“Why won’t that pedestrian just cross the road?”

Mommyo, exasperated while driving through an undisclosed intersection in Chicago: “There are pedestrians walking in 5 different directions here, which is sort of amazing, because there are only 3 pedestrians. Why won’t these guys just cross the road?”

Daddyo: “The answer is trivial and is left as an exercise for the driver.”

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Posted in Funny Stuff My Husband Says, Math, Out and About | Tagged | 2 Comments

What’s The Eight-Year-Old reading this week?

feb12Our mostly-weekly survey of the tidbits that cross The Eight-Year-Old’s desk. This week, The Eight-Year-Old reads her first Terry Pratchett story. 

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(Mostly) Wordless Wednesday: “Is there really a Darth Vader jellyfish?”


(Photo: Census of Marine Life, via National Geographic)

(Photo: Census of Marine Life, via National Geographic)

Meet Bathykoris bouilloni, aka the Darth Vader jellyfish, an acorn-sized jellyfish who spends his days swimming around the Arctic Ocean with hundreds of his besties.

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“Can you build houses out of wheat?”

This post is late for several reasons. Let’s count them:

  1. It was supposed to appear yesterday, but I was working to meet a deadline in another part of my life and didn’t have time to blog.
  2. The Eight-Year-Old actually asked this question back in 2011, when she was merely The Four-Year-Old. It’s been cooling its heels in my 287-question strong backlog ever since.
  3. … um?

Ok. So this post is only late for two reasons. But one of those reasons has been aging for four long years, so that’s pretty egregious. I think Reason #2 is so ripe it should count as two whole reasons all by itself, thereby single-handedly justifying my use of the word “several” in this context.


Disappointing. Let’s just answer the question, then.

The (then) Four-Year-Old, after reading The Three Little Pigs for the first time: “Can you build houses out of wheat?”

Straw bale home in Colorado. (Photo: Catherine Wanek)

Straw bale home in Colorado. (Photo: Catherine Wanek)

Sort of. Builders don’t use the wheat itself because that would attract mice. Like the Three Little Pigs, home builders use the straw (the stalk the wheat grows on).

To build a straw bale house these days, you gather dry straw, compress it into rectangular bales, stack the bales, and coat the whole thing with plaster, fully encasing the straw. When built properly, straw bale houses apparently pose less of a fire, pest, and mold risk than you might think.

You can read more about them here.

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What’s The Eight-Year-Old reading this week?


Our mostly-weekly survey of the tidbits that cross The Eight-Year-Old’s desk. Spring break season is upon us, which means lots of time to sit around pouring through some of The Eight-Year-Old’s favorite reference texts. This week, The Eight-Year-Old takes a refresher course in dinosaurs, fancifully illustrated mechanical objects, and natural disasters.

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Wordless Wednesday: The Eight-Year-Old’s writing nook

The Eight-Year-Old's writing nook. (Photo: Shala Howell)

The Eight-Year-Old’s writing nook. (Photo: Shala Howell)

The Eight-Year-Old has been typing up a storm on her manual typewriter lately. Sometimes her writing is a pure flight of fancy. More often, it’s inspired by her reading. Her latest work, based on Calvin & Hobbes by the look of her writing nook, is still top secret, but she did give me permission to share with you two haikus she wrote last week from the perspective of Snoopy, the World War I Flying Ace.

Zinng! Bullets whiz by!

I am flying fast and high,

But they whiz by me.


I fire at “ol’ Red”

He tries to escape. He can’t.

He is mostly caught.

–The Eight-Year-Old Howell

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“How do you make apple cider vinegar?”

The Eight-Year-Old has adored pickles since she was a mere Four-Year-Old. In fact, long-time readers of this blog will not be terribly surprised at all to find that today’s question dates from the Before Times when The Eight-Year-Old was a mere Four-Year-Old. (Have I mentioned lately that I have a backlog of 226 unanswered questions? I really should get on that.) Fortunately for us today, I not only took time to jot down the question but also the context in which it was asked.

One fine summer day, The Four-Year-Old was appalled to find her self-serve jar of pickles contained only pickling juice and a few floaty pickling bits.

The Four-Year-Old, sloshing across the kitchen with her jar full of pickle juice: “Mommyo, can you make me some more pickles?”

Mommyo, rescuing the jar, but not the kitchen floor: “Not today, The Four-Year-Old. We’re out of apple cider vinegar.”

The Four-Year-Old: “Can you make some?”

Mommyo, decidedly: “No. Making vinegar takes months.”

The Four-Year-Old: “Why, Mommyo? How do you make vinegar?”

Making vinegar turns out to be one of those activities that sounds daunting, but is actually perfectly suited for the sort of benign neglect that characterizes my cooking.

Basically, you chop up some apples, let them turn brown on your counter, then dump the pieces — cores, peels, and all — into a wide-mouth mason jar. Pour enough water into the jar to cover the apple scraps, and cover it with a scrap of cheesecloth. Put the covered jar in some dark warm place and forget about it for one to six months, depending on how strong you want your vinegar to be and whether you started with just scraps (the peels and the core) or with whole fruit (whole fruit takes longer).

Now, here’s the icky bit. When you check on your vinegar, you’ll find a grey scum on top. While icky grey scum is not normally a good sign on food, in this case, it apparently means the fermenting is well underway. Taste the vinegar, and when you’re happy with its potency, strain it through a coffee filter and bottle it.

This is just an overview of the process. You can find more precise instructions for homemade vinegar almost anywhere else on the web. Here are two recipes that The Eight-Year-Old and I would like to try (one day):

Finally, I am embarrassed to admit that not only did I fail to answer The Four-Year-Old’s question until today, I also never made her pickles. But if I were to make her pickles one day, this is the recipe I’d try: Quick and Easy Pickles by Alex Guarnaschelli of Chopped fame (recipe via the Food Network website).

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What’s The Eight-Year-Old reading this week?

Our mostly-weekly survey of the tidbits that cross The Eight-Year-Old’s desk. This week, The Eight-Year-Old blends her love of folding paper and Star Wars. 

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Wordless Wednesday: Tile

I nearly canceled Wordless Wednesday altogether today, because we are thinking about renovating our 1920s-era bathroom (finally!), and the only new pictures I have are of plumbing fixtures and tile.

(Photo: Michael Howell)

(Photo: Michael Howell)

I have to be more interesting next week, for both of our sakes.

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“What do stormtroopers read?”

This week, in a shocking reverse of the usual procedure, our question went from Mommyo to The Eight-Year-Old.

Mommyo, curiously: “The Eight-Year-Old, what do stormtroopers read?”

The Eight-Year-Old went away for a while, and came back with this:

(Art: The Eight-Year-Old Howell)

The Daily Imperial, First Edition. (Art: The Eight-Year-Old Howell)

Who knew The Eight-Year-Old had a pen name?

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