for $300 today. Oddly, I do believe that we could get another pet fountain for around $30, but I’m not convinced that it would last.

But, I did have a spare water garden pump that I purchased at the koi shop to use in our rain barrels. As it turned out, it didn’t have nearly enough oomph to circulate water from the barrel. When I purchased this pump, it had been sitting on the shelf so long that I paid a fraction of the $65 scrawled on the yellowing cellophane in black marker. I didn’t have the heart to return the pump when it wasn’t going to work in the barrel. But, we had this extra pump. So, Teen Bot and I inspected the garden pump and compared it to the pump that came stock in the Petmate. The difference was shocking. We probably could install the water garden pump in the Petmate chassis, but it would be about like shoehorning a Chevy big block into a Volkswagen. Needless to say, it would have required some massive modification.

This morning, I woke up with inspiration! Once Teen Bot was up and around, we collected a disposable Rubbermaid dish, an empty one-gallon water jug, and some vinyl hose that I was going to use to pad a leather storage rack at one point in time. I wedged the hose onto the nipple on the pump and ran it into the top of the water bottle, so that it would overflow the jug and dribble out into the tray below. I trimmed it so that it would just go into the top of the handle. That way, if we lost power, it wouldn’t siphon the jug onto our bathroom floor. And I figure, if this setup gets too nasty with cat hair and mineral deposits, the pump is the most expensive component on the contraption. Everything else can be discarded and easily replaced. The entire system holds just over two gallons. I present to you Water Dome II:

WDII01

Magnificent, isn’t it?

WDII02

But, what will the water critic think of it? That’s the real measure of the success.

Em&WDII01

“LOL! WTF is that supposed to be?”

No, really, Emerson. Give it a try!

Em&WDII02

“YHGTBSM. You have finally lost your mind, hooman.”

Just try it please.

Em&WDII03

“Well, it smells okay…”

Em&WDII04

“Haz to make sure nobody’s looking when I try this silly thing…”

Em&WDII05

*sip sip* “Hey, that’s not bad!”

Em&WDII06

*slurp slurp slurp*

And, he likes it! I suspect he was waiting for a replacement, because he stayed like that at the trough for several minutes. So anyway, I was able to avoid spending money on a new pet water fountain, this thing will likely outlive a store-bought unit by a factor of ten, our picky cat approves of it, and if it gets too gross, we won’t feel too bad about pitching the whole thing. I’m calling this one a solid win.

Funny Stuff

Last week, I spoke with a gentleman on the phone who asked if I was familiar with FN‘s FNP 45 Tactical. His double-take was audible when I told him that not only was I familiar, but my wife carries one. He said that he has a Viridian C5L mounted on his pistol. Viridian was kind enough to mail me non-working models on their C5 and X5 series accessories. We’re installing a Crimson Trace CMR-202 on Jennifer‘s FNP45 Tactical, so I decided to make her new holster at the same time as his. Nearly through with construction, I discovered that I’d (once again) made a right-handed holster for a lefty. So, Jennifer gets two holsters. One in black leather with flat dark earth top stitching and one in metallic red patent leather, with matching double magazine pouch and 1.25-inch belt. A gal should have accessory choices, after all. Pics to follow. I’m hoping to do a seven piece photographic project, in fact.

This morning I spoke on the phone with my dad who said he had a great idea and proceeded to ask if I knew who Ted Nugent is. Chuckling, I told him that not only do I know who Uncle Ted is, but I follow his blog and covet a trip to his ranch. My dad’s suggestion was that I figure out a way to put one of my holsters in Ted’s hands. I have to admit that it would be pretty bitching if I delivered a zebra-striped holster and matching belt to the Nuge that would fit one of his custom pistols. Honestly, I could probably send a holster that generally fits a 1911 or a S&W K-frame. I don’t know what he likes to shoot, but those just seem like pretty safe guesses. I did inform my dad that Ted Nugent has more of at least one species of wild African antelope at his ranch than actually live in the wild.

And, in the news of stylish goats, comes this story. Apparently, some chick stole a goat from a petting zoo, and brought it back with its hooves painted up in pink nail polish, and she even perpetrated the abduction on tape. Now, that’s a funny prank. That had to be the fruits of an epic dare, or copious amounts of booze, or both. Whatever the case, if I was the goat’s owner I wouldn’t be too upset, as long as the animal wasn’t harmed in the ordeal. Actually, if I was the owner, I can think of a few people that I would call to see if they had my goat! I’m thinking of a certain group of people that I saw over the weekend. And, if its hooves weren’t painted when it was returned, I’d be shocked.

A Very Long Pee and Other Delights

When I was in high school, I had a dear friend who told me about “The 60-Second Challenge”. While she was on a trip with her church youth group (of all things), some of the kids would hold it, and drink as much soda and water as they could stand, hoping to be able to break the 60-second barrier in duration of the urinating event. At the time, I largely laughed her off. But, when I have actually timed myself, I find that it’s very hard to accomplish! You should give it a try sometime. Even when I’ve done really well, I seem to top out in the high 50-second range. Weird.

So anyway, now that you’re all back from the bathroom… It’s no secret that we like to have our cats trained to use the toilet. Word of experience here – should you choose to potty-train your cat, make sure he/she is fully matured. It’s next to impossible to toilet train a young cat. Our best toilet user has been Emerson, our tonkanese. Sometimes, he’ll call attention before he goes, as though he requires an audience for his performance. Once or twice, I noted that he would urinate for a really long time. And then I caught this video with my cell phone.

Please pardon the mineral deposits in the bowl. I’d been meaning to share this one for a while, but only got it uploaded this week. The whole webcam experiment didn’t work out as well as I wanted it to due to equipment limitations, and I’m disappointed with the quality of footage you can get with a cell phone camera or most digital cameras that aren’t purpose-designed as a video camera, but I do want to start posting more videos. It kind of looks like I’m about to get my very own camera, which I will more than likely drag everywhere with me. I started by looking at the GoPro Hero II, but I think the Nikon will be a more capable camera at the same price point. To all of you camera buffs out there, I’m still open to suggestion(s), but it looks like the Nikon AW100 is going to be the camera for me. If I get live footage of Bigfoot, I’ll be sure to share it here, of course. :P

Open Letter

Dear random person who has been picking items on Jennifer‘s Amazon wish list and shipping them to us,

Thank you for the StayAway cat deterrent. As random items have been coming in from Amazon, I never expected as high-dollar an item as this thing is. In fact, although we had planned on purchasing one for ourselves, we hadn’t quite decided that it was worth the forty-five bucks yet. Thanks to you, now we don’t have to. We will be placing this device in turn in several different locations in our home where we would prefer the cats not tread and/or lay down. Cat hair on the ironing board sucks, even when a human is not watching. I know the AV receiver is nice and warm and snuggly when it is on, but it needs to have more cooling airflow than a cat’s body will allow. One of my major pet peeves is cats on countertops. I’m pretty well disgusted with a cat on a kitchen counter, but I’d prefer they stay off of bathroom counters as well. Perhaps I can even use the StayAway to convince cats not to use the stack of remotes as a highway around the coffee table, spraying controllers everywhere.

The best question is where to start. I know all three of them have found the ironing board to be a cozy hangout at one time or another, but it has been a while since I caught any of them there. Yes, ultimately I want them to stay away from the ironing board altogether, but I want to see this baby in action! I have it on high authority that a tiny puff of air or mist out of a can or bottle is just about the most frightening thing on the planet. We have used canned air to dust out enough electronics to see first hand exactly how terrifying it can be. It is actually scary enough to unsettle even the most laid-back of cats, such as Emerson and make him scramble fast enough to levitate and rocket down the hall, leaving behind a perfect impression of himself in shed hair, hanging in the air for a moment. Indeed, rumor has it that a tiny puff of air is even more horrible than acid water.

But, it gets even better still. See, I have a new Simmons game camera that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to install in the field. I also have a camera tripod that it will mount to. The camera has a video function and if I cancel the delay feature, it should begin recording just before the StayAway goes off. I wouldn’t terrorize the little fuzz-butts just for the filming opportunity, but since they’re going to get scared spitless, it would be a real shame not to record it for the entertainment value. I basically owe it to the world to do my best to capture video footage of spooked cat flights. I wonder how much video the 4GB card will hold. I guess we’re about to find out. This is going to be so awesome!

Childish Misconceptions

It seems that Wee Bot believes that pets are no less than tiny people who can’t speak English. Note I say speak English. He seems to think that our cats and dog have a full knowledge and understanding of language, including all the intricacies of complex language concepts. He thinks of them like alien creatures on Star Wars who can understand spoken English just fine, even if they can only respond in their own, native language. He seems to also believe that they can be convinced of social justice issues, right and wrong, personal rights and freedoms, and how one’s rights end where another’s begin.

When he was about five, we would tell him not to play with his toys on the living room floor because the cat would run off with his toys. When he asked why that was, we explained that the cat didn’t understand that it wasn’t welcome to his toys. Rather than heed our warning, he would simply try to reason with the cat and explain to it that the toys belonged to him and were off limits. I figured he would eventually outgrow that and that it wouldn’t take too long. *Sigh.* I’m still waiting that out.

At twelve and a half years old, I heard him admonishing the cat this morning. “Emerson,” he scolded, “Did you just climb up in my lap so you could sneeze in my face? How would you like it if I just came up to you and sneezed in your face?”

“Wee Bot,” I interrupted him over the humming of the espresso machine, “Reasoning with the cat? Seriously? We’ve discussed this.” I was tired and needed my caffeine.

How do you explain to a headstrong child that cats don’t observe The Golden Rule? How do you make them understand that a dog or cat’s concept of social structure amounts to members of the pack and pecking order therein? When you ask a cat a philosophical question and he answers with “Meow,” it doesn’t have a profound meaning behind it, because the cat doesn’t understand philosophy. The cat is not like Jabba the Hutt except with an unfortunate lack of captioning. He very. Simply. Doesn’t. Understand.

Wee Bot is generally a good kid. He is headstrong though. When he decides that he’s going to do something, then by God, that’s what he’s going to do, even if it directly contradicts instructions I just gave him. And, somehow, he thinks that I don’t know what I’m talking about concerning the pets (or many other things in the world, for that matter). He fails to believe that our pets only understand “good kitty” or “food” or “outside” or “treat” or “go do your business.” In all fairness, we have extremely respondent pets, and they act as though they understand far more than they actually do. If you speak to Emerson, for instance, it’s not at all uncommon for him to make eye contact and cock his head and answer conversationally. He has no clue what you just said, but he fakes it well. He’s an extremely social cat. That can’t help matters much.

Add to that Wee Bot is a little immature for his age emotionally. He’s an extremely intelligent kid, and has wit way beyond his years. He makes witty jokes that would sail right over quite a few adult heads. But, he still thinks it’s appropriate to cry over spilled milk, for instance. Literally. We’ve had that very issue at one time or another. I don’t think that it’s ever an easy job to be a parent, but each individual child comes with their own (sometimes infuriating) challenges. I think the best I can do is be patient, steam off a little on my blog if necessary, and direct his issues so that he has to confront them himself. Like I’ve told him about his schoolwork – I can help him, but I can’t do it for him. Only he can do that. If he’s going to be headstrong and think that he’s got the world figured out better than his parents, it’s probably time to get tricky and find a way to get him to learn the truth on his own.