Friday, July 29, 2011

Is it possible I'm not as good-looking as I think I am? (I Get Paid For Doing This)

So here's what happened today: I had a hearing over at the Dane County Courthouse, and I and the Law Clerk went over for it. We got on the elevator at the same time as a woman we didn't know, and I realized that I had no idea what floor we needed to go to.

I held the door open while I scanned the directory across from me with the same frantic feeling that I get when I go to drive-through restaurants, that I'll never be able to absorb the information in enough time to do something intelligent, plus I was aware that I was holding up the elevator for the woman who'd gotten on with us.

Just then, another woman came into view and got on the elevator, and I said to her "I was holding the door open for you," and then picked my floor and we all started up.

That started the first woman who'd gotten on joking about how I had a nice cover story for not knowing where I was going, and we all had a good laugh, and then she got off the elevator, and then a couple floors later, the Law Clerk and I got off the elevator, and had this exchange:

Clerk: You know she was hitting on you.

Me: No. She wasn't. Why would someone hit on me?*

*Note: there are many reasons people would hit on me. But what I said is what you are required to say when you are as incredible as I am and people tell you someone is hitting on you. It's all part of society.

Clerk: Because you're an attorney.

Which, I instantly realized, meant that's the only reason she would hit on me. Not because I'm good-looking** or funny*** or just generally great*4
** I am

*** Ditto

*4: you know what I'm going to say here, right?

So in essence, Law Clerk was saying "You're kind of an ugly guy."

I took that in stride, because I am (as I said in an entirely different, and likely meaningless to you, context) the Batman of our firm*5

*5: That requires a little explanation, so here it is: If our law firm were the Justice League, every other lawyer in our firm would be the responsible, upstanding superheroes that fit into society and are normal people, superheroes like Superman and Red Tornado and Wonder Woman. I would be Batman. Get it now?

and, taking that in stride, I then went into the court hearing (which we won, by the way, although that does not factor into this story) where I learned that there was a lawyer from Colombia there.

This Colombian lawyer had nothing to do with our case; she was there with some American lawyers to observe the American court system, and had lucked into seeing my hearing with me in action, i.e., the pinnacle of the American judicial system.

And also, the Colombian lawyer wanted to take some pictures of the American judicial system which would include me, and frankly, I can't think of a better way to represent our judicial system than to have me be face of the American Justice System for all of Colombia, so that from here on out, whenever any Colombians learn about our court system, they see me. I was pretty much, at that point, what I always saw as fulfilling the first part of my destiny.

The judge, then, came into court and agreed that they could take pictures, and this exchange occurred:

Judge: Assuming that's okay with you, Mr. Pagel?

Me: That's fine with me. This is the good-looking team from our firm, anyway.

Judge: Maybe from the back, but not from where I'm sitting.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pun Intended... Or IS it? (I Get Paid For Doing This)

I began my day by driving down to Darlington, Wisconsin, with roads winding through hilly cow-ridden countrywide, to attend a hearing that I had no hope of winning... and which I then won, somewhat improbably. (But I'll say brilliantly, too.)

Cheered up by beginning the day with a victory, and having a little extra time on my hands, here were some things that caught my eye on the way back.

Hot Lather Shaves: this is the only place I've ever seen that offered. I barely grow a beard in the first place, but I kind of wanted to go back and get one of these on Saturday morning:

Just because it seemed like it would be a neat thing to do.

When I saw this I thought pun intended!

But then, as I drove away, I thought what if it wasn't a pun? What if they were just welcoming that one ewe?

If you squint, the sign appears to read dead or alive in the names at the bottom, which is better with the T. Rex skeleton:

More people should have dinosaur skeletons at the end of their driveway. Why won't some presidential candidate take up that as an issue?

I don't know what kind of church this is, but this sign was pretty awesome:

And this sign made me want to actually join the Church:

Because that's how religious decisions should be made.

Finally, I see signs for Crazy Frank's everywhere I go:

and I never have time to stop in and shop at what I imagine is the greatest store I would ever see. Today I had time, and this Crazy Frank's was closed.

So it goes.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Autism Works: Hacking Autism

Autism Works is an across-the-board post I'm doing to help keep people informed of recent events affecting those who have autism and their families. The goal of Autism Works is to raise awareness of, and collect information for, people on the autism spectrum by providing news and information about autism-friendly businesses and developments in treatments and identification of this condition.

Michael Offutt, who writes the blog SLC Kismet, pointed out a while back that there are a great many autism-related apps on the iPad, and it looks like there might be more, so I'll take a look at those today:

First, autism apps. I have a Droid smart phone, one I got in part because Mr F's and Mr Bunches' teachers suggested an iPad last year as something to help the boys learn to communicate. Rather than invest $800 plus right off the bat on something that may not work, I went cheap by getting the touch-screen phone and trying that out.

Finding apps hasn't been difficult. Finding apps suited for autistic kids has -- there is, so far as I can tell, no "keyword" or "tag" type of search for the Droid store.

On the one hand, any app that lets the boys use the phone is a good one, and the smart phone (or touch screen pad) works great for that: Mr Bunches, who particularly likes the computer, had a lot of trouble originally learning how to use the mouse and keyboard, and still has trouble clicking, so a touch screen was great in getting them to play games and use the screen.

That let them play games -- they liked Angry Birds, in particular -- and watch videos all by touching, rather than clicking, and Mr Bunches in particular learned to get around Youtube pretty successfully on my phone, which was also portable enough for him to carry around.

Specific games that I found worked particularly well on the small touch screen included Fisher Price's online learning games: they have counting and ABC games that work well on a touch screen, and some "learning about opposites" and "animal sounds" games that even on a 3-by-1 inch screen look good and are easy to work. They're free and easy to access.

Another game Mr Bunches particularly enjoys, and which can be played on a small or large screen for free, is the "Jumping Box" game, where a person has to click-and-drag on a box to make it slide and jump through obstacles. (I like that one, too.)

"Talking Tom" was an app suggested by the teachers -- it's a cat that repeats everything you say in a slightly higher voice, and reacts to certain touches and other input. It's available for free and for $0.99, but don't bother paying; there's no difference between the two.

This site was suggested by the school teachers to find apps for an iPad. I'd give you the name, but it doesn't seem to have one. I haven't checked it out at all yet, but I'll try to download and review some of the apps in the future.

Then there's "Hacking Autism." This is a project I just learned about yesterday, an attempt to help "give people with autism a voice." They're going to have a Hackathon to get volunteer software developers in touch with autism specialists to develop new touch-enabled apps for the autism community.

You don't have to be a programmer or expert to participate: the site is seeking comments on existing ideas, and suggestions for apps to be developed, so if you have autism or are related to someone who does, weigh in and let them know.

You might even get some inspiration from the Hacking Autism's "Stories Of Hope," which includes a touching story written by an autistic boy who had never spoken until he was given a "Lightwriter," after which he was able to have a conversation with his older brother -- a conversation that was so special, they videotaped it for his parents and made it their Christmas present.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

America!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (If you use less than 17 exclamation points to say "America," you are not a true patriot.)(Dollar Store Toy Reviews)l

Click here for an explanation of this. (Or page down. It's just down below.)

The Toy: An Airplane Shooting Gun.

Although I intend to always have a picture of the package, if possible, I didn't, when I first came up with the idea for this series of posts, know that I was going to intend to do that, so I didn't take any pictures of the package this toy came in.

I was going to post the package so that when you went to your Dollar Store, you'd know exactly what to look for, but that seems kind of superfluous because this toy is An Airplane Shooting Gun, and there aren't very many of those. So even without knowing what the package looks like, just look for any package of toys with both a couple of small airplanes, and a gun:

The Construction: The airplanes are about an inch long, and made of foam rubber - they're soft and bendy and the only part of them that could possibly put an eye out is that little plastic piece on the front -- but it's there, so Moms, you can be confident that even with this toy there will at some point be someone shooting it directly into someone else's face over your objection.

The gun itself is plastic, and that's a rubber band in there -- but I couldn't find any way to remove it, and even Mr F (Official Tester of the Airplane Shooting Gun) couldn't manage to break it, and he is super-strong.

How It's Used: I just realized that because I don't recall the official name of this toy, I gave it the "Airplane Shooting Gun" name, which in retrospect sounds like a gun that's meant to shoot airplanes. But that's not the case at all. The gun -- awesomely -- shoots airplanes at other things:

You know what makes America so crazy to the rest of the world and so excellent to us? It's our refusal to allow a category of things to simply remain discrete. We have airplanes, and we have guns. (Lots of both.) Why not leave things at that? Might as well as "why not fake a moon landing" or some other stupid question. This is the country that dug through mountains to build a transcontinental railroad using our bare hands*

*(Well, the bare hands of a bunch of immigrants we'd also underpay.)

and we are not bloody likely to just let a bunch of airplanes and guns lay around without ever trying to combine those two things.

America (TM):
The Land Where It's Never TOO Insane To Try That Thing, At Least Once.


What you do is you put the airplane on the gun, as shown, and then, depending on the kind of person you are, you do one of two things:

1. Everybody else in the world except me: Pull the rubber band back, latch it, and get ready to shoot some airplanes at some things!

2. Me: Pull the rubber band back, watch it snap up, try again, watch it snap up again. Do that two or three more times in case doing the exact same thing somehow yields a different result. Go get Official Tester Mr F back to where he's supposed to be standing because he's gotten bored and wandered away. Look at the package to see if there's instructions. Think to yourself "For God's sake, I went to law school. I can do this."**

**They did not teach loading an Airplane Gun in law school. I'm pretty sure. I mean, I skipped a bunch of classes, but still...

then go get Mr F again, and finally out of sheer luck latch the rubber band behind the trigger mechanism, and hand it to Mr F:

How It Works: Tolerably well -- the gun does shoot the airplanes, which fly (probably by brute force rather than any aerodynamic abilities on their part) about 8-10 feet, including straight up onto the top of your blinds where you won't be able to find the plane for about 3 days and will, briefly, wonder if the plane disintegrated when Mr F fired it...

... disintegration being a pretty common quality among Dollar Store Toys, actually...

...and they don't shoot hard enough to actually put an eye out, but they do shoot hard enough to cause a fight about getting shot in the face.

The Review By Mr F and Mr Bunches: Mr F fired the gun, and I reloaded it (with only slightly less trouble) with the second airplane, and he fired that one, too, but then got bored a third time and wandered off while I looked for the first airplane (I did in fact not find it for two days.)

Mr Bunches liked it a lot more -- it got a laugh out of him, and he played with it for the better part of 20 minutes that first day alone. Clearly, Mr Bunches is American through and through, instinctively and genetically understanding how fun it is to have superior firepower like this.

Mr F's wandering away worries me a little. You can't teach someone how important it is to have an Airplane Gun. They either get it or they don't.

Final Grade: A solid A.

Dollar Store Toy Review: Table Of Contents

The Reviews:

Paddle Ball Bolo
The Ginormous Toothbrush
and the Crazee Jumpin' Beans Tumble Tray.

Xtreme Super Racer

The Airplane Shooting Gun

The Explanation:

I go to the Dollar Store a lot, as you know if you read this blog for more than about 5 minutes.

It's not always my choice to go there. Sometimes I just need something that I think is best bought at the Dollar Store, like a beach ball. Why would you ever pay more than $1 for a beach ball? Other times, I go there because Mr Bunches and Mr F love the Dollar Store slightly more than I do (if that's possible; I have a lot of love for a store that offers a selection of 14 different spatulas, all priced at -- you guessed it -- a dollar.)

The Babies! like the Dollar Store because of the ever-changing selection of toys, and because they are not limited to just one thing the way they are when we go to stores whose toy aisles feature things that were not purchased from a roadside stand in Xinhao Province.

I've come to learn that even in the Dollar Store, though, there is a wide variety of quality among the toys, and I've also learned that it is important to help the Babies! be discriminating about what toys they buy, because nothing is more heartbreaking than a kid who buys a great new toy only to find out it sucks. Try telling him "It only cost $1." To him, the cost wasn't just a dollar.

The cost was dreams.

That's not overstating it in any way.

Also, after posting THIS photo essay, I realized that a great many people had no idea what was happening there. Mr Bunches wasn't just soaking dinosaurs in water. He was growing them. That was when I realized that in addition to sometimes (shockingly!) not working that well, Dollar Store Toys are sophisticated things that require some explanation.

So a new feature has been added to this blog, and from time to time I'll be bringing my intellectual capacities to bear on these Dollar Store toys with the same attention to detail (almost none) and forethought (ditto) and dignity (is it possible to have negative dignity?) you've come to expect from Thinking The Lions.