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Friday Afternoon Scratchpad

Do-It-Yourself Oscar Pool Creator

In case you missed the announcement: the Do-It-Yourself Oscar Pool Creator is available here.

The Spheniscidae Candidate

The flight from Seattle to D.C. only took 4½; hours, as we had a 100 knots-per-hour tail wind; consequentially, the return trip took 6½ hours. It was so long that they showed two films: March of the Penguins and The Manchurian Candidate.

The woman sitting beside me watched the first hour of Penguins and then fell asleep with the headphones still on. She slept through the rest of the film -- in fact, she didn't wake until several hours later, as Denzel Washington, in full uniform, kills a man and woman with an assault rifle.

The woman next to started awake to the sound of the gunfire, gawped at the television screen, and looked sublimely confused. I could almost hear her thinking, "Man, I'll have to rent this March of the Penguins movie when I get home -- there must be some major plot twist in the middle!"

Pop Quiz!

How much does an adult, male, African elephant weigh?

Go'wan, take a guess. Please don't do any research in advance -- I want your off-the-top-of-the-head reckoning. If you happen to know the answer (because you're a professional zookeeper, or whatever) please participate as well -- I'm trying to get as random a sampling as I can, so I don't want anyone to self-select themselves out of the pool.

Let's Sleep On It

We bought a new mattress. As The Queen and I put it on the bed, I noticed this tag.

The guys at the mattress company are fans of the blog, I guess.

Games For Toddlers

After my rundown of Games For Kids, a few people wrote and asked me to suggest games for toddler. Here are a few that The Squirrelly and I are playing (or will be soon):

  • Go Away Monster: We've been playing this since The Squirrelly was 18 months (though not exactly by the rules) and he loves it. Whenever the perennial "what should my child's first game be?" question is posed on any of the boardgame newsgroups I haunt, Monster is always the consensus pick.
  • Snail's Pace Race: I just bought this for The Squirrelly last week, but he already says "want snail game" at least once an evening. A relaxing, non-competitive game that teachers twerps colors, turn-taking, and dice rolling. Plus, the wooded snail pieces are awfully nice.
  • Cranium Cariboo: Not a party game, like the others in the Cranium line. Instead, Cariboo is designed to teach youngsters shapes, colors, numbers, and collaboration.
  • Hisss: Draw tiles from a bag and try and build snakes by matching colors. Total luck, but fun nonetheless.
  • Max: Another cooperative game from Family Pastimes, this one for the 4-5 year set. Try to race the tiny animals to their homes before they are caught by Max the cat. One of the rare games for the very young that actually has the players making real, meaningful decisions.

Posted on February 24, 2006 to Scratchpad


Right on the mark, first try. Boy, do I feel smart! I tell you, I'm learning more in my second grader's Africa unit than I ever learned in mine! Who'd have thought I'd have such an immediate use for that bit of trivia?

Posted by: The Fishmonger on February 25, 2006 7:01 PM

I feel obligated to point out that "knots-per-hour" is a very repetitive redundancy; the definition of a knot is "one nautical mile per hour." What you've got there is actually a unit of acceleration, not velocity ;)


Posted by: Chris on February 25, 2006 7:15 PM

Oh no, not more physics.

Posted by: Jason Looney on February 26, 2006 8:06 AM

I started to put in 2500lbs, then realized the average horse is 1000-1500lbs and elephants are much larger! I then upgraded my answer to 10000lbs and was much closer :-)

Posted by: Danielle on February 26, 2006 11:03 AM

I seemed to remember from something, somewhere that elephants were two tons, so I put 4000 pounds. Maybe that's baby elephants.

Posted by: helen on February 26, 2006 11:25 AM


I wanted to geuss 12500 pounds, roughly a ton on the elephant not 1250, Damn you keyboard. I feel like the shoelace on my ice skate broke right before I was supposed to skate in teh olympics.

Posted by: ctsc on February 26, 2006 5:27 PM

I was knew it was 12,000 but at the last minute I just couldn't wrap my head around it and put 2,000. Horses can weigh 1500? How? They don't look ten times bigger than me...maybe four times...weird. Things are heavy.

Posted by: yensen on February 26, 2006 7:56 PM

oops ... If you need accuracy, you should know that I meant to guess 10000 pounds, but I wasn't paying attention and only entered 100 pounds.

Posted by: spliz on February 26, 2006 9:34 PM

On the game thing - allow me to recommend Cranium's Hullaballoo. Our 4 year old will play it with people OR by herself (Yay!) Teaches colors and shapes, and once they know how to play, the kids can do it themselves. Our nearly two year old doesn't really get it, but he thinks its fun to stand on the different spots.

Posted by: bwhite on February 27, 2006 6:26 AM

My entire guess was based on weight estimated from my son's construction videos convertion tons carried by giant dumptrucks into their elephant equivalent.

Wow, learning IS fundamental, indeed.

Posted by: Kevin on February 27, 2006 8:39 AM

Isn't there some theory out there at the moment that if you ask people a question, the responses will form a bell-shaped curve around the correct answer? It's a statistical thing, but apparently they're using such things to predict terrorist acts and so on. Might suggest why the world's going to hell in a handbasket...

Posted by: Nick on February 27, 2006 9:16 AM

As the parent of a 7-yr-old girl and a 2-yr-old, I can't tell you how grateful I am for these two game posts! I'm going to find a site where I can buy Carcassonne, Cartagena, Dawn Under, Go Away Monster and Snail's Pace Race all at the same time. I may never have to play three-handed Connect Four again!!!

Posted by: Judy on February 27, 2006 9:44 AM

Thank you, Chris, for your correction on the "knots per hour" problem. I cringed when I read it, and was similarly bothered to find that it was used that way in the movie "The Three Stooges Go Around the World in a Daze". That's obviously not the paragon of correct usage of scientific terminology, but still you'd think Phileas Fogg would know that. I'm sure it was just the script writer who didn't know it, but surely he's seen some other ship/submarine movie that uses it right.

Posted by: Rocky on February 27, 2006 10:46 AM

I'd like to second Hullaballoo. We got it for the kids for Christmas of '04, I think it was, and it's still one of their favorite games.

Posted by: Sam on February 27, 2006 11:04 AM

As long as the nautical crowd is chiming in, what's the difference between a nautical mile and a plain old regular "when I was your age I had to walk 16 miles to school every day" mile?

I too guessed somewhere around two tons, which is too light for the elephant but (I think) right on the mark for the English mastiff that comes to the dog park sometimes.

Posted by: C. on February 27, 2006 12:33 PM

Actually, I won't claim to even KNOW what an elephant weighs and then claim bkac errors. And THAT was the fun of it ;p

Still, thanks for taking up some more capacity. I'll probably forget it in a week.

Posted by: Phet on February 28, 2006 4:26 AM

My two older boys (5 & 2 at the time) loved Cranium Cariboo (aka, "Cwanium Cwariboo"). Until they (almost immediately) dispersed the colorful superballs throughout the house. It was fun while it lasted, though. Thanks for this list; there's a couple new-to-us here that we'll be trying.

Posted by: Toni on February 28, 2006 6:41 AM

So someone asked what's the difference between a regular mile and a nautical mile. This is a cool thing with Google. It has a built-in conversion calculator, where if you enter "6 miles in kilometers" or "1 mile in nautical miles", it will do a conversion for you. Here's the answer:
1 mile = 0.868976242 nautical miles

Posted by: Rocky on February 28, 2006 8:05 AM

A nautical mile is based on the circumference of the planet Earth. If you were to cut the Earth in half at the equator, you could pick up one of the halves and look at the equator as a circle. You could divide that circle into 360 degrees. You could then divide a degree into 60 minutes. A minute of arc on the planet Earth is 1 nautical mile. This unit of measurement is used by all nations for air and sea travel.

A knot is a unit of measure for speed. If you are traveling at a speed of 1 nautical mile per hour, you are said to be traveling at a speed of 1 knot.

A kilometer is also defined using the planet Earth as a standard of distance. If you were to take the Earth and cut it in half along a line passing from the North Pole through Paris, and then measure the distance of the curve running from the North Pole to the equator on that circle, and then divide that distance by 10,000, you would have the traditional unit for the kilometer as defined in 1791 by the French Academy of Sciences.

A nautical mile is 1,852 meters, or 1.852 kilometers. In the English measurement system, a nautical mile is 1.1508 miles, or 6,076 feet.

To travel around the Earth at the equator, you would have to travel (360 * 60) 21,600 nautical miles, 24,857 miles or 40,003 kilometers.

Posted by: howstuffworks on March 1, 2006 10:04 AM