Braille and Chocolate Cake

Dear Kid,

Once upon a time, blind people could not read. This was OK, since pretty much no one else could read either (hence the beautiful stained glass in the churches, but that’s a different story). Even Mrs. Joe Neanderthal couldn’t read. But since there was next to nothing to read, none of this really mattered.

Then books were invented and not being able to read became a burden for the blind. Mostly the Unenlightened World (and by “unenlightened world” I mean everyone who wasn’t blind) ignored the problem. Enter Louis Braille stage left.

Louis was blinded as a child as a result of an accident (don’t ask, it’s not a pretty story). Interestingly, his parents continued to educate him and make sure he was part of the family and community. He was extremely bright and eventually was sent to a school for the blind.

The system used there to teach blind students to read was beyond cumbersome, and Braille invented Braille which was a much better option. Because it was better, seeing people hated it and refused to use it for a long time. Blind people thought it was terrific, staged a sit in, and eventually Braille became the standard.

This is National Braille Literacy Month in honor of Louis Braille who was born in January.

Happy National Chocolate Cake Day! DearKidLoveMom.comInterestingly, use of Braille is on the decline, primarily because text-to-speech technology has improved so much over recent years. However, over 150 million people around the world use Braille, so devoting a month to awareness is not at all unreasonable.

Also, tomorrow is National Chocolate Cake Day.

Try not to get the cake and Braille confused.

Love, Mom

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Opening Beer Bottles, Diet Coke, and Trivia Crack

Dear Kid,

There’s a video making the rounds (click here to view it) about odd ways to open beer bottles if you don’t happen to have an opener handy.

It’s another good argument for beer in cans. Or for drinking caffeine free diet coke. Not that anyone you know thinks that may be one of the top three beverages on earth.

If you're looking for me, I'll be playing Trivia Crack. DearKidLoveMom.comIn other non-news, I am completely hooked on Trivia Crack. This should not be a big surprise since many, many people are hooked. Or possibly even somewhat addicted.

Trivia Crack began in Latin America where its popularity on only sometimes second to vuvuzelas. Then it migrated to Spain, bounced back to Mexico, and traveled north to the US where it accounts for 60% of lost productivity in corporate America and room cleaning.

At least that’s what I’m going to blame the mess on.

Love, Mom

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American Can Beer | Greatness Begins

Dear Kid,

Yes you canBeer has been around forever. And by “forever” I mean since about 20 minutes after the proverbial apple.

Beer in cans, however, has only been around since January 24, 1935. This is still a reasonably long time, but in no way qualifies as “forever.”

In 1935, the American Can Company (well-known for giving me a partial scholarship to graduate school) teamed up with the Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company and put beer in cans for a test. The test-ees (and by “test-ees” I mean beer drinkers) thought the beer in cans was fine (drinking the beer probably helped) and beer in cans was born.

The American Can Company (motto: Yes, We Can [I just made that up—I’m probably not the first]) was delighted with the decision because they’d spend a great deal of time (and by “time” I mean time and money) developing a can that was pressurized (so as not to explode) and had a special coating (so as to keep the beer from reacting with the tin).

First Beer Can made by American Can CompanyWithin 3 months, Krueger’s (motto: Freddy isn’t related to us) was selling canned beer like crazy and happily taking market share from other brewers (motto: someone get us some cans!).

Turns out there were some real advantages to cans. In those days, bottles required a deposit, but cans did not. Cans were easier to stack, they didn’t break, and they took less time to chill. Cans also guarantee purity and taste by preventing light damage and oxidation which is why many microbrewers (like Madtree) prefer cans.

Cheers to the Cans (did I mention the scholarship help?)

Love, Mom

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I Lied and I’m Judgmental |Why That’s OK

Dear Kid,

We were having a lovely GNO (Girls’ Night Out) dinner.

“I have to tell you,” I said, “I lied to you.”

DJ got on her best ‘OK, I’m Listening face.’

“Remember when I told you I’m only judgmental about people who try to force-feed me kale?”

She nodded.

“I lied.”

Her eyes got big while she waited.

“I’m also judgmental about people who are cruel to animals. And about people who abuse children.”

DJ nodded. “Probably also about people who throw litter out their car window while they’re driving 70 mph on the highway.”

“All in all, I’m a lot more judgmental than I thought I was,” I concluded.

I waited for her reaction.

“That’s it?” she said.

“There might be more. But that’s what’s coming to mind right now.”

Never look down on anyone unless you're helping him up. Jesse Jackson DearKidLoveMom.com“Uh-huh,” she summarized, “well, that seals it. You’re human.”

We like to believe we’re non-judgmental. We like to believe we can accept people for who they are, what they believe in, and how they act.

Most of us have strong values and beliefs. Most of us believe that our values allow us to be open and accepting about everyone else’s values and beliefs.

And for most of us, that’s true—up to a point.

Because for most of us, our beliefs don’t stretch open far enough to allow us to be accepting of people who abuse children. Or who mistreat animals.

Which makes us better humans.

And that is a good thing.

Love, Mom

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Puppy Conversations | Take Your Puppy To Work Day (Not)

Dear Kid,

Puppy: Where are you going?
Me: I’m going to work
Puppy: Can I go with you?
Me: Haven’t we had this conversation?
Puppy: I want to go with you
Me: What would you do at work?
Puppy: The same thing you do
Me: I don’t think you can type on the computer and talk on the phone
Puppy: I can try
Me: Somehow I don’t think that will work
Puppy: I can say hello to people. I’m very good at hello
Me: Yes you are
Puppy: And I can nap
Me: You can nap at home
Puppy: But then I wouldn’t be near you!
Me: You’re such a good boy
Puppy: So I can go with you?
Me: No. I’ll see you tonight
Puppy: Can I have a treat?
Me: I’ll see you later
Puppy: Sigh.

 

Puppy: You’re Home! I’m so happy!
Me: I’m happy to see you too, puppy
Puppy: You’re Home! You’re Home! You’re Home!
Me: Did you have a good day?
Puppy: Yes, I …wait a minute. You’re home later than usual. Where have you been?
Me: I met my friend Sue for dinner
Puppy: Food! You had food without me!
Me: I frequently have food without you
Puppy: That doesn’t sound like a good idea
Me: Actually, I had quite a nice time
Puppy: Without me???
Me: Hard to believe, isn’t it?

 

Me: Time for a walk
Puppy: Sleeping
Me: I know. Still time for a walk
Puppy: Sleeping on the pillow
Me: So I see. Time for a walk
Puppy: I think I’ll stay on my pillow
Me: I know you’re all sleepy warm. Still time for a walk.
Puppy: Yawn.
Me: Come on. Front legs go this way. Um, your back legs are supposed to follow…
Puppy: Hind legs are still sleeping
Me: You’re stretching like an accordion!
Puppy: I don’t know what that is, but I think my back half has the right idea about sleeping.

Love, Mom

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For more puppy conversations see

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What You Absolutely, Positively MUST Know About Penguins (& Really Cute Pictures)

Dear Kid,

Yesterday was Penguin Awareness Day. Every January 20th, Penguins turn to each other and say, “I feel very aware.” World Penguin Day is April 25th, when penguins (patron saint Bond, James Bond) turn to each other and say “It may be April, but my toes are still cold.”

Penguins (patron saint Fred Astaire) are 12 kinds of adorable. Special thanks to the Newport Aquarium for sharing the photos of all their adorableness.

Here are a whole bunch of things you absolutely positively need to know about penguins (patron saint groom cake toppers).

Gentoo Penguins. They swim faster than you. DearKidLoveMom.comEven though they can’t breathe underwater and most don’t carry an air tank, penguins are speedy little dudes in the sea. All but the laziest of penguins can swim 5-6 miles an hour with bursts up to 15 mph (when there is a particularly delicious looking fish to get or when teenage penguins are trying to show off). Gentoo Penguins zip along at up to 22 mph. This is faster than you can swim.

Part of the reason they swim so quickly is that they bought the same type of swim suit the Olympians wear. Which is to say when they fluff their feathers, bubbles are released that “reduce the density of the water around them… and act as lubrication that decreases water viscosity.” Who knew you could decrease the density of water?

For a special treat, click here–>It’s a Penguin Party! (A La Fiesta de Pingüinos)

Small penguins don’t dive as deep as larger penguins. The big dudes (like Emperor Penguins) can dive 1,870 feet deep for up to 22 minutes. They do not do this in  the aquarium since the floor gets in the way.

Did you know that penguins swallow pebbles and stones as well as their food? It’s probably to help grind up their food (like an internal garbage disposal) although some scientists think the stones are more of a weight belt to help the penguins dive deeper.

On land, penguins waddle between 1.7 and 2.4 mph. Now you know why they live places where land predators do not. And (I kid you not) a group of penguins on land is called a “waddle.”

Happy penguins at the Newport Aquarium. DearKidLoveMom.comPenguins do not have teeth. Rather they hold on to prey with their beak and spines on the roof of their beaks and on their tongues. French kissing is not popular among penguins.

Many penguins mate with the same penguin year after year. Many penguins also cheat on their mate (I am not making this up).

In most penguin species, the male incubates the eggs while the female trots off to hunt and have a lovely GNO. Because the males stay behind for up to weeks at a time, pudgy males are most desirable. Some penguins lose up to 20 or more pounds while they eggsit. This is known as the penguin diet and will soon be the rage in California.

Speaking of penguin diets, you might be wondering about the amount of sea water penguins drink. Not to worry, my friend. Penguins have a special gland (behind their eyes which seems to be as good a place as any to store a gland) which filters saltwater out of their blood stream. Penguins then excrete it by sneezing. I am dying to see a penguin sneeze.

Penguins go through a catastrophic molt, which is when they lose all their feathers at once and spend 2 to 3 week land-bound while they grow new ones. This is sort of the penguin equivalent of What Not To Wear.

How adorable is this little penguin? DearKidLoveMom.comCoolest Penguin Fact:

A penguin’s normal body temperature is approximately 100° F (38° C). To keep from overheating, penguins pant like dogs to cool off. They also ruffle their feathers and hold their wings away from their bodies. Better yet, penguins can control the blood flow to their extremities enough to reduce the amount of blood that gets cold, but not enough so that their extremities freeze. How cool is that?

Best Penguin Fact of the Day:

Some of the prehistoric penguins were enormous—about full-grown person sized. IMHO, this might have diminished their adorableness factor.

Isn’t it amazing what you can learn by celebrating a holiday about penguins (patron saint Prom King)?

Love, Mom

Peguins in their Matisse phase. DearKidLoveMom.comWho knew penguins (patron saint all award show hosts) had a thing for imitating Henri Matisse?

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Attack of the Earworms!

Dear Kid,

I went to the gym yesterday (no applause necessary). As I was stretching, a ballroom dance class was starting.

All good. Except the song they were playing (at decibel levels no ballroom class should ever have to endure) was “The Rainbow Connection” (Yup, the Muppet song) sung by Karen Carpenter (or a very good impersonator).

You’re not old enough to recognize Karen Carpenter’s name. She was a singer with a very sweet voice. Whoever was singing last night could have given the entire gym diabetes.

Which got me thinking about earworms.

Just so we’re clear, an earworm is a song that gets stuck in your head and (no matter how many eviction notices you serve) refuses to leave.

Earworms are almost never songs you love.

Earworms all had sad childhoods which causes them to act out to get attention.

Earworms always get attention.

EArworms doing the jitterbug (not really). DearKidLoveMom.comOne reason people get earworms is that they’ve heard the song recently and/or repeatedly. This is an obvious and boring reason.

Dreams can trigger earworms. I find this enormously interesting, but I can’t figure out how to change the earworm radio station.

Another earworm trigger is stress. Sometimes if you hear a song during a stressful time it will pop up at other stressful times. (This is not necessarily helpful.)

Music is (ahem) a “multi-sensory stimulus.” We not only hear music, we see video or movie clips, we remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard the music, we might even know what the music looks like or how to play it.

Music is also tied to emotion. Play “Brian’s Song” for any of us Of A Certain Age and we’ll spontaneously burst into tears. (This is not necessarily helpful.)

Then there is the evolution thing. As a species, we need to remember things and it was much easier for the Neanderthals to remember all 50 states if they learned the “Fifty Nifty U-nited States” song the way I did in 7th grade. (Hey, don’t make fun. I can still list all 50 states in alphabetical order.)

To this day, medical students learn “the leg bone is connected to the (uh) knee bone.” When they examine patients, doctors are often singing those songs in their heads. It’s when they sing out loud that you really need to worry.

Hoping you avoid earworms today.

Love, Mom

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