Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Dad's Guest Blog!

Remember the story of William Tell?  The one where Tell shoots the apple off his son's head.  As the story goes, Tell was regarded as one of the finest marksmen in all of Switzerland, and as one of its more defiant citizens.  Upon refusing to pledge fealty to a local governor, he is commanded to face death along with his son.  His only possible escape is to use his crossbow to knock an apple from his son's head from some distance away.  The legend grows when he succeeds in splitting the apple, yet the governor notes that when Tell prepared his crossbow, he removed two arrows from his quiver.  The governor inquires as to the purpose of the second arrow, to which Tell replies that if he had inadvertently killed his son, the second arrow was to find a home in the Governor!  At which point in time, Tell is again arrested for his hubris.  (He eventually escapes again, but that is another story.)

The story became so famous that they even had to write the William Tell Overture and then make it the theme music to The Lone Ranger.   Not sure how they came up with that.  Perhaps the arrow-motif.

Elizabeth has always wanted her own bow and to learn to shoot.   Never really a hunter, but mostly for fun.   Then her sister wanted to give it a try as well.  We went to visit a bow clinic offered by a former Olympic competitor, where they shoot at targets about 3 feet in diameter from a distance almost a football field away....and they actually still find the bullseye.  Take that William Tell.  Think we learned that Liz shoots left handed, oh, and we also learned that you NEVER were supposed go retrieve your arrows while someone else was still shooting!  Like duh!

We finally acquiesced and Liz and her sister went and got some bows from Dick's Sporting goods.  Think they nearly hit their foot when aiming at the target the first time.  But they've been at it a week or so now, developing expertise.  Yeah experts now.

Liz comes home one day from her summer job at the Park last week, raving about the great day.  All the fun they had in "primitive skills" camp where she'd been assigned as a counselor    Hey what do you know, they teach kids to shoot arrows in this camp.  Liz does.  And what was so fun, Dad inquires? I was told they were trying to catch arrows that they were shooting at each other.  Not the kids, the counselors.  Primitive indeed.

"Yeah," she goes on, "I was shooting at one of the other counselor who was trying to catch the arrow as it passed by.  The first one she missed because I didn't come close enough to she told me to aim closer."

Are you getting this picture?  Apparently this whole "arrow catching" thing was an episode of Myth Busters, who succeeded in debunking some awesome catching skills demonstrated by David Carradine in an episode of Kung Fu.  I guess I missed that episode...hmmmmm, both the Myth Busters and Kung Fu episodes.

So I'm thinking this is crazy.  Smart people do not pretend to be William Tell and shoot arrows at or in close proximity to their friends.   Liz's friend had to duck out of the way of the second shot.  Missed again, rats!  I began to have visions of Christmas Story and Ralphie, "you'll shoot your eye out."

Later that week, Liz's mom was explaining the story to some 13 year olds.  They were also amazed.  One asked Diane, "Do they go to college?"  Yup, they actually do.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Perfect Primitive Wedding

So this past week I've been working as a camp counselor at Riverbend Park's primitive teaching camp: a place where children learn to make tools and weapons just like the Indians did it, except the Indians didn't use power saws when they were running out of time to finish a child's spear for them. It was a lot of fun, but we had to do a lot of cleaning-up this afternoon. Someone rented out the same pavilion we use for their wedding reception. Unfortunately, it's going to rain all weekend, and all those sticks we chucked out will almost certainly make their way back inside.

So what will this poor woman face at her venue? I can't tell. But at least the kids aren't there, because if they were, here's a few things they'd be facing.

The Traditional Rock Throw

I've been told you shouldn't throw rice at weddings, because it's bad for the environment. It's also bad for the bride, who has to spend the whole ride to the reception venue picking rice out of her hair. I've heard of people throwing birdseed, which is really nice for the birds, provided you live in an area with abundant songbirds and very few hawks. 

Imagine this. You're walking down the aisle surrounded by friends, family, and flocks of twittering songbirds. Suddenly, a flock of hawks swoop down and rip the songbirds apart, scattering entrails on your big day. The Greeks would call it auspicious. I call it grounds for divorce. 
But at primitive camp, we know that gathering the seeds from the plants that make birdseed takes hours and isn't really worth it. Instead, we'd turn to something much more readily available for a weapon: rocks. There's a lot of shiny ones down by the river we could pick up to toss at the bride. And dodging them would be just the thing to get everyone warmed up for the reception!
This is the first reason it's good that wedding wasn't scheduled for a weekday. 

Favors? Special Sticks

There are thousands of sticks in the wood. Some are wet. Some are dry. Some are skinny. Some are fat. Some have bark. Some do not. Adults have a great deal of trouble telling sticks apart because sticks are sticks. By definition, a stick is not very important. 

Unless you're a child. You've found The Ultimate Stick. Maybe your counselor has sharpened it using a machete. That stick is your stick, and it will never ever compare to any other stick in the forest. If it is broken, no replacement will do. Your counselor will have to glue it back together or you will cry. If they try to offer you a similar looking stick, you will know automatically it's the wrong stick and you will report to your parents that your counselors have really bad eyesight. Some sticks are special and adults can't find them.

What better favor to hand out to guests at your wedding? Just send your ring bearer and flower girl out to find as many special sticks as they can. I promise you, they won't disappoint. Just make extra clear that these are not keeping sticks, but giving away sticks. Make this as clear as humanly possible, then clarify it. They still might cry, but don't give in. Don't let them keep a single stick, because they will keep every special stick they find and every stick will be impossibly special. Their parents will not thanks you, and neither will your favorless guests.

Poison Ivy Decor

All weddings need a theme--something that draws the ceremony together. Having a wedding theme has been a tradition since the Dark Ages (where the theme was usually 'drag the screaming teenage bride to the bedroom by her hair'). For the bride on a budget, it's good to stick to a fairly common theme; something where you'll have lots of options and won't have to pay for too much custom work. And nothing's more common--nor easier for children to find--than poison ivy. 

The leaves are pretty, green, and fresh this time of year. As an added bonus, you can also get it in vine format. This perfect floral accompaniment will bring roses to your cheeks! Your single friends won't fight over the bouquet if you make it known you've got some of this in there. As an added bonus, you can use the vines for a romantic bonfire at the reception (note: don't do this. It's just that my campers brought back a poison ivy vine to use as firewood). 

DJ Screams-A-Lot

Last but not least, all receptions need a good DJ. I'm not a fan of modern pop music, aside from Call Me Maybe, which is so catchy you have to like it or go crazy. Rap music to me is just screaming. Rock music to me is loud banging. 

Thankfully, the primitive camp children are good at both. A good way to get them to scream is to present them with one of nature's most famed creatures: the common honeybee. Even one of those bugs will evoke all kinds of melodious noises from children. They also tend to scatter when faced with a bee, so be sure to purchase an enclosure ahead of time. Rocks and sticks make excellent drums

Who needs parties when you have small children? 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The origin of the campus quad

So I spent this weekend down at Virginia Tech with my friend Katherine, and couldn't help notice the giant sinkhole-in-waiting in the middle of campus.
They call it the 'Drill Field'. Probably because if you drilled into the ground, water would come up in a geyser and turn the whole place into a swimming pool. 
All college campuses find it necessary to include a big giant green space in the middle of campus. Cornell has four such quads--Ag, Biotech, Arts, and Engineering, so a biomechanical engineer could have four separate patches of grass to call their own. Even MIT has a quad, and they've go so little space in the middle of Boston that the integral of its size is a negative number. What is the purpose of this mysterious green space? This week, I'll present several of the leading theories (that I made up myself)

Alien Landing Pads

If The History Channel is to be believed, half the world's governments are controlled by aliens from other planets (as opposed to the many governments which in reality are controlled by aliens from Earth). 

Meme guy!
Modern rocket planes, like the ones that take people on those really expensive space tourism things, need landing strips to go up and down. But advanced alien flying saucers just need a big field they can hover onto. In The Day the Earth Stood Still (not the version with Neo), the most impressive work of alien technology is the locator beam that managed to find an open field in the middle of Washington, D.C. (And no, the Mall doesn't count, because it's always crowded with squishy humans).

College campuses are supposed to be centers for research and discovery. And what bigger discovery could be made than the existence of extraterrestrial life? Campuses all over the world must be secretly competing for the honor of being the first landing spaces for UFOs. No wonder you see flying-saucer shaped dishes flying across campus quads all spring--it's meant to be a signal for the little green men to drop out of the sky and provide their Alma Maters with billion dollar donations. Students will someday study astronomy in Galzzaxceef Hall. (Alternatively, wouldn't this make a brilliant sci-fi comedy idea?)

Bored City Planners

According to my father, no one ever considered city planning a thing until the release of SimCity. Whether that's true or not, one thing's for sure--city planners are only human (ignoring the alien theory from above). Universities are supposed to be aesthetically pleasing

Bored city planners 
Campus president's pretentious poodle needed a toilet of its own
Squirrel conspiracy to hide acorns
A prophecy that ultimate frissbee would be a thing one day--The Ultimate Prophecy.