Saturday, August 30, 2008

"To Help Other People at All Times"

Utah Lake - Utah Lake and Utah ValleyIt didn't look like this today,
but you get the idea.
Image via Wikipedia
Today I was riding my bike along toward Lehi north of Utah Lake. I hear a motorcycle approach but it doesn't pass. A lady and a little boy pull up next to me and match me speed. She says "do you know where we are going?" I reply that we are headed toward Lehi. Turns out that she's trying to get to the other side of Utah Lake. So I encourage her to follow the Utah Lake Century Epic Ride (ULCER) markings then start turning left.

I was amazed that she could keep her motocycle straight and upright at my slow bike speed.

Hopefully they found what they were looking for and it was nice to be helpful even while out on a ride.
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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Close call for BYU Football

This morning while driving across BYU campus, I stopped at a crosswalk to let a guy finish crossing the street. Consensus between my wife and I was that it was one Bronco Mendenhall (he looks even younger up close). The guy in the other lane almost didn't stop and almost ended all discussion of whether or not Bronco would stay at BYU by taking him out in a crosswalk.

Fortunately all ended well and we are looking forward to seeing him (on TV) at the game against NIU this weekend.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Most of my Personal Money Management Dreams Have Come True

A diagram showing the front side of a typical ...Image via WikipediaThanks to which is everything I hoped MSFT Money would be in 2004. It slurps in all my credit card, retirement and savings account info. It lets me categorize spending, it lets me make an envelope-based budget, it lets me track spending. It runs in the cloud. It's awesome.

That said, there are some issues. The user interface is pretty good but not great. Classifying new transactions is oddly painful due to a clunky drop-down menu system. The report functionality is laughably bad. The excel reports seem to use some kind of multi-column merge thing to get horizontal lines. That's fine except it makes actually working with the report impossible. In some panes, clicking an envelope opens the envelope, in other panes it does nothing. The process of funding a spending plan is bizarre and confusing.

Even after all that, we signed up (but only 3 months a time, going to need some more history before I commit more money in order to save money).

Oh, and a friend of mine claims that his home teacher is the CTO or CIO or something. So they are a Utah-based company. Keeping it in state--even better.
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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

More Free Time in July

Tour de FranceImage via WikipediaI put professional cycling on a 5 year doping ban and have made no effort to follow, watch or even know the stages in this year's Tour de France. That certainly frees up a lot of time in July, it's been nice.
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Bangkok Grill in Orem

Rural scene in Utah County, Utah"A rural scene in Utah County"
Image via Wikipedia

In our never ending quest to try all the Thai restuarants on the Wasatch Front, we visited Bangkok Grill in Orem last night with the Barney's. We deviated slightly from our control order which was pad Thai, massaman curry, green cury, tom kha gai and a surprise dish. It was hot and a hot bowl of soup didn't seem to fit the bill so we got satay and a waterfall beef salad instead of pad Thai and tom kha gai.

Anyway, the first thing you should know is that Bangkok Grill is not at 852 S State St, Orem. Here's a picture of where it used to be.

Bangkok Grill is actually at about 344 East 800 South in Orem and here's a picture of that location while it was still a tanning salon. Well, as soon as Evernote comes back, I'll put that up.

The massaman cury, beef waterfall salad and satay were divine. It made me glad to live in Utah County again (I was a little worried that I would never find good Thai in Utah County after the Mekong Grill and that one place in American Fork). The green curry was best described as "tom kha gai with green dye in it." The seafood king was bland and uninspired--and I even like bland food.

But the massaman, beef waterfall and satay were very good. We'll be back for the pad Thai.
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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Thank "U"!

University of UtahImage via WikipediaIt looks like the University of Utah has lost my identity information for the second time in 6 years. The good news is that I keep getting a year of free credit fraud monitoring! No identity theft detected yet, though we did have quite a scare a month or so ago. That turns out to be a case of mistaken Mike Jones identities (who knew that two of us would live in the same city).
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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Voters may have got one right

WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 17:  U.S. Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UH) (L), Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN) (2L), Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) (3L), Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (3R), Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) (2R) and Sen.John Warner (R-VA) (R) watch US President George W Bush signs S. 3930, the Military Commissions Act of 2006, in the East Room of the White House October 17, 2006 in Washington, DC. The legislation authorizes tough techniques while interrogating terror suspects and paves the way for terror trials before military commissions.  (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Chris Cannon;Steve Buyer;James Sensenbrenner;George W. Bush;Image by Getty Images via DaylifeI think the voters got the Cannon/Chaffetz race right even though I voted for Chris Cannon yesterday. I started to think that when I read this in the Des News this morning:

"If I don't win I'll do exactly the same thing I did before and essentially what I'm doing now. I'll go out and make money, which I can't really do now"

Hopefully Jason Chaffetz will work out well as our new representative.

Oh, I mean, assuming he beats the Democratic Challenger. Hold on a sec while I look that up... looks like it's going to be Bennion Spencer. Should be a fun race.
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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Welcome Back Lee!

BYU Honor Code hair length reminder - computer screensaver pictureImage via WikipediaLooks like Lee Cummard will be playing in the Marriott Center again next Winter. Works for me. Cummard's a great work-hard player. A friend of mine is in the Cummard's ward. They tell us that the Cummard's are a solid student family.

Deseret News | Cummard is turning NBA heads: "Said Rose: 'He's out to find what the likelihood of his going in the first round is. There are three to six teams that have a lot of interest in him, but if he's going to be a late second-round selection, I think he will decide to come back and finish his career at BYU.'"
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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Graduation rate woes?

Utah State QuarterImage via WikipediaDespite all our consternation about lowest per-pupil spending, it looks like we have only the eighth highest graduation rate in the nation now, down from the first.

Don't get me wrong, I think we should increase pay for teachers and supplies, but I also think that that's pretty darn efficient.

Maybe other states should try to figure out why we spend so little yet do so much better

From the SL Trib... "The future might not be as bright for many other Utahns, according to an Education Week report released Wednesday. Utah's graduation rate is still higher than the national average, but it no longer is the nation's highest, according to the report. Utah's graduation rate of 78.6 percent is now the nation's eighth highest, based on 2005 data, the most recent available. The year before, Utah topped the country with a rate of 83.8 percent."
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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Memo to Flashers in Provo

Apparently, some guy allegedly flashed two women on the Provo River Parkway Trail. I happened to ride by, apparently, while they were on the phone with 911 and later while the police were on the trail. I stopped and talked to the police and later to the two women.

Frequent trail users, such as myself and several other people out this afternoon, are going to be watching a little more closely. We'll do our best to make it harder for flashers, drug dealers and other law-violating citizens to ruin this resource.

Best Thai Food on the Wasatch Front

Massaman curryImage via WikipediaWe've been to two Thai restaurants so far in our quest for the best on the Wasatch front. Restaurants are judged based on their Tom Kha Gai, Green Curry, Massaman Curry, Pad Thai and a randomly chosen entre.

Of the two we've officially visited so far, Mekong Cafe in Midvale (Hat tip to Gazelem) at 7777 South State St. is the current clear winner.

My personal favorite is the Thai Chilli Garden in South Provo. But we haven't made an official visit yet, so it's not on the list. I am little scared for the Thai Chili Gardon becase the Mekong Cafe was so good.
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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Cycling in north Orem Utah--even on the Provo River Parkway

Utah Lake - Utah Lake and Utah ValleyImage via WikipediaJason, a scout leader, is wondering where to take some scouts on a 15 mile (I would guess) ride. He's thinking about the Provo River Parkway but my comments from last year made that seem like a less-good idea.

Here's an 18 mile loop in Orem:

Start at 1600 North and 400 East in Orem. Ride down to 400 West (where the new goofy light is next to State St). Turn right and head over to 2000 North in Orem. Turn left and ride/coast all the way to the dump at the west end of 2000 North. Turn left and ride along Utah Lake to 400 South. This will involve a few left and right turns. Generally keep heading south to 400 south. Then turn left onto 400 South and ride East back to 400 East. Remember that fun descent along 2000 North? Now is when you pay for it. It's not bad, but some climbing. Turn left onto 400 East and ride north to where ever you left your car (or wherever you live).

I've been riding the Parkway trail in the canyon this Spring. It hasn't been too bad in the afternoon on weekdays. The worst of it is the section before and after Bridal Veil Falls which can be avoided by taking the road on the west side of the river then crossing the bridge at the parking lot beyond the old tram station. It's also a good chance to teach scouts some manners.

I did the cycling merit badge with my scouts 2 years ago. I loved the Provo River Parkway trail because traffic was not an issue. I am very very conservative about taking risks with other people's kids and the Parkway trail was great that way. We did a 25 miler and a 15 miler on the parkway trail including riding up south fork and down to Utah Lake both starting from north Orem.

Just this week, some kid on a sweet mtn bike chased me down on the Parkway Trail. Turns out it was one of my former scouts. He's really into mtn bike racing now and seemed genuinely out of breath when he caught me. I felt pretty good about that because one time I had to chase him down on the White Rim Trail after he rode right past our campsite. I was pretty out of breath then. Good thing he wasn't racing then or I might not have caught him. Scouting made a difference for him. It felt great.
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Monday, March 10, 2008

Fake picture of Mt. Timpanogos

If you took photographs of a mountain for a year about 20 times a day and recorded the weather and time for each shot, then you could use machine learning to learn what the mountain should look like as a function of the date and time.

If you did that using 3 perceptrons per pixel to learn linear functions for hue, color and saturation for each pixel, then you'd get this image for May 20 at 2:20 pm. Not quite convincing yet, but not bad for such a simple model.

That's in 10 days. And for it to be correct for this year, a lot of snow better melt!

Algorithm and image by CS 658 student Ilya Raykhel who is a graduate student in machine learning.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Nice work Trent Plaisted

So I was running slowly around the indoor BYU track at lunch a while
ago (as I often do) when I saw one Trent Plaisted shooting free
throws, with someone to shag rebounds for him (his wife?), on one of
the hoops at the volleyball court.

That paid off nicely tonight. Nice work.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Overheard on NPR

On NPR this morning they were commenting about how the risk of anyone being fatally exposed to rocket fuel gas from the spy satellite was "only 3% and even then you'd have to hold your face next to it and breathe for a while"  Clearly, this was just a pointless display of military might. 

Suppose the satellite had not been shot down.  And it hit a populated area.  And someone died. 

Would the NPR commentators have said:  gee, it was only a 3% chance, I guess we rolled the dice on that one and came out wrong.  Well, in the end, that was a good call to take a 3% chance. 

That's why I only listen to NPR during the Leg. Session.  Their coverage has more depth than anyone else's (in the morning at least, Nightside project all the way in the evening). 

First time I saw that

One of my hobbies is watching the mountains so that I can watch avalanches roll down through the cliff bands.  I am pretty good at it, not that it's very hard, and have seen a fair bit of avalanche activity on Timp.  At least before our kids were born.  Sitting by the window and watching for avalanches isn't that compatible with raising kids.

So while I was driving home today I watched the tail end of an avalanche coming down the front of Y mountain.  From the first cliff band above the Y and north of the Y.  I couldn't watch if for long as the light turned green.  But a cursory glance at another red light revealed that the run out got quite a way down the mountain.   Looks like there's enough snow this year to get interesting activity below 8,500 feet. 

He's got a point

Tony Caputo (mmm, Italian) says "Our government, both federal and state, is opposed to someone eating salami, but they're not opposed to us being in the environment with toxic nuclear waste"

He's got a good point. 

If we can't important some salamis because they are too dangerous, then,um, why should nuclear waste be any safer?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

That's too bad

I see that our legislature repealed in-state tuition for the children
of illegal immigrants. Bad call.

Yet another indication that our Republican Legislators are out of touch.

If some kid graduates from High School and gets accepted at a college
or university and his/her parents have established residency in Utah,
even illegally, then that kid should get in state tuition.

Someone please tell me why this was a good idea. I can see repealing
in-state tuition for their parents, who broke the law, but why do the
kids have to pay for it too?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

I wish I'd waited 45 minutes to vote

Because I had to wait 1 hour and 30 minutes to vote in my precinct in Orem. 

Mostly I felt sorry for the poll worker volunteers.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Not what I thought

I thought this article titled "Cosmo vs. Provo" would be about parking in Provo or some other town vs. gown issue. It wasn't. Pretty funny.

Better duck if you are Mormon? Not quite.

Doug Robinson wrote a piece in the DesNews which gave his take on the recent torrent of ignorant statements about Mormons.  It hasn't been since High School in Montgomery, Alabama that I had to deal with this kind of stuff.  It was really awkward in High School. 

This time around, it is much clearer to me that Mormons just aren't well-understood in popular American culture.  That lack of knowledge is easily converted to prejudice. 

An interesting analogy for Mormons to think about is the recent Tom Cruise Scientology video release.  If you are Mormon, it's likely that your first reaction to the video was a lot like most American's initial reaction to anything about Mormons. 

For me it was.  I don't know much about Scientologists, so it was easy for me to get creeped out by the video.  But once I slowed down and listened to the what he was saying (at least in the clips I heard on Nightside with Ethan Millard (Etahn you rock!) while remodeling the bathroom), it's really not that weird.  It's all about believing that you have some kind of power to help people and that that gives you an obligation to help.  I don't know much about Scientology, but on the surface, that's not too different from the Mormon belief that "where much is given much is required." 

Like I said, I don't know much about Scientology and comparisons between Scientologists and Mormons isn't the point.  The point is that I was willing to get creeped out by a video about Scientologists because I just don't know much about them.  My ignorance made me vulnerable to sensationalism. 

I think that for many (normal) Americans, the reaction to something Mormon is very similar.  Because they know so little, they are willing to get creeped out by something presented with just the right spin.   I think that Mormons are currently faced with a great chance to define themselves rather than letting other people do it for them. 

Duck if your are Mormon?  Not quite.  More like stand up and define yourself if you are Mormon. 

I don't mind criticism (in High School it wasn't so fun, but that's just an awkward age for everyone) but I'd prefer to be criticized for things I actually believe and do rather the for a stereotype put forth by someone else. 

Of course, there's a group of people which seem to be obsessed with attacking Mormons on pet issues over and over again in Newspaper comment pages, on CNN's Hardball and so forth.  I don't understand those people either and arguing with them seems pointless.  They've already got their mind made up (as do I). 

Monday, January 21, 2008

Rolly and I agree on Something?

Rolly nailed this one about Republicans in Utah County.  It's not often that we agree. 

However Steve Baugh picked a tough race to win against Stephen Sandstrom for three reaons.  First, Sandstrom does a great job staying close to his constituents, third, Sandstrom voted for vouchers as did just over 1/2 of the voters in his district and third, Sandstrom is a productive and engaged legislator.  The first two are going to make a "Sandstrom is out of touch" campaign very difficult.  The third makes Sandstrom a good incumbent candidate. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Macbook Air: No Regrets Here.

I finally bought a new laptop in December. I knew I could have waited for Apple's rumored new ulta-portable, but didn't and bought a Dell XPS 1330 instead. Now that the new Macbook Air is out, I am happy to say that I have no regrets.

The Air fits nicely in a manila envelope, as demonstrated by Steve Jobs in his keynote talk. Here's a picture of my Dell XPS not fitting in a manila envelope (it was close). Next to the now ruined envelope is my spare big battery. It clearly wouldn't fit. So that bad news is that if I ever have to mail my laptop, I'll have to get something bigger to put it in. The good news is that I can change my own battery, get a high capacity battery, use DVDs and plug in an ethernet cable.

The macbook air is beautiful, but I'll wait for useful and beautiful.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Memo to anonymous commenters

I've gotten a spate of anonymous comments of late.  Either lots of anonymous people are hitting my blog, or someone with a lot of time and no identity is working through the archive.  I thought I'd respond to all 4 in one post.  So here goes.

Steve Baugh anonymous #1:  I am going to assume that that was a complement.  JM Bell wasn't so gracious.  You'll need to keep an eye on him, he's not playing Mr. Happy Blogger anymore.

Steve Baugh anonymous #2: I am happy to know that you don't think I have same political views as you do. 

Orwellian Solution anonymous:  Wow! Great catch!  I first read 1984 and Brave New World at about the same time, so I get them mixed up.  Your education level, well, the fact that you can and do read, suggests that you aren't Steve Baugh Anonymous #2. 

Nice Work Robert Gherke anonymous:  Let it go.  Just let it go.  But thanks for reading and I hope my cheekiness doesn't annoy to much.  I like being cheeky in a blog format.  You got me on that one.  I am not a journalist and I do not hold myself to journalist standards.  I don't have a press pass, I am not a credentialed reporter and I didn't go to j-school. If you are this like real news, such as a newspaper, then you are going to live a life full of disappointment and sadness.  My perception is that when someone says "that's off the record" then it should not show up in print.  If real journalists have different rules of engagement, then they need to work to correct public perception (and commit fewer ethics violations in general). 

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Steven Baugh?

Maybe so. I don't think I am going to switch parties, but I'll give an ear to Steven Baugh. Sandstrom is right, a Republican will likely be elected in District 58.

But a viable Democratic Candidate in our Distract may energize moderate voters in our District (where "moderate" in our District only means "didn't join the John Birch Society in college") and move the Rebuplican party away from the far right.
THE UTAH AMICUS: Meet Steven Baugh for House District 58

Sandstrom v. Baugh in District 58

Now that's a race I'll be watching closely because I live in District 58. Baugh is running as a Democrat. Cool. I may end up voting for a Democrat in my District race. We'll have to see how it goes.

Sandstrom is having a breakfast this Sat for Precinct chairs. I'd need to find a sitter since my wife will be at Cub Scout Training, which I might just do now.

Sandstrom was, if I remember correctly, the "friend of the UEA" candidate while his opponent was the charter school developer candidate.

Sandstrom won. I voted for him, in a switch, because they other candidate sent me a postcard that seemed to suggest LDS church sponsorship of his campaign or position (can't remember).

I voted against vouchers. Sandstrom voted for. I voted against because I think that taking money out of the general fund and putting it in private education is just like taking money away from public education. Over half my district voted for as well.

Sandstrom is a great guy. I've been impressed with how he matured during his first year in office. I like having people like him in government because I think he considers issues carefully. Baugh might do the same and Baugh and I might agree more. So I may switch there too.

Good race to go along with the Presidential race. Best year in politics ever?

Salt Lake Tribune - Voucher backer inspires challenge

New Type of Boy Scout Story

The Maldives, best known for printing really colorful postage stamps , has given us a new type of Boy Scout Story, which brings us to 4 types and now two of them are good.  Type 1 is "Adult leader abuses scout", not good, type 2 is "Boy scout is injured/lost/worse", also not good.  Type 3 is "Boy scout performs heroic first aid", good, and now type 4 is " Boy Scout thrwarts assissination attempt".  Very nice. 

Provo Canyon Trailer Park Closes

I often wondered how that trailer park in Provo Canyon stays open.  It's a throwback to hippie life in the 60's.  I wouldn't have been surprised to see the Rainbow Family there.  I thought that was all fine and kind of liked having some solid Americana in the canyon.  However, it turns out that the county has caught up with the park and it's now closed due to all the usual kinds of issues that a county can throw at a business on the fringe of proper society.   Hope all the former tenants find new homes and that the land gets used for something good.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

In the future...

I rather listen to the Nighside Project on the day of New Hampshire's primary than listen to Dave Rose talk about why Wake Forest demolished the BYU basketball team.  In fact, they could have switched away from the game to the primary in the first half when the game was pretty much over. 

Friday, January 04, 2008

My coffee mug collection

Now includes a J.M. Bell - and Friends coffee mug. I put red pens in it just to be sure that (a) I didn't look too liberal and (b) my students would continue to respect the power of the red pen (just kidding).

I got the U of Utah water bottle at a PhD recruiting thing we went to at the U in November. It was great, me and another guy sat behind a desk for 3 hours while nobody came and asked us (or our neighbors or anyone else for that matter) about doing a PhD in CS at BYU. So we packed up and went for a great lunch at a Thai restaurant with my former research adviser.

The other coffee mug is from a research conference a few years ago and the lava lamp was a present from my parents when I got my first real job. It's supposed to make me look credible.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Huckabee vs. Obama?

It's an interesting proposition because it may set up a Democrat to win Utah in a Presidential election. I'd vote Obama over Huckabee at this point (though I haven't made up my mind yet).

SLCSpin � Blog Archive � I Don’t Usually Do National Topics…

Memo to Huckabee: How to be competitive in Utah (if it comes to that)

Mr. Huckabee:

Congratulations on the win in Iowa. I was glad to see that money doesn't always win. That's refreshing. I noted in a CNN article that you won 45% of the evangelical vote and they comprised 60% of caucus goers. That's an impressive bloc.

You won't have that cushion in Utah. In fact, some of your comments and campaign so far may have alienated LDS voters in our fair state. You'll need to overcome that perception.

Here's a five step plan for becoming competitive in Utah:

1. take the Al Sharpton VIP tour of Temple Square. Meet with some LDS leaders for a private consultation. Ask them tough, but sincere, questions (the "Jesus and Satan are brothers?" thing won't cut it, ya'll have been asking that for at least 17 years. I first heard it on my LDS mission in 1990).

2. go to an LDS family home evening somewhere in the valley.

3. come with me unannounced to my LDS ward on a Sunday or Wednesday night (for youth activities). Don't worry, very few people will recognize you.

4. assuming that all goes well for you, have a press conference where you say "you know what, I didn't know much about those crazy Mormons, but now I do. We have deep doctrinal differences but, you know what, they are pretty normal people trying to do what's right"

5. quit being so dumb about stuff! Get your facts straight on foreign policy. Know about the writers strike. You don't have to know everything, but your staff should. Be decisive. No more "I made an ad, I pulled the ad, I showed the ad" tricks.

CNN Political Ticker: All politics, all the time Blog Archive - Schneider: How Huckabee won � - Blogs from

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

I can relate

This lady in a Trib article bought a vacation home in Park City because... 'When you travel with three small kids, a nanny and a housekeeper, you need all the conveniences.'

Boy, don't I know that! When we travel with the twins we couldn't imagine roughing it without a nanny, a housekeeper and a grocery store.

Salt Lake Tribune - Opulent getaways a big chunk of Park City's housing market; few mortgages are involved: ""

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Good thing the SL Trib Editorial Board Doesn't Live in Georgia

Because their reaction to Gov. Perdue's prayer for rain given on the steps of the capitol would have been off the charts. (That is, if their indignation of Leavitt's early morning seminary classes in the Gov's mansion is any indication. )

Did the home teachers visit at the mansion too or did they have to go to a park or something?

There's got to be something I am missing here, but I am not sure what it is.

The trib's editorial board does good work, but I am not sure where they are coming from on this one.

Salt Lake Tribune - Leavitt's lessons: State archivist is right to keep those records open

Tough Questions from 4 Year Olds

Christmas brings difficult questions from 4 year olds (Can I have it? Why do Santa's reindeer fly?) But this year we got 2 tough questions.

First, the nature of the internet. Daddy, where did you get our game? We got it on the internet? Daddy, where's the internet? I'm thinking what do you say at this point? Well, it's a bunch of boring looking boxes with lots of wire coming out of them.

Second, we got them David Weisner's book Flotsam which includes a medium format film camera as a central story element. Daddy, what's film? Back in the old days, we used to take pictures with film now we use little cards. (Now I know what it feels like to feel old) Daddy, where do the pictures go on the little card? Do I say well, a special circuit senses light intensity in red, green or blue, converts the intensity to a number and the number is stored in memory.