Tag Archives: Zoo


by Richard

So here’s the deal for Hyper Lad: He’s in middle school, which basically concludes the school year in mid-May with the End of Grade tests for every subject. These are the de facto final exams for all the students in grades 4-8 in North Carolina elementary and middle schools.

Again, note that they are given in mid-May. School, however, is in session until June 10. So, for approximately four weeks, the students seem to coast alone in maintenance mode while the tests are graded and those who didn’t pass the various exams are given re-takes in the hope they will pass and will not have to repeat a grade.

That’s a month in idle. For the most part.

I mean, look at this week. We started with Monday, which was Memorial Day. On Wednesday, the sixth grade took off for an all-day field trip to the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC. Then, today, we’ve got the first of two sixth-grade field days, in which half the class will be adjourning to a near-by park to throw balls of various sorts, run and jump and play and do anything unrelated to actual academic achievement.

Next week, the last of school, I’m pretty sure they’re booked for wall-to-wall, bell-to-bell movies. Now there’s something to learn: Killing time is the most important part of life. Apparently.

I know most of these kids are still in school only because the state mandates a certain number of days they have to attend school during an academic year, not because they need to be there to actually learn something. They just have to be there.

I mean, heck, they already turned in all their school books that they had to borrow at the beginning of the year. No more language arts books. No more math books. No more foreign language books. No more science or social studies books. They have already turned all the library books, but the students have been encouraged to bring in their own books to have something to read when they get tired of the movies.

One good thing to come out of this is that Hyper Lad has discovered that toting around a Kindle is much more fun than lugging around a lot of books. And, thanks to the Kindle, he’s discovered that he loves reading Stephen King books, a feat he never would have attempted had he seen the length of some of those books.

So, I guess this last month wasn’t a total waste of time. Only a partial waste of time. Is this the best for which we can hope? I hope not.

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Walking Disposal

by Richard

Am I alone in this, or is there something seriously wrong with our dog-dude, Buzz, the part-lab, part-pit bull, part-goat, part-beaver, part-cow dog we adopted last year?

I’m only slightly kidding about all those parts that make up Buzz Aldrin Jones. Slightly.

The Labrador and pit bull parts, yeah, we can see them in his build. The others, though, they’re all behavior and most have to do with his mouth. See, we’ve watched him gnaw up an empty Sprite can (hence the goat), have several huge sticks around the yard that he likes to sit and gnaw on (see the beaver bit) and one of his favorite outdoor dishes (following slightly-slower-than-average squirrels) is grass (and that’s the cow.)

Whenever I’m making dinner, Buzz is right next to me waiting to scoop up anything that falls on the ground, be it onions or meat.

What caused this post was what I just dropped. A floret of broccoli. Buzz zoomed in like that boat-eating ship from the late Roger Moore phase of James Bond and just gobbled up the broccoli. He took off with it, dropped it in his favorite eating spot and settled down for a spot of light noshing.

Not only that, but I’ve seen him devour entire stalks of broccoli that have gone to the great compost heap in the back yard, which is, of course, the actual back yard. I tend to throw away old veggies into the wooded patch off our porch when I can’t use them. Figure it’ll help the critters. I didn’t figure on it feeding Buzz.

Seriously. Do your dogs do this? I always thought the walking garbage disposal thing was a myth, an urban legend. Now I’m not so sure.

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Trippin’ At The Smithsonians

by Richard

If you’re going to hit Washington, DC, you’ve got to make sure you hit some of the most amazing museums in the world during your trip: The Smithsonian (fill in the blank with whatever your obsession is) museum. It is a blast.

The first place we went was, of course, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. This place is an absolute blast. The first thing you see when you walk in is this very small kiosk that, unlike in most museums, actually invites you to touch. What do they invite you to touch, you ask? Oh, nothing much. Just a freaking moon rock! A rock that came back with the astronauts from the freaking moon! You might say I was a little bit excited about the whole thing there.

The entire entrance hall is filled to the brim with amazing pieces of history. The orbital module from Apollo 11, which sent our first men to the moon, a balloon cabin which traveled around the world, a plane that went around the world without a refueling stop, and more and more and more.

There’s so much neat stuff, I’d have a hard time cataloging all of it. Exhibits out the wazzoo, and each more interesting than the last.

According to George of the Jungle and Speed Racer, though, the best part were the flight simulators. They stepped inside and found out that this was a very realistic simulation in that George of the Jungle, the pilot, could actually turn the plant — and themselves — upside down while flying. Sort of reminded me of his driving, but that’s another story. Speed Racer served as the gunner and made 8 kills of enemy aircraft. Of course, neither of them could walk straight for about 10 minutes after they came out, but they said it was well worth it.

Eventually we staggered out and walked down the Washington Mall (many of the museums are located along the sides of the Washington Mall) to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, where Zippy the Monkey Boy had his time in the sun.

This museum was — of course — wonderful. We walked in and were greeted with a full-sized diorama of a trumpeting elephant. After staring at that in rapt attention for a while, we wandered up to the gem section and saw meteorites and jewels and even the Hope Diamond. There were so many people there crowding in to see it, we could barely breathe, but it was worth it.

Dudes, the ocean section featured a huge right whale, a preserved carcass of a giant squid, a prehistoric fish called the coelacanth, which was thought to have gone extinct millions of years ago and was found in the last few decades, and more. We got to experience some of the finest taxidermy known to man in the hall of mammals and see mummies and suchlike in the western cultures wing. It was amazing.

My only regret is that we didn’t get to stay in each place long enough. Each of these museums could have taken up an entire day all by itself. Because we’re only here for such a short time, we had to split a day. If you’re coming to Washington, DC, I urge you to set aside enough time to really see these the right way, and that’s at your leisure.

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