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Taking pictures of the kids when they’re not looking

I take a lot of pictures of the kids, too many, probably, but most of them aren’t anything special. One or both of them is standing there, standing still, posing, or they’re making a funny face or giving each other rabbit ears, or they’re holding up a hand to block the lens, like they’re a movie star and I’m a paparazzo.

That’s why I like this picture of Thing 2, who’s 6.

We were on vacation, and at that moment, his mind was someplace else. He wasn’t posing. He wasn’t being silly. He was just being himself. I noticed the moment, leaned over the rail and took a picture. Once he realized I was there, he posed for a proper picture, but it wasn’t the same. He wasn’t being himself. 

Of the hundreds of pictures I have of him at 6, this crooked, slightly out-of-focus snapshot may be the best.

 

 

Someone, please build this: the zero-gravity roller coaster

There’s a point on all roller coasters when you crest a hill and, for a heartbeat, you’re weightless. It’s the reason we ride coasters.

Well, I saw a story the other day in Popular Science about a new kind of coaster where you’d be weightless for eight seconds.

Count it out: one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi….

Eight seconds of weightless would last forever.

Right now, the zero-gravity coaster exists only on paper, but according to Popular Science, there’s a company in Southern California called BRC Imagination Arts that’s ready to build it. Cut them a check today, the story says, and you’ll have your coaster by next Christmas.

BRC isn’t some fly-by-night outfit. When I worked in newspapers, I covered the theme-park industry, and I met BRC’s founder, Bob Rogers, a few times. He’s whip-smart and really clever. BRC’s worked on everything from the Test Track pavilion at Epcot to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill. These guys know what they’re doing, and if Bob Rogers says he can build a coaster where you’re weightless for eight seconds, I believe him.

Here’s what he told Popular Science about the proposed coaster:

You’d sit in a capsule rather than an open car, so there’d be no wind and no visual cues telling you you’re moving. You’d be strapped in, but loosely.

The track would be shaped like a giant letter “L.” You’d rocket along the track then curve straight up, like the Superman coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

You’d climb at about 100 m.p.h., and as you neared the top, the capsule would slightly but suddenly decelerate. You’d be thrown out of your seat, like a stone from a slingshot, but the capsule would instantly match your speed.

You would, in effect, be floating inside the capsule.

After a moment, you’d begin to fall, but so would the capsule, matching your speed on the way down and eventually slowing so that you settled back in your cushioned seat.

By the time the coaster came to a stop, you would have experienced weightlessness for eight long seconds.

If you were to fly NASA’s “Vomit Comet,” the plane the space agency uses to train astronauts, you would experience weightlessness for 25 seconds.

Popular Science says ordinary coasters cost about $30 million but BRC’s zero-gravity coaster would cost $50 million, which sounds like a lot — heck, that is a lot — but Disney spent a reported $100 million to build Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom a few years ago. Fifty million dollars to a theme-park developer is nothing.

I have no idea whether when or whether anyone will actually build BRC’s zero-gravity coaster. I have no idea whether it’s a smart for untrained civilians to be subjected to eight seconds of weightlessness.

But if someone builds it, I’ll volunteer to test the thing, as many times as it takes.

The trick to bowling the perfect game: Lie about your score

This is a true story. It happened years ago, before I was born, but I know my dad, and I take him at his word.

FullSizeRenderDad was a bowler. Today, you don’t know how to keep score to bowl. You roll the ball, and computers do the rest. In the early-60s, though, you kept score by hand. You placed a scoresheet on a table with an overhead projector, and it was projected onto a screen so everyone could see it.

One time, Dad decided sit out, but he kept score, and for no particular reason, he wrote his name last on the scoresheet. He kept everyone’s score, and when he got down to his name, he marked an “X” on the scoresheet, meaning he’d gotten a strike.

He did that for 9 straight frames. He wasn’t trying to cheat. His friends knew he wasn’t really playing. He just did it. He thought it was funny, like he could bowl 9 strikes in a row.

Then he noticed a crowd gathering. People had noticed the score on his screen and thought he really had bowled 9 strikes in a row and was about to bowl a perfect game.

His friends noticed the crowd, too, and played it cool.

When the scoresheet showed it was Dad’s turn, he stood up solemnly and picked up one of his friends balls and tried to act like a guy who was trying not to act nervous.

No one said a word.

Dad took a deep breath and bowled.

Dad was a decent bowler in his day, but that night, he was just OK. He knocked down 7 or 8 pins.

Everyone in the bowling alley groaned.

They thought he’d missed his chance to bowl a perfect game, and Dad, God bless him, tried to act like a guy who’d just blown it.

He managed to play it straight until he got to the car, when he and his friends finally laughed about it.