Tag Archives: Prince William County

Random Impulses

Camping

Generally, as most of us get older, we have a very good idea of what our likes and dislikes are. Recently, though, I have been thinking about doing some things that I know I do not enjoy or usually want to do. It’s an odd feeling.

As I wrote before, I don’t like to be outdoors. Maybe I spent too much time outside when I was growing up, but the great outdoors has far too many hazards and discomforts for me to want to spend hours there. I know there are people who love the outdoors and spend a lot of time there, and that’s all right. They can have my share.

The odd thing is, I’ve been thinking about aboriginal Americans who lived very close to nature. Whether their shelter was a lodge or teepee or pueblo, they had to have been aware of the elements. With a fire for heating and breezes for cooling they were right in the midst of nature.

I have been camping exactly once in my life. I was ten years old, and I remember not sleeping much and just about starving since each of us was responsible for his own food. Lately, though, I been wondering what it would be like to stay outside in a tent. I could pitch one in my back yard and not be that far away from the comforts of the indoors. Of course, I’d have to buy almost everything I need, including a tent. I do have a sleeping bag from my daughters’ Girl Scout days. It’s a thought, but a strange one for me. Still, I find myself thinking that being outside with nothing but a thin nylon wall between me and the outdoors would be intriguing, although I’d probably wait until spring to try it.

Then there’s traveling. I’ve decided I don’t like to travel. Oh, I like to see different places, particularly places with history and good restaurants and good bookstores, but actually getting there is pain. I don’t care for driving, which is mostly monotonous and occasionally terrifying. My wife is a great driver (and a wizard parallel parker, even left-handed), so she does most of the driving when we go somewhere. I do the navigating, and I’m good at that, except when I’m not. That’s a subject for an entire column, but not just now. Anyhow, if there were a Star Trek-style transporter available, I’d use one, even at the risk of scrambling my molecules. To be able to be some place instantly has a huge appeal for me. And don’t even think about flying. That used to be fun and an adventure, but I don’t have to tell you what a pain it has become. No, I’m comfortable where I am, with everything I need right here. That’s why my travel impulse is a strange one. I’d like to fly around the world. I’m not talking about flying around the world non-stop on one tank of gas. What I’m thinking would be fun would be to fly around the world using scheduled flights. I’ve checked and it’s possible. It would take about three days. I think I would like to go business class since I would plan to be on an airplane most of the time. I wouldn’t even leave the airports or clear customs—I would just go right on to the next flight. This is even crazier when I consider that I am mildly claustrophobic. That’s why business class. I could leave on a Friday and be back Monday if my calculations are correct. It would be cool to say I had done it.

Then, I’ve been having an impulse lately to have another career. That’s not that unusual for an early retiree like me, but I’m talking about an entirely different career. When I was in my early teens I wanted to be a rocket scientist. (I was too tall to be an astronaut then.) What dissuaded me from this career path was the sad reality that I was not very good at math, and math is important to being rocket scientists. My impulse is to take science and math classes and earn a degree in astronautical engineering. I figure with the coursework I’ve done already I can skip the core classes and things like phys ed. and go right on to advanced science classes. It would be a whole lot easier for me to earn an M.F.A. in creative writing, but becoming a rocket scientist in my 60’s sounds much more appealing, even if I am probably worse at math than I was in high school. Grandma Moses started painting when she was in her 80’s, so maybe I do have a future with NASA.

So I have these random impulses, but I’ve found if I lie down for a while, they soon pass. Thank goodness for small favors.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Ingenious

Image

Mystery Object

We were at the Prince William County Fair last week, taking our usual turn through the exhibits and displays, when we came up this object among the display of old farm implements. I had never seen anything like it, and first surmised it was a kind of two-person butter churn, with one person on each handle on either side. But it didn’t look like a butter churn, and so, curious about what it was, I posted the picture on Facebook, asking my FB friends if anyone could identify it. Two of them could: it’s a manually operated clothes washer. The clothes go in through the lid, water is added, and more than likely, a plunger is inserted through the hole in the top to agitate the clothes. It’s a sight better than beating your laundry on river rocks!

It struck me that this was an ingenious way to at least bring some degree of mechanization to the clothes washing process. I don’t know how well it worked–maybe not so well because you don’t see that many of these (or at least I haven’t–maybe habitees of antique shops and shows are familiar with them). I had heard of washing machines powered by gasoline (my father’s family had one) and kerosene. If you don’t have electricity, it’s an ingenious solution, made right at home.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Kids Are All Right, Part 3

Students in a Robotic Competition, Somewhere. They look like middle school kids.

Students in a robotic competition, somewhere. They look like middle school kids.

I heard on the radio this weekend that ten middle school teams from Prince William County (where the City of Manassas and the Biscuit City studios are located) are traveling to California to compete in the VEX World Tournament of robotics.

I don’t know if you know anything about the world of student robotics, but basically students build robots to tackle a predetermined challenge and try to score as many points as possible. They learn problem-solving and teamwork in a hands-on manner.

Last week, 64 teams competed at “Roboticon” in Prince William County in which VEX teams from Prince William, the Cities of Manassas and Manassas Park, as well as private schools and home school students competed against each other.

“Roboticon is a middle school competition almost like the superbowl of robotics,” says Denyse Carroll, the regional STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education coordinator for Prince William and Manassas.

Two teams from Rippon Middle School, three teams from Bull Run Middle and one team from Stonewall Middle School, two from Manassas Christian School, one from Manassas Park Middle School and one from Marsteller Middle School will compete in California.

And get this–according to Carrol, there are are 250 middle school teams in the entire state of Virginia of which 168 are from the Prince William County area.

I think about our crude efforts to get all electronic in middle school, in a world of tubes and clumsily joined wires. We got about as far as crystal sets and that was about it. I still want to learn to solder (my daughter gave me a how-to-solder kit for Christmas a couple of years ago. I need to bust it out and figure out how to do it. I also would like to learn how to weld, which my nephew has offered to teach me.)

Radio was the big deal when I was a lad, and I actually had a show on our five-watt campus radio station my freshman year. But that’s another story for another time.

Who knows what we would have done if we had had computers and the internet. Harmed ourselves and others, I suppose.

But the tremendous involvement and achievements of local kids in robotics goes to show that they’re not out stealing hubcaps (if kids still do that). They’re learning something that will make the future better for all of us. And for that reason, the kids are all right.

(Facts and quotes liberally borrowed from a WTOP-FM account.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized