So, a strange thing happened in the car not long ago.
No, it wasn’t that I shared my snacks with the kids. I’ve done that before. No, on this day, Elise turned down the volume on the song (it was probably Europe or AC/DC, but it could have been Cher Lloyd) on the radio, and asked me about the government shutdown.
It’s happened more often lately, too.
Talk about science, gigabit Internet, the Affordable Healthcare Act. Planets. Animals. Senators. It’s pretty cool. And on Halloween day at school, a little girl asked Grace what I do at work (by my costume, the kid guessed that I worked at Little Caesar’s). Grace’s answer?
“He writes things. Smart things.”
Love that kid.
Here’s what the kids have asked lately. In the car, and other places.
1. Who pays judges?
The federal government does, so, indirectly, I do.
NPR got a load of story ideas during the government shutdown recently, to disclose who did and didn’t get locked out of work after a congressional impasse. Federal government employees, essential and non-essential both, still get paid during a shutdown – they just might have to wait for a paycheck.
So all judges were safe – even judges Judy and Milian.
2. What’s the longest note ever in a song?
I’m pretty sure it was Judge Wapner doing his best Joe Cocker impersonation in “I Get High With a Little Help from my Friends.”
A-Ha lead singer Morten Harket (left) held a note in the song “Summer Moved On” for 20.2 seconds, or roughly the same time it takes you guys to kill a bag of tortilla chips. This all depends on who you ask, though (the note, not the chips). Yodeler Don Winters is said to have hit a high note for 23 seconds.
Might have to take this one to Judge Judy.
3. How do they get the lunch meat in one chunk?
If you’re talking about pork, you’d better ask Congress.
As for ham or turkey: Meat is removed from the bone and ground up. It’s ground and emulsified – an action not common
in nature that turns it into luncheon meat pancake batter. (Hungry yet?) Toss in a few flavors, additives and binders (yum!), send the chunk to the smokehouse, and it’s almost lunchtime.
Which brings us to that pile of corn on your plate you’ve ignored.
4. What do they do with all that corn?
Use it as a buffer between Colorado and Nebraska. And it comes in handy for tortillas.
We grow lots of corn here in America because we’re No. 1 in corn worldwide. Average Americans eat 25 pounds of corn a year, says the National Corn Growers Association (I’d love one of their T-shirts). Corn’s also used in fireworks, sandpaper, and tires. I think they eat sandpaper in Nebraska.
I’ll have the giant nugget-shaped Cajun roasted turkey breast instead.
5. Has anyone flown to Mars?
I think they went there to find more space to store the corn.
They’ve been talking about a visit to the red planet for generations. We’re mesmerized every time we think we might have seen a photo that could have rock formations indicative of river water. All I see is that creepy face in the rocks. At its closest, Mars is 34.8 million miles away, which is even longer than dad’s commute to work.
The average temperature on Mars is 80 degrees below zero, worse than Buffalo, without a lousy football team.
Or judge Joe Brown.
So even though the kids might bust out into a fit of science talk or ask about the economy, it’s likely I’m the only one who’s geeked that today is Science Friday on NPR.
Except for Ariel Zych.
Maybe she likes reading smart things, too.