Archive for May, 2013

Further tales of the sub-villains who cause merry mayhem in our household…

Mr Slops

Slops works on creating culinary chaos. If you are born after 1990, I suspect you won’t even be aware of his existence. He loves operating on the periphery. So, if you are sitting at the table, having a meal, you may only be aware of him when you aren’t looking at your son or daughter. That’s when he strikes. But while your sight may let you down, your hearing won’t. You’ll recognise the tell tale signs, the sibilant smacking of lips, of saliva and food that can best be described as ‘cud’ that emanates from your child’s mouth.

English: When this shorthorn heifer in the Uni...

I know what you’re thinking… there are no cows at my table, but Mr Slops has powers far and wide… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Should you turn to engage Mr Slops, one-to-one, he will immediately take over your child’s mind. You can tell this has occurred when they look at you and, through a combination of steak, mashed potato and mushy peas state, quite blankly, “Whaaaat?”

As if this weren’t enough, he has compelling powers of camouflage. Should you ask:

“Could you please chew with your mouth closed?” of your offspring, Mr Slops will once again take control of mental and vocal faculties. This can be confirmed with any response resembling:

“But I am” or thereabouts. At which point, Slops will play the final card in his deck, the capitulation card.

What does this look like? Again, no one is sure, but telltale signs include a slumping of shoulders from any parents within earshot, or perhaps an extended and quite exasperated sigh…

The last (I promise!) domestic sub-villains installment to come shortly…

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It’s a great time to be alive. My son is 9 now, and if you’d ask me if I thought I’d be sharing a passion for Dr Who with my own child, say 15 years ago, I wouldn’t have believed it. It’s great that the show that gave me so much pleasure in my childhood, is now providing a connection for us in the present.

At present, he has a vivid imagination that has created a range of super heroes. At the same time, I’ve had to balance the books. But I’m not looking to tell you about his creations here.

Instead, I’ve watched the domestic disarray that two children represent. And there are a whole stack of household, less-than-super, heroes living with us. I can’t draw, so for the time being, descriptions will have to suffice. Do you have children? Perhaps that “slack” flat mate? If yes, all this may sound familiar. Here are the ones that I’ve identified to date:

The Amazing Distracto –

Distracto is a master of mischief.

A pile of Lego blocks, of assorted colours and...

Has Distracto been at your house? Lego is a tell-tale sign (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He appears at the oddest times, like when you send your son/daughter/flatmate to go clean their room. Come back X minutes later to discover the chaos that Distracto has wreaked! In my son’s case, he is “cleaning” his room, but when Distracto strikes (and you subsequently enter), you’ll find him playing with Lego or reading a graphic novel of Indiana Jones. I’ve never seen Distracto, but understand that he wears a large dark coat and his eyes, which seem to emanate out of the dark recesses of the top hat he wears (that shroud most of his features), are two spirals that swirl in opposite directions. My son says that he wants to clean his room, but when Distracto appears, he stands before him with something shiny in one of his hands. I’ve heard that in the other hand, is a picture of what he should be doing – in this case, cleaning his room. But (and here is the cunning part), Distracto  gets you to look at this… only briefly… before he hypnotises you with the other, shiny object. Once you’ve had a glimpse of that… you’re gone.

But, if you’re really unlucky, his brother…

The Amazing Destructo

will appear. I’ve not seen him. According to my son, no one really has. All he can say is that he goes in, with the firm intention of cleaning the mess in his room… then when you come along to check, it is clear that Destructo has been present. Whatever detritus may have existed before has been sent to the four winds in a Twister like Display of Destruction. Destructo is fast, furious and unpredictable. No one (including children) know when or where he will strike…

Anyway, that’s the first two for now…

Part Two (Orange Tooth, Mr Slops and Whingo) to follow!

I’ve had an idea for the next tech gadget; I apologise if it is already on someone’s drawing board – and if it exists already, I’d love to hear about it.

It’s a virtual desk. Well, a real desk, that does some ‘e’ things…

The idea came about this morning, while working on a uni assignment. My course is all online; the readings, the university website, even uploading my assignment. At the moment, I am working on an iPad and a desktop, switching between using apps like Notability (great for virtual highlighting and note making on the PDF documents I’m viewing), to stalwart programs like Word (where I’m writing the piece itself). Along the way, I’m dropping out of the virtual realm, making notes, thoughts and doodles on paper.

It’s not entirely satisfactory though, or at least it doesn’t feel right in the sense of a tactile and functional learning process is… or even the sense of the aesthetic. And that is where the virtual desk comes in. I got the idea, in part, from the Australian Museum’s virtual display of a collection of things that bite and sting – the blue ringed octopus, ants, box jellyfish, a shark etc – that you can prod at on a large table, with projections from above, and information pops up about the type of ‘bite’ you have received from your virtual prodding. The desk senses your interaction and responds, albeit in a relatively limited fashion, accordingly (try as I might, I couldn’t find a photo for this post!)

John Underkoffler explains the human-computer ...

John Underkoffler explains the human-computer interface he first designed as part of the advisory work for the film Minority Report. The system, called “g-speak”, is now real and working. Note the gloves Underkoffler is wearing. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The virtual desk would be a real desk that, when switched on, would allow you to have a Minority Report (and now I HAVE found a pic, using Zemanta, that seems to show that something approaching my desk, is on the way). But rather than having something vertical, I’m pitching for something horizontal… traditional. A desk where items, such as documents, would appear in front of you. Items that you could slide around, see at once, write on (whether that be with a stylus, like a pen or pencil) or in a way that leads to type being produced.

I would like to think that the desk could be an old one… even a leather topped one (which is something that I have never owned), or something befitting the title “bureau”. And when you’ve finished and switched it off, that majestic item retains its place in your house, rather than being another in a long line of ‘computer ware’.

Just a thought that I figured I would get down while it was in mind. Feel free to send me a pic if you have something like this at your house!

Lighthouse beam at sunset

Lighthouse beam at sunset (Photo credit: McBadger)

I’ve been a little slack of late – despite school holidays, I’ve only written one post and that was at the start of the break. However, I’ve noticed that my blog has managed to keep going on, despite my absence. Not massive numbers (it is still less than a year old) but enough to make me wonder, given enough steam, how long the thing could go on, on its own terms.I’ve written about a Post’s use by date before, as well as which Post generates the most traffic. For me, it is my 2nd Post, exploring two texts (Frankenstein and Blade Runner) we study as part of our senior school syllabus in Australia.
In some ways this is ironic – I originally wrote this as a marker’s feedback document for the final year students. Currently it stands at nearly double the next best Post’s effort (a lesson plan for a drama activity called ROBOT) at 154 to 84 views. Sure it is one of the oldest posts, but it still pops up as the one sought out the most often. Of course, this does not take into account the views to the blog itself (the home page) or the About page, both of which are way higher.

So in terms of my theme, I’m thinking of the automated lighthouse, shining out into the night long after the need for humans to reside there has ended. The light still shines out, warning ships of the danger… or perhaps it is an inverse idea – the light shines out, showing the ship at sea where the site resides.

unmanned scientific probes Voyager

We’ve had the idea of space junk for just over half a century… items floating about in space that have served their purpose long ago, or like the Voyager Spacecraft, have wildly surpassed their original design parameters. The internet has already seen sites where their owners have already passed away, yet the site goes on, like Voyager, into the inky future. The internet detritus can only increase dramatically in the years to come. It is kind of inspiring in one sense; that your work will go on existing, long after you’ve stopped writing… or existing. Is this our 21st Century version of immortality, where a site could go on for hundreds of years, so long as the server and hosts continue to exist. But at the same time, I am reminded of one of my favourite writers from my childhood – Ray Bradbury – and his story from the Martian Chronicles There Will Come Soft RainsA house that continues on long after its occupants have gone. And that immortality is kind of sad in a way.