Thursday, October 23, 2014

How You Know When Your Life Is Really Pretty Good.

You have complaints like Sweetie's:







"I'm a little bummed. I was trying to decide if I should get Ding Dongs or Fruit Pies and now that I'm home I think I made the wrong choice."





PS She went with "Ding Dongs."



Monday, October 20, 2014

Children Standing In Front Of God




These pictures are from Saturday, when we went to scatter my Mom's ashes at "Holy Hill," a monastery and church about an hour from us.  We used to go there a lot when I was a kid, and my Mom really liked the area.  

Mr Bunches and Mr F didn't really seem to understand why were there.  At one point, in front of one of the stations of the cross (the one where Jesus falls a second time) Mr Bunches looked at the statue and asked if Jesus was going to fix the tower and that's why he had the boards.

We told him "Yes."  

I'm not sure he's ready for the whole story of the Crucifixion.

Holy Hill:



Sunday, October 19, 2014

A free excerpt from my new book "This Stupid Pineapple Is...", WHICH IS NOW ON SALE FOR FREE, TOO, SO WHY WOULD YOU READ THE COW FOR FREE WHEN YOU CAN TAKE IT HOME OR... wait, let me rethink that.



While waiting for my scifi novel to come out (probably next spring and now called Codes instead of Find Out Who You Are ), I've finally published the long-awaited sequel to my best-selling book Santa, Godzilla & Jesus Walk Into A Bar...:  This one's called "This Stupid Pineapple Is..." and you can read the first chapter below, if you want.  Or you can just go get the entire book for free on Amazon from Monday, 10/20 through Friday, 10/24.  



AND, AS AN ADDED BONUS, THE BOOK CONTAINS SHORT STORIES FROM NIGEL MITCHELL, ANDREW LEON, AND PHILLIP LEON.  
________________________________________________


Part One: Wishes can come true, if only you believe hard enough. (And also own a pineapple.)




“This stupid pineapple is never going to shut up!" yelled Templeton Freeney in frustration, and although he fully expected it, he still got a little madder than he was already when the stupid pineapple said:
"Why don't you shut me up?"
Templeton Freeney sat down hard on the stool that he kept in the kitchen for just that purpose. It was not the first time the stupid pineapple had driven him to distraction, and he'd learned about a week before that it was best to have something to sit down on when that happened, or else he would simply fall on the floor when he was so driven to distraction that he had to sit down.
Tonight, the stupid pineapple had been telling knock-knock jokes in its loudest voice at 3:00 a.m., and he had gone down to the kitchen to tell the stupid pineapple to keep it down because people had to get up to go to work in the morning and the stupid pineapple had looked at him as he'd come in and said:
"You don't have any pants on," which had caused Templeton to look down at himself and then the pineapple said "Made you look," in that silly way it had which drove Templeton nuts and he'd decided that he was going to for once and for all throw away the stupid pineapple at that point but as he'd picked it up the stupid pineapple had said:
"Don't,"
and Templeton had paused, and said:
"Why shouldn't I?"  He'd held the stupid pineapple by its green leaves over the recyclables bin in the kitchen.
"Because if you let me live, I will give you three wishes," the stupid pineapple had said.
"Liar," Templeton had said, and had tossed the stupid pineapple into the bin and started to walk away muttering. "No stupid pineapple has the power to grant wishes." He'd started back upstairs, checking only momentarily to ensure that he in fact did still have his pants on.
"I do," the stupid pineapple had said from inside the bin.
Templeton had stopped on the stairs and put his fingers to his temples, the way he always did when he was thinking very hard about something he did not want to be thinking about at all. Templeton did that a lot, in fact, as his job was Ponderer Of Things Nobody Wants To Ponder, a position he'd been appointed to by the CEO of the company the year before after a tiny wormhole in space and time had opened up in the men's washroom on the third floor.
The wormhole was too small to do much with. Nobody could even really get a finger inside it, except Rhonda from Accounting, and Rhonda from Accounting had thus far resisted everyone's entreaties to stick her finger into the tiny wormhole, steadfastly refusing to do so for the past year. The wormhole had, it must be pointed out, had many other things put into it, things like paperclips and push pins and tiny pull-off tabs from soda pop cans and the like, something that people had started doing when they realized they could, since often it is simply the realization that something can be done which prompts that thing to then be done.
Templeton had himself succumbed to the allure of the tiny wormhole, one day, while working late. He'd gone into the third floor washroom and there had been the tiny wormhole, between the stalls and the sinks, just as it always was. Templeton had a couple of pens with him, including his green marker that he used to mark things in green, and on an impulse he looked at the wormhole and put the green marker into it.
There was only the slightest hesitation, and then a zhhoooopo!
Templeton was very sure that it wasn't simply a zhoooop, that there was an o at the end of it, and he'd emphasized that on the Official Report he'd filed with Customer Relations. Customer Relations wasn't sure what to do about his green marker or the zhoooopo! or the tiny wormhole in general. Customer Relations, which had only three employees (Tim, Timothy, and Dan, who resented the bond that Tim and Timothy had), had only gotten jurisdiction over the tiny wormhole because nobody else wanted it. Building Services had been the natural department to handle it, but they'd pointed out that most wormholes lead to other dimensions and so the tiny wormhole wasn't a part of this building, per se, and the per se had convinced the few holdouts still pushing for the assignment, so then Human Resources had been assigned the job of dealing with the tiny wormhole, on the grounds that while the wormhole was not human so far as anyone knew, humans were doing things to it, but Human Resources all called in sick the next day and management, worried about losing an entire department, had instead assigned the tiny wormhole problem to Tim in Customer Relations. Tim had then requested authority to hire two other people to help deal with it, and he'd hired Timothy and Dan, and the three of them had set out to have an ongoing feud about whether Tim favored Timothy due to their sharing a name, while getting no work done, which was fine because the company had no customers, anyway, and as nobody knew what to do about the tiny wormhole, Customer Relations could hardly be blamed for doing nothing about it.
Just after the Zhoooopo!, there had been a slight tug on the green marker and Templeton had felt the green marker pulled from his hand. He'd had to fill out three different forms requesting a new one and although that was time-consuming, he'd felt that he should not have to pay for a new green marker on his own, as he'd lost it on company property.
While waiting for Requisitions to deliver the new green marker (Expect it in 6-42 weeks, barring wars, hurricanes, gravitational inversions and mist, the email had said) he'd gone back into the third-floor washroom and seen, of course, the tiny wormhole again.
He'd eyed it warily, the same way that he'd eyed warily the stupid pineapple which had already taken up residence in his house the first time he'd seen it.
Then he'd stepped up by the tiny wormhole and looked into it and put his mouth right next to it and said, in a voice he hoped was both friendly and authoritative:
"Send back my green marker, please, as I need it."
There had been a pause, and then from the tiny wormhole had come a voice, and that voice said:
"Blert!.;"
Templeton had paused in shock, and before he could assess what that might mean, a voice behind him had said:
"What do you suppose that meant?"
And he'd turned to see the CEO of the company, a man everyone simply called "Gene," since "Gene" was the exact opposite of the CEO's actual name -- no, nobody got that joke, but Gene always chuckled at it and so everybody else did, and then wondered what Gene's actual name might be, and then wondered what the exact opposite of their own name might be
(Mathematicians over four years ago proved that for 56% of the population, the opposite of their name is "Tyler." The remaining 44% break down into three categories: those whose opposite-names are "Jerome” (12%), those whose are "Maria" (12.2%) and those whose opposite name can only be spoken in a long-forgotten Hindi dialect. (45.7%). After mathematicians released that report, they all went and enjoyed a large chicken dinner.)
 -- and Gene strode over to stand next to Templeton. Gene peered into the wormhole and said: "It talked."
Templeton, who by that time already had reason to be tired of things talking when they shouldn't ought to, sighed, and said "It did."
"That's amazing," Gene said.
"Is it?" Templeton asked.
Gene scratched his chin. "Now that I think of it, I'm not so sure it is. I mean, what do we really know about the tiny wormhole? Maybe all tiny wormholes talk."
Like stupid pineapples, Templeton thought, but he didn't say that because he wasn't entirely sure that all stupid pineapples talked.
Gene leaned down and put his mouth by the tiny wormhole.
"Do all tiny wormholes talk?" he asked it.
There was a lengthy silence, during which Templeton wondered if he could leave, as he was supposed to be home by now, and then the tiny wormhole said:
"Iort:?"
Gene and Templeton regarded each other, and then Gene said:
"Did it say Iort:?"
Templeton nodded. "Yes. Iort," he agreed.
"No, it didn't say Iort," Gene said. "It said Iort:? I heard it."
They stared at the tiny wormhole a moment longer.
"What does it mean?" Gene asked.
"I don't know," Templeton said.
"But someone could, if they wanted to, probably figure it out, what that meant," Gene said.
"I suppose," Templeton had said, and that had led Gene to on the spot promote him to Ponderer. ("It's not an official title, until now," Gene had explained. "You'll have to fill out the paperwork.")
Later, Templeton would put his fingers to his temples and rub them in the way that had earned him his name in the first place as he pondered the stupid pineapple's offer to grant him three wishes.
"You think I can't grant wishes because I'm just a stupid pineapple, but I bet three months ago you'd have thought that a stupid pineapple couldn't talk, and I proved you wrong about that, didn't I?" the stupid pineapple said from inside the bin.
Templeton sat down on the stairs and looked at the bin.
"Didn't I?" asked the stupid pineapple.
"I'm going to bed," Templeton said, and started up the stairs, wishing that the stupid pineapple had never woken him up in the first place and wishing that it was not Sunday evening because he didn't want to have the spend the entire night fighting with the stupid pineapple only to get up and begin a whole week of Pondering the tiny wormhole and other things nobody wanted to ponder.  He wished, in fact, that he could have a vacation, perhaps something on the beach.  That it was Saturday morning on the start of a beach vacation.  He paused, looking at a picture of his wife, and then went to bed.  He slept so soundly that when the team of commandoes stormed into his house two hours later, in the middle of the night, he completely missed all the windows breaking, lasers firing, boots kicking down doors, stupid pineapples being grabbed out of bins, and the other things that generally go along with a team of commandoes busting into one’s house late at night (e.g.: smashing up the place, etc.). 
            Templeton might have noticed the aftermath of all that happening when he woke abruptly the next morning, but he didn’t because he was too distracted by the sunlight beaming in through his bedroom window and the sound of a phone ringing. That and the steel drums playing somewhere, lilting just over the sound of the ocean surf.  Those things kept him from being aware that his house had been ransacked the night before.  Those things and a camel that stuck its head into the bedroom window.
            Before he could react to any of that – camel, ocean, phone, steel drums, or general ransacking of his home, a cry echoed out, one that shook him to his very core:
"Breakfast is ready!" he heard his wife yell.
To understand why Templeton was so bewildered, you must first know some things about Templeton beyond what you already have learned about him.
First, Templeton Freeney lives in Trenton, New Jersey, which is not the kind of place you find steel drums, oceans, tiki huts of the sort that Templeton found himself standing in, or camels.
Second, Templeton's wife Ana had left him several years before when she had fallen madly in love with a man who'd become a huge Hollywood screenwriter after a movie he'd written about a madman trying to take over the world only to be foiled by his brother-in-law had become a worldwide smash, leaving Templeton to raise the children himself.
Third, and this is not really about Templeton, but it is worth mentioning, it was no longer Sunday-night-leading-into-Monday-morning. A large calendar on the wall had days marked off in X's made in green marker, and the last day marked off was Friday, making this Saturday.
As he stared around him, Templeton realized the phone was still ringing. He picked it up.
"Hello?" he said.
"I told you so," he heard the stupid pineapple's voice. "I told you I could grant wishes. Now do you believe me?"
Templeton looked out the window, where some teenagers were getting ready to go surfing.
"I wished for this?" he said.
"Yep!" the stupid pineapple agreed heartily.
"All of this?" Templeton asked.
"Yessiree Bob," the stupid pineapple concurred.
"I guess you were right," Templeton said. The sound of surf outside made him feel like repeating it: "I guess you were right."
"Now that that's settled," the pineapple said, "Can you come rescue me?"
The phone line abruptly went dead.
____________________________________________________________________-

READ THE REST by downloading the entire book.
“This Stupid Pineapple Is…” is available on Amazon by clicking here.  It’ll be free from October 20-24, so there’s really no reason for you NOT to read the second-best book about a wish-granting stupid pineapple starting an interstellar war.

Yes, I said second best. “Gone Girl” had more or less that same plot.  NOW GO READ MY BOOK. 


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Remember when you didn't read this the first time? Now you can nostalgically not read it again!

In the olden days (2011, in this case) I used to post things I called Whodathunkit?!, a post that ignored what everyone was talking about with respect to major (?) events and instead focused on the things you really (?) wanted to know.  This was the one I posted for the World Series back in 2011.  DO NOT WORRY IF YOU DON'T LIKE BASEBALL. I don't either. That's why I wrote posts like this: for people who don't like the sport but do like interesting things.

________________________

WHODATHUNKIT!?, like John Stamos' career, is a joint effort between The Best Of Everything and Nonsportsmanlike Conduct!

Another major event, another major post -- WHODATHUNKIT!?, remember, is my post that, for every single major event in the world, provides you not the usual load of garbage the media foists off on you, but a unique brand of garbage that only I foist off on you: namely, three things that you probably didn't know about the major event, but which, once you do know them will fill you with wonder, a sense of mystery, and, provided that you subscribe to the payperview, 5D-version* of this blog, dark energy.

*5D version not available in Albuquerque, because screw you, Albuquerque.**

**They know what they did.

This year's World Series, like every World Series, qualifies as a major event, not just because I'm going for that coveted "I'm 78 years old and I love baseball" blog demographic***

*** I see you there, Mr. Kascheski! Hi!

but also because, as I understand it, nearly 14 people will annually tune in to watch the World Series, which, let's face it, is still more than will watch the entire run of that "new" Tim Allen "show" about how "men" leave the "toilet" seat "up."

Don't mind that last sentence. I was trying a little thing to see if extra quotation marks would give me a little gravitas, and I have to say, I think it "worked."

I watched a little baseball this year, "a little"*4

*4 Gravitas! Which, when you think about it, could actually be the Latin word for Dark Energy. And, having said that, I'm 90% sure that in about three months we will read that people at the Large Hadron Collider discovered gravitas, because who's paying attention? Besides me, I mean? And I'm not, really, because I've also got the TV on and I'm sort of listening to Colbert.

meaning only three innings of game 6 of the Series between the Brewers and the Cardinals before I fell asleep Sunday night. I feel bad about that, because the Brewers gave up four runs before I tuned in, and then when I was watching they were doing pretty well (or "pretty good" as I say when I don't feel I'm being watched by the Grammar Police) and then I fell asleep and they lost, which kind of proves that Dark Energy really exists because it was clearly influencing the Brewers through my "efforts" at watching them on TV.

Speaking of the Large Hadron Collider, did you know that you can help look for the Higgs Boson (a/k/a, The Best Way to Prove that "Scientists" Are Making It Up)? It's true: If you're the type of person who leaves his home computer on (Guilty!)*5

*5 Wait, I meant to plead not guilty! No! Get these cuffs off of me! Fools! Only I can stop them!*6

*6 I've had a little too much coffee already today. Does it show? And, more importantly, do you think that by using all these footnotes I'm subconsciously emulating that one guy who wrote Infinite Jest and then died and everyone wrote all that nice stuff about him so I went out and bought Infinite Jest, spending $18 on it, only to find it completely unreadable, giving up on it 70 pages in, and then I felt sad that I'd wasted my finite book money on a book that was terrible, and so I've never forgiven him and can't even remember his name?

then you can use your home computer to help search for the Higgs Boson (which doesn't exist, and might as well be called a gravitas) by joining the LHC@Home 2.0 effort: a program which will let your home computer simulate complex particle collisions and then send the results back to the Large Hadron Collider, which will compare them to the results it obtains, and, who knows, maybe YOU will discover the Higgs Boson *7

*7 You won't

And, in doing so, earn yourself a Nobel Prize -- because that's what that other guy got the Nobel for, remember: Taking photographs of space and comparing them to each other.

I've got a screenshot of what it looks like when your computer is simulating those particle collisions, so you'll know what to expect:




Try not to get too amazed by the science-osity of it all. Also, note that that screenshot, which is an Actual Screenshot of Science, proves that dark energy is all around us 'cause it's really dark in space.

About time I got around to the World Series, don't you think? Me, too:

1. Who invented the curveball? Trick question! There's no such thing as a curveball!

Well, okay, there's a little such thing as a curveball. But not really. Just about a year ago, a two researchers published a paper that showed that while curveballs move a little, the real effect of a curveball is... all in your mind!

Darn. I was hoping for some spooky music and effects there.

Anyway, the researchers found that the curveball's "break" or deviation from a straight line, is real, but very gradual-- not the drop that most viewers expect.*8

*8: A curve ball, contrary to what I always thought, doesn't curve right or left, but down: it has top spin, which makes the air pressure higher on top of the ball and pushes the ball downward, making Dizzy Dean's famous defense of a curve ball's actually curving ("Stand behind a tree 60 feet away and I'll whomp you with an optical illusion!") not make much sense, unless that tree was one of Larry Niven's integral trees.

The researchers hypothesized that the curve that viewers, and batters, claim they see isn't a curve at all, but an effect of switching from central to peripheral vision: The batter, they said, sees the ball using central vision until it's traveled 2/3 of the way to the plate, at which point they start using peripheral vision -- until the ball is at the plate and they switch back to central vision, which makes it seem as though the ball has dropped more because of the switch. Peripheral vision, they explain, has trouble distinguishing between various motions like velocity and spin, and the eye tends to follow the motion of the ball (downward) making it seem further like the ball is dropping.

Too much reading? I could've put the video first... but then all those words I typed would still be bottled up inside me, waiting to get their shot at fame. You wouldn't want to deny a word its time in the limelight, right? So now, give a word a hug and watch the video:


With that question answered, let's move on to question 2!

2. No, really, who invented the curveball?

Well, aren't you singleminded! As I was trying to find out the answer to that question, I wondered to myself "How many pitches are there in baseball, and how many are banned?" So I went to Baseball Reference.com, which ought to know, and found out the answer, which I will quote verbatim:

There are many, many types of pitches in baseball.
Okay! Moving on!

Actually, Baseball Reference lists four standard pitches (four-seam fastball, curve ball, slider, and change-up, the latter being a pitch thrown exactly like a fastball... only it comes in slow, and throws off the batter.)

Then, the Reference has 5 variations on the fastball:

The Two Seam Fastball, a fastball in which the fingers are held along the seams rather than across them, causing more movement and a slower throw,

The Sinker, which is a two-seam fastball thrown near the edge of the strike zone and is intended to drop out of it entirely,

The splitter, a sinker with a better downward break (or thrown against batters with worse peripheral vision?), a pitch that isn't used much because it causes injuries in pitchers,

the Cut Fastball, a ball thrown inside from an opposite-handed pitcher (lefty pitcher, righty batter, for example) that, when it works best results in a broken bat, and

the Running Fastball, which is a cut fastball when it's thrown by a pitcher with the same-handedness as the batter.

Don't those all appear to be simply standard pitches thrown in a particular area? That'd be like football calling a handoff a short pass with no gap between the quarterback and the running back.

But then there's all these trick pitches:

The Circle change, which looks like a two-seam fastball but then breaks in an opposite direction to that expected,

the Palmball, a changeup that's actually a fastball thrown using the palm of the ball to slow the pitch down, thereby making the batter swing before the pitch gets to the plate...

...and the existence of that pitch really does suggest suggest that a lot of this is in the batter's mind and tricks of the eye, doesn't it? A batter sees a fastball motion and swings but the ball isn't there yet and so he misses -- that's not pitch location or curve. That's just tricking the batter...

and the Gyroball, which made news not long ago because nobody believed it existed; the gyroball is a pitch that "falls faster than a fastball, but slower than a curve, and hardly breaks inside or outside." It's thrown with a spin that mimics the way a football spins -- the axis more or less parallel to the trajectory. The gyroball gets to the plate faster than the batter expects and makes the batter late on the ball, and because it's spinning looks like a breaking ball when it's not...

... which, seriously, it is all just illusions, isn't it?


There's also a two-seam gyroball, both of which tend to make the batters swing under them and miss, expecting the ball to drop more than they do.

The Japanese invented the Gyroball, and also

the Shuuto, a ball that breaks down and to the right, so, not very exciting. I expected more, so back to America with

the Knuckleball, a ball Baseball Reference describes as "tantalizingly slow but dances all over the place."

So like Christina Aguilera:



That really was just an excuse to put that picture in there.

Here's Sean O' Leary, knuckleballer:


And the first couple pitches I watched in that video didn't seem to move at all, but let's get a little more Baseball Reference hyperbole before exploring that. Says the BR:


It's been said that a knuckleball screws everybody up, as "the hitter can't hit it, the catcher can't catch it, and the umpire can't call it."

They don't attribute that quote. I bet it was Gandhi. Was it Gandhi? It was probably Gandhi.

Now go back and watch that video. At about 1:30 Sean throws a bunch of pitches that all appear to go perfectly straight. The slowed-down one about 2:32 in particular looks like it would've been knocked out of the park by everybody but me; I have lazy eye.

Other pitches with funny names include the "Eephus" an "impossibly slow" pitch invented by by Rip Sewell of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1930s -- "basically a lob to the catcher", BR says, that's not really used, a "Forkball" which "tumbles out of the strike zone (rather than breaks out of it) when thrown" that's a "brain scrambler" when the wind is blowing, and the:


Vulcan Change-up This is similar to the forkball. Often called V change or the "trekkie" because of its unnatural grip. It is held like the Vulcan greeting that is used by Spock the Vulcan in Star Trek (The dude with pointy ears in Star Trek). This pitch drops like a regular change-up, but just puts a little more friction on the ball. Basically it is a different way to grip a Change-up.

Cue the Sexy Vulcan!



And the "Slurve," a slider thrown at curveball velocity that is supposed to fool the hitter by taking longer to reach the pitcher...

...Illusions!



... and the "Screwball" or "backwards curveball", a pitch that breaks like a curveball thrown by an opposite-handed pitcher, which now I'm all messed up because people keep saying that the curveball drops but that makes it sound like it goes left or right, so which is it, baseball! I swear, I'm this close to dropping you and running off with cricket.

And then there's a bunch of other curveballs like the "12-6 Curveball", the "Sweeping Curveball" and the "Knuckle Curveball" and the "Spiked Curveball" and the "Knuckle Slider" and finally, the "Yellow Hammer," which sounds like a cut-rate superhero from the 1930s but is actually an even slower curveball that supposedly drops more than a regular curveball because it's only thrown at 50 miles per hour or so, but by now I don't know what to believe because it's all so confusing, so I'm going to assume that the pitcher doesn't even throw the damn ball and in fact, let's just admit that baseball doesn't even play the game anymore: all of baseball is just one game that was played at Comiskey Park in 1972, and they're using CGI to change the uniforms for you and if you go to a game in person you're just subject to Mass Hypnosis and it didn't really happen. There is no spoon! The cake is a lie!*8

*8: I still don't know what that means, but I like it.

Also, I wasn't far off on that Yellow Hammer. Remember this?




Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog was one of the greatest things ever made.

3. Seriously, can we find out who invented the curve ball?

You know, I haven't even touched on what pitches are banned yet -- like the spitball -- but you know me: I give the people what they want:



You need serious help.


so let's get down to the nitty-gritty of The Fabulous Story Of The Invention Of The Curveball. From Wikipedia:


Baseball lore has it that the curveball was invented in the early 1870s by Fred Goldsmith or Candy Cummings (it is debatable).

*Tries to pull at hair, doesn't have much hair, thinks better of that, contemplatively takes a sip of coffee while mulling what to do next.*

So ALL OF BASEBALL is ONE BIG TRICK, and the batters probably aren't even wearing pants, and yet that's the $(*#&%$#($^& best you could do about the invention of the curve ball?

Where is the mythos? Where is the legend? Where is the shrouded in time... etc? George R.R. Martin could do a better job with that, and all he did was take The Silmarillion and cut-and-paste "human" and "elf" and then say "battle-axe" a lot. You need to begin with something like...

...In a tiny unheated room of his parent's cottage in 1872, a young Alexander Graham Bell huddled over a fire built with a mixture of myrrh and polonium dust, communicating with the ghost of Lord Alfred Tennyson. Bell had been chosen as the pitcher in the Firste Annuale Worlde SeriesE starting the next day, but his arm was possessed by demons, according to a doctor who had considered diagnosing him with "muscle spasms" but had rejected that because this is 1872 and "muscles" haven't been discovered yet...

See where I'm going with that? That's way better than what you've got.

Whatever it's origins*9


*9 Mine is better than baseball's, so go with mine: magic!

the curve ball also was featured in a story published in 1884 in the magazine "St Nicholas," a popular (?) children's magazine at the time, which now raises into question all that crap they taught us in school about how hard life was in the 19th century with people dying of black plague or having to cross the plains or at least fight in wars or something; I don't know. I didn't really pay attention. But I distinctly recall being told that life was hard back then -- something about meat-packing, or maybe the Gold Standard? -- and if life was so hard, why were kids reading popular magazines?

Life was so hard that kids hardly had time to do the word jumble, is that what history tells us? Screw you, history. And Albuquerque, while you're at it.

The story in St Nicholas was called "How Science Won The Game," and was about a boy who used a curve ball to beat the other team, even though the curve was thought to be dishonest. You can actually read the whole story here. Spoiler Alert: Jack and his friends run off to meet a strange man in a hotel who says to them "Let me feel your arm" and then proceeds to compliment Jack on his muscles and then tells Jack and his friend to meet him outside in the alley behind the hotel.

Seriously.

Then he gives this advice to Jack: "Keep cool, and pinch tight."

Jack, of course, doesn't turn the guy in to Chris Hansen, but instead goes on to master the curve ball and win the Big Game, but here's the thing:

They win the game because Jack hits the ball to first base, but that guy commits an error and the right fielder backing him up throws home but Jack's friend, the not-at-all-symbolically-named Win, scores by jumping over the catcher.

Oh, and: SPOILER ALERT!

So the only science really involved was the Fosbury Flop, and, once again, Baseball has pulled a slight-of-hand -- promising you science (the curve ball) would win the game but really just having a bigshot sports reporter get credit for writing the story (as it turns out, the story was supposed to have been written by Hotel Guy about this game, because news was in short supply in those days so kids' baseball games got major coverage from all media.)

Enjoy the "World Series."


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Viral Videos Aren't Really My Thing But Then THIS GUY AND HIS INSTRUMENTS...

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Rumble for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.
Most people know that I’m not all that crazy about videos on the ‘net, and in particular I’m not crazy about when people suggest I watch them.  I rarely take time out of my day to watch a video, and even then I’m usually not too impressed by the videos that are suggested to me.
Which is why I was a bit skeptical about this site I heard about, “rumble,” promising ‘viral videos’ for people to watch that were actually cool.  I’ve heard that before.  No doubt there will be someone’s kid hugging a cat while Mom twerks to Prince’s “1999” in the background or something WHATEVS
But I checked it out, and they actually have videos that even got me to think “Well, that was pretty cool.”
Like this viral videos from a guy who draws two lifelike goldfish in a time-lapse video.


Source: Artist draws incredibly realistic 3D goldfish by Worsanx on Rumble

I first watched it just because I really want to improve my drawing (from “just above stick figure” to something a bit more like Rusty Carl could do), but then as I watched it I was just enthralled.  One of the fish looks completely real.  COMPLETELY.
So I looked around the site a bit more, and I found another cool viral videos, a shot of flying through the auroras in low orbit.

Source: Flying through an Aurora in orbit by rumblestaff on Rumble

At this point, I am pretty much resigned to the fact that I will not become an astronaut (STILL HOLDING OUT HOPE FOR THAT SUPER BOWL QUARTERBACK JOB THOUGH) so that video might be the closest I ever come to seeing that.

Then I wandered over into “Music,” where I found a viral videos of a guy playing “Get Lucky”… on bassoon and theremin.

Source: 'Get Lucky' cover played on bassoon and theremin by jeffbsn on Rumble

I mean who even knows how to play one of those? I want to be friends with that guy.
So while I am reluctant to recommend videos to people because then they recommend them back to me, you probably should go check the site out, because it’s cool.

So go get your viral videos through rumble, okay? And find me a theremin and bassoon tutor.

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So I'm A Grandpa Now.

Oldest had a baby yesterday.  Here he is:





Saturday, October 11, 2014

Mr F is a janitor, now.

Sweetie came home from Mr F's IEP meeting the other day and told me that as part of Mr F's "regulation" the school had him washing windows, scrubbing floors, and wiping down tables.

"They made him a janitor?" I asked.

"No," Sweetie said, and then went on to add what she apparently thought would clarify things or reassure me, or both:

"They also have him carrying heavy stacks of books to the library."

When I just stared at her, she went on: "And back. Whether the library needs them or not."

This is school for Mr F: cleanliness, and meaningless labor; the school apparently feels that might help him prepare for his future. But, rest assured, there is (seemingly traditional) learning going on, as well.  Math, for example. At the meeting, when the discussion of math came up it was revealed to Sweetie that  Mr F is learning "money." We don't know exactly how he is learning money because when asked, the teacher said she was teaching him "money" by "matching."  Pressed for details, she said she did not exactly agree with the school's math curriculum.

An "IEP" for those who don't know is an "Individualized Educational Program."  Congress, which used to do things, passed a law way back when, before we realized we were too poor to do things and still tried to fix problems, that requires that all students get a Free, Appropriate Public Education, which for some reason people abbreviate to "FAPE," because people are stupid in love with acronyms. The idea is to have kids take part in as much school as they, or the school, or both, can handle.  The levels of tolerance are not always equal.  I suspect that Mr F can tolerate school -- even with its violation of child labor laws -- much more than school can tolerate Mr F.  The phrase "also he had his shirt off" appears in far more communications with the school than many parents would be comfortable with (we don't mind), and once, when I went to the school for career day (to explain to first graders what a trial lawyer does, using dinosaurs and hamburgers as reference points), I was waiting in the classroom, talking with one of the boys' teachers, while the class was at the art room.  From out in the hall, I heard the rising pitch of a little boy's voice:

"AaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaHHHHHHHH" it went. And then Mr F went running by the classroom door, spatulas a'flyin'.  Ten feet behind him was the aide who is supposed to be with him at all times.

I paused and then the teacher and I went back to talking.  A few seconds later, the sound rose again and Mr F dashed back the other way, the aide no closer.  I sympathized.  He can be hard to catch.  He has this move where he dips his shoulder just before you grab him that an NFL running back would envy.

Sympathy or not, it was school hours which meant I didn't need to join the chase, thanks to Congress' foresight.

Once or twice a year the law requires that the school get a team of experts together to decide what level of FAPE students like Mr F and Mr Bunches will get.  The law requires that they get the maximum dosage of education a student like them can handle, which the law guarantees by requiring  specific goals for students in a variety of areas, goals that are set out in ways that are meant to be measurable but which only seem to be that until you think about them.

Goals for Mr F have in the past been things like "Will sit in class uninterrupted for 7 minutes on 7 of 10 tries" or something like that; the IEP goes on for pages and pages and is accompanied by swaths of reports which read halfway like the kind of cute stories you love telling about your kid and halfway like strange lab results that, weirdly, are also about your kid.  It's as if Grandma and Grandpa got sociology degrees from Brown before taking the kids to Dairy Queen:  A report will say that Mr F "Engaged in appropriate play on 3 of 10 intervals with minimal coordinated direction" and in case you are unclear on what that means will go on to say "When I threw the ball to him, he threw it back to me after I prompted him a few times to do so, and then when I threw it to him again, he stared me down while throwing the ball away at a ninety degree angle."

"This" the phy ed teacher will add "was taken to mean that he did not want to play anymore."  Science!

That was one of the actual stories from the actual IEP meeting Sweetie attended today, while I stayed home with the boys, one of whom (Mr Bunches) was surprised to see me waiting for him when he got off the bus.

"Daddy!" he yelled.  "You're alive!"  The bus driver, who only thought she was used to the boys, looked surprised and as if she wanted to know the story behind that one. But first she had to get Mr F off the bus, which means unhooking his harness, gathering up the shoes and socks he had taken off, finding his backpack, and then retrieving his tappers-- two hangers, swiped from Target. We are trying to discourage Mr F from taking forks to school as tappers because, as it turns out, the school does not think that it is entirely appropriate for an 8-year-old with impulse control to be armed -- handing the whole shebang to me while Mr F dazedly hung off my arm.  He did not seem surprised I was there (or alive); he seemed to be half-asleep, which was probably the case, since Mr F had gotten up at 3:30 that morning and, as he got off the bus, had been awake for nearly 12 hours already.

Awake, and apparently working hard for his free, appropriate education.

Mr F woke up, if you believe Sweetie, at 3 a.m. last night.  I think it was more like 2 a.m. but I am an unreliable witness because when I am tired I sometimes dream that I am awake and feel, when I am awake, like I am dreaming, and I have been tired for 8 years, 23 days, 6 hours, and 19 minutes now.

Whether it was 2 a.m. or 3 a..m. anyway was irrelevant because it was Sweetie's night to be in charge of Mr F and Mr Bunches.  We used to trade off nights being in charge of them, but a few weeks back I pointed out to Sweetie that it didn't make much sense to have me be in charge of them and sometimes going sleepless all night when, technically speaking, I was the one of us who could not just take  a nap the next day, as napping in the office is somewhat frowned on.  Which isn't to say it doesn't happen. It's just frowned on.

Or it should have been irrelevant to me but it wasn't, because Sweetie invented a mouse, which she then woke me up to deal with.

"Honey?" she said to me in the same tone of voice she once used to say that she was going to drive herself to the ER because she had a kidney stone but don't worry I could go back to sleep. When I heard it this night, I bolted awake because there is always the risk she'll try that again, and while I am sure she's competent to drive herself down to the ER with a kidney stone, I don't want the same nurse that once suspected I was beating Sweetie to be there when Sweetie sneaks out in the middle of the night to be hooked up to an IV of painkillers, and thus confirm that nurse's not-so-secret suspicions of me. So I'm on the alert for Sweetie's midnight (or later) pronouncements of emergencies, which, when they are not decisions to drive herself to the ER tend to fall into one of two other categories:

"Honey... there is a giant spider on the ceiling" is the most common. That one is preferable to the other category, which is: "Honey... there was a giant spider on the ceiling but I didn't want to wake you up and now I can't find it." To which I try not to say: HONESTLY? You didn't want to wake me up until you could tell me there is a deadly spider hiding in the bedroom?   At least give me a chance to defend myself by waking me up when you still see it. Or let me die in my sleep.

The other thing Sweetie does is ask me, after I've laid down in bed, whether I turned on the alarm.  I seem not to be able to convince Sweetie that asking me things like that is a terrible thing to do.  It doesn't matter if I come into the bedroom, turn on the alarm, announce that I have turned the alarm on write myself a note that yes the alarm is on and then carry that note to bed with me; as soon as Sweetie asks me if the alarm is on, I'll forget all that other stuff and have to go make sure it is turned on, which leads to a whole other problem, in that the little slide for the alarm is supposed to be up when the alarm is on, and I know that but as soon as I get out of bed and stumble into the rocking chair that nobody ever uses and find the alarm on my dresser next to the papers for the cell phones we got back in April, my old iPod that I keep meaning to take into the Apple store to see if I can get it fixed, some cologne, my art set, and, for some reason a pair of Sweetie's tennis shoes -- all of which share the top of my dresser with the alarm clock -- as soon as I check the slide to see if it's in the up position, and confirm that it is, my mind will say "Are you sure up is on?" and that is when I go a little more crazy, because now I will toss and turn all night wondering if I only dreamed that up is on and in fact down is on, and also while I toss and turn I will become convinced that I can hear the spiders sneaking around on the ceiling.

All while Sweetie sleeps soundly next to me, alert for the sound of my changing the channel away from her Murder Shows but otherwise dead to the world.

Last night, though, Sweetie didn't wake me to tell me about the Missing Spiders Of Doom; instead, there was a (make-believe) mouse in the living room, where she and Mr F had retreated to at 3:30 for a spirited night of Sweetie trying to at least get Mr F to lie down on the couch and sleep there, which she tried to do in part by reminding him that he had school the next day. That made Mr F laugh, and why not? He doesn't exactly have to bring his A game to school, apparently.  Just his Windex (TM).

"Honey?" Sweetie said.  "There's a mouse in the living room and I need you to get it." I am paraphrasing here because I was only half-awake and still caught in a dream where spiders kept turning off the alarm clock before laying eggs in my brain.  I got the gist of what she was saying and went down to the living room, where I realized I was barefoot and thus vulnerable to a mouse running into my toes if it should scoot across the room.  Gross.  So I knelt on the couch and leaned down to look at the register where Sweetie said she could hear the mouse.

Do not inquire how Sweetie can have some sort of Mouse Radar (or MADAR)(TM) that allows her to hear mice over the sound of Mr F talking, and yet cannot keep her eyes on a Death Spider for three seconds while I get a sufficient amount of toilet paper to guarantee that the spider cannot bite me through the layers and kill me before I kill it (usually about half a roll will do). Sweetie's abilities to hear things are, like her abilities to kill small appliances by talking about them, ineluctable.

I poked around the vent for a while, using a fork that Mr F had left there.  We have forks all over our house, a product of Middle Daughter's present to Mr F for his 8th birthday: she got him a bag full of forks, because he was running low on forks to use as tappers, only in part because when a fork angered him as a tapper -- we don't know why he gets angry at some of his tappers -- he will throw it, an alarming occurrence if, for example, you are sitting in the front seat of the car minding your own business and then a fork comes flying over the back of the seat to clang off the window in front of you.  (You get used to it.)(And you leave your headrest up as high as you can.)  Sometimes he throws the forks behind the couch, or the TV, or the refrigerator.  He throws other tappers in these places, too.  Behind the cabinet where we keep our wedding mementos (the only knickknacks in our house, for some reason ignored by the boys), we can usually find a stash of spatulas, spoons, forks, Target hangers, Hot Wheels tracks, and assorted other things that have been pressed into emergency service as tappers and then discarded. When Mr Bunches and I cook his pancakes, we have to search around the house to find a spatula and a fork to use.

Don't worry. We wash it off.

I found no mouse, and told Sweetie that there wasn't a mouse in the living room at all.  I then went back upstairs for the remaining 2 hours before I had to get up and go into the office, two hours that were punctuated by Mr F's shouts from downstairs, and finally got back up and came downstairs early.

That has how most of the past month has been: Mr F has been having trouble sleeping, trouble that technically began last May, when Sweetie and I dared to have the boys be babysat overnight, or almost overnight, by Middle Daughter.  It was our anniversary and as we have done for years on our anniversary, Sweetie and I opted to get away for the night.  We used to go to exotic locales like "Stevens Point, Wisconsin" (NOTE: NOT ACTUALLY EXOTIC) but after the boys were born Sweetie was nervous about being too far away from them, so now on our anniversary we go stay in a hotel that is roughly 7 minutes from our house.

This may not seem like "getting away" to you, but to us it is (usually) an extremely relaxing night in that we get away from the house, where of course there are always chores that Sweetie would like me to do and which I am more than willing to have an actual heart attack to be relieved of doing, and where also our conversations are not usually as linear and uninterrupted as we would like them.  Here is a typical dinnertable conversation between me and Sweetie:

Me: So how was your day?

Sweetie: Mr F is upstairs, can you go see what he's climbing on?

Me: Sure, I'll

Mr Bunches: Want to say the Top Ten Sexy Aliens?

Sweetie: OK

Me: Where did Mr F go?

Mr Bunches: Number 10: Princess Leia.

Sweetie: No.

The Top 10 Sexy Aliens, in case you are wondering (why wouldn't you be?) is a video Mr Bunches likes to watch on Youtube; there are a whole series of Top 10 lists put together by a company and Mr Bunches watches them all, and then asks us to interact with them, and him, in different ways.   Sometimes, he wants us to list which ones he can or cannot watch.  Say on the "Top 10 Creepy Kids Movies," he will list them and Sweetie has to say "Yes" or "No."  This is difficult because the rules are not set by us, but by him, and they are inscrutable: Mr Bunches will not watch "Monsters, Inc." but has watched "Monster House" and "Paranorman" over and over.  He is so frightened by The Nightmare Before Christmas, a movie he has never even watched the trailer for, that even mentioning it makes him a little pale.  (Despite that fear, he sometimes write the name of that movie on a piece of paper and tapes the paper up. Or maybe it is because of that fear; the paper is possibly as a ward against evil.)

Other times, we (I, Sweetie never has to) have to act out the movies, or at least a snippet of them.  So for the number 10 Sexiest Movie Alien (Princess Leia) I have to act out the scene where she unfreezes Han at Jabba's house.  That's not a big deal, really (I have the acting chops for it) unless he wants you to do it, say, at the pool when there are 10 or 20 other people around who have no idea why one little boy is saying "Number 10 Princess Leia" and his dad is then doing a skit.

Really, I'm much more comfortable when we play "Nature's Deadliest" at the pool, because then I get to be a shark and a dingo and a stone fish and various spiders and snakes and things and swim up to Mr Bunches and bite him and he dies (but not for real, don't worry other parents/authorities!).

So when we went away in May for our anniversary, for a night of conversations that didn't involve Princess Leia, spatulas, or deadly spiders of any sort, it was supposed to be relaxing for us, but about 2 o'clock in the morning Sweetie woke me up.

"Honey?" she said.

I bolted up, alert for spiders, mice, Princess Leia... whatever.

"I'm not sure I closed and locked the window in the living room," she said.

"Well, now I can't go back to sleep," I agreed, because an open window is an invitation to Mr F, who twice, when he was two, climbed through them and ran away, the first time getting as far away as a half-mile before he was intercepted by a nurse and we tracked him down. (The second time was how we found out he was getting through the window, rather than a door, and he only made it a block because The Boy was on watch.)  Mr F now wears a GPS bracelet around his ankle in case that happens again, and we do not open windows in our house when Mr F is around. If we open them at all, it is only while the boys are in school and Sweetie usually closes them before they get home.  In fact, we have the windows duct-taped shut, because I decided that bars on the window were too expensive and too prison-looking.  Whereas duct-taped windows are SUPER classy.  All the high society folks do that.

So we checked out and went home and found Mr F sleeping on the couch and Middle Daughter on the other couch and the window open.  We woke them up, and put Mr F to bed and sent Middle Daughter home and that episode taught Mr F now that sometimes we leave and then come home in the middle of the night, and he hasn't trusted us since then.  For the past four months, one of us has had to sit in his bedroom with him until he falls asleep, which isn't terrible, really, except that sometimes Mr F doesn't fall asleep at all.  One night I was in there so long that my laptop battery, my Kindle battery, and my phone battery all died. It was like being transported back in time to a more primitive era as the night went on.  I assumed eventually I'd be wearing fur and trying to build a fire if he didn't fall asleep soon, and all that Sweetie would find in the morning would be cave paintings showing what my life had been like.

The boys require that kind of constant supervision and attention, almost around the clock, one of the reasons that I do not usually attend the IEP meeting with Sweetie: we would either have to take the boys with us and have at least 1/3 of the IEP meeting involve a discussion of whether "Godzilla" really is the number one top movie monster and if so can Mr Bunches watch it (Answers: Yes, and No) or we would have to get a sitter, one of the older kids, but even the older kids engender a deep distrust in Mr F and sometimes a level of despair in Mr Bunches who, as I pointed out, tends to equate someone not being there with death.  Once, when we got The Boy to watch them after school so we could go out, and we left before they got home from school, The Boy reported that upon entering the house, Mr Bunches laid down in the doorway and cried for ten minutes straight before retreating to his room and watching movies with a stricken look on his face.  In related news, both Sweetie and I ordered a side of guilt that night for dinner.

That's why I don't necessarily blame the school for putting Mr F to work.  He's a hard kid to school.  We do homework with him, every night.  He doesn't get anything sent home for him, so we read for fifteen minutes or so -- usually with me holding him down physically and trying to get him to repeat words on each page.  Or we color.  One night last week we did a thing where I had a toy cow, sheep, and chicken, and had him say the sounds for each and pick them up in the order I told him to.

Mr F usually responds to these efforts by fleeing.  He will run upstairs, or downstairs, or simply around, and if you manage to (literally) drag him to the couch for some 'learning time,' he will wait until he senses your guard is down and will bolt again.  The other day, he dodged away from me, got to the garage door, hit the automatic opener, dropped flat on the ground and rolled under the door, getting onto the driveway before I could even stoop low enough to see what kind of danger he might logroll into.

Other times, Mr F is more creative.  The other night, when he didn't want to read, he tried to rip all the pages out of the book and then snorted with disgust when I reminded him we had other books and I'd just get a different one.

Confronted with the inevitable -- that he must learn-- Mr F will try to make it go quickly by repeating all of his favorite words as quickly as he can, in case that's what you want.  Or he'll try to turn the pages before you read them, as if getting to the end of the book will solve everything.

Or he will simply close his eyes or look away, deliberately paying no attention to what you are doing.

And that is when he is in a helpful mood.  If he is upset, he might declare war on, say, eggs, as he does about once a week, going to the refrigerator and getting out all the eggs and smashing them onto the floor.  We now have to hide our eggs in the refrigerator, putting them in different locations and masking them with bologna or bread.  Last night, Mr F was so persistently trying to get eggs -- he was upset because I got home late, I think -- that I took them out and sat with them while I did Mr Bunches' homework.

So we've tried a lot of stuff, is my point, but we never actually tried menial labor.  Now, I see whole new worlds opened up to us, worlds where "Having Mr F clean out the gutters" would be considered excellent parenting.  Days where I can say "I guess Mr F better do those dishes, after all we want him to  get into Harvard not some safety school" and pat myself on the back for being a great dad.  No more reading to him and making him sound out words, not when there's wallpaper to strip off and electrical outlets to rewire.  I've spent nights trying over and over to get Mr F to be able to sign his own name, never realizing that waxing the floor was far more likely to turn him into the next Einstein.  This has revolutionized everything.  Congress declared that guys like Mr F ought to get the best, most appropriate education they can, but that was shortsighted, and our visionary teachers have gone one better: why bother learning when he could be earning?

If I sound sarcastic, it's because I am.  I understand that teaching Mr F is hard; if you think I don't, read that foregoing.  But we do that -- we chase him around and hold him down while getting him to look at pictures of his family and say their names or know the parts of his body or spell his name with a crayon because we can't give up.  Giving up, giving in to Mr F's sometimes-incontrollable impulses, is not an option.  It's not that we don't recognize they're hard to control.  We duct-tape our windows, after all.  We're not fools.

But there is a big difference between saying "We'd better secure those windows because it only takes  a minute for him to get out of one" and "I guess he doesn't want to learn to read, better have him mop the floor."  And the difference perhaps is in how much you care.

I would expect the school to care.  Not because Mr F is so adorable.  He is.  But also because it's their job.  I care so much because I love Mr F and also because as his dad it's my job to make sure that he can function at his highest level.  Maybe he won't go to Harvard, something I will only grudgingly admit is one of several possibilities, but as soon as you decide that no he's not then you've eliminated that as a possibility and set your sights lower.

If you aim for the highest and don't make it, you still have a chance of hitting everything in between.  I may never teach Mr F to read a book from beginning to end, but if I stop trying, there's almost no chance he will do that.

And so it seems to me that anytime you take someone and say "We're going to aim a little lower with you" you're letting that person, and yourself, down.  Which is why Mr F being the school's janitor bothered me.  I don't think, at age 8, with someone who is so obviously bright, that you simply decide "Oh well, he's a window washer."

And it's not as though the school has done that, I suppose.  It just seems like that's the way some of his teachers would head if we didn't keep pushing them.  Mr F is still in the classroom with the other kids and he still gets instruction in stuff and he's learning, we're all sure (even if we're not so sure why we are sure he's learning.)

I think what really bugs me about the mopping and stuff is that they are underestimating Mr F.  Or misunderstanding him.  Or both.

I think people who interact with Mr F -- even people who interact with him a lot -- don't give him credit for just how smart he is.  That's easy to do when the person you're interacting with doesn't talk in intelligible words and won't make eye contact with you and appears to be uninterested in all the things we expect someone to be interested in. (Although using "interested in stuff we are interested in as a criterion for intelligence really begs the question.)

It's easy, when you try to get Mr F to talk or read a book or write his name, to think "Oh, he must not be very smart" or "He's not really understanding you when you say those things."  Easy, but wrong.

Mr F understands.  Take his first night with his wetsuit.  As soon as I bothered to explain to him that he only had to try it he let me put it right on.  You had to watch him struggling and struggling and struggling and then settle right down the second I explained it to him to understand how much he understands; and even we, as his parents, forget that -- or I've had explained it earlier.

Mr F understands, I'm pretty sure, everything we say, at least in terms of "knowing what the words mean."  I think, though, that there is a disconnect between understanding, and caring.  I think Mr F doesn't care much about us, or our lives, or the world we expect him to live in.  I don't mean that in a bad way; I think he just finds our world boring.

I watch Mr F.  I watch him pretty closely.  I've watched him for 8 years now, keeping eyes on him keeping on us.  I've watched him suddenly bolt, taking off as fast as he can for somewhere else; I've watched him be forced to sit and choose to stare off into the distance at something nobody but him can see.

Mr F isn't incapable of taking part in our world.  He isn't interested in taking part in our world.  And all the mopping and math and writing and reading aren't going to change that.  There's something more interesting for Mr F out there, something only he knows about and can see.

Remember being in math class and someone (it was me, one year) would always raise a hand and say "When are we going to use this stuff?"  Remember how many things in your life you've sat through only because you had to in order to get to the good stuff?

Every now and then, Mr F breaks into laughter and smiles.  It doesn't seem to matter what he's doing in particular. He may be laying there, or sitting in the car, or in his hammock, or jumping on his trampoline.  Whatever.  He just out of the blue starts laughing, this clear ringing laugh that makes him throw his head back and smile this huge smile and wave his arms, and sometimes when he does that he will grab me or Sweetie and pull us to him and smile at us and hug us; other times he just sits and laughs and laughs and laughs, sometimes so much that we laugh, too.

I think 99% of his life is the part that Mr F waits through to get to that good stuff.  I don't know how to, or even if we can, convince him that everything around him is worth paying attention to.  But I'm pretty sure mopping the floors isn't the way to do it.