Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Tribute To Dick Tufeld

Had I known that I was going to be honored with the Versatile Blogger Award by Mrs. Tuna, I would have prepared something more upbeat. As it is, this will be a tribute to a legend of the small screen. 

If you were paying extra close attention to news coming out of La La Land this past week, you would have read this article about the death of character actor and voiceover artist, Dick Tufeld. For those of us of a certain age, he will be remembered as the voice of the Robot, on Lost In Space, and from hundreds of television commercials like this one

Honestly, the man's voice was so ubiquitous on TV, that I can't think of a time when I didn't hear it over the past 40+ years. He stayed very active and was still voicing characters as recently as 2004. Considering he started in TV when TV was brand new, I'd say the man had a hell of a great career. I'm drinking a toast in his honor tonight. 


And since Mrs. Tuna has bestowed the award, it is my duty to post seven interesting facts about myself for you readers. The cool part of this is that I can make up just about anything and you'd never know I was yanking your chains. But in the interest of full disclosure, propriety, and veracity, I will tell you things that are at least mostly true.

  • I applied to be an astronaut while an Army Aviator. NASA probably got a good laugh out of reading my application. I never heard back from them. 
  • I am afraid of gorillas. Really. Their stare scares the living shit out of me.
  • I don't like heights, even though I was (and technically still am) a pilot. 
  • Mrs. Marshmallow is by far, better at DIY home projects than I am. It's not even a contest. She built a two-level, heavy wooden backyard play set for our sons, from scratch, while I was at work one day! It would have taken me longer to buy the materials for it! That play set is still standing, and probably will stand forever, because she over-engineered the hell out of it. I will call in a demolition team to get rid of it before we die, however.
  • I love single malt Scotch Whisky, but I can no longer tolerate it because of some major abdominal surgery a couple of years back. Now I have a trove of the stuff that smells like heaven to me but makes me sick if I drink it. That's just cruel.
  • I have rescued two drowning swimmers in my life.
  • (breast or brains?) Yeah, I was asked that recently, by a woman. I thought it was an inappropriate question. Not because I was offended by it, but because I thought it was unfair to have to choose between the two, like they were mutually exclusive or something. Come on! And how do women get away with asking things like that? I'd get slapped if I did it (by the way, brains always, always, always win - except at the beach - sorry, but there must be some exceptions). 

Here's to you, Dick! Prost!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Big, Honkin' Boobs!

The drought is over. I've decided, as the saying goes, that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Today, you get boobs.

According to in-depth research I've done regarding my posts here, topics like science are boring. Not just a little bit boring, either. Skull-crushingly boring. In fact, even with help from The Bloggess (via traffic from her site to mine), my post on Centripetal Force garnered the highest ratio of page views to lack of comments I've ever received*. What does that mean? It means boring.

Therefore, you will all now be treated to Big, Honkin' Boobs. (Wait! Slow down on the clicky finger, Sparky!).

Before you click on that link (which is quite safe, I assure you) you need to know that I use the word "boobs" differently than many people. To me, a Boob is a stupid person; a fool; a dunce (as defined on Many people are boobs. Lest you think me harsh or judgmental, even I am a boob, for thinking I could post shit that was somewhat educational without it being duller than an unpolished bowling ball.

Sure, some of you commented, and for that I am pitifully grateful. Some of you actually read it, too. For that I'm not sure what I am. Some of you refrained from commenting out of the kindness of your hearts, so as not to make me look like a boob. For that, I will gladly father your children or buy you ice cream - your choice.

Have I learned my lesson regarding what to blog about? Hardly. I'm a boob. I don't learn lessons well. In fact, in all likelihood, I'm probably an evolutionary dead end**. I would self-describe as someone who acts before thinking. "The Defiant Marshmallow?" Oh yeah, he's definitely a 'Ready! Fire! Aim!' kind of guy."
You all don't know just how lucky you are the world didn't end shortly after August, 1984***.

So sit back, enjoy the boobs, and feel free to stroke my fragile ego by commenting - or not. I no longer know if it's a good thing or a bad thing.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Centripetal Force: The Real Force

This is my disclaimer:

I am not a physicist. I am not a teacher. My expertise and credentials, if one may call them that, are in Geography, Biology, and to some extent, Photography and Astronomy (I consider being an active Amateur Astronomer for over 30 years somewhat of an expertise in general astronomy).

However, I am highly motivated to share science of all types, and specifically, scientific methods, and critical thinking. This is why I like to post about science topics. I get things wrong at times, but try very hard to do my homework and to not get things wrong. I enlist the help and expertise of others to make sure I get stuff right. 

The short of it is I will share information which I find interesting and useful and hope you will enjoy and share back. 


Last week I choked my way through a pitiful attempt of an explanation of Centrifugal Force. This week, I will put two brain cells together and try and explain Centripetal Force, or as some* have called it, Who Gives a Shit?

Easiest way I know to explain it is to go with this example:

Ball on a string.

Find a ball attached to a string. Go ahead; I'll wait. 

Got it?
Ok, now swing the ball around on the string. Faster! Faster! 
Oops. Sorry. First, call the glazer, then take the ball and string outside. 

Now swing the ball around you like a Crusader with a Ball and Chain** 
There, you've done it. You've demonstrated centripetal force. Go back inside, pop open a bottle of wine and congratulate yourself. So what did you do?

Back to Isaac Newton and his Laws of Motion. Remember the first one? An object in motion tends to stay in motion and an object at rest tends to stay at rest until acted upon by another force? Yep. That one.

The object in motion (ball) was really traveling in a straight line, or at least it would have if it weren't attached to the string. The ball was accelerating, but the string was causing it to change direction constantly, therefore, the net result was that the ball was continually being pulled toward the center, which is the end of the string in your hand. The net force was center seeking, or centripetal. 

The outward force that you felt was not centrifugal, but simply the velocity of the ball in its original path. The ball was trying to fly off in one direction. You felt the ball's mass and velocity. Test this (outside) by swinging it again and letting go of the string. 

Zing! Off it goes. This works even better if you have a kid to retrieve the ball and string each time. It's like a game of fetch, but with college credits possible.

The super-simplified explanation. Possibly. And I managed to work in the words "you felt the ball's" without being skeezy. 

Now go out there and play physics!

*Everyone I've tried to explain this to.

**An actual ball and chain. Don't go to the other place, gentlemen, or you will see a demonstration of the skillet in flight force. Which also strikes me (badoom-cha!) as sexist.

Being the nice guy I am, I'm including, at no extra charge, links to two websites that explain this correctly, with diagrams and everything.
Diagrams and equations and stuff.
Another nice site: Flash required

Friday, January 20, 2012

Part 1, Act 2: In Which We Are Considered Special

Bags in hand, we saunter into the exclusive resort shuffle into the Hampton Inn, College Park, MD. The lovely young lady at the front desk is practically orgasmic upon seeing us. By us, of course, I'm referring to the six foot-one inch, blond haired, blue eyed youth (his schlumpy manservant goes unnoticed).

But there is a very special sign being displayed prominently on top of the front desk. It's twin sits on the dresser in our room, along with a generous gift basket.

It seems we are the Guest of the Day. The night manager even trots out from the back room to greet us, and upon seeing me says, "It's about time you got here!" 

Ahhh, yes. We are special. Very special.


The audition, you ask?

Yes. That went very well too. We were the first ones to arrive, greeted by a friendly faculty member, and whisked off to the practice rooms, whereupon Wolfgang could warm up his fingers. 30 minutes later, whisked down to the lobby, whisked into green room, whisked into concert hall and off to the races. Apologies for the overuse of "W" there, especially without proper alliteration.

The Parents were kept at a distance and not permitted to watch the auditions. They apologized for it. I thanked them profusely for giving me a chance to miss out on my 352nd listening of Liszt's Vomit in G major, or whatever it's called. And Beethoven's Prelude and Weasel. And Bach's Hair on a G-string
I don't know. They all run together and every time I try to get the names right and blow it, Wolfgang looks at me like apes descended from me.

One down, three to go. And you can bet your ass I emptied that basket out before I left the hotel. No beer left behind!

Part 1: The Warmup

The Clarice Smith Performance Center at the University of Maryland.

The Warmup. Wolfgang is calm. The Defiant Marshmallow is not.

The Marshmallow. Butterflies included, but not visible.

He's playing as I write this. It's time to go lie down. When I come to, I'll write more.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Wolfgang And The Papa Take a Road Trip: The Beginning

Prologue and Part The First

There's no prologue. It just looks cool in the header.

Today begins the first journey of the Wolfgang and The Marshmallow to Auditionville. One of us is looking forward to this magical excursion and the other is driving. However, both of us are anticipating the cool, possibly awesome opportunities for buddy stuff to happen. Happy Meals, the D.C. Beltway at rush hour, Hampton Inn Breakfast. Thrills galore. College Park, MD, here we come!

And we will be ready for any situation because I have apps. I'm chock full of apps. Bring it on, world!

These upcoming adventures mean different things to Wolfgang and me. For him, they are the setup to life and a career. For me, they bring thoughts. Good thoughts, bad thoughts, worrisome thoughts. Thoughts like, "Will Wolfgang get me good seats and a backstage pass to his first Carnegie Hall recital?" 

That's all to write for now I guess this really is just the prologue. 
More to come...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Fictitious Force

Picture this: you're driving in your car, with some item on the seat next to you. Let's say it's your cell phone. As you scoot on down the highway, all is right with the world. Your CD of Songs From a Colonial Tavern, by Taylor Vrooman*, has you bobbing your head gleefully.

You come upon an exit and need to pull your car onto the side road. As you veer off you hear the sound of you phone sliding sideways across the seat and clunking against the passenger door, then dropping onto the floor. "Why", you ask yourself, "did my phone going flying off to the right?"
"What pushed it over there?" It's only natural to ask those questions and wonder what happened.

The problem is that there is no good, direct answer because the questions are poorly worded. Nothing pushed the cell phone across the seat. However, we were most likely taught that something called centrifugal force was behind the mysteriously sliding cell phone. We were incorrectly taught that centrifugal force pushed the phone to the right while you put your car into a left-hand turn. The same force supposedly caused us to go flying off of the Merry-go-round in third grade. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as centrifugal force. So what happened, and how do we explain this?

To learn what happened we have to invoke Isaac Newton, and his three laws of motion. To put this as simply as possible for the purposes of this writing, the cell phone was traveling in a straight line along with the speeding car, but the car decided, at your insistence, to move out from under the cell phone. All objects in motion, like the car and phone, will continue to move in a constant direction unless acted upon by an external force.

In this case, your car was acted upon by friction; friction of the tires against the road surface caused your car to change its direction. Your tires were able to create enough grip, or friction, to redirect the movement of your previously straight-moving car. So it turned left. However, your cell phone and the seat it was resting on were not able to generate enough friction to change the direction of travel of the phone, therefore it continued to move in the direction it had been moving, as per Newton's First Law. Nothing pushed it. It was simply continuing to do what it had been doing.

So why were we most likely taught that something pushed the phone off the seat? I'm not exactly sure, but I think that answer to that has to do with many factors, including, but not exclusive to, laziness, lack of knowledge of real physical forces, teaching to the lowest common denominator (don't crucify me for being the messenger on that one!), and intellectual inertia. It's just easier to explain the phenomena through the simplest means rather than to have to go into more and more detail.

In order to really grasp what really happens, you would have to be taught more things, like those pesky laws of motion, friction, force, mass, acceleration, and the real force - centripetal force. It's time consuming and, in the long run, you can live your life to the fullest without having to know all that extra stuff. That's why I'm guessing we weren't taught properly. But I could be wrong.

Speaking for myself, I'd rather go to the trouble of learning all of that "extra stuff". Because I'd prefer to know how the world really works, even if I don't actively use that information on a daily basis, or ever. I simply want to know how things really are, and I am a little bit annoyed that our institutions of education don't always feel the same way. I know. Picky, picky, picky. Sue me.

Next week: centripetal force, or why a lack of something can cause another thing to happen.

* If anyone but me actually owns this, that person should be very ashamed. I know I am.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Thankfully, You All Forgot...

Yes, I know that many moons ago I promised to put some short items in here about science topics that getted all balled up and are never taught, or never taught properly.

It's not like I lied. I've just been busy and I think I lost my draft of the piece on Centripetal Force. It's probably somewhere. Might have been flung off the Merry-go-round into space. I'm looking for it.

I did send part of the first draft out to someone to look over, so I'm hoping it still exists in email limbo. Time to check sent messages and see what comes up.

But here's the really, really short version, just for the heck of it.

What you think of and call Centrifugal Force (see the Merry-go-round comment above) is actually the absence of the Centripetal Force. Centrifugal Force is not a considered a "real" force.

There's your teaser.

And if the person I sent the draft to could let me know if it still exists, I would be grateful.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Because More People Should Be Aware

Just linking to a great post by The Bloggess today. Because she wrote it so well, and because more people should be aware of the daily struggle some people (many more than you think) face.

Thanks, Jenny.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Waiting For Wolfgang

No, not Puck. Wolfgang Amadeus Marshmallow. If you've followed this blog for any length of time you've read about him. The pianist. The prodigy (stop giggling, please, I have a headache). Really, he's good. He can do Rachmaninov or Beethoven like no other blond haired, blue eyed white male I've ever seen. And I've seen one of them.

But I question the value of driving an hour and a half every week, to another state, in order to take lessons from a big time piano teacher. An I supposed to be impressed because I have to drive far? Is that what makes someone an expert; that he isn't in your town? What do the people who live in his neighborhood think of him? I'll bet that to them he's just the guy that gives lessons out of his house and who doesn't remember to zip up his pants or comb his hair.

I protest.

I want an expert in my own town. I mean, we've already got plenty of guys in my town who don't remember to zip up their pants. Well, technically, those guys aren't exactly in my town so much as in prison right now. But you know what I mean. We have plenty of goofballs where I live. Can't just one of them teach piano to kids who are going to be concert pianists, or who might at least go to work at Howl at The Moon?

I don't know. It seems to me the distribution of genius art and music types is just all wrong. I thought you ought to know.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone