Barron of Blog Wife, Kids, and the Pursuit of Happiness


Fan Fort!

One of my favorite indoor activity with Libby is building forts. We have made pillow forts, blanket forts, and laundry basket forts. But I think we really outdid ourselves when we made this "fan fort":

To construct this fort we cut open 5 large trash bags and taped them into an approximate teepee shape (original plan was a large tube, but we ran out of tape so we improvised). After attaching a small fan and checking for leaks we inserted a table lamp (and loads of toys) to brighten the space up.

This fort is a perfect little hideaway. Despite being a small dark plastic cave, the fan fort is very soothing. The constant whir of the fan drowns the world outside, and it's the perfect place to read books or pretend with a friend.

Filed under: cool, kids, libby 1 Comment

Perspective (With Respect to Time)

It's good to keep a proper perspective about how big the universe is. It is also instructive to remember just how old the universe is as well.

Carl Sagan popularized the idea of compressing the entire history of the universe since the beginning of time into a single calendar year as a way for us humans to better relate to the vast numbers involved. Here is a nice version of that calendar (each month is equivalent to a little more than 1 billion years):

You can see a more detailed example, with all of the various eras and more human-scale events, here.

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Perspective (With Respect to Space)

Perspective is important, so you get a two-fer today. 🙂

First, the relative sizes of our planets and various stars. The largest celestial body in the previous pane is the smallest in the next pane:

Second, our place in the universe (click to make gigantic). The previous panel will always be in red in the next panel:

Now go out and have a great day, you teeny tiny speck of carbon on a minuscule rock floating midway down one spiral arm of a typical galaxy among billions. 🙂

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The Platypus

Platypus are also the only mammals known to have a sense of electroreception: they locate their prey in part by detecting electric fields generated by muscular contractions.

The platypus: proof that, if God exists, he has a weird sense of humor.

Filed under: cool, fauna No Comments

Encounter with a Wheel Bug

Alternate title: "How to unknowingly expose your kids to a potentially dangerous bug and live to tell the tale."

This past weekend we went to pumpkin fest - it was a gorgeous, perfect day to spend sliding down a hay slide and playing in some corn pits. Near the end of the afternoon we came upon a large bug which the kids loved to (carefully) play with and investigate:

We did not know at the time, but that bug was a Wheel Bug (Arilus cristatus):

The [wheel] bug plunges its beak into its victim, pinning its prey with its front legs. It then injects enzymes into the victim, paralyzing it and dissolving its insides, and proceeds to drain all of the victim's bodily fluids. The bite of a wheel bug is painful and may take months to heal (sometimes leaving a small scar), so caution is highly advised when handling them.

Yikes! Guess we won't be handling these bugs in the future (at least not with kids :)).

Filed under: bugs, cool, friends, kids, libby 2 Comments